The Making of a Shuffler – Part 1: Lessons of Childhood

I have received a shit load of requests of people asking me “How did you save your first $200k Pat?”

Most people want to know how much was earned and how much was saved. However, it would be daft of me not to share the roots of my story. That full story is of course from my childhood. I have tried to pick out and dissect what I believe to be some of the most influential factors that have made me Pat the Shuffler today. These life lessons eventually led to my accumulating of $200k with no real goal in mind.

So without further ado, these are the life lessons from my childhood that have really stuck with me over the years.

Pocket Money

My parents gave me a truly rich childhood. A comfy bed, an unlimited supply of food, a first world formal education and all of the time and love that they had to give. What they didn’t give me however were an endless supply of toys, video games, gadgets or whatever else you can think of.

Oh, and before I go on, I should mention that I am 1 of 7 children. So to help control their budget, my parents instituted a modest pocket money system. We each received anything from 10c per fortnight, right up to $50 per fortnight depending on our age. This very high level of privilege is where the handouts were capped. Any lolly, toy, eating out, gadget, movie watching with friends, bus fares or anything else that I wanted, had to be budgeted out of this amount of money. Things were strict and we never received more money if we blew the whole amount in the first few days of the fortnight.

This is Money Management training 101 and I hope it is something that is still practiced by modern parents. I particularly like the even better Shufflers out there that make their children perform some sort of work for their allowance.

Getting from A to B

When I was in school I was always a tad jealous of my friends and classmates that seemingly got driven around everywhere they wanted. I watched as they were driven to and from school, to friend’s places, dropped off for outings at the cinema and the list goes on.

On the other hand, from Kindergarten through to Year 6 I walked to school with my mother every morning. During high school, I caught the bus to school everyday. On the weekends, I would walk to the library or my friend’s house. When I went to the cinemas with my friends, I caught the bus to get there.

I never planned or expected a chauffeured trip to hang out with my friends or do anything else.

What followed of course was self reliance, independence, basic planning and time management skills.

Association of work with reward

My siblings and I actually scored a job at a fairly young age, delivering catalogues and brochures to our local area. In hindsight, the pay was horrendous for the amount of delivery and walking involved.  I am not sure how we got that job as I am sure it is illegal to employ child labour in Australia and pay them a pittance.

Nonetheless, this was my introduction to paid work.

Later on during high school, I worked at Coles and eventually Kmart, still being paid not very well. I managed to work on a Thursday night and on the weekend while still getting decent grades in high school.

What I learnt here is the association of work with reward. If I wanted disposable income to purchase things I wanted, I worked for those things I wanted.  A valuable skill and one that some never get the opportunity to learn.

You can’t always get something just because you want it

Giving your kids an allowance is a completely pointless token exercise if you just go ahead and buy them whatever they want anyway.

Our parents did not buy us things just because we wanted them. We have all seen and heard those entitled little shits that scream and complain when they don’t get exactly what they want.

I learnt quickly this was a futile exercise. If there was anything I truly wanted, I saved up my pocket money for it. Sometimes my siblings and I would combine saved pocket money to make bigger purchases.

Lessons about life not being a constant stream of wanting and then receiving.

Sharing almost everything

We shared our stuff – our bedrooms, hand-me-down clothes and toys. As described above, we combined our saved pocket money over a few months to buy larger ticket items we could share.

Look at that, lessons about empathy, teamwork, compromise, planning and scheduling.

A Super Nintendo! A purchase that my brother Jeremy and I pooled our savings for back in the 90’s. Ah the nostalgia.

A healthy appreciation for food

I clearly remember sitting at dinner and needing to eat everything on our plates. If we didn’t, my dad would make us finish it off.*

I am disgusted at how people pile too much onto their plates and then proceed to not finish it. They leave perfectly good food to be thrown out, meal after meal. This is a seemingly innocuous habit that exposes our first world privilege.

It is quite an easy change to just serve yourself less and waste less food. It is however so invisible and so ingrained, that it is never even recognised as a potential improvement.

These taught lessons of appreciation, efficiency and eliminating wastefulness.

Brand name clothing? 

We sometimes whinged for brand name shoes and clothing. This was met with a raised eyebrow and a chuckle, as my parents bought our clothing from stores such as Target, Kmart and Big W.

This may not seem important, however I believe that this aided in not creating little horrors that went from fad to fad and demanding a change of wardrobe to suit every new fad. Also important to create a little human that isn’t an ultra consumer.

Lessons here about the effects of marketing and purchasing quality using our knowledge, skills and research instead of relying upon a brand to let us know when we were purchasing a quality product.

The near absence of present giving

Christmas and Birthdays were not a time to be given presents. We celebrated like most do with an abundance of good food and family. This is where we differed from the norm however. Our Christmas tree was not loaded with presents**.

This hit me like a ton of bricks in adulthood. It very much seems to be the normal thing to do. Steph still insists I buy presents for my family members in situations where I didn’t even realise that it was something one should do.  We don’t buy each other presents and we are totally OK with that. Our relationships are no weaker for it. We just don’t find the need to give a material object to people we love to express our love for them. I still find it an annoying and unnecessary result of an overly materialistic and consumer driven culture.

I learnt that love and family is not expressed by going to the shop and buying something. To a lesser extent this is often expressed by those who still want to give present as “it is the thought that counts“.

Acclimatisation

I have mentioned this before, we did not have active cooling or heating. In fact I lie, we had a fan or two during hot summers. Our father bought a Solahart hot water system well before they were hip and this gave us a huge amount of hot water during summer. So much that we could leave the supplemental electric heater turned off at the circuit breaker and still have plenty of hot water. During winter, the system was also left off. My parents would only turn it on occasionally to boost the solar system’s efforts on really gloomy, overcast days.

Building strength and discipline and not just immediately reaching for the switch that makes discomfort go away. Building a lifetime habit of acclimatisation with the changing season and environment.

 

My parents were very  much working class and came from poor backgrounds in their home country. They decided to surround themselves with children and worked hard for it. So most of the above cost-cutting measures were done out of necessity than any sort of planned parenting strategy. There however may be some golden nuggets in there to teach us all how seemingly small lessons we can teach our children can have a huge impact on how they live and view the world into adulthood.

Not just a collection of thoughts about my childhood, but all ingrained habits that meant I was able to save a huge sum of money in my 20’s fairly effortlessly.

In my next post, I will write more specifically about how I wasted money in my 20’s and still managed to save a truckload.

Shuffling through life lessons

Pat the Shuffler

 

*I was still a little brat that would not eat certain things though. This paragraph is more about being careful and considerate with your food. Also about being appreciative enough to not let food go to waste.

**Though I will admit that we did sometimes get a small present when we were very young, under 10 years old I believe. But certainly not every Christmas and certainly not the several piles of presents that I now see under trees.

4 Replies to “The Making of a Shuffler – Part 1: Lessons of Childhood”

  1. Your childhood sounds much like mine! With the difference that pocket money was given on a daily basis (in a rather small amount) and any not used had to be returned to my parents. I was also chauffeured around but that’s because public transport in my home country and general safety in general was rather lacking.

    I definitely agree on so many fronts, especially the present bit. As a child I thought it was awfully mean to not have parties, presents or cakes for birthdays. But now I realised that the bond we have built is far beyond any of these celebrations. We do not need material items to know that we love each other!

    Looking forward to your next post as I actually rebelled against all the financial and physical restrictions in my 20s and wasted a crap ton of money, but unlike you, saved nothing!

    1. Hey Pia

      Thanks! It is not that uncommon an upbringing I feel, but looking back on these things does make you think a bit about how you have become who you are today. I think I really just out earned the value of desires, which is still a great thing in of itself because a lot of peoples desires just continue to grow with their pay packet.

      Cheers

  2. Much better! Thanks 🙂

    My family also taught me to eat everything on the plate.

    My family also doesn’t put much emphasis on gift giving. Shouldn’t be expensive, only tended to buy for immediate family. I’ve known friends that bought gifts for all their friends too, cost them a fortune!

    1. It is odd, I go to 2 Christmas’ one where the tree is filled with gifts till you cannot fit anymore and another where the tree is empty. In both cases we love our families equally. Gifts can be fine, I’d just like to avoid the commercialisation of the whole holiday.

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