5 Money Saving Basic Life Skills That My Mom Taught Me

June 29, 2012

Originally, the purpose of this post was not to rant, but to share my absolute fascination and disbelief at the lack of basic life skills that some people have.  Then I got to thinking and realised that not everyone was blessed with a wonderful/ frugal/ thoughtful, Supermom.  I may or may not have gushed about how much I love my mum, and how fantastic she is. If not, please read here.

A little background: I have 3 siblings: 2 sisters and 1 brother. I am the oldest at 28 and the youngest is 18. Knowing that all of us were university/ grad school bound from an early age made my parents (read:mum) want to make sure that we were able to fend for ourselves.

She has 5 basic life skills that she wanted us to know and master. Yes, it included my brother.



Know how to cook without making someone sick or burning the house down. We started with the basics -eggs, noodles, etc and graduated up to more complex dishes that involved recipes and random spices. Her thinking here was that we needed to survive and feed ourselves when she worked late. And she didn’t want us to get used to fast food. $5 makes a great pastas dish for 4 people. It barely buys a McChicken meal anymore.


With the exception of my brother, we are all under 5.4. This poses an issue when pursing pants, skirts etc. My mom insisted that we all know how to do basic hemming and tailoring. She showed us the value of this skill when she paid us the hemming cost for the first two pair of jeans. That $16 left an impression at the age of 14.  It surprises me to this day when I see people walk into the alterations place to take up their pant leg. Also, men need to know how to sew buttons on. This should not be up for discussion,.


I love bartering so much that I wrote an entire post on it before. The best thing I learned from my mom about bartering was that asking for a lower price can result in a discount; and to not be afraid for ask for it. I’ve asked for discounts at department stores, farmer’s markets, cable companies, and they’ve all agreed.

The other thing that I learned is knowing what skills you have and what you can trade it for. I tutored my mechanic’s daughter for a few weeks in exchange for him fixing the bumper on my car. I was 17 and money was limited, but I knew my chemistry. It saved him from paying for a tutor and me from having to come up with a few hundred dollars.

Building a tribe

This is true online and off. What I/she means by a tribe is finding people that you trust and that you can share things with; a community of sorts. I want to say that Yakezie has been that for my blogging life. The provide support for things that I didn’t know I needed support with.  In mom terms, this meant sharing car-pooling duties, or trading baby-sitting favours. This also meant having someone to bounce ideas off of.

This is different from having a group of friends. Sure, your tribe members can also be friends, but its more than that. Its a group of people who are invested in helping everyone grow.

Its true what they say ” It takes a village”


Impulse control

I suck at this, and its still an area that I am consciously working on, but she is the queen of impulse control. Having a budget makes sure that you don’t buy things that you can not afford. This can obviously expand into buying decisions, deal hunting, and finding the basic value proposition of any item that enters our home.

For her, it was easier that than; she didn’t buy what she did not need. She made sure that we were dressed in clean clothes, were fed, played on sports teams and never felt like we were missing out. She didn’t make us feel like we needed to have all the fancy toys at the time they came out. She taught us what it meant when something went on sale and what you could do with the extra money. This is a lesson that I am still grasping. It’s ironic because I was reading a post on Erika’s From Shopping to Savings blog about how her parents urged her to buy her Ipad. My mum are very annoyed when I showed her my IPAD.


These are, in my opinion, the core basic life skills that everyone needs to know. Not only will it save you money, but also helps you become self-sufficient.

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  • Jason @ WSL June 29, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Those are some great skills and I wish every parent would teach them to their kids. I definitely don’t know how to sew and I didn’t know how to cook as a kid (although I do now).

    • Marissa June 29, 2012 at 3:06 pm

      I see the awesome recipes, Jason. 😉

  • femmefrugality June 29, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    I love the tribe idea. I’ve sometimes had it, but can’t say it’s been a constant in my life. Do you have any tips for building your own “village?”

    • Marissa June 29, 2012 at 3:06 pm

      Honestly, even the pf community is a like a tribe. You wouldn’t believe how many of us look to each other for help.

      • femmefrugality June 29, 2012 at 10:43 pm

        I guess that is true. We may not carpool with each other, but we definitely help each other out.

  • Kurt @ Money Counselor June 29, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Your Mum did a great job–those really are key pieces. For some, the underlying message seems to be learn to fend for yourself. You’ve inspired me to learn to sew on buttons–must be a youtube video for that. 🙂

    • Marissa June 29, 2012 at 3:07 pm

      There is! Plus you can get a sewing kit from the dollar store for $1 and keep it in your car!

  • Daisy @ Add Vodka June 29, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    Great lessons. when I was a little kid, my mom didn’t know how to sew. She never learned and never cared for it. So despite my mom being a girl scout leader, I went around with my badges pinned on my sash until another leader got exasperated and sewed them on. Now, I can sew on a button or something but not much more than that.

    • Marissa June 29, 2012 at 3:08 pm

      You’re ahead of 95% of the population.

  • bogofdebt June 29, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Those are great lessons and my mom also taught me most of them. I also have found it to be a money saver to be able to do simple sewing. I’m not a whiz at it but I can fix a seam or sew a button on. I in fact saved a pillow I had on my couch because it had a tear in the seam–rather than tossing it and buying a new pillow, I just sewed it shut.

    • Marissa June 29, 2012 at 3:09 pm

      Awesome. I’ve seen some crazy things! A friend wanted to throw out a $150 dress because it was “too loose”– nothing a few darts couldn’t fix.

  • Lance@MoneyLife&More June 29, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    Impulse control can save you a ton of money and calories too. Cooking is imperative if you don’t want to eat ramen and easy Mac the rest of your life.

    • Marissa June 29, 2012 at 6:27 pm


  • Kasi @PowerPay June 29, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    I am great at the last two, but horrible at sewing, cooking and bartering! Well, I can throw together simple meals but I don’t enjoy cooking really complex dishes. I’m 32 and when I need something to be sewn, I ask my Mom to do it. Isn’t that horrible?

    • Marissa June 29, 2012 at 6:27 pm

      Not really. Atleast you know where to go and get it done.

  • Kathleen @ Frugal Portland June 29, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    I love this — she sounds like a great lady!

  • Andy Hough June 29, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    Those are all good skills to have and I lack most of them. Although, I suppose that depends on how proficient you have to be in a skill to be considered as having that skill.

    • Marissa July 1, 2012 at 1:06 am

      I know what you need. I, for example, can sew a wedding dress, but I hem a shirt and save myself 10 bucks.

  • Jefferson June 30, 2012 at 4:18 am

    i love this post.. and try to work with my kids on these and more.. i love the ‘build a tribe’ concept that you mention.. you have to find like-minded folks in the world..

    i also try to make sure my kids know how to be happy what they have, how to treat others with respect, how to write well, and more..

    • Marissa June 30, 2012 at 4:42 pm

      Those are great ideas!

  • Robert @ The College Investor July 2, 2012 at 4:15 am

    I can’t believe how few people have such poor life skills, especially once they graduate college. Something needs to change!

  • Jacob @ iHeartBudgets July 2, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    These are awesome. The bummer about life skills is that they are supposed to happen at home, and if they don’t, you’re on your own. I can’t really say I picked any of those up, but luckily I’ve learned them over the years (minus sewing), and then got married (my wife is GREAT at all of those, except maybe the impulse spending 😉 ). I’m excited to teach my son TONS of life skills, because though formal education is important, life skills are irreplaceable.

    • Marissa July 3, 2012 at 1:43 am

      Add being able to fix a car to the list.

  • Broke Professionals July 2, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    My parents taught me all of the above, EXCEPT the cooking. I will admit that being a very poor cook is a financial liability, as it makes me more likely to buy prepared foods or to go out to dinner. Fortunately, my husband is a great cook and loves to do it, so he balances me out.

    • Marissa July 3, 2012 at 1:42 am

      You sound like you lucked out. 🙂

  • JP @ My Family Finances July 3, 2012 at 1:09 am

    Sadly. I learned none of these, but sewing. However, I have picked all of tthem up over the years and they are important to learn.

    I hope that I might also teach my children how to figure things out for themselves: be it fixing a car, remodeling a house or hooking up your TV.

    • Marissa July 3, 2012 at 1:42 am

      I learned enough about a car to be able to have a discussion with the mechanic. Saved me a lot of money over the years.

  • Dannielle @ Odd Cents July 3, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Those are great tips.

  • Modest Money July 3, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    It sounds like your mom really was a supermom. It’s great to have that kind of positive influence growing up since those early lessons are bound to stick with you for life. Coming from your mom you would respect those ideas way more. I think the part about sewing is debatable. I can’t sew at all and I’m willing to take clothes to a tailor if they need to be repaired. Sure I could save some money by learning how to do it myself, but I would really need a sewing machine to properly do that kind of stuff. Plus time is valuable.

  • CF @ OutlierModel July 11, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    Great lessons! I am also a rather short person and being able to hem clothing is a life saver! I am currently bullying the bf into learning how to sew his own damn buttons…

    • Marissa July 12, 2012 at 6:40 pm

      Hhaha! Awesome.

  • Kristian July 11, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    Good tips, all of them, especially the “build a tribe” one. I’d never thought of it quite that way, but it is that exactly!

  • krantcents July 12, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    I wish I could cook better, but I just don’t enjoy it. At least I have survival skills, I can survive a week and cook for myself.

    • Marissa July 12, 2012 at 6:40 pm

      And as long as you can feed yourself for a week, you should be ok.