Friday, October 12, 2012

31 Days to Financial Freedom, Day 12: Talking to your kids

My parents divorced when I was two.  Then my parents got married when I was 11.  Confused?  I have two dads.  I have one dad who wasn't there a whole lot when I was a kid, but is trying a hell of a lot harder now, and I have another dad who didn't have to be there and still was/is, 100%.  Anyway, my point was that my mom was a single mom for nine years.  And we were poooooor.

I never knew how poor we were until I was much older.  It never dawned on my brother and I that we didn't have any money.  I remember I always had a new book bag for school.  I found out years later that the way I always had a new book bag for school was that my mom would have a huge garage sale right before school started to pay for our books and school supplies.  One year, people walked into our house and were buying paintings off the walls and books off the shelves.  Another time, we sold all our kitchen stuff leaving only three plates, three bowls, three knives, three forks, and three spoons.  But I always had a new book bag for school.  We had breakfast for dinner a lot (my brother's favorite was egg holes), and my mom invented Poor Man Pizza.

When I was five, my mom found a job that would allow her to work overtime.  She would get us up in the morning, eat breakfast with us, then take us to our grandma's house to wait for the bus while she went to work.  We would get off the bus at grandma's, and Mom would pick us up and take us home for dinner and to spend some time together.  Years later I found out that when we went to bed at 8:00, my mom would go back to work for another five or six hours.  We never wanted for anything, but back then our wants were much more minimal.  She saved up enough money to take us on a train right to Pennsylvania when I was in 3rd grade.  A year later, we moved from the tiny two bedroom house we had lived in since I was born to a new manufactured house down the road.  She saved up enough money to pay for half of the house in cash. 

My mother is amazing.  I learned how to be a strong, confident woman from her.  She taught me to be opinionated and to always question, which caused us some issues in my teenage years (as you can imagine).  But the one thing she didn't do for me was really teach me about finances.  When her and my dad got married, things got much easier.  He's a computer guy and makes very good money, and we didn't really ever have to worry about money.  It was nothing for Mom and I to go shopping and spend $300 on clothes.  I got a car for my 16th birthday.  I didn't pay to fill up my gas tank until I was in college.  I didn't pay for my cell phone until after Piglet 1 was born.  We never discussed money, so I had no real concept of how much things cost. 

So I kind of had to figure it out on my own.  And we got into trouble for it.  So I want to talk to my kids about how much things cost.  I want them to have to pay for some of the things that they want.  That DSi I mentioned that we're getting my son for Christmas?  He had to save up half.  He asked why we don't get Pizza Hut pizza anymore, and I told him that it cost us $120 per month to eat pizza, and it was just too expensive.  He's only six, but I plan on sharing more with him as he gets older. 

We were making freezer jelly the other day, and he asked why we just didn't buy jelly anymore.  I explained to him how much cheaper it is to do it homemade, but also that it's better for our bodies because there's not a bunch of unknown items in it.  I've explained the same thing about bread, pizza, and marinara sauce, and also why we don't eat out anymore.  Explaining things to your children is simple terms can be difficult.  I'm also not interested in my son going to school and telling his teacher that his parents can't afford to buy pizza, so it's a delicate balance.  The point is, I'm trying to talk to my kids about finances. 

I want to teach my kids from an early age how to deal with their finances, pay bills, and live within their means.  In order to do that, we have to deal with our finances, pay our bills, and live within our means.  Also, when they're older and struggling, I want to be able to open up our freezer for them and give them a month's worth of meat.  I want them to come home from work and find their refrigerators mysteriously full of eggs, milk, butter, and cheese with a loaf of bread on their counter and a jar of peanut butter in their cabinet.  Because that's what my mom did for me.  And years later, I found out that's what my grandma did for my mom.  Because that's what moms do.  But the first step in that is teaching my children by example. 

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