Jul 31, 2015


How to Handle Your Money

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Money, money, money!

Over the next two weeks, you’ll enjoy a series of articles filled with resources and tools on handling money in a Latina smart and conscientious manner.

How we handle money matters — and it largely depends on how our family handled money.  So we begin the money conversation by reminiscing on traditional ways our parents and grand-parent handled their hard-earned pesos.

Traditional Ways of Handling Money

Money inside the bra: Do you remember when your mom or abuela used to save a few bucks inside her bra cup?  It was the perfect place to carry the just-in-case few dollars!

Money under the mattress or inside a sock: My grand-parents didn’t have a bank account.  They used to hide their money under the mattress or inside a sock in a drawer.   The bedroom was often the money place, like the vault in a bank — whenever anyone needed real money, abuelo would head over to the bedroom….

Tandas” “Cundinas” or “San” – A weekly rotating credit association among friends: My parents were always involved in what Dominicans refer to un “san” (other Latin American countries use different terms like “Tandas” or “Cundinas”).  This is how it worked:  A trusted individual (the owner of el san) would put together a group of 10 or 20 trusted individuals, who would commit to giving the san owner a weekly (agreed upon) amount of money ($50, $100).

Tandas would run for either 10 or 20 weeks (sometimes longer), and each individual in the group would get a turn to get a large chunk of money during their designated week.  Participants are asked to grab a number from  a simple bag filled with numbered pieces of paper.  The lucky ones are those who draw early numbers, while the not-so-lucky ones draw the last numbers — meaning that they’ll need to wait a long time to receive their savings.


Tandas worked well for those who wanted to find a sure way to save money (they would have the last turn), or those who needed a large amount of money ahead of time (they would have an early turn) — anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000!   Modern tandas have been developed over the internet.


Investing money back home: Like many immigrant families, with dreams of returning back to their country (and settling in a comfortable new home), many Latino families sent money back home to build a house, or invest in a small business.  

“Freezing” money back home: Another way of saving money was to deposit money in a CD account back home — often for years.  This was one way to safeguard savings for the eventual retirement back home.

Having a family member hold the money: Since banks were not trusted, many of our parents gave their trusted family members money to save or hold temporarily.  The problem occurred when that trusted family member took the liberty to borrowing the money without permission.

Saving money inside a large tin can: My mother used to save dollars and coins in a green tin can that she had in the corner of her closet.  This was usually under $100 — considered “emergency” money for when all other resources had been exhausted.

Borrowing money from neighbors and trusted friends: There was always someone, among friends and family, who was good at saving and managing their finances.  This was usually the person that people would come to for borrowing money to pay an overdue rent or a sudden debt.  The loan came at a price — often requiring very high interest rates and weekly payments.

Buying on credit -- “cojiendo fiao” — In many neighborhoods, the bodega was a great place to come and purchase the necessary grocery items for the day, with the opportunity to purchase on credit.  But this privilege was based on trust and timely payment — multiple violations would earn you the name of tranposo and mala paga…

To get the money conversation going, how did your family handled money?

Which of these traditional ways of handling money and finances might still work today?

Where your parents conservative or frivolous spenders?  Have has your family influenced your relationship with money?

credit: Photo 2

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Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Dr. Perez-Litwin is the Founder & CEO of ELLA Leadership Institute, a multi-platform professional development organization designed to advance the careers and leadership of women. She's the creative force behind the LATINAS THINK BIG™ national tour, sponsored and live-streamed by Google.

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  1. Really great article Angelica. My familia did a lot of thes too because we didn’t trust banks either and rarely had enough cash to warrant putting it into one…just to take it out the next day…lol. I really love how you put it all into perspective here and it really brings back fond memories…and some giggles about my suegra’s money habits too. :)

  2. I had giggle and LOL reading the article I really love it. I still see people doing the (El San) these days. Here at work my coworkers still use “EL SAN” as a method of saving. My mother used to hide it inside her bra and under the mattress. Sometimes the money just fall out of the mattress and my mom goes nuts. Then thats when I tell her why she still does it and its better to put it on her bank account. Some people uses old shoes as a piggy bank. Thanks Angelica.


  1. […] parents may have used traditional ways to handle their finances — from hiding money under the mattress to using “tandas” to save for a large […]

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