I know I spent a lot of time writing about high school and colleges jobs, but they were very important. Money has been a stressor most of my life. I grew up in an upper-middle-class home, where as far as material things go I could not want for anything. However, once my parents separated the financial comfort my family all knew was suddenly gone. Now that same money needed to support two households on Long Island. I was sort of able to grasp that back then and even more so now knowing what it takes to run a household.
I applied to colleges not really understanding the weight of the cost of college, even back in 2001. My parents were able to cover ~$10,000 a year, I had some scholarships, and I took out loans to cover the rest. What I didn’t anticipate was things like the cost of textbooks, food not covered in your mail plan, fun money, etc. I had a work-study job that I worked ~15 hours a week, but just at the story goes, I applied for a credit card (and got a free t-shirt for doing so) my freshman year and that’s how I paid for my textbooks and other spending money. Thankfully I was a Resident Assistant my last 2 years of college and only had to take out small loans those two years. I even chose a graduate school program mainly because it was FREE and I got free housing, a meal plan, and a small stipend. When those first round of school loan repayment bills came in 6 months after I graduate with my Masters in November 2007 I was scared. In fact, the last day I spent with my Dad was heavily based on him trying to ease my concerns about money.
Now don’t get me wrong I made some not so great financial decisions like buying not one, but TWO new cars, one at 17 and one at 23. Actually, I leased the first car at 17, which we were able to turn in early – why my parents allowed this, to begin with, I’ll never understand. I also traded down my second car for a used car and cut my car payment in half after 2.5 years. I also lived alone from 23-29 because living in a college town and having a roommate didn’t seem like a socially acceptable option at the time. Plus wasn’t living alone and paying your bills “being an adult.” I’ll file this under elder millennial problems, it’s a different world these days, a more fiscally aware world. It wasn’t until I moved to outside DC and got a roommate that I was able to get a better grip on my finances. It’s easier to cut back on bills that aren’t rent!
I’ve made so many decisions around money. And yet I was ALWAYS juuuuust behind on money. It’s a mo’ money, mo’ problems kind of world. These days I have a grip on anticipated spending and bills, but it’s those car repairs or vet bills that can stress me out. Also, all the expenses of home ownership and renovations are no joke! Even with a good salary and a side hustle, I’m never comfortable. I’m not behind, but I’m not comfortable. I think part of my stress around money is that I have no financial safety net in the form of a parent and haven’t since they split. I never got to make a dumb financial decision and get bailed out. I bailed myself out every time, even if it meant pawning things to pay a vet bill – true story.
I can’t write about money without talking about why we are dragging our feet wedding planning. I also have no one paying for a wedding. The unnecessary pressure I get from people, especially coworkers who don’t even matter yet make off-hand comments about “my fiance of 5 years.” Honestly everytime I think about tapping into our rainy day fund and spending money on something wedding related, it rains. We don’t want an outlandish wedding, but we want to do the wedding we want to do, eventually. Right now we have no plans to head down to city hall and get married on paper and no set wedding plans either. We have ideas and dreams, but to save and then spend all that money in a swoop in a going to be a hard pill to swallow. I need to win some wedding contest. I applied for one once, maybe I should get back on that.