From Apron Strings to Purse Strings – a Graduation

‘Gender quotas. Miriam for President. Mammy O’ Rourke

Amid all the talk of women in political life, you’d occasionally hear a suggestion that the country’s purse strings be handed to housewives. Specifically, to that generation of women who gave up work when they married (because they had to) and generally had more children and less income than their modern day counterparts.

Well, if they’re looking for nominations, I’d be very quick to put my own mother’s name on the ballot sheet.

As children growing up my mother would sell us a stamp, lend us a pound. Not because she is not generous – she is, to a fault – but because she wanted to teach us to value and respect money. A bigger loan amount could also be generously given, but possibly attracting a higher interest rate or maybe a shorter repayment term than available in your unfriendly neighbourhood bank.

Mam would think nothing of phoning up the supermarket to query an ‘after the decimal point’ error on the till receipt. In fact she could be best seen in action in said supermarket. Sometimes a ” pound of mince ” was a much more precise request than was appreciated. I was the red faced child beside the trolley, as the butcher was admonished to adjust, and maybe adjust again, to suit. She was way ahead of their ’rounding up’ sales drive.

I say none of this to be derogatory or in any way scathing. My mother is a complete monetary whizz and my financial heroine. My father, himself good with money, regularly takes his hat off to her. The mantra she has always lived by is ‘ look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves’. As her child you would never bring home less than every single penny of the change from the shops. People who won’t bend down in a queue to pick up a copper coin make her mad. I don’t think I’ll tell her about my friend who sweeps them into the bin rather than stoop to pick them up…

My parents live their lives in the black. In so far as I know, anything needed is either paid for upfront or saved for. Bar a mortgage and perhaps a car loan, I don’t think my parents ever borrowed money. As teenagers, my siblings and I were all encouraged to get weekend jobs and start paying for certain things for ourselves. It gave us financial independence but also a respect for money. And I think we have all turned out, to a greater or lesser degree perhaps, to be ‘good with money’.

I have never had an overdraft or a personal loan. I’m good at saving and cutting my cloth. This is not a boast, by the way. If you aspire to the ‘you must speculate to accumulate’ theory, you’re probably laughing by now. But it is how I was brought up. And in the current times, I’m so very glad of it.

Thanks, Mam.