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Just talk about it, be honest

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My parents paid for my siblings and I to complete our bachelor’s degree if we so chose. All this time I thought they had saved enough money to pay for 4 years of school for all 5 of us. As missionaries who struggled to raise support for most of the years I remember (my teenage years), I have always been in awe of this.

Now don’t get me wrong. I know my grandparents contributed in some part for each of us. At one point, before my 16th birthday, I was shown a check for $10,000 made out to me. It wasn’t given to me, but explained as a contribution to help with my car or college or something. My memory is fuzzy.

Idyllic years

While I was growing up, I knew there were times we struggled with money. My mom was frugal to a T, scouring grocery ads and visiting numerous stores to get the best deals. It was exhausting. And I remember the tears and fear. Most of the time, those were just my impressions, but a few times, I saw it.

But the only money talk we ever heard from my parents was “Give 10%, Save 10% and then…” with the rest. And that mantra would supposedly end up with what I saw my parents doing.

college books

I loved my years at college. They were carefree and some of my favorite years ever.

And I never thought anything of it. I just trusted this advice. (Not that I followed it.) But I always thought that doing this formula would result in savings to pay for 5 kids first cars and 5 kids to go through college, etc.

In fact, during college, I never once thought of or even saw the cost of my schooling. I never heard them discuss the thousands they must have paid for room and board and tuition. They just let me make decisions on housing and meal plans and classes and they paid the bill. I have no idea how much those years of idyllic living cost them.

The reality

It’s just been in the past month that I learned the reality. My dad would borrow money for college tuition and then pay it back at some point. I don’t know what platform he used to obtain these loans or even how long it took him to pay them off. But finding this out made me look back to a very different reality.

Not a blame game

I’m not writing this post to blame anyone for my choices. But hearing how my dad paid for our school, just made what I had believed my whole life a falsehood.

I wish my parents would have been more open about the costs and payments they made for me. Don’t get me wrong, I am so grateful for those idyllic college years where I didn’t worry a thing about money. But I really believe I would have a completely different view of money if I had been more exposed to reality.

That is something I have done with my kids. Exposing them to our household finances, being open with them about my mistakes and also showing and explaining finances as they change and I make better decisions.

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Lose the credit card or at least leave it behind

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I am finding myself tempted to spend more often now that I have money in the bank. With a comfortable savings account and most bills on auto-draft, my financial life feels safe right now. A very new feeling for me.

And I find myself tempted to spend money without any forethought and without a budget line item. This is especially tempting with my credit card in hand.

But I’ve also found the solution…leave the credit card behind.

I can’t take credit for figuring out that this works for me. I accidentally left my credit card at a restaurant in Atlanta the last time I had to go to the city for work. Instead of going back to get the card I ordered a new one. It took over a week for the new one to get here.

During that time, I had to really think through every purchase. Was it in my budget? Was it budgeted for now? Because every purchase was coming directly out of my cash account.

It was a really good lesson for me. Really, really good.

Long term application

I’m trying to figure out how to apply this lesson for more long term affects.

I’m thinking that when I am home, most of the time, I do not carry my credit card in my wallet or purse. That will make me continue to double think any purchase. I don’t like using my debit card, in general, or accessing my cash account. It just makes me nervous. This will make me plan for purchases or at least think about them a bit longer.

Not to mention, I hate leaving my house most of the time, so having to go home to get a payment method will be a deterrent in and of itself. Can anyone else relate to that?