Since I can remember, my family has always lived paycheck to paycheck. Sometimes the hot water would get shut off, or even our cable wouldn't be on for a few days, but that doesn't mean I wasn't happy. Growing up in a low-income household taught me so many valuable things you can't learn anywhere else.
I learned how to budget.
Not to budget for bills, but how to budget for life. How to contact banks, or the city if I won't be able to pay a bill until I get paid three days later. How to make sure I always make to give my kids a good birthday and Christmas. How to budget if my child goes into the hospital. Nothing is more important than family and making memories, so if my cable has to be off for a few days to give my daughter the birthday gift she wanted, then it's worth it.
I learned how to save.
Even if its only two dollars every paycheck, that's two more dollars than you had. I always try and put about 10-20% of my check into my savings, but sometimes that's just not possible. When something bad happens, you always have the savings to help you out. I don't need my savings to be a big number, but I think you should try and keep anywhere between $100-$4,000 in there.
I learned to be grateful.
Of course I didn't get every single thing I wanted for Christmas, but the things I did get I appreciated so much more. I learned that if I was able to have a roof over my head, clothes on my back and food on the table, that's all that matters. I don't need the newest phone, or t.v. or name brand clothes.
I learned free things are the best things.
Why wouldn't you like free things? So the things are hand-me-downs, so what?!? If it's free and in good condition, it doesn't matter if I brought it off the shelf or got for free from someone I know. I have gotten free clothes, couches, shoes, tables, etc. I have saved so much money on people giving me things.
I learned to help others that need it more than me.
I always donate my clothes, give money to different charities, I try and buy a toy for groups that do toy drives, or even canned goods. Why? Because I understand what it's like to need help. If I can, I sometimes buy the person behind me order for them or prepay gas for a stranger. You don't know what someone might be going through, so help others.
I learned to be happy no matter how much money I do or don't have.
Yes, it's great to have a lot of money and nice things. But what's even better is working a job you WANT to work, seeing your kids play the sports they love and spending time with your significant other. Money can't buy back time, can't replace memories, can't make relationships. I want a job that doesn't feel like a job. I want happy kids that know I will be at every one of their games. I want my husband to know I love him every day we are together.
I'm so grateful for the life I was given, for the way my mother raised me, for understanding money at such a young age. I wouldn't change my life any way at all.