Looking back at my life and looking at my own kids, I am more convinced than ever that one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child is the gift of understanding money and how to manage it. My folks were great in many ways, they taught me many things and imparted much wisdom but when it came to money management, they earned a solid F. My parents lived 31 years together until my Mom’s untimely death in 2004 vacillating between feast or famine when it came to money. They either had money and life wasn’t too bad or they didn’t and life sucked and you were eating tuna fish on stale bread with mustard because they couldn’t scrape enough change together to buy mayonnaise. As a kid, I swore I would be better about money and would always have it, but you can’t know what no one bothers to teach you. The result is my own tortured relationship with money.
Probably the only useful skill that my parents did impart to me about money is not letting myself be defined by money or lack of it, as well as how to survive when money is low. The problem is the older I get, I find myself struggling to make better choices and being clear on needs versus wants.
The past few years have been rough financially and thankfully those hard times seem to be mostly in the rear-view window. Yet even with the new start afforded me due to the painful decision to file bankruptcy and the legal restructuring of the remaining debts, lately I find myself realizing it’s the little things that trip me up. The Spousal Unit and I don’t consider ourselves to be financially extravagant people; our last vacation was a group camping experience with friends two years ago. We own one car, our furnishings and clothing are modest and at the moment our income is above the median, yet we still struggle. Yes, we have a kid in college, and an old house that is forever in need of work. There is also that pesky lack of health insurance thanks to the cost prohibitive nature of purchasing it when self-employed which overall means we have a fair amount that goes out monthly. Since lack of health insurance doesn’t mean lack of healthcare in our case, it just means we pay cash for everything.
Last month I did an experiment where I wrote down every single item we spent money on and I was mortified, but I also realized that living is expensive. Groceries cost more than ever before, medication is sky high and why do kids grow so fast and why is my girl child so hard on shoes?
The reality is some of us are struggling to keep it together, some of us are better off and I admit sometimes when I am in a funk, all I seem to see are the people who are going off on fun vacations and the gals who can afford multiple pairs of Tory Burch shoes.
I admit today’s pity party was brought on by the unpleasant realization that something I really have been wanting is simply not in my financial cards. I had been looking forward to going to this retreat but looking ahead to the next several months, spending an extra $500 is simply not wise or prudent especially with the need for almost $9000 worth of dental work sooner rather than later unless I want to be the toothless Black Girl in Maine. In some ways, telling myself no is hard, after all I work hard, and don’t I deserve something for myself? Sure, but if it jeopardizes my financial well-being and that of my family the answer is no.
In making this decision I was reminded of my own kids especially my youngest, who likes to spend money and pretty much refuses to save any of her money unless we step in and force her to put some in her savings account. Yet this same child will bemoan the fact that she can’t buy larger items when she refuses to save up. In many ways she is like me and frankly I am more than happy to model some restraint so we can break bad habits.
So thanks for letting me have my pity party about money, after all, I have all that I need in this moment.