During my teenage years, I was given responsibilities and chores around our home and at some of the rental properties my father owned. It was hard work and I remembered eagerly looking forward to Sunday afternoon, when I would receive my allowance for the week. My father would always tell me, “Scott, you better save that money for your college education”. At the time, I had no idea what college cost, but I did get the idea that saving was important. On other occasions, Dad would often encourage me to save “because you never know when you’ll need it”. That consistent message of financial responsibility given to me at an early age was the foundation I needed as I grew older and began making a regular full-time salary. One of my best friends from childhood, on the other hand, was not taught financial responsibility as a child and I have watched him live beyond his means for many years and he is paying the price today.
I share this with you because if we are honest with ourselves, most of our spending habits today are influenced heavily by the spending habits of our parents and the lifestyle we experienced growing up. As a result of our collective experiences, saving money comes easy for some, but harder for others. Regardless of our experiences, however, saving is a discipline that can be learned through practice. When I first married, my wife knew very little when it came to being financially responsible because she never learned it at home. It’s a work in progress, but after ten years of marriage, I’m proud to say that she is a very smart shopper and won’t buy hardly anything unless it’s on sale. Her challenge isn’t buying items on sale, it’s buying too many items that are on sale. Just like my wife, I search for bargains too, but my personal spending challenge isn’t in purchasing a lot of small ticket items, it’s in buying the larger ticket items like sporting goods, lawn/garden equipment, home improvements, etc. We see this spending pattern with many clients where one spouse typically makes purchasing decisions on smaller ticket items while the other spouse makes purchasing decisions on the larger ticket items.