Growing up, things were never easy. Our household consisted of coupon cutting, sporadic family time, and a lot of rushed meals. My mother worked full-time, 6-days a week, and my sisters and I were all at different stages of our life, academically and socially. We were a tight-knit gang of 4—supporting each other every step of the way, but I’d be lying if I said things were easy.
There were times where I answered the phone and the bank was calling about money owed, times when I needed money for a school trip and the funds just weren’t there, times when I woke up in the middle of the night and heard my mom crying, quietly in her room. There were memories that I look back on and wonder if there were things I could have changed. But, there are traits and lessons I have learned, throughout the years, that made me realize that growing up with a single mother was the biggest blessing I could have been given.
How to manage my money.
My mother worked very hard to make sure that my sisters and I had everything we needed. But, working on a single income in New York City with three kids is not easy. In fact, my mom had to budget the sh*t out of her paycheck every single month to make sure she had enough to cover rent, food, electric, clothes, extracurricular funds, etc. Everyone in my family laughs and calls my mom the “bargain hunter,” but, she’s taught me the value of always looking for a less-expensive route in all that I do. Now, as an adult who has moved out on my own, I’m always looking for sales, looking at circular fliers, and trying to get everything for the lowest price possible. In the end, it only pays off—literally.
How to spot a good deal.
When it comes to getting myself things, I never shop without a coupon or a promo code. I’m the queen of finding 10-15% discounts when shopping online and I’d rather be caught dead than paying full price for anything. My mom has taught me that the name brands—they don’t matter. You can find a good leather bag for $50 that will last longer than the one girls spend $1,200 on. There are things that are worth splurging on—like good shoes to keep your feet warm/supported—and things that are out of reach and so not worth it.
The importance of family.
When things were tough, they were tough. And, when my mom needed help, our family was there to always have our backs. Whether it was me helping out my mom with an unexpected move, my uncle helping us out with some tight times, or even close family friends that had our backs—family is everything in life. No matter how much you fight, how many things go wrong, or where you end up, family will never say goodbye, family will never leave you out in the cold.
You can grow from your mistakes.
My mom says she made a lot of mistakes in her youth, like not paying attention to the way my father spent money, not doing enough for herself, not keeping her finances in check. But, everyone can grow from their mistakes. My mom always told me that no matter how badly I mess up in life, tomorrow is a new day to change my outcome. I’m not confined to my regrets, I’m not a victim and I’m certainly not going to let anyone in life control my destiny. I do what I need to do for myself, by myself, and always keep my head held high.
Getting something for yourself is more satisfying than someone getting it for you.
Sure, getting a gift and having people spoil you seems like a nice thing in life, but, I’ve learned that getting something I want for myself makes it all the more satisfying. It makes me feel as though I’ve earned it. Buying things with your own money means that you are not only independent but capable of taking care of yourself—not needing someone to constantly rely on for your needs and desires.
Always have your own stash.
My mom stopped working originally when she had my sisters and I, and my dad was the sole income in the family. When she and my father got divorced, things were rocky and money was an issue. My mom always said to me and my sisters it’s important to always have your own stash in your own accounts. You can have a joint account with your husband once you get married, but keep some of your own money earned before marriage for you. You never know when you’ll need it.
Divorce doesn’t have to be a mess.
Regardless of the issues my mother and father had, my mom always kept things under the rug. I knew that money was tight and my father wasn’t paying child support, but, my mom never said a bad thing about my father in front of me, nor to me. She made sure that I saw my father as much as I was supposed to and as much as I should/wanted to growing up, and made sure that her opinion of him did not tarnish our relationship overall.
Strength always comes from struggle.
My mother is by far, hands down, without a doubt the strongest person I know. Through all of life’s bullsh*t, she always has a smile on her face, she always makes sure that people know she is there for them—and, above all, she never gives up. She’s told me countless times that struggle is the backbone of any person in the world—and without struggle, we would never know what it is like to truly enjoy the peace and quiet.