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First Money Memory

They say your first memory of money shows you how you feel about money.  And obviously how you feel about money has a lot to do with how you deal with it.  If your first memory of money is of making someone happy by giving them an expensive gift you might find that you are quite generous, maybe even to the point that you give to the detriment of your own future.  If your first money memory is of feeling like you have less than others then maybe you feel like you are owed something, or that you have to prove that you have the best of everything.

Whether you subscribe to this theory or not, I still think it’s an interesting exercise. 

My very first money memory is of my parents laughing because they couldn’t leave change around the house.  I was about three years old and any time I saw any money lying around I would put it in my piggy bank.  Clearly I’ve been a saver since day one.  My next solid money memory was when I was about 10.  I had been visiting my dad and found a jar of change.  He said if I rolled it myself I could keep it.  You know I was all over that!

It came to about $40 which for me was a lot of money.  As a side note: I took all that rolled change home with me, on an airplane, in my carry-on.  Can you imagine getting through security with $40 in rolled pennies today?  And why didn’t my dad take me to the bank and get cash?  But anyways, I remember how rich I felt.  At that age the only place I ever spent any money was at the local penny candy store.  My friends and I would walk the mile to this tiny little store and spend 30 minutes deciding how to best spend our $1.  I had enough money to last me through the whole summer!  I definitely had more money than my friends, and that made me feel in control.

Both my memories have to deal with having money, as opposed to not having money.  This started me off with positive feelings about money.  Add that in to my natural inclination to save and I had a good starting point in my life with money.

What about you?  What was your first money memory and do you think it affected your attitude towards money? 


11 comments… add one

  • Andrea @SoOverDebt August 4, 2011, 6:51 am

    I think I was around 5 when I got the bright idea to make some money at my grandparents’ house. I remember telling my grandmother I would pick up all the cigarette butts out of her yard for $1 apiece. She laughed her head off and told me she’d give me a nickel each, so I set off with a pair of gloves and a big Ziploc bag. Imagine her shock when I came back hours later with over 1,000 cigarette butts! (She smoked 3 packs a day.) We ended up negotiating payment of $10 for my hard work, which is kind of a ripoff now that I think about it.

    Did that early money experience symbolize my adult financial attitudes? Maybe. I suck at negotiating because I’d rather settle for SOME money than no money. I’m always scared I’ll ask for too much and lose out on the deal entirely. Historically, I have accepted salaries below what I know I’m worth just to get a job.

    However, I am also pretty creative when coming up with ways to make money and I’m not afraid to ask someone to pay me to do something. I’m also willing to take on tasks other people might refuse. I stay focused on the end result ($) instead of worrying about how I’ll accomplish the task.

    Interesting! And the longest comment ever. I may turn this into a post at some point. :)

  • MoneyCone August 4, 2011, 7:06 am

    That is a very interesting and an amusing story! I don’t remember my first taste of money, but I do remember how bad I felt after getting my first credit card! When they started increasing the credit limit every year, I wrote a letter to them stating they shouldn’t do this in the future without asking me first!

    Till date they haven’t!

  • Ashley August 4, 2011, 8:16 am

    Dang Andrea! That was kinda mean of your grandma, she owed you $50! That is an interesting story.

    Moneycone: Bad feelings about debt right from the get go, interesting. That kept you out of trouble I’m sure.

  • tina August 4, 2011, 9:01 am

    I’m finally to a point in my life where I am not embarrassed any longer by my first money memory, I always was up until I got my finances under control. I was about 7 yrs old and my family was going to be at the fair for 3 different nights, I had been given 5 dollars to use during those evenings, I would not be given anymore than that and it had to last. Well, the first night I snuck off and bought a tiny horse for my Dawn( does anyone remember her) barbie doll. I had always wanted a barbie doll horse but never received one. So in one night I secretly blew all of my money and pretended for the next two evenings that I was not hungry and did not want to play any games. That really sums up my first fews years on my own, wanting things but being ashamed for wanting them, then secretly acquiring them. I am proud to say I have broken that cycle and my sons are now excellent with their money and do not act emotionally with it. I have learned from my mistakes and because of that, they will never have to go through it. I still bad for that little girl I was back then though!!
    I wonder though and would love to hear your thoughts on how were parents back then,(this would be the 70s) able to stick to that $5 limit??? I know absolutely to this day that they meant it and that they would not have given me more. I don’t think there are many of us parents nowadays that could do that!!!

  • krantcents August 4, 2011, 9:06 am

    I earned my first few dollars when I was 7 years old renting parking spaces on my parent’s land. I learned a great deal from the experience and every job since that day. I always felt I needed to multiply whatever money I earned.

  • Ashley August 4, 2011, 9:22 am

    @Tina: $5 for three days!! When you said it I thought it was for spending money, not food. Jeeze. Poor thing. I wouldn’t think anyone could have fed themselves for three days on $5 at a fair. Especially a 7 year old. My daughter went to Sea World this summer and her girl scout troop asked me to send $45 for food for three days.

    @Krantcents: What a little entrepreneur you were! That’s awesome.

  • Jeffrey Trull August 4, 2011, 9:23 am

    I would say my first memory is when my great-grandmother used to give me a $1 bill when I visited. I can’t think of how this might have affected me today, but maybe it has in some subtle way. I think, at the very least, I will do the same for my grand-kids someday :)

  • Hunter @ Financially Consumed August 4, 2011, 9:31 am

    My Dad was a sales manager at a car dealership. I distinctly remember him telling us that we were going to have to “tighten our belts” in response to the current bleak economic conditions. He was concerned about making money, and keeping his job. He transferred this onto my sister and I and we have been penny pinchers as a result. I also had a money-box that I took pride in filling and showing to my parents, and then taking a trip to the bank for deposit.

  • Ashley August 4, 2011, 11:48 am

    @Jeffrey: I think that sounds like fun memory. I wonder how/ if it affected you. It seems like a positive impact. It’s cute.

    @Hunter: The recession in the 90s hit our family hard. My mom had just quit her job to start her own practice and then my step dad got laid off. I was 13 or 14 or so at the time.

  • Travis @debtchronicles August 5, 2011, 5:48 am

    When I was 4 or 5 my parents would give me 25 cents a week for allowance. A pack of football trading cards cost 20 cents. I remember my brother and I setting on our swing set chewing the piece of gum that came with the trading cards on Friday morning after we had both bought a package and figuring out that if we saved the extra 5 cents, we could buy two packs of trading cards on every 4th week. :)

  • Super Frugalette August 5, 2011, 1:48 pm

    My first productive memory of money was when my sorority sister explained what a 401K and mutual funds were to me in college. I opened a 401K as soon as I could when I landed my first job.

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