Article by Wendy McCance
When I was young, I wish I had learned more about money. How to save and invest and create so that more money could be made. When I was young, money was tight and so when I got any, I wanted to feel the joy of spending it.
I had a mom who told me to save. She also took most of the money I made from babysitting and jobs I got in high school and socked it away in a savings account. I didn’t put it in my bank account, she took it herself and put it in her own account and later, a joint account (that I only got her off of once I had moved out of the house). I didn’t have goals about what I would do with that money, she did. She wanted to use the money to pay for college and if any was left over, I could use it to start my adult life. These were her goals that she created with money I was making. I never got a chance to dream about what I could do with the money I was making. She stole that from me. I began to despise money. I felt it was out of my grasp and that it made people turn into controlling monsters. My relationship with money and my understanding of it was horribly unhealthy.
The year I graduated high school, I moved out. I was working for money I had no grasp of. I was tired of feeling controlled. I wanted to figure it out on my own.
Over the years, I faced many challenges, but I worked through them. I remember thinking(when I was a young kid) that once I had $15.00 an hour I would be set. That changed to $50,000 a year as my goal and then $100,000 as I got older and my responsibilities grew.
It’s easy to feel satisfied getting by on a smaller sum of money when you only have yourself to take care of and you are living in the moment. It was fine if I shared an apartment with a roommate. I didn’t care if I had a great car as long as there was transportation and most of my free time was spent hanging out with friends doing nearly free activities like going to the lake, visiting art fairs, attending free summer concerts or just hanging out at a friend’s house for a BBQ.
As I got older, I got married and had kids. Wow, was that an eye-opening experience. Diapers are expensive! Having a baby and stocking up on food and clothes and toys and all the other baby items really opened my eyes to the value of money and the need to save and be frugal.
It’s funny how you get into a groove once the shock of the expense of having children wears off. You just manage to juggle kids and a job. You work your way up the job ladder and the cars and the clothes and the homes become nicer along the way.
I remember when the kids began elementary school, a new money shock hit me. School is expensive, even when the kids go to a public school. The lists of school supplies are intense. The teachers get picky. They want a certain brand of marker and they will only accept a 5 pack with primary colors not a 3 pack in pastels. The notebooks might only be okayed if they are a certain size and have no wire binding. It’s exhausting running around town like you are on a treasure hunt in search of just the right supply and fingers crossed it is a decent price. Bargain hunting goes out the door when the lists come out after the first day of class and the supplies needed are so very specific.
By the time all the kids were in elementary school (3 in total), I could easily spend $500.00 on school supplies, backpacks, PTA dues, donations for class parties, the extra supplies teachers requested that the classroom was in need of and extras such as Girl Scouts that all the little girls were partaking in.
After feeling burnt out from years of school expense, I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. Middle School! Surely there wouldn’t be nearly the amount of supplies needed. There wouldn’t be class parties or a need for additional classroom supplies. It seemed as though I would finally feel an influx of money surge in my direction.
Well, I didn’t count on the additional activities the kids wanted to get involved in or the field trips or the need for “cooler” looking clothes that were invariably more expensive. Plus, there was a need for the kids to have their first phones (for safety since they were off with friends being independently mobile now). Computers were another unavoidable expense. And, this was nothing compared to what was to come.
High school brought its own set of challenges as the kids got their licenses. Paying for car insurance for several young drivers is not a thrilling experience. In fact, because we had two kids getting their license a year apart, juggling a car with me wouldn’t work. Yep, we had to get another car — used, for them to share.
So, where is all that extra money from all of those years of hard work? Both my husband and I have worked hard to raise our wages over the years. We have socked a little money away in a 401k and on occasion saved money in a savings account, but overall, it seems that each time we get a bonus or a lucrative client, the bills are busy piling up and are screaming for attention.
Medical bills, car repairs, broken appliances, a basement flood and traffic violations have all reared their ugly head just in the last year. Yeah, the money remains elusive no matter how much we make. It’s a vicious cycle that reminds me of being a kid. Memories of my mom holding out her hand for my paychecks. I just barely touch a check and a bill appears that needs urgent attention.
These days I consciously live in a space that knows better but chooses to believe otherwise. I will think about the day the kids move out. Then I’ll envision that money that has been so elusive. No more kids activities, or clothes, or car insurance, or additional phone bills or running up the a water bill or gas money. Yeah, that’s when I will feel like we’ve made it.
But, in reality, I know that it is just like back in the days when I though $15 an hour was enough or that we would be all set at $50,000. I don’t think their really is such a thing as “making it” unless, of course you win the lottery (but even then, maybe not).
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