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No, Honey, We Are Not Poor


Dave and I are both savers as opposed to spenders. This combination is great for accomplishing big financial goals like paying off $30,000 of student loans in 9 months, but lately we’ve been talking about our attitude toward the way we handle money and how it will affect our kids. I hope I never have to say the words “No, honey, we are not poor” because our words and actions attached to our frugal lifestyle cause our kids to think that’s the case.

20130306 - cash rollLet me give you a view through the financial lens of my upbringing: Growing up I never wondered whether or not my family was financially secure. My mom clipped coupons and shopped second hand stores instead of buying new, but I never thought we were poor because of it. We took annual family vacations to Myrtle Beach and got plenty of gifts for birthdays and Christmas. We had chore lists we got paid for doing, but there were some chores we were just expected to do as a member of the family. We were taught that our money should be divided into three categories- giving, saving, spending. I had Tupperware containers labeled with each category and contributed to them every time payday rolled around. My parents paid for my three sisters’ and my first year of college. This led me to become an RA/hall mentor for the following 3 years so I could take advantage of free room & board and avoid paying over $8,000/year for it. My parents covered my phone bill and occasionally filled my tank or bought me groceries when I’d visit but otherwise I budgeted my hard-earned money from various jobs wisely to make sure I’d have enough to provide for myself.

Fast forward 20-some years and now I’ve got a 6-month old little girl who will be 16 before I know it. Much of what I learned about finances was caught, not taught, and I’m sure it will be similar for our kids. We’ve already run into situations where our frugal living has caused people to think we are on a tight budget because we don’t have much money. It only makes sense that our kids would think that as well. Here’s what I’d like them to understand about our financial approach:

  • Instead of increasing our standard of living as raises and promotions come along, we’ve committed to increase our standard of giving.
  • Just because we can afford it doesn’t mean we should buy it.
  • We want to be good stewards of the money, gifts, and talents God has given us.
  • Although we work hard to earn money, we strive to avoid the love of money and not let it run our lives.

You may have heard the quote “Character is what you do when no one else is looking.” There are times my parents thought I wasn’t watching or listening, but it was those seemingly insignificant day-to-day moments that molded my outlook about money. My hope is that as parents Dave and I will display a cheerful heart with giving, a confident, not desperate, attitude with saving, and a mindful approach with spending.

As a kid, how did you view your family’s financial situation?
If you have kids, how do you engage them on the topic of finance?



My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.


  1. I saw our financial situation as you have described. We weren’t rich, but not poor either. My Mom clipped coupons, bought things on sale. We rarely ate out – if we did we got a pizza or hoagies.

    We shopped for school clothes once a year and shopped at JCPenney or Sears. I even had hand-me-downs. This wasn’t fun because I only had 2 older sisters! We also did chores – some paid, some not.

    My wife and I are on the same page and will be raising our kids the same – teach them the value of the dollar and the importance of saving and giving.

  2. Jessica, your upbringing sounds a lot like mine (vanessa). I never had anything to worry about. We don’t have kids yet, but I don’t think they will feel like we are poor because we will make sure to explain to them exactly why we save, give, and spend like we do. Maybe that’s harder than I think it will be (most likely) but that’s the plan! I love that you increased your level of giving. That is such a unique and positive example, not only for your kids, but for everyone who knows you.

    • Thanks, Vanessa! Money seems to be the culprit of our culture’s stress so I want to do what I can to equip our kids.

  3. I do think there’s something wrong with our society, if we’re scared we might look poor, if we don’t keep up with the Joneses. We have the same situation: we like to be responsible with our money, which makes others think we’re actually doing bad. OK, even if it was the case, who cares? I was poor back when I was a teenager and it wasn’t such a huge issue. I still dated and had nice friends 😀

    • That’s a good point. I’m glad we budget the way we do but I can’t help but think about how people are viewing our spending habits because these situations come up fairly often. I agree with your last point- We lived off of pennies our first year of marriage but we made so many memories since we had to be creative!

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