My childhood money memories – both positive and negative, have influenced my relationship with money and the way I teach my son money lessons – read what my top 10 money memories are from childhood and the lessons I learned from these memories
Introduction to Childhood Money Memories
They say it takes a village to raise a child. When I was a child I was influenced by many people around me; my parents, extended family, teachers, friends, parents of friends, neighbours and also influenced by the media.
When I turned 18 I felt like I was completely financially illiterate. I don’t feel like I was ever irresponsible with money (except the times I was ‘lending’ money to my deadbeat boyfriends) but I certainly want my son to grow up with more knowledge about how to mange his money compared to how I was influenced and the lessons I learned about money.
When I think about my childhood money memories, I feel like it has influenced my practices and the way I manage my money, in both positive and negative ways.
Here are 10 of my Childhood Money Memories;
1. Paying a mortgage off early is something to be celebrated!
I remember my parents celebrating that they had finished paying off their mortgage when I was about 8 years old. I didn’t even understand what the word ‘mortgage’ meant, let alone what a significant milestone this was at the time. My parents paid a small fortune of $45,000 (Yes, that’s right) for a beautiful 3 bedroom timber home on a large block at the top of a hill in the middle of a quiet street in the leafy suburbs of the North Shore of Sydney. (The same house has been lightly renovated and currently on the market for about $1.8 million!). I think they did well to pay their mortgage off while all of us 3 kids were still under the age of 8 and I definitely understood that this was a big deal, yet I still don’t understand that while they paid their mortgage early and had no other properties, we were still a family that struggled financially for many years following that milestone.
Lesson learned from memory no.1: Pay your mortgage as early as possible! You can celebrate and your property will belong to you, not the bank!
2. If you can’t afford to buy something, you can always put it on a store credit card
I vividly remember my father forcing my mother to get scissors and cut up her Myer and David Jones store charge cards. At an assumption I would say that due to a lack of budgeting as well as overspending on unnecessary groceries, gifts for extended family and various other items, my mother never seemed to be able to afford other basics such as school uniforms, new shoes, excursions or other extra curricular activities. When it came to a trip to the shops, I remember seeing the Myer and David Jones charge cards getting taken out more often than any cash or debit cards. At the time, I didn’t see what the issue was and thought everyone would have had one of these cards, therefore I didn’t understand why my father thought cutting them up was such a necessary action, until it was explained to me that they now owed Myer and David Jones a lot of money, that they had to make these payments in installments and that using these cards means you are just borrowing money, when you actually can’t afford to buy something.
Lesson learned from memory no. 2: DON’T use store charge cards! It encourages people to spend money on unnecessary things they can’t afford.
3. Chores = pocket money!
Here is a list that my son has written up, in consultation with me but my pocket money system was somewhat different when I was a child, though there are some important similarities. Pocket money certainly was NOT handed out without earning it, and believe me, I earned it! Hand scrubbing the outside house panels earned me around $5 for several hours work, picking up sticks in the backyard earned me around $2 for a couple of hours work, I would wash dishes, clean the bathroom, clean out some cupboards, water the garden, pull out weeds, etc etc etc. After the age of about 14, if I wanted a new ‘Billabong’ top or some ‘Sportsgirl’ shoes, a ‘Dolly’ magazine or to go to the movies with my friends, I had to pay for it myself, with pocket money I had earned. There was no handing out of ‘luxury’ items such as these unless it was a birthday or Christmas time. I learned from an early age that if I wanted money for myself, I had to earn it. I got my first job at age 14, working at a local day care centre, making afternoon tea for the kids and cleaning up afterwards for $5 for one hour after school. Since that age, I have always worked, I have always earned my own money. I have never been unemployed. This was an important lesson to learn and one I am trying to teach my son.
Lesson learned from memory no. 3: Money should be earned. Money is not free and if you want more of it, you need to work for it.
4. Wearing second hand clothes means you must be poor. Driving a flashy car means you must be rich!
Thrift shopping is something I love to do now and getting second hand clothes for my son gives me a thrill to save some money and he wouldn’t notice the difference anyway! When I was a child, we were often in hand-me-down clothes from friends, family or neighbours and honestly, my perception was that we were a poor family, despite the fact that we lived in the North Shore of Sydney and my parents paid their mortgage early. I was often shamed by kids at school for not wearing the latest fashion labels and even though occasionally we did get new clothes, I thought that second hand = poor. Some family friends had some very flashy cars as well as beautifully decorated houses and my assumption was that these families were rich! They very well may have been rich but it’s interesting how the flashiness of a car gives that strong impression when nobody knows how that family is managing, investing or spending their money!
Lesson learned from memory no. 4: There is no shame in second hand clothes for kids. It saves money and waste! Flashy cars are expensive and cost a lot! Second hand cars cost a LOT less and still get you from A to B!
5. Buying a block of land when you’re young would be a smart thing to do!
I have a vivid memory of my father stating to me that once I turned 18, I should buy a block of land. He said this with good intention although I hadn’t the faintest clue of how I could bring this to fruition. I was intrigued by the thought but as a full time uni student with 2 casual jobs, now living out of home and trying to survive just to pay the rent, buy food, text books and petrol, this idea seemed so completely out of reach that I benched the idea with the intention of revisiting the thought once I was full time employed after graduating university. At 41 years old and a single parent, I feel so proud that I finally purchased my first home last year and while it was an apartment, not a block of land, it was a big milestone for me, a better standard of living for my son and I, and an investment for our future. This is something I could have managed many years earlier if it weren’t for some poor financial decisions on my part, mostly involving, again, supporting boyfriends who were making monumentally bad financial decisions of their own. You can read my ‘Single mums money journey’ here.
Lesson learned from memory no. 5: Investing money at a young age is always a smart thing to do, but young people also need the guidance and information to learn exactly HOW to do this, taking into consideration their financial goals at their young age.
6. School excursions and extra curricular activities: mostly unaffordable.
Regular takeaway food for a family of 5: more than affordable.
I remember my mother requesting special consideration from our public school when it came to paying for school excursions and camps as I was told they were wildly expensive. We engaged in some occasional netball and soccer outside of school but it was made known to us that these were almost breaking the bank. We were not allowed to enrol in some more expensive activities such as music lessons, art or regular dance. Many of our friends were participating in activities on nearly every day after school, such as ‘physsie’ (physical culture), little Athletics, Jazz dancing, ballet and piano. While I realise now as an adult that these activities can certainly become very expensive, I also remember being very physically active with my siblings and friends after school and on weekends which means I wasn’t missing out on active play and my parents were probably using that money for other bills.
I also remember that Friday night takeaway was almost a weekly ritual, rotating between Chinese food, pizza, McDonalds and fish & chips. For a family of 5, these would not have been cheap meals by any means but it was probably also a case of no cooking = saving mental sanity for one night. I know these days, takeaway food can get wildly expensive and so I try to avoid it as much as possible, but when I do give in and decide to order in, it’s usually a decision based on exhaustion, unwillingness to cook or giving in to a craving.
Lesson learned from memory no. 6: Budget, budget, budget! With kids in school, excursions and extra curricular activities are inevitable expenses which can be budgeted for, within reason. Many skills can be learned outside of school, as well as activities engaged in, which don’t need to break the bank. I choose to enrol my son in soccer and swimming only. We also get further exercise by bushwalking and bike riding which are both free!
Takeaway food is convenient, expensive! and not always a healthy choice. It can be budgeted for but more often than not, it’s a spontaneous decision which either blows the budget or doesn’t, depending entirely on how often you order (or give in to your child/ren.. lol).
7. Earning money with cash in hand jobs is a good idea!
This was always an unequivocal message! Though the words ‘tax’ and ‘declare’ and ‘off the books’ were thrown around, I didn’t really understand the implications of earning money ‘on the books’ as a second job or why cash was better but the message was clear – cash is good! My first job at the day care centre at age 14 was a cash in hand job, as were the many babysitting gigs I landed and also my job walking neighborhood dogs ($1 a day for a half hour walk). I witnessed my mother also taking on cash babysitting jobs, cash paid market research groups and cash cleaning jobs to make ends meet.
As an adult, this has definitely carried through – I myself have engaged in the following ways to earn cash; Babysitting, market research talks, surveys, selling my items online and flipping and selling items.
Lesson learned from memory no. 7: If you can earn cash on the side, go for it! It’s usually tax free and is a valuable way to supplement your income!
8. It’s normal to live pay check to pay check and it’s not common to have a lot of savings.
I didn’t ever hear about my parents having any savings at all and it was announced on many occasions that ‘XYZ’ was not possible because payday was not until ‘ZYX’. While I have also lived my adult life in this way for many years, it has not been until recently that I am changing my approach to my money and trying to teach my son to learn the same thing.
One of the biggest influencing books has been ‘The Barefoot Investor for families‘ which describes the 3 jars method, encouraging kids to divide up their pocket money into 3 jars labelled ‘Save’, ‘Spend’ and ‘Give’. My son has started this way of saving and hopefully will instill a lifetime habit of saving.
While saving, budgets, spending habits and financial position is not a ‘normal’ conversation that occurs between casual friends or acquaintances so it seems, my assumption as a child was that people didn’t ‘Save’, so much as afforded things they wanted because they were paid a LOT more for their job than those around them who were ‘struggling’.
Lesson learned from memory no. 8: Save your money when possible. Living paycheck to paycheck is a constant grind and it’s not fun to not be able to afford little luxuries, let alone the basic things in life.
9. Getting a part time job while at school is encouraged and a great way to earn your own money and build independence.
After my cash in hand jobs were not quite providing enough money for me, my parents encouraged me to get a casual job, which I was very excited to do. My first ‘on the books’ job was at Bakers Delight and this job provided so many valuable lessons which I don’t believe I could have learned elsewhere. Ultimately I learned to have faith in myself and my abilities, it taught me confidence, social skills, about customer service and merchandising, it taught me independence, about the basics of running a business, how to multitask, built my mathematical skills, loyalty, responsibility, accountability, self-esteem, and I met some life long friends through this job too. This job started as a casual weekend job when I was 15 and I stayed for 4 years, through to when I started uni, providing a wealth of experience and skills for me.
My younger brother and sister were not far behind me; they also couldn’t wait to go out and get jobs for themselves and start earning their own regular income like their big sis! It was quite clear from the various jobs they held that they were also learning similar important life lessons.
Lesson learned from memory no. 9: Teenagers should get part time jobs while still at school. It teaches a myriad of important life lessons while still at such an impressionable age, and these lessons often carry on throughout older years.
10. The only way to get rich is to be born into a rich family, to study to become a doctor or lawyer, or to win the lottery.
As a child, words like ‘interest’, ‘investing’, ‘stocks’, ‘wealth building’ and ‘budgeting’ were all pretty foreign to me. Phrases such as ‘Live below your means’, ‘Take advantage of compound interest’, ‘Invest while young’ or ‘Frugal lifestyle’ were also very foreign to me.
I believed that ‘rich’ people were only rich because they were either lucky, they inherited money from family or because their job was a very highly paid one – usually doctors or lawyers. This is something I want my son to be educated on. I want him to feel like he is financially literate, unlike I was as a teenager or young adult.
Lesson learned from memory no. 10: While inheriting money, winning the lottery and having a highly paid job are also legitimate ways to get rich, I now have a better understanding that you can also get rich in a number of other ways, especially if you learn the following important lessons while still under the age of 21; live below your means, invest early, take advantage of compound interest and educate yourself about money!
Summary of Childhood Money Memories
Our childhood experiences can have a big influence on how we live our lives as adults. I believe that my money memories have made a difference to how I live my life today for various described reasons. Forbes.com also describes how our childhood money memories can influence our adult behaviour when it comes to managing our finances. As a single mum, I have had quite the money journey from being in extreme personal debt to now, consumer debt free!
Do you have specific childhood money memories? I would love to hear about some in the comments..
Thanks for reading!