Monday, October 01, 2007

$

Such an uncomfortable topic for me. When you grow up poor, money takes getting used to.

I was told back in the spring that I was probably going to get a raise, but I didn’t hear anything else until recently, when my new contract showed up. The raise was nice, and nicer was that in my next paycheck, I got something extra: back pay—my raise was back-dated nine months, to the beginning of the year.

So I ran right to my checkbook and took care of one of my higher-interest student loans. This is what I’ve done with every influx of cash I’ve had since starting a “real” job five years ago, and yet it was only recently that my student loans got below $100,000. When we married, TrophyHusband and I were in debt for about a third of a million, with no assets to speak of aside from our degrees. His loans are being whittled away by a program for physicians who devote their time to research (research being much less remunerative than clinical work, the government tries to lure folks into it this way). Mine I’m chipping away at—$1300 a month, plus extras. I’m also putting the maximum into the various retirement accounts available to me, as is TH; the Alternative Minimum Tax rakes us over the coals every year; and of course there’s daycare. So our bank account isn’t enormous.

But we don’t have to worry. It is highly unlikely that we will ever have to worry again, at least not the way I worried growing up. After my father died, we had no income; my mother had three kids and no degree. I was placed in Head Start. We lived in a tiny apartment—we owned the house, but rented out two-thirds of it. We had an old car that broke down a lot. I wore a lot of hand-me-downs. I had two Barbies, while my friends had dozens (though I don’t recall wanting Barbies, or any toys really; all I ever wanted was books).

I didn’t really mind any of that. It felt normal to me. And I wasn’t truly deprived; I did have music lessons, and our local Y had an awesome array of classes priced on a sliding scale—I took pottery, trampoline, gymnastics, magic, swimming, even horseback riding. I mostly made friends who didn’t have much more than we did; the richer kids just seemed to live in a different world. But I did hate the worry. My mom was not good with money. Bounced checks were routine, every single month. There were always stores we couldn’t shop in because her name could be found on the handwritten list above the cash register: DO NOT ACCEPT CHECKS FROM THE FOLLOWING … Having people show up to cut off the gas or electric was not uncommon (though I learned that if you tell them you have a sick baby, they rarely actually do it). We lived in the poorer section of town, and when I went to junior high, I had to ride the “bad” bus, where you risked getting assaulted if you tried to sit in one of the tough kids’ seats, and sometimes even if you didn’t. A couple of times I went home after school with friends from one of the fancier suburbs, and I was astonished at how nice their buses were. I did whatever I could to avoid my bus—rode my bike, begged a ride, even walked the three miles.

Finally, when I was about twelve, I said to my mother, “This is ridiculous. We shouldn’t be bouncing checks. We should only spend what we have.” This was when I found out that a) my mother was unsure as to just how much money was coming in and b) didn’t really know how to balance a checkbook. So I sat down and figured those things out, put us on a budget, and took over the finances. I didn’t let my mother go to the grocery store without me, because she was liable to throw all kinds of pricey crap in the cart instead of the perfectly good store brand stuff. And it was a beautiful thing—no more bounced checks, and I finally knew just how much I could spend on new shoes for school. As soon as I could earn a little money babysitting, I did it as much as I could (in fact, I was regularly sitting for a family of three boys under 4 from the time I was twelve—no wonder I didn’t want to have kids too young). In high school, I saved enough money to pay for all of my own stuff, plus get myself to Europe two summers in a row. (My mother eventually married my stepdad, who is a perfect balance for her—he’s so frugal that he has been known to pour cheap wine into expensive bottles for her, and she can’t tell the difference, so everyone is happy.)

Frugality has a hold on me that I’m not sure will ever loosen. Oh, I’ve relaxed some—we go out to eat a lot, we take a vacation here and there, I get my family nice gifts for birthdays and Christmas, and I’ll buy myself fun stuff every now and again. We give a lot of money to charity. GoodCat recently had to have some teeth pulled out, and when they said that they could pull out two extra that looked iffy for about $60 more or wait and see, meaning it could be an extra $500 down the road to redo the sedation, I let him keep his teeth. But I’ve never bought a fancy car (I drive a Scion; TH almost exclusively rides his bike and will probably sell his car soon), we resisted our real estate agent when she suggested we look at the biggest house we could qualify for (three times as much as the house we bought), and the most I’ve spent by far any item of clothing was the $300 I dropped for my wedding dress. We never carry a credit card balance. Our house has one and a half bathrooms and two and a half bedrooms, no garage. I almost never buy my son clothes that are not on sale, and I certainly buy him nothing from any boutiques. His equipment is all of the good-enough brands. I recently learned how to drive my car so that I get more than 31 miles per gallon in the city, and this pleases me enormously.

Right now I tell people that I’m cautious with money because of the student loan debt, but there’s more to it than that. Buying things that cost a lot when you can get something much less expensive that works just as well just seems, well, stupid if you don’t have much money, and immoral if you do. My in-laws redid their kitchen using a special kind of granite that had to be imported from Brazil. It looks no better than the home-grown stuff, but cost something like five times as much. This just seems wrong to me. But then, I guess we don’t really need to live in a 1300 square foot house either. We didn’t have to use real tile when we redid our bathroom (though we did have to redo it; it was crumbling to pieces and flooding the downstairs). And one of these days I am going to have someone out to repair all the holes in the plaster …

Anyway, what I really meant to talk about when I started this is, I have no idea how to raise my son when it comes to the whole money thing. I feel very uncomfortable about the fact that he will be in such a different position than I was. He’ll be going to private schools pretty soon. When he asks for money, I won’t be able to say “we don’t have it” honestly. I’m not sorry that he won’t have to scrub other students’ toilets in college like I did, but I also don’t want him to be like the rich kids I hated. Or did I just hate them because they were rich?

I can already see some of the ways I’ll be mortifying HellBoy when he’s a teenager ...

34 comments:

Orange said...

I'm sorry you had to become your mom's parent, in a way, when you were only 12. That wasn't fair to you.

One of my best friends probably makes a doctor's salary in business, but she grew up with a single mom and a dad who didn't chip in a penny beyond his child support requirements. She's driving a '94 Accord and is having trouble convincing herself to go ahead and buy that Acura she loves—even though she's got no dependents, no debt, and plenty of savings. She likes Kix cereal, but it's usually about $4 a box and that seems too steep so she doesn't buy it. I think the frugality is a lifelong thing, honestly.

You don't have to tell HB you don't have the money to give him—just that you're not going to give him the money. I can afford to buy Ben a 97¢ Hot Wheels car any time he asks for one, but he has to earn each car with days of good behavior in school.

BTW, another good friend of mine is the director of a Head Start program. I'll have to tell her a doctor friend is a graduate. :-)

girl_in_greenwood said...

I've thought about this issue a lot, too. My parents had me really young and my dad was in grad school and we were nearly peniless until I was well into my teens. I have no real complaints about the way I grew up - my parents were frugal and we made do. But now I'm quite a lot more comfortable and my husband makes big bucks, and when we have a kid, I don't want him/her to be a spoiled rich brat. I want him/her to have the Wal-Mart experience so s/he will value what we have. It's a hard concept to teach without being poor.

Caustic Cupcake said...

No advice, but I sure am glad you posted!

Denise said...

We talk about this a lot, too. My parents were not wealthy, but they set a good example not racking up a lot of credit card debt, living in a house they could afford, etc. There are plenty of rich people who are just as irresponsible as your mother was. I think the best you can do is demonstrate how to manage money responsibly, no matter how much you have (or don't).

I think another thing we can do for your kids is not be so status-conscious--don't notice brand-name cars and clothes or talk about how desirable they are. I grew up in a fairly lower-middle-class area, and everyone was very focused on status symbols, even though most people didn't have them. When I travel back there it's a shock for me to hear my friends remark on the make of someone's car or clothes. Where I live now, no one would ever do that--it would be considered crass. Of course, it's always appropriate to comment on the historical accuracy and detail of one's home renovation, so I guess the status symbols are just different.

Carolie said...

Wow, you had a lot to shoulder at a very young age. I admire you very much, and am always pleased to see a new post.

As for money...I grew up straddling both sides of the line. When we visited my paternal grandmother, it was the Gatsby existence. But at home, things shifted wildly to both ends of the spectrum. When I was a teenager, my parents split and my mother suddenly realized that her degrees (in English, French and Art) meant absolutely nothing after 16 years raising children and not working outside the home (not that they meant much in the first place, unfortunately!)

Mom was in grad school and I was in high school, and we cleaned houses (we were "Partners in Grime") to pay the rent while my friends' part time jobs went towards movies and eating out and fashionable clothing. We were on foodstamps, and I had to fight for the dubious priviledge of "free lunch" at school.

I had a scholarship to a very prestigious private girls' school for a while -- great education, but Mom eventually pulled me out of it, due to her perception of the warped values of my classmates.

Understanding what you have, appreciating it, and being aware of the struggles of others is very important, I think. In our household, chores were part of family responsibility, and not done for money...no matter how well off we were at the time (even during the "we have a maid" years, each of us three children had specific cleaning responsibilities).

Allowance was "sharing in the family privileges" and was based on current family income, not on chores done or grades brought home. And it didn't matter how much or how little money we had...each of us was responsible for 50% of the cost of our first vehicle, and 100% responsible for our own car insurance. Period.

Due to Dad borrowing heavily against his trust funds, I was completely on my own when it came to college. I declared financial independence at 17 and moved out...and managed to complete four years at a private college with scholarships, grants, and working several jobs. I still think I got more out of my education than many of my friends (who treated college as four years of alcohol-fueled summer camp) because if I was going to have to work that hard, I wasn't going to miss a minute of instruction.

Don't laugh...Judith Martin has some really great advice in her book "Miss Manners Guide to Rearing Perfect Children". The title is tongue in cheek, of course, but her advice is right on the money. (Sorry about the pun!)

Dara said...

I grew up basically the same way. Except my parents were divorced. When I was with my Dad, I had no worries, was given everything, and allowed to shop for clothes up the wa-zoo. When I was with my Mom, it was floating/bouncing checks and stores we couldn't shop in because of that. My Mom didn't want to take my Dad to court, so my little brother and I were the ones always reminding him to send the check. That sucked....

Now, my husband and I are in debt due to starting our own business. Not to mention student loans. I hate having a credit card balance! Hopefully, by the new year my card will be paid off. We are expecting our third child and I want a mini-van...is that wrong of me? I feel guilty, but I don't think a third car seat is going to fit in our current car.

I think you will be fine with HB if you follow Denise's advice and teach him the value of money, how to balance accounts, and what credit truly means. I wish my parents had done that with us.

Jessie said...

Care to share your thrifty driving techniques?

(I'm hoping the money I budget for gas will cover some of the "oops, I went over the grocery budget" times. ;) )

Pronoia said...

I grew up on a military officer's salary, so we certainly weren't flush. My parents are both pretty frugal and good with money, so I never felt poor and I always knew I was safe.

However. My parents NEVER talked about money. Ever. They didn't teach us to budget, to balance checkbooks, to save, to do anything. It might come naturally to some people, and some kids are just more observant than I was, but I made it into adulthood with NO money skills whatsoever. I'm having to learn them now, in my early 30s. Thanks to some money falling from the sky, we have no debt, but we've not got much savings either.

I like the suggestions above, and I would also suggest deliberately teaching him how to deal with money. Budgeting, saving, all of it. He's a big young now, but he won't be for long.

C. said...

DM I grew up much the way you did, except with my Dad. Our electric was turned off more times than I can count, etc.

Now that I make a good living, I am quite the opposite. I can be a spender, but spending on school. Instead of taking out even more loans for law school, I am paying out of pocket. If I werent, I could save a ton of money.

I dont have kids, but my advice would be raise him to appreciate the value of money. I really can not stand to hear parents say no because they dont have the money. For me as a kid, it made me worry.

luolin said...

A lot of this resonates for me, but especially the part about my kid growing up in a family much wealthier than mine was.

Ariella said...

I am really discomfitted by the presumption that growing up wealthy automatically means that you are not frugal or that you are a "spoiled rich brat," as one of the above commenters stated.

Both of my parents are doctors; I did not grow up poor. On the other hand, both of my parents DID grow up poor. They were both exceedingly frugal, and they taught me to understand how frugality is important. Moreover, they were basically hippies in the 60s and 70s, so they made a lot of their own bread and didn't/don't buy into commercialism (well... my dad does like a nice car...).

At any rate, my parents had more than enough money to pay for my college and graduate school. They also had more than enough money to put me in private school. I never even had an inkling about the amount of money they made, or didn't make, until I was out of college.

As far as how to teach your son to value money, you teach him each time you do or don't buy something. My mother and father always taught me to pay myself first. By that, they meant to put away 30% of my gross income every time I got a paycheck. Most of the time, I'm able to do this. They also taught me to save for retirement -- and they did help me open a Roth IRA when I started working.

Teaching your kids healthy, intelligent money habits really doesn't have a thing to do with whether you're wealthy or not. I know kids whose parents have no business spending $50k on a wedding, and whose parents ended up selling their house to pay for said wedding. I also know kids whose parents could pay for a wedding double that cost, but who opted for a much more economical option.

Here's how I plan to raise my kids: teach them the value of a dollar. If they want an impulse purchase, help them understand how waiting can help them get something they actually need. Teach them the difference between a "need" and a "want." When they get older, tell them to hold off on buying something they "want" for 30 days. If they find they don't "need" it, then don't buy it. We teach by example; I learned by my parents' example and am very frugal today.

One last point: many very wealthy people got that way by being frugal. Not everyone is born into money, as you know. By driving an old Honda, and keeping your car for ten years, etc etc, you make the most of your money. Your kids will follow your example: if you spend too much, so will they. That's how to teach him about money.

Anonymous said...

as far as teaching your son about money: IT'S NOT A LINEAR RELATIONSHIP!

it doesn't matter how easy you could something, it's not a linear relationship. Decide on limits, and give him control (at an age appropriate level) over his own money so that he can understand the consequences* of spending money.

*consequences of course are not necessarily positive or negative; they could be either or neutral. But either way, when you spend money there is an inherant consequence.

Jennifer said...

I just came across your blog today and love it. Especially the post about running every other day.

I posted something similar to your money post yesterday, although I called myself miserly instead of frugal.

My husband's family never had to worry about money but was very, very frugal. He thought they were poor until he was in his twenties and helped his dad do his tax return. Now he spends like crazy. There is no telling how your son will turn out. I think this is one of those parts of us that depends more on nature and less on nurture. Or maybe not. Who knows.

Anyway, I am adding you to my favorites.

Anonymous said...

My grandparents were my monetary backbone growing up. They came from nothing, and when he became a successful businessman, the dollars started flying. They had nice cars, a nice house, and gave me money every time I saw them (which was at least 3 times a week). I did not know that people got loans for cars--when I bought my first car at age 15, my grandfather gave me a blank check and let me go at it. I assumed that is what everyone else did. When I went to college, he gave me a check each semester to pay with. Yet again, i had no idea that people got student loans.
Once I got into the 'real world,' I had a RUDE AWAKENING!!!!!!!!
I am currently teaching my 6 year old the value of a dollar. If she wants a toy/McDonalds/etc., she earns it by doing chores and making her own money. When she wants a TV in her car like all of her friends, I explain that we don't buy TVs for our cars (which are all 1998 models). I am learning to say NO which is very hard for me. When I was growing up, all I heard was YES!!
Very intersting subject that i ponder daily!!

Anonymous said...

I love how competent you are. My closest friend of twenty years (we met in college) grew up in terrible financial insecurity. Her mom couldn't seem to hang onto a job or a husband. She was shuttled from household to household, often left with step parents who had no inclination to care for her.

She, too, responded by becoming enormously self-reliant. She got herself a scholarship to Seattle's most prestigious prep school. She got up at 4 am to take the ferry from Bainbridge and two buses to get to school She rowed crew and ran cross country and did well academically and got another scholarship to Wellesley. Then she went to UW medical school and now she's one of the most prosperous people I know. She also now has good relationships with her scatterbrained mom, her father (who abandoned the family and never paid child support), and all the step-parents and step-siblings she grew up with who didn't actually torture her as a child.

She's one of the most self-reliant people I know. During her residency, she had surgery on her foot and got some time off while she was recovering (on crutches with a non-walking cast). Instead of lying in bed to recuperate, she packed a backpack, grabbed her crutches, and flew across country to visit me.

I just love women like her, and you, and your mother who are so competent and fearless.

Who cares whether HB grows up to be a privileged spendthrift or a savings fanatic? He has the example of a super competent, assured, self-determined mom who can take on any challenge.

teahouse said...

Just found your blog. What a great and thought-provoking post! I too grew up relatively poor (my dad was a foreign student in grad school for most of my childhood) and often wonder how my upbringing has changed my very complex relationship with money.

DrSpouse said...

You, my dear, are an honorary Stingy Northerner - Mr Spouse is a real Stingy Northerner, having lived in a house with no bath till he was 8, both his parents left school at 15; my family were frugal but not too poorly off, though on an academic's and a teacher's salary (and academics' salaries were much worse here then). Both of us have grown up "knowing the value of money" and he's teaching me more now, too!

I think it makes for a calmer and more ordered life, we can now afford to do roughly what we want to do but we spend our two decent salaries on things we actually want - not on things we can't benefit from, like higher heating/food bills or more fancy home decor or living out of town or more than one car.

Anonymous said...

So then why, exactly, are you sending HB to private schools?

onward and upward! said...

I may get slammed for this, but I kinda think most kids in the Western world should grow up thinking they are poor (financially) regardless of the real financial status of the family. That way they learn limits and how to work within limits. I'm not saying to forego teaching them about money, I think it should be taught, but I would rather my son think our resources were limited (which they are, we wouldn't have to conceal anything) and that this world wasn't one big open, unlimited source from which to draw on. Because the material world is not infinite. And we take so much from the planet, we buy, we consume, we toss what's left, and assume this can be sustained forever.

My opinion is surely tainted from my experience, which was growing up poor, poor, poor, and currently being that way despite higher education, work, effort, etc.

And yeah, I always resented the hell out of the rich kids who took it for granted.

Surgeon in my dreams said...

I think you're doing the right thing by not giving your son the impression everything will be handed to him.

When I grew up, my daddy encouraged me to take balogna sandwiches for lunch because school lunches were "so expensive". In many other ways he taught me to be cheap..I mean frugal.

To this day, I KNOW how to save money. I know how to find bargains and usually do not buy too much that is not on sale and when it is on a good sale I stock up.

It was only in my 20's that I learned the plant my parents worked for used to call them at home and ask them to please deposit a couple of paychecks so their books would balance!! ALl this time I thought we were poor.

My dad retired from that same company after 43 years and has a nice huge fat retirement sitting in the bank. He still cuts out and uses coupons for fast foods and groceries.

Mercy!

ozma said...

I guess I have no fear of this, as we really won't ever have money but I do try to figure out how not to make her as screwed up about money as I am.

My story is way less laudatory than yours. I suck with money. An unfortunate combo of poverty and a brush with wealth, perhaps.

For now, she knows we can't buy her a whole bunch of stuff but she can get stuff now and again. But what to do later? That's hard to figure out.

Also, I would suggest that the area/neighborhood you live in is CRITICAL. The bratty rich kid is a social phenomena. Stay away from the affluent suburbs...and maybe rich private school? That is the best way to avoid that mess. The rich parents teach the kids to be brats and the brats teach each other and the further away from them you live the less chance they will wield their scary influence.

Sheri said...

thank you for posting.

enjoy reading your blog.

Anonymous said...

Love your blog. I have a 6mos old and am also wondering how we will tackle this. Both my husband and I are products of public school but if we can afford it, it sounds like private school might offer all kinds of wonderful opportunities-- but should we do it if the local public schools are decent (but not fantastic)? Plus I fear the exposure to "the spoiled bratty rich kid" environment-- so how did you and TH decide that HB should go to a private school. And so young-- does it matter when they are 4? Just curious.

The MSILF said...

You are terrifying me with the student loan stuff. I'm never going to get out from under it.

Monica C. said...

Although I consider myself very frugal in some ways, I am often perplexed by "extremely" frugal people, for lack of a better term. I'm an attorney in a large law firm, where the attorneys are relatively well-compensated. I'm always baffled when I ride down to the parking garage with one of the partners (average profits per partner here hovers around $700K, to give you an idea), and, after we finish our small talk, said partner hops in a 1997 Toyota Tercel! I always wonder, "What do you DO with all of your money?"

My stepfather's parents were extremely frugal, particularly my stepdad's father. In fact, he made a rule that the heat would not be turned on in the winter, opting instead for everyone to layer up with sweaters, etc. (they lived in Carmel, CA, so it wasn't Vermont cold, but very chilly and damp in the winter). He was, as many people are, incredibly concerned with "saving for retirement," and his wife went right along with his wishes. After all that shivering and saving, she ended up dying at 59. He's still alive today, some almost 30 years later. Retirement, my eye! Save some, but live a little!

Anonymous said...

this is off-topic, but could you, in your next post regarding running, tell us what's the best way to cool down? a hot, lukewarm, or cold shower should be taken after a run?
thanks! i enjoy your blog.

Anonymous said...

Of course, just because you have the money, it doesn't mean you should buy your kid what he wants. I'm not doing my job as a parent if I don't teach my kid that he can't have everything he wants. Sometimes, you want to practice discipline and save for a rainy day. Sometimes, you realize what you want isn't really necessary--you can be creative with something you already have.

If I didn't teach my son these things, I'd be setting him up for financial and emotional unhappiness. Living within one's means is a great gift we can give our kids.

Ivory said...

I think the main things to teach kids are this:

Everything costs something - is it worth the cost?

Save your money for emergencies or large costs.

To do this, you can:

Get him his own Orange savings account so he can watch his saved money grow. ING Direct has a great kids curriculum for saving money.

Loans cost a lot - talk about interest, credit cards and other ways of "borrowing" money. If he's super aware of the cost of credit card spending, he might avoid the trap people get into with plastic.

Teach him all the tricks you know to save $$. He will need to invent more later but he'll start with some now and that can make all the difference.

At the end of the day, being frugal gives you more options. You can spend money on only things you really need, not those you think you need. This can allow you to work jobs for less money or pass up more hours in the office for more time doing the things you love. Or it can free up funds for donation to a good cause. The point is, you have more options and are not wedded to other people's ideas about what you should have and if something does happen to you financially, you can retreat and recover without destroying yourself or your credit.

Ivory said...

One last thing - I bought some stock at the age of 10 and had a lot of fun watching it go up and down for various reasons. Utilities or large consumable companies like Johnson and Johnson can be good intros to that part of financial life.

Anonymous said...

I am the mother of an 8 y/o boy, our one and only - as fate would have it - and the money topic you posted really got my attention.

My husband and I live well as a double-income household in a DC suburb and, our son attends the local private day school (no child left behind/ESL issues - we are not private school snobs.)

We are not frugal, but we're not jet setters, either. We
teach our son the importance of sharing and giving to others in need, and we teach the golden rule and the laws of karma.

As cliche as all this may sound, our son seems to "get it." My personal theory is that, whether you "have money" or not, teaching kids to fear money and treat it as something that's got to be hoarded and stashed like a squirrel and his acorns before winter to offset starvation, can lead to an healthy attitude toward money and ultimately limits one's capacity for and ability to bring more money into their lives.

Frankly, our own experience has shown that the lack of fear over money and its availability leads to creative and forward thinking about important life goals and dreams. Sure, when your kids are old enough to understand it, teach them the basics of managing money and budgeting. Yes, some of the best things in life are free - the joy we get from our friends, family, pets, nature, giving freely of your time - making someone laugh... however, don't teach your kids to be afraid to spend money. To get on an airplane and go somewhere really amazing - to buy nice gifts, a good pair of shoes, a nice bottle of wine...

My brother died at 33. He left behind a mountain of unfilled travel journals and a lot of money he'd made in antiques. Life is uncertain. You cannot tow a U-haul behind your hearse.

Respectfully,
Loudoun County JJ

Amy B. said...

Your local YMCA should have (or will have soon) a program called Money Smart Kids. Its a FREE family program that is a partnership between the YMCA and Washington Mutual.

I live in Seattle and the program started here. I just heard that the Y received a grant to take the program national.

On the off chance that you aren't near a Y or your local branch isn't offering it, you might want to look into getting a Moonjar. They help teach kids to save, spend, and share. I think that their is a story book, too. If you google Moonjar, I'm sure you'll come up with something!

Good luck!

fiftyfinally said...

I've been in a position where I had to listen to some stupid ass person give ME suggestions on how to save money. I should write a book on how to save money. (although I will have to give your driving technique a go). I've raised three teenagers with just one income and most of their friends were much better off than us. I used to have a rule on buying clothes. The $1 rule. Whatever the price, you have to wear the thing more than 25 times if it's $25 dollars. And my kids couldn't buy anything if it wasn't on sale. Now that they are adults, it's funny going shopping with them because they still live with this rule.

Mainly a midwife said...

Nothing like adding a comment over a YEAR after you posted. But I enjoy your blog and am still catching up on old posts.
I'm in a similar position. We were very poor growing up. It wasn't until I was in college and read a book on how marginalized women and children are in our society that I realized that our income put us in the poverty bracket. My father was a small business owner (mechanic) and hardly made any money but would never explore other options. They married young. Mom was pregnant at 16, married at 17. I quickly learned that I was going to college no matter what. I wasn't the valedictorian but I volunteered for every student government/leadership thing my high school had to offer and got a whole bunch of scholarships. That got me through the first two years and then I had to sell my soul to the military and join ROTC to pay for the rest. The Air Force got me to where I was heading. I now have a graduate degree and my hubby has a great job..so we don't worry about money. But that brings me to your next point...the next generation. I think the main thing we have to accomplish is to instill a sense of responsibility, work ethic and the satisfaction of a job well done. My 6yr (also a test tube baby) and 4 yr old (apparently a medical miracle) collect the recycling in our house and every few weeks they turn it in for cash. Giving them jobs helps them to be part of the family. That's what families do... they all pitch in.
Love your blog.

tinshee said...

I'm a year behind as well, but I just found your blog and spent most of last night reading your archives. :)

While my family's situation wasn't as dire as yours (we never had our electricity turned off...) money was a constant stress when I was growing up.

I'm like you when it comes to money and frugality. Now my situation is different, yet old habits die hard. It's nice to buy a nice fall coat if I want to, but I still get heart palpitations if I have to write a check for more than $100...

I love your blog, I love your writing, and I love your spirit! (I'm even going to attempt to begin running today- yikes!!!) I'll be reading more... :)

E