How To Save Money Like A Little Girl

white piggy bank with pink feet, with someone's fingers dropping in a 10 cent coin

When I was a little girl,

I did not have a regular “allowance”.  Periodically my mom gave me money when I asked for it, but I rarely asked.  I did ask for things, rather than the money that buys them.

Most of my wish list items fell into two categories:

You’ll get it for Christmas, or, you’ll get it for your birthday.  My birthday is in January, so if I decided in February that I wanted something, it was a long wait until Christmas to get it.

My dad had a 4 unit rental property,

and with 4 daughters, he had his own gardening, painting and maintenance crew.  I suppose there are laws about such things today, but back then I viewed this as nothing more than child/slave labor.  

We did get paid, but it was a lot of hard work.  

One day while mowing the lawn at the 4-plex with a manual push mower with blades as sharp as butter knives, a neighbor across the street approached my sister and me.  He felt so bad for us struggling with that antique lawn mower, that he actually mowed the lawn for us.  

person hand mowing a stadium sized lawn

I like to think kind hearted people like that still exist, but I’ve been pulling weeds in my yard for days now and none of my neighbors have jumped in to help!

My grandfather lived with us off and on during my childhood.  

I grew to love saving money, I think, in great part to him.  He “hired” me to do chores he did not want to do.  I had to make his bed in the morning, and iron his handkerchiefs.  

three tall stacks of US quarters, with five pennies in front of them

It was a very cushy gig, and he left a quarter on his nightstand every day for me. Clearly if I skipped making his bed, I didn’t get paid. What a valuable life lesson. You work, you get paid.  You don’t work, you don’t get paid.  I didn’t have any specific purchasing desires at the time, so I put my daily quarters in a box.  I remember counting them, and seeing how many I had accumulated.  

Our house was across the street from a 7-11 store, where a candy bar was a dime. Despite my mad, wild sweet tooth, I did not go there often to indulge in candy.  I preferred to watch my quarter stash grow.  That was my first experience where saving money was more fun than spending it.

When you are the youngest child, you are the recipient of every hand-me-down

Barbie doll waving, sitting on a hardwood floor, wearing an orange skirt, green top and brown jacketthat is still in serviceable condition. This meant that my Barbie dolls were originally my sister’s dolls.  My older sister’s dolls had legs that did not bend at the knee.  They looked so odd sitting on Barbie’s sofa with their toes pointing straight out.  

A major advancement had taken place in the world of Barbie dolls: Bendable knees!   I had to have a Barbie that had bending knees.  It was nowhere near Christmas or my birthday, and I did not have money for bending Barbie.  I had to devise a plan on how I was going to get my hands on that doll.  

I had already priced her out, and she was $5.00.  That was quite a chunk of change for me.  Gramps was not staying with us at that time, so the fountain of quarters had dried up.  I was still quite young, so a conventional job was out of the question.  

I became the family errand/servant girl.  

My sisters made me do their chores, in addition to other things they wanted to have done, but didn’t want to do themselves.  I remember taking all the shoes out of their closet, and pairing them up and organizing them neatly back in the closet. (Could this have been the start of my love of organizing???)

five rows of shoes on a wall rack in tan, red, orange, teal, dark blue and brownI finally earned enough and walked to a store nearby and bought my Barbie. This was a proud moment for me, as I had achieved a goal which was such a monumental task.  I just really wanted that doll.  She was all that I thought she’d be, and I loved bending her knees to place her on her tiny plastic sofa.  She was the only one that didn’t look strange sitting there.  The dolls lived in the hall closet with sliding doors. The trick here, was to remember to slide the doors all the way closed…

We got a puppy, and she too, took a liking to that doll of mine.

In fairness, she chewed up all of the dolls, not just mine.  I was left with a bunch of headless or legless dolls after the dog was done.  What can I say?  I was very upset about my dolls, but I loved my dog more, and forgave her.  

I’d spent half my little life at that point begging for a dog. I wasn’t going to let a material possession be a bigger priority than my sweet puppy (that should have been given proper chew toys).

small black poodle with curly hair laying on the floor

My upbringing pretty much went on like this.  I wanted something that was not going to be attached to Christmas or my birthday, I figured out a way to earn the money to buy it.  My folks made sure I was given everything I needed.  I got new school clothes every year, and all the basics one needs in life.  Needs were not an issue, and were provided to me.  

Wants were optional, and I didn’t always get everything I wanted.  I was not so materialistic, and don’t recall asking for much.  I just figured that anything in the “want” category was on me to figure out how to get it.

Work, save (and sometimes begging) were the options.  Never in my upbringing did borrowing come into play. My parents and sisters did not loan me money. I had a great experience growing up learning the value of money.  Saving was fun, and I felt I was well paid for my efforts. 

Anyone can learn good money habits at any age,

but it is helpful if these traits can be learned at a very young age.  It can save a person from acquiring debt, and allow one to amass wealth.  If you spend your adulthood paying off the debt of your youth, that will rob you of years that could have been spent getting ahead financially.  Conversely, if you start out young with good money habits and abandon them in adulthood, you may find yourself constantly broke.

There are other external factors that can come into play.  An unexpected illness, family member who needs help, natural disasters and more can derail your financial plans.  Not being on the same page as your spouse, a prolonged illness or sudden death can also be financially catastrophic.  Having an emergency fund in place, and enough life insurance is crucial.

The goal is to live within your means, enjoy what money can buy, don’t borrow, and be financially responsible.  Budgeting is a part of “adulting”, but once you know how to do it, its simple.  In fact, it’s so simple even a little girl can do it!

I’d like to hear from you.  Were you wise beyond your years, or are you wandering financially?  I have tools, and advice to help!  Let me know what you think at Elaine’s Lane on FB.

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