Editor's note: This article was originally published on Kierste Carter's blog, Frugal and Domestic. It has been republished here with permission.
Whether intentional or not, all parents teach their children about money. I was blessed to grow up in a home where my parents lived within their means and taught me to do the same. Here are six things they taught me that have shaped, and continue to shape, my financial decisions.
1. They started young
If I wanted something, I used my own money to buy it. As a 3-year-old at Disneyland, I purchased my first "souvenir," a sterling silver pendant of the castle, with my own money which I had earned and saved. As a preschool-aged child, I gained experience in saving up for something and discovered the feeling of accomplishment from meeting a goal and getting something I really wanted.
2. They let me make mistakes
At 10, I bought a doll. It was a rather expensive (and well-made) doll. I had saved and saved and saved. It was a big accomplishment I suppose, however, it never brought me the satisfaction I wanted. Instead of buying the same kind of doll as my friends had, the doll I really wanted, I bought something "better." It was beautiful and higher quality, but it wasn't the same size. Because of the size, it wasn't easy to play with my friends and their dolls. Mine was a GIANT. I spent more money and I got something nicer, but I wasn't happy. I'd spent a lot of money on something that made me unhappy. My parents didn't fix it. My mom let me share my disappointment, she validated me, she consoled me, but she didn't fix it.
What I learned: before making a purchase I take the time to figure out what I really want and why I really want it. More is not always better, bigger is not always better, and it's better to delay a purchase than regret it.
3. They were persistent
The stock market, oh the stock market. My dad started teaching me about the stock market at about age 12. I HATED the stock market.
My parents started a college fund for me, and EVERY time (OK, maybe not every time, but it sure felt that way) the statements came my dad would make me sit down next to him and he would show me what was happening with the stocks in my account. I was confused. I was annoyed. I was positive that I wanted NOTHING to do with the stock market. I didn't even understand what stock was and I didn't know why these people were paying me money (or not). I'm sure he knew I didn't understand or care, but he was persistent.
After a few years I started to catch on, little by little. When I started taking a class in college where we learned about stocks, bonds, retirement and choosing mutual funds, I was surprised at how much I knew. I was surprised that what I knew was not common knowledge. I still had a lot to learn, but my dad's persistence, with his stubborn and uninterested daughter, had given me a foundation that led to success in the class. This foundation allowed me to focus on more detailed aspects since I already knew the basics. It gave me the courage and desire to start investing for retirement.
4. They didn't sugar coat the facts
When I wanted something that wouldn't work with their budget or priorities, they told me. It wasn't dramatic and it wasn't a secret.
5. They expected me to have a job
There's nothing quite like having a job you don't enjoy to teach the value of a dollar. Every dollar painfully earned is a dollar not to be thrown away on a candy bar you didn't fully enjoy or a movie you didn't really want to see.
6. They taught me to shop sales/clearance/second-hand
In sixth grade, I began getting picky about which clothes I wanted and I wanted a lot. Rather than argue about what she was/wasn't willing to buy, my mom gave me an envelope with cash in it. That was my clothing budget. I got to purchase whatever I wanted, but when the money was gone it was gone. I wouldn't get more clothing money until the next school year. I quickly learned to prioritize and to find deals.
My motto: The more I save, the more I can spend. I like to spend money but I don't like to spend more than necessary.