My mom quit her blossoming career as a buyer at the Emporium in San Francisco to become a 1950’s-style housewife. As a dutiful Catholic wife, she gave birth to 6 healthy children and spent the next 16 years or so cooking, cleaning, and loving us all as only a mother can.
My dad gave her an allowance which I’m sure was modest. She rarely bought herself anything new and for years she made all her own clothes and some of ours too.
She spent money on food and other necessities. She kept within budget by watching the pennies. For example, she didn’t buy T.V. dinners or other packaged foods that were convenient, but cost more per serving. Rather, she cooked from scratch, with the help of a few canned and frozen items.
We ate simple meals which rotated weekly: Monday-chicken, Tuesday-spaghetti and meatballs, Wednesday-enchiladas, Thursday-pork chops and Friday-always fish and usually breaded-and-fried fillet of sole.
She and my dad rarely went out to dinner and even many years later, she couldn’t accept restaurant prices. She would always go for the cheapest thing on the menu. It got so that when my siblings and I would take her out to eat, we wouldn’t let her see the menu but rather ask her what she felt like eating so she wouldn’t order the house salad!
We all learn about money in various ways. Our parents behaviors around money can trigger different reactions.
I am nothing like my mother was with money. As soon as I started to have discretionary income, I would treat myself to what I wanted. I believe in living within your means, having an emergency fund, and saving for financial goals and retirement, but I also believe that money is a tool to create a life filled with experiences and things you love and enjoy.
I think my mom was content. But I also know that she would have liked to go out more, get dressed up, maybe go dancing now and then. She would have liked to travel more and she would have liked a new piano. She could have had all those things, and I wish that she had.