Money is such a tricky subject to talk about. Everyone was raised differently, has a unique current financial situation and prioritizes spending in different ways.
I know when I finally realized that money wasn’t always going to be easily accessible and I was going to have to learn how to manage my own.
I was raised in Mexico for a lot of my youth and this meant that I was blessed enough to go to a private school, had a live-in cleaner and nanny, live-in cook, gardener and at times even a chauffeur. The only downside to this way of life is that went I went to boarding school at the age of 16 I didnt even know how to make my bed, put my clean laundry away, cook or pay a bill.
Three years later when I started University in England, doing Theology during my gap year, I was faced with my first financial wake up call. I had been given a certain amount of money for my whole academic year. My parents deposited this money into my own bank account. I had never had my own bank account and this was the most exciting thing I had ever been given. My parents informed me that my money was supposed to last me from September 2002-June 2003.
I knew I had a lot of money in my bank account so as the days/weeks went on I started spending a little here (new shoes for the rainy weather), a little there (DVD’s from Amazon.com to stay entertained in the evenings in my dorm while I was sick with chest infections). I of course spent money on groceries, doctors appointments, bus fare, train tickets, laundry, etc but only two months after I had been given the money I soon realized my bank balance = 0
I totally freaked out!! I called my mom, who passed the phone to my dad, who then proceeded to tell me how I was meant to manage that money and make it last until June!! It was only October!!! I cried and panicked and pleaded with my dad to send me more money. I explained that I was careless and unaware of how to properly manage my money. Him and my mom lived in France, so he told me they would go over my finances the following week when they came to England to see me for my birthday (October 13th). I was so relieved. I only had a few days without money and then my “financial backer” would arrive and make all things right, right??
My dad and mom, with all their wisdom, decided that would be the perfect opportunity to let me fall flat on my face and learn a VERY important lesson in life. You can’t spend money frivolously (cinema, movies, clothes, bags, shoes,) if it is intended for some other expense which is a necessity (food, transport, rent, bills,medicine).
We sat for over 3 hours going over my past two months bank statements. We used my highlighters and used them to categories each charge on my debit card and associate it with a need:
- Rent (fixed expense)
- Bills (fixed expense)
- Transport (fixed expense)
- Medical (fixed expense)
- Classes (fixed expense)
- Weekly grocery shop (fixed expense)
- Fun (fluctuates)
- Meals out (fluctuates)
- Clothes (fluctuates)
I have listed just a few of the categories to give you all an idea of how detailed this session with my dad was. Then he showed me the total amount of money he had given me initially. Then he explained how this was meant to be divided into 10 months. Then once I new my “monthly amount” I could figure out what fixed expenses I had to make every month. Only after ensuring that I could pay for all the “fixed expenses” then could I use the rest of the money on the cool stuff, on buying that cute top I saw at Top Shop, those awesome Wellington boots I had my eye on or go out for a meal with my friends.
I soon realized that the money my parents had given me was in fact not as much as I thought. They graciously and generously covered my basic expenses but I was not meant to use it on living the “glamorous life”.
I had learnt my lesson, I was ready to be careful with the next lump sum my parents would give me. Little did I know that there would be no more money given to me for that academic year. I don’t know if they couldn’t afford to give me more or they simply chose not to but I am grateful today that they stood firm and didnt cave to my tears and begging.
My parents told this Mexican princess that she would have to go and get herself a job. A JOB!!! I had never had to work a day in my youth and had no idea how to even get a job! There came lesson 2: write a resume and go walk around town handing it out.
Unfortunately for me, having no experience in the workforce meant I wasn’t qualified for anything yet. That’s what I was at University for, right? Anyway, turns out the only place that would hire me was a Intermediate School in the tiny town of Midhurst in England (Elementary school for americans). But they didn’t hire me for my languages (French, Spanish and English) they hired me to CLEAN!!!!!
OH THE TEARS I CRIED!!!
I had never swept in my whole life, I had no idea how to use a vacuum cleaner, dust, mop, scrub toilets, bur some comic reason this is the job I was handed and all I knew was that I needed money.
So, everyday I would wake up and do my college work and then when the clock struck 3pm I walked over to this other school and cleaned up after little kids. I was in charge of cleaning the locker rooms, the bathrooms, the head-mistresses office, four classroom and sweeping, mopping and waxing/polishing the corridors.
I soon realized the importance of not getting myself into financial trouble.
Fast forward to 2008 when my then boyfriend, now husband George, and I give birth to my little girl. We were straight out of University. Working our first proper adult jobs and making ends meet. We suddenly had a baby to look after and provide for.
I was so blessed to be married to a man that loves his numbers. He himself was raised with a full-time working mom and dad. They provided for their family but didn’t always have money for extras. He learnt at a very young age the value of saving and managing your money wisely.
We tried many different approaches to managing our joint finances. I had my own way of managing money which involved a lot of extravagant things but still took care of the “fixed expenses”. George was looking towards the future. He explained to me at length that we deserved a good life. That we would work hard and save hard and sacrifice certain luxuries (for instance,staying in a campsite instead of a hotel so that you still get to travel; or shopping around for the best deal before you book a flight) so that we could ensure we provided for our daughter and could some day buy a flat for ourselves in London (where we lived at the time).
I’m not going to lie to you and tell you it was easy. It sucked when my friends were going out and buying lots of nice new designer handbags with their hard earned paycheck; or when we couldn’t go out for a meal with friends because the restaurant they had chosen was outside our price range. Some people would get annoyed at us for being “cheap” or for being so careful about how we spent out money. Some days it would get to me and I would cry and get angry and I would take it out on George (poor George).
This could have ended my marriage. I could have chosen to walk away and look for a man that had already earned his wealth or had inherited it. I could raise my daughter with my family back in Mexico and find a man that was older than me (24 years old I was) and take care of us financially. I chose to stand by the man I fell in love with at the age of 20. The man who I had prayed for. The man who fathered my daughter. The man I knew loved me and was trying his best to provide for us.I chose to change my attitude and my perspective on money.
I had to work full-time and put my daughter into childcare for 10 hours a day, 5 days a week. I barely got to spend time with her in her first five years of life. I had to save 1/3 of my paycheck, use 1/3 for our rent and contribute 1/3 towards our fixed expenses. We of course allowed ourselves some spending money so we could each do fun, enjoyable activities. The amount wasn’t a lot but it was what we could realistically afford at that time. We made it work!
Fast forward another 7 years and here I find myself living a life I only hoped I would get to have. I have a house we bought and remodeled. I get to be a stay-at-home mom for the moment and I live in what I consider to be a small preview of what paradise is- Coronado!
Last night George and I sat down again to re-evaluate our finances. It is not a talk I look forward to. It can stress me out and worry me but I have chosen to dedicate time to it and help my husband come up with our budget together. We have found that this helps us avoid arguments and resentments.
I don’t know if you are someone that is great at managing money, if you are that’s fabulous!
If you are single and are spending everything you earn let me encourage you to stop a moment and reevaluate. Think of what you want to achieve in your life. Try and get your finances in order. Do the work and spend the time and figure out what your fixed expenses are and how much you can spend to still have fun but also save. I’ve had people tell me that they will save when they earn more money… Honestly, if you don’t get into the habit now who is to say that when you earn more you will have the discipline to do it.
If you are married and you are constantly having arguments with your spouse about: how much money you spend, or they spend money, or how you can’t afford this or that, take the time to sit down and figure out what you can both do to understand your finances and the activities that you want to do. Communication is key! How is my husband supposed to know that I think my daughters gymnastics class is an essential part of her childhood if I dont explain to him my reasons for thinking this way. Once George understands why I want to spend money on this activities it’s easier for him to give it value.
At the end of the day, money makes the world go around. You can’t live with it and you can’t live without it!!