As I’ve gotten older, my relationship with money has changed. I’ve made mistakes, learned some things, and I found a new dynamic that works for me and suits my goals.
What I was taught
To be perfectly honest, my memory isn’t great, so if I was taught anything about money and how to handle it, I don’t recall it.
It wasn’t something that was openly discussed in our family. My folks took a fairly hands-off approach when it came to teaching us, besides our morals, character, and work ethic. Other than that, they let my siblings and I figure things out on our own.
Over this past year, as I’ve explored my upbringing I went through a phase of being angry with them for not being more hands-on, but after having an opportunity to really reflect, I’m incredibly grateful.
Because of their approach, I’m a very fast learner and a very good problem solver. I wouldn’t change a thing.
During the last two years of high school and a few years after, my buddies and I would always go get fast food, bring it back to one of our respective homes, and hang out.
Because of that, part of socializing I attributed to getting food, and as a result, spending money.
I also went through a period of “keeping up with the Joneses”, so I often spent money on things I didn’t need or I agreed to things I couldn’t afford because I didn’t want to be left out.
The last mistake I made was charging, darn near, everything when we went on our honeymoon. A very costly mistake at that.
What I learned
The lessons I learned I pretty remedial in terms of financial common sense, but it took making those mistakes in order to learn:
- You don’t need to spend money to hang out with your people. Whether that’s food or entertainment. You can have a good time with the right company, no matter the circumstances.
- Spending more than you ought to on material things in order appear to have the same social status as your peers is a recipe for disaster. To quote Dave Ramsey, “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”
- Stay within your means – I wanted to “do it up” on the honeymoon, so I spent WAY more than I should have. Had I known what I do now then, we would’ve planned things differently, and spent MUCH less.
Me and money now
My relationship with money has changed a lot over the last few years. I think as I’ve matured (and had a child) I’ve realized what is more important, and that spending on frivolous things, and gifts for that matter, is wasteful.
Money isn’t everything, but it’s an important tool. It’s a tool that deserves to be used in a thoughtful way.
I pay my bills, I pay down debt, I save, and set aside a little for fun. The money I save goes into three buckets: retirement savings, short-term savings, and emergency savings.
The short-term bucket is broken down further. Holiday spending, college savings, and experiences.
Spending money on experiences and precious time with my son has taken precedence over spending it on stuff.
He doesn’t get a lot of gifts from his mother or me (Santa) for Christmas, as he gets spoiled by the rest of our families.
More importantly, however, we would rather spend the money on things that create memories, which could include trips or a day at the zoo.
I’d rather him remember the time he spent with myself and others, rather than playing with toys. That’s what creates a happy, memorable childhood.