Not all lessons have to be spelt out. I learnt a lot by just observing how my parents behaved.

How I learnt about money management from my parents

Children learn by copying what you do. They follow your example, not your words. I was the same. I learnt a lot by watching my parents, and just doing what worked for them. Over the years, I have understood the wisdom behind it all. And that I owe my financial stability today to the lessons they taught me. I am trying to pass the same down to my kids. Let me share a few of those lessons with you here.

Ignore “Sharmaji ki ladki”

I did not know about “Sharmaji ki ladki” till I was in college and my friends told me about it. The English-speaking would instead say “keeping up with the Joneses”. Well, you don’t have to keep up with anyone. I don’t remember a single occasion when my parents tried to match what others had, or worry about how they spent their money. My mom always looked at the trade-off between the money being spent and the quality of the product being bought. The brand name hardly ever played a role in it. The only time we purchased something from a big brand was when we knew we would use it a lot, and the brand carried a promise of quality. 

Related: Investor's guide to managing money 

Buy during sales

My mom hardly ever bought something at full price. That said, she never bought anything just because it was on sale. She would decide what she wants to buy based on our needs and then wait for the price to drop before making the purchase. I follow the same trick and hunt for the best deal. Online availability has made this process even easier. Always check the price online, and across e-tailers, before you make a purchase.

“Let’s buy it tomorrow”

It is not that my parents never wanted to buy anything on impulse. But they had a simple rule - "let's buy it tomorrow". If you see something in the store and fall in love with it, postpone the purchase by a day. If tomorrow you still want to buy it at that price, go ahead. But more often than not, you realise that it is not the best option available. This approach allows me to save a lot of money, especially when the latest tech gadgets tempt me. 

Enjoy the free things

When I was growing up, we hardly ever went for a week-long vacation. It was difficult to budget it into our financial plans. But we did spend a ton of time together as a family. We went to the beach every other weekend, spent time reading books, spent hours playing board games, and even painted the house together. Even today, I instinctively look for free resources before reaching for my wallet. Again, the Internet and the gift economy are a boon for me. Books, apps, video content, blogs – so much that I can learn from is available for free.

Related: Are you in your 20s? Avoid making these money mistakes. 

Avoid debt at all costs

Some people can be rationale about it. If the interest you pay on the debt is lower than the interest you would earn on the investment, pay only the minimum amount due on the debt. I am not as rationale as the rest. I want to pay off any debts I have as soon as possible, and never take on new debt again. I have seen my parents stressed out thinking about how they would pay back the loan they had taken for the house repairs. It taught me two things - build an emergency fund and avoid debt. The additional stress is not worth it.

Work hard always

My father is closer to 70 now than he is to 60. He still travels to the University every weekday, works on creating course material, writes an editorial every weekday, and conducts teacher training sessions. Not that he has to, but he does not want to give up working hard. His work ethic is contagious. I think I have it as well. I hope my kids will have it too.

I have learned a lot from my parents. I try to return the favour by being a great example to their grandkids. If my kids are able to put these money-management techniques to good use, then I can consider myself successful in some ways. 

Is there a good time to teach your kids about money? Read through this piece to understand how to equip your kids with sound financial habits.


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