Why I’m into PF

Bad Credito? No Problemo!I’ve hinted for a while that my family’s bad money habits are the reason I’m so careful with my finances. I guess it’s about time I tell you the story.

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


  1. Hi Em,
    What are your parents’ plans when it comes time to retire??? Are they going to lean on you for help? I have some family members that sound like your parents, and it’s like they don’t think about the future at all.

    I just recently discovered your blog, and I love it!

    • Em (The Blonde) says:

      Thanks, Valerie!

      When it comes to retirement, I don’t know what they plan on doing. (They obviously don’t really “plan” on anything.) My brother and sister and I will probably wind up helping them when it comes to the point of finding a nursing home and things like that, but I don’t think any of us plan on helping them retire when they’ve done nothing to earn that right themselves.

      I know that sounds incredibly harsh, and I hate being that way, but what else can we do? We’ve managed to pull all of ourselves up by our bootstraps, as they say, and we’ve worked really hard to all become financially independent from literally nothing. We won’t let our parents end up on the streets or go without medical help, but when it comes to retirement? I don’t think they’ve done anything to deserve that.

  2. Samantha says:

    My parents were the exact same as yours when I was growing up. No thought to the future, no savings, no college fund, and nothing I could do about it.

    They have since divorced and my mom is doing much better with her finances, although my dad is doing worse. I even gifted them each a copy of Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover book. But I’ve learned: you can’t care more about someone else’s situation than they do. And you can’t fix a problem until you realize it is a problem!

    • Em (The Blonde) says:

      That is so, so true. I sincerely hope your parents read that book and take it to heart…Dave Ramsey has opened so many people’s eyes. But you’re right, there’s only so much we can do to try to help someone who won’t admit they need help. The best we can do is try to learn from their mistakes.

  3. My parents are cut from the same clothe as your parents and I learned the same way you did…do the opposite of them!

    They are now in their 60’s. My Dad was laid off from his temporary Engineering job (he never continued his education and is basically an engineering dinosaur). My Mom quit her job about 7 years ago to take care of my Grandmother and then after my Grandmother died, she decided to not look for a job right away to get back at my Dad (since he has only worked about 10 years in the last 20 years – dinosaurs don’t get many Engineering assignments). When she finally decided that getting back at my Dad wasn’t working (he basically didn’t care), the economy tanked and she couldn’t get a job. She now works part time taking care of a senior citizen,

    So without any real income (unemployment which will run out soon and caring for a senior who will run out soon), they just refinanced their house…yes a new 30 year mortgage. Good thing is when they refinanced, my name finally came off of their loan. When I was 21, I got suckered into cosigning for MY PARENTS mortgage. Now I am 40 and they have a new 30 year mortgage. My mortgage will be paid off in 10 years.

    They do not understand anything that I do to save money and have the same attitude as your parents…that they deserve to enjoy life.

    What they (and other people) don’t understand is that enjoying life is about attitude, not dollars.

    • Em (The Blonde) says:

      Wow, they made you cosign on THEIR mortgage! That is the height of parental irresponsibility! I have to admit I resent my parents for not being able to help my siblings and I with college (or anything, really), but at least they didn’t draw me into their own down spiral. I am SO glad you got out of that! (And that you learned from their mistakes.)

      You make the perfect point about “deserving” things. My parents seem to feel this resentment toward life…like they’ve worked so hard at jobs they don’t like that they deserve to take the money they’ve earned and blow it however they want. But they don’t realize that if they were smarter with their money, they’d have the freedom to find better jobs and could have happier lives overall than they do now just trying to make themselves happy with STUFF.

      It really makes me so sad.

  4. Minus the bankruptcy this is all too familiar to me. I remember worrying about “being poor” as young as maybe 8 years old and luckily learned some good financial habits from my grandfather, and aspire to be like him since he was never rich by any means but he always had money for things, especially if we needed it. He told me that he was the proudest of me for being the only one out of my mom, aunt and me who didn’t need to ask him for a downpayment for a house. Still hold those words close to my heart.

    Glad you saw the bad and were able to turn it into something positive for yourself, because believe me, both you and I will be the ones making the plans and pulling the money our of our pockets to keep our parents afloat later on in their lives, so save up now.

    • Em (The Blonde) says:

      I hear that.

      I felt the same way growing up. It never made sense to me how my parents never had the money to pay for school trips, music lessons, or any of the other things my friends got to do when they were buying new cars and appliances left and right. I realize now that it DIDN’T make sense, and that we weren’t poor so much as my parents managed the money we DID have very, very badly. I am so proud now to have my car paid off and some savings in the bank, while my parents, at 60+, are still living literally paycheck to paycheck. They’ve got two mortgage on their house, not to mention the bankruptcies, and the only thing they’ll be leaving their grandchildren one day will be a lesson in what not to do.

      I’m so glad that my siblings and I (and you!) were able to learn from the bad examples and do better with our own lives.

  5. My parents also haven’t declared bankruptcy, and my Dad made $130k, but I always knew that they’d run out of money. Dad didn’t want Mom to work because they decided to live 2 hours away from his job and he wanted her to be able to stay in their camper with him. They have a $450k mortgage, are UPSIDE DOWN at 63 and 62, a 5th wheel and truck that are paid off but cost $100k, cameras, ATVs, and 4 cars for the two of them. Then he got laid off and they got an inheritance and spent about $40k on a new Expedition (why do 2 people need such a huge gas guzzler??). Now they are waiting on the rest of the inheritance but that won’t take them far because get this… Dad has leukemia now! His life insurance expires next year and frankly Mom is screwed financially if he passes after that expires. They have to rent a second home (well a 3rd because they have the huge camper – did I mention it has a garage?) because he needs a bone marrow transplant and his odds aren’t great. If not for the inheritance, they’d be filing bankruptcy. He never planned for illness and now he can’t work.

    My real father is a a-hole but he was frugal. I think that part of my nature is biological, part is due to my own past, and the rest is due to watching my parents blow through money. If they suddenly got frugal and worked out their mortgage and sold the excess assers, they’d have enough, but I can’t see them going through the “stress” of downsizing.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents but it is so frustrating! I know my Mom will run out of money and it’s not like my brother and I will let her live in public housing, even though she helped 0 with my education. I now have well over a 100k in student loans because, due to their income, I got charged the maximum rates and had to take out private loans. That all capitalized and here I am. At least we’re not like my friend: her sister was about to kick their Dad to the curb so my friend bought a condo to rent him. We are only 30!

    • Em (The Blonde) says:

      I feel the same way that you do, Meghan. I do love my parents…which is why it’s especially hard for me to watch them continue to make bad decisions again and again. I can see my brother and sister and I doing the same thing for my parents down the road…helping them out financially in spite of the student loan burden they put on us. It’s completely backwards of the way parents should be taking care of their kids.

      I am so SO sorry to hear about your dad’s leukemia. So many people don’t stop to think about what might happen if the unexpected happens, and they just live in the “now” without planning at all for the future. I really hope your parents can realize that they still have the means to pay for some of his medical expenses if they downsize, but since I know all too well that you can’t change someone who doesn’t want to change, I at least hope that you and your brother can lean on each other and find the strength to get through this. I’m here for you too. :)

  6. my mom worked as a nurse, so she had a very low income, while my dad had a very good job with a very, very good income. But it was my mom who taught about savings. Since I was old enough to help out at home, I got an allowance, and I quickly learned that if I just saved that money, it would soon add up. And this mind set is something I´ve kept all my life. I never learned about budgeting, that`s something I had to learn by myself, but how to save, that`s something I owe credit to my mom.

  7. Ohhhhh man. Family matters is something that gets under my skin like nothing else. I am VERY familiar with your scenario of -try to tell them a better way and the simply don’t care. So infuriating! I would hope that if they tried to genuinely help me save some money that I would listen and apply the knowledge, so it is unfathomable that they don’t. That’s why it’s important to surround yourself with friends who love PF as well.

    • Em (The Blonde) says:

      Exactly! I get a lot of comfort (and support, and good ideas) from my fellow PF bloggers (and readers!). It’s nice to be surrounded by people who understand what’s important and are doing the work to get there.

  8. Hi Em

    I have had somewhat of an opposite experience to you. My father died when I was 5 and my mother refused to give up on the oversized house they had built when I was born. My mother never worked, so she make the house payments the prime priority and every penny went into the house. Throughout my whole childhood there was a distinct taste of deprivation, apparent in wearing the shoddiest clothes in the neighbourhood, not having any of the ‘cool’ toys and being made fun of for it a lot when I grew up. So, when I got my hands on my first money. I went nuts: expensive shampoo, skin care, cosmetics, iphone, macbook, mercedes, oversized wedding, overpriced honeymoon…. and now I’m slowly coming to terms with the ‘balance’ that’s lacking in my life. I have recently started to read many PF blogs and love Dave Ramsey’s approach. Recently, I have had a pay reduction and my car’s ventilation broke and I cannot get it fixed, and I cannot afford health insurance anymore, and I’d need dental work done that I cannot pay for. I think I got my wakeup call … better late than never, I suppose. I am 34 and am slowly crawling out of my dept hole. Ironically, I am using a lot of the tricks now that my mother used back when I was a kid….

    • Em (The Blonde) says:

      I’m so sorry for what you went through growing up. I can understand where you’re coming from…It sounds like we both reacted to our parents’ financial habits by going off in the complete opposite direction of what they did.

      I’m also sorry to hear about your current money problems, but people like Dave Ramsey are GREAT resources for getting yourself back on track. It’s never too late to get yourself into better money habits, and there are so many resources out there now for you to rely on. I know lots of people who’ve gone through Dave Ramsey’s course and it’s changed their whole lives.

      You can totally do this. You’re on the right start already. If there’s anything I can do to help, just let me know!

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