MSE Rhiannon: ‘How my MoneySaving Mum taught me all I know’

It's my Mum's 69th birthday on Wednesday 5th February. Well, it would've been had we not lost her at 55 to cancer. We've been forced to celebrate many occasions without her for over a decade, but this year I've decided it's time for me to celebrate my MoneySaving Mum and how she taught me all I know.

Some of my earliest memories involve being told “we don’t have the money for that”, which I didn’t understand, because there was money in Mum’s wallet. She never knew this, but when I was six I took a £5 note out and I hid it, just to prove there was plenty of money in there and she wouldn’t miss it. That fiver seemed like such a large amount though, so I felt bad, and told her I’d found it in my purse - she assumed my Gran had put it there (sorry Mum). At least I didn’t grow up to be a criminal, eh?

I’ve always joked there must be a ‘Mum’s Manual’ that everyone gets handed when they have their first kid, as we’ve all heard “it’ll all end in tears” enough times to question what it really means. But what did my Mum have to say about Money? Well, here are My Mum’s Money Mantras:

🤑 I’m not made of Money. I yell this in my head all the time when I’m out shopping. Big brands and full-priced items are expensive, I'll wait for the yellow sticker or sale. Why pay more?

💰 Money doesn’t grow on trees. This always confused me as a child, as it seemed money (at least in note form) was made of paper, which does grow on trees. Parents today can legitimately say this now, as money is mostly plastic (and tallow - ick).

💷 Find a penny, pick it up, find a fiver, hand it in. Yes, I really do, and yet I’ve noticed whenever I refuse to keep cash I’ve found on the street, some people look at me as if I’ve got two heads. If I can’t return it, it goes to charity.

💸 Don’t spend it all at once. This always fell on deaf ears when I was a teenager. I’d fallen into the trap of believing nobody would like me if I didn’t have brand new clothes. Oof! So unsustainable, teenage me.

🙅 Never a borrower nor a lender be. Why are mums always right? Unfortunately, just after she died a ‘friend’ scammed me out of £2,000 (it still hurts). I comfort myself knowing the deepest circle of hell is reserved for betrayers (thanks, Pirates of the Caribbean).

🕰️ I’ll just be a minute. My Mum at a charity shop or boot sale. I learned that “Mum minutes” were significantly longer than the standard unit of time and could draw you a detailed map of every charity shop and car boot sale from the 90s where I grew up.

👗 Dress down so it’s easier to dress up. The theory was if you wear comfy clothes most of the time, cheaper clothes look posh in comparison - so you don’t have to break the bank for every Christmas party. Good advice, but I still question if anyone needs 20 pairs of Levi’s, even if they were all “a bargain” from the charity shop.

💳 Why pay more for the same thing? Before I shopped at Aldi or Lidl, there was Netto. That’s where everything we ate came from for a while, and it taught me a lot. For example, it’s amazing what you can do with kartoffelsalat (potato salad). I used to fry it up as sautéed potato, or bake it like a gratin. Fancy.

🧽 Hoard cleaning supplies. I was cleaning last week and found a bottle of bleach bought at Netto years ago, and for a while I’ve been using dishwasher rinse aid I found at the back of the shed. As a kid, I remember we had tins of boot polish that looked as if they’d been passed down the generations, too. The point being, if it doesn’t go off, stock up when it’s going cheap.

🍝 Cook from scratch. My Mum was always cooking. We were sometimes served odd combinations of yellow-stickered food she’d got reduced at the supermarket, but I’m thankful looking back as it meant I knew how to cook and eat as a student without much money.

🍽️ Don’t eat it all at once. My Mum would come back with a haul of yellow-stickered products once a week and fill the fridge with strict instructions that we were not to immediately eat it all. I now do the same myself, but I have to freeze whatever I can otherwise I’ll still eat it all. That’s the one lesson I never fully learnt because discounted food is delicious.

⌛ ‘Best before’ means nothing. Some people will laugh, but I have herbs and tea in my house that was ‘best before’ 2008. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – tea doesn’t turn into poison or pumpkins at midnight.

📚 Give something back. Whether it be knowledge, money, or goodness, my Mum always told us to give something back. Well, I earned a PhD and became a published scientific author (like Mum), so I can say I’ve given back to the world with my research. I also can’t resist a good charity shop, and I’ve been writing blogs at MSE to encourage people to do good things with money. Hopefully that counts!

My Mum in front of her hand-crafted exhibit at The Hancock Museum, 1978

In memory of Dr Val Moorhouse, 1951-2006.

What did your parents teach you about money? Do my Mum’s mantras sound familiar? Let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter.