Personal Finance

7 money lessons from my mum

“A mother holds her children’s hands for a little while, but holds their hearts forever.” – Unknown

In England, Mother’s Day is always three weeks before Easter. Given that Easter moves every year, this can be tricky to keep track of, especially when you’re living in a country that celebrates it on the second Sunday in May, and doesn’t even have cards for sale in March! Fortunately for me, in the 16 years that I’ve lived in Canada, I only missed it once and my mum was generous enough not to hold it against me.

I’ve written in the past about the money lessons that I learned from my dad so I thought that, in the spirit of Mother’s Day, I would write about the lessons that I’ve learned from my mum.

1. Lead by example

It’s said that our ability to earn, hold and grow our money is shaped by everything that we hear, see and experience in relation to money as we’re growing up. In our home, money was something that wasn’t openly discussed but there were certain key beliefs that clearly influenced the way my mum approached finances that have stuck with me. My mum taught me through her actions that money is to be respected and not wasted and that debt should be avoided. She taught me that you take care of the people who depend on you but you don’t over-indulge them; and that in relationships you handle money as a team with each person having an equal say regardless of who earns the most money.

Related article: It’s important to teach your kids about money

2. Invest in experiences

Growing up, there was always enough money to cover living costs as well as extras such as school trips and music lessons but neither of my parents believed in being extravagant with money so most “treats” were saved for birthdays, Christmas and summer vacation. However, my mum had a knack for finding things to do that didn’t cost a lot and our weekends and school holidays were often filled with road trips (if dad was home to drive) or outings on the train to visit zoos, museums, beaches and anything else that mum thought we might like. Some of my favorite childhood memories are of days that cost nothing more than gas and parking and investing in experiences is a core part of my own financial goals.

3. Family first

My parents put family first, both in their personal and their professional lives and that commitment had a strong influence on how my mum managed her money as well as her savings goals. As kids, we understood from an early age that we were expected to take care of each other (regardless of whether or not we liked each other) because that’s what families do. My mum and I haven’t always seen eye to eye (I have her to thank for my fiery temper!) but she has always been there for me when I truly needed her and that’s something that I hope to be able to do for others.

4. Communication is key

Like most families in the ’70s, my dad was the main breadwinner and my mum stayed home with the children. However, even though dad earned most of the money while we were growing up, he and mum handled their money as a team and she had just as much said in how it was spent as he did. They didn’t really talk to us kids about money but they definitely talked to each other and, while they had their fair share of conflict, I never heard them argue about money. That open communication and teamwork is something that I’m committed to building in my own marriage.

Related article: Couples need to talk about money

5. Be thrifty

I love thrift stores and I can definitely attribute that love to my mother. As a child growing up during the Second World War, my mum experienced first hand the scarcity of the war years and the decade that followed. New items were a rarity and it was an accepted fact of life that clothes were worn until you outgrew them and then passed on to siblings/cousins/neighbors. Even though my parents had enough to be able to buy us new clothes, they didn’t see the point in spending money on new stuff that we’d quickly grow out of when they could get decent clothes second hand. As kids, I think the only new clothes we had were school uniforms and underwear; everything else was either handed down from cousins or picked up from a second-hand store. While it’s true that I didn’t like all the items in my closet, I learned pretty quickly that there were deals to be had if you were willing to look for them and today some of my favorite items of clothing are the ones with designer labels that I picked up for a few dollars at Goodwill, often with the original tags still on!

Related article: Is it trendy to be frugal?

6. Homemade beats store-bought

Homemade cards were always an integral part of any birthday celebration in my family and, time permitting, I still prefer to make a card for someone rather than buy one. One thing that my mum taught me is that making time for someone is a more significant gift than simply spending lots of money. Similarly, taking the time to create a card or gift, often says a lot more about how much you care for someone than taking the store-bought option.

7. Money is for sharing

Neither of my parents is extravagant with money. Growing up we only got gifts on birthdays and at Christmas and it was rare to be given anything in between. However, one thing they both believed in was the importance of giving both time and money to support causes that were important to them. My mum volunteered in a number of ways for different charities and organizations and she actively encouraged us to do the same.

Related article: Develop a charitable giving strategy

As I grow older, my appreciation for my mum and her influence on my life increases exponentially. Like most parents and their children, we haven’t always seen eye to eye, but I have immense respect for who she is and the way she approaches life and I hope that she knows how much I love her and how proud I am to be her daughter. Happy Mother’s Day, Mum!


  1. Julie

    Absolutely. At 15 I knew EVERYTHING. Now it seems my mother gets smarter every day!

    This advice is classic and true. People are more important than things, and things are only important in terms of their function and the joy they bring. A new item will be a used item in a few minutes, so why not buy used (and only when needed), save the money, and buy an experience with the people you love instead?

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