I've been saving up for a big purchase, so I've seriously tightened my budget. Staying within my own strict boundaries has been frustrating.
When I get frustrated, I call my mom. Recently, I vented about my finances to her.
She reminded me of her story of rising from poverty. Here we go again. She grew up poor in China; saved ten grand working part time at the grocery store. I've heard this story my whole life, though admittedly, I've never really listened.
“How'd you do it?” I asked. Something clicked, making me realize it's pretty damn impressive to save that much while earning minimum wage and raising a kid alone.My mom is no expert. She has no advice to give that we don't already know. But her story inspired me to stick to my financial goal, and I think that counts for a lot. “I wore the same clothes every day,” she told me, “because those were the only clothes I had.” My brother and I often spoof this story, teasing my mom for laying it on thick. But this time, I let her continue, instead of offering my usual, Yeah, yeah, I get it. “When you were little,” she said, “most people would consider us dirt poor. But I didn't. I knowwhat dirt poor is. I remember those times.” I could hear her voice drifting to a difficult place. “I remember picking up a piece of candy from the ground, that's already been half-eaten, and putting it in my mouth, because I didn't have any food,” my mom told me. I still thought she was exaggerating, but then her voice cracked. I realized what was a tall tale to me was a very real place for her. This wasn't a “back in my day” story. This was my mother's painful memory. She recalled an exciting childhood dream she had, which starred a loaf of raisin bread. “A whole loaf!” she exclaimed. “You never got a whole loaf! They didn't even sell them by the loaf.” In her dream, the sight of that bread made her salivate. She could taste it. She opened her mouth to take a giant bite. Right as she was about to chomp down, she woke up. “I tried to go back to sleep so I could take that bite,” my mom laughed. “I couldn't. So I was awake, but I bit into it anyway, even though there was nothing there.”