Last summer in a rented cabin overlooking downtown Branson, Missouri, my grandpa sat down with Isaiah and I and helped us figure out a budget. It was simple; he made it using pen and paper. I was sure our financial woes were over.
We both grew up in upper middle class suburbia where we had what we needed and a lot of what we wanted. I started working when I was 14 and didn’t take a break until my last two semesters of college, both of which had more than 18 credit hours each. While I wasn’t working, Isaiah landed a job as a graphic designer in a sign shop and everything was dandy. I had about $1,500 in savings left when I left for study abroad and damn it if I didn’t spend $1,000 of it in 3 weeks. While I was on the trip, Isaiah was laid off. The day after I got back, we all packed it in and left for Branson, where again, we were in the throes of the third or fourth wave in our relationship where we were flat broke and didn’t understand how we got there. My mom paid for us most of the trip.
So there we were, with a combined $570-something dollars to our names, learning how to budget the old-fashioned way. It helped for a while.
Isaiah and I don’t spend a lot of money. We don’t make a lot of money either. Our main problem is that we can’t even say those two things with confidence because we don’t know how much money we have or make. More often than not, you’ll see us double checking the balance of our respective bank accounts before going out to lunch…double checking before we make a purchase…because we have no idea if we’ve got enough green or if we’re in the red.
And so, our biggest financial problem actually shows a few symptoms: We think about what we need now and don’t save for the future, we have absolutely no plan in place for financial security and bills are sometimes late or forgotten because we simply forget they’re due.
We have ad hoc financial security practices. We’re pissing on the American dream. We’ll be doomed to work until we’re 85 if we don’t shape up, wouldn’t you say?
I was reading Angie’s post on saving money yesterday and I got thinking about our financial situation. Then I found this article from Forbes called “Priceless Financial Advice for Recent Graduates.” Then I remembered we’ll have to start the budget sometime soon, but not now…we have a fridge to buy. We have a new place to decorate! We have bare walls, people! BARE WALLS!
I need two new tires, Isaiah needs new brakes, we both need oil changes, we need groceries, we have two kitties who need to go to the vet this weekend, we need hundreds of dollars in organization tools from The Container Store, we need a media center, we need a bedroom set…
My uncle always told my mom and she always told me, “If you can’t manage a little bit of money, you can’t manage a lot of money.” Ain’t that the truth.
I always used to think that meant to live in moderation, beneath your means (which we need to renew our commitment to) and learn to budget your money so you can manage it effectively.
I was a little desperate this weekend to find out where the f*ck all of our money was going, because we make more than enough to save and have all of our needs covered. I didn’t see the $2,000 a month hidden drug habit or shopping addiction I was expecting. Instead, $5 here, $3.85 there, $29.16 here, $Right Arm, $Left Leg for gas…
Instead, it was clear that we weren’t aware of our financial impact on one another and we were just spending money when we saw fit. We didn’t have any control or method to our financial method at all.
I also realized the root of our financial insecurity is that we are insatiable. The cats scratched the old sofa, which worked fine, but we needed NEW sofas! I’m already wishing I wasn’t riddled with my 4-year-old car’s issues and Isaiah’s been wanting a new car since he got his. We haven’t thought about a home. We haven’t thought about paying off the minor amount of debt we have. We haven’t thought about controlling our money at all. Financial security isn’t on the horizon as long as we are insatiable.
Now I hear, “If you can’t manage a little bit of money, you can’t manage a lot of money” and I hear, “Don’t you dare elevate your lifestyle to meet your income,” “Plan for the future,” and “If you can’t be satisfied with what you have, you won’t be satisfied with anything.”
Sometimes you need new things, obviously. We actually did need a new couch because the wooden plank that held our entire couch together was snapping little fragments off of our tailbones every time we sat down. But if you can’t learn to be satisfied with things, you’ll always be wanting. I want to try needing for a while, re-prioritize and get my financial act together for the both of us.
We have been moderately-extreme-couponing…I saved more than $80 on last week’s groceries for a few hours of work. I got a second job. I’m eager to sit down this weekend and put together a proactive budget that will help us manage our money better. I’m also excited to learn to be satisfied with what we have, to hunt and thrift for good deals for what we need and start saving for our future. Mainly, I’m really excited to hear what my dad (a financial planner) has to say about making our money work for us. Get a job, dollar bill…you think you just get to sit around all day?
Image: 101 Unusual, Impressive and Illegal Pieces of Defaced Currency