Brittany D. McClure
The Valdosta Daily Times
Happy Mother’s Day, budgeteers! Hopefully you took the advice of a few articles ago and did something for the woman who taught you how to pee in a toilet. After potty training one mutt successfully (and one Chihuahua unsuccessfully), I now have a whole new respect for mothers who have taught their children to go piddle and make boom boom like a boss. Kudos, mama, you earned it.
Speaking of things taught by mothers, I thought today would be a wonderful time to reflect on the things that my mother has taught me (and is still teaching me) about getting my finances together, or as she likes to call it, learning to stop freeloading. I haven’t the faintest idea why, but my mom has an overwhelming feeling that when she and my dad are on the brink of death, I am going to have no money to take care of them. I try to settle her nerves by telling her that thankfully she has a son with an electrical engineering degree who is currently programming for one of the world’s leading social media networks. However, being that I am infinitely cooler than my brother, I can see why she wouldn’t want him taking care of her!
So for your continued amusement of my failures, here is a list of things I didn’t know about budgeting and personal finance that my mom taught me that will hopefully teach you, too.
1. If it’s not on sale, you’re not looking hard enough.
In my almost 25 years of living, I have only seen my mom purchase something at full price a handful of times. This isn’t just because she’s smart; I also believe that my mom is like a sale whisperer. I used to pick out a pair of pants during school clothes shopping and she would say: “Put them back, they’ll be on sale next week.” Sure enough, they always were. My mom is like a genuine hunter. She doesn’t pay tons of money to sit in an open field while someone releases 20 turkeys to be easily shot; no, she tracks her prey and then leaps on it like a spider-monkey and kills it with her bare hands. She takes a sense of pride in being able to find something on sale, so quite often, she won’t pay full price for anything. Due to that mentality, my quintessential shopping catch phrase is, “Oh it’s cute, but it’s not $50 cute.” Being taught to ritualistically track sales has made me the fashionable and frugal woman I am today. While people fret over the latest trends that they can’t afford, I look at the latest trends and systemically calculate a way to rip them off. Thanks, mom.
2. Don’t let others do for you what you can do for yourself.
Watching my mom pay someone to do something is like watching Glenn Beck talk without using his hands as puppets. He can do it, but you can tell that it just completely strips him of his spirit. My mom views things such as nail salons and car washes as luxury purchases. In our house, we washed our own cars, painted our own toenails and cooked our own dinner. Eating out was only for special occasions and grabbing McDonald’s on the way home was just considered being lazy. My dad and brother mowed the lawn and my mom planted all the flowers. If something needed painting, we painted it, and when something needed fixing, we fixed it. Sure, a $20 pedicure and a $10 car wash doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but check out this math:
Say from the age of 16, I got a pedicure and got my car washed every week. Let’s use the above figures of $20 and $10. From 16 to now, that is nine years. There are approximately 469 weeks in nine years. A total of $30 times 469 comes to $14,070. That’s a lot of money, honey.
3. Trust no one and question everything.
When it comes to money, my mom is pretty paranoid. She takes on the worldview that everyone is trying to rip her off and it’s her job to correct them. When she does eat out, she thoroughly inspects the bill. After a purchase, she analyzes the receipt and cross checks the math to make sure her coupons and discounts were done properly. When someone rings a tag and the discounts don’t immediately pop up on the screen, she interjects: “That’s on sale right?” Sure, it sounds a little crazy, but more times than not she finds a mistake. This is why she also devotes a lot of time balancing her checkbook. Believe it or not, just because a bank’s sole purpose is to deal with money, it doesn’t mean they always do it right. I can’t tell you how many times both of us have caught fees we shouldn’t have been charged, double charges and more on our statements.
4. Be one with your bill chart.
My mom is all for bill charts and organization. It’s the way she pays bills and it’s the way I pay bills now, too. My mom is all about getting your priorities straight, and how can you get them straight if you don’t know what they are? Simple and easy.
5. Do your homework ... and not just the school assignments.
When my mom buys something, she is confident that she won’t feel remorse for her purchase because she has thoroughly researched it. She checks online reviews, asks friends and compares prices. Nothing makes my mom madder than when she buys something and goes to another store and sees it for $5 cheaper. For God’s sake, that’s a pack of toilet paper! So she has taught me to always know what I’m buying and to be able to accept the information and move on when I see it’s not a good purchase. She doesn’t just do this for major purchases such as a car either; I mean, she’ll research a box of Special K if she thinks it might help her drop a pound.
Well, budgeteers, I could give you more nuggets of knowledge, but I bet this is all you can handle. Don’t forget to like me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BrittanyDenneyMcClure and follow me on Twitter @BudgetBrittany (It’s still the same account as @VDT_Brittany, just with a different name).