I was reading a post from Tired but Happy the other day, about the financial help she’s had from her family over the years. She mentioned that it’s not easy to talk about the gifts she’s received, but that it’s been a big part of her financial picture. It got me thinking about what we’ve had in the way of financial help from our families. Just a few months ago, J and I sold an old RV that my parents had given us last year, as we were no longer using it. We had put about $500 into it, and we sold it for $1800. My parents would not take any of the money – so it was basically a $1,300 gift. My parents also gave us $5,000 as a wedding gift. They plan to do the same for each of my siblings. Some parents pay for their daughter’s wedding; the gift my parents gave us was much more valuable, as we used it as part of the down payment on our house.
J’s parents have also helped us out. When we were starting our business, they bought us a computer and printer (about $2,000 total), which not only helped out financially, but reminded us that they believed in our ability to succeed with our business. J’s parents also paid for college for him, and he was debt-free when I met him. My parents helped me pay for college as well, although I covered most of the cost with scholarships and jobs that became almost full-time during the last couple years of college. When I graduated, I had $3000 in the bank, and no debt.
Not counting J’s educations, I’d say we’ve received about $10,000 from our parents over the years. This has helped a lot, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the biggest financial help my parents ever gave me was the money-sense that they taught me as I was growing up.
My parents paid us for doing chores (about 5 cents for doing dishes, or 25 cents for a bucket full of weeds pulled from the garden…) around the house, and we would sometimes get $5 or $10 in birthday money from our grandmothers. My parents always encouraged us to save our pennies. When I was 6, they took me to the bank to get my own account. I had about $50. I would put a few dollars in the account every month, and I loved watching it grow. Our bank accounts were a one-way street: we knew that the money was “for college” and that we couldn’t take money out until we got to college (which seemed so far off that it basically felt like permanently inaccessible savings). When I was in high school, I started tutoring a neighbor’s child, and I babysat for just about everyone on our block. By the time college stated, I had almost $3000 in my account. As it turned out, I never had to use that money for college, because I got scholarships and jobs to pay for it. So that money that I saved throughout my childhood became part of the down payment on our house when I was 24.
My parents not only encouraged me to save for the future, they also taught me how to really stretch a dollar. Shopping at yard sales and thrift stores, driving older cars, not buying anything you can’t afford to pay for right now – these were all such a part of our daily lives that they were second-nature to me by the time I had a household of my own to manage. The things my parents taught me about money have put me thousands of dollars ahead of where I would be if I had grown up in an environment of debt and constant consumerism. I am very grateful for this gift.