Growing up, I had no idea that my family was poor, because we always had everything we needed and I never heard my parents argue about money.
CREDIT: Araceli Cruz
But long after I moved out and started making my own money, my dad gave me a reality check. I complained to him about my salary and he told me that my earnings were way more than he ever made. That got me to thinking…
How did my parents raise five kids on so little?
One thing that made me feel like a complete failure at being independent was that while I made more than my parents ever did, I didn’t own a home and didn’t have a car the way they had my entire life — and I was only providing for myself, not a whole family. So how did my parents accommodate for five kids on a really small budget? Here’s how they did it, and how I’m learning to budget my own money today thanks to them:
90 percent of the things my parents bought were purchased at the swap meet and yard sales.
From produce to home appliances, almost everything in our house came from the swap meet, where my mom could haggle for cheaper prices.
We almost never had fast food or went out to eat.
On the rare occasion that my mom didn’t want to make food, my dad would get us hamburgers — but without cheese, because we’d add slices of cheese once we got home.
Our annual vacations were strictly road trips.
And we almost never stayed at hotels.
Half the trips we took were camping vacations.
And you can bet we took everything with us.
When we weren’t camping, we crashed with family.
There’s no way to you can go to the town your family lives in and not call them. You’d be in big trouble.
My parents only ever bought used cars.
They’ve always said the number one investment is owning a home, which they always did. However, when it came to cars, they taught me the value lessons each year. The added bonus of buying a used car: you can pass it down to a primo when you’re done with it.
The only socializing we did was at family functions.
There’s no need to spend money at the club or a movie theater when you have a cousin’s quinceañera or tía’s birthday party every Saturday.
If anyone got sick, we never used typical medicine.
If you had a cold, a cough, a broken limb, or even a fatal disease, it wasn’t anything a little vaporú, tequila, and a prayer couldn’t handle.
We never bought name brand items.
If we wanted Nikes or a Barbie, we’d head straight for the swap meet.
We didn’t pay for childcare. Family takes care of family.
Why pay for a babysitter when your oldest daughter can do the job for free?
If we needed a haircut, we’d make an appointment with the lady down the street.
Letting Lupe cut your hair was always a risk, but we had no choice. If the haircut was super bad, it would make for a good story later.
To some, this way of life might seem sad, but it wasn’t. I had the best childhood ever and it really made me value the stuff I did have. I didn’t take things for granted and realized the most important things in life could never be purchased.
CREDIT: Araceli Cruz
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