I’ve been told my whole life, “don’t buy things you can’t afford” and “live within your means.” It’s sound advice, but when you break it down, what does it really mean? Affording things is great, but just because you can pay for something doesn’t mean that you should.
My parents raised me to respect money and to have an appreciation for what it means to be concerned about finances. I’m not going to go into a lot of family background here, but both of my parents understood what it was to do without. They wanted to make sure I didn’t know that world, but they also wanted me to have empathy for those who face the struggles they knew.
When I was growing up my parents made me put 10% of my allowance into savings and another 10% into charity. For a long time, I was given $7 a week allowance, which means my “take home pay” was $5.60. I had two jars that I put 70 cents into and every few months I would deposit my savings money into my bank account and my charity money would be given to something.
My parents wanted to show me that you had to save in order afford things. At one point I wanted a LEGO train set that cost $100. I saved my money diligently for a year and a half and I finally was able to purchase my train set. The point of my savings was not to hoard money but to hold on to for bigger things. If I didn’t save that 70 cents a week, I would’ve never been able to enjoy my LEGO train set and I wouldn’t have been able to have the feeling of accomplishment from a long-term goal.
I’m thankful that my parents taught me how to save and that a portion of your income needs to be set aside for future goals. As I think about how to talk with my son about money (still a long way off, he’s not even 2 yet), I hope that I can show him an example similar to my parents. Savings and charity are important, but the bigger lesson I learned from my parents was to be mindful of how you spend your money.
On episode 4 of our podcast, we talk about what to do with extra money on your budget. We discussed our emergency fund, the thinking behind it, along with what to do with extra money on your budget. One thing I think we could clarify better is that extra money could be put towards bigger, longer-term goals like a car or house or vacation.
When I was a kid, my long-term goal was a LEGO train set. As an adult, my long-term goal is paying off our solar panels (~11K to go!) and our house (about 280K to go). The process behind by child and adult long-term goals are the same, be intentional with your money.
One of the reasons we started this site and podcast is because we found ourselves being asked about money related issues from friends and family on a regular basis. A budget gives your money intention. It gives it a purpose, direction, and a goal. Yes, I was raised budgeting, and I’m thankful for it. Having a budget that is correct and functioning allows you to do things with your money, instead of money doing things to you. I was a budgeter from childhood, you may not be, but it’s never too late to start.