This article was previously published on Debt-Free Mormon. It has been reprinted here with permission.
In honor of the recent Mother's Day, 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 20 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!" My mother 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 and 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 10. 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 aisle 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 do 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 Sam's 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.