My Financial Journey, Part 1: Family History

Doctors often take what is known as a Family History – a compendium of the medical conditions and diseases that occur in your family members.  This allows them to get a  glimpse at both  genetic and environmental factors that may play a role in your health.  In order to better understand my own financial ‘personality’, I’m going to take a PF Family History.

Frugal FamilyFor most of my life, my parents have been incredibly frugal, bordering on cheap.  They probably got that from their parents, staid New Englanders on one side and immigrants who came over to the USA with $50 and an extremely limited English vocabulary on the other.  My grandparents were DIYers before it was trendy; they made their own clothes because it was what they could afford.  One thing that they did not scrimp on, however, was education.  My parents were encouraged to study hard and apply to college (and to many scholarships), and they have both had college degrees that translated directly into careers.

How did my parents’ upbringing affect the environment I was raised in?  My parents continued many of the frugal practices they learned from my grandparents: saving a substantial portion of each paycheck, maxing out company-sponsored retirement plans, living below their means, reusing goods, practicing delayed gratification, paying off their mortgage early, and doing repairs themselves instead of hiring someone.  They gave me a small allowance and helped me open a bank account.  I could choose to spend my allowance or save it, and for most of my childhood and adolescence I chose to save any money I made.

How far does that apple fall? As a teenager I started to sway away from my own frugal past.  Friends wanted to go to the movies, the latest clothing styles called my name, and road trips (requiring gas payments) were the perfect solution for sunny summer vacation days.  I spent money on experiences but also on the material goods that helped me fit in, or stand out, depending on my mood. When it came time to apply to college, I knew it was going to be an expensive endeavor.  However, my grandparents had saved some money for my college tuition and I got busy writing scholarship applications.  In the end I received plenty of financial assistance in grants and scholarships, and did not need to take out student loans.  I also worked several part time jobs in college, both for the experiences they provided me, and for the money that went towards paying my college living expenses.  My parents and grandparents had talked with me extensively about the costs of college, and I knew that I wanted to graduate debt-free.  I certainly continued to spend money on experiences but I always made sure I had enough money to cover my general living expenses.

Do you have similar values regarding money as your families?  How did they teach you about money?

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