Learning about saving money from parental mistakes is not always the most fun thing to do, but when I look back over my own personal journey it’s obvious that I took the earliest cues from my mom and dad–for better or worse, and had to evolve from there. But what kind of parental mistakes are we talking about here?
There are the obvious ones–treating credit cards like an ATM, running up too much debt on one card and being unable to dig out completely without help, things like that. But the real education I got about saving money came from taking a tough and critical look at how I was raised and the money examples I was given along the way.
Here are the five things I have learned by doing this:
- The nature of money and saving has changed dramatically since I was in high school back in the 1980s. It was changing in my parents’ early life together too, but the ability to adapt to a changing financial landscape is key to weathering those changes and have money left in the bank in the meantime. Adapt and survive.
- It’s not enough to save money–you have to save money with a purpose. You remain committed to goals that are clearly defined and lose your resolve faster when you don’t.
- Sometimes you have to make a game of your financial goals and treat them accordingly. In the same way you “Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200” in the game Monopoly, you’ll need to establish firm rules for the game (money challenges, saving challenges, etc.) and stick to them like they were written in stone.
- You have to anticipate problems along the way that may set you back financially rather than treating every new problem like a completely unanticipated disaster.
- You have to explain your money management strategy to the entire family and in terms they can understand and support.
Number five is especially important–or at least it was for me. When I was little, some of the most detailed financial advice I got was “You gotta pay yourself first.” Which I understood in general terms, but I didn’t know what that truly meant. If someone had taken the time to explain to me that you have to anticipate a flat tire, last-minute dentist visit, a cut in job hours, etc. by saving up for such things, it would have made a lot more sense to me in a pragmatic way.
Explaining these things clearly for spouses and children makes the difference between actually making progress in your financial planning with the support of your family and treading water with everyone asking why they don’t go out to eat anymore.
Making the plans? Crucial. But explaining how the plan works and getting everyone affected by them on board? That requires some additional thinking time. But it’s well worth the effort–especially when you’re trying to get the kids on board with a lifestyle change involving a more frugal approach to life.