I Used To Be Afraid Of Money, But Things Have Changed
My post today is part of the The Road to Financial Wellness Blog Tour. Over a period of 30 days, the Phroogal team will go to 30 locations to raise awareness about financial empowerment. Today they will be in the Boston area! Our goal is to help people learn about money by starting the conversation. We understand that local conversations can help bring about national awareness.
I used to be afraid of money. Not in the sense that I thought it was going to jump out of a dark alley at me, more in the vein of fearing the unknown. Debt terrified me to such an extent that I didn’t even have a credit card until I was 23. Everything related to finance seemed cryptic and complicated to me and I wasn’t sure what to do with money. And so, I saved it. Saving money isn’t the worst default position and I suppose it was smart, to an extent. The problem is that I was saving from a place of fear, not a place of strength.
I Couldn’t Spend Money
I felt as though I couldn’t ever spend anything and I dreaded parting with even the least of my funds. I’d go to notorious lengths in order not to drop a dime–such as sleeping on a yoga mat on the floor of my first post-college apartment in NYC for a month before I finally caved and bought a bed. And even then, I bought the dirt cheapest bed I could find. Naturally, it wore out within a year, which is pretty atrocious considering I was the only person sleeping in it and I’m a rather small person. Hence, I’m forced to confess that I was cheap–stupidly cheap and a far cry from strategically frugal.
As I got older (as in, I turned 23), I finally capitulated to the fact that I needed to become more adept with my financial activities. While eating beans and tuna from cans everyday works for awhile (especially when you’re 22), I acknowledged it probably wasn’t a totally sustainable mode of operations. Don’t laugh, but what I did was read Personal Finance For Dummies and I honestly felt a whole lot better after I did.
The first portion of that book is devoted to paying off your debt and, since I didn’t have any debt, I skipped ahead and started to feel a bit of relief creep in. I learned that I’d unintentionally done a smart money move–I hadn’t inflated my lifestyle one bit after college. In fact, I’d probably downgraded it a step (hello yoga mat bed). In doing so, I’d saved $2,000 of my $10,000 salary while living in New York City. And, I’d circumvented all debt–I’d even paid the $300 in cash for my sad little bed.
Reading that simple, straightforward book gave me the awareness that I wasn’t a total idiot with money and that managing my money didn’t have to be a complicated, fraught affair.
Now, I come to my decision to save from a confident, enlightened position–not one mired in constant anxiety that I’ll be broke. I think I labored under the delusion that my money was just going to march right out of my savings account one day and so I checked on it obsessively (not something I recommend, by the way).
The choices that Mr. Frugalwoods and I make regarding our plan to retire at 33 and live a life of extreme frugality are made with an open and informed mind. I know exactly what I can afford and I just choose not to buy it. I realize that my buying power is far above what I spend, and I’m content in that determination. I finally understand compounding interest, the rudiments of investing, and the wisdom of maxing out my 403b.
Similar to how many people inadvertently spend their way into excruciating debt by fearing and misunderstanding money, I was saving in a painful way. Either scenario connotes a lack of knowledge and both are born of an inability to face reality. I had to own up to my ignorance about money and come to a place where spending isn’t stressful or scary–it’s a measured, thought-out declaration that I make on my own.
Why Is Money Taboo?
Money is one of those things our culture has decided we shouldn’t talk about openly, which I think is ludicrous. It’s the lifeblood of how we all survive (more or less) and yet, we can’t discuss it with each other? I cry folly!
What Personal Finance For Dummies made me grasp is that money isn’t shrouded in mystery and it’s not really all that complicated. The problem was actually with me and my unwillingness to ask for help–not with the money itself. My money was cheerfully sitting in the bank, oblivious to my personal turmoil over what to do with it.
This widely-held belief that it’s crass or rude to discuss money only serves to hinder our own education on the topic. People suffer alone and silently with debt, overspending habits, or a lack of comprehension over their finances just because our culture thinks it’s impolite to discuss. Sure, it’s rude to boast about how wealthy you are to someone who is struggling to make ends meet, but is it really rude to share a great deal you found at a thrift store or discuss sage investing strategies or the beauty of your company’s 401k match? I think not. In the same way that we share recipes with our friends, why don’t we start sharing our money stories.
Money Is Emotional, But It’s Just Math!
In talking with people about money–something I get to do on a regular basis thanks to Frugalwoods–I find that just about everyone has, or had, a hang-up with regard to money. We spend and we save emotionally. For the most part, we don’t see money merely as numbers on a spreadsheet–we conflate it with our self-worth, our self-esteem, our happiness, and our very perception of ourselves. And indeed, money is pretty darn critical to how we operate in the world, but it’s not everything and it doesn’t need to define us.
When we peel away the emotional elements that we often couch our money in, it’s just boring old numbers. As far as I know, there’s nothing intimidating, mysterious, embarrassing, or socially taboo about math. I want you to know that I write this as a person who is certifiably terrible at math, but with spreadsheets and calculators, that doesn’t matter! (Funny story: my math score on the ACT was so low and my reading/writing score was so high that my advisor asked me if I’d fallen asleep during the math section. And when going to grad school, I nearly panicked when I found out the GRE had a math section, but I managed to live through the test and not go into shock. And here I am now talking about money! See? It’s not so bad).
And that’s what money truly is (or truly should be): math. Think about it–if we approach money as a math problem on a spreadsheet (and one that we could ask other people advice about), how much cleaner and simpler would our lives be? When money stops serving as an analogue for self-worth, or an antidote to our pain, it starts to actually work for us. Thanks to this belief, I’m now in control of my money, as opposed to the other way around.
What’s your relationship with money like? Do you fear it like I once did?
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I never fear money, just never had a plan with it. I listened to too many others telling me how to handle it. Get a 30 year mortgage, work for 30 or 40 years until you retire. I fell into the trap of not thinking for myself when it came to money. I finally woke up and educated myself and saw it was just math too!
Having a plan that works for you personally is definitely the way to go. It’s amazing when you realize it’s just math and you can figure it out on your own!
I still sort of do fear it. It’s the debt plus kids situation that makes me over analyze, I think. I don’t understand money like I feel I should but I also know I’m no dummy. I do wish I had more confidence!
You are definitely not a dummy at all! I think you have a deep understanding of money and I certainly vote for more confidence!
I also used to save money largely because I didn’t know what to do with it! I guess that’s an okay position for a college student, but I would get so upset any time life threw a curve ball (or a flat tire or a medical bill) and I had to spend a chunk of it. I finally realized I should just be glad that I had the money, since none of my roommates seemed to be in that position, and realize that money is first and foremost for meeting needs–now and the in the future.
That’s a good way of putting it–money really is for meeting needs. Simple as that! Sounds like we were a lot alike in college 🙂
I definitely did fear money. I can relate to the yoga mat. When we moved to LA, my husband and I slept on a hand me down air mattress. It would slowly deflate overnight and by morning, we would wake up on the hard floor. But hey! No need for an alarm clock! We did upgrade to a futon after awhile.
For me, overcoming the fear of money came with Jesus. We had just moved cross country. It was 2008. I was unemployed. My husband’s brand new job had just issued back to back 20% paycuts in an effort to stay afloat. We had also just started believing in Jesus and going to church, so we were voluntarily give away 10% of our already reduced income. Then my student loans came due. None of it made any sense, but we were completely fine. We kept being able to pay rent and utilities. We kept eating (mostly beans and homemade bread, buy still.) We kept being happier than we had ever been. We even took on non-paying roommates for a few months. The more we gave away, the less we needed. I realized that no matter what happened financially, we would be fine. I laid my considerable money anxiety down at the foot of the cross. I decided that money is a good servant but a bad master.
I guess this is not really a personal finance story. But it is how I moved past a fairly crippling level of money fear.
Tarnkay, Have you ever check out Christian Personal Finance? http://christianpf.com
I think you’ll find some information there that you’ll like.
“The more we gave away, the less we needed.” I love that.
That’s an awesome story, Tarynkay. I love that you came to that realization through your faith! And, you have such a powerful message in there that giving yields so many unexpected rewards.
Love this story! Amen
I also had a huge fear of money, mostly because I knew it controlled me, and, when younger, I couldn’t seem to control my desire to have nice things. Subsequently, I had no money….go figure! It’s taken me way too long in life to come to that understanding of how money can work for you. I was also terrible in math and was always told I’ll never learn to add two and two. Long stories about self-esteem!! But I think there are two problems facing people….1) the fear of the numbers, which can now be controlled with computers; and 2) learning how to control your desires so you can save. For me, the latter was the harder part to learn. I think your posts are spot-on for helping people out there, me included. Thank you for that.
I think you outlined it perfectly–those two problems are probably responsible for the vast majority of money mistakes. I am really thankful that my numbers can be controlled by spreadsheets; it was truly a big hurdle for me just to get past the arithmetic of money. I appreciate you sharing these thoughts!
P.S…again….your dog is funny! I just love her and her poses! She truly has a beautiful, soulful face!
Why thank you ;). She is a pretty girl (and I think she knows it too… )
I have a pretty unhealthy relationship with money, tbh. I stress about it way too much and, in trying to have enough of it such that it doesn’t interfere with my relationships, it totally interferes with my relationships. Maybe I’ll overcome my fear like you did, someday.
I feel your pain–I definitely used to be there. And, I still am to an extent. It’s an ongoing, conscious effort for me to be OK with spending. I wish you all the best in overcoming it, or at least reaching a balance that’s comfortable for you.
The taboo thing is so funny. My SIL and future BIL are buying a house now. We were totally transparent with how much we payed, shared our mortgage amortization table comparison spreadsheet (compares original schedule to actual with principal payments), and they were super excited that they could make principal only payments! It felt great to help someone else figure all this stuff out.
It probably helps that they went to the same college as us, and make similar household income so it’s not like there’s a huge difference there.
Also, we are huge YNAB believers since it lets my wife and I plan how to spend our current money that we have. Mint never gave us that control (was always after the fact). The process is fantastic and I can’t say how much it helps us plan ahead.
It’s nice to see blogs like yours that bring about these types of discussions though. Every time someone sees what you can do, it lets them think “Oh, maybe it’s not as bad as it was in my head!”
Either way, talking about it and bouncing off ideas is the best way to avoid a huge mistake. It’s much easier to course correct early!
Totally agree! It’s such a wonderful thing to be able to talk through financial plans, etc. We have so much we can learn from others! That’s awesome that you shared all of your house info with your family–I imagine they found it incredibly useful.
I still have a bad relationship with money even though I have plenty of it these days. 🙂 It’s hard to part ways with my hard earned dough. I try to think objectively about it and that makes it easier to spend. A $20 expense at the hardware or auto parts store is usually a great way to avoid a $100 charge from a repairman or another service provider.
But I still have those internal conversations with myself. At the end of each conversation I say “We can afford it and that’s what we saved all this money for.” I’m not usually disappointed with my purchases, so I think I’ve struck the right balance between thriftiness and spendiness (for me at least).
“We can afford it and that’s what we saved all this money for.”—that’s pretty much what Mr. FW tells me all the time ;). Sometimes I forget that money is meant to be spent (sometimes).
How many minutes have I wasted agonizing over 7 cents or 11 cents difference between 2 products? Will I ever regret spending those cents while on my deathbed? Good questions to ask yourself occasionally to make sure you’re not going crazy with frugality. 🙂
The subject of money growing up was always taboo. My only example of saving money was watching my mom slip cash in an envelop she kept under her mattress. It took me way too long to create a healthy relationship with money, but I have no regrets. My plan is to cultivate our relationship as much as I can and help make my money grow and then grow some more. I’m actually excited for the future, and have learned that simplicity is what is going to allow my money to stick around in my life in the future.
That’s awesome that you’ve come to a healthy relationship with money. Many congrats to you for that! It’s a wonderful thing to be excited about your financial future!
Terrified of money, I can surely relate! I graduated from high school in 2008. With diplomas in our hands, pride in our hearts, here my graduating class was heading off to college with starry eyes…when sadly, a vast majority around us were hit terribly by the recession. The effects that I did not quite grasp fully until graduating from college in 2013. Since the topic of money is so taboo, families remain silent in the framework of their “keeping up with the jones'” standards. With the outward appearance of shiny cars, manicured lawns, big toys…how could it be possible that such smiling faces are inwardly struggling? I love that you read Personal Finance for Dummies! Heading to the money management/personal finance section of the public library is my absolute favorite (in fact so much, that even though the library is several stories – my fiance always knows where to find me)! There may be quite some cheesy books in the PF realm, but I feel that there is always so much more to learn from different perspectives on money. Since society is incredibly hush, hush about money, seeking knowledge from books and the PF blog realm allows me to learn! 🙂
Ahh yes, the outward appearance of wealth is so prevalent and so often accompanied by a hidden backstory. We just never know! I too take a lot of comfort in the personal finance books and blogs I read–I love getting the honest story on how people handle their money. That’s pretty funny that your fiance knows exactly where you’ll be in the library :)!
I don’t think I ever feared money but I certainly feared not having enough. I don’t think I ever let that fear get in the way of me wanting to spend though, so it was a different situation than yours. I was the same way in math for the ACT test. I’m terrible at it!
I shudder when I think about standardized math tests… ack! Just cannot handle it!
We were the total opposite — not afraid of money, not afraid of spending it, not afraid of debt. Took us some time to see the light and learn to be frugal. On balance, though, we wouldn’t trade our “money heritage,” as we think we have a naturally less stressful relationship with money and don’t have this fraught hesitation to spend on something truly important. But we also envy the naturally frugal every day! 🙂
I like the idea of a “money heritage”! I think it definitely makes sense that we’re all a product of our past experiences with money. And, good or bad, they form how we approach it now. That’s great that you have a naturally stress-free relationship with money!
I don’t fear money, but fear the effects of not managing it correctly. I certainly agree that there is too much “taboo” surrounding talking about money. Money is attached too tightly to someone’s success – if you have a lot of it, you’re successful – if you don’t, you’re not. Which is asinine in itself.
Ahh yes, the effect of not managing it correctly is probably exactly what I was afraid of too! And, I also wish that money wasn’t so conflated with success–it just seems wrong.
I am totally afraid on money! Since graduating college I think I’ve made most of my spending decisions from a place of fear. Now that I’m about to be debt free (this Friday!!) I’m still afraid, just in a new way- afraid I won’t be able to maintain responsible control over my spending and afraid of the stock market. Debt payoff is easy but investing seems so scary! I’m trying to acknowledge it, face it and move on from my fear. Knowledge and action are a powerful fear beating team!
Congrats again on being so close to debt freedom!! That is just awesome!!! Don’t fear this new relationship you’ll have with money! I’m sure you’ve established amazing frugal habits in your debt payoff journey that you’ll be able to translate into mega-savings habits. And, don’t fear the stock market either :). We just do low-fee index funds, which are simple, straightforward and, well, low fee!
I’ve always been comfortable with money and numbers. From taking an accounting class in high school to being an accountant today, it’s always been a subject I’ve been into. To understand compound interest is to love it. And yes, I agree it shouldn’t be taboo. Margie has said as much also, and even though she hardly ever writes on the blog, she’s more likely than me to bring up the topic of money in real life with people, which actually makes ME uncomfortable! But let me tell, you definitely learn something about people when you start talking money! Instead of thinking about someone, “He has a lot of nice clothes, I wonder if he spends a lot of money on them?” You get the real nuts and bolts of the way their decision-making goes. It should be a no-brainer as a topic of conversation. After all, so many of our decisions every day are money-based. And we could all stand to learn more.
Totally agree! So much of what we do is financially grounded in one way or another, and, there’s always more to learn. I envy your accounting brain–I am certainly on the opposite end of the brain spectrum 🙂
I think fear took over in the beginning because of my debt, as you face the music things get a little easier as you gain traction. Today I think I respect and to some degree hate debt, but understand debt and in turn money that much more.
That certainly makes sense as a financial evolution. And, it’s wonderful that you’re in a place where you feel like you understand money better. Definitely where you want to be :)!
Wow, I thought I was frugal (cheap?) for sleeping on an air mattress for 2.5 years http://evolvingpf.com/2011/12/my-beloved-air-mattress-an-anti-debt-story/, but you definitely have me beat with the yoga mat, even if it was only for 1 month!
I don’t think I’ve ever been afraid of money – probably because I’ve always been okay with math. When I graduated from college I realized I didn’t know anything about money so I started learning right away (my first book on the subject, which I often recommend, was Get a Financial Life). That book did instill in me a major fear of credit cards, though! I’m still happy about that even though I use them now.
Sleeping on an air mattress for 2.5 years is pretty hardcore frugal! I’m impressed! Yeah, I am a big fan of credit cards now (used responsibly and always paid off of course 🙂 )–the rewards are simply excellent.
I am thankful that my parents and grandparents really instilled the “money is a tool” idea into me from a young age. Of course, forging my own path hasn’t been easy, and like you, early on I was more afraid of a mistake that it kept me from learning and trying new things. That said, it is truly a privilege to be able to have had that guidance at a very young age.
That’s wonderful that your parents and grandparents gave you such a solid basis for a healthy money relationship. What a great gift!
I’m always scared we will run out of money. Partly due because growing up we never had enough money. The more we increase our savings, the less I worry. When we first started money caused so much anxiety. 4 years later, it’s getting better.
I can imagine that having that as part of your childhood would certainly impact your relationship with money. But, it’s great that you feel like it’s getting better for you–I wish you all the best!
One thing I have learned that what we focus on, we draw to our lives. If we focus on fear re: money, we will either be broke or we will have anxiety on what we do have.
It’s just money! There’s always more of it!
Just focus on being clear about what you want in your life and let go and let God!
Well said! I think it’s very true that what we focus on can become what our life is about.
Yes, I definitely feared money for a very long time. I think it had a lot to do with my upbringing. My parents never seemed to have money so I saw it as something that could be easily “lost.” And since I knew nothing about investing up until a couple years ago and therefore only put money into a savings account, every penny I earned was worked for by me. Not earned by interest or given to me by mom and dad. And I think that made it a lot more personal. Now that I have investments and Mr. FI helping to save, understand and build our money, it’s a lot less scary. 🙂
That certainly makes sense that your money felt personal to you–I think that’s very much how I felt initially too. It’s great that it feels less scary to you now. And, earning interest is such a good thing :).
Thanks for sharing how your attitude toward money changed and how you changed it. I love the “how” especially. 🙂
I think the most extreme thing I’ve heard re: fear about talking about finance was a woman around this area who didn’t let anyone know she lost her job, had debt, was losing her house, etc. Rather than open up and face the truth and ask for help, this sad person killed herself, her husband and her teenage son and the dog. I know that is extreme and most people don’t go anywhere near that far but that is the kind of extreme that the pride and secrecy around PF can lead to if not kept in check.
That’s terrifying! And, certainly a cautionary tale for why it’s so important not to have these societal taboos around money. How sad!
I loved this article, Mrs. FW. I can totally relate and still feel myself struggling with this at times. I was totally paralyzed when I first started making money and it took YEARS to do something other than leave my cash in my checking account. My BF has a different background and is frugal, but follows the IWTY philosophy of spending lavishly on the things you care about. I appreciate when he tells me to “just buy the cherries!” that I’ve been mentally debating whether I need for 5 minutes. Splurge!
Haha, yes! Sometimes we should just buy the cherries!
I don’t really fear money but I definitely fear making the wrong choice about what to do with the money I save, i.e. where to invest. Investing is overwhelming because there are so many options, so many technical terms, so much potential risk and yet such a high opportunity cost to not investing. Even after my MBA I still find investing stressful!
Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head–the cost of not investing is just too high. Much better to take the plunge!
I don’t think I fear money, but I fear that I’m not good with my money, which is why I started paying more attention and monitoring our spending. We aren’t frugal weirdos yet, and maybe we won’t ever truly be… but because I’m paying attention to my money now rather than just letting it ride in auto pilot, I am already losing that fear. 🙂
Sounds like you’re on the right track. I think monitoring expenses is absolutely the first step in any financial plan, so it’s great that you’re all over that.
‘When money stops serving as an analogue for self-worth’ … this struck a chord with me. We do often equate our self worth with our money. It makes no sense but we do it anyway. Money is a tool to get us where we want to go but I have to admit, I once feared it too.
I really like the idea of divorcing money from self-worth entirely–it’s just such an ingrained component of our culture. I agree with you, makes no sense!
Thank you for participating in the RTFW tour Mrs. FW! You rock. I love this post. I am scared of how much power money holds over me. Once I get out of debt I want to be financially healthy. I hope money talks become less taboo and we can all improve our relationship to money and make wise financial decisions.
Happy to participate–thanks so much for inviting me :). I’d love a world where we could talk openly about money and not fear it!
I do not spend one cent on status. I can see why some people like me seldom talk about money.You
never have the same amount of money as someone else,some has more someone has less.I grew up
with a money talker..blah,blah,money,blah,blah.I didnt fear money,per se,but had debt and was kinda
clueless.Reading Your Money or Your Life,and learning from my mistakes put me in good financial
shape when the boss that preferred spendy yes-men debt-slaves laid me off.I had no debt and was getting more frugal (and free!). I retired early !
That’s great you were able to retire early! And, Your Money Or Your Life is an excellent read.
When my wife and I first got married, I definitely had a bad relationship with money. I bought when I wanted when I wanted it and use debt as the means to make that possible. However, it did not take long for us to realize that lifestyle was not sustainable. On another note, glad to know that you are also helping out with the Road to Financial Wellness tour!
I think it’s awesome you were able to transform your relationship with money so completely–very inspiring. And, I was happy to be on the Road to Financial Wellness Tour :)!
I’m actually pretty good at math for a librarian :-).
When I was a kid, I used to love building houses out of Lego bricks. Over and over, build, repeat. Then my favorite computer game was Sim City. Build, grow, repeat. I think I have the same sort of feeling about money–I like the feeling that I am building a little house of it and I find it very satisfying to allocate x dollars to this account, y dollars to that one, etc.
I find that way more satisfying than spending it… Mr. FP does not entirely agree!
I’m with you–it’s much more satisfying to watch the savings grow rather than spending it! I loved building with Lincoln Logs as a kid. Something about those slanted little roofs was fascinating to me 🙂
I love reading your column. When I was 22, I had the benefit of working for a Fortune 10 company and participating in their 401K plan. I also had an emergency fund. However, in my twenties, I didn’t know how much I needed for retirement. I had $5000 in savings and thought that might be enough to retire on someday (ha!). I had no clue. Luckily I continued to save, then in my early 30s I took a personal finance class at work and it was terrific. I understood so much more. I started keeping a net worth statement and updated it yearly to show my progress in saving, then I made a budget sheet yearly to track the outgo. I am 60 now and still do this. When I got remarried at 40 years old, my husband and I took a financial class together. It, too was wonderful. After these financial experiences, I volunteered to teach the personal finance curriculum to middle school students for Junior Achievement for several semesters. I helped the students make budgets, set up checking accounts and even chose stocks with play money. I believe the earlier anyone has a basic personal finance class or book, it will make their life so much easier.
That’s a wonderful journey through money relationships! And, how fantastic that you taught financial literacy to kids–what a great gift to give back. Thanks so much for reading and for sharing your experiences.
I’ve had great and scary relationships with money. I’ve learned a tremendous amount about it in the last year or so, and we’re currently working on our relationship. 🙂
I agree that it’s interesting that money is such a taboo subject in our culture. I’ve obviously fallen prey to this thinking, though, since my personal finance blog is anonymous…
I’m always working on my relationship with money too :). It’s an ongoing process I think.
Great post! I’m still trying to figure out the root of the money issue I’m in the process of shedding – along with the six-figure debt it got me into. I think it has something to do with a panic or compulsion: “If I don’t take advantage of this opportunity (ie. spend this money) now, I’ll lose out.” I am the youngest of five, so maybe there’s a bit of, “Get it before someone else takes it!” going on. Very interesting to note that both overspending and under-spending come from a place of fear.
I think that panic/compulsion to buy that you described applies in the reverse too. In the past, I certainly felt a panic/compulsion to save. The underlying emotions seem to be two sides of the same coin (if you’ll excuse the terrible money pun… ).
I wish I feared money like you did because then maybe I wouldn’t have spent so frivolously in my 20s. My issue with money was that I didn’t understand it. Now that I do, though, I not only feel better about my relationship with it, but I have more of it.
It’s so true that understanding money often seems to lead to having more of it!
We’re retired and living off of SS and military retirement pay. That being said we don’t have any savings and carry a credit card debt. I’m doing what I can to pay this down and I’ve just started tracking our daily expenses so I can get a better idea of where our money goes. Fifteen percent of each check goes into savings which allows us to pay for insurance when it comes due. I don’t think I fear money….just need to be more frugal!
Congrats to you for tracking your expenses! I think that’s the absolute best first step to getting a handle on your finances. I wish you all the very best!
Money talk was very taboo growing up. Dad had a huge gambling problem and was in serious trouble for a long time so it was a tense subject. Gram would scold anyone who talked about money or how much things cost. “It’s not polite!”
Yet when I was a young adult, I did pretty good for a kid without good examples. I did have student loans, but only $13k for 5 years because I kept an almost full time job while being a full time student. I didn’t wrack up any credit card debt. I denied myself fun spring break trips because I did not have extra savings to go and wondered how I could pay next month’s bills if I took a week off from work (I actually thought the place would collapse too). I always kept my check book balanced. I did an Americorps program after college to help off set some of those loans after I finished the service (which landed me in Utah 16 years ago).
In my early 20s I was getting books from the library “The Millionaire Next Door” and “Smart Couples Finish Rich.” So I did have an interest on how to do things right with my money even though I had very little of it then! At the time I had a partner that was the opposite of saving so things were difficult and slow.
I can say though, I was never scared of money. Anti-debt, maybe.
(PS I did finaly get a Mexico spring break vacation when I was 34 and last year of grad school, because I could afford it.)
Wow–you were seriously smart with your money! It’s awesome you were able to forge such a successful financial path without having a solid base for those habits from your upbringing. I did Americorps after college too–it’s such a great program. And, glad to hear you did eventually get to go on spring break 🙂
I love “Personal Finance for Dummies”! I also read it when I started to finally get in control of my money.
Also, the GRE math section…oof, so.hard. I’m lucky I got INTO grad school, despite my terrible quantitative skills!
I felt the same way about the GRE–just glad I survived and actually made it to (and then through) grad school :).
I see money as a tool and enabler of a better life. We live in an incredible age of opportunity where it’s SO easy to make money work for you. The fact that you can hustle in a million different ways in your spare time and siphon that money to investments is pretty incredible.
Seeing money as a tool is a great way to approach it. Removes the emotion and makes it easier to focus on how to make it work for you. You’re smart to see it in that light!
It sounds like you were an extremely responsible young adult, which is really awesome. I wish I could say that I no longer fear not having enough money and that it’s a tool that we use to live the life we want, but I’ve found my outlook on it completely changed once we had a baby added into the mix. It does scare me a bit now just knowing that I’m responsible for feeding a little person and having something happen that completely empties our savings and checking accounts. I’m a worrier though, I’m trying to work on it 🙂
Hah–yes, I’m a worrier too, so I can totally relate :)! But, seems like you’re on the right track and in great shape. I’ll promise to worry less if you’ll worry less too 🙂
Frugal is Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for June 5
“Those who are frugal are unwilling to (lavishly) enjoy the fruits of their labors, so it may surprise you to learn that frugal ultimately derives from the Latin frux, meaning “fruit” or “value,” and is even a distant cousin of the Latin word for “enjoy” (frui). The connection between fruit/value and restraint was first made in Latin; the Middle French word that English speakers eventually adopted as frugal came from the Latin adjective frugalis, a frux descendant meaning “virtuous” or “frugal.” Although English speakers adopted frugal by the early 17th century, they were already lavishly supplied with earlier coinages to denote the idea, including sparing and thrifty.”
Glad to hear frugal is getting its day in the sun!
I used to fear money because it gave me responsibility of handling and managing it well. This feeling came after getting my first salary because I was already independent then. The thought of how I could manage to pay my house rent, food, bills, and a lot more. I just accepted the responsibility wholly and directed to a stage where I gotta budget and do the math.
That’s great you’re in a better place with money now!
Damn. You have probably the opposite story as most folks in their 20s. I think it’s amazing that you were that frugal and learned about money so quickly, thus putting you in a better position for the long-term. My problem was, I never feared money – I spent it when I had it and I followed the basic money concepts I learned from my parents. Yeah, they were some bad moves, but if I didn’t make them, I would have never learned what I know about money now, and probably wouldn’t have gotten formally educated and found a career in money. Life is crazy… we go through ups and downs and make tons of mistakes, but the key thing is learning from them. It’s awesome to hear you learned early on!
The learning experience aspect of youth is certainly helpful! And, that’s great that you took those experiences and learned from them.
I am definitely afraid of money. I fear base spend money. Not to earth shattering results, but I feel better after I’ve spent some. Then feel like I shouldn’t have. I have never had credit card debt until this year. I am paying off $2000 dollars, and while that’s not a lot to some, it is to me. I am currently the only person working in my household. I have a husband who’s in school full-time and a daughter who is a senior in high school. I feel a lot of stress right now, being the sole provider for all of us, so I will spend to feel better. Yeah, I know kind of counter-intuitive huh ;)? Your site has been such a blessing, because I have begun to think about money differently than before. I will continue learning and practicing frugality in my life. I actually know how to be frugal, but get caught up in the “I want…, I deserve…” mentality. Your site actually shifts my mindset to see that I don’t HAVE to buy this or that, I can be happy with what I have. So thank you, thank you!
That’s wonderful that you’re paying off your debt and embracing frugality! I think you’re absolutely right that we don’t have to buy the stuff our culture says we should–totally possible to be content with what we have :). Thank you for reading and sharing!
I love your blog! I’ve been blogging about money saving and frugal living for almost 5 years now. I am so impressed that you guys have been able to save 70% of your income! That is amazing! I live in CA ( not sure where you live but I’m guessing not CA) it’s quite expensive! I’m now a single mom of two under five. Do you have any advice for me? I would like to start this challenge very soon. The not buying clothes is going to be hard but I have be very frugal already in this department. I rarely buy new. Most of my clothes are from yard sales or thrift stores and no one would ever know. I also never buy new furniture or household items. I have reduced my monthly expenses. So the only bills I have now are rent, electric, car insurance ( no car payment paid cash), phone/ internet, and food/clothes/ misc. I would like to do this challenge but I will be going for more like 40% right now and I don’t have a 401K so I will be starting one.