I was raised by a solidly middle-class couple. They were living the American dream. They bought a house, both worked, and had 2.5 kids (ok just 2). I remember always having whatever I needed, never feeling like there wasn’t enough – true privilege. My mom handled the finances for the family and credit cards were a normal part of paying for our lifestyle. Many Christmases were paid for on credit cards; back to school shopping, credit cards; birthdays, credit cards. My mom refinanced the house several times to pay off credit cards, and now 45 years after building a very modest home, she still has a mortgage to pay. Now all that being said, if we had money problems, I didn’t know it. Nobody really talked about money.
My parents had always told me that they did not save any money for college (or retirement for that matter, but we’ll get to that in other posts I’m sure). So I went into my high school guidance counselor’s office and asked what the cheapest college was. Her response, “Well, the United States Air Force Academy is free.” Wait, what?! Ok, that sounded a little crazy, is there anything less hard core? “If you got an Air Force ROTC scholarship, college could be free and you could go anywhere.” Where do I sign up? I applied and ended up getting a three year scholarship. Thus, with some help from my parents, I graduated with very little student loan debt and had it paid off in the first year of active duty military service.
Now by the time I stuck out on my own, I had formed the opinion that credit cards were evil. I was about to go off to military technical training after graduation and I was going to do it with a clean (credit card) slate. I had one visa card and a store-branded credit card that I paid off AND CANCELED before I left. What I soon learned is that it is hard to rent hotel rooms (where we had to stay during technical training) without a credit card. Cue misty-eyed call to parents. Mom put that room on HER credit card until I could get the military travel card (which took time because I was brand-spanking-new. So, maybe credit cards weren’t so evil.
Now, Mr. FIF has a completely different money upbringing that I. He was raised by loving parents who were also faithful Catholics. They had very modest incomes and we’re also the same age as my grandparents. What that meant was they both lived through the great depression as part of their childhood. So they knew what it felt like to not have enough. They taught my husband serious lessons in frugality. For birthdays, they got to choose between going out to eat or a gift. Not both, one or the other. I only point this out to call attention to the start difference between our childhoods. Though, like mine, his parents were not able to set aside money for college and he received a full four year AF ROTC scholarship.
Mr. FIF and I balance each other out. I have learned to weigh how much a thing is needed or valued before spending money on it and Mr. FIF has learned that people things can bring people joy even if the thing does not have objective value to him. Needless to say, I handle Christmas shopping in our family.