Thursday, September 10, 2009

Money matters

I had to buy Starbucks on my credit card today.

I did it because I was starving and we had hardly any food in the fridge. But it's a good thing I checked my account balance before pulling through the drive-thru down the street. Turns out, my rent check made me go into the red, by $9.80. Which I realize is not that bad and luckily the bank automatically refunded me the overdraft fee, but still. 

Paychecks came out today, so upon seeing my checking account in the negative, I hopped in the car and raced to the officewith Hazel in towto pick it up. After depositing it in my bank, I made the Starbucks run. But just to be on the safe side, I used my credit card instead of my debit.

Instances like this have got me thinking a lot lately about money, or more specifically, my lack thereof.

Growing up, my family was middle class. Some might have even considered us upper-middle class. Either way, we were pretty well off. My parents were able to buy new cars when they needed to. They sent my brother and me to summer camps at private schools, paid for me to take gymnastics and dance lessons, kept my brother appeased with the latest in video gaming technology. We always had big Christmases and birthdays and took summer vacations every year.

Even when my mom quit working (read: lost her job when her company moved and we couldn’t sell the house) when I was in 6th grade, we still lived comfortably. Though we were told that Santa Claus might not bring us as many toys as in years past (to which we replied, much to my mother’s dismay, the jig is up. We know Santa ain’t real), Christmas morning really didn’t suffer that much. But when I was a senior in high school, things got a bit rough. My dad lost his job. And here I was looking to go to college at not-so-cheap universities. In fact, I ended up attending one of the most expensive colleges around (Pepperdine’s tuition costs more than many Ivy League schools). I am extremely grateful to my parents that they allowed me to go to the school of my choice despite the financial hardship my family was experiencing. I don’t think they knew it would be four years until my dad would get another job, or that I would receive zilch in financial aid from Pepperdine or the government. But it didn’t matter. That’s how much they love me. To be honest, the situation makes me feel a bit guilty, all the loans they had to take on for me to get an education, but I am literally forever in their debt (and my own).

Even with my dad’s new job, which he had for the last three years or so, things were a bit tight. And then, the recession hit. And my dad got laid off. Again. Though my mom is working, being a manager at Starbucks doesn’t pay much. The reason I am thinking about all this is because I am now in my own financial crisis. Living on my own, paying my own way, being an adult—it’s hard, even without the national economy in the toilet. But I can no longer turn to my parents for help because we are in the same boat. It is one of those moments where you realize, wow, I really am an adult now. You are talking on the phone with your mom, complaining about having to pay bills and rent and that you don’t make enough money and your mom says, “Me too.”

Sure, they would find a way to help me if I really needed it and was desperate enough to ask. And if we go out to eat, they’ll pick up the tab. But they can’t afford to buy me a new car when my current one breaks down for good (which it will surely do in the near future).

I have never been that good with money. Not to say I am unable to handle my finances but I have been known to miss a credit card payment or two. I don’t follow the stock market, I don’t balance my check book, I don’t organize my receipts, I don’t have a savings accountthough not for lack of wanting one, but simply because there is nothing to save. Sometimes money seems to fly out of my wallet! (Do you ever get that feeling?) But really, I didn’t worry too much about all this before. And yet now it seems like all I can think about is money money money. And how I went from being middle-class to living in a state of perpetual poverty, practically paycheck to paycheck (this week especially!). 

Perhaps that is not so uncommon for a 20-something just out of college. My question though is, when will things change? When will I again feel like, OK, I don’t have to worry about money? Is that even possible if you are not Donald Trump? I guess what I am saying is my fiscal future looks pretty bleak (Yoo hoo, raise? Where are you??). The optimist in me says, you’re fine, everything will work out. The realist in me sees the expenses mountinglike, how am I going to pay for the trip to Canada that I'm taking in two weeks for a friend's wedding?and wants to run and hide. AKA, move home where the room and board are free.

Please forgive the ramblings, but this is just what’s on my mind. I am thinking some of you can relate to these thoughts running through my head… Let’s commiserate together.

What did Notorious B.I.G. say? “Mo money, mo problems?” Hmm, I don’t know about that, Biggie. I think I am more inclined to agree with Fergie: “If you ain’t got no money take your broke ass home!”

But I agree with Coco Chanel too. "There are people who have money and people who are rich." But wouldn't it be nice to have both?

All images via weheartit


Amber (Girl with the red hair) said...

I hear ya! I'm super lucky that my parents have supported me thus far in my education - they have allowed me to earn my undergrad degree without taking out any student loans! But, I'm done school next year and I have to start picking up the slack and paying for things myself. Already I'm *barely* making ends meet and I don't even have to pay rent because they pay that for me, so I really have NO idea how I'm going to do it once they cut me loose next year!!

Have you thought about doing some freelance work on the side to earn some extra cash? Or maybe setting up your bank account so 5-10% of your take home pay goes into a savings account every month. It's not MUCH but it might be enough to get you started?

Good luck with everything! I think I will be doing a post on money soon, too. I managed to keep my credit card completely paid off and in a drawer ALL summer BUT now with the start of school I've been whipping it out more and more and it's balance is REALLY stressing me out!

Ashley said...

I am feeling the real weight of be financially independent too and it sucks. It sucks especially to work so much and still have no money. It must be scary to have the safety net of your parents not be as strong anymore. I think things will get better as you get further into your career, but money will probably always be something we all worry about.

Andhari said...

It totally would be nice to have both, and I definitely live with Fergie attitude.. However being grateful also helps and try to be a bit more content and accept life, that's what my mom told me. If you look to those who are above you too much, your neck will hurt...

or you know something like that. I worry too, I don't think I can really live in lower standards or something. This is why I so ache to graduate and get a good job :(

bethany said...

Oh, I agree with you! Coming to the realization that you literally have no fall back financially is a tough one, especially when you feel you've always had that 'just incase' to cover you. you get as anxious as I do waiting for the ATM slip to print your balance...or waiting for the internet banking page to load your balance? MY GOSH. I hate living that way.

I've experienced that SO much as of late! Growing up my fam was lower-to-middle class, and yet my parents were always willing to co-sign a car loan, or lend a little cash for big things if my sis and I needed it. But now going back to school, no financial aid, living on my own and trying to live credit-card free (I've never, ever signed up for one!) can be SO stressful.

So, I've started to really prioritize my spending. Honestly, when you sit down and look at your monthly expenses on can find amazing amounts of money. Like, when I realized that I spend $75/month at the gas station picking up "snacks" and "water", I almost cried. Do you know how much I could have saved by just BUYING a box of snacks and some bottled water from a real grocery store? EEK! Seriously, I know that sounds SO tacky and cheesy, but I was amazed. Just be realistic and honest with yourself about how much is REALLY coming out of your bank account for silly little things, and how much of that you still want to spend, even if you're on a budget. Cause, let's face it...we're never totally going to completely give up our Starbucks or Friday night movies. :)

Wow, I really wrote a book for you. Sorry! Anyway, I feel you. Hope you aren't so stressed that you can't enjoy the weekend!

Shoshanah said...

I wouldn't say I'm bad at managing my money, except that I have massive student debt that seems impossible to pay off. I don't balance my checkbook officially, but I'm pretty obsessive about using my online banking. Let's say I probably check most of my accounts and that my bills are paid a few times a week. Then once I month I write down how much I have and how much I owe in an Excel spreadsheet. (The main reason I started doing this was so I could see that my student loans were actually decreasing even though it didn't feel like it).

I do have a savings about with Bank of America, but don't really use it. I do have save the change which transfers the extra pennies each purchase, which winds up being a few dollars each month. Of course when I first stared I was getting charged for not having enough in my savings account. I was able to get them to stop charging me by depositing about $10 every month until I reached the minimum amount needed. (Also since I was depositing something into my saving each month the stopped charging me.) I don't know if you have Bank of America, but if you do, you might want to check out their save the change plan

Kristin said...

Have you tried the envelope method? Make your budget and then set up envelopes with cash for your groceries, gas. etc. When the cash is gone, you don't spend any more. You eat mac and cheese or whatever. Ah ha. You get used to living off the budgeted amount cuz you can't just whip out your card to buy something. The economy is total crapsville, but it will get better. Hang in there!