Friday, January 25, 2013

Spending or Saving: A Little Backstory Part 2

What I remember may not be wholly accurate.

Fortunately, my parents and all my siblings are willing and able to correct me. I wish to tell a story not expose skeletons or rub salt in wounds.  It’s all good family, ok?

My parents haven’t figured out how to comment here.  I bet my siblings will.

If I need correction, that is.

First of all, I’m the oldest and grayest of the bunch of aforementioned unruly sibling group.  

What? I hadn’t suggested unruly yet?  Well, it’s true.  

It’s also true that I have a faulty memory.  Some of that may be a result of self reliance introducing itself early on, and although it’s served me well over the years, I suspect my perceptions may have been grounded in my opinions rather than what was real. Certainly I lack all the details and we know those change stories.

My sense was that I grew up in a family of means.  We weren't the wealthiest in our peer groups, but we had a big house in a pretty tony neighborhood, newer vehicles, and abundance of clothes, took a nice family vacation every year, attended several years of private school, and my mom never failed to fill our cupboards, pantry, refrigerator and freezer.  And, there was lots of stuff.  Stuff for crafts.  Stuff called books.  Stuff called toys.  Stuff in the garage and stuff in the attic. And, yes dear brothers and sisters, lots of vitamins. *wink*

In spite of this abundance, I have a developed sense of scarcity from my growing up years.  I easily picture my father’s gray metal desk and his determined and strained look when he went downstairs to pay bills and balance the checkbook.  I remember business deals gone bad and bad people taking advantage of my good father.  Consumer debt coupled with business debt seemed often poised to crush my parent’s bank account.  My father was and still is self employed.  In hindsight I recognize the strained look perhaps had as much to do with meeting payroll as it was providing for his household.  He carries a heavy yoke.

Some of it is just the personality of the home.  There are some decided ½ empties in my family of origin.  I’m not one of them.  So, if perchance a ½ empty is in charge of family finances you can understand how he or she might evoke an atmosphere of caution that translates to scarcity.  This perhaps explains my conflicted feelings of affluence and scarcity.

I have very little memory of dedicated effort toward building  savings on my parent’s part.  That’s likely my memory problem.  My mother was especially gifted at gathering, and eventually hoarding, change and transforming full jars of coin into special purchases.  I have a sense that any unplanned and or major financial event was catastrophe just waiting in the wings.  I also remember dismissing that feeling as I believed my parents would just open another line of credit, apply for a new credit card, or borrow from a friend or family member to make it through.

Long before etsy and at home entrepreneurs were the norm, my mom began an at home business which demanded a great deal of her.  When things would be tight at my dad’s office I think she often helped to keep things afloat.

A mixed blessing of my growing up years was my father’s plan to teach financial independence to his offspring by the end of 8th grade.  For good or for ill (mixed reviews here folks), he gathered my mother and me at the dining room table and outlined that I’d be financially independent beginning in 9th grade.  He’d continue to provide room and board, I didn’t have to pay a share of utilities, but I was to be on my own for most everything else.  There are definitely more details, and although it may have been extreme, in the end it proved very valuable.

I came to adulthood with a developed work ethic, and capacity to find or generate work. It produced a can-do spirit in me.  A resourcefulness and creativity was born.  Finding a deal and developing adaptations became strengths. I don’t think I’ve struggled with entitlement.  Perhaps just the opposite.  That American ideal of rugged individualism was a pretty strong current in my financial paradigm.

It also means I came to marriage pretty established in my ways and assumptions.

 Weekend Farmer Husband is in many ways my opposite, and his financial background from his family of origin is markedly different.   Saving was the standard.  As employees, his parents were faithful workers and were able to consistently plan how to use their income.  I’ve never met more dedicated productive workers than Weekend Farmer Husband and his family, and they served their profession above and beyond what was expected of them. Weekend Farmer Husband speaks with humble gratitude and immense respect regarding his parent’s financial training and practices.

The first decade of our marriage was spent completing degrees and welcoming at least two “surprise” babies in addition to the “planned” baby into our family.  I was working in my chosen field, but for very little income.  Weekend Farmer Husband kept combining class schedules and work to meet our needs, and since we had avoided all but the tiniest of student loans, he and I both eventually graduated with two BA’s and an advanced degree between the two of us.

And, we established some financial habits.  Worry is one of our best skills.  Failure to communicate is a close second.  And, loading finances and financial decisions up with super charged emotional content is a highly developed skill set for us.  Our opposite natures – one being a planner and one being impulsive, have contributed to all the above.

Perfect combination for lots of error and misunderstanding.

But, in spite of us, (and isn’t this always the case?), God has been gentle to us in our shortcomings.
Slowly, in the last 4 years in particular, He’s been remaking us.

We have some catch up work to do involving medical debt.

Our move from the city to this Green Acres has been costly.

Just when our long term savings account seems to be trending in the right direction, we experience something catastrophic and we can’t save as aggressively as we’d like or we have to borrow from ourselves and our future needs.

But our hearts have been changed.

God has pointed us to the eternal truths about all we have and what our future holds.
Which means in spite of our mistakes, He has qualified us to share with you and our children on our next topic, Big Ideas and Important Principles.


  1. Just early enough that I can still write "Good morning!"

    1. And I am compelled to relpy, "Good afternoon!"