Money was never a subject of discussion in my childhood home. If there were ever financial difficulties for my parents, I never knew it, but if we were rich, I really didn't know that either. It just never came up. My only hints at my parents’ financial status were the things I observed. These things I knew: Dad had a good job working for an oil and gas company, I had a larger house than most of my friends, and I lived in one of the nicer subdivisions in town. Mom always ordered her vehicles in the exact color she wanted, with the exact bells and whistles that she wanted, never just picking one off of the lot. My dad's reaction was always the same. “If you want it, get it.” My dad had his share of new trucks and several different boats depending on the place we lived at the moment, and what type of water he was fishing in. My parents were not extravagant, but enjoyed their life and money. And there was always 10% to give to the church for their tithe.
My parents did not buy me everything that I wanted, and I never got brand-name clothes or shoes. I never owned a Swatch Watch or Guess Jeans (back in the '80s, that was ultimate style). For everyday things, Mom's motto was, “quantity over quality.” She taught me the art shopping clearance sales and I learned early on that if you spent less money on things, you could have a lot more. Mom demonstrated this every Christmas. Starting about 3 weeks before Christmas, she would begin wrapping presents and putting them under the tree. By the time Christmas came, my siblings and I had dozens of presents to unwrap. Granted, I knew that they were not expensive items, but it was a source of pride for me to give my friends the final count of packages after Christmas was over. Quantity was much more significant for me than quality. Perhaps, looking back, it was the perception of expense that I valued because I knew that expensive things were not an option.
Bonding time, especially for me, my older sister, and my mom was spent shopping. While I was in school, Mom would spend her days scoping out the biggest and best malls, quaintest little plazas and out-of-the-way stores around New Orleans. She would then take us all shopping on the weekends, always eating lunch out and getting back home way after dark. We would spend hours scouring sale racks, usually finding something we couldn't live without. I never heard, “we'd better not go shopping today, we need to watch our money”, or “it's just not in the budget.” I never knew what a budget was. I have no doubt now that mom did have a budget. I later discovered that she was the caretaker of the checkbook and all things financial. Daddy made the money, and mom managed it.
Vacation times were usually spent in the car traveling to my grandparents' house in Arkansas. This was always a fun adventure, because back then, along the highways, were large stores/gas stations/restaurants called Stuckey's; an all-in-one place to shop, eat, and find a...