Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Mother of All Days

If you’re able to read this, odds are that you are a human being and you have a mother. This may come as a surprise to some of you but, I too, have a mother. It’s true; I am a human being and not just some internet wunderkind blog-writing machine. The year was 1982 when I arrived in this world with a mission to become the incredible blogging wizard that I am today, little did I know that it would be due to the fact that I had managed to accumulate nearly $40,000 worth of debt at the tender age of 28. Did you know that my Mom is actually a writer as well? The big difference though is that she writes plays and novels and I write a sassy blog on the internets for nerds to read. Check out her first novel The Preacher. If you want a copy, let me know and I’ll hook you up!

My mom's first published book!
In case you forgot or haven’t got the hint from all the mom references, today is Mother’s Day (call your mom!), so what better day to talk about my Mom and how she has helped me over the past 28 ½ years! My Mom has always been a great teacher when it comes to money. I grew up in a small town with my Mom and Dad and 4 siblings. It was a busy house with lots of mouths to feed and a frenzy of activity happening all the time. To this day I don’t know how they managed to keep us all fed, pay the bills, and cover all of our school trips and other activities while on a single income. I had a great childhood, but I certainly remember the days when we really were scraping by and eating lots of macaroni and cheese (or sometimes macaroni and bread crumbs). What was most important is that we never went to bed hungry and we always had a roof over our heads. My parents also have a great sense of humour, which made life back home all the more fun for 5 children. Growing up with little really taught me a lot and I can go on for days with stories about how we scraped by, but the point is that you can still have a great life with little cash and a good budget.

I guess one of the most memorable ways that my mom helped save money was with our garden. Every year we would plant rows of delicious vegetables and the savings were incredible. Yes we all really hated weeding the garden. I think that of all the stupid chores that my mom would make us do weeding was one of the worst. The garden wasn’t always a source of frustration (because sometimes you just wanted to dump a gallon of herbicide on the thing and watch them all go!), my Mom would make things fun and loved to do silly things like plant a petunia in the onion patch just so that she could sing that stupid song that went along with it. The amazing thing about the garden was the amount of delicious vegetables that you could get from it and how inexpensive it is. There is nothing like grabbing a fresh carrot out of the ground and tasting how freaking yummy it is! We didn’t just benefit from our garden either, my mom voluntold us to go and pick apples at neighbor’s yards but the pay-off was totally worth it! At the end of the year Mom would make apple juice, pickles, and other preserves and have delicious food to eat for the entire winter. It was amazing. You don’t realize how much work goes into it and how awesome it was until you grow up and leave home! If you’re one of those lucky people who have a yard, you should consider starting a garden. It’s really easy and the rewards are fantastic!

My Mom is not like other Moms – she does not like shopping. I think my mom would rather weed the garden than have to spend more than 30 minutes in a mall. Yes, my mom is a country girl through and through. She liked to get into the store and get out of there as soon as possible. She and I were quite the team when we would go grocery shopping. The important lessons that she taught me were to read the flyers to see what the best deals were. She showed me how certain brands would go on sale and the sales would rotate every week. We almost never paid full price for anything. If the name brand stuff wasn’t on sale, we would buy the store brand. I learned quickly that when you’re cooking things from scratch anyway, it didn’t matter if you used name brand baking ingredients because the no-name stuff produced the same result anyway. We also never went shopping without a grocery list. When you’re trying to feed a family of seven, you always need to plan ahead for what you need and you have to assess what you already have so that you don’t run out of the staples like milk, eggs, flour, butter, and so on. I remember that we used to buy 5-6 4-litre jugs of milk every time that we went into the city for groceries. It was nuts!

Mom and Me!
I don’t remember my Mom ever talking about using her credit card, but I do remember that we had a line of credit. She taught me that the interest rates were much lower and when I needed to borrow money, Mom would use her line of credit and then outline the amount of money that I would have to give her in order to pay more than the minimum payment and get the debt paid off quickly. I was always the best with money in the family so I paid off a $3,000 loan with my mom in a matter of months. I think that actually boosted her credit rating thanks to me – you’re welcome Mom! Now my Mom is the co-signer for the Student-Line-of-Credit that I have, and I am definitely grateful for that since my interest rate on that is actually lower than the federal government’s student loan program. She’s saving me tons of money on interest!  

Creativity is a wonderful weapon when it comes to enjoying your life and living on the cheap. There is nothing that my Mom couldn’t think up that wouldn’t entertain the heck out of us! My mom used to make play-dough out of flour, salt, and water with a few pinches of food colouring – fun for hours! We even had oomalik which was just corn starch and water. If you haven’t tried this yet, you really should – it’s tons of fun! She sacrificed having her own fancy yard and instead filled half of our backyard with sand so that we could dig it up and make dinosaur trails or build sandcastles with the neighbourhood kids. Our yard quickly became the best place for kids to come play and have a blast because my Mom would rather us have a fun place to play rather than a pristine lawn. My Mom did all sorts of creative cost-saving things like sew our Halloween costumes. I remember one year a friend of mine didn’t have a costume so she literally took a couple garbage bags and shredded them up to make him into the “swamp thing.” It really is amazing all the great things she would do with her creative mind to save money.

Mom - just hanging out in the clouds! 
So my message to you all is this, instead of looking to your Mom (or Dad) to pay for things for you, look for advice from you Mother. Usually the women of the house are the ones balancing the books at the end of the month, so when you talk to your mom, see if she has some ideas to help support your journey to financial freedom without it being monetary. Thank you Mom for all the love and support over the years and for reminding me that a creative mind can achieve anything – as long as you’re a little patient along the way!

Happy Mother’s Day!




  1. I love your Mom, too. She is fantastic!! (And your childhood home was fun to hang out at as an adult, too, btw.)

  2. Oh John, I love your mom too! I haven't even met her. She reminds me a lot of my own mom. We definitely had to drive to like 5 grocery stores for the deals and to use all the coupons, and we'd buy 100 packages of the sale item and had closets full of things like beans, pasta sauce and salad dressings!