Money & Tradition

Money & Tradition

Money & Tradition

In every conversation we asked, “What did you learn from your parents about money?” Everyone’s initial response? Nothing. 

Yet as our conversation continued, something wonderful happened. Each person started sharing stories about what they learned from their parents actions, not words. We heard about work ethic, religious practices, side hustles and other practices that help shape how they thought about money.  

We tend to think of traditions as stories that are passed down or understandings shared among family and community members. The  reality is that traditions are rooted in actions. This seems to be especially true when it comes to learning about money. Some of these lessons we heard about are hard and some are heartwarming. All of them shaped how they made choices with their finances.

Mat Graske is the owner of Caydence Records and Coffee shop in St. Paul. He’s an entrepreneur with a strong DIY work ethic. He learned from his parents that you sometimes have to do extra work to support your life choices. Both his parents had a side hustle. The reason? They didn’t want to put their four children in daycare. His mom raised them at home, but she worked as a seamstress at night. His dad was a janitor. He also started a landscaping business to help make ends meet for the family. 

Mat worked for his father’s landscaping business in high school. His dad had a rule: He paid a fair wage, but Mat had to save 50% of what he made. When he was 16 years old Mat went through money quickly. “But then I had him--lucky for me--save 50% of all the landscaping money I made one whole summer. And it was enough for me to buy a car when I got my license,” says Mat. “So I mean that worked out. I think that taught me a lot.”

Sabrina Jones is the founder of Body Love Products. She picked up a consistent but different practice from her parents. They took her to church from a young age and, one facet of her religious experience has become a cornerstone of her approach to money: Tithing. 

Traditionally, tithing means giving away one-tenth of household income. Some people tithe a higher percentage of their income and others less than ten percent. The habit of tithing spilled over into helping her budget and manage her money.  “It's just it's an automatic behavior for me now, because I've been an active tither since I was 15. And I haven't stopped and so I don't think anything of it. When I get a paycheck that’s an automatic, that's the first thing that comes out,” she says. “I think it helps me keep things in perspective.”

Of course, sometimes it takes time for children to absorb money lessons from their parents. Saving money isn’t automatic for most people. 

Paula McClom lives in North Minneapolis. We spoke to Paula in the backyard of her home. Her dream of homeownership was realized in part by applying the savings lessons her mother tried to instill in her during her childhood in Mississippi. Her mom took her to the bank to open up a savings account when she was six years old. “I think she just did the best she could do,” says Paula. “It's been like the last maybe five or six years where it's really sunk in now.”

Her moment of realization came when her mother and her brother passed away. She could to them when she needed a little extra money.  But now they were gone. And her kids were getting older and she wanted to own a home for them. “After those two people died in my life I realized I had to figure this adult thing out and learn how to save something I want on my own.”

Paula worked with a community nonprofit organization to develop better savings habits and raise her credit score. This made her dream of homeownership a reality. But this isn't just a dream realized for Paula. It's a transformational dream for her children. “And I hope that my mom and her parents see that the foundation that they built was a good one,” she says. “And hope I'm doing the same for my kids.”

She is. No doubt about that.

Additional Resources:

Managing money well is really about establishing a few good habits. What typically works best is to take small steps and build on those rather than trying to move too quickly or with too much ambition. Look around, talk to people, try things out and see what works. 

You’re not alone, either. Lots of people in your neighborhood and your community are also trying to manage their money better. Tap into those conversations. 

Bola Sokunb is a financial education instructor. Her website is Clever Girl Finance at

Understanding your credit report and your credit score is important. The federal government’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers much good information. A section of its website offers tools for consumers to manage their money better:

Let’s focus on credit reports and credit scores:  Learn how to get your credit report:

What to look for in your credit report:

Learn the difference between credit scores and credit reports:

How do I get and keep a good credit score?

Consumer Action has information on its website on a variety of basic financial issues. Its publications are in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese. Most of its publications are also translated into Riussian, Japanese, Tagalog, Armenian, Cambodian, Hmong and Loatian.

Credit Scores and Credit Reports: Available in English, Chinese, Korean, Spanish and  Vietnamese.

Good Credit--Build it and keep it: Available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian and Hmong

Improve Your Credit -  Put Bad Credit Behind You: Available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese.

A budget can help develop good money habits. A budget is a way to seize control over your finances. The payoff from a budget is that you end up spending your money where you want and save for what you would like to do. For a relatively small investment in time and effort, a budget has the potential to generate a lifetime of good financial habits. There are plenty of tools available to help with budgeting. The web has numerous free online budgeting sites, with the best-known Mint ( Paper and pen or pencil are often all that is needed.  

To get started Consumer Action has its Budgeting and Planning publication. It’s available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a one page budget online. Very simple and easy to use:

The U.S. Department of Labor offers worksheets to help you manage your financial life and begin savings. The goals and priorities segment is useful, while some of the information, such as saving for retirement, might be for another time.