Two Finance Lessons from Mothers

(This column was first published on Value Research India.)

The world celebrated Mother’s Day last Sunday, with almost everyone heralding mothers as the most important person in their lives. And rightfully so. Despite being a father, and a very good one at that, if I might say so myself, I truly believe that mothers are the best. They care for us from the day we are born, through the rest of our lives. And not only are mother selfless, they teach us a lot.

My mother has taught me a lot about life and the world, and not only that, I’ve also learned a lot about managing my finances from her. That mothers are called the Home Minister of a household is a clichéd joke, but mine is also the Finance Minister of ours. The way she manages our home is commendable and what I have seen her do has also helped me handle my finances better. Here are two of them:

Keeping a tab on expenses

From the 10 rupees she might give someone as a tip for handling her grocery bags to the 1,000 rupees she might pay for those groceries, my mom writes every expense down in a dairy. Having seen her do that since I was kid, I got into the habit as well after I started making a living. This habit has helped me immensely in figuring out areas where I need to be frugal rather than frivolous with my expenses. A rupee saved is a rupee earned, after all. And that same rupee when invested is more than one rupee earned.

Budgeting your expenses

And once you know where you’re spending more than you should, you can easily set a budget so that you limit that expense. My mom has a set budget for every household expense that needs to be made. The fact that she has a clear idea of how much of what has to be bought allows her to make sure that nothing goes amiss. I do the same. The first budget I have set aside is for my mutual fund investments. Once that’s out of the way, the necessity expenses are taken care of and only then a budget is set of entertainment or such expenses.

Both of these things are such basic elements of managing one’s finances that we often overlook them while we end up focusing on the more complex issues. But that is another thing that my mom has taught me – get done of the simpler things first before you move onto the tougher tasks. Drink milk before you fill up with something else, or finish studying the easier bits of your syllabus before you move to the tougher sections, she always taught me to focus on the basics and get the foundation strong.

“It’s elementary, my dear son,” she’d say. “Thanks, mom,” is what I now say.

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