Where do we first learn about money? At home. I recall going with my mother to a Crocker Bank in Sacramento (later acquired by Wells Fargo) to open my first savings account. The teller was tall and thin with Aqua Net hair. She looked at me with very intent eyes then said I had a very musical name. That was my queue to tell her that I played the piano and sang in the school choir. When we actually went into banks, it was exciting to add money (never withdrawal) to my passbook. I wish I still had it.
2020 was a year of spending money on food and not much else. Now that we are getting used to our new normal, why not keep the basics that many of us have put into place this past year? Here are 5 tips from my childhood that still come in handy:
- Eat at Home. We live at home and work at home, so why not eat at home? It’s nice to support the local economy, but you save a lot when you grocery shop and make your own food. Coffee to-go is also a large expenditure. Luckily when I was living and working in San Francisco in my 20’s, Starbucks did not exist.
- Cut Back. My mother grew up in a generation where you earned your keep, and money was spent only if you had it. Before she died 16 years ago, I still hear her saying that this “new generation” is in a hurry for everything. She could not believe the amount of money me and my sister spent on bottled water. “Why would you buy water when it’s free from the tap?” Good point. It’s ok to have a nice house and a fancy car, but only if it doesn’t send you into debt.
- Auto Deposit. If a portion goes directly into a savings account, you won’t even miss it. If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it’s that life is unpredictable. There will always be fires to put out, so why not plan for those rainy days without worry. It’s also a terrific way to build up a steady nest egg.
- Keeping Up With the Joneses. Money was never discussed in our home except to be responsible about it and understand the value of a dollar. I don’t think I ever heard my parents talk about money except to pay the paperboy. He always rang our bell at dinner time when he knew we’d be home. Why compare yourself to your neighbor as a benchmark for social class? There will always be the haves and the have nots, so don’t even think of keeping up.
- Cash is King. Carry it, hide it, but it doesn’t mean you have to spend it just because you have it. My parents never carried a monthly balance on a credit card that couldn’t be paid off. My favorite tagline is from Financial Peace University Founder and Radio Personality Dave Ramsey: “The paid-off home mortgage has taken the place of the BMW as a status symbol of choice.”
The working girl at her desk from her first real estate purchase in 1993. Lombard Street, San Francisco.