In this “Money With Mak and G” podcast episode, Dad shares what it was like when he realized his family was poorer than some of his friends, the different tradeoffs they had to make with money, and how they saved money with their shopping, their clothes, and even their dentist.
It can be hard realizing you don’t have as much money as other people around you, maybe you can’t afford to go out to eat at such expensive restaurants or they can buy new designer clothes and you have to wear hand-me-downs. You may even feel like you’re a second class citizen.
So how do you know if you’re poor and what should you do if your friends have more money than you?
In this episode, Dad talks about the different tradeoffs his family had to make with money when he was younger, how his family saved money by shopping smartly, and the importance of being grateful for what you have…
“Restaurants are expensive, it can literally kill a budget but a little balance is good too.” – Ben Jones
“There are always tradeoffs you can make to reach your goals.” – Ben Jones
00:40 – What to do when you realize that you’re poor.
01:30 – How often you can go out to eat when on a budget.
06:11 – How expensive dentists are without dental insurance and how to save money on dental.
08:15 – Different tradeoffs you need to make with money.
09:05 – How to teach your children about grocery shopping budgets.
11:20 – How hand-me-downs can help families save money.
Connect with Ben Jones:
DAD: Welcome back to Money with Mak & G. Thanks for being here. Don’t forget to LIKE, SUBSCRIBE and COMMENT on the podcast, or check out the EduCounting YouTube channel. If you go to the EduCounting website, you’ll get a pop up that you can click on for our free Stocks and Bonds course for kids and families. We had fun recording it, and we really think you are going to enjoy it.
For me, it’s been one of those weeks where you think about things that happened in your past. That’s the part of being older. But, I got triggered by an article that caught my attention. It was an article which was about 35 people when they realized their families were poor. It was interesting to see when each person realized their family was financially poor. The weird part is I could relate to several of the items that these people spoke about. I know we’re not in control of the family we’re born into. But, what we do with what we have has always been the most important part.
This isn’t a podcast about how rough I had it, but actually a tale about things I’ve learnt along the way, being grateful for what I have and maybe a bit of insight about what it’s like to have a little less than others. And, if you think about it. We all have less than someone, unless your Jeff Besoz or Warren Buffet or Bill Gates. But for me and some in my family it drove us to do more, with the support of my parents.
Sometimes, the little things you pick up on and remember as a kid just freak me out. As a large family with 6 kids, we didn’t go out to eat often. Whether I remember it correctly or not, it may have been once or twice a year. And, it was usually for very special occasions like Good Grades. You may laugh, but that was a huge deal. Sometimes it was a fancy Mexican chain restaurant named Chi-Chi’s and other times it might be Burger Chef. You have to understand that my mother knew how to handle a budget. She had too. All those mouths needed food, and she was committed to making it happen. Restaurants were really expensive, so they really didn’t fit into spending.
Just to be clear, it wasn’t Burger King, it was Burger Chef. It looks like it was sold to Hardee’s in 1996. So, why Burger Chef? Well, we could order the cheapest burger they had, and we could make it more filling with stuff from the “condiments” bar. I didn’t even know that word until we went there our first time.
Burger Chef actually started in Indianapolis in 1957. By 1972, it had 1,200 locations and McDonald’s was the only company with more locations at 1,600. Crazy. They started international expansion in 1969. In 1972, the chain introduced the Funburger, which was a hamburger with packaging that included puzzles and a small toy. The following year, the chain introduced the Funmeal. When McDonald’s introduced their Happy Meal in 1979, the chain sued, but ultimately lost. By 1975, Burger Chef lost a ton of money, which was on it’s way out.
Anyway, Burger Chef had pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, ketchup, mustard, and if I remember correctly, lots of sauces on that bar. I think that’s when I fell in love with pickles. We used to add lettuce, sometimes onions, no tomatoes as that was for adults, and I’d literally put 20 or more pickle slices and whatever else they had. Plus, we got a cup of water, as drinks were expensive and not good for your teeth. So, I had a burger with a salad on top, at a discount price. Hey, everybody won.
But, I never thought that was weird until I went out to McDonald’s with a baseball friend and his dad. Mr. Lockman was a great guy, and he had a son Mike. We played on several baseball teams together. I remember it was a busy day which probably meant multiple games, and it was probably difficult to get us fed. He asked my mother if he could take me to get some food after the last game. I was always hungry as a kid, and mom said it was ok.
We arrived at McDonald’s, and I was waiting to hear what Mr. Lockman would allow us to order. That was normal when I went out. We didn’t have a ton of money, so there was a dollar limit, and certain things like appetizers and desserts were “off the menu” and couldn’t be ordered. When we did go out, mom would let us know what we could have.
My buddy Mike stepped right up and ordered a Big Mac meal, Quarter Pounder with Cheese and a filet-o-fish. That meant a real drink and several sandwiches. I ordered a Big Mac. Mr. Lockman could tell something was going on with me, and asked kindly if I wasn’t hungry. He told me I could have WHATEVER I wanted. I didn’t want to be greedy, as I would’ve ordered more than Mike, so I simply asked if I could have the same as Mike? He said absolutely, and I literally snarfed down the 3,000 calories. I always like Mr. Lockman and thank him to this day for that great memory. But, I realized my life was different.
In the article, there was a mention of one person never going to restaurants. When he went fro the first time, he didn’t even know how to order. Hey, I’m thankful we were doing ok, and were able to go out to eat, but things were tight. As we’re all aware, restaurants are expensive, I get it. It can really kill a budget, but a litte balance is good too. I did learn that there are ways to save money and still be satisfied. But, I also learned that I wanted to work hard so I could go to a restaurant a bit more often. But, I’d actually kill for Burger Chef one more time. The excitement of going and creating my burger was super fun.
When growing up, I always remember having trouble with my teeth. As it was explained to me, I had pitted teeth, which meant my teeth weren’t necessarily flat across the top. That meant they were harder to clean because food gets caught in the pit, which ultimately meant more cavities. To this day I really don’t like dentists. I can remember returning to school one day after having a tooth filled. One of my friends asked me the name of my dentist, and I remember saying “Whichever student was next”. He looked puzzled and asked me where my doctor was located, and I told him downtown at the Indiana University campus at the dental school. The look on his face was very strange, which made me quickly figure out that our situation probably wasn’t normal.
I don’t know the details, but when I asked my mother why we had to go to the dental school and not a real dentist like Jimmy in my class. She said we didn’t have great dental insurance, and in order to keep under budget, it was a trade-off. I think she said we had to choose food over the dentist. Anyway, the dental work was done by students, supervised by their teachers of course, but it cost a lot less. Wow, that seems so incredibly long ago. But, I think it was a good 5 or so years later when we got to go to a real dentist. And, unlike the students at IU who were always looking for problems to correct, this doctor wasn’t as aggressive. I still remember when he said “you’re done”. I asked him if he forgot to fill a cavity, because I NEVER left the dental school without someone doing work on my teeth. The dentist said that I didn’t have any cavities to fill. So, I asked him again. Are you sure? He said “I’ve been doing this for quite a while. I’m sure. Have a great weekend.”
Hey, we had dental care, so I’m thankful for that. We had to pay something and my parents knew it was important to take care of our teeth, but it was about making choices. Who knows what I would’ve done if I was in there situation. They came from small towns, and my father came off a farm. What did he know about money, getting a good job, moving up the corporate ladder and such. Hey, all 6 of us kids graduated from college. We have three masters degrees, one from Harvard and one from the University of Chicago. Did it change our views on the world, probably. But it didn’t stop us.
This is simply a little insight that getting on the right track is about making trade-offs about money. Working your budget and staying on track. That would’ve never happened, if mom didn’t do her job well. She taught me things, and even dad admitted to me before he died that if he would’ve listened more to mom, we would’ve been in a much better place financially. He didn’t have the education, and that’s why I believe talking about money and investing, and really learning about it is so crucial.
One of my favorite memories I have about money with my mother was going to the grocery store with her. She always had a budget, but many times, as unexpected expenses came up like a broken arm, ripped pants or a new pair of shoes, the budget got smaller, and was simply the cash she had in purse. For as long as I can remember, I was really good at math, and I was her human calculator. She’d take me with her to make sure on that day that she didn’t go over the $75.34 in her purse. Each item she dropped something in the basket, I’d add it to the total and let her know. She’d pull something off the shelf and tell me the amount. Sometimes she would change her mind, put it back, make me subtract the amount, grab the cheaper store brand and tell me the new price.
It made an impression on me. First, having a budget stuck with me. Making choices on spending on the name brand or store brand. Plus, I started to see her “tricks” for making stuff last longer. Regular milk was more expensive than powdered milk, and we actually went throrough a minimum of 2 gallons, up to 4 gallons a DAY. We had to buy a second fridge. It’s unbelievable for many, but for us, that was normal. My parents actually thought about buying a dairy cow at one time. That would’ve been interesting to be the only people in the neighborhood with a cow. But, if you’re going through 60+ gallons of milk a month when we were younger, it does make you think.
Anyway, she would mix the “real” milk with some water and powdered milk in order for it to last longer. Hey, I grew to 6’1” so I’m not sure it held me back at all, but it was a way to stretch the budget. Things have changed, and I’m slightly embarrassed to say we have Oat Milk and Almond Milk in our fridge. I’ve gotten used to it and like it now. But, when the food came home there was a little celebration. It was a pretty big undertaking and it did require a couple carts. Isn’t it the little things that are sometimes special to remember?
I think most of us probably remember a time when we were embarrassed or teased by something we wore. Clothes for kids are expensive, and when they’re growing, they usually don’t wear them long enough to put any miles on them. Hand me downs were a way of life. It felt like some styles came back into fashion when handed down from the oldest to number 6. And, yes sometimes having a girl in the family with 5 boys, always made mom think about handing down her clothes too. I never had to wear a dress, but there were occasions that I think I might have worn her jeans, and I know there was an occasion or two when I wore one of her shirts. If mom gave them to you, you had to wear them, no questions asked.
Yeah, I got teased, and thank God I was generally bigger than most and had some brains. Funny enough, I thought I’d go overboard when I got older. You know, lots of really nice clothes. I needed some for work, but for the most part it didn’t mean that much to me having nice clothes. Everybody is different. The new school year is starting and for many it means getting an outfit or two for school. Being able to do that for Mak & G is pretty cool, and when I was a kid I wished we did it. But, it was normally only the things needed to fill out a wardrobe, since most were handed down. That meant undies, socks and maybe a new shirt.
It’s nice that so many things for me and others in my family have changed. Remembering the past reminds me of how far I’ve come. Would I have liked to have change some of it? Absolutely, but I didn’t know any better. If you’re a young kid, remember to be kind to those around you, because money doesn’t define the person. It’s said to exaggerate what’s already there. Getting on track can be a longer road, but it does work if you have your plan and stick to it. Remember there are always tradeoffs you can make to reach your goals.
Thanks for being here, and we’ll see you next time for more Money With Mak & G!!! BYE!!!