Babci is a self taught personal finance guru. She has managed to live debt free for her entire life. In fact, she’s never even had a checking account, let alone a credit card or mortgage. I thought I’d share some of her most commonly dispensed financial advice. Enjoy.
- Always pay cash for anything you purchase. If you don’t have the cash, you either need to work more or buy less.
- Don’t buy something if you can grow it, sew it or pull it our of someone’s trash and fix it.
- When you do need to buy something, try to find it used first.
- If you have to buy something that’s new, it’s better to save up and buy a quality item than it is to buy the cheapest one available. For example, it’s better to have one pair of shoes that are comfortable and last vs 3 pairs of cheap shoes.
- Restaurants are for stupid people who like to eat dirty food that’s been handled by filthy strangers and surrounded by roaches.
- Vacations are for rich people.
- The only acceptable hobbies are ones that are practical, mostly free and produce something useful in the end. (e.g. gardening, sewing, fishing, hunting, foraging)
- Keep your door locked at all times.
- Never tell anyone how much money you have.
- Always save for a rainy day because you never know when your luck will run out.
- Always work when a job is available. Work as much as you can while you are young because as you age, it gets harder to keep up the pace.
- Never go to someone’s house empty handed.
- Conserve all utilities.
- Don’t help people who don’t want or aren’t ready for help.
- No matter how poor you are, you always have something that you can give to a person in need.
I’ll elaborate below:
Always pay cash for anything you purchase. If you don’t have the cash you need to work more or buy less.
Babci loves America. You know why, because you can buy anything you want and there are plenty of jobs to pay for those things. Back in post WW2 Poland, even if you wanted to work, there was no way to get ahead. Yes, even in this crappy economy of ours, there are still minimum wage jobs to be had for those who want them.
The idea of borrowing money to pay for something was absolutely taboo to her. Even when she wanted to own a home, she rented for 10 years until she had enough money to pay for it with cash. I have had 2 mortgages and student loans but other than that, I try to follow this rule pretty closely.
Don’t buy something if you can grow it, sew it or pull it our of someone’s trash and fix it.
Babci grew up on a farm and it’s hard back breaking work, but to this day, she plants a garden every year. It is a way of life for her. Even when she was working 50 hours/week, she still managed to squeak a few hours here and there to keep her garden going.
Aside from gardening, everything else that she’s figured out how to do has been self taught through a lot of trial and error. We are so fortunate to have the internet. When we want to learn something new all we have to do is google it and hey presto, instant opportunity to be self sufficient. It was a lot harder for the Babcinator but she still managed. My husband and I are big do it yourselfers so I guess we did pick this trait up from our families who were both handy.
When you do need to buy something, try to find it used first.
Back before Craigslist and Ebay there were thrift stores, yard sales, flea markets and classified ads. Just about every Sunday in the summer when we had a car, we would go driving around to yard sales with the flea market as our final stop. There were a few years when I just wanted to stop the insanity because we had too much junk in the house. Now that I have young kids that are always growing in and out of toys, books and clothes, yard sales are back on the regularly scheduled summer agenda.
If you have to buy something that’s new, it’s better to save up and buy a quality item than it is to buy the cheapest one available.
The other part to this that Babci always says is “what’s cheap is expensive.” I live by this rule with everything except electronics (because they only last 3-5 years tops whether you buy the top of the line model or the bottom end). Since I absolutely hate buying stuff, I would much rather pay more for an item and know it will last vs buying something cheap that will fall apart in no time. The best personal example is my flannel sheets from LLBean that my husband turned me onto. We have 2 sets from 15 years that are still in use as we speak. At the same time, I spent $50 on a set from Macy’s that pilled so badly after 2 washings that I couldn’t bear to sleep on them after 1 season. Yes, the $100 ones are way more expensive but you know what, I absolutely got (and am still getting) my money’s worth out of them.
I’ve been noticing a trend that more and more companies are moving away from creating quality products, specifically for children. If anyone can find a lunchbox who’s zipper lasts more than 1 year, let me know. Despite my love of Christmas, the one thing I hate is how many crappy toys end up broken before the day is up. I hope more companies like Quadrilla are wildly successful are here to stay for the long run. (we have bought 3 of these marble runs so far).
Restaurants are for stupid people who like to eat dirty food that’s been handled by filthy strangers and surrounded by roaches.
I’m in sales so I eat out a lot and I guess I’m not squeamish, but I will share a couple of stories from my restaurant days in case you are trying to cut down your spending in this category. And don’t even get me started about tipping. Babci completely doesn’t understand the concept.
The first was when I was working in a fast food restaurant. I used to come in early and prep all the food before my shift started. One of the things I used to make was a big sheetpan full of meatballs. One day, I lost my balance as I was taking the tray out of the oven and I spilled the whole batch on the floor. I looked over at my boss in horror who was standing next to me because he was always harping on food costs (and I just cost him dearly). He paused for a moment and then told me to pick them up and use them.
In college, the restaurant I worked at was very trendy and hip. It wasn’t fine dining, but it was on the expensive side. I can confirm that it definitely had roaches but they weren’t the worst part of that place, it was the chef/manager. He was this fat walrus type guy with a big bald head and a thick mustache. He worked the grill and he would get all sweaty during his shift. He used to always have a dirty rag hanging off his apron for cleaning. His gag worthy offense was when he’d wipe his fat sweaty brow with this rag and then in the same swoop use it to wipe the counter that he was prepping people’s food on. By the end of the shift the rag was sopping wet and covered in food and grime. It was really gross. Another friend of mine said “Never EVER send food back to the chef.” I’ll leave it at that.
Vacations are for rich people.
Okay, I break this rule every year. I love to travel and it can be done on a budget, especially if you have a lot of friends all over the world. If you learn forex with everest or other such sites they will tell you its best to go on holiday where your currency is the strongest as it will go further. For years, the currency exchange rate was a big deciding factor of our final vacation destination. Going to a place like Thailand was a dream vacation and very affordable back when the dollar was strong.
The only acceptable hobbies are ones that are practical, mostly free and produce something useful in the end. (e.g. gardening, sewing, fishing, hunting, foraging)
When my cousins started skiing and my mom learned about how much the gear and lift tickets cost, she thought they had lost their minds. I have a variety of hobbies, but I have a good mix of sports/practical things I enjoy doing. In general though, I hate the pay as you go hobbies like golfing, skiing, etc. I’d rather buy a pair of snowshoes and go in the woods for free than fork over $75 for a lift ticket.
Keep your door locked at all times.
We lived in a bad neighborhood and the riff raff wandering the streets were not to be trusted, ever. It actually drives me nuts now because she still always has her door locked even if she’s just working out in the yard. My husband used to go crazy because I did the same thing with my car for years just out of habit.
Never tell anyone how much money you have.
Her belief was that if someone knows how much money you have, there are only three possible outcomes:
- The person will be resentful that you have more money than they do.
- The person will feel they are better than you.
- The person will try to take it from you.
So sorry folks, there will never be any net worth updates on this site.
Always save for a rainy day because you never know when your luck will run out.
Babci grew up during world war 2. She was often hungry and cold growing up. She lived through decades of this and when things got better for her, she was paranoid about going back to that place of hunger and want. No material item is so important that it’s worth sacrificing the feeling of security that a few bucks in the bank offers.
Always work when a job is available. Work as much as you can while you are young because as you age, it gets harder to keep up the pace.
Babci was unskilled labor, with limited English language skills. She loved and appreciated the job she did have because for her, the options were very limited. I’d like to think I’m better off because I’m educated, can be mobile, and have a good resume, but I’m super paranoid about exiting the workforce. I’ve just heard too many stories of staying home for a few years essentially being career suicide. I worked hard and spent a lot of money to get my degree, so I really don’t want to waste it. Life’s not all about working though, so I’m still trying to figure out the best balance for our family.
Never go to someone’s house empty handed.
Aside from being polite and helpful to the host, it also increases your chances of a return invite.
Conserve all utilities.
Whenever I complain to my husband about how much more our utility bill is each month, he says to me: “It’s not fair comparing yourself to someone who spent the first half of her life without electricity or running water.” Babci always line dries her clothes and conserves electricity and energy like you wouldn’t believe. In fact, I had to put my foot down on all the 7 watt light bulbs she was using throughout the house because I could never see anything. We had a guy come to give an energy audit and he actually had no suggestions on how she could be doing more.
Don’t help people who don’t want or aren’t ready for help.
There is no worse feeling than taking time, money or effort out of your day to help someone in need just to find out that not only do they not appreciate what you did, but are resentful that you stepped into their lives to meddle.
No matter how poor you are, you always have something that you can give to a person in need.
Babci has a lifelong grudge against one of her sisters because she didn’t loan her a little money to buy some food during her trip to the US. Her sister offered her the equivalent of 10 cents (not even enough to buy a cup of coffee at the time) which she declined. She said if all you have is 10 cents, then you need it more than I do.
Her twin sister on the other hand would always share everything no matter how little it was but at the time she had no money or food to give. The evil sister lived to regret her decision because after that, she never got another thing from my mother, but the twin sister was repaid 1000 fold.
My mother is incredibly giving because she would have loved a helping hand in her darkest hours but few people did. I love the sense of community giving brings. I find that when I help others, I never EVER have a problem finding someone when I need a hand doing something. Even if you don’t have money or food, you still have time to give.
That is the end of my tale of Babci’s personal finance rules to live by. Although I don’t follow this list to a T, having her as a role model has really impacted how I deal with money and saving. I hope you get something out of it too.
Which of these rules resonate with you?