Friday, April 25, 2014

Why My Kids Will Never Hear "We Don't Have the Money"

When I was a teenager, my father lost his job. Times were tough and making ends meet became impossible. One morning, my mother ushered us out the door to drive us to school and oops! there was no car in the driveway. After she called the police, she called my father....who told her it, um, was probably reposessed. A few embarrassing phone calls and white lies later, my mother called off the police and she and my father had to figure out how to get our car back.

I didn't know at the time that the car had been repossessed. In my house, talking about money was verboten as discussing your grandmother's sex life.  All I knew was that Dad had lost his job and my mom had forgotten that he'd taken the car in for service. (Good white lies. Believable for a 12 year old, anyway.)

The truth came out (drunkenly) after my mom had one too many mimosas on Easter morning. Since then,  I've decided my children will never hear that we don't have the money for something. Ever. Instead, they'll hear: "Sorry D, that toy/milkshake/unicorn that poops marshmallows just isn't in our budget for the month. If you'd like to spend your own money on it, you're welcome to".
You see, money was such a taboo topic in my house that when I left for college, I had NO FREAKING CLUE how to manage my own meager stash of it. And, credit card companies being the thoughtful entities that they are, there were credit card recruiters EVERYWHERE on my college campus. I signed up for three. Mostly because they were giving away truly awesome gifts with the application. Like water bottles. Or T-shirts. Or a Koozie.

In addition to credit cards, financial aid was the other source of my 'free money'. I know, I know. I did sign papers saying I would pay it all back, blah, blah, blah. But to me, someone who had never learned about APRs and IRAs and any other acronyms thrown in there, it was all free. Gloriously, awesomely FREEEEE!

I have since learned that I may been a teeeeeny bit liberal with the meaning of the word free. And by liberal I mean "used the word like a fucking moron'.

So, my daughter will not hear "We don't have the money". She'll hear "that's not in our budget." After which, we'll talk about important financial things like budgeting. And bank accounts. And why knowing what you're signing up for on campus is important (in so many ways).

She's already started earning an allowance for her chores (she's four, so it's not as is she's raking in the cash. It's a dime every day she brings her water bottle down from her bedroom in the morning. If she keeps doing it for the next 3,000 years, she'll be rich.) But, she's learning about saving, paying for things with hard-earned cash, and how to prioritize whether something is a really worth all those dimes she's been saving. (Side note: the bank tellers just love  us when she brings in all those dimes.)

I'm now in the throes of starting my own company, paying off my 'free' financial aid, and trying to save for D's education down the road. In the meantime, though, I hope I can pass along some of my painfully-earned knowledge in the hope that my daughter will have a much firmer grasp of financial reality than I did.

And that she never has to ask where the car is.

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