** opinion piece**
I was a wide-eyed girl who wanted to experience the world all at once.
I had this dream of being this super ultra-sophisticated new adult who could conquer the world like no other 22-year-old ever could.
I couldn’t have been more mistaken. I grew up in the suburbs and while my parents instilled discipline in us kids, we were never taught about budgeting at an early age.
In fact, money was never a topic of conversation or concern for me as a kid. I’m sure my parents struggled at times.
We didn’t always get everything we wanted but my parents made it work and happen for anything we needed.
I wasn’t a frivolous kid by any means. I was simple and thought I wanted simple things but what I didn’t realize is that simple things cost money too.
I had a vision board for how I wanted my life and inner world to represent once I lived on my own.
The trouble with this board is that it was filled with everything I wanted but had no clear plan to obtain it.
I had jobs that I held as a teen, but my parents let me spend the money as I pleased as long as I didn’t spend it all at once.
I never felt restricted or had to monitor how much I had at any one point because I was under the impression that if I did spend too much, my parents would still provide for me.
Mom and dad still paid for my cell phone bill, and I was listed as a driver on their car insurance, so I did not have that responsibility either.
My morning runs to Starbucks and lunch dates didn’t seem like a big deal.
There was no real turning point when I turned 18 years old. I still very much relied on my parents without realizing it.
They continued to pay for my cell phone bill and everything else I needed. They did not start charging me room and board and I still did not need to figure out dinner because Mom would always call to let us all know dinner was ready.
My young mind did not realize any of this at the time. It was just always in place. We had our family pets and the nice décor already there.
A home was built and while I enjoyed all of it, I somehow felt unsatisfied because now that I was an “adult,” I needed my own home and décor too.
I quickly started craving my own space as my world expanded and I did not want to be held to the constraints of a curfew.
I loved home but what I wanted were more freedom and fewer lectures. My curfew of 1 AM does not sound bad at all now that I am an actual adult but back then it sounded like my parents were trying to clink clink me.
So, without much thought, I began looking for my first place. After a two-week search, I found the perfect apartment complex (Or so I thought) and took what money I had in my account to secure the down payment and first month’s rent.
I took the first step towards my independence or at least I thought I did.
What my eagerness got me
At the time I was working at a movie theatre full time but barely making over minimum wage.
That didn’t matter much when I had no actual responsibilities. I hadn’t told my parents or brothers yet that I was going to be moving out.
I was nervous about how to tell them since it was a substantial change but had no doubt, they would be excited for me. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
My brothers felt betrayed that I just sprung it on them, and my parents were blindsided and did their best to talk me out of it. It was too late though.
I had already signed a binding lease agreement. I had given them exactly 1 week to accept that I was moving out and no one was happy about it.
I was going through the motions, not really putting much thought into the things I needed.
All I knew is that I had my vision board and had the thought that could only come from someone with one brain cell that all I had to do was show my parents the DIY vision board and they would just put all the pieces together for me like a puzzle.
The day I brought it to them, they laughed me out of their bedroom.
The silly illusion I had that my parents would just give me all the things I wanted, dissipated, and with this newfound knowledge, I began to make a string of rash decisions.
The first really stupid decision I made was I took my very next check and spent its entirety on a living room set and opened a rental account for a TV.
The next extremely stupid mistake I made was adopting a dog without first thinking of the expense that comes with caring for a pet AND without checking with the rental office for security deposits for pets.
Sure enough, I had to cough up $250 for the pet security deposit and then I paid another $200 for pet accessories/adoption fees/grooming.
This left $50 in my emergency fund. I had convinced myself that I would replenish it by just throwing extra money into it.
Little did I know extra money wasn’t going to be a thing for me.
How did that work out for me?
It was moving-in day, and I didn’t have too much to move.
My room was packed up in a day. Both my brothers reluctantly helped me move my bedroom set in and the sofa was delivered the same afternoon.
I felt like a full-fledged adult. That feeling lasted for about 10 minutes after everyone had left. It was me and my dog and a few boxes.
My stomach growled for the first time that day and realized that I didn’t have any food in the fridge. I didn’t prepare for grocery shopping.
All I thought about was how I wanted my place to look. I didn’t prepare for any of the other conveniences I was used to.
My bank balance was close to single digits, so I called my mom less than a half hour after they had all left. They were all out getting pizza together and assumed I had my own plans.
The first night as “an adult” was spent eating nachos with cheese from 7-Eleven for dinner while sulking.
When I signed my lease, I did a quick walk-through and jumped for joy all while saying that I’ll take it. I never took a drive through the neighborhood to get a feel for daily activity.
My neighbor was a man who was in a biker gang who within 1 week was getting thrown through his glass patio door and my other neighbor was a woman who had questionable intentions when she threatened to chop up my dog in little pieces and eat him for dinner… all with a smile.
I didn’t feel like it was a community at all. All the adults looked tired, and the kids ran around unchecked throughout the day.
So far, my friends have stopped by and then left once seeing that I have nothing to talk about but how I am going to pay the bills looming ahead.
I had eaten through my savings and while I had paid for the current month, I needed $1200 in three weeks for the rent. I wasn’t fun anymore.
I didn’t enjoy TV as much now that I had to pay for it, and I was very selective about food once I saw that $75 worth of groceries only carried me through the next three days.
I felt ill-prepared, and I wasn’t having the time of my life like I thought I would.
I picked up extra shifts at work but then I would “treat myself” because I felt I deserved it and fall into a cycle of self-sabotage repeatedly
I didn’t tell my parents about my money troubles. They removed me from their car insurance, and I now had to pay them for my portion of my cell phone bill.
To keep up the façade that nothing was amiss, I always made sure I paid my parents first even if it meant making me late on another bill.
I felt like I was in a rat race and compensated for my unhappiness with meaningless nights out with friends spending money that was already spoken for.
Before I knew it, I was past due on my car insurance, hundreds of dollars short on my rent and I had a shut-off notice from the electric company.
I needed help so I put my pride aside and called my parents.
They invited me over for lunch and asked that I bring all my bills so they can see what could be salvaged.
I gathered everything I could find and went straight to my parents. I remember the drive over like it was yesterday.
I had a huge smile on my face, and I even sang along with the radio for the short 10-minute drive. I thought my parents were going to make it all go away.
I had dug myself into a pit by being immature, irresponsible with my money, and just making poor financial decisions and my parents let me know just that.
After lunch, my parents took my bills into their bedroom together and came back out 2 hours later.
They told me directly that they weren’t going to help me with any of it and that doing so would only enable my self-centered behavior.
Instead, they sat me down and showed me everywhere I went wrong. They explained how I now had debt and a poor credit rating since I had opened six credit cards and made no real payments on any of them after maxing them out.
The TV I had on loan was repossessed due to nonpayment and I was being taken to court by the apartment complex requesting eviction or payment of all past due rent/legal fees and the upcoming month paid in advance.
With my current income and with court in less than 2 weeks, I had no time to plan or prepare for the court date.
Even if I threw everything I had at it, it wouldn’t be enough. I was going to be evicted and I immediately felt like a failure.
My parents let me cry and feel sorry for myself and let me know that my bedroom was there, and I should come home to regroup but let me know that they were going to help prepare me for the next time I ventured out on my own.
So, I went back home and began to pack. There was no avoiding eviction.
I just didn’t have the money. I put everything in storage and closed the door to my barely lived-in apartment without looking back.
What did I learn?
I was all moved back into my parent’s house and still dealing with the aftereffects of my decisions. My bills didn’t go away just because I moved back home.
My mom sat me down after a week of moping around and wanted me to write down my actual income and compare it to the debt I incurred.
I did so with a sour face because I was feeling like I was being punished but what I was being instead was a spoiled brat who didn’t yet know how to be accountable for the choices I made.
Don’t worry, the fog of self-centeredness began to lift when I saw that my bills were twice the amount of my monthly income and that the pit I was in was one I completely dug for myself.
I was so caught up in things that didn’t matter or that were fleeting that I left no room for sustainability.
Mom and I worked out a system that helped me to repay my past-due debts over time while still being able to build savings.
To help my sense of responsibility, my parents charged me room and board, which I later found out they put that money aside for me to go towards any future emergency situations.
I also had to show that I was paying off my debt and contributing to the household. Gone were the days of just sitting at the dinner table and having my plate placed in front of me.
Now I help with the grocery shopping and even prepared dinner on my own for my family. Moving back home taught me humility and how to appreciate everything I had.
All those things I wasted money on were now sitting in a dark storage while I tried to pick up the pieces of my life and revamp my way of thinking.
I finally cleared all my debt 6 months later, but I was not eager to move out of my parent’s house.
I was about to turn 23 years old, and I felt like an infant who needed to learn about the world before venturing out again, so I started my research.
Changes I made that were effective
The very first thing I did was seriously consider what I wanted to do to earn a living.
I was outgrowing the movie theatre and the income wasn’t enough to cover monthly bills and expenses unless I moved up in management.
I decided a change in pace would be best and took my first call center job.
I continued in this field and helped others throughout the years to perfect their customer service and conflict resolution skills.
Now that I made more money, I had a little more financial freedom but this time I didn’t “treat myself” by spending. I made my earnings work for me.
I knew that I eventually would move out again and I had every intention of doing it right this time. I was finally beginning to mature and care about my financial future.
Here are the tops changes I made to my daily life.
- · I no longer ate out. I opted to cook and meal prep to save money.
- · I gave myself a schedule, even on my days off, so I was always accomplishing something
- · I set realistic goals and protected the path to those goals no matter what
- · I learned to have more than one stream of income
- · I rid myself of the vision board and instead gave myself a loose five-year plan
- · I learned to save more than I spend and to take into account every cent spent
- · I canceled my gym membership and opted for bike rides and home workouts
- · I traded nights out with friends for movie nights at home with family
I had to change my mindset and that in itself was a process.
I learned to appreciate the sacrifices my parents made so that I could just be a child and not worry about the things my parents worried about.
I never noticed the nights we all had dinner and our parents didn’t. They would just sit at the table with a smile on their face, happy that we were ok.
We never heard the intense arguments they had while learning how to tackle the bills together while we lived in our childhood bubble.
We didn’t know that they picked up second jobs just so we could enjoy our extracurricular activities. I learned to show my thanks to my parents and to pick up the slack wherever I could.
My parent's looks of concern eventually turned into looks of pride as I blossomed into a young woman who knew what she wanted and was willing to take the measured steps to get there.
Learn to save your money
Some people will tell you that you should live your life like there’s no tomorrow. That is true when applied correctly in life.
No one ever said you should SPEND your money like there’s no tomorrow. If you already make an income, ask yourself how much of your paycheck do you save.
How much is put away and untouched? According to statistics, only 5% of Americans have savings between $10k-20k.
That means that most people are not prepared for any emergency that may have longevity. That is just the average American.
What about a single twenty-something-year-old without years of experience that most likely represents the majority of that 5%?
When we are earning our own money and creating debt before first learning how to utilize money, we tend to run into a few pitfalls that are completely avoidable.
If possible, save half of your surplus after all your financial obligations have been met. There are multiple methods to keep track of your bills and financial goals.
I started off basic and just wrote down what I spent and then filtered through to cross off what wasn’t needed.
It helped me discipline myself and eventually I stopped looking for those things I was wasting money on.
I had to learn to look at saving as rewarding instead of a punishment. At first, it felt like I was putting my money in jail, and I would run through excuses in my mind why I should break it free.
Then as I watched my savings increase, that feeling of angst turned into a feeling of satisfaction. I was working towards something.
Even if that “something” wasn’t definitive yet, I had the means to at least start off the goal should I choose.
Debt vs Income
Going through my debt was the hardest part. I had to learn about credit basics (I’m still learning so I won’t go too much into that topic) and how it affected everything around my finances.
I had unnecessary credit cards. Before, I looked for reasons to spend frivolously.
My friends and I would make a day out of going to beauty stores to buy the newest and brightest because swiping a card is easy.
No one ever prepares you for the other end of it when it is time to pay for those things you were extended credit on.
You fall into the minimum payment trap as I did and before you know it, all your credit cards are maxed out.
This time around, I learned to ignore the minimum balance when paying on credit cards and instead set aside a pre-determined amount every two weeks that exceeded the monthly minimum balance until the balance was paid off.
Example: CC balance is $300 and the minimum payment is $30. Instead of paying the minimum balance by the due date, pay $30-$50 every two weeks to bring the balance down quickly so you are not paying so much interest. It’s best if the first of the two payments is made at least two weeks prior to the due date.
Another change I implemented was I gave myself two opportunities a month to use the two credit cards I decided to keep, and the final balance could not exceed $100 combined.
This kept a lid on my credit use and helped level out my income vs my debt.
While I was still paying off the credit card balances, I made sure I didn’t add any additional charges until I had a zero balance on both credit cards.
Using the credit as you get is counterproductive and will unfortunately get you nowhere. So please resist the urge.
I know it sounds like easy logic but when you’re in a bind or just really don’t want to spend your cash on hand, it’s easy to act impulsively to remedy your immediate situation. Keep your eye on the long-term goal.
Wants vs Needs
What got me into the situation of losing it all was thinking that everything I wanted was everything I needed.
It took me writing it down and seeing how much I was spending on things that served no purpose other than providing me with immediate satisfaction to see how much money I was wasting.
I was going out to eat with friends, easily spending $40 for lunch but doing this every few days. Meanwhile, I had an electric bill on a payment plan due to its past-due status.
My priorities weren’t lined up and I hadn’t separated my needs vs wants.
I printed off a copy of my bank statement to see what I was spending money on and almost 50% of my income was spent on things that held no value.
I had silly attachments to certain routines that were costing me money that I was able to let go of easily but there were others like my morning Starbucks trips that were harder to talk myself out of.
While these trips were not too costly, they definitely added up. It was a little harder to decide on this since I really enjoyed the experience of getting my mocha and having chit-chat with the servers.
It gave me a sense of community and I didn’t want to lose it so instead of cutting it completely out of my routine, I CUT DOWN.
I now only go on Mondays and Fridays and sometimes it’s just to stop in to say hello.
Instead of going out to eat with friends, we now take turns hosting lunches at home and we each bring something homemade.
It’s about the experience, right? Not what you spend. The money I used to spend when going out now is set up to serve a goal I’m working towards, no matter how big or small. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed myself.
I just no longer felt the need to spend money to have a great time. Some friends didn’t mesh well with this new change, and it was ok. Wish them well and if it’s meant for paths to cross again, they shall.
Setting boundaries for yourself and others
Friends for life, right? One of the many lessons I learned is that most people you meet in life are only meant to be around for a little while.
As we grow into the people we are meant to be, we all start to go down our own paths.
I found that I was overcompensating by spending money when I didn’t want to just enjoy someone’s company even if it threw me off my goal.
You can’t stay on track and try to keep up with what everyone else is doing. Once I saw where the leak was coming from, I started setting boundaries for myself so I could keep a healthy respect for all I was trying to achieve.
That meant politely declining invitations or putting myself out there to suggest a more affordable option if they were open to it.
I never wanted anyone to change anything they were doing or wanted to do because I didn’t want to needlessly spend but I think it’s important to take note of who actually aligns with your way of living and who is just there for the waves.
Those who are there for you and not just for your entertainment will meet you in the middle if possible.
If being part of a destination wedding is just not within your budget and sets back your goals in any way, then don’t feel bad for declining to be part of the wedding party.
If a group of friends wants you to commit to anything you are financially uncomfortable with, don’t force yourself to make a way.
Don’t feel bad for saying no to ensure the success of your goals.
Preparing for more than tomorrow
The one thing my parents used to say to me once I started my very first job is to put up $20 each paycheck and forget about it and repeat.
I didn’t listen to them of course because the reality of adulthood was far in my future at the time and figured I had plenty of time to do this.
I really wish I listened because I would have quite a nice nest egg right now if I did but it’s never too late.
It’s something I started in my mid-twenties, and I’ve forgotten about it so much that I don’t even check the balance except every two years or so.
It adds up and it’s just another savings source for your future if needed.
I like to think of it as an extra layer of protection once I reach retirement age in addition to 401k and social security income or it can be a down payment for your first home when you’re ready to purchase.
Twenty dollars isn’t the magic amount, but it sure makes it affordable and adds up to $100 in a short period of time.
I don’t have all of the answers and I’m definitely not a financial guru, but I do know these changes have helped me immensely and I’m sure if applied, it can work for you too.
I do hope my experience helped you gain some insight into some of the challenges you could face once venturing out on your own.
Remember to take your time and map out your goals. Measured steps are always best.
Please like, follow, comment, and share if you enjoy my content! Peace and love be with you.
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