I’ve got two awesome boys. I know parents say that all the time but mine really are. They are good students, hard workers, and most importantly they are good, kind people. My biggest concern when my husband died was how I was going to be able to raise two little boys on my own. I certainly never expected to be a single mother. No one is perfect but when life starts feeling overwhelming, and as a single mother I can assure you there are lots of moments like that, I look at my kids and know that I did something right.
Here are some lessons I would like for my boys to remember as they enter into adulthood though. These are things I’ve learned the hard way, so learn from my mistakes boys!
- Get into the habit of saving something from each paycheck into an emergency account. Develop this habit now while you’re young and don’t have as many financial obligations and emergencies. Do something crazy like 50% of your paycheck if you can. You can always cut back a bit once you start having more financial obligations but I promise you that seeing that dollar amount grow each month in your savings account will be a great incentive to keep adding to it.
- DON’T lease a car. I got sucked into that trap and it’s a hard one to escape. Get a used car, get it checked out by a reliable mechanic and pay cash if you can. (PS-I have driven some really awesome cars though!! PPS-I also blame this a little on my brother since he worked at a car dealership and brokered most of these transactions, lol)
- Start contributing to your company’s 401K as soon as you can, especially if your company offers a match on your contributions. You’re giving up free money otherwise. Free money is good.
- Don’t buy too much house. Being house-poor is not fun and not worth it.
- Don’t carry a credit card balance. Blood suckers, not fun at all. In my defense, a good portion of our credit card debt is due to medical bills but believe me, some of it is foolish, impulse purchases also.
- Life Insurance!! As soon as you have a family, you need to get life insurance. It’s dirt cheap when you’re young, figure out what you need then add more to it. I definitely learned this the hard way. We had minimal life insurance when my husband died and it made things VERY tough on me. Pray that you’ll never ever use this but God forbid the worst happens, you or your family will have financial help.
I think those have been my biggest financial mistakes. But there have been lessons I think my sons have learned from me or can learn from me that are good also.
- Create a budget. Super important and it’s been my best tool in figuring out how to pinch those pennies and stretch those dollars. I have a simple spreadsheet that I plug my numbers into twice a month (based on my bi-monthly paychecks). I know what bills have to be paid from each paycheck and I have a set amount each pay period for fun stuff too so it’s not all bad.
- Be a smart shopper, which often means being a patient shopper. My youngest son is great about finding deals, whether it’s online or at a consignment shop but both are bad about paying too much if they decide they want something right now. Watch the sales, check the clearance racks, use promotional codes, and know where items are generally the cheapest to buy
- Use rewards. Some of the various ways I use rewards include discount cards (Target debit card, Sam’s Club card, Kroger fuel points, Receipt Hog, different survey sites, Ebates, and rewards points for credit cards).
- Figure out cheap entertainment. Rent a movie instead of going out to the cinemas (tough one for me, I LOVE going to the movie theater), read a book, go for a walk with friends, host a board game night, meet up with friends at someone’s community pool or park, etc. Spending time with friends doesn’t have to be expensive nights out on the town.
I think it’s a universal hope for all parents that your kids end up doing better than you in life. To be honest, some days I’m just thrilled to death I’ve raised them this far and they haven’t dragged me onto Dr. Phil to talk about how I’ve ruined their lives. But most days I just hope they take these lessons, the good and the bad, and they go out into the world and be awesome people.