13 People Opened Up About The Unhealthy Money Habits They Learned From Their Parents And How They're Working To Change Them

Whether we realize it or not, we learn many of our behaviors and attitudes around money from watching our parents. For me, this means I inherited my mom's (and her mom's) love of finding a smokin' hot deal. But the flip side of this is that sometimes it's really hard for me to part with my money for big-ticket items, even when I really need them.

Things like new glasses or dental work can throw me into a tailspin, even when I'm lucky enough to have money in savings to cover them. Unless, of course, I can find a really good deal...

Recently, I asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to share some of the less-helpful money lessons they learned from their parents and how they're working to unlearn them. Here's what people had to say:

1."'Retail therapy' was something my mom taught me and it led me to spend money without thinking if I really needed that item or if I even had the money to splurge. My mom never taught me how to do a budget because she doesn’t do one. This led me to bad spending habits and massive credit card debt when I was younger. It took a long time to unlearn the bad habits, but I’m much happier (and feel more financially secure) without the stress that often resulted from 'retail therapy' and overspending."

women on the street carrying lots of shopping bags
Westend61 / Getty Images/Westend61

2."Growing up it seemed like everywhere we shopped one of my parents (usually my mom) had a store credit card. I mean everywhere. She had so many cards. And at the time I didn't think anything of it, but now it makes me shudder. I have one credit card and have thought about getting another but refuse to go the store card route."

—Caylee, 34

3."My mom bought clothes off a website with a pay-later scheme and treated it like it was free. We’d have a hundred dollars worth of clothes every week when we had very little money."

—May, 22

4."I'm relearning that I CAN use more than one paper towel or use a bit extra toilet paper. I buy my own shit now, but I still hear his voice tell me how expensive these products are!"

toilet paper roll
Bozidarka Jaglicic / Getty Images/iStockphoto

5."I grew up in a family without much money, and during the 2008 recession, we really suffered. My parents' mentality was to spend money when they had it because they didn't know when we would have it again. I really struggle to save and this year, I'm making a proper budget and actually disciplining myself to stick to it as closely as possible. I need to have some savings behind me for emergencies and for an occasional treat."


6."I learned not to spend any money on non-necessities. No little treats, no Halloween costumes, only going to restaurants on special occasions, getting the cheapest everything. I want to be different because my parents were NOT poor. They just wanted the money for their own things. Growing up I thought we were poor, and I don’t want my kids worrying about how much money I have at such a young age."

—Ruby, 21

7."My mom was a single mom of three. She couponed (we were what I called 'powdered milk' poor) but unfortunately indulged too much in the finer things and gambling. She never saved. She ended up living with us in retirement. She only got $630 per month in SSI. No savings. I coupon and clearance shop and save our savings. My husband and I have taught all 4 of our children the importance of saving and investing."

chips on a roulette table

8."My biological parents each had steady government jobs and a very unhealthy relationship with money. Over the last four decades, I've taught myself to have a written budget to account for every penny coming in and going out — which means fewer surprise expenses. Also, I taught myself how to use a credit card in a responsible way to have a healthy credit score and no debt. I am very determined to keep a balanced and stable financial life."

—Anonymous, 56

9."My parents always toed the line of living above their means. As a child, discussions about debt, not being able to afford something essential and not having a financial cushion scared me a lot and also carried a burden of shame. As an adult, I understand that we were firmly middle class and there was never a real reason to worry — my parents were just prone to exaggerate to bring a point across."

"They were not irresponsible with their money; there just was not a huge cushion to fall back on (which wasn't that big of a problem since I'm from a country with a working welfare system in case of emergency). Since I only understood the keywords which suggested imminent poverty, it really fucked up my relationship with necessary expenses.

I feel existential dread whenever I have to spend a larger sum of money (for new furniture, a car, a vacation, a laptop). I have to think it over and over again and often can't sleep when there are financial decisions to make. I know that I earn enough to afford my lifestyle and that I have a relatively huge cushion to fall back on, but my first thought is always 'I should not be spending this amount of money.'"

—Rose, 33

10."It's on sale so we need it. Impulsively buying something because it's less money. It's such a deal, let's buy it because it's so expensive, and what if we need it in the future. Then we'd never use it ever."

50% off sign in a store
Kinga Krzeminska / Getty Images

11."Both of my parents grew up in low-income households with multiple siblings. Everything was communal and shared amongst all (even food). Yet, when they had me, they both were doing financially well for themselves, but they kept a lot of the habits from before. The clearest example I remember was sharing a backpack and lunch box with my brother all through elementary school. It wasn’t until 7th grade that the school stepped in and said we each needed our own bags/lunch. It’s a process not to be so frugal. Especially when I get paid well and regularly from my job. I don’t need to water down my shampoo or detergent anymore, and I can afford to buy new shoes and not duct tape the soles."

—Melanie, 29

12."When I take my family out to activities I budget for food (whether bringing it, buying it, or sneaking it in) and gifts/souvenirs. My parents would literally have us walking all day at a fair or amusement park and not budget for food, then wonder why they had crabby kids a few hours later."


13.And finally, "I don't use credit cards like my dad did. If I can't afford it, I don't buy it. I'm not talking about basic life necessities. On the other hand, I'm not as tight with money as my mom. I don't fault her for how she was, but I tried to find a happy place between my mom and dad. I'm not in debt other than my house, and I have enough savings for a rainy day. While I've worked hard for it, I also realize I'm incredibly lucky. Lots of people work hard but they still live paycheck to paycheck."

hand holding a credit card
Ekaterina Demidova / Getty Images

Can you relate? Share the not-so-helpful money lesson you picked up from your parents and what you're trying to do differently in the comments.