5 Money Lessons from Dad

DadMy dad’s been teaching me lessons my whole life. Whether it was showing me how to dry the floor with a towel underfoot only to be busted by Mom or helping me build a sarcophagus to scale for a history project, my dad’s wisdom knows no bounds. And with Father’s Day fast approaching, I thought I’d share some of my favorite finance lessons from my dad.

You get what you pay for. File this under the “told you so” category. Like that one every boyfriend except my husband who my dad seemed to have a sixth sense about, he was also a master at anticipating which of my purchases would end in disappointment. From cheap toys when I was growing up to even cheaper clothes in my teens, he spent a lot of time predicting the soon-to-be casualties of a single day of play or one go-round in the spin cycle. Of course, there are happy exceptions. But he’s been right more than he’s been wrong (grumble, grumble) when it comes to this adage.

Get your hands dirty. When something breaks, my instinct is to look for a new thing on sale. My dad’s inclination, though, is to meticulously dissect whatever has broken and then tinker around with it until it is fixed. In the spirit of full disclosure, he is a mechanic by trade. But I’m not talking about cars. Whether it is the riding lawnmower that the previous homeowner was trying to junk, a washing machine that suddenly refused to spin, a toilet that never sounded quite right, or anything in between, he operates on it all. Every once in awhile, he gets stymied or realizes the cost of replacement parts simply isn’t worth it. However, by and large, being willing to tinker and developing an understanding of how most things work has served him–and me!–incredibly well.

It would cost $0 if you didn’t shop. Growing up, my mom was my accomplice when it came to hitting up all the best sales. My dad? Not so much. Still, I would do my best to infect him with my enthusiasm for shopping. After unleashing a deluge of shopping bags across our kitchen table, I would root around for my best purchase to showcase. My claims of scoring yet another pair of super-clearance shoes for $13 would be met with a pause and a standard reminder that not shopping nets 100% savings.

Your time is worth something. Now, there are times when I think my dad takes this mantra a little too far. Grocery shopping at the corner store for example. I really do think my time is valuable, but I’m not about to pay $1 for a banana. Sorry, Dad. Still, when I recently found myself planning a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles to renew my license plate sticker in person in order to avoid a $2 online processing fee, I stopped myself. I could be blogging, I could be side hustling, I could be relaxing. Really, anything is probably a better use of my time than navigating the mile-long lines overrun with soon-to-be-new-drivers, apprehensive guardians, and cranky state workers.

If you’re going to work that hard, work for yourself. When I was three, my dad bought an automotive repair. For essentially my entire life, I’ve watched him toil away, strategizing when the economy was strong and sacrificing for his few employees when it wasn’t. While my dad would never try to talk me out of teaching, he would watch me spend hours planning lessons, hosting meetings, and agreeing to all sorts of extra, unpaid duties. He’d smile, but he’d also ask when I was going to run a school, become a writer, or work for myself in some capacity. It wasn’t until I started looking for different income streams like tutoring that I really started to see what he meant.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads, grandpas, uncles, and nephews out there. May your weekend be full of family, relaxation, and a little wisdom.

So Tell Me…What is your favorite lesson–finance or otherwise–that a family member taught you?


5 Money Lessons from Dad

10 thoughts on “5 Money Lessons from Dad

  1. Great post – thanks for writing it. My father passed away a number of years ago and I continue to miss him.

    Anyway… a great “finance lesson” he taught me was to be entrepreneurial. He always had little side jobs that he was doing for extra money (beyond his full-time job). He tinkered with custom picture frame making, splitting logs and selling firewood, cleaning chimneys (yes, he was a chimney-sweep for a while :>), blowing glass, etc. He was a great model in that sense and it is probably a big reason I started my first company back in ’96.

    I’m thankful for these lessons and many others he imparted over the years.

    1. Wow, Brad! He sounds like an amazing inspiration and role model. I can tell he lives on in not only your memories but the way you live your life.

  2. Thank you for sharing such a great blog for this time of the year. I am always amazed at how many parents do not help educate their children on finances. My parents were struggling small business owners when I was growing up and we talked finances every night over dinner. My parents taught us many great lessons but the most important has been the difference between wants and needs. It is amazing how little a person actually “needs”.

  3. He sounds like a good man.

    The greatest lesson I got from a family member is probably join the military to get out of a bad situation. I did not do it, but it worked wonders for the ones who chose that route. Training, a job, health insurance, and security without student loans.

  4. Wonderful money lessons from your dad! I didn’t get much financial advice from either of my parents growing up. My father pushed college and convinced me that money wouldn’t be an issue if I had a college degree. And my mother? She filed for bankruptcy a few years ago. I often wonder if my financial situation would be different if there had been more talks about money when I was growing up.

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