My Story: Learning the Value of a Home-Cooked Meal

By Candace W., Tri-County Technical College

As a child, my favorite words to say to my mom whenever I wanted something, and she claimed to not have enough money was, "Just go to the bank."

Her response to me was always, "What good will that do?"

I would pout and be upset for a while, thinking of how unfair it was that whenever I wanted something she would say she didn't have the money. All she had to do was go to the bank and get some.

I remember one day in particular, we were out shopping for school clothes. After a day of shopping, I had high hopes of going to McDonalds, my favorite restaurant. I asked my mom if we could go there. Her response was the dreaded "I'm broke. I just spent all of my extra money on your school clothes."

She proceeded to say, "We have food at home."

Well that did it! I had a melt down! Not an embarrassing meltdown in public like kids do these days, because my mom didn't play that. Instead, my meltdown was to cry silently all the way home and to give her the cold shoulder. I just didn't understand why we couldn't swing by the bank, since we were already out and about.

Once we got home, I went to my room to pout some more. I was depressed and displeased about the situation. I heard my mom rattling pots and pans in the kitchen, and pretty soon the smell of dinner filled the house. I hated to admit it to myself, but it smelled really good. I was determined not to eat it though. I had a point to prove.

After a while, mom called me to the table to eat. I went out to the kitchen fully prepared to not eat the food. I just wanted her to see that I was still mad, just in case she had forgotten while I was in my room. She had cooked hamburgers. I couldn't resist so I ate mine in silence. It was good. It was actually better than McDonalds, but still, that wasn't the point. That was a home burger and I wanted a restaurant burger.

My mom ate with me, and after a while, she asked me why I was so upset about skipping McDonalds. With a fresh round of tears, I said “Why couldn’t we have just gone to the bank to get the money for McDonalds?"

Mom looked at me with a puzzled look and she said, "Candy, what do you think the bank is for?" I explained to her what I had observed her do on many occasions, which was go to the bank, fill out a little slip of paper, show her ID and receive money.

After another puzzled look, my mom explained to me that the bank was just a bigger version of the money jar I had in my room. She explained that she could only take out what she had put in.

She then went to get her checkbook and a little notebook for me. She showed me her bank balance and had me write it down in my book. "From now on, you will help me keep balance of the account for the house," mom said. Whenever we spent any money, I was to subtract that amount from the balance. Whenever mom got paid, I had to add the amount to the total. She called this "balancing the checkbook".

This made me feel really grown up because I was included in the money decisions in the household, and I was good at adding and subtracting. It seemed as if my mom was loaded with money but after we payed bills and bought a few groceries, I was surprised at how little was left. If we wanted to do something extra, we needed to save up for it just as she had saved to buy my school clothes.

This money experience served me well as an adult. It taught me to save money and prioritize my spending. It taught me how to "stretch a dollar," and now, before I spend my hard-earned money I think long and hard on whether or not I really need to spend it. Now, one of my favorite sayings is "I have food at home."

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