Growing up, I was mostly poor, but I didn’t realize it. The electricity was never shut off and I never missed a meal, but there was rarely money for anything extra. Clothes were only purchased immediately before school started. Shoes were always at least one size too big. Hand-me-downs were a way of life. With very rare exceptions, new toys were given on birthdays and at Christmas. As a Christmas baby, this was unfortunate. If I wanted something during the year, I had to buy it. I had an allowance on and off–more off than on–for a few years. So, I got my first job-a paper route-when I was six. Most of the toys I accumulated as a child, I bought.
Through all of this, my parents never said ‚ÄúWe can‚Äôt afford it.‚ÄĚ I was simply told that if I wanted something, I could either save my money or wait for Christmas. I never saw my parents paying bills, but they got paid. I never saw a checkbook get balanced, but it did. There were only a few times money management was ever mentioned, even in passing.
Naturally, when I moved out on my own, I expected money to take care of itself, just as it had the entire time I was growing up. That wasn‚Äôt terrible until I got married, bought a house, built an addition and decided a needed a new car. There was nothing in me to apply the brakes. I can count the number of missed payments I‚Äôve had on one hand-with fingers left over. I can‚Äôt begin to guess the number of purchases, both large and small, that I should have skipped but didn‚Äôt.
Shortages growing up coupled with absolutely no budget training turned into financial irresponsibility as an adult.
My wife grew up with almost the exact opposite training. She was also poor, but the household budget was clearly in evidence and generally taken to an extreme. Her training involved getting ‚Äúthe best bang for the buck‚ÄĚ. If an item was on sale and could potentially be useful, her mother bought five. I don‚Äôt mean five similar variations. That‚Äôs five identical products, same size, same color. She still has a display box full of screwdrivers with interchangeable tips. It looked useful and it was on sale, so she bought them all.
Through all of that, the bills were always paid.
This training has made it difficult for my wife to turn down a sale price. If something is on sale-or worse, clearance-there is an excellent chance it will be coming to our house. Once again, there are no brakes.
Shortages growing up coupled with almost two decades of watching every sale turn into a purchase has turned into financial irresponsibility growing up.
Neither one of us were prepared to handle the financial aspect of being an adult. That is something we intend to improve on for our children.¬† We intend to give them the ability to brake themselves.