Thursday, March 27, 2008

Money Memories

Meg did an interesting post yesterday about money memories from her childhood. I thought I'd add a few of my own--and I'd love to hear about yours, too.

I don't have very many memories of money in early childhood, which may be weird in and of itself.

I remember feeling like a pauper in the upstate community where my parents rented a house for a few summers. I don't know how I got that feeling--possibly because my parents had it?--but I remember knowing that the other kids were rich, and we weren't rich (not in this context, anyway). I took riding lessons with a bunch of friends at a nearby stable, and when I got along well with the horse I was riding, which belonged to one of the friends, she offered, casually, to sell him to me. A thousand dollars, she said. I made budgets and business plans for earning that money for months.

I remember my mom dropping me off at school for all-day play rehearsals, handing me a $10 bill, and telling me to get lunch with my friends. I remember how much freedom it suddenly felt like I had.

I remember being super into keeping imaginary books when my friend and I played this game in which we owned a pet-sitting business--like, making up prices and creating and then reconciling a full set of accounts in a speckled Mead composition book.

But other than this stuff, I don't have many memories of money before, say, age 13--my money consciousness flamed into existence when I started getting to run my own life a little more: take the subway (one of my big scams in high school was promising my parents I'd take a taxi home, accepting their $20 for this purpose, and then using it on whatever I felt like and taking the subway home), buy my own lunch, arrange my own social life, etc. Right there is where I became really conscious of money, for better and for worse (let's just say I wasn't the world's most frugal teenager). I wonder if that lack of money memory has anything to do with my ongoing confusion about the state of my parents' finances, and my parents' own attitudes towards money. I also wonder if this blank slate is part of the reason that I find it easy to deal with money now: everything is easier when it's not loaded down with emotional baggage.

What do you remember?


Mr. Stupid said...

Oh, wow, great topic. My earliest money memory is from 3rd grade (age 8 or so).

I remember having "Toughskins" jeans, which were the Sears store brand, when the other kids were wearing Levis. One kid made fun of me, so I asked my mom if I could get Levis. She said "No, we can't afford them."

That was the first time I remember thinking about money and its effect on me. Still kinda hurts to this day.

Mr. Stupid

Anonymous said...

I don't remember exactly how old I was in this memory, maybe in 2nd or 3rd grade, but it has always stuck with me.

My family always went to the fair when it came to our Alabama hometown (ferris wheel, corn dogs, petting zoo...the whole shebang). You bought a bunch of tickets and then used the tickets for the various games and rides. I begged my mom to let me go through a fun house that cost 5 tickets (most other rides were 2 tickets) and she finally relented. I ran through that fun house like it was a race, and when I came out, Mom said, "Oh honey, you could have stayed in there longer."

The message I got was that I had not gotten my money's worth and "wasted" the tickets. In retrospect, I am certain that Mom wasn't implying anything of the sort, but I felt incredibly guilty for years. We were a single-income family with three kids in private school, and money for extras was never very plentiful.

Now I'm grown and gainfully employed, but to this day, if something costs money I'll say, "We don't have to do that." Or if we go to a museum, you can be darn sure I'm going to look at every painting and sculpture, so I get my money's worth! :)

It's so funny how those early memories really do stick with us.

mOOm said...

There are lots and lots.I haven't written much about it. My parents were very frugal, We seemed to be poorer than most of my friends at school but it didn't seem to ever matter much. Saving money and investing was a real big theme - my Dad invested in stocks, mutual funds, bonds and discussed it back in the 1970s - we had though about the cheapest car possible (though new) only black and white TV lived in an apartment (on ground floor with garden) rather than a house etc. He came from a fairly wealthy family - he grew up with servants etc. Went through the Second World War - fleeing Germany, ending up in a British prisoner camp etc. My Mom grew up working class in Sydney in the Depression and Second World War. Then got a (rare) scholarship to college. Once I had enough money to meet basic needs I never really thought there was another way than saving all the surplus :) My Dad would tell me I should save more. Well I could go on and on about this...

Anonymous said...

one of my big scams in high school was promising my parents I'd take a taxi home, accepting their $20 for this purpose, and then using it on whatever I felt like

Don't fool yourself thinking that your parents didn't know what you were doing. This was probably their way of making you more responsible with money, and get a sense of using it wisely.

Anonymous said...

My earliest memory related to money is being about three years old and understanding that college was both essential and very expensive. I don't know what I was told or what I overheard to give me that message, but I remember thinking that it was very, very important. I'm not even sure that I really understood what college was at that time, and I certainly wasn't given any money of my own at that age. The idea stuck with me, though. When I became old enough to be given an allowance, to receive dimes from the Tooth Fairy, to get to keep hold of the $5 in the birthday cards, it all went into a jar to "save for college."

Wherever it was that I got the idea, I think it really shaped my approach to money for my entire life. I understood that money needed to be saved for things in the future. I understood that money was finite and its lack could be a problem. I understood that money had power over important things that I might not understand or know about. And (once I started being given kid-sized money) I understood that it was something I could control and needed to look after.

It's a weird thing to have picked up at the age of three and like I said, I have no idea where I got that message. I wish I knew how I came to believe it so firmly. I'm grateful to it.

Sistah Ant said...

I remember getting quarters to read for adults. I don't think I was as excited about quarters as I was about attention.

I remember going on a class trip to NY with no spending money. Everyone else bought souvenirs but me. I asked classmates for help and no one would. It really hurt to be both poor, to have to ask for help, and to be denied.

I remember learning to value of coins and dollars with paper money from activity books my mom bought. As an adult, I came across some of the paper money and waxed nostalgic, recognizing what it was immediately.

Sistah Ant said...

like anon10:43, my parents and i saved for college since before i knew what it was. i have memories of piggy banks of all sizes and shapes.

Asad said...

I remember being blown away when my uncle gave me $100 for a birthday.

mOOm said...

One thing we didn't do was save for college... But that was a question of the country we lived in...

Working Rachel said...

I remember saving for my first bike when I was my memory, I had to pay for half of the $60 bike out of my 25 cent allowance. It's much more likely that my parents took half the price of the bike out of my Christmas money from my grandparents or something and then had me contribute a week or two's allowance, but I remember being very proud that I had finally saved up enough to buy that bike. It was pink, with streamers. :)

E.C. said...

I started to respond and then realized I had so much to write that it made more sense to post on my blog instead.

sfordinarygirl said...

I remember the lemonade stand as a kid with my sister and cousin. We stood out there in our ghetto suburban neighborhood hoping for something more than just the random quarter from the passerby.

It's hard to make a living ...

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