When you hear the phrase “Money doesn’t grow on trees,” more than likely one person comes to mind: Dear Ole Dad. In general, fathers are full of good advice concerning money and finances. In honor of Father’s Day this month, I thought it would be fun to take a few of Dad’s money sayings and see what we can glean from these words of wisdom.
Do what you need to do to survive.
The first bit of advice one might hear from Pop is the idea that if you need money to pay your living expenses, take work where you can find it. Sometimes we may think that we are too good to clean toilets or flip burgers, but Dad always reminds us that when it comes to surviving, sometimes we have to do whatever it takes (legal and within reason) to earn a paycheck.
Why pay someone to do something you can do yourself?
Maybe your dad was a Mr. Fix-It and instilled in you the concept of saving money by learning to do the job yourself. I have plenty of girlfriends who are capable of changing a car’s oil and performing basic car maintenance because their fathers taught them how to do it instead of taking it to a shop. There are many things you can learn with a quick Internet search, enabling you to save money by not having the job done by a professional. Of course, the caveat here is to know when a job is above your skill level. After all, you don’t want to make matters worse and cost yourself more money by paying someone to fix what you tried to fix yourself.
A penny saved is a penny earned.
Maybe you got an allowance or earned money from chores as you were growing up. Did your dad encourage you to save it in your trusty piggy bank? Hopefully that great advice carried over into adulthood and you put a percentage of every paycheck into a savings account (or a trusty piggy bank). In these uncertain economic times it’s more important than ever to have a financial safety net in place. In case Dad didn’t tell you how much to save, most financial experts recommend having enough savings to cover your budgeted expenses for at least six months.
Don’t spend it all in one place.
When Dad gave you that allowance, maybe he jokingly warned you not to spend it all in one place. While typically said in sarcasm, this is actually good advice. Make sure that you are not devoting too much of your budget to one thing. Spending most of your paycheck on rent? Then consider moving to a cheaper place. Maybe dining out, fast food and lattes consume a huge amount of your budget. Cut back by eating at home more. It’s important to have a well-balanced budget with the proper amount going to necessary expenses.
Live within your means.
Hopefully Dad taught you only to buy what you can afford. You should never, ever buy anything that you cannot pay for in full at the time of purchase, or make reasonable monthly payments that your budget can accommodate (for example, car payments). If you follow this advice, you won’t run up credit cards charges, and you will save until you can afford it. (Don’t dip into that six months’ worth of savings for it either!) Some people call this paying yourself forward for that big purchase.
Live like you did when you were poor.
Perhaps there was a time in your life when you worked for minimum wage, ate Ramen noodles every night and shopped only at thrift stores, just trying to scrape by on next-to-nothing. Maybe after a while you got a better job or a promotion or raise. A little advice from Dad in this situation is to continue living like you did before your good fortune. With more numbers to the left of the decimal on your paycheck, you may be tempted to splurge and indulge. Don’t give in to that temptation. Instead, build up your six months of savings, find good investment opportunities, increase your charitable giving and carefully consider in what areas you might increase spending for your own welfare (like buying healthier food than noodles!). You will be amazed at how much money you can save by living like you are poor.
Money doesn’t grow on trees.
Finally, probably the best-known of Dad’s advice when it comes to money is the old adage regarding where it does and does not come from. Dad clearly wants us to know that money can only come from hard work and good money habits. Making money is not easy. Budgeting, saving and careful spending isn’t easy. It’s work. You cannot expect to have money just thrown at you (unless you are insanely lucky) and you cannot expect to get ahead by being financially haphazard. This Dad cliché seems to encompass everything he’s been trying to tell us all these years.
Thanks for the advice, Dad.