Money Lessons From Being 1 Of 4 Kids In A Single-Income Household

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Every now and then, I get hit with a wave of nostalgia. I like to think back on past moments from my life. It helps me reminisce about the good memories, re-affirm the lessons learned from my mistakes, and help me piece together how I’ve gotten to the point in my life that I am now.

I think this is a good exercise to do, because so many of our attitudes and perceptions are shaped based on our pasts and where we’ve come from. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve always been more of a long-term thinker, and I think because of that I’ve always been more of a saver when it comes to spending money. Since my teenage years, I’ve always worked hard and thought of spending money in the terms of how many hours it took to make it.

I used to consider most of this mindset about money as a trait that I was born with, then slowly developed more strongly over time. Lately, though, it has hit me that a lot of it was shaped throughout my childhood. As a kid, I never realized how well my parents wove elements of frugality into my siblings’ and my childhoods. The additional financial burden and responsibility are my biggest concerns about having my own children in the future. However, while I’m certain it was expensive to raise four kids, my parents showed us that it’s possible to do so on one income.

I have fond memories of going to parks every weekend, countless trips to the library, home cooked family meals, and the occasional treat of eating out at casual restaurants. We loved frequenting Goodwill and playing creatively with our toys. We’d spend hours running around outside, making up brand new games to play until the sun came down. We were happy, loved, and well provided for — not because of money being spent, but because of how much time my parents were able to spend with us. I didn’t properly appreciate it at the time, but now I realize this was an enormous privilege that was very valuable to my life.

My dad was never open about specific financial numbers, but I think he did this sort of as a way to protect us. We didn’t deal with the stress and pressures of money when times were hard, and we didn’t take on attitudes of entitlement or become spoiled when times were good. And, while specifics were never discussed, my dad was very effective at passing along the basics of good money management to us. We knew that making money took hard work, the necessity of saving, and the importance of giving. We learned that debt was something to take seriously, to be careful with credit cards, and to invest money so that it would grow.

My mom has always been a stay-at-home mom, which showed me that time was more important than money — made possible because we as a family were fortunate, as we could afford to get by on just one income. She poured into us with everything she had. She’s the most generous person I know, with both her time and her resources. She spent countless hours helping each of us, with everything from school projects to alphabetizing baseball cards. I got to come home every day and have someone listen to me talk about how my day went. She was the one to listen to me spout off sports stats, as well as the one to read through every single one of my school essays to help improve my writing.

While I take after my mom in most ways, I’m more like my dad than I usually like to admit. While this has led to some clashing here and there over the years, it has helped sharpen me into the man I am today. We’re both stubborn and cling tightly to our strong opinions. We like to think logically, yet are also emotional. We talk a lot and tell our favorite stories over and over. Now, personal finance has become another shared interest, which stems from the love for our families and wanting to provide for them. My dad always showed he loved us, both through his words and his actions. My dad would come to our school presentations during his lunch break and sit in the stands of our sports games after work. He is very hard-working and always provided for us, but he didn’t let that consume the time he made for his kids.

Both of my parents have exhibited countless qualities to me that I want to carry out in my own life. They always supported me in everything I’ve done, while believing in me as I’ve pursued my biggest dreams. They’re the best parents I could have asked for, and they equipped me in life as best they could. Instead of simply paying for my college costs, it was put on my shoulders to work for it and fully appreciate the education I was gaining. Privilege is a word that gets thrown around a lot, often with a negative connotation, especially when people don’t recognize their own. In my situation, I let it fuel my gratitude. I feel blessed to be where I’m at, and a large part of that can be attributed back to having parents who were always present throughout my life and instilled positive traits in me. I don’t take that for granted.

The big takeaway I want to leave you with is that time is more valuable than money. Take some time to step back and analyze where your attitudes and perceptions about money have come from. What life experiences have impacted the way you feel about money? My parents taught me these lessons with their actions throughout my life. I learned through their example of how they handled money, but what they actually spent it on was largely forgotten. I learned much more from how they spent their time, and those are lessons that I hope to pass along to my own children someday.

Image via Unsplash

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  • A. Ann

    I think this piece, especially the last part, is missing an important component: time is only more valuable than money when you have all your basic needs met. Money is more valuable than time when it can provide you a home, health care, food, etc. Yes, you’re right that after a certain level of income and standard of living we should be questioning what is most fulfilling, having more money and things or having time to spend in the ways we’d like with the people we love. However, it is a privilege to get to choose which of those is more important to you that many people do not have, and I think it’s important that this piece be put in that context. Many people who do work long hours do so out of necessity, not because they value money more than spending time with the people they love. That being said, for those of us who may be middle class, this piece can be a nice reminder on how valuable and influential prioritizing time with loved ones can be if we have that option.

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