Color of Money: How playing blackjack proved I was a natural-born saver.

Michelle Singletary on

EDITORS -- Michelle Singletary is taking a one-column vacation. Her next column will move Thursday, June 6, for release Sunday, June 9.

WASHINGTON -- I always wondered if I was a penny pincher because my grandmother taught me to be a saver, or because my DNA had genetic code that predisposed me to fear spending money.

Mostly, I've believed I got my saving nature from my grandmother.

Big Mama was so tight with her money that when she held a penny, I was convinced I could hear Lincoln scream.

It seemed impossible that this woman -- who worked as a hospital nursing assistant and chose to raise me and my four siblings without accepting welfare -- could save any money. But at least 10 percent of every dollar my grandmother earned was deposited into her credit union account every single payday -- no matter what.

She saved even when my grandfather drank up most of his paycheck on his payday. She saved as our growing bodies required more food or larger clothes and shoes.

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Saving was like breathing to Big Mama.

And, lo and behold, I'm just like my grandmother.

Whenever I cried broke during my college years, my best friend would just laugh.

"Michelle, you're never broke," she would retort. "You always have something saved."


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