5 Lessons I Learned From My Mother About Life and Money

lessons learned from mother

For the first part of my life I had the pleasure of knowing one of the most beautiful women in the world, my mom. She was kind, loving and very patient.

Much like me, she was quiet, conservative and pretty stable about life in general. But everyone she knew would say that she was a very generous and smart woman.

Although she passed away when I was fifteen, here’s a few things she taught me about life and money.

1. Always know the balance in your checkbook

In my family, I’m infamous for telling my mom to “just write a check for it”. Anytime I saw my mom make a purchase, she wrote a check. So naturally, being the smart 8 year old that I was, I thought as long as you had checks, you had money.

One day she sat me down and taught me how to write a check on my own, record it in the checkbook register and subtract it from total balance.

I guess I have her to thank for my love of accounting, because ever since then I’ve been fascinated with accounts, ledgers and balance sheets.

2. Everyone needs their own side money-making project

Although she was a stay-at-home mom, my mother always had a side money-making project. She came up with many entrepreneurial ideas to make money working from home.

She started a very successful jewelry making business, even before there was anything like Etsy or eBay. She was an expert seamstress who sewed and embroidered all kinds of custom clothing. Her stuff was so popular, when she held yard sales, people from all over the city would line up down the street waiting.

She would stash away money for family vacations, romantic weekend getaways for her and my dad, or huge birthday parties for us kids. She was a rock star when it came to making extra money at home and saving for a special event.

3. Always make a list and bring a calculator while shopping

Whether it was buying groceries, furniture or clothes, my mom always had a calculator with her. This was back when we didn’t have price comparison apps or websites.

So she did it the old fashioned way, with a weekly circular, a shopping list and a calculator. If it wasn’t on the list she rarely bought it (only caving when all 4 of us kids teamed up on her) and she bought food by the unit price of each item, instead of the sticker price.

That’s how I learned to shop for groceries by unit price, which shows you exactly how much you’re paying per ounce, per liter or per gallon. These days I use the calculator on my iPhone, and can estimate almost to the penny what my bill will look like after checking out.

skills quote

4. Save money by picking your own food

Having a garden was my mom’s pride and joy. We had a relatively large family, so she saved money however she could. She grew fresh corn, tomatoes, beans and all kinds of herbs.

We had peach trees, plum trees and walnut trees in our backyard, from which she made fresh cobblers and jams during the summer.

If our garden didn’t grow it, we would pick berries from local berry farms or buy fresh produce from a farmer’s market. I seem to have adapted a lot of her “freshly picked” shopping habits.

Now, I prefer to pick my food, or buy it from a local veggie/fruit stand instead of buying it pre-packaged.

5. Time is more valuable than money

When I turned 12 my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer – she was only 46 years old. While losing her 3 years later taught me many life lessons, the one financial thing it taught me, was that life can change in an instant.

Time is so much more valuable than money, and you need have your priorities straight. Family and relationships should come first, then your career, then making money and so on.

“Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.” – Jim Rohn

Be smart with your money, but put the majority of your time and effort into your relationships.

Live wisely and be frugal with your finances, but in the end all you’ve got is the wonderful memories and legacy you leave behind. And those are worth more than all the money in the world.

What lessons have you learned from your mother?

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  1. Ryan Hardy says:

    My mom also taught me to always know the checkbook balance and the importance of keeping a budget. Because of my mom I am constantly keeping track of where my money goes.

  2. Modest Money says:

    Sorry to hear that you lost your mom at a young age Carrie.  She really sounds like a great woman.  That’s awesome that she was smart enough to compare prices by unit price.  I hate when I’m trying to compare prices and they’re different sizes and the math gets all tricky.  I can tell that you learned a lot from her and have a great deal of respect for her.

    I learned a lot of lessons from my mom too.  Most of all she showed me that hard work and perseverance can overcame any obstacle.  She also taught me plenty about running a business and how to remain ethical while doing so.

    • Carrie Smith says:

      Thank you, she was a really amazing woman, as most moms are! Your mom sounds pretty great too. Through all the stuff she had to overcome and she still maintained good ethics. That’s a rare quality.

  3. Wow this reminds me so much of my fiancée’s Mom. She also passed away from cancer when I was 16 and he was 18.  I’m sorry to hear you lost her at such a young age, but I’m glad to hear that she left you with lessons that helped prepare you to be successful in life.

    • Carrie Smith says:

      Thank you. Even though I’ve had time to heal from the loss, there are certain days that make me miss her just the same (like Mother’s Day, her birthday, etc…)

  4. Jana says:

    What a great post, Carrie! I’m sure that your mom is proud of all that you’ve done and how much you take after her. 

    As for what I’ve learned from my mother, it’s not to be a shopaholic and to learn how to manage my own money. My mother is one of the worst money managers I know; she’s a huge lesson in what not to do. Which is actually a really good lesson to learn. 

  5. Pete Sveen says:

    I really enjoyed reading your post Carrie. What a great Mom to have and to teach you so much about life. I’m glad you are following in her footsteps and are so passionate about helping others. Keep up the good work Carrie. Your Mom would be proud. 

    • Carrie Smith says:

      Thanks for the kind words Pete. I hope to continue to take the lessons my mom taught me and make her proud for the rest of my life. She was an absolute inspiration to me (and still is).

  6. Awesome post, Carrie. It sounds like your mom was a great person and that you are a lot like her. I bet Mother’s Day was tough for you. What helps for me (with my dad) is to keep in mind how lucky I am to have had him in my life so as long as I did and how much he made an impact on who I am and will always be. Hope you have a great day!

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