Editorial Policy

Which Money Lessons will you be Thanking Mom for this Mother’s Day?

Kristin McGrath

May 11, 2012

Chances are, your mother taught you that “money doesn’t grow on trees.” If you’re older than 65, however, you probably grew up hearing your mom say, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Between the ages of 18 and 34? Then you were more likely to hear your mom say, “Give generously to those in need.”

At least that’s what respondents reported in Charles Schwab’s most recent quarterly Retirement Survey. The survey asked participants to name the financial advice their mothers most often repeated. Other common pearls of wisdom? “Wait for it to go on sale” and “Spend like there’ s no tomorrow.”

I don’t recall hearing any of those phrases while growing up, but that doesn’t mean my mom’s money messages weren’t coming through loud and clear. My mother is both practical and creative, and those traits shaped how she taught me about money. Here are the lessons I still remember:

Avoid impulse buys:
My mom didn’t have any problem saying “No” to me.”I want that candy,” I’d say at the checkout counter, pointing at M&Ms.

“Nope, not today,” she’d say.

“Can I get a toy?” I’d ask when we were at the mall.

“No, Grandma and Grandpa just gave you a bunch, and you don’t need any more,” she’d respond.

From repeatedly hearing the word “no,” I learned to walk away from impulse buys. Even today, when I find myself eyeing a tempting bit of junk at the store, my own brain tells me “No.”

Splurge occasionally — within reason:
When I did get a special treat on a day that was neither my birthday nor a holiday, my mother would explain that I could name one small item that I wanted, and it would be mine. We would go to the store, and my mom would remind me that I could get only ONE toy and that I should think carefully about which one.As a result, I learned at a young age that it’s OK to splurge once in a while — but to limit my splurges to something I really want.

Money comes from hard work:
My mom was never a fan of giving me an allowance (free money). When I was in elementary school, she introduced the Chore Chart —  a graph of various chores and their monetary value. The amounts were small — $0.20 for wiping down the kitchen counter and $2 for cleaning the bathroom, for example. Yet it was a fortune to me at the time.

Each time I completed a chore, my mother inspected and approved my work and then allowed me to write my name next to the completed chore. At the end of the week, my work was tallied up, and I got paid.

As a result, I was getting a paycheck before I was old enough to have a “real” job.  And I quickly learned that the amount of money I had was directly proportional to how hard I worked.

What money lessons (good and bad) did you learn from your mother?

With Mom in mind, here are some of the best personal finance blog posts of the week:

So Over Debt confesses some of the biggest financial challenges of single parenthood.

MomAdvice suggests some affordable Mother’s Day gifts.

Charlie of Three Thrifty Guys has some tips for last-minute Mother’s Day shoppers — as well as a thank you letter for his own mom.

Sustainable Personal Finance proposes a creative alternative to buying toys for your kids — find (or start) a “toy library.”

Kelly Whalen of The Centsible Life is a bit worried about how she’s going to entertain her kids when school’s out for summer.

Christa Palm of MomVesting is selling unwanted clutter to make room for baby.