From as far back as I can remember, both of my parents have struggled with money and over-spending. One parent openly was horrible at saving — gambling, drugs, alcohol, and even had “contracts” with loan sharks. Where the other seemed to appear to be a saver, but in reality was just as bad with money. To the point where I would have to give or loan money to cover their shortfalls.
As soon as I found my husband and discovered what a supportive relationship was like, and with encouragement from my therapist, I stopped enabling this destructive behavior. In the end, that parent then turned to my sibling for financial support, and has continued this route even to this day, almost 10 years later.
I have accumulated several thousands of dollars in debt, at least twice in my life. The first time, by being with an abusive ex-boyfriend who was also terrible with money and relied on his well-to-do parents to bail him out of everything. I stupidly became an authorized user on his credit cards to help him with his bills, and when he defaulted, it affected my credit and my bank account.
I can’t blame him entirely, it was my fault for making horrible decisions. To escape the abusive and controlling relationship I was too afraid to leave, I would go shopping with the parent who, in passing, helped me spend $200-$500 a weekend on useless items I did not need.
By the time I met my new boyfriend, now husband, I had over $50,000 in credit cards and a car loan debt. Other things happened in my life that contributed to this, but it’s a long story.
To help me recover from my debt, we moved to a smaller place with less amenities, which was a struggle (no parking, no kitchen, you get the idea). He then taught me how to triage my credit card bills, to pay the ones with the highest interest and lowest balances first, and consolidate the loans as time went on.
Within two years I was able to pay all of my debt and have the wedding of our dreams.
Although I was making more money, it did not help that my habits stayed the same. My spending on frivolous items, clothes, makeup, lash extensions, pedicures, manicures, eating out, was a constant staple in my life and I found my health and bank account began to decline.
Don’t get me wrong, I do have some positive money experiences that occurred, at this time we also just closed on our first home.
Unfortunately, I got a strange and embarrassing medical condition that prohibited me from being able to work around people. I lost several jobs, and was unemployed for a few months. I received some unemployment, but it did not cover all of our monthly bills. The timing was not the best as my husband was working part-time and in school, all while caregiving for his elderly parents who had serious health conditions.
This was the start of the second time I went into debt, not counting our mortgage. I racked up another $25,000 during this period in credit card debt alone and had no savings.
After a few months, I thankfully found another job, more supportive as far as flexibility due to my health, but a drastic pay cut to what I was accustomed to earning.
Thankfully, today is the first day I am totally free of “old debt”!
It took me almost four years to pay the debt off the second time around. It was different because we had a mortgage and I became a mom, but I did it. I should say, my husband and I did it, because he contributed several thousands of his own savings to help me reach this goal.
I share this because I hope my experience helps to remind my fellow excessive spenders and saving-challenged to be conscientious of their spending as best they can.
When my son is older, I plan to teach him the following I have learned. Please note, I am in no way a financial advisor or expert, this is just what I plan to do with my family from my own experience. We will teach him:
- The value of saving his gift-money. Whether it be via a piggy-bank, taking him physically to bank to show him how to deposit, or online.
- The value of having a ledger and tracking your savings and spending.
- When he starts a job, to automatically save at least 10%, then pay bills and have fun.
- When he wants something, like a new PlayStation or bike, he is going to purchase half of it with the money he has saved. My husband and I will pay the other half until he gets his own part-time job in high school. Then he will need to pay or save for his goal item all on his own.
- The value of stocks and crypto.
- The value of investments in real estate.
- The value of starting a retirement account.
- The value of passive income, residual and generational wealth.
- The value of saying “no” to himself and others, and to be okay with it, because you can’t help anyone, unless you help yourself first.
What he won’t know ~ we plan to do the following to help him have a head start:
- We plan to open a credit card and make consistent purchases and payments (in full), even though he is just a toddler. This is so he can have a long standing history of good credit, even before he starts his own job.
- The money he gives us to pay for half of his “goal items” will be saved. When he graduates college, we will give him the lump sum to help with a down payment for his new home.
These are fluid lists, but it is basically what we plan to do so he won’t make the same mistakes we did. It also serves as a reminder of how far I’ve come, and how much I have learned and still need to learn. A blueprint of our family’s financial goals, because I plan to only have abundance from now on. And I wish the same for you. Aloha.