History lesson

I’ve always been interested in personal finance, I think it started with my father who was extremely frugal. Little things I saw and experienced growing up became habits for me as I got older, even though we never really had a formal conversation about managing finances.

He would pin his credit card statement to the pin board in our kitchen with a check for the full amount attached, so the next time my mother went out she could mail it. I remember him saying to me at one point “always pay off your credit card balance in full every month”. He explained why that was necessary and it made perfect sense to me as a kid, and still does now, even though I am not able to practice what he preached.

I remember trips to the supermarket and we would always go the refrigerated section which had the items that were marked down. Sausages, ground beef, sliced ham, you name it, all of it had a sell by date of today and my father loaded up! “We can just stick it in the freezer” he would say. A few times he actually waited by the supermarket employee who was marking the items down at the time so he could grab it before anyone else could. I distinctly remember another customer (an elderly lady) who had the same idea, being quite annoyed that my father was literally picking up the items as soon as the employee had reduced it and put it down. Needless to say I was very embarrassed but my father on the other hand was beaming.

If you knew me as a kid you would have noticed I never wore name branded clothes like Adidas or Nike. No matter how much I wanted them I always used to hear from my father “You’re just paying for the name”, as he picked up the store brand t-shirt (on sale of course). Most times I wasn’t even present when I got new clothes, my mother and father would come back from a shopping and say “We got you some new clothes and shoes”. As usual they would be too big, but they were happy that I could wear it now and for the next few years before it actually fit me properly “You’ll grow into it” they would say with a smile.

Then there was the car. Most couples when they decide to have a family they also decide to purchase a vehicle that is a suitable size for said family. But my parents weren’t most couples. When I was born my dad owned a 2 door station wagon. He loved station wagons because of all the space they afforded while still keeping the drive-ability and economy of a regular car. Some of my earliest childhood memories were in that car, listening to talk radio as that’s all my father listened to. He actually listened to it with a portable radio he kept in the car as the original car stereo was no longer working, and he didn’t think it was worth fixing considering he had that old portable laying around. A year or two AFTER my sister was born he decided it was time to get rid of the old 2 door station wagon and purchases something a little more reliable. Cue the USED 2 DOOR Ford Fiesta! That’s right my father decided to purchase a smaller car than the one he had even though my sister and I were getting bigger. I’m sure he got a great deal on it as we kept it for close to 10 years. I’ll always remember that little lever on the side of the front seats that you had to push up to fold them forward. By year 3 I was becoming an expert at getting in and out of the car in a fluid single motion.

Although my father was very guarded about our financial situation, one thing he did discuss with me was saving. He was a BIG saver, and talked about it constantly. “You’ve got to have a backup”, “Try and save as much as you can”, “You’ll never know when you might need it”, “What if there’s an emergency”. Listening to this constantly as a child indoctrinated me to the point where I am absolutely obsessed with saving money.

When I left home and started living and working on my own I would forgo even the slightest luxuries so I could save money and build up my savings balance. I ate sandwiches pretty much every day because it was so cheap, only drank water and got take out only once a month (I love fast food). I hardly bought any clothes unless I had to for work, and took all my washing home every weekend so my mother could wash it (yes I was a douche). I would be giddy when I saw how much money I had saved in my checking account as soon as payday rolled around. I took what I had left and moved it to my savings account, then started the cycle again  with my new pay check. Saving money just made me happy, not because I was saving for something big, or preparing for an emergency. I guess I was pleased to have something left over before the next payday.

When I got married everything changed.




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