30 Things I Learned from My Mother

Today is Mother’s Day, a day when everyone will post on Facebook how their mother is the best and how lucky they are to have her. My mom doesn’t have Facebook, but she does get notified when I write a blog post, so here goes.

I’ve always been proud of my mom – she has a Master’s Degree in nuclear physics AND accounting. I watched her study and take the CPA exam multiple times until she passed it. Through that maddening process, she taught me to work hard and not give up. That something hard is worth getting.

She’s also taught me not to care what people think, to be careful when planning anything and to always enjoy a cup of tea at the end of the day. With a piece of chocolate.

My parents and I were born in the Soviet Union and moved to America in 1992 (I wrote an article about it for DailyWorth). I watched them learn English, find new jobs and build a life (as well as several houses). They taught me to value education, enjoy traveling and learn how to save money.

This is what else my mother taught me:

  1. Pack slowly and carefully. There is nothing worse than getting to your destination and forgetting your socks.
  2. You can’t buy everything you want. In fact, I wrote a whole post about this piece of advice.
  3. Always double check your receipt before you leave the store. You never know when the cashier has accidentally double charged you or forgotten to add an extra discount.
  4. Be loyal, even if that means spending more money. My parents have gone to the same hairdresser and dentist since I was five. If you find someone you trust who does a good job, keep supporting them.
  5. Don’t hesitate to be generous with your friends and family. You can afford it.
  6. Be practical. I once asked my mom how she decided to become an accountant. She told me she opened up the classifieds and saw that they were hiring nurses and accountants. She hates blood, so she chose accounting.
  7. But don’t be afraid to be brave. My parents immigrated to the US when I was four and they were in their late 20s. They barely spoke English and had to borrow money for the plane tickets. But they didn’t let that stop them from making a new life, even when it would have been easier to stay in Ukraine.
  8. There are some things worth spending money on – comfortable shoes, fresh groceries and a good haircut.
  9. But there are also things not worth spending money on. A luxury car, a designer purse and expensive jewelry.
  10. When I got engaged, my dad asked why I didn’t want an engagement ring. I made a joke and said I was following tradition since my mom doesn’t have one either. No one did in the Soviet Union. My mom said she still doesn’t want one. I’d rather go on a nice trip, she told me.
  11. There is always a coupon, a discount code, or a sale. You just have to wait for it.
  12. It’s ok to spoil your pets.
  13. When traveling, it’s more important to be comfortable than stylish.
  14. Always continue investing in yourself. My mother earned her master’s in social work when I was in 3rd grade. And she’s been working on an art degree to become an art therapist in retirement! – Kate Dore of Cashville Skyline
  15. My mother has taught me that there’s never a time in life where you know it all – that life is a constant learning experience. She has taught me the importance of surrounding myself with positive people but to rely on my own education, ability and values to achieve my dreams and to always take responsibility for my choices and actions, as they are my own. She also taught me to never charge anything on a credit card that I couldn’t pay in full when the bill arrives and to invest money in smart places because in today’s world, you can’t depend on a single source of income. – Victoria Araj of Quicken Loans
  16. Mend things instead of throwing them away. My mom taught me how to sew a button, hems, and patches. Even if you pay for it, it will be a fraction of the cost of buying new clothes. – Pauline Paquin of reachfinancialindependence.com
  17. Don’t let anything go to waste. It’s really hard to earn money, so use it carefully. – Jackie Lam of Cheapsters.org
  18. Create new investment opportunities, from everyday assets. My mom taught me how to property manage and turn an accidental property/reluctant landlording into a side income. – Elizabeth Colegrove of Reluctant Landlord
  19. Pay yourself first. Even if it’s $20 in your savings. – Helynn Hallock 
  20. Don’t let your past self or your circumstances determine your future worth. – Melanie Lockert of Dear Debt
  21. My mom taught me to not care what other people think. I remember I had a sesame street lunch box and people made fun of it. She told me if it made me happy, to keep using it. I’ve seen her stand up for herself time and time again, even when it was the unpopular choice. – Sarah Li Cain of High Fiving Dollars
  22.  “Don’t marry a man with bad credit.” Although I didn’t necessarily care about credit when I got married in my 20’s, I’d say marrying someone with a good financial head on his shoulders made the rough patches less patchy. – Toni Perrien Husbands of Debt Free Divas
  23. Always carry a dime, in case you need to make a phone call. – Valerie Rind, author of “Gold Diggers and Deadbeat Dads”
  24. I credit my mom with drilling into me that credit cards are NOT a way to buy stuff you can’t actually afford; they should only be used a) as an alternative to using cash, esp. for large purchases, or b) to put off paying for something for a few weeks (until the bill is due; carrying a balance shouldn’t even be a consideration) – Julie Markowitz
  25. My mom taught me how to hunt down the best deal, why you should never settle, and most importantly how to work from home (she was a sales manager at a corporation but made her own hours). – Kelly Whalen of The Centsible Life
  26. My mom is the one who encouraged me to find a way to work for myself because she didn’t want me to go through what she did trying to raise kids while juggling a demanding job she didn’t like. – Amanda Abella author of “Make Money Your Honey”
  27. My mom often said, “There’s no free lunch,” meaning that if you get something for free, there’s always a catch so be wary or just refuse the free thing. I still accept free things (sometimes) but remember her warning. Regarding relationships and money, she used to tell me to take “mad money” with me on a date. I think there’s another term for it now — and though I never had to use mad money, I (almost always) remember to carry cash with me in new situations. Most places accept plastic but pretty much everyone accepts cash. It’s also helped me to understand that sometimes you need a way out of a situation even if you have good judgment, so my kids know that they can always call me if they need help (and no judgment on my part).  – Julie Rains of Investing to Thrive
  28. Always put things back where they belong, and clean up at the end of the day. It sounds simple, but I can’t tell you how much those two things have helped me in life. – Jackie Beck of The Debt Myth
  29. My mom went back to school and got her Master’s when she was in her late 40s/early 50s, worked full-time, had 2 kids in college and 1 in middle/high school so I’d probably translate that to something along the lines of you’re never too old or too busy to achieve a lifelong goal. – Jana Garber Lynch of Jana Says
  30. She worked. She didn’t stop working because of her children, although she could have. When I was a toddler, she brought me to work and set up a tent next to her desk so she could watch me while she worked. And when I was school age, sometimes I had to start dinner preparation because she was too busy and couldn’t make it home in time, but she still worked. She is my professional role model, and she inspires me to be the same for my daughter (if I have one one day). – Hui-chin Chen of Money Matters for Globetrotters

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