How Your Childhood Shapes Your Money Habits

By Imani Williams


Financial wellness is a journey that often begins in childhood. What we see our parents do often plants the seeds for lifelong money habits. Whether your parents were overly generous or extremely frugal, their behaviors and attitudes can significantly influence your relationship with money. In this article, we'll explore the impact of various parenting styles on adult financial habits and provide practical solutions for building a healthier financial future. 

To get the most out of this article, read below to see which situations sound the most like yours.


I Felt Guilty or Ashamed Asking My Parents for Money Growing Up 

Maybe you grew up in a household where money was tight and budgeting was strict. Did your parents always make you feel guilty if you asked for something they couldn’t afford? Or perhaps you felt that they could afford to give you those things but they made you feel like you didn’t deserve them. 

That guilt or shame can stay with you and manifest itself in different ways. 

  • You might feel uncomfortable asking your loved ones for money or help when you truly need it. 
  • You might second guess whether you deserve to buy something nice for yourself.
  • You might feel uncomfortable accepting gifts from others. 
  • You might overspend on material things in response to being deprived in your childhood.

    Regardless of how those feelings manifest in your life, the way to address guilt and shame is with kindness and empathy. When those feelings of guilt or shame bubble up, take a moment to reflect and give yourself some grace. Try journaling or using other reflection techniques to break down unhealthy messages you may have internalized that no longer serve you.

    Try to understand why your parents made the choices they made. For instance, your parents might have struggled with feelings of guilt for not having the means to buy you things you wanted. As a result, they may have projected those feelings of guilt onto you unintentionally. 

    Or perhaps your parents wanted to instill financial discipline in you because their parents were irresponsible with money. Out of fear for your future and financial well-being, they may have gone a bit too far. 

    Whatever their reasons were, it doesn’t mean it's wrong to ask for help or treat yourself from time to time. Just make sure you do so responsibly.


    My Parents Were Really Generous (perhaps a bit too generous)

    Maybe your parents invested time and money in charitable causes. Or maybe they were really big on helping friends and family in a tough spot. 

    They’re really kind and their hearts were in the right place. But perhaps they gave so much to others that your own family went without. Maybe you saw them constantly give to a person that was taking advantage of them.

    As a result, you might

  • feel compelled to give or share with others even if you don’t want to.
  • give well beyond your means. 
  • avoid sharing with others out of fear of being taken for granted.
  • feel feelings of resentment when others ask for money.

  • If this is you, it’s probably a good idea to reflect on what you’re feeling before you make any decisions. If anyone asks you for money, you can always say “I need to go over my budget, I’ll get back to you”. Take that opportunity to reflect on what you’re feeling and why. 

    If you feel obligated to give your money even though you don’t want to, remember that the choice is yours. You can always say no, and you can even ask if there are other ways you can help and be supportive. 

    If you somewhat resent that the person is asking in the first place, take a pause. Remember that these feelings are bubbling up because of what happened in the past. This person may not intend to take advantage of you. And if they do, trust yourself. You are capable of taking precautions to protect yourself. So approach the situation calmly.

    If you decide that you want to share, make sure you’re being smart about it. Look over your budget and only give what you can comfortably do without. 

    And if you want to share on a more routine basis, create a gift budget aligned with your financial capacity. If you want to give to charity, set up automatic payments to chosen charities to avoid impulsive giving.


    My Parents Cared A lot About What Other People Think

    Maybe your parents cared a lot about keeping up appearances. Or maybe your parents lived a lavish lifestyle or even spoiled you to compensate for things they didn’t have as kids. Did everything and everyone have to look just the way they liked? Did you always have to have what the neighbors or other family members had? Did they often brag about having the latest tech or wearing designer brands? Did they use shopping as a way of coping with stress or unhappiness? 

    If any of these sound like your situation, you might 

  • have a habit of shopping to make yourself feel better. 
  • find it difficult to avoid buying things beyond your budget.
  • feel a sense of pressure or entitlement to have the things your peers have.
  • Overspend to arrange your life to look a particular way to others
  • live beyond your means in attempts to match or surpass your parents' lifestyle.
  • make a lot of spending decisions based on other people: what they have, or what they might be thinking of you.

    In this situation, the best thing to do is reflect on your values and how they relate to your spending. When you feel compelled to buy something, ask yourself why. Is it something that would genuinely make you happy? Or do you only want it because someone in your peer group has it? 

    Think about the lifestyle that would actually make you happy and only make purchases that are in alignment with that. Think about your financial freedom and start making your long-term goals. Consider things like homeownership, retirement, or starting a family. 

    And if necessary, you can put systems in place to control your spending. Set up automatic transfers to savings accounts and create a dedicated account for discretionary spending.


    My Parents Never Taught Me About Money

    I’m sure many people can relate to this. Maybe it was a taboo in your family to have certain discussions about money. Or maybe your parents didn’t have the knowledge to teach you about money themselves. 

    As a result, you might have made a few money mistakes involving overspending, undersaving, and a general avoidance of financial planning.

    To address this, you need to be proactive and look for ways to educate yourself! Subscribe to The Black Currency to learn more about personal finance! Here, you’ll learn about the basics of budgeting, investing, saving, and other key information to help you build a solid financial foundation. 

    Also, take charge of ending this cycle by openly discussing money with your family. Create a space for transparent conversations around budgeting, investing, and financial goals. 

    If you have children, find fun ways to involve them in financial planning. Create activities for your family to have fun budgeting together, setting savings goals, and discussing smart spending. By actively engaging them in financial decisions, you can break the cycle and instill in them a sense of empowerment and responsibility.



    Understanding the impact of childhood experiences on financial habits is the first step toward building a healthier relationship with money. By acknowledging these influences, you can take proactive steps to break detrimental cycles, educate yourself, and create a more secure financial future. The key lies in self-awareness, responsible decision-making, and setting realistic goals that align with your values and aspirations. Let the journey to financial well-being begin with a mindful reflection on the past and a determined step towards a more empowered future.

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