Childhood Money Memories

A lovely reader left a comment a bit ago that got me thinking – what are my early money memories? Not my experiences as a teenager opening IRA’s and reading The Wealthy Barber, but as an actual child? And how did those influence me as an adult?

I thought it was an interesting question, and I should give it some thought. So I did, and I thought it really divided into a few categories. My immediate family and how they acted about money, my grandparents who are actually one of my biggest inspirations, and my own memories as a kid.

So if you’ve ever wanted to know what kind of money-related upbringing lead to someone who starts investing as a teen, read on.

My Family Background

When I was born, my parents had little more than love and…well that was about it, actually. Here’s a bit more information about my immediate family background.

  • My parents rented a floor in a three family apartment in a town here in CT that’s not considered to be a very nice one. It’s not a really bad town, per se, but a mildly bad one.
  • When I was three and had a new baby brother, they bought a house in the next town over. It was a small three bedroom home (under 1,000 square feet) on a quarter acre of land, and it wasn’t in the best part of the new town, but it was much better than the apartment. This would have been in the 80’s, when my parents were very happy with their 13% interest rate as a “bargain”.
  • My mother stayed at home with me and my brother for most of our childhood. After we moved into the house, she started an in-home daycare, which she would continue until I was about 12 or so. This allowed her to be at home when we got home from school while my father worked.  At that point in time she went to work in a low-paying corporate job, part time for the most part until we were grown
  • My father originally worked in a factory, and went to school evenings and weekends to get a degree to better his life. Similar in some ways to me, but he never took courses full time and worked full time like I did. After finishing his degree, he got a corporate job, which he held until the late 90’s. He was caught in one of a many rounds of layoffs, but was saved by his side hustle
  • Before “side hustle” was a thing, my father had a side hustle. Growing up I remember him being gone not only all week long, but also most weekends. In the pre-internet era, this was of course a physical side hustle – he painted houses. When he was laid off this side hustle ramped up into a business, where he did a variety of interior and exterior painting, cleaning, etc. He quickly was able to earn more at this side hustle than he did at his corporate job
  • My parents were young when I was born. My mother was 21, and my father only a few years older.
  • We did a huge number of money-saving things when I was a kid. We didn’t have cable, back in the 80’s and 90’s when pretty much all my friends did. We never went out to eat-ever. In fact when I was small, we were in a bad car accident, and my main memory of that time was that we got to eat McDonalds for dinner. It wasn’t until I met my husband that I realized other families out there not only had cable, but also had expensive cable add-ons (like HBO) and went out to eat all the time. Laundry was hung outside, and birthdays were at home with homemade cake.
  • We never struggled with the financial basics – at least that I’m aware of. There was no tremendous debt to pay off, lack of food, or worry about how to pay the bills. Today, looking back, I’m pretty sure they were always saving and investing. Now they live in a very large house, with the kids gone for over a decade, and are getting ready for a comfortable retirement. They also paid off their mortgage fully sometime in their late 30’s or early 40’s.

So although we started from not much, I was able to see my parents become financially prosperous over the years. Even when their income went up, they didn’t ramp up lifestyle. As a result, a job loss that could have been financially devastating became instead an opportunity to expand a side hustle into a full time business. Had they been living on the financial edge, or not saving/investing/paying down the mortgage all those years, that opportunity may never have come.

My Grandparents – Mustachian Before That Was A Thing

My fathers parents had terrible money habits, but not my mothers parents. They were mustachian before MMM was even born. How so? They were children of the Great Depression. They built a house in the 60’s that they paid for in cash, and lived in for the next fifty years until they both passed away.

They saved everything and wasted nothing. A week before she passed away, my grandmother gave me a “look” for suggesting she just leave her Keurig machine (that the family got her but she didn’t like) plugged in when she wasn’t using it. She thought that would be wasteful. In my garage I have decades worth of small jars my grandfather saved filled with nails, screws, and fasteners. They saved scrap wood, repaired everything, fixed their own cars, and were frugal to a fault. They never went on fancy vacations, and my grandfather had been known to say things like “Why bother traveling when you can just watch the Travel Channel?” Instead they went to Maine every year, boating, fishing, and generally hanging out.

Grandpas Jars

When cleaning out their house after my grandmother passed away in 2015, I found a small scrap of paper with my grandfathers handwriting on it. Guess what it had written on it?

The rule of 72.

My Money Memories

What were my early money memories, not connected to my family? Let’s see – I had a small allowance of a dollar a week, which I saved. When I was young, but old enough to remember, my brother found two hundred dollars cash in an envelope in Toys R. Us. No one ever came to claim it, so we got to have it – and my parents used it to buy a savings bond for my brother and I. I can distinctly remember being amazed that $100 would buy a $200 savings bond. I still have it, and hopefully will take my kids on another savings-bond trip to the bank one day to see how much it’s become.

I always had a penchant for earning money. We had a lemonade stand in the front yard many summers, and would get our picture in the paper sometimes for our sales. When I was 11 or 12, I started working as a “mothers helper”, which really meant I would entertain young kids by playing with them while their mom was somewhere in the house. Later I would babysit many weekends, and sometimes cat sit, earning extra money. I got a job at 16 and worked on and off all my years as a teenager. They were all pretty cruddy jobs, but taught me valuable lessons. Like the fact that I didn’t want to have a cruddy job like that for the rest of my life.

I Want To Know

What do you think of these early money memories? Do they explain my money path today, or is it a mystery? And what’s one of your most fond money memories from growing up? Let me know in the comments.

You can always check out my ideas for frugal family fun here, or more about the fun we have with frugal holidays. Or, if you haven’t already, be sure to swing by my comprehensive Kids and Money page. 

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12 thoughts on “Childhood Money Memories”

  1. This is such a beautiful post. Being from a foreign country, your vivid words paint quite a distinct picture for me to imagine.

    I belong to a middle class family and being in India, middle class means a very different thing. My sister (older to me by 7 years) still believes I am a pampered child considering my parents got a car when I was 2, whereas she travelled on a 2-wheeler for the first 9 years of her life.

    Eating out was a HUGE luxury. Even when we did eat out, it was always limited to main course. Why order dessert when you can get a much cheaper ice cream right outside?

    My mother is a home maker and is in charge of running the household. She minutely calculates every money decision to see that it fits in the budget. My father used to have a government job though switching to a corporate job after opting for voluntary retirement really changed our fortune as it meant a much better salary along with monthly pension.

    My father has definitely been good with investing even in an era when information on that front was minimal. This has meant that they are now empty nesters, living in mortgage-free house and not having to worry about money at all

    I used to get a miniscule pocket money, which I mostly saved for any purchases I might want to make later. Somehow I remember my first money transaction very vividly. I bought a birthday card for INR 7 for a friend.

    I know this is a really LONG comment but your post really dredged up some memories 🙂

  2. Sounds like your parents gave you such a great frugal foundation. I’m interested to hear your husband’s growing up story now that you’ve alluded to several details. How did he become the frugal partner that he is today?

    1. chiefmomofficer

      Ha that would be a good one-he did not have a frugal, money smart background. When I met him he used to bounce checks and lived paycheck to paycheck to the extreme

  3. Cool post, I love when people share their backgrounds and what shaped them into what they are today. Interestingly, lots of PF bloggers divide into two main camps, comfortable and frugalish parents or poor parents that were bad with money. We don’t seem to attract many of the seriously wealthy types.

    1. chiefmomofficer

      I suspect it’s because the seriously wealthy (as in born into mansions, trust fund, inheritance style wealthy) often don’t think much about money. Money is always just there when they need it, and they hire people to take care of the finances for them. They also tend to get vilified if they do write. I know someone who was blogging on paying for private school who got death threats.

  4. Mrs Smelling Freedom

    Love the thought of you getting mentioned in the paper for your lemonade stand 🙂 hope it drove lots of traffic to your door 🍋🍋🍋🍋🍋
    One of my earliest memories is my grandfather giving me 10 cents pocket money every Sunday. Every 10 weeks he would then change it for a pound. Happy memories 🙂

  5. What awesome parents you have. Reading this, I’m not surprised you started investing as a teenager 😉 One of my earliest money memories is when I was 9 or 10 years old and I wanted a bunk bed in my room. My parents agreed, but I had to earn half the cost first. At that age, it meant stuffing mailing envelopes for my mom’s business or doing menial landscape work, but I worked my butt off and earned that bunk bed. My parents had the money, but I’m certainly glad we grew up knowing we had to earn it.

    1. chiefmomofficer

      That’s awesome-love it. My oldest son has recently been talking about wanting a new game system. I offered to let him earn it but he decided he didn’t want it that much 😆

  6. Things I recall:

    How we only ever bought things that were on sale 🙂

    Bargain hunting at garage sales

    How they had a savings account for me ever since I can remember, and also started investing for me

    How they immigrated to NZ and were able to buy land and build a house, in cash

    How they only had to work part time being mortgage free and were around a lot in my teens (too much!)

    And more reminiscing:

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