A Penny Saved… Is A Penny Spent

penny wikipedia.com

A penny saved is not safe. A penny saved is a penny spent.

That is the lesson I learned as a child.

I was raised by a man with narcissistic personality disorder. I’ve spent years unlearning the lessons he taught me and will probably reach the end of my life without unlearning all of them.

I’ve made my peace with that.

Of all the bad habits I formed that I can trace back to childhood, my abysmal money management skills have wreaked more havoc and caused more damage to my life than all the others.



My lessons in managing my money started with a little glass piggy bank.

A friend gave me the bank, filled with change and a few bills, for my birthday. It was my favorite present. This was the seventies, and there was at least five bucks in that bank. I’d be rolling in penny candy for weeks.

The only way to get the money out of the bank was to break it open. I didn’t want to break it open. I loved looking at it. I loved the promise of penny candy as much as I loved penny candy.

There was a non-functioning fireplace in my bedroom when I was a kid. I kept the piggy bank on the mantle. Right in the middle.

When it turned up missing, I turned my bedroom upside down. After letting me search and wail for a while, my dad came into my room and said, “Your bank is gone. That is all you need to know. Don’t ask about it.”

When my dad said not to ask, he meant it. I didn’t ask.



It’s common for a narcissist to also be a gambler. They have absolute faith in their ability. And if they lost, there was always a reason that was out of their control. My father gambled; unfortunately, he was terrible at it, and he wasn’t finished until his money was gone. Any money in his house was his money. I don’t know for sure that my piggy bank ended up at the racetrack: but my piggy bank money ended up at the racetrack.

Subsequent money gifts were handed over to my father. There was always an emergency of some sort. I suspect most of the emergencies happened at the horse track. He didn’t need an excuse. Anything in our house was his to do with as he wished.



So, this is what I learned: If you have money in your hand, spend it. If you don’t spend your money, someone will take it from you.

My policy of spending my money as soon as I got it worked out great until I grew up, moved out, and had to start paying bills. I knew nothing of money management when I moved out at 19 years old. I only knew that when I got paid, I spent my money.

Decades have passed, and I have managed to improve my money handling skills to a degree. But if I’m honest, the thing that has helped the most has been making more money. I still don’t keep good track of my finances, and having any excess money available makes me feel anxious.

Another trait that adult children of narcissists often share is a reluctance to ask for help or to shine lights on our shortcomings. How could I improve my money management skills? I would have to ask for help. How ridiculous would I look, a middle-aged woman, to admit I need remedial training in personal finance?



One of the best things about aging is becoming less and less concerned about the opinions of others. Perhaps this should be the year that I work toward being more financially healthy. It would be nice to find out what life is like not living paycheck to paycheck. It would be nice to live knowing that I’m not one big car repair away from being destitute.



I’d better do something soon, or I’ll be working in a cubicle until I’m dead. Unless we can all agree that, in the future, dust bunnies will be recognized as currency, because I hoard that shit.

About Michelle Poston Combs
Michelle Poston Combs writes humorous and serious observations on life, menopause, anxiety, and marriage on her site, Rubber Shoes In Hell. She lives in Ohio with her husband and youngest son. She stands at the precipice of empty nest syndrome which she finds both terrifying and exhilarating. Michelle programs computers to pay the bills. She counters this soul sucking endeavor by contributing to Jen Mann’s anthology I Still Just Want To Pee Alone, Huffington Post, Scary Mommy/The Mid, Better After 50, BLUNTmoms, and Listen To Your Mother.
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4 Comments on A Penny Saved… Is A Penny Spent

  1. Great article. I know that (as per usual) it will help many folks out there. I’m sorry you had such a sucky father. I think I’m going to have to stop by my Dad’s after work and give him a hug for raising me “normal.” Or at least in a house where a father doesn’t steal from his child. Big hug to you too for escaping that shit.

  2. Handling money is difficult for me too but I’m finally getting a handle on it by paying off everything except the recurring monthly bills, utilities, insurance etc.

    It’s a good feeling.

  3. I was raised the opposite of you. It was drilled into my head at an early age the value of a dollar. We did chores as kids to earn an allowance. My Dad would get his money back by charging us .10/km to drive his truck to school and back home. I have always been a saver, I really dislike shopping. I save for what I want and pay cash, that way I do not have credit card debt. Live with in your means is the best advice I can give you. Remember there is a difference between need and want.

  4. Michelle, I could especially relate to your comment about “How ridiculous would I look, a middle-aged woman, to admit I need remedial training in personal finance?” While I KNOW what I’m supposed to do with money, that doesn’t mean I DO it. So sorry for your struggles, but I hope it helps a little to know that you’re not alone.

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