What does culture have to do with money? Nothing, is probably your first answer, but that would not be correct. Culture has everything to do with money. Culture influences the way we think, the way we behave and, yes, the way we spend our money.
In South Africa, for instance, funerals are a hugely important event in certain cultures. People spend vast amounts of money on funerals and if a family cannot afford a proper burial they may feel judged by their communities. Because of this cultural belief, setting money aside every month in a funeral policy is a normal thing to do. Sadly, this belief can result in people sometimes spending money they do not have on the funeral. This results in families getting into debt.
In other cultures there is a strong belief that men, not women, should handle the finances. In some cases women even hand over their whole pay check to their husband or partner and he decides what to do with the family’s finances. Not surprisingly, when the husband dies or the couple splits up, the woman is left without any money skills. Such a money relationship is usually completely dis-empowering because the woman is treated more like a child than an adult.
The practice of lobola is another example of how culture influences how we spend our money. When a man knows he will have to pay lobola, the smart thing to do is to start saving as soon he starts working, even before he has met the woman of his dreams. In cultures where lobola is not paid, young men spend their money on other expenses based on customs and traditions performed during a wedding.
Culture influences your money habits
Cultural beliefs are neither right nor wrong (unless, of course, they are harmful to certain people). However, when it comes to how your culture influences your money habits. The trick is to be aware of it and its influence on your behaviour. Always ask yourself if things can be done in a different way. Discuss your thoughts with your family and friends, if necessary, and then decide on the best way forward.