Sunday, February 05, 2012

Money Matters

I am not what you would call financially mature. I'm trying to be, but I'm kind of a late starter.

I got my first checking account at 18 and never learned to balance it. As a result, I quickly learned how something paper that represents something paper can actually bounce and how, although that may sound fun, it's not. I got my first credit cards at the same age and watched each and every one of them get cut up at cash registers by the time I was 22. That was definitely not fun.

I moved in with my ex when I was only 24 and, since he was a lot better at managing money than me, I let him. Don't get me wrong, I still paid for half of everything even when I made less than half of what he made. That was our arrangement..until several months after our daughter was born when I refused to keep splitting the cost of diapers 50/50. And, no, I'm not exaggerating.

With the help of his bullying me to pay bills on time, I managed to reestablish my credit, which I then destroyed all over again when we parted.  After we split up seven plus years ago, I suddenly had to pay bills, establish and stick to a budget (or not and suffer the consequences), and balance a checkbook (or not, and suffer the consequences). I suffered a lot of consequences including late fees, bank charges, canceled policies, and the embarrassment of bounced checks and calls from creditors.

I can't blame my parents for not teaching me about money. I'm an adult now and my dad, who is the only parent I've had in my life for 20+ years, is now gone. I don't think it's part of a dead parent's duties to teach his 40-something kid about managing money from the beyond, do you? Nor can I blame my ex for enabling my immaturity with money matters and taking over finances. We're no longer married and my finances are my responsibility.

Nope. I will no longer play the blame game because I never win. Instead, I will put on my big girl shoes and be a financial grown-up...or fake it until I make it. To that end, I've created a budget with my rudimentary Excel knowledge and, for the most part, I'm sticking to it. I'm not perfect but it's not as bad as it used to be. I've occasionally run out of money between paychecks, but I realize it (usually before checks bounce) and immediately stop spending money I don't have. I have been known to cancel babysitters for nights out and take my last $50 to the grocery store and make my Lithuanian great-grandmother proud with my frugal food planning for a solid week until the next paycheck arrives. That may sound like no big deal, but trust me, it's huge for me. I don't expect pats on the back but I do give myself high-fives for finally doing what I should have been doing all along.

I also believe that it's my job, while they are young, to help my kids learn about how much things cost and how to make good choices with money. For starters, I give them allowance for doing certain chores and, they have to put a portion of that allowance into long-term savings, and donate a portion to charity. This doesn't always go over well ("Why can't the charity be ME?" and "But I want to spend the money NOW!"), but I stick to my guns. When they ask to buy something that is not a necessity and it's not Christmas or birthday-time, I let them know how much it costs and suggest they use their own money to buy it. I don't want them to believe that money grows on trees that they do not plant or water.

I know that I am very, very fortunate. I have health insurance, I earn a living wage, I have a roof over my head, and there is food in the cupboards. I sometimes worry about the future with money. What if I get sick and can't work? Will I ever be able to retire? I used to have a retirement account but I took most off it out to fend off creditors after my divorce and paid a fortune in tax penalties for the temporary bandaid.

But you know what? Just for today, I am doing what I'm supposed to be doing. Just for today, I'm healthy and can work full-time at a job that pays the bills. Just for today, I know that if I trust myself and the Universe, all will be well and I will have what I need when I need it.

How about you? Do you manage money well? Do you worry about future finances?


  1. It is good to see you writing here again. I very much enjoy your perspectives.

  2. Thanks, Anonymous. It's nice to be enjoyed. :-)