4 things my mom taught me about money and life

In honor of Mother’s Day this weekend, I wanted to take some time and show my appreciation for one of the greatest influences in my life, my mom.

I come from a large family, I am one of eight children. I have been blessed to have been born into a loving home and to a wonderful mother. My mother has given her life to serving others, raising her children, and caring for her family. She is one of the most selfless people I know. She now has twenty grandchildren and continues to be a loving, nurturing grandmother to each one of them. She has taught me the importance of being good, working hard, and being grateful for what I have. She is the perfect example of selflessness and how to serve and love others. I love my mom.

Here are four things I learned from my mom about money and more importantly, life.

1. She taught me to pay my tithing and give

My mom is a giver by nature– as I believe are most moms. She is the ultimate doer. She is a selfless, service oriented woman and has shown me through her example the importance of giving of oneself to others. My mom is constantly thinking about what she can do for other people. If she has ever thought only about herself, it would be well deserved and warranted, I just haven’t seen it. I’m grateful to have been raised and loved by someone with such a giving heart. Because of my mom I too am a giver.

My mom has always taught me and my siblings the importance of paying tithing– both by her example and her words. As long as I can remember I have watched my mother faithfully pay her fast offerings and tithes to the church. Anytime one of my siblings or I earned even one dollar, she reminded us to pay our tithing– I can still hear my mom saying, “Make sure you pay your tithing!” She has taught me the importance of being faithful to the law of tithing and has shown me the wonderful blessings that come from being selfless and willing to give.

My mother has given years of her life serving others, including helping a supporting a variety of different humanitarian efforts. It seems like she is always making another quilt. I still have a quilt she made and gave me for my high school graduation. I love it. She has made hundreds of quilts for other people and for numerous humanitarian efforts, such as for the children at Primary Children’s Hospital. She has spent many nights knitting beanies and hats for the homeless and painting little wood dolls to send to the children in Africa. Every Christmas since I can remember she has made an effort to help other families in need, whether it be a Sub-for-Santa program or giving a box of food to a family in need. My mother has always taught us to think about others and to help others. Giving is one of the greatest things a human being can do and my mother is one of the greatest givers I know. So that makes my mom one of the greatest human beings!

2. She taught me the difference between wants and needs

This is something I am still learning. I will admit, sometimes I still buy stuff I don’t really need. But because of my mom I do know what is really important. I don’t know if my mother has ever just bought something or did something for herself just because she wanted to. My mom has continually made sacrifices in order to ensure that her family and children have had the things they need. I don’t remember my mom ever going on a major shopping spree and buying new things for herself. Sure, she would buy clothes and other things when she needed them. But as far as I know, she has never had a ton of purses and shoes, or lots of fancy jewelry– not that there is anything wrong with having those things. I just don’t think my mom felt like she needed them. She had eight kids to worry about and their needs were far more important than anything my mom might have wanted for herself.

Truthfully, what my mom wants more than anything is for her children to feel loved and be happy and have the things that they want and need. So I suppose if you look at it that way, my mom ended up with exactly what she wanted. I am happy and I have always had what I needed. Now I wish my mom would go on a shopping spree and buy a bunch of new clothes, a purse, and some fancy jewelry. She deserves it as much as anyone. But it’s just not her personality. She would probably tell me she has a purse, has nice clothes,and doesn’t need any jewelry. If she doesn’t absolutely need it, she doesn’t have it.

3. She taught me how to be frugal

My mom is the epitome of frugal. She isn’t motivated by acquiring stuff or having all the newest, finest things in life. She is about getting what she needs for the lowest price possible and making it last as long as possible– which works pretty well with a family of ten. If you ask my dad I’m sure he would tell you my mom gets all the credit for keeping the household finances together. As a stay-at-home-mom, her frugality and thriftiness helped stretch every dollar my dad brought home as far as it would go. My mom is the reason we have enjoyed so many wonderful things and been able to do so much together as a family. It isn’t easy to feed and care for a family of eight. I now better understand the financial burden that a large family creates. We didn’t always have the nicest things or the new top name brand clothes, but we never went without.

If it wasn’t on sale we didn’t buy it. If it was a name brand we didn’t wear it (Marshalls and Ross would have been nice when I was a kid). Every once in a while, my mom would allow us to splurge and buy Nike shoes for the new school year– of course if we bought more expensive shoes, that would mean we would get less of everything else. She ran a tight budget when it came to buying new school clothes. We had a certain amount of money we could spend and that was the end of the story.

There was a time that shopping for new school clothes consisted of walking down the material isle and picking out the pattern we wanted for the new shorts mom was about to make for us at home. I didn’t know it at the time, but I really hated having to wear homemade shorts to third grade. I even remember one of my friends telling me how he dressed in style. I responded, “So do I!” His reply was, “No you don’t!” I’m not mad at my mom about that though. She did her best to give us the things we needed. Sure I wanted to dress in style, but we made due with what we had– mostly hand-me-downs and homemade flower patterned shorts. Fortunately, as we got older, we had a little more money and the budget became less tight and we were able to buy already made shorts at the mall.

When it comes to cooking and grocery shopping it is Sams Club and family style casseroles. I’m not sure how she did it, but she always managed to have enough food in the house to feed eight kids and all our friends. Coupons and case lot sales are phrases I remember. The cupboards were always full and dinner was always served. There are probably only a handful of nights– I say that just based on the law of averages, not from memory– that mom didn’t make the family dinner. No offense to my mother, but it wasn’t always the best meal, but it was the biggest, cheapest– not always healthiest– meal she come up with that would satisfy such a large family. I am grateful for her selflessness, hard work, sacrifice and her thrifty ways that kept us well fed, clothed and healthy.

4. She taught me the importance of quality time

One of the things that matters most to me– especially as I get older– is spending quality time with the people I care about. I learned this from my mom. My mother has always made the sacrifices necessary to make it possible for us to spend quality time together as a family. We had a lot of fun growing up, did a lot of awesome things and visited some amazing places.

When I was younger we had a 10 passenger van– my grandma named it “the blue goose.” We went a lot of places together in that van– Yellowstone, Disneyland, San Diego, Mesa Verde, Mt. Rushmore, Seattle just to name a few. These are some of my favorite memories as a child. I am so happy my mom gave us the opportunity to do so many wonderful things together as a family. Looking back now, I question the quality of 18 hours spent in a big blue van with a bunch of loud, annoying kids– I really don’t know how my mom and dad did it, but I’m glad they did.

My mom wanted us to have the opportunity to learn and appreciate the history of our state and country. In elementary school, I had to do my county report on Emery County, so as a family we packed up our 4-wheelers and camping gear and spent a week in Emery County. As a family we have traveled back east and visited the cities of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C.. We have been to Disneyworld in Orlando, visited the beaches in Hawaii and traveled to Wrigley Field in Chicago to watch baseball games. Before one of my older brothers left for two years on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints, we all took a trip to Detroit to attend a Monday Night Football game– the Lions were hosting the Bears, mine and my brother’s favorite NFL teams.

My mom created a warm, welcoming home for our family and friends to enjoy. She built us a swimming pool and put a full size basketball court in the backyard. She also expanded the kitchen. Sure she wanted a nice kitchen for herself– and she deserved it– but she didn’t do all these things because she wanted them or for self gratification, but she wanted a place for our family to be able to have parties, bring our friends, and spend time together. My mom has spent countless hours planning parties, preparing food, and cleaning up after everyone just so we can all spend time together. I am very grateful for the home I was able to grow up in. Today, my favorite thing to do is go home.

We weren’t poor growing up, but I’m sure it wasn’t easy to afford taking us so many places and allowing us to experience so many wonderful things together as a family. Spending time together and creating memories together was important to my mom and I am very grateful for the experiences and memories she has created in my life. She taught me the importance and value of spending quality time with the people I love.

The people we love and the experiences we share together are the things we will never forget. Thank you mom for helping me understand that. I love you.

Happy Mother’s Day!

12 signs your finances need service soon

Do you wish your personal financial life had a check engine light? Wouldn’t it be nice if when things weren’t going right in your financial life that something would light up on your dashboard and tell you that you needed to get it fixed?

While there is no literal warning light for when you are in financial distress, there are warning signs that your financial life needs some immediate service.

Here are 12 signs your personal finances should be serviced soon.

1. You are living paycheck to paycheck

Running out of money before the next month begins or barely making it to the end of each month with little to no money remaining can be a stressful way to live. Having to hold your breath and hang on for dear life until your next paycheck is deposited into your checking account so you can pay your next bill is a sign of a possible money problem. Maybe your income is very low and you are doing your best to work with what you have in your current situation. But it’s also possible your expenses are too high or you’re just spending too much money and not paying enough attention. A detailed budget will help you pinpoint the problem area.

2. You do not have an emergency fund

Not having emergency savings is a sign you are not fully prepared for the unexpected events that will occur in your life. A good financial plan needs a specific fund separate from your regular checking and saving accounts that is designated for emergency use only. Having emergency savings will prevent you from having to borrow money or put the expenses on a credit card, which can lead to even more problems in your personal finances.

3. You use credit cards to supplement your income

If you continually run out of money before you get to the end of the month and you use credit cards to supplement the difference, this is a sign of a serious money problem. It is impossible to spend more money than you make and win financially. If you cannot satisfy your monthly expenses on your household income alone, something is wrong. Using credit cards to pay your bills and cover the costs of the things you don’t have the money for will eventually catch up to you. The balances will increase, minimum payments will go up, and interest rates will rise, causing your monthly budget to become even tighter.

4. Debt is part of your everyday life

If you rely on debt to pay your bills, buy your groceries, fill up your gas tank, and to pretty much finance everything in your life, it is only a matter of time before it will catch up to you and tackle you from behind. Making debt payments ties up too much of your cash flow. And the further in debt you go, the larger the debt payments become. Your income is your best resource for building savings and creating wealth. If your monthly household income is divided into monthly payments, it is going to be difficult for you to reach your financial goals and save and invest for the future. Stop using debt and learn to live on your income.

5. You are behind on your bills

Falling behind on your bills and debt obligations is a sign of not paying enough attention or not budgeting properly. When your accounts begin to be hit with late fees this is a sign that something needs to be addressed and fixed immediately. Debt payments should be a high priority in your budget and enough money should be allocated monthly to keep these payments current. You need to know the due date of each payment and payments should be sent a few days before the actual due date to ensure the money is received on time. Paying unnecessary late fees and additional interest will cause more strain on your monthly budget and lead to further financial distress.

6. Your utilities are being disconnected

A giant pink tag on your door knob is as close to a check engine light as you’re going to find when it comes to your personal finances. Getting your utilities disconnected should never happen. Utility payments should be high enough on the priority list that it is one of the first things you pay each month. Utilities are part of what I call the four walls of budgeting, or the basic necessities that should be covered before everything else in your budget. Similar to my last point, this is a sign of poor budgeting and not paying attention. Having your utilities disconnected is a major inconvenience and will usually require a large deposit for re-connection, only exacerbating the problem.

7. You’re afraid to open your bills

Maybe you don’t even know how far behind you are on your bills because you are afraid to open the envelope and look at the statement. Do you just throw the bills in a drawer or in a box next to your desk thinking you’ll get to it later? The bills will just keep piling up. Denial is a major sign of a financial problem. This can happen because you don’t know how much money you have, how much you have to spend, or what your expenses are. This is a direct result of not budgeting your money and not having a solid cash flow plan. The bills aren’t going away. The stack is just going to get taller if you don’t make a quick change and start taking action. Otherwise, it won’t be long before you’ll get a pink tag on your door or you’ll receive a call from a collector demanding the money.

8. You avoid looking at your bank accounts

Are you too scared to look at your bank account? Do you not want to know how much money isn’t there? This is a sign your spending plan is out of control, or better, non-existent. You need to know how much money you make and how much money is remaining in your bank account at all times. It is too stressful to write checks to pay your bills or swipe your debit card at the gas pump and have to wonder if there is even enough money in your account to cover the charges. If your checking account balance scares you, that’s a definite a sign you need to start managing your money better.

9. Your debit and credit cards are being declined

Have you recently swiped your credit card at the grocery store and had the cashier tell you it was declined? Did you then try your other card and it was also declined? Did you try to withdraw money from the ATM and get a receipt with a big NSF on it? These are loud warning signs that whatever you are doing isn’t working. You need a new plan. If your credit cards are maxed out, then you are relying too much on your credit cards and not budgeting your income properly or your spending is out of control. An NSF receipt is a pretty clear indication that you didn’t know how much was in your account to begin with. You need to know where your money is going and not always be wondering where it went.

10. You think you need a payday loan

If you find yourself in need of a payday advance loan or if you’ve already gotten one, your financial warning light is blinking brightly. Needing a payday loan is the equivalent of having the check engine light on, the car overheating, and two flat tires. Payday loans are a disaster and getting out of them is nearly impossible. The interest rates on payday loans are astronomical– I’ve seen them as high as 750% APR. The fees and late charges are also absurd. If you are at this point, your personal finances need some immediate service and possibly a complete overhaul.

11. You regularly pay overdraft fees

Paying overdraft fees can get expensive and annoying. If you are regularly having to going into the negative in order to cover your expenses, something is going wrong in your financial life. You cannot spend more money than you earn and make progress financially. Overdraft fees can vary, but they are typically around twenty-five dollars for every transaction your bank or credit union has to cover. These fees can add up quickly and become a problem the next time you deposit a paycheck into your account– your next pay check just became that much less. This is a result of poor budgeting and not knowing where your money is going. You cannot afford overdraft fees. They will kill your cash flow.

12. You do not have a written budget

The budget is the key to preventing most money problems. If you are not budgeting monthly and planning how you will spend your income, that is a major warning sign for future money management problems. The budget is your gauge. It will tell you exactly where you stand financially. It is like getting a regular oil change and tire rotation. It will help you get the most out of your monthly income and keep you aligned with your financial goals. The budget tells you how much money you make, how much money you have to spend, what to spend it on, and when to spend it. Without a written budget you are just guessing. It is impossible to win financially if you do not have a clear plan and clear goals. Having a budget will help you live within your income, pay your bills on time, get out of debt, create savings, and avoid having to borrow more money.

These are all warning signs and indicators that some type of adjustment needs to be made in your financial plan. I’m hopeful you can recognize some of the problems in your personal finances in time to make some positive changes and course correction and avoid serious financial problems down the road.

Money can be a blessing. With money you can do so much; you can provide for your families, give, save, travel, enjoy your lives, live your dreams, retire with dignity, or whatever it is that you value most. If you need help with your finances, consider talking with a financial counselor or someone you know and trust that could give you some guidance.