I’m frugal. Not cheap, but frugal. This blog, “Stressed, Blessed, and Savings Obsessed,” alludes to this. Friends and family make fun but I’m not embarrassed, I’m not ashamed, in fact, I’m proud. However, if I’m being honest, my friends and family may not quite know the depths of this frugality and financial hypersensitivity.
Most of my childhood was spent in rough financial times. I’m sure I’ll blog more about that at some point. I remember feeling the stress, not having much of the extras, but we managed and I’m grateful that I learned how to appreciate every single penny. The moment my mom took me to open a savings account, I became a lifetime saver. My mom knew the importance of watching money, even if there wasn’t much to go around. Money had value. Money meant opportunities. I balanced my savings register to the penny and that little booklet was my prized possession. I set goals with each bit of allowance and babysitting gig. As a teenager, I worked multiple jobs to put myself through college to become a teacher. Every penny was counted and was accounted for. Fast forward to my adult life.
When my future husband and I moved in together, we became committed to paying down his credit card debt before getting married. This meant no more eating out and balancing both of our checkbooks to the penny, even during a time when we were able to start checking our balance online. (Sidebar- that is NOT accurate-balance your checkbooks!) We knew we wanted to start a family. This meant making even more sacrifices and brainstorming ways we could make extra money. Almost every evening we would walk our dog around town and my husband saw me pick up every coin. He would make jabs, but then I told him that I kept a jar of the money I found at my high school as I worked. Money from the hallway, the fields, the parking lots, lunch duty. If I found it, it was my “tip” for the day. He started opening his eyes wider on walks. It became a competition. We began walking the dog to the stadium of the school on days after big games with the purpose of collecting loose change. You can imagine my excitement one day when I found a dollar bill blown to the stadium fence. It’s been a decade and I still remember that moment. Yes, I’m that much of a financial nerd.
To this day, my husband and I still have this same competition. If we find money, we text each other. (By the way, my total yesterday was 39 cents and today was 35, but I’m not done yet). We fill a jar of the coins we find and use it toward vacations. As our children have gotten older, they have asked why we have that jar and where the money comes from. The “penny disease” has now spread to them. When we take family walks at the park, or when we go through a store parking lot, you better believe all 4 of us are stalking the pavement and will fight to the be the first one to any penny we spot.
While this practice may not make us rich, it is our hope that this habit will transcend to all of our spending practices and those of our children. Every penny counts. Every penny has a purpose. Each cent adds up to opportunities. Education, vacation memories, a little less stress in the financial facet of life. I hope that you too have, or start, a jar that is more than just your leftover change. Give each coin the respect and power it deserves. Don’t be ashamed to pick it up… but if you are… I have no problems with you leaving it for me.