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Necessity and the Mother of Personal Finance

One reader shares how a her single-mother taught her about bills, coupons and good credit habits

Sometimes it’s the most difficult events in our lives that force us to learn the best personal finance lessons.

More than four in ten marriages end in divorce, forcing families to find savings where they can and live on less. It can be just as tough on children who have to adjust to the separation and to a potential loss in standard of living, which is even more difficult if they haven’t yet learned the concept of money.

Today’s scholarship essay is by Alysandra Martinez, a student at University of New Mexico School of Law. She shares how her parent’s divorce and her mother’s perseverance helped teach her personal finance basics and great money habits.

Check out Alysandra’s story and please share on social media. The most-shared essay on how parents can teach their kids about money will win one of our two $500 personal finance scholarships, announced August 31st!

How Divorce Changed My Life and Taught Me Personal Finance

My mother wasn’t always a single mother. She suddenly became one when I was nine. She had just found out that my father was having an affair—with his brother’s wife.

His selfish decision was devastating in every way possible. My mother’s biggest concern was our financial stability. Our household income was dramatically cut without any warning. Though she never let her constant worrying break through her brave façade, she began to teach me the importance of personal finance.

Learning the Value of a Dollar

My mother taught me the value of a dollar the summer before my first year of middle school.

While shopping for uniforms, I found what I thought was the coolest jacket ever and was convinced that I needed it in order to look my best at my new school. I begged my mom to buy me the jacket. It was a hunter green color with an embroidered patch of the school’s mascot.

Admittedly, it was also overpriced for a jacket. As we were checking out, and just as I was accepting my defeat, my mom had a last minute change of heart and decided to buy me the jacket.

I was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to wear it.

It wasn’t even a week into the new school year that I lost the coolest jacket ever. I retraced my steps and searched the lost and found bin but it was nowhere to be found. My mom was livid and that evening I received my first bill.  On a page ripped off of a yellow legal pad, my mother wrote me an “official” invoice.

She explained that it was about time I learned the value of a dollar. She was going to make me pay back the money she had spent on the jacket that I hadn’t taken care of. I thought that maybe she was joking, but she assured me that she was nothing less than serious.  I was an eleven-year old with no source of income, but I made payments when I could.

I recently found the old invoice that my mother had given me and saved all these years.  The payment amounts are extremely laughable but I paid my bill and learned my lesson.

Learning Coupons and Credit Cards        

My mom also taught me the importance of saving and using coupons. My family always jokingly calls her the “Coupon Lady” because she has been known to cut and mail coupons to several family members. She really emphasized the importance of saving money and shopping wisely.

She also gave me my first lesson on credit at an early age.  On my eighteenth-birthday she took me to apply for my first credit card. I was approved for a credit card that was linked with hers. It was a safe and smart way to start building my own credit.

She made sure I understood the concept of credit and the amount of responsibility having my own credit card would entail. She explained the importance of paying my balance every month to avoid paying interest. I’m proud to say that I have great credit because of the lessons that she instilled in me at a young age.

Lastly, she taught me the importance of applying for scholarships to lessen the burden of rising tuition rates. I was able to complete my bachelor’s degree in Political Science without having to take out any loans with the help of scholarships. Now that I am applying for law school, and have been accepted to St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, I have been actively applying for scholarships.

I am hopeful that the financial lessons I have learned throughout life and my undergraduate career will help in my pursuit of a law degree.

I want to thank Alysandra for her story of how her parents’ divorce became the personal finance lessons that would change her life. Be sure to support Alysandra by sharing the article through social media and check in August for the winner of the personal finance scholarship.

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