Mothers know best (even when it comes to money)

Aneth Ng-Lim

Posted at May 06 2019 10:22 AM

MANILA -- All set to celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend? If we go by foot traffic in shopping malls, the number of gifts being wrapped in stores, lack of parking spaces near restaurants and packed tables at dining places, this special occasion is one of the most-celebrated by Filipinos of all ages.

And why not? Most of us have mothers who have cared for us from the womb and continued to hold our hand whether we were toddlers, teens, in our 20s, 30s, 40s and older.

As you toast the woman that shaped who you are today, take time to remember the many life lessons she has shared with you through the years. 

Looking back, I marvel at how my mom managed to do it all. She did not have a full-time job and instead chose to stay home to raise two daughters. She was the primary caregiver, cook, tutor, handy(wo)man, shopping companion among many more roles that I saw her perform everyday growing up. Now that I am raising two daughters, I am grateful that she has given me a strong role model all those years.

One thing that remains with me to this day is how my mom did a heroic job of handling the family budget. My late father would give her his modest income and she could stretch it to impossible limits, covering for all basic needs and also allowing for wants (and with my sister only one year older than I, that was quite a list during our teenage years).

In our school, some students would get reminder slips to settle their tuition before they could take the exams and we thankfully did not experience that. Our uniforms were not always new but they were never shabby. And we never went hungry.

Not to say that I did not want for anything. There were no Barbies in my small toy shelf and I had to borrow books all the time because I could go through titles too quickly for my allowance to catch up. Yet when I look back, I do not remember missing out on anything, and I owe it to the three S money lessons I learned at my mother’s knee.

Save (not just for a rainy day). When you have an endless list of bills to pay, saving is the last thing on your mind but my Mom always found a way. She could budget like no other and she told me once that budgets gave her comfort whenever things looked bleak. She could track her expenses in her head and knew how much she had and how much she would need for the others.

She always seemed to have different saving pots for different items at any one time. She would have one pot for the shoes my sister said she simply must have. Another pot for holiday party dresses. She also knew how to move the money around to settle pressing obligations like tuition. 

When money is tight, she would have to borrow money from family and friends and she never liked doing this so she would make sure to pay them back right away. She had two good reasons: one, the people you borrow from need their money too so do not assume that they can wait until you are able to pay; and two, if you keep your promises, you can borrow again when needed.

She does have one regret: not saving for her retirement years, especially now that she is a widow. It’s a lesson I make sure to remember for myself; and in the meantime, my sister and I do what we can to make my mom’s golden years comfortable.

Spend wisely (making sure you don’t miss out on bargains). It’s impossible not to spend in this consumer-driven age but you can be a wise shopper. Turn bargain-hunting into an art form. My Mom had a knack for finding sellers that offer huge discounts on items we needed, and considering this was pre-Google, pre-eBay, pre-Amazon, even pre-Shopee, that was some talent.

Avoid buying items without doing your homework first. Scan prices, compare goods and read customer reviews so you and your wallet will come out ahead. Try to also cut back on spending for luxuries or items that will lose value quickly. Did you know that when you buy a brand new car, the minute it is driven out of the dealer’s showroom, the price already depreciates by as much as 20 percent? Watch how you spend your money, and your future self will thank you for it.

Share your blessings (and be blessed too!). Raised in a Filipino-Chinese family, I was at the receiving end of ang paos (or red money envelopes) from a very young age. Too young that there’s even a photo of me chewing a red envelope!

But young as I was, my parents taught me the importance of sharing with the less fortunate. My mom would stop and empty her coin purse for street children, or cross the street to hand over small bills and maybe food too if she has any on hand for old or handicapped beggars. We would clean out our closets once or twice a year so our gently-used clothes can be shipped to relatives in the province. You do not need millions or even hundreds of thousands in your bank account to donate and share what you can. 

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Why are money lessons important? Because life is not always kind to people with less money. Ironically, I learned the value of money when I was trying to spend as much of it as I could.

I was 10 years old when I realized the difference between the haves and the have-nots. I was with my mom at the grocery and all I could think of then was what more to add to the cart. When it was our turn at the cashier, my mom had to ask several times for the running total. The cashier began making rude comments after the third time, and it made me realize my mom had a tight budget yet she was still trying to stretch it for my junk food. I took them out of the cart and told her we can buy them next time.

Years later, as soon as I started working and qualified for a credit card, I applied for one and gave my mom a supplementary card. I guess in my small way, I am still trying to fix that situation, and I hope she will not have to ask again for running totals during grocery shopping.

To this day, the shame from dealing with that rude cashier continues to drive me to make sure I have enough for my needs. May you find something that will motivate you just as strongly to pursue financial independence all through your and your mom’s retirement years. 

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.