As parents, I’m pretty sure we second guess our decisions and often. It’s pretty freaking amazing when you realize you’ve instilled a good work ethic and sense of frugality in your kids.
Our kids didn’t do without when they were growing up. On the other hand, they didn’t have the best of everything either. Early on Stuart and I were like minded in that our kids would either be involved in school activities or have a job. Those were their only two options.
One chose to work, one chose sports. Both learned the value of the jar.
My boy, now 24, started working when he was about 12 years old, if not younger. He drug a lawn mower behind him through our neighborhood in the heat of the summer. He charged a fair wage. Provided a service and did a great job. That little sucker made a lot of money behind a lawn mower.
He was a decent second baseman and quick center fielder when he was a kid. Pigeon toed as all get out but could steal bases like nobody’s business. Around junior high he realized sports occupied too much of his time, time he could spend making money. He put up his cleats and never looked back. He had various jobs throughout his teenage years. I don’t remember him not having a job. High school proved to be a thorn in his side. Early on he realized he had no desire to attend college. He hated school. As a teacher, I thought the traditional path to graduation was what best suited him. Truth be known, he had options and I should have been his cheerleader. I regret that now. I am, however, thankful for the vocational program at his high school and grateful for the teachers that taught him a valuable trade. I’m so glad to see a re emergence of vocational programs across the country. After working several jobs after high school, he set his eyes on a company he wanted to be part of. He was relentless in his quest and based on talent, landed one heck of a forever career. I couldn’t be more proud. He still gets to practice that trade every now and then.
My girl, now 21 and married took a different route. Playing softball from the time she was 6, that game would prove to be her first love. The life skills the game and her coaches taught her over the years are invaluable. She will tell you today, “if you are on time you’re late.” Yes, Stuart and I spent a lot of money on tournament ball but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Looking back, I think of that money as an investment. She stayed out of trouble throughout high school and spent two years playing softball at the collegiate level. Even now that game still has a hold on her heart. She is passing on her love of pitching to a new generation of players.
For as long as I can remember, Stuart has tossed spare change in some sort of glass receptacle. When we were first married, that spare change paid for diapers and even groceries at times. Twenty-five years later, we are still tossing spare change in jars in various places all over the house. We’re just a little more sophisticated with our system these days. Pennies have a jar, nickels, dimes and quarters have their own respective jars as well. The jars have more character than they once did. A little more fancy if you will.
We don’t really have plans for the change, it’s just reassuring to know it’s there.
A few months back, I realized that both of my kids now have their own jars. Stuart and I might have made a ton of mistakes as parents but I can say that teaching by example in matters of frugality and saving money is something that we got right.
Their desire to work hard, save money and live within their means are traits that are sure to save them and their future families a lot of heartache and misery. Life is challenging enough as it is. Debt will ruin a marriage quicker than anything I can think of. Couples have to be like minded in matters dealing with finances. Looking back over our marriage I can say that money has never really been a cause of contention. Thank God because there was plenty of other stuff to fuel arguments.
Money isn’t the key to happiness, I assure you. I’ve met plenty of wealthy people who are plenty unhappy. I’ve also met people with very little that are happy as can be. There is something to be said for financial security, however.
I don’t feel like we have done without. Quite the opposite. We have stability. We’ve followed a plan. The plan has taken discipline over the years for sure. Without going into detail, it’s simple really. We live within our means. We don’t try to keep up with the Jones’, whoever they are. We save. We save because you never know what tomorrow will bring. We went from a two paycheck household to one in the blink of an eye.
My advice for young married couples is simple. Take it or leave it. Don’t think you have to have it all at once. Love grows best in little houses and brand new cars get dinged. Oh, and get yourselves a jar!