‘Never Spend Your Last Dollar’

The informant was raised in Chicago, Illinois, the oldest out of three girls. She reflects on a time when her mother shared a family proverb  that was both money-oriented and passed down to the next generation by her grandmother.


Annalesa: “My mother was very serious about us saving money and never being completely broke or having to rely on another person for money…something that was taught to her by her mother was,’never spend your last dollar.’”


Me: “Why is that?”


Annalesa: “Because as long as you have some money, it’s a lot easier to get money if you have some money versus if you’re completely broke, even if you’re trying to borrow money…people are more comfortable giving you part of the money you need because they know that you’ve already worked to gain the other part or you already have the other part.


Me: “So how did this saying affect the way you and your family valued money growing up?”


Annalesa: “My mom recommended that every time we got paid, we got twenty or thirty dollars in quarters, and the reason for the quarters is because it’s very easy to go to the store -back then they didn’t have debit cards (chuckles)-so it was very easy to go to a store, and pay with like paper money, but it’s still you know kind of embarrassing showing up with like a handful of change, so by always getting quarters, you’re essentially saving money that’s not in your bank account, that you would not just automatically run out and spend, because back then there weren’t any like coin stars or anything like that, like it was really complicated to roll your change to go spend it at the store, movies, gas whatever.”


Me: “How was this idea meaningful to you?”


Annalesa: “It reminds me of how hard my mother worked to provide for us. She didn’t have a large support system if she didn’t have the money. She always found a way to make it seem like we were not going without.”


I think American society really emphasizes the value of money and the benefits to living a luxurious and wealthy lifestyle. So It makes sense to me that many families might have proverbs or sayings that underline their views in regards to monetary value. I respect the participant’s admiration for her family’s values and beliefs. It seems to me that the proverb has logical reasoning to back up it’s purpose. My overall take away is that it is important to work hard so that you can earn money, but It is also equally valuable to be wise in how you decide to use the money that you earn. Spending every last dollar leaves a greater chance that you will be dependent on others for help in the future, and I think Annalesa’s family means to emphasize independence in that they do not wish to have to rely on other people for financial support. I personally feel that it is sometimes okay to ask for help, but in order to exchange reciprocity under future circumstances, saving money benefits you in the long run.

Hard work and independence will lead to self assurance and greater confidence, two qualities seemingly important to many other areas of life, and I think the participant interpreted the family proverb in a very similar light.