My mother’s frugal ways cost me money, so I’ve devised my own.

My mother's frugal ways cost me money, so I've devised my own.
  • When I was a kid, my mom saved everything, from money to food, “for later.”
  • She only bought things when she had saved up twice or three times the amount. I tried to do the same thing.
  • But by the time I had saved up enough money to buy a laptop, its price had gone through the roof, so I ended up paying too much.

In the early years of our life together, my mother had a tradition of eating what we jokingly referred to as “the last supper.” She always saved a portion of this early dinner so she could eat it while watching her favorite shows beginning at 9 p.m.

Interestingly, this last supper almost never got eaten because my tired mother fell asleep immediately after sitting in front of the TV. And since she doesn’t like to eat old food, she gave me the last supper, which I was happy to eat the next morning.

On one of those mornings, I asked my mother why she consistently saved this dinner even though she never got around to eating it. She gave a shrug.

She said, “One day, I’ll stay up late and be glad I did.” I didn’t get it then. I still don’t.

My mother is a scrupulous saver. 

My mother saved everything this way, from experiences to money, to clothes and jewelry for special occasions.

When I was 10, we had a Mother’s Day project that asked us to say what our favorite thing was about our mother. My mom was great in a lot of ways, but when I was 10 years old, I thought her best trait was that she could make every dollar go further.

In theory, we didn’t have much, but my mom made it very hard for me to tell when I was little. We always seemed to get money just when we needed it the most.

I would learn almost 20 years later that it wasn’t a miracle. It was just saving, something my mother strongly believed in and did every day. Her plan for money was to put money away in one big column for a future that almost never came to pass.

My mother wouldn’t buy something unless she had enough money saved to buy it twice or three times. 
As I got older, I became less and less interested in my mother’s relationship with money and the paranoia that came with it. Unlike my mother, I don’t think of money as an end in itself or as something that becomes more valuable when saved. My ideas about money have changed a lot. I now see it as a valuable tool that helps me achieve my goals.

My mother never bought something unless she could afford to buy it twice or even three times.

And when I started making money on my own after college, I tried to follow this plan. But the 2020s will be very different from the 1990s.

I wanted to buy a computer that I liked and that I could afford in 2021. I didn’t have enough money, though, to buy it twice. By the time I could buy the computer a month later, the naira had lost value against the dollar, and the price of the computer in my local currency had gone up by 100%.

I finally bought that computer in 2022, when the naira was almost triple what it was worth. I bought it at a price that was way too low. More than anything else, that taught me everything I needed to know about inflation, the value of money, and how stupid it is to let the money sit around if you don’t need it right away.

I’ve changed how I save money. 

So I grew my financial column, which had been the same as my mother’s before. When I’m not saving for a specific goal, I put my money in stable investment plans that aren’t affected by inflation or currency crashes. And because I don’t like taking risks as my mother does, I save money by buying things like jewelry that are easy to turn into cash if I need it.

I no longer believe in saving, which is something my mother has done her whole life. This is because the value of the money you have saved could go down if the market goes down or if inflation happens. I tell my mom that it’s like “hustling backward” because, by the time you spend the money you saved, you probably can’t afford the things you could have bought when you started, which makes you worse off.

I no longer deal with money out of fear, and I’m not frantically putting money away for a “rainy day” that might never come. Instead, I’m spending my money in ways that make my life better and am making a solid plan for how much I make and how much I spend, so I’ll be ready in case of an emergency.

I’ve also learned to accept that life is unpredictable, which makes it hard to know if the rainy day you’re saving for will be a drizzle that will just get you a little wet or a storm that could drown you.


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