My father grew up during the depression and knew how difficult maintaining fiscal stability could be. His father was only able to remain employed periodically during most of the 1930's. He knew what it was like to not have a lot of life's necessities. Being the oldest child in his family as soon as he turned 16 he went to work to help support the family. These experiences shaped his life until his death last year.
Here is what he always told me to be stable financially:
1) If you take on a new ongoing expense, cut one of your existing expenses that is equivalent in amount
2) If you get a raise or some unexpected money either use if to pay down debt (which he never had much of) or put it into a savings account for a rainy day. Rainy days are inevitable. Plan ahead for them.
3) Always keep track of what you spend and evaluate your spending frequently to understand where you are headed financially.
Living by my father's examples may seem to be a lifestyle that is outdated in our more modern financial ways. Having Christmas and vacation clubs at the bank (anyone else remember your parents having these?) or buying on lay away meant that many expenses were prepaid and not put on a credit card. My parents never owned a credit card until the 1980's when they found out they couldn't rent a car on their trips without one. For many years that was the only time they used the credit card. Somehow my father was more comfortable with carrying hundreds of dollars in his wallet for that unexpected expense then using a credit card. This habit horrified my Mother who thought he might someday get robbed.
One final thing I remember about my Father was that if anyone in our family or in his community had a need he was always there to help. His fiscal example has always been a touchstone for me in making financial decisions and might also be a useful guide for those supposedly intelligent members of Congress in handling our country's finances.
From the Columbia Archives: