To Our Daughter: On Making & Saving Money

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Gizmo-at-The-Farmstead Nick and I aren’t rich. We don't own our farm outright. YET. But we will. And someday our daughter will be one of those lucky kids who gets to inherit a farm (she'll probably subdivide it and make millions but let's not talk about that). Teaching her financial responsibility is a big priority for us, one we talk about quite a bit with each other. A lot of the decisions we made when we were first together as young 18 year olds in love have allowed us to invest in our farm now as 30 year olds. Here’s what I imagine we’ll say to her:

Pay yourself first. For every dollar you make at least 10 cents should go to savings. If I’m being realistic though you should probably put away 20 cents.

Hard work is not beneath you. When your father and I were first married we both had full time jobs in the Air Force, where we were responsible for big projects and a lot of people.  We left those jobs every night and did odd jobs for trade and barter, working for other people. We hauled sod, we built fences…we worked our little butts off. Yes it’s hard to bite your tongue and work for other people, especially when you’re used to being in charge, but hanging onto your pride is neither attractive nor financially smart.

Just because it’s on sale doesn't make it cheap. If you don’t need it, it’s not a good deal. A bargain is only something that you get on sale AND that you needed. Otherwise you’re just adding stuff. And speaking of stuff…try not to accumulate too much. When we were first married your father and I got sucked into the “American Dream” mentality of ‘buy more stuff’.

Stuff will not make you happy. It will just make your unhappiness more claustrophobic as you’re surrounded by crap.

Live within your means. I can’t tell you how many meals your father and I ate that consisted of spaghetti noodles with cheap spaghetti sauce. I think we ate out once in the first four years of our marriage. We did plant a backyard garden and feasted on the few things we managed to grow. Looking back we could have done more but we hadn't quite figured out the value of growing our own food.

Invest in experiences not things. Before you were born your father and I saved up for a few really amazing vacations. The kind of vacations where you land in a foreign country, buy a map, rent a car, and go. Once we got in country they were relatively cheap (most likely because of the chosen vacation spots too) but the experiences were priceless. I value those memories way more than I could ever value an object.

Listen to those who are willing to teach. Between both sets of Grandparents and your father and I, we have a lifetime of skills to teach you. Changing your own oil, knitting your own sweater, sewing your own clothes, growing your food, canning your food, building furniture…if you pay attention you’ll be a force to be reckoned with. And you’ll save money.

Be generous when you can. Donate to the things you believe in. This isn’t a money saving tip, it’s a life tip. We are all a community of people who rely on each other. If you believe in something, support it.

Need and want are two very different things. The older and more financially stable you get the more your wants can become your needs. Until then, be honest with yourself about what you really need.

Treat yourself. I know I just got done telling you that you don't need things...but sometimes feeling fabulous requires fabulous accessories. That's okay. Being a consumer isn't bad, especially if you patronize businesses you believe in. What's bad is when you lose your balance and start consuming more than you produce. Plus, life is short, enjoy it. Find the balance and don't be afraid to treat yourself (within reason).

Buy the best quality you can afford especially when it comes to tools and clothes. Cheap tools break and you will never find a better clothing staple than a wool sweater. Never. When you buy good quality you will find you need less quantity. Take care of your things and they will last forever. (There is a good chance that by the time you are old enough to read this I will still be wearing my brown corduroy overalls from high school. Yes, you can have them when I'm gone.)

Your dad and I are lucky, we fell in love and started saving together before we graduated college. We sacrificed a lot in those initial years. We took jobs that put us in different countries but paid really well. We knew our relationship could handle it and we knew they weren’t permanent. And we didn’t have you yet. Decisions like that are out of the question now that we’re a family but at the time, they were right for us and they catapulted us forward financially.Sacrifices when you're young lead to options later.

You’re not supposed to have it all as soon as you leave the nest. I’m sure you will meet people whose parents are financing an extravagant way of life for them. No judgment. And lucky them. But we’re not those parents, so don’t ask. Find your passion, but don't expect it to pay the bills right off the bat.

Don’t give up. Until that time work hard and save. Scrimp away every extra penny you have with the dream that someday you’ll be able to make your passion your focus. Know that your father and I are here for you as a sounding board, a strong shoulder to cry on, and always a place to find a hot meal and a warm bed.

When you do figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life we are absolutely behind you every step of the way. And given the right Shark Tank pitch from you, are poised and ready to invest, not give, invest, financially. Because we invest in things we believe in and we will always believe in you.

Financial Lessons for Gizmo Heather from Green Eggs & Goats suggested I turn this blog post into a printable graphic. I loved that idea, so I did! If you want it too, just click on the picture and you can download the high quality 11" x 17" print.