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My parents are awesome, they may have driven me mad (okay maybe I drove them mad) as a teenager, but there’s no doubt that they taught me a lot about money. Some of what I learned was a direct result of what they taught me, but there are also a lot of things I picked up just by observing the way they handled their money.

The money lessons we learn growing up can make a huge impact on our lives forever. Fortunately for me, what my parents taught me about money were all positive experiences.

Mom always looking for a bargain

Shop at discount stores

Growing up, my parents would frequently take my brother and me to discount stores including BiWay, Bargain Harolds, Kmart, and Zeller’s. My parents had no interest in paying more than they had to, so if a product was cheaper at a discount store vs. a brand name store, you better believe they would take the savings. As an adult, I now love shopping at Wal-Mart and No Frills, the savings over time is pretty significant.

Save for the things you want

I don’t know if money was ever “tight” for my parents, but one thing is for sure, I never got all the things I asked for. Sure they would buy me small things, but if I wanted to buy something “big”, I would have to pay for it myself from my savings. With credit so easily accessible these days, I’m incredibly grateful that my parents taught me to save for the things I want. Too many people out there are abusing credit.

Eat ethnic food

When it came to eating out, we always went to Chinatown. I suppose it reminded my parents of Hong Kong and it was a nice treat for my brother and I. The funny thing is, whenever we went out, it was always for Chinese food. My dad would say, why go somewhere else when Chinese food is so much cheaper? He’s right, a dinner for 4 at a Chinese restaurant is easily 25% cheaper than going out to a family restaurant. My palette is a little more diverse these days, but there’s no arguing that eating ethnic food offers incredible value.

Look at flyers

For as long as I can remember, my parents would always look at the flyers to see what was on sale. They would scan through every flyer and circle any items that interested them. Buying things on sale saved them a ton of money over the years. Even now when I head to my parents place, I still see circled flyers on the kitchen table. Scanning flyers has become a lot easier with technology these days. I use the app Reebee to find out what’s on sale at all the different grocery stores, and then price match them at my preferred store.

Save for your retirement

As soon as I got my first job at 17, my dad encouraged me to begin saving for my retirement. He suggested that opening a registered retirement savings plan and purchasing mutual funds would be a good idea. Back then I didn’t really understand compound interest very well, but the idea of getting a tax refund was very appealing. I immediately set up monthly auto-contributions and never stopped until I joined my company’s pension plan. Saving early is just one of the reasons why my RRSP is now valued at over $100K.

Budget for a single salary

As soon as I got engaged my mother started talking to me more about money, she stressed the importance of budgeting. The one thing stuck with me is that she suggested to try your hardest to live on a single salary;  this way if one if my wife or I were every laid off or unable to work, we would still get by. Considering the cost of real estate these days, it’s pretty tough to live on a single salary, but it’s still solid advice. The main point is, keep your expenses down and save.

Final thoughts

My parents were pretty fortunate in the sense that they were both able to land jobs as soon as they arrived in Canada. They were able to raise my brother comfortably, pay for our education, and save for retirement all on a modest income. There’s no doubt that my life is a lot easier these days, not just because of what they taught me about money, but because of the sacrifices they made.


  1. Joe on July 1, 2015 at 3:46 AM

    Great post……and a great blog too btw. What your parents taught you almost echo what my parents taught my sister and I.

    Take care

    • Barry Choi on July 1, 2015 at 9:00 AM

      Hey Joe, Thanks for the kind works. Sounds like your parents are pretty smart =D

  2. Investing Pursuits on July 5, 2015 at 11:47 AM

    Your parents were the total opposite of mine. My parents are horrible with money. It was one of the things that drove them apart. Both of them are real bad with money.

    Fortunately for me, I took the opposite road.

    • Barry Choi on July 5, 2015 at 12:03 PM

      Investing Pursuits,

      Sorry to hear, I’m at the age where some of my friends are getting divorced and money seems to always be part of the reason. At least you learned to do the opposite of your parents.

  3. Mary Calculated Traveller on May 28, 2016 at 9:47 AM

    Great article and sweet tribute to your parents Barry.

    My mother always say that eating out is expensive, it is healthier, cleaner and cheaper to cook / eat at home. My mother died over 10 years ago and even now, whenever my husband and I are at a restaurant I mentally do the math of our meal – comparing the cost of ingredients vs the final bill – determining if the evening out was actually worth it. More often than not my mom was right!

  4. Thomas on June 17, 2017 at 9:55 AM

    I grew up on the rural prairies in the 60’s. When we’d travel, we’d always have lunch at “The Farmer’s Cafe”, as my parents called it. This involved a roadside park or even just pulling over to a grassy field where my mom would spread a blanket and lay out the lunch we brought along with us. To this day I can’t eat an egg salad sandwich without thinking about that.

    Have taken my own kids to “The Farmer’s Cafe” a few times. No doubt they will do the same.

    Just taking a trip down memory lane here…..

    • Barry Choi on June 17, 2017 at 9:57 AM


      You know what’s funny. Of my old family vacations, I remember the picnics and what we ate more than anything else. While on the road, I was burried into my Gameboy, but meals are where we spent time together.

  5. Financial Orchid on November 27, 2018 at 1:05 AM

    I like this advice:

    Budget for a single salary

    For DINKs of 21st century, that is probably a surprising thought especially in the era of “we are equally educated and equal partners and both making dough”

    But this advice makes sense coming from a Mom since she is probably making you stretch your budget muscles early in anticipation for the natural course of grandchildren.

    For DINKS, reining in spending when a baby finally comes in is probably way harder when a couple is used to regular date nights, Italian dinners, concerts, romantic getaways. But if you’re already used to living off of 1 salary then it won’t feel like as much of a financial hit when the Mrs goes on mat leave.

    I will bookmark this.

    • Barry Choi on November 27, 2018 at 7:53 AM

      Financial Orchid,

      You’re right (and I’m speaking from experience) DINKS who then have kids can find it difficult due to increased expenses. My wife and I gradually scaled back on things so we didn’t take as much of a hit where our daughter was born.

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