Money is Just a Tool

Mom, money is just a tool in my toolbox.

Aging gives you adult children who teach you a new perspective. One night, a son told me about a costly repair. I don’t remember the details, but I remember his words. “Mom, money is just a tool in my toolbox. I take it out when I need to.”

That perspective may sound simplistic or naive or spoken like someone with plenty of money. I found it freeing.

I don’t resent opening my husband’s toolbox or our shed or my sewing basket when I need a tool. Considering my money a tool and my bank account a toolbox made withdrawals easier.

The money tool can be costly but so was our neighbor’s riding mower. Obviously, a used money tool is not put back in the shed, which means I must plan for restocking.

As I age and my physical limitations increase, I am learning to use more of the tools in my bank accounts.

Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.

jim Rohn

If Money Can Fix It…

Along the way, I heard a saying that stuck with me and the few I shared it with.

If money can fix it, it’s not a problem.

It seemed idealistic or at least unrealistic until I considered what money can’t fix. Money can’t fix a miscarriage, a wayward child, death of a loved one, abandonment, or betrayal. I have friends and relatives who would have liquidated all assets if money could have cured their spouse’s cancer.

One night, a son called with bad news. He finished by reminding, “Don’t worry, Mom. Money can fix it, and if money can fix it…”

Can money fix any of your concerns?

Holidays, Money

Not a Penny to Waste

When my husband attended one of his first meetings as a new faculty member, what he remembered most was a statement from the head of the business school.

“We have money for everything we need but not a penny to waste.”

Dean Richard Scott

We claimed that declaration as our money mantra, and it outlasted all others. (See here and here) Over the years, we have neglected things we needed and wasted a bit, but it has been a good compass. In times of want we have said, “We have money for everything we need,” and in times of plenty we have said, “We don’t have a penny to waste.”

I especially like the reminder during the holidays when both temptations exist: not allocating enough money for celebrating and unnecessary splurges.

Do any statements guide your money thinking?

Decisions, Money

Love It Or Send It Back

No matter the school choice, summer is a big buying season for the coming academic year. Based on reviews, I occasionally bought curriculum unseen. When it arrived, I sometimes had doubts after looking at the teacher’s guide or skimming the text.

However, I would talk myself into liking it because I thought I should. Others claimed it was their favorite. Or I had spent much time deciding. Or I had spent a lot of money. Or it was a bargain. Or several of the above.

Along the way, I learned to trust my misgivings. No matter how much I hoped that a doubtful curriculum would work, it never did.

If I didn’t like a choice from the beginning, I never would.

I should send it back and pay the postage. (See Free Shipping, No Thanks Here)

The same principle applied to store purchases, especially clothing. If I didn’t love it in the dressing room, I should leave it. Research shows an item is worth the most at the moment of purchase.  Afterwards, the value diminishes. I learned liking wasn’t enough to pull out my wallet.

What do you need to return?


A Favorite Money Story

Jesus used the power of a story to help his disciples understand and remember spiritual truths. We can follow his example as we teach.

In Famer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the town has gathered for a 4th of July Celebration. A cousin dares seven-year-old Almanzo Wilder to ask his father for a nickel to spend on lemonade. Almanzo knows he will be denied, but he asks to save his pride. Instead of a nickel, his father shows Almanzo a half dollar.

It’s work, son,” Father said. “That’s what money is; it’s hard work.

He asks Almanzo to describe the process of raising potatoes. Almanzo complies.

That’s what’s in this half-dollar, Almanzo. The work that raised half a bushel of potatoes is in it.

Mr. Wilder gives the half dollar to Almanzo so he can buy a suckling pig—and raise a litter of pigs worth $4-5 each—or buy lemonade to drink. Almanzo returns to his peers who are envious when they learn that he is buying a suckling pig.

For a couple of years, “Suckling pig or suck lemonade,” was a way to remind our boys of wise financial choices.

Has a story helped you illustrate a principle?