The following is a guest blog post by Stacy B Miller:
Seldom do we realize that our past money memories cast a long-term impact on our financial behavior. Those childhood memories shape our beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and attitude about money.
Don’t agree with me? Okay. Let me share my story with you. Hopefully, after you finish reading my story, you’ll understand what I’m trying to convey.
When I was growing up, my dad used to scold my mom whenever she used to buy something expensive for me. Those memories are still there in my mind. I can visualize my dad saying – “Why did you buy such an expensive dress for Stacy? She has so many dresses.” My mom replied that she loved that dress and bought it for me. But dad couldn’t be pacified. He got angry and forced mom to return the dress.
I saw everything. This is the earliest memory I have about money. I wouldn’t deny that this incident has influenced my financial behavior remarkably.
The ‘dress’ episode was only one incident. There were plenty more. One day, three of us went somewhere. I don’t exactly remember the place. When we were returning, my mom asked dad to buy some chocolates for me. He shook his head and said – “No need. There are plenty of candies at home. She can have that.” Mom said only one thing – “You don’t buy anything for her. Do you even love her? It’s always about money and savings.” Dad’s reply still echoes in my ear.
“I’m the single bread earner in the family. I love my daughter. But I don’t want to spoil her. My income is not huge. I’m not a millionaire. I’m an average middle-class man who has to save every bit of money to make sure she gets good education. I can’t afford to run into debts or bankruptcy. I have too many things at stake”.
I didn’t understand his words completely that time. But I realized a few things. If I asked dad to buy anything for me, he would be angry and fight with mom. I didn’t want that thing to happen. From that day, I never asked my dad to give me anything.
Many years have passed. I have completed my higher studies. I’m working right now. But my attitude towards money has not changed. I don’t ask anyone to give me anything. I don’t ask dad to gift me anything. Life has changed. Dad sometimes tells me that he wants to buy something for me. I refuse. If I like something, I buy with my money. But you know what. I rarely feel like buying something expensive for me. I feel that’s a waste of money. May be, my childhood memories are responsible for this financial behavior. I don’t know if it’s good or bad. But this is how I am.
In my childhood, when we used to go for Christmas shopping, dad used to always look at the ‘sale offers’. He used to buy me a dress that was on sale. Mom always had an eye on expensive things and she used to always pick a costly dress for me. Dad used to say, “It’s too expensive. Can’t afford it.” Today, I can afford an expensive dress. But when I go for shopping, I end up buying dresses that are not costly. I would always explore dress that are on sale offers. I would look at the designer dresses and admire them. But still, I don’t have the courage to buy them.
My dad has a saving mentality. He saves money wherever possible. He lives a frugal life even after retirement. I have seen as a child how he used to save money. Those memories still affect me. Most times, dad used to commute by bus. Naturally, I also traveled by bus. Today, I can afford to travel by car. But, I don’t. Most times, I travel by bus. It has become a habit.
Self-deprivation made me feel less valuable. It killed all the desires to pamper myself. My memories about money have taught me 3 things. First, if you want something, buy that for yourself. Second, save money so that you can lead a comfortable life after retirement. Third, be independent so that you’re not financially depended on anyone for your needs and wants.
Am I abnormal? Am I crazy? I don’t know. What do you feel? What are your earliest money memories? How have they affected you?