Getting control over my finances has been quite the liberating experience for me. I didn’t exactly grow up poor, but we struggled a little. My mom was a single parent, and I always remember getting pretty much everything I asked for, as long as she could afford it. Christmas was celebrated fully in our house. My sister and I were showered in gifts, and I never felt deprived.
Later on, my mom told me that she struggled at times to be able to afford to do things like buy us toys — but she managed to never go into debt doing so. She always had beautiful shoes and clothes, and believed that in order to feel confident in the workplace, it helps to look the part. She was known as a spender, and only started saving for retirement at the age of 40. Over the years, she’s taught me a lot about personal finance. Here are the tips that have helped me the most when managing my own finances.
1. Always Have A Budget
The first thing mom taught me was how to create a budget. When I was first out of college and knee-deep in credit card debt, we sat down and listed all of my monthly expenses. We then calculated my monthly income, and I was able to see how much I had left over for savings and/or retirement. I know I put up a fight when she tried teaching me this simple and essential practice when I got my first full time job. I was all for spending any leftover cash on nights out and new clothes. I wish I would’ve listened to her sooner.
2. Don’t Use Your Credit Card If You Still Have Debt
I will be completely honest with you guys. There was a time in my life when I lived off credit cards, and didn’t realize the harm I was doing. If I wanted something, it simply went on a credit card. Even if I knew I couldn’t afford it, I found a way to purchase it. I never thought about how I would eventually pay off these lofty bills. I lived in the moment and only had beautiful outfits to show for it. Sure enough, I was in over my head in debt, and couldn’t see a way out. My mom advised me to physically remove my cards from my wallet, put them in a drawer and never use them. I only paid the minimums on each of them for a long time, but I learned fast that I needed to be throwing more money at those bills if I ever wanted that debt gone. Mom helped me figure out a monthly amount that I would put towards credit card debt. So far, it’s been going well, and I love seeing those balances get lower and lower!
3. Dress The Part — If You Can Afford It
Like I mentioned earlier, my mom has amazing taste in fashion, and always looks polished and put together. I know for sure I get my love for clothing and handbags from her! When I got my first “real” job in Manhattan at a fashion magazine, I used that as a reason why I “needed” a brand new wardrobe with designer digs. Every weekend, I would go on a shopping spree, and spend hundreds of dollars I didn’t have on shoes and clothes, just so I would always have a new look. I was trying to keep up with the Joneses of the fashion world, who were also making three times as much as I was. When mom caught wind of this habit, she freaked. She was disappointed in me, and immediately reminded me that dressing the part is a luxury, not a necessity. You can still look professional and fashionable without spending a fortune. We went to the nearest Marshalls, and I ended up returning all of the clothing I couldn’t afford. Hard lesson learned, but important indeed.
4. Stop Being Scared Of Money
My mom grew up in a poor family, where money — and often food — was scarce. She lived with a scarcity mindset until she turned her life around. After finishing her degree in nursing, my mom earned substantially more, and money was no longer the scary monster that lived under the bed. Money and numbers are nothing to be afraid of, and personal finance skills can be learned. The minute you get control over your spending, the way you view money changes drastically. Personally, when I had the most fear over money was when I didn’t know where it was going. I saw my bank account going down, and had no clue why that was. When I began tracking my spending, that is when I had a mindset shift. Be on top of where each dollar is being spent, and money will lose its grip on you.
5. Admit When You Need Help
This lesson is perhaps the most important lesson of all. Feeling like you are in this on your own can be overwhelming to say the least, when facing a mountain of debt. The good news is you don’t have to go at it alone. Family and true friends are willing to help you, but the thing is that they can’t read your mind. My mom knows me very well, and knows I’m notorious for defaulting to doing things on my own, rather than asking for help. Putting your pride aside for a moment and asking for help could be the thing that gets you moving towards financial freedom.
If I learned one thing from mom about money, it is this: you should have balance with your finances. Don’t be overly cheap and hoard your wealth, but at the same time don’t lose all restraint and become irresponsible. Lessons in money are instilled in us at an early age. I’m so grateful that my mom modeled that hard work, organization, and responsibility are the keys to financial success — and that treating yourself to a pair of shoes every now and then is more than necessary.
Kim writes about how to be both physically and financially fit. She believes that when the body is strong, the mind thinks strong thoughts. You can read more over at her blog.
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