I love my mom. And despite the chores, the time-outs, and the “Because I said so!” moments, pretty much everything I ever needed to know to succeed in life, I learned from her. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, her maternal management even taught me how to make the most of my money.
Here are the three best tricks she ever showed me.
1. Fill Up the Penny Jar
Think back to the days when we used cash instead of credit cards. (I know, it’s a distant and fading memory.) Whenever my mom pulled a crisp bill from her wallet, there was a 99 percent chance she would receive some coins in return. But rather than count up her quarters and blow it all on gumballs like yours truly, my mother nickeled and dimed her way to an impressive amount of savings.
Let’s say my mom spent $30,000 a year and tucked away five cents on every dollar. By my eighteenth birthday that jar of change would have grown into a health $27,000 in savings. That’s a respectable college savings account.
Even with the prevalence of plastic payments, the “penny jar” need not be lost to the ages. I barely touch cash, but my penny jar comes in the form of 401(k) savings, automatic tax withholdings, and a percentage of my income that I choose to invest each month. Employers and banks have made it easier than ever to squirrel away savings, and any earner would be wise to take advantage.
2. Take Time to Can the (Proverbial) Strawberries
Every May, my family headed to the fields to pick bucket loads of the reddest, ripest strawberries around. Then we spent an entire day toiling over hot pots and getting headaches to turn the delicious morsels into jam.
I often wondered why I couldn’t just stuff my stomach and call it a day. But for the other 11 months of the year, I found myself thankful for our canning chaos as I applied generous dollops of jam on my toast every morning.
Seasonality exists in almost everything we do, and it pays to take heed. There are metaphorical strawberries to be canned – and money to be saved — in all aspects of our lives, whether it’s buying a plane ticket in advance, taking advantage of tax holidays, or waiting for next year’s new car model to buy this year’s edition when the dealer’s trying to clear the lot.
3. Keep Your Scissors Sharp
By the time my mom got through with the Sunday newspaper, it was little more than confetti. With an arsenal of coupons, we’d hit the department stores and grocery stores, knocking up to 50 percent off retail prices and causing checkout line chaos wherever we went. My mother was vigilant about clipping coupons to cut the grocery bill, and I loathed the weeks when lima beans were buy-two-get-one-free.
Out of everything my mother taught me, the lesson about coupon clipping is the one that tops my list. While feeding the penny jar and canning strawberry jam required spending money to save, coupon clipping provided direct discounts that affected our expenses immediately. And nowadays, coupon clipping is easier than ever. Smartphones have revolutionized savings (think Groupon, LivingSocial, Foursquare), and memberships to places like Costco and Sam’s Club offer built-in savings every day of the year.
Mom Knows Best
I don’t go to time-out anymore, and I rarely take “Because I said so!” as an answer for anything. But when it comes to questioning my mother, I’m through with my youthful days of defiance.
Mom knows best, and her financial tips have helped me manage my money efficiently and effectively throughout the years. I buy low, sell high, save more, spend less, and can enjoy the better things in life because of it.
Thanks mom, and I’ll be sure to ship you some strawberries for Christmas.
Justin Loiseau is a contributing writer to The Motley Fool.