Financial advice from a frugal father

40 something years ago, my mother and father traveled to Montana in an old pickup with everything they owned in it and $100 from their parents for their first cow. They didn’t get that cow until years later, but they did learn how to make something from nothing. Over the years my father has spread a lot of advice and financial wisdom, while I was younger I often brushed off what he said as not important. I learned a lot of his lessons the hard way instead of learning from someone who had “been there and done that”.

63435_1763049478843_1250860_n1. You are never “too good” for a job

I cannot tell you how many people complain that they cannot find a job. I can immediately list off 5 or 6 places I have seen that have “Help Wanted” signs up. 9 out of 10 people come up with an excuse like “But I won’t work fast food”, or “I am too qualified for that job.”When I was 14 I complained to my dad that I was bored. He went in to the stockyard office where we were dropping off cows and asked them if they were hiring. I started work that day. I would work 8-12 hour days on hard concrete and come home covered in cow manure. Since then I have worked in every job category from flipping burgers to Office Manager (I hated that one), and learned something from each and every one.


Long before I heard of Dave Ramsey, I heard my father warning me to put aside money for when I would need it. Of course to a 14 year old me, a rainy day was a day when there was 3 feet of fresh powder and I didn’t have money in my checking account to go snowboarding. Now, a rainy day involves a broken car, an Emergency Room visit, or a broken vacuum cleaner. Regardless of the reason for the emergency, having a sum of money set aside just for the purpose of cushioning that blow is something I strongly believe in.

3. NEVER TRUST A Salesmen to put you first

“Too good to be true” is just that. When someone tries to sell me something I will never buy it then and there, no matter how good their song and dance sounds. I have seen too many people suckered into transactions they later regretted (myself included a few times). Salesmen (and women) make their living selling you something. Too many of them will do or say anything to get you to buy the product so they can get the sale. Never say yes right away, back away from the situation, look it over, you might even want to talk to someone to get a second opinion on a deal.


I get weird looks when I say this to other people, but it is the advice that I think of every time I need to do something. When it comes to work, DIY projects, and even finances, I always stop and think “Am I making this harder than it should be?” Call it advice, call it common sense, but it’s the little “dad” voice in my head. It could be creating a menu plan so I don’t have to stress about what to make for supper after a long day at work, or making compost bins from old plastic drums. It doesn’t have to be hard if I am smart about it.


My dad has had some crazy business schemes in the past. When I was 12 he showed up one day with 2 one day old dairy calves and a bag of calf milk replacer. He told me “this is your new job” raising and selling bottle calves. Fast forward a few years and I had over 80 calves in different stages of growth and more money than I probably should have had at my disposal. I blame all my crazy business ideas on him. From selling local produce at the farmer’s market, to starting a bookkeeping business in my home. Being your own boss is more work, but it is worth it.


Common sense right? I have to say “Thank you Dad”, because while I did get myself in some tight spots financially, I have always drawn the line at getting a credit card or one of those advance loans. I would rather wait to save for something rather than buy it now and have to pay the total for it plus the interest on the money I borrowed.

45578_1603783697298_5402723_n7. PAY CASH FOR VEHICLES

I paid cash for my first truck, any deals I ever did with people were done with cash in my pocket because people will settle for less when there is a promise of an immediate exchange of bills. I had a car break down when I was working across the country in North Carolina, so I had to go searching for a vehicle to bring me back home at the end of the summer. I bought a car with cash for $800 less than the sticker price (from $2300 to $1500 isn’t bad) because I walked in with cash in my hand. The car was a complete Lemon and barely made it back to Montana, but that’s another matter entirely.

8. The secret to having money is Not spendING money

Sorry people, but the myth that you have to spend money to make money is just that, a myth. I have seen it in practice. There are good investments (and you are the biggest and best one you can make), but going out to lunch when you can’t afford it  is not investment, it’s just stupid. I work hard for my money, so the last thing I want to do is see it go down the drain on some silly impulse buy. I would rather have it sitting in the bank rather than sitting as a worthless item in my house or driveway.

These all sound like happy little life lessons, but most of the time I learned these AFTER I had done something stupid. My dad would tap the back of my head and say “Where’s your common sense?” After a while that phrase would sound in my head when I knew I was about to do something stupid (or right in the middle of it). Now, the little “dad” voice in my head sounds off when I am working on finances and I often think “Does this make sense financially?”

Was your father or mother a guiding influence in your financial life? What advice of theirs do you live by?