My sweet mother, who passed away in 2019, always said she was "bad with money." Little did she know that her legacy of faith and financial lessons have had a lasting impact on my life. Not all of them were good ones, but they remain equally as important to me this day.
Living Without a Budget
Mom always said she did not understand how to live on a budget. She looked to Dad to take care of that. What she did do was carry a large purse.
Mom always had a large purse with her. In some ways, it was a mobile office filled with all the goods that a mother of four would carry in anticipation of things they might need: Kleenex, Band-aids, snacks, tweezers, and money.
A "coin purse," kept inside her traveling first aid kit/purse, contained her stash of cash. Usually, it was just a roll of $1 bills, but her supply seemed to never run dry.
When we needed anything, her ATM was there for us. She was better at budgeting than she gave herself credit for.
Rolling Her Change
For years, Mom kept her change in one of her dresser drawers, organized in cups. There were cups for pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and the rare half dollars. When full, we rolled the coins into paper sleeves then deposited the money in the bank. We eventually learned to do this ourselves, and it is a practice I enjoy to this day.
Buying Matching Outfits
Dressing well was a priority for Mom. Her outfits were the matching kind—not sure of the right term here, but the skirt, the blouse, the jacket, the purse, and the shoes were a coordinated unit. She always looked great.
When she died, her closet was overflowing with these "outfits." Many of them were expensive, but Dad asked us to donate them.
We delivered a small U-Haul trailer full of her clothes to a local charity, and I thought, "Somebody is going to get a blessing when they discover these!"
Mom said she suffered from an inferiority complex and wanted to look her very best in public. This drove a lot of her spending.
She worried about what other people thought of her appearance. Yet, she had a loving personality and a brilliant smile.
She always said to me, "Son, the most important thing you will wear today is your smile."
I have tried to minimize what I spend on clothes and maximize how often I wear a smile.
Creating Special Experiences
Mom believed that the best thing she could do for her family was to create memorable experiences. She would knock herself out, using whatever she had, to be sure we were having fun and enjoying our vacations and holidays to the max.
Easter was not just a hunt for dyed eggs. She always added a surprise, like real chicks or bunnies. She brought dozens of bags of marshmallows to our family reunions and started a war after the lights would go out. My aunts, uncles, and cousins will never forget the hilarious, sticky mess following epic battles in our community cabin.
A Christmas at her house was like no other—the food, the decorations, and the hospitality brought the spirit of love and gift-giving to new levels. Each grandchild had his/her own tree, complete with ornaments that reflected his/her interests in life.
I can only imagine all the work she did to set it up and take it down.
Some may call it a waste of money. For us, it was a priceless return on investment.
A Loving Giver
The essence of life comes clear at a funeral or memorial service. Mom died in 2019. At her funeral, I listened to friends, family, and even strangers expressing that she was a loving giver.
She used money to ensure that others were shown love and that their needs were supplied.
One lady told me in tears that the winter coat she was wearing was a gift from Mom. It had been a surprise that came at a time when she was in need of money and encouragement. The coat was like "a gift from above" to her.
Others told how Mom had been there for them when they were friendless, depressed, or hurting. She not only listened but also asked what they needed and was eager to give what they lacked.
Someone visited her in the hospital and learned that she had collected the names and addresses of the hospital staff who had served her.
She would surprise them with gift cards sent to their homes suggesting they take their families out to dinner or take care of themselves. Everyone she encountered experienced grace, mercy, love, and as much support as she could afford to share.
Mom was the Lord’s servant. She loved God and people.
She invested herself in the well-being of others, giving to all who entered her life.
It is my hope and prayer that I will be as bad with money as Mom claimed she was.
Chuck Bentley is the CEO of Crown Financial — an organization that helps people improve their finances and promotes stewardship values all over the world.