Tiffany Aliche, or The Budgetnista, started her personal finance journey when she wanted to get a bike for her 11th birthday, and her father rejected her request, like any good parent would, right?

Aliche learned the importance of having honest money discussions with her family members, and recalls her early lessons in frugality.

MyBankTracker spoke to The Budgetnista in detail about how parents can educate their kids about money early on, and how setting a good foundation means a living a richer life as an adult.

MyBankTracker (MBT): Tell us about how you got into the personal finance industry.

Tiffany Aliche (TA): Well I grew up in a family of five girls, and my father worried about not having any sons who could look after us. We would have our weekly family meetings and talk about the state of our family finances. My dad would point out stuff like, “You want to go on vacation, but our so-and-so expenses for the month is too high. Each time we can bring it lower, I’ll put the money away for vacation.” He would highlight it, we would see it, and then the next month we would compare new statements to see how we did.

Another memory I had of childhood was when I wanted an Icee. I heard the jingle playing from the Icee man and I ran inside and asked my dad to get me an Icee. Then he said, “I would buy it for you, but this morning I told you to stop running the bath for so long. Every minute that you run it is $1, so that was $10!” Of course, that’s not true, but as a kid I said, “It is?!” My dad would always link money to things that were important to us, so you know the next time I’m in the shower, I thought to myself, “I don’t need all this water, it’s Icee money!”

I didn’t realize how important these lessons were until I went to college and my friends started having bill collectors come to them. These were the things that led me to money and personal finance.

MBT: It sounds like you come from a family that was pretty open about finance and money, is that true?

TA: Always. One year in high school, the company my dad worked at was going to be closed. He was telling us, “My company is going to close, so that means I’m not going to have income. I know it’s November and I know Christmas is next month, but if we can have Christmas in January and February, that would help out a lot.” We put our tree up, but we got our presents later, and I just thought that that was so genius.

Instead of being afraid to tell your kids, my parents were always very open about money. “This is what’s going on, this is what’s happening with money. This is my solution, what do you think?” So my sisters and I would know what’s going on, to expect presents later instead of thinking our family is going to be homeless.

MBT: I really liked your Birthday Bike story. A lot of people don’t make smart financial decisions until they’re in their 20s, 30s, or sometimes even later, unfortunately. Do you think it’s realistic for people to be financially literate at an age as young as you were?

TA: Definitely. I taught pre-school for over ten years. I started teaching my pre-school kids at ages 3 and 4. A kid can ask you, “Can you buy me [fill in the blank]?” Once a child asks that, they understand that in exchange for what you’re getting, there’s money being exchanged. Already, they know. Now it’s up to you to shape what they know.

In pre-school, all kids have little jobs they do around the classroom, so I started “paying” them for their jobs. If they did their jobs, they’d get a fake dollar. If they did a really good job, they’d get two. I had them put their dollars in their little piggy banks, and at the end of the week, they’d go to the school store. At the school store there were items that they would want, and they would use the money they earned to buy those things. They started making connections between work and money and being able to buy the things they want by earning money.

MBT: Do you think parents not educating their kids is why people are so bad with money as adults?

TA: Parents don’t think talking about money is polite. You have a three year-old that doesn’t hear about money, then you have a six year-old, then you have a sixteen year-old, twenty-six year-old. It goes on. By the time you’re ready to have the conversation, it’s too late. You have to start early. That’s really what it is: a lot of parents think, “I don’t want my child to worry.”

We didn’t have a lot of money growing up. I can see that now. My father was always very matter-of-fact, “This is how much me and mommy make, this is how much is left over. That just means that this week, we’re not going to go to the circus. Instead, let’s go to the park, let’s ride our bikes.” There was no fear mixed into it.

Through all of this, my parents taught me to be fiercely independent. My sisters and I learned to do things ourselves and to rely on ourselves. My dad always said that if you need help, the person you should ask, first, second, and third is the person in the mirror.

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