Hi friends! Today’s post comes to you from my blog friend Stephany. She’s talking about something that is constantly on my mind: money management. I don’t get into it much here, but with a mortgage, lots of bills, one kid in daycare and another on the way, money can be tight and our dream is to overcome the worry that comes along with that and get to a place where we can give freely to causes we believe in. It’s a tough road though, and I always appreciate reading other people’s perspectives on it! Read more from Stephany on her blog.
I was aware from a young age that my parents struggled with their finances. My dad worked the late shift at a printing company and my mom was a preschool teacher, so money was always tight. My brother and I never went without, but we struggled and I knew all about the struggle. Add to the fact that my dad was a chronic gambler – and not a very good one – and what little income we had coming in was going out to fuel his habit.
When I was ten, I was given the role of a fish in a school play. It sounds silly, I know, but I was so darn proud and excited and happy for this role. The school play only had eight speaking parts and out of the entire fourth and fifth grade, I was selected! I felt amazing and was so excited to tell my mom about it when she picked me up from the bus stop that day. But when I did, I could tell she was a little nervous about how she was going to fit finding me a fish costume into our very tight budget. This was also in the spring, so fish costumes weren’t something we could just drive to our local Wal-Mart and pick up.
All throughout my life, I have known the struggle of finances and I promised myself I would never find myself in the same boat. I would never bring children into the world if I couldn’t afford them and if I do ever have children, I never want them to know what it’s like to struggle with money. Not that I don’t want them to learn responsible money behaviors (something I was never taught), but I don’t want them to worry about it in the way I did. A child should never have to worry about where their next meal is coming from or if this is the month they will be evicted from their apartment.
And now I sit here at 25 years old, with a college degree, a well-paying job, and a better understanding of what it means to manage money responsibly. I’m not saying I’ve gotten it right all the time. There have been plenty of learning experiences along the way. My credit score isn’t exceptional – thanks to a credit card I maxed out and couldn’t even pay the minimum balance on, school loans I defaulted on, and a huge medical bill I’ve yet to start paying on. I’ve made mistakes and I really wish I hadn’t made those mistakes, but there’s nothing I can do about them except work hard to not make them again.
I don’t want to let my parents’ mistakes with handling money and them not teaching me how to be responsible with it continue to affect the way I manage my money. Maybe that line of thinking worked when I was 18, but at 25, I’m smarter and a bit more wiser. I had to take my money habits into my own hands, forget about what my parents did, and create habits that fit my lifestyle. I had to learn to create a budget that would work for me. Something that would take into account my bills, savings, and fun money. I had to decide how much fun money I needed on a weekly basis and develop a system. I’m not always perfect and I still could do a lot better, but I’m learning. Every new pay period is a chance to do better and hone my spending and saving habits.
The truth of the matter is, whether you had parents that modeled perfect money management behaviors or parents that modeled awful money management behaviors, it’s up to you to figure out a system that works for your budget and your wants and your needs. It doesn’t matter what your parents did. You have to figure out what system works best for you and what priorities you place on what.
Learning good money management behaviors is not something I had the privilege of witnessing growing up. But maybe it was a good thing. I learned the struggle. I learned what I don’t want out of my life. I learned to be so grateful to not have the struggle now and be able to do fun things, like go on cruises and take weekend trips to Orlando and get pedicures whenever I want. And I learned to grow into my own money manager. It’s been a journey and there’s really no end to it. There are still so many areas for me to grow and learn and get better.
When it comes to money and budgeting, I may not have had the best role models growing up but it has allowed me the experience of learning as I go along and honing my own budgeting behaviors. And I’m just going to feel incredibly thankful I get the chance to do that.