Good financial habits and financial health can be as simple as thinking before you spend, avoiding waste and using every resource.
These scholarship essays have been great for seeing how simple it can be to teach your kids good financial habits. Most of the best money advice can often be summed up in a few simple steps you can use to teach your kids for a lifetime of financial health.
Today’s essay is by Tanya Nuñez, a student at the University of Arizona. She shares how her parents taught her some great money lessons through three simple steps.
Check out Tanya’s story and please share on social media. The most-shared essay on how parents can teach their kids about money will win our $500 personal finance scholarship, announced August 31st!
Looking for more money lessons to teach your kids? Check out these money lessons I learned in the Marine Corps!
The Valuable Money Lessons My Parents Taught Me
When you come from an immigrant family of seven, there’s no denying that you end up learning one or two things about finances at a very young age. Such was the case for me, who as the youngest of five siblings went through all the saving-money nuances that one can think of growing up.
From the hand-me-downs to making sure to turn off the light when leaving the room, my parents have always distilled on me, not only the idea of saving money, but spending money wisely.
Never, and I really mean never, have I met someone as financially responsible as my parents, who as long as I can remember have never fell behind on bills or balancing their checkbooks, and still always managed to provide us kids with more than enough security and comfort.
The Best Financial Lessons Come of Necessity
What I admired most about their money habits was not that they came from necessity, although as a large family money always had to be considered, but because these habits came from the fact that my parents understood that priorities and sacrifices were part of life.
Also, they never viewed this as a bad and limiting thing, but as an opportunity to truly focus on what matters in order to have a meaningful and fruitful life for yourself and your family. From their example I learned that good money habits did more than save you money; they built character.
The lessons my parents taught me about finances have undoubtedly led me to where I am today; fully enrolled in school, employed part-time, and for the most part financially independent. The responsibility my parents instilled on me would have never motivated me to apply for scholarships to be able to attend college; let alone motivated me to look for a job in order to gain experience and maintain myself.
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Three Steps to Managing Money in Life
Today, I have managed to summarize the lessons my parents taught me into three simple steps that guarantee a better and more prosperous future for me, unimaginable to what I have right now. These steps include: always thinking before you spend, avoiding waste, and always taking advantage of your resources.
Despite what people may think, truly effective financial responsibility doesn’t consist of easy shortcuts and small trade-offs. It actually takes a lot of hard work and self-control, but it certainly pays off.
In our materialistic world it is hard not to be tempted to buy tons of stuff. I go through this dilemma virtually every single day, but when it comes down to making the purchasing decision I always try to focus on what is truly important to me.
My parents bestowed on me this idea through a simple question: “Do you really need this?” Whether it is a pair of shoes or a candy bar, asking yourself this question will not only lead to unnecessary spending, but it will make you aware of what you truly want in life, which in most people’s cases, is not material things.
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My parents always taught us the importance of family and selflessness, making sure we understood that there were certain things in life that could only provide you with temporary gratification, but that there were alternatives that were simply priceless.
For example, instead of spending money to go out to eat, our family would normally eat dinner at home, but we’d get a lot more than a delicious and authentic Mexican meal; we would get hearty laughs and genuine conversations around the dinner table. When you become more conscious about your purchasing habits you start to let go of silly temptations and gain more freedom to pursue true happiness, while placing much more value on the things you already own.
Saving Money Simply by Not Wasting It
Wastefulness was another concept that always resonated at home. According to my parents, simple guidelines such as making sure to eat everything on your plate, or turning off the faucet when you were brushing your teeth would go a long way when it came time to paying the bills. Whether this was true or not, it certainly made me feel good inside knowing I was helping the environment by not wasting energy and resources.
To this day, it’s shocking to me that 40% of the food we buy goes in the trash. This and many other problems in the world are avoidable with a little consideration and self- control. The idea of “going green” can apply to so many things besides food and energy.
At home this consisted of things like: saving the extra napkins when we ordered a pizza, reusing old jars, containers, and plastic bags, and even making our own toys and games from things that were lying around the house. You’d be surprised to find that virtually everything can be used more than once or for different purposes.
As a college student, I have also learned that there are things you can resell. There are hundreds of businesses, websites, and people who are willing to buy your used stuff; like old textbooks and even old clothes that you don’t use anymore, but that are in good condition. Apart from helping you save money, being conscious of everything you own will make you that much more resourceful, which is an extremely valuable life skill to have.
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Which leads me to my last, but not least step: taking advantage of your resources. In today’s information-driven world, new helpful ways to save money and earn money are constantly popping up.
There are the bigger sources of cash such as part-time jobs, financial aid, scholarships, and loans. There are also smaller sources, such as coupons, student discounts, budgeting apps, etcetera.
Many of these resources I’ve come to find out on my own through my college experience, but other resources, such as searching for coupons and checking a grocery store’s weekly ad for things that might be on sale came straight from my parents. However, the lesson here has less to do about money and more to do with the concept of opportunity; which by being an immigrant has always rang strongly with my family and me.
The Payoff from Good Financial Habits
My parents made it clear to my siblings and I that you had to work hard to get what you wanted, but that there was always someone out there willing to help as long as you asked. This simple idea of taking initiative would not have gotten me to meet with school counselors and enroll in college; nevertheless landed me a job based on the connections I made.
Additionally, when you work hard for things, you tend to appreciate them much more. I study harder knowing that I’m paying for school, and I spend less money on things I don’t need when I know my paycheck means spending hours at work.
I know it might sound like saving money consists of pure work and no play, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I can’t emphasize enough how hard work, taking risks, and reaching for opportunities whenever possible truly pays off.
Sure, a Starbucks coffee a day sure sounds nice, but for all those times I decided not to spend my money on coffee, I have been able to use that same money to travel, invest in my hobbies, and meet new people along the way. The same thing has applied at home. Whenever my parents opted out of premium cable or a fancy car, we got a satisfying Christmas Day or a spontaneous trip to the beach instead.
Hard work indeed pays off in more ways than you might think, and it certainly makes you build better habits along the way. Consequently, you feel like a better person. The key to money is knowing how to use it, instead of letting it use you. As novelist Ayn Rand once put it: “Money is just a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver.”
I want to thank Tanya for her essay on the three steps to managing her money and how her parents’ lessons taught her personal finances. Be sure to support Tanya by sharing the article through social media and check in August for the winner of the personal finance scholarship.
About the Author
Joseph Hogue is a financial expert and investment analyst. After serving in the Marine Corps, he started his career investing in real estate before becoming an investment analyst for some of the largest private investors. He's appeared on Bloomberg and on CNBC as an investment expert and has published ten books in personal finance. Now he helps investors reach their financial goals and invest in the stock market with some of the same advice he used when working for the rich.