Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Money money money
I'm having contractions, or else Dinkypie is digging his fingers into my cervix in a wild escape attempt, so I decided to think about money instead.
Recently, I have avoided thinking about it at all, and until about a year ago I was pretty manic about checking the online banking, etc. Then I relaxed a bit and only checked a couple of times a day. In the last few weeks---that avoidance has become utter oblivion. And today I thought, what the hell, let's get back to earth; pay a few bills.
Mostly because I've been thinking about how we teach our kids about money and bills and budgeting---and what impact does this have on our economic choices as adults?
Mr.Cotta grew up with a lot of money, and at one point, they no longer had it. So he has known highs and lows and hates being in debt and without the ability to spend freely. He also though, is not really into the middle ground of budgeting and spending calmly. He doesn't want to know how much things cost. Even though he knows he has too. Poor guy.
I grew up with nothing and my parents never taught me anything about finances or how to handle money except for overheard conversations about losing the house, and how we had no money for food that week, but my mother had run up yet another $300 phone bill calling her relatives up north, or how my dad had done something else stupid and run up a credit card bill he could not pay. I never had an allowance and never had any spending money, so if I ever did get money, I didn't know what to do with it and blew threw it in seconds. My parents stole the money my grandmother had put into a college saving account for me, and when I got into university, there was no money, and the student loan program disqualified me because of their bad credit rating. I had to wait until I had lived on my own for three years to qualify for any loans at all. I worked as a waitress and a bartender to support myself in the meantime, but since I had no idea how to save or budget, I racked up my new credit cards and bought too many dumb things I simply did not need.
Paying that off and learning how to plan out my spending during university saved my ass, and let me eat. I hate debt as much as my husband, but I also know that sometimes you need to use it for certain things, like mortgages, or buying cars, or home repairs, etc...and yes, sometimes for buying necessary items when you are cash short. I've admittedly become unreasonably obsessed with RESPs for my kids due to my own history. I'd rather die than ever tap into them for my own uses or household bills. (Yes, some people get so broke they have to take money from the kid's college accounts, to pay for food and rent, but we've always been a loooonnnng way from that. My parents never needed the money for anything necessary, they just felt like being shitheads.)
So I've tried to teach my own kids about money, telling them how much things cost, talking about paying bills, and giving them an allowance so they could practice saving, spending, and giving money to charity. At one point we debated tying it to chores and only giving them money on special occasions or from the tooth fairy and we started out that way. But it became too difficult for Kaz to earn enough money to do anything. And the whole point of the exercise was lost, because he never had any money to manage. We changed it so that chores are simply an obligation of belonging to the family that they have to do no matter what. No choice, although we do change chores around during exams, etc. because we want Kaz to focus on homework then.
So now, we give them one dollar per year of age per week, 11 dollars per week for Kaz, and 8 dollars per week for Mac. They both have savings accounts and they deposit money, they give money at church and they have money for candy at the store....for my part, I (mostly) only give them presents on Christmas and birthdays, and if they want something in the interim, or something too expensive for Mommy and Daddy to justify, they pay for it themselves. Kaz is a miser, I think he has the first dollar we ever gave him and Mac is totally spendthrift.....can't stop himself from buying stuff. So we've had to make Kaz spend money on stuff, and forbid Mac from doing it. It's pretty funny actually. It's amazing what they decide isn't necessary to buy when it's their own money coming out of their very own wallets.
So that's what we do. And our neurosis around it.
What money habits did you grow up with? And what have you taught your kids? (if you have any) If you have no children yet, then what do you intend on doing?