by Maurie Backman | Updated July 17, 2021 - First published on Nov. 22, 2019
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These words of wisdom set me on a solid path.
Good financial advice isn't always easy to find. Sure, there are personal finance gurus all over the internet who are more than happy to share their wisdom. But the people who have influenced me the most aren't financial experts.
It was my parents who taught me some key things about money from a young age.
Here are a few specifics I'm particularly grateful for.
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Growing up, we never had a lot of money -- but whenever an unplanned expense popped up out of the blue, my parents always found a way to handle it. Their secret? They made a point of having emergency savings. Once I started working during my teens, my parents explained the importance of having a healthy savings account balance, and from that point on, I made sure to sock away at least a portion of my earnings.
Through the years, that emergency fund of mine has really come in handy. I've used it to pay for home repairs, fix vehicles, and carry me through periods when my income took a dip. Just as importantly, having cash in the bank has prevented me from stressing out excessively over surprise bills, and that's been invaluable.
I remember being fairly young when I had a talk with my mother about how credit cards work. I would see her pull out this piece of plastic and use it to buy things in stores, but until she explained the concept, I didn't really get how a single card could take the place of actual money. In the course of that discussion, my mother said something very important: Never charge more on a credit card than what you can afford to pay at the end of the month.
I took that advice to heart when I opened my first credit card in college, and I'm proud to say that I've never carried a credit card balance; I've always paid off what I owe in full. And not wasting money on interest has allowed me to save it or use it for more important purposes.
It was about 10 years ago that my husband and I decided to upsize from our small starter home to a larger space. We'd been talking about having kids and realized we'd need more square footage to accommodate a bunch of little people, so we started looking at houses in different neighborhoods.
At one point, we found a home we really liked that offered tons of space and many great features. It was also in a very desirable neighborhood, and as such, came with a high price tag and property taxes.
When I mentioned to my father that we were thinking of putting in an offer, even though it would mean stretching ourselves a bit financially, he sat me down and told me that one of the smartest decisions he ever made was buying a relatively cheap home in a neighborhood that had room for upward growth. He also warned me that if we were to buy this pricier home, we'd be limited financially in other ways, to the point where our overall quality of life could take a hit.
I heeded his advice, and we passed on that home in favor of one that was well below the top end of our price range. That was a solid move on our part, as it's given us a fair amount of financial breathing room through the years. Not only that, but paying less for a home lets us enjoy other aspects of life, like travel and entertainment, a bit more. That's important to us.
I'm really thankful to have gotten great financial advice from my parents. But the truth is that you can pick up useful tidbits from anyone around you -- a neighbor, a colleague, or even a lifelong friend.
The key is to be open to advice and to see what works for other people based on their own experiences. With any luck, you'll learn some useful things that will help you manage your money as wisely as possible.
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