Some people are frugal because they grew up in a frugal family. They watched their mom clip coupons on Sunday mornings or saw how their parents scrimped and saved for family vacations or that new car.
My family was not like that.
I like to tell people (especially my younger brother and sister when they ask me for PF advice) that everything I learned about personal finance, I learned from watching how my parents handled their money…and then doing the exact opposite.
Bad habits + bad judgment = bad results
My parents don’t read this blog (they actually don’t know it exists), which is why I’m able to tell you this story. Because even though I’ve tried talking to them again and again about how they can do things better, no one wants to read their daughter explaining to the entire online world why she thinks they’ve led their lives the wrong way. (Ever wonder why I don’t use my last name on this site? That’s part of the reason.)
Anyway, here is what you need to know about my parents’ money habits, in a nutshell:
- They are huge impulse spenders. (Example: my mom and her constant stream of brand new sporty red cars.) If they want something, they buy it, and they don’t worry about whether they can afford it. They feel like they “deserve” it.
- They are big on keeping up with the Joneses. Clothes, salon visits for my mom, tech gadgets for my dad. Just like the impulse purchases, they feel like they deserve these things, whether they can afford them or not.
- They are big on convenience. If something breaks (from a car to a major appliance), instead of getting it fixed, they just get a new one. They don’t even look into getting it fixed, they just scrap it. They also eat out a lot, and they pay to have someone else wash their car, cut their lawn, plow their driveway…They don’t want to be bothered with things.
- Because of all this, they racked up an enormous amount of credit card debt (and no college savings fund for me or my siblings).
- Because of that, they have both, in my lifetime, declared bankruptcy.
- Yet instead of being ashamed of this, they both went right back to their old ways, figuring they’d gotten “get out of jail free cards” and could start having fun again. My mom actually jokes about their bankruptcies like they’ve gotten away with sticking it to the man.
Anyone beginning to see why I’m such a savings and frugality nut?
The sad thing is, I can’t do anything about it
I’m frustrated with my parents for ruining their lives like this financially…I mean, what happens if an emergency comes up? What if someone gets sick? They have no savings and a ton of debt again.
I’m also frustrated with them because they refuse to (or maybe they can’t?) see why what they’re doing is so stupid. Like I said, I’ve tried to use the PF knowledge I’ve gained to help them get on better track, but they’re not interested. They’re never going to learn if they don’t want to. They’re way too set in their ways, and nothing ever gets through to them…even the consequences of the bad choices they make.
I hate to have to throw up my hands and let them make their own (bad) choices, but at this point, I’ve learned that it’s pretty much all I can do.
In the meantime, I can at least learn from their mistakes and live differently. And try to make sure my brother and sister and my readers know to live differently, too.
What was your financial background like, family-wise? Did they positively or negatively affect your money habits?
photo credit: theleetgeeks