My parents have taught me a lot of things but one thing I can say I have learned quite well is how to be a good steward of finances. These financial principles they lived by and taught me have enabled my family to live a debt-free life despite the fact that we are simple missionaries, though I have a freelance copywriting sideline job.
1. Do not go into debt.
If you can help it, do not go into debt. I was spanked by my mom when I was in grade 2 because I was egged on by classmates to buy iced candy bar on credit. I was young and I forgot to pay the peddler. The vendor went to our home one afternoon and gingerly asked my mom for my payment. The vendor got the payment while I got some spanking and preaching.
The lesson stuck. I was taught to not go into debt if I could help it. My mother saved up for our school expenses a year ahead, and remember, we were 8 kids! She had a ceiling budget for every expense and she very rarely went beyond that budget. If she wanted something big for herself, she saved up for it.
2. Live not just within, but below your means.
My parents have always instilled in me to live not just within but below my means and learn to save. People have commented that my sibs and I dress simpler than the kids of my dad’s subordinates. Some told my mom that while drivers’ and technicians’ kids were dressed up in the latest trends and high-end brands, we (who were the engineer’s kids) dressed plain and basic.
We were not raised on luxury food. Daily fare was vegetables and fish. Once a week – on Sundays – we had something special like bulalo or real pancit or stewed beef. Our birthdays were all home-cooked by my mom and attended only by the closest of family and friends. My parents never hesitated to spend for our academic requirements but for luxuries? That was an altogether different story.
3. Save up for what you want.
We were allowed to buy new clothes only when we earn it— when we get good grades or accomplished household chores that are out-of-the-ordinary difficult. Routine house chores were expected of us and not rewarded, but especially challenging tasks such as unclogging the drainage, deep-cleaning the toilet, setting the storage area in order and cleaning up the ref earned for us extra money that we can spend on what we want like new clothes.
4. Embrace work.
Working around the house is NOT a no-brainer. I get quite upset when I hear parents say they take on all the chores to themselves so that their kids could concentrate in school – as if doing chores would make their kids dimwits. Why, it takes logic and an amazing sense of organization to put things in order. It takes persistence and discipline to make a messy room tidy. It takes creativity to cook something tasty from what-have-yous around the kitchen. Work trains the mind, strengthens the soul and equips the body, in a very primal way, for life.
I found my training handy and helpful when I got married. I know how to cook meals from scratch. I know how to cook in a woodstove. I know how to wash clothes by hand. (Why, I have been washing my clothes ever since high school.) I know basic sewing. (In college I transformed those neck-stifling round-neck tees into flattering scoop neck lines which my classmates envied.) If you can do menial things confidently, life wouldn’t seem so expensive. You can DIY most anything and so you get to enjoy hefty savings that you can spend for things you love — like a vacation or a dine-out.
More importantly, knowing how to manage the home would make life easy instead of being overwhelming and scary. (I know friends who feel bereft when they don’t have househelp.) And when time comes when you have gadgets and appliances, life would be doubly easy.
I still find myself paling miserably in comparison to the amazing women around me, though. For one, I don’t know how to sew with a sewing machine. I don’t know how to cook bibingka (baked rice cakes) in a traditional oven. I don’t know how to cut a pattern for sewing. I do not know how to crochet, embroider and butcher a native chicken. There are still so many things I want so much to know. (Perhaps when I retire?) But what I do know is enough to equip me for the daily challenges of my life. And for that I thank Dad and Mama.
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My Family Budgeting Method