9 Things I’ve Learned about Money

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Money, money, money. Can’t live without it, but we can learn about it.

9 Things I've Learned about Money - After 20 years of marriage and managing a household, here's what I've learned.

When I was a child, I used to think that having many possessions was a sign of wealth or affluence. In some ways, I guess it is. It’s costly to maintain, though.

I just spent a couple hours thinning my daughters’ wardrobes — for the second time in two months. While it’s lovely that FishChick5 has six pairs of pink pants, she really doesn’t need them all. Most of them are hand-me-downs and gifts, but still. SIX pairs? What are we — the Pink Ladies?!

We kept three and are donating the other three — along with a few other items. We thinned the herd, as my husband calls it. I suppose in many respects, it’s a good problem to have — as long as I don’t hoard those clothes instead of sharing them with someone else who could put them to good use.

Today, I’m learning that I’d rather have two pairs of great pants that wash well and feel great than a closet full of clothes that I don’t really love. But, this lesson took time to learn. My mom is nodding her heard right now.

FishPapa and I have been married for 20 years next month. We’ve learned a lot about money and each other in that time. Here are nine of those hard-won lessons.

1. Money goes quickly.

Money can be hard to earn, but it is so easy to spend! It’s kind of like messy houses: easy to mess up, and harder to clean up. I’m not sure, but I think that this is a law of nature. Money is easy to spend, so we have to be careful with it. It almost spends itself.

2. Paying cash makes spending just a little harder.

I used to avoid getting cash. I’d rationalize, “Once I break that twenty, the money disappears.” See point #1.

What I’ve learned over time, however, is that running plastic through a machine or even writing a check is much easier to do than handing over greenbacks. Paying in cash makes me want to spend less, not more.

9 Things I've Learned about Money - After 20 years of marriage and managing a household, here's what I've learned.

3. Having a budget makes a huge difference.

For years we told ourselves we couldn’t budget because we didn’t have a regular income. FishPapa was self-employed and we never knew what each month would hold. Silly me — I didn’t realize that was all the more reason to budget.

When we are more careful in our planning, we are more careful in our spending. True confession: we’re also more careful with a little money than we are when we have a lot.

4. Little savings add up.

If you’re patient, trimming your costs on certain things can make a difference, even when it seems almost silly to do so. If I buy coffee on sale, like I did this month — Starbucks for $5.99 a package — and stock up, I’ll save a lot of money over several months. Regular price is about $8.99. Since FishPapa and FishBoy16 go through a pound a week, that’s a savings of $3/week or $156 a year. I could think of a lot of cool things to do with that money.

Little ways can save you lots of money.

Books that have taught me better about money:

5. Pennies spend just as good as dollars.

When I had to clean my room as a child, I didn’t have a good place to store spare change. I remember throwing pennies away on more than one occasion because I didn’t know where I put them. True story. (Sorry, Mom.)

Even though they were pennies, they still spend just the same! Having a coin bin helps us “save” up for fun things. We currently, have a large canister with a map of Europe wrapped around it. The kids “donate” money for our France trip often.

6. A lot of really great things are free.

When I was younger, I thought it was cool to spend money. I have no idea why, but yes. Being able to afford the name brand whatever seemed the best course of action. I would get embarrassed about “free” or discounted things. While I still detest garage sales and thrift sales, I have learned the thrill of a great deal.

Bonus, you don’t need to spend money to have a good time. There are lots of great things to do, see, or visit without spending a ton of money.

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9 Things I've Learned about Money - After 20 years of marriage and managing a household, here's what I've learned.

7. Frequent bookkeeping helps me stay under budget.

Out of sight, out of mind. While I don’t want to be Ebenezer Scrooge, counting my stacks of coins every day, I know that frequent accounting keeps things (like budgets and bills) in the forefront of my mind. This helps me spend less and be more mindful of my purchases.

In a similar way, keeping updated scrapbooks always was a great reminder of how quickly the days with my children were passing. While my books are woefully neglected, the simple act of scrolling through old pictures can be the reality check I need to spend my time — as well as my money — wisely.

8. Procrastination is costly. So are messy desks.

I currently really struggle with keeping a neat and tidy desk. Part of it is the system in place, part of it is me. However, putting off that task cost me some money last month as I forgot about a utility bill for our investment property. I had to pay a late fee.

If I stay on top of things and keep my papers in order, we avoid spending more than we should.

9. Money is not a measure of success.

I have to remind myself of this: money is not a measure of success. Our household income is not huge; especially for raising six kids. We live a modest lifestyle, and that’s totally cool with me.

What’s not cool is when I feel like a failure because we don’t have more money in the bank or a big, fancy home of our own. That’s when I need to remember that my success is defined in how I love people and how I live my life, not what the check register says.

9 Things I've Learned about Money - After 20 years of marriage and managing a household, here's what I've learned.

This is Frugal Friday. In an effort to make these weekly financial discussions more interactive, I’m no longer posting a link-up. Feel free to leave a link in the comments. But better yet, chat with us on today’s topic.

What have YOU learned about money?

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  1. Y’all have made it a lot farther than we have, though my husband and I have made great strides since we’ve gotten together. Our issues have almost always been in the way we do things. He’s a believer in using plastic, while I always rather use cash. It’s always been a slight adjustment on either side.

    The one thing that’s helped us overcome the majority of our problem is doing money “things” together. It’s helped cut down on 90% of our miscommunications about money.

    Our other problem has always been our tight budget. Your freezer book has helped out alot with that, since grocery is one of the area’s we go over budget. I’m hoping your Juice book will help me cut out the soda eventually.

    7&8 are areas that I struggle with as well.

    1. Communication is HUGE. We ebb and flow on that one. I do the books but sometimes feel like the Grim Reaper delivering the news. Ha! We recently worked out a plan for communicating about it that I hope will help.

  2. In response to #9: It’s also in the way your children and husband love YOU! Success is knowing you have a close family and when you’re kids are raised, you’ll likely still have a great bond. Money cannot buy that. I work from home while my kiddos (twin 7 year old boys) are in school. I’ll never regret not spending time with them and I believe the effort I make to do so will result in a strong bond with my sons and husband.

  3. This was a really timely and helpful reminder for me in a lot of ways. I have had a difficult time with maintaining a budget for various reasons. As you mentioned, my other half does not have a consistent income. Because we aren’t married and do not jointly merge our money, that makes things more challenging for us on a regular basis. I tried to pay cash exclusively for things like eating out but since I am really not accustomed to carrying cash (I grew up hearing my dad say “never carry more than you can afford to lose”), that has been a habit that has been hard to maintain. But I can also see, at the end of each month, where the costs need to be cut, once the credit card bill rolls in. I got one of those year at a glance planners and when the bills come in, I enter it in and try to make sure I look at the week and month at least once a day to make sure I plan appropriately. I get really upset with myself when I miss something by a day and see the late fee.

    Like you, I also used to foolishly throw pennies away. The 40 year old “Me” would be yelling at the 16 year old “Me” for that. I talk to the kids daily about the importance of money. Even the pennies. Instead of stickers and candies, their reward for things is pennies, dimes, nickels and quarters. My son gets a penny for going on the potty (take THAT M&Ms) and my daughter got a quarter last night for being a big girl and letting me take her band-aid off. They enjoy putting their coins in the bank and my daughter loves to see how much her little bank weighs and how it is getting full.

    I am starting to really recognize how money and food/weight issues tend to be the same when it comes to our relationships with them and how we talk about them and handle them with our kids. I haven’t really found a happy medium with the latter, but I hope I am raising my kids to appreciate what money is and what we use it for. Heck, they both are already accustomed to looking for things on sale!

    Thanks for the post!!

    1. I love the potty treats! It sounds like you’re doing great, Christie! Making that decision to do hard things is half the battle.

  4. Thank you for reminding me that “my success is defined how I love people”. All around me people are doing very well not only financially but sucessfull in other areas as well and I feel like a failure. This article encourages me to go on, do the best I can, not dwell too much on what I could’ve done better or differently. Thanks

    1. Always remember that others may not actually be doing “very well” financially just because it appears from the outside looking in that this is the case. It is highly likely that they have more “stuff” and take more trips, etc. because they are using credit cards. They could be about to collapse under the weight of the debt, but you just see how much “stuff” they have. I know this because it is my life right now.

      1. I’m so sorry to hear that, Beckie. That is a hard place to be. Do you have a plan in place? We were once in that situation. We jettisoned everything but each other, selling off anything we didn’t absolutely need and taking every extra job that crossed our paths. Let me know if you’d like some help. I’ll pray for you for sure!

  5. Thanks for sharing your wisdom, Jessica! It’s nice to hear these tips from someone I admire but who doesn’t pretend to be perfect. 🙂 I like how your post made me feel encouraged and inspired instead of defeated. 🙂