5 Money Lessons I Learned from My Mom

On Mother’s Day, we are reminded that mom is our first and most influential money role model. As children, we watch mom make thousands of purchasing decisions from the front of a shopping cart. We notice what goes in the cart and what stays out, how mom pays (cash or credit) and what mom lets us enjoy immediately or sets aside for later. We may not realize it, but our own purchasing and payment habits were shaped by watching our mom. Lucky for me, I picked up some pretty sound money habits from my mom. Here are five of them.

1. Always shop the sales rack first.

Last Season’s Clothes are New to You

To this day, I am blind to a store’s front window displays. My mom taught me to head to the back and root through the sale items first. I’ve always found that after unearthing a 75%-off pair of jeans and 90%-off t-shirt, my appetite for the “new” clothing at the front of the store is greatly diminished. Besides, in a few months, these new items will be waiting for me at the back of the store, deeply discounted.

2. No, you can’t have Guess Jeans.

Labels Aren’t Worth the Price Tag

When I was in 7th grade, Guess Jeans were very popular. Many of my friends had a pair, and I too coveted sporting the triangular label on my back pocket. I’m not sure that my mom ever knew how much I wanted Guess Jeans, because I never asked for them. By middle school, I already knew that my practical mother would never pay $50 for a pair of jeans. Also, Mom had no interest in encouraging label-lust.  My desire for Guess Jeans passed as quickly as the trend, and I learned a valuable lesson: labels are rarely worth the extra cost.

3. Research will save you thousands…

The Value of Comparison Shopping

In our family, Mom is a legendary researcher. She can find anything online, and she often directs this skill toward purchasing. Mom taught me the value of comparison shopping. She also taught me that timing is important. If you are willing to wait for what you might have bought on an impulse, you can save substantially. Mom regularly sees items in stores and then finds them online for a fraction of the price. She’s a master at saving money on airline tickets, and budgeting for low cost Disney vacations.

4. It’s OK to splurge on non-necessities…

But Save Some Money First

Mom taught me that it’s ok to indulge yourself, but not at the expense of saving money. Before you go out for dinner, buy an iPad or sign up for premium cable channels, you should have a healthy savings account. This is your foundation. Once you’ve built a solid foundation, it’s ok to treat yourself. This is a lesson everyone would be lucky to learn early in life as I did. Having a healthy savings account, brings peace of mind during life’s downturns.

5. There’s no budget for books…

College is Mandatory.

There’s one place Mom rarely said no: the book store. I remember carrying stacks of new books to the counter with no questions asked. This is a prime example of putting your money where your values are: the $50 jeans were a definite no, but the leather-bound Civil War book series advertised on TV from Time Life? No problem. In my house, education was key and college was mandatory. Mom said a good education is something nobody can ever take away from you. All four of her children are college graduates.

Going to college is the best money advice we can give to our children. The unemployment rate for high school graduates is nearly double that of college grads, and college grads make almost double the income of those holding only a high school diploma.

Thanks Mom for all the sound advice. As a mom myself, I’m now trying to pass these same lessons down, with a 21st century twist, of course: no, you can’t have an iPhone, yes, you can download another 6 eBooks and yes, college is still mandatory.

Karen Carlson is the Director of Education and Creative Programs at InCharge. She enjoys frugal living in Orlando, FL with her husband and children.

In his 40-plus-year newspaper career, George Morris has written about just about everything -- Super Bowls, evangelists, World War II veterans and ordinary people with extraordinary tales. His work has received multiple honors from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press and the Louisiana Press Association. He avoids debt when he can and pays it off quickly when he can't, and he's only too happy to suggest how you might do the same.

Mothers day portrait


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