by Maurie Backman | Updated July 17, 2021 - First published on May 8, 2019
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Growing up, it was always my mother who paid the bills, balanced the checkbook, and handled things like allowance and spending money. And now that I'm a mom myself, I've tried imparting some of the lessons I learned from her as a kid onto my own children. These are the three that stand out most in my mind.
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As a kid, when I would ask for things my mother ultimately denied, there was nothing I hated more than hearing this old cliche. But while I've changed the verbiage for my own kids, I have made an effort to teach them that money doesn't come easily and that it needs to be earned.
My 7-year-old son, for example, gets a modest allowance, provided he does chores and helps out around the house. Some might argue that it's wrong of me to make a first-grader work for his money, but I want him to understand the value of a dollar. And you know what? Whenever we're out shopping, he can figure out how much effort he'd have to put in to purchase the item in question. Often, it leads him to realize that some things just aren't worth it.
As a mom, I can't tell you how many times I've heard my kids begin a sentence with the words "We want." ("We want ice cream," for example, is a popular one in my house.) And while parents may sometimes get annoyed by such insistence, it doesn't bother me for one key reason: My children somewhat recognize the difference between needs and wants.
My mom did a good job of teaching this as well, and it really came in handy when I was a young adult trying to hack it on my own. I didn't have a whole lot of disposable income to work with, and had I not been judicious in my spending, I likely would have racked up debt and failed to build emergency savings. But by recognizing that not every expense in my budget was a need, I was able to make smart financial choices.
When you have kids, you learn very quickly that things don't always go as planned, including money matters. I might budget a certain amount each month for healthcare, for example, but if there are extra germs going around my kids' schools, I'll inevitably end up having to spend more on doctor visits and medications.
Granted, you don't need to have kids to find that life sometimes costs more than you expect. The point, however, is to have money in the bank to pay for those unplanned bills. In fact, I believe in having a good six months' worth of essential living expenses on hand for emergencies at all times. Otherwise, your next financial hiccup could land you in debt.
As children, we're often wired not to listen to our mothers. But chances are, yours knows more about money than you'd think. And if you're a mom, don't hesitate to start teaching your kids about money while they're still young and impressionable. With any luck, those lessons will guide them down a financially solid path -- and someday, they may even come to appreciate all you've taught them.
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