What my parents taught me about money, #3

Consumer Reports News: July 21, 2009 06:08 AM

Editor's note: In the coming days, members of the Consumer Reports Money staff will be sharing family lessons about money, both positive and negative. You're welcome to share your experiences, as well. Here, the third in the series:

When it came to money, my father was a study in contrasts. Born just before the Great Depression to hard-working, immigrant parents, Dad learned how to scrimp at the foot of the master, my grandmother, who could squeeze a nickel until it cried “Uncle!” In the supermarket, Dad was as tight as could be, demanding rain checks for sale items that were sold out, redeeming as many coupons as Mom could clip, buying store brands and generic products in the largest economy sizes available for his family of six kids, and choosing the cheapest cuts of meat and day-old fruits and vegetables. Even in his later years, when the kids were dispersed and he was buying only for himself, he’d purchase chuck steak, store-brand bread and peanut butter (but only if it was on sale), and powdered skim milk.

Where he’d waste all the money he’d saved on groceries—and then some—was in his procrastination. Dad never paid a bill on time, and he routinely racked up fines and late fees, and even had his telephone shut off a few times. I don’t think he was ever up-to-date on his taxes. It wasn’t related to his age (he was like that as long as any of us can remember) or because he didn’t have the money, he just was a world-class procrastinator who couldn’t reconcile his best intentions with his actions.

How’s that affected me? Well, I try to be prudent in my shopping but I buy the brands and items that my family likes, ideally when they're on sale but even if they aren’t. I’ve never bought chuck steak or powdered milk in my life, and I hope I never have to. To help ensure that, I pay all my bills on time and never pay any late fees or credit card interest.–Noreen Perrotta, money editor

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