Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Nature vs. Nurture

This is something I've mulled over in my head plenty of times, the idea of how we become who we are. It's particularly interesting as some fundamental differences between my parents and I have become more and more apparent over the years, but others similarities have cropped up as well--namely, frugality.

When I was a kid, it used to drive me nuts the way that other kids seemed to have more toys more clothes--just more stuff than me. My parents have both worked in professional careers since I was in Kindergarten, yet it always seemed like my parents were telling me no when I demanded things. I started to assume other people made more money than my parents, or that we were actually poor and no one had the heart to break it to me; it's only now, fifteen years later, that I'm finally starting to get it. My parents are savers.

The problem is, this was never explained to me. Maybe I'm just obtuse, but I honestly think my parents could have served me well by explaining to me the concept of saving for the future, rather than leaving it to me to figure out. Since my mother is a banker, I always knew that I had a college savings account, and a regular savings account, but the regular savings account was always just money waiting to be spent, in my mind. She stressed the importance of looking after your credit score, but never really sat down and explained her own choices to live frugally and save/invest for the future.

As a result, I overcompensated in completely the opposite direction. I spent and spent every penny that came my way, and spent a lot of pennies that I didn't have as well because I was sick of being told no. I mentioned a while back that I used to spend all my money on crap that I would never consider buying these days, but I honestly think I did it as a weird form of rebellion. Every time I spent money on junk, it was like I was telling my parents "you can't tell me what to do!"

Fast forward to ten years later, and I'm writing a blog about frugality where I consistently tell people that stuff is overrated and you probably don't really need it. Life has a strange way of flipping back on itself, and I have to wonder if a lot of the way I am today is a result of the example set by my parents, or if I did get here all on my own. There's really no way to know for sure, but we can certainly speculate.

I do have to say, and this is from the hindsight is 20-20 perspective, my parents could have been a bit more honest with me when it comes to money stuff. They could have told me flat out, we live like this for this reason, we're not poor, we're just frugal. Maybe it wouldn't have penetrated my snarky teenage skull, but it was worth a shot.

Money is a taboo topic, but it doesn't need to be. I'm not saying everyone should post their personal budget online, but there are plenty of ways to have an honest conversation without giving too much away. I'm certainly not going to pretend to have more than I do just to--what? impress people? Is it impressive to have a little more money than someone else? Or is it just handy when you want to go out for dinner?

I think it's more impressive to maximize whatever you have--no matter how little. I get a lot of emails from people telling me that they're impressed with my adventuring despite the fact that they know I'm poor--that's high praise. In fact, a friend wants to have coffee and discuss how exactly I just afforded my recent trip to San Diego. I'm going to suggest she come over and have coffee I make, rather than going out for it, because that's one way I afford trips like that.

No comments:

Post a Comment