Sunday, November 1, 2015

Simpler Times-Perhaps: Part 3, Money

Besides babysitting and corn detasseling jobs, my fist job was as a cashier in a grocery store starting my junior year of high school. Suddenly I had a regular stream of "real" money coming in to buy clothes, go to movies, out for dinners with my friends, put gas money in the car, and buy cassette tapes.  I was living the high life on that $3.35 an hour.  When by the end of summer I realized I had virtually nothing to put in my new bank account, I wised up and decided I needed to decide between needs and wants, and even within the needs, how much to spend. The clothes I bought before my senior year of high school were probably the last clothes purchased other than my prom dress, my bridesmaid dress for my sisters wedding, and my own wedding dress until I had to buy maternity clothes five years later. I had gifts of clothing, and perhaps replaced underclothes, but nothing else. I had clothes, and decided at that point that while clothing was a need, keeping up with the latest style was a want that was very low on my list.

I also decided at the end of the summer, after my family hosted a French student, that I would like to go to France the following summer. While it was a want, it was the only want I was determined to make a priority. I made a super tight budget that allowed no more than one fun activity with friends a week, and if the plan was something out of my price range, I often opted out, or joined up with them later. I broke that resolve once to celebrate graduation with Rick Springfield concert tickets. Heck, if Doctor Noah Drake was going to be in town, I was going to be there. I took every extra shift I could and I still fit in a babysitting job every once in a while to supplement. I saved every penny of graduation gift money towards my goal of France and college, accomplishing the trip and had enough for my first quarter of college. Then I worked to rebuild my bank account. 

Despite what I feel was financial success, it was so much simpler to create a money plan when it was only me, myself, and I to worry about. Living at home, I had a roof over my head, and a well stocked refrigerator. Reality came when I decided to move on campus, and then later off campus, no longer under the security of my parents income. Wile covering tuition and commuting costs were doable on my first grocery store job, and then waitress job, adding housing and meals became trickier. It became more so when the restaurant got a new manager and she decided my weekend only shifts were not fair to the other staff (even though no one else regularly could work all Friday night and all day Saturday), and cut those hours. Simplicity got more complicated. I stopped attending college full time and got an assistant teaching job. Engaged now, I was also saving for a wedding and to buy a house. 

We were back to simple budget basics 101. With the addition of the kids, and needing a bigger house-a need since house number one was a 640 square foot one bedroom for four of us, every dollar was accounted for. My overdraft mishap from a few days ago would never have happened then. Still, while the budget plan was simple, it was not simple to maintain.  It was draining having to think through every purchase, and do the math in my head in the aisles in the grocery store.  Every freebie sample I could get my hand on for baby products was squirreled away, just in case money came up tight.  

Still, we were better off than many, as during year one of our marriage, pre-kids, our tiny house came with a tiny mortgage, cheaper than we could have rented. DH got loads of overtime, and the old manager at the restaurant came back, and gave me a few shifts on weekends when DH was working. This allowed us to build up a nest egg, allowing me to keep taking college classes, prepare for the baby, and eventually let DH leave a job that while paid well, left him no time with us.  He took a regular schedule job in his field, starting from the bottom before DS's first birthday. He earned more over time and I now was teaching, so when DD#2 came, we were just able to make the budget balance, and move to the new house where we still live today. Yes, the early years were simpler, but they required financial acrobatic skills that quite frankly, I may no longer have the mental energy to handle. 


  1. They required different financial acrobatic skills. I remember getting my first calculator, which was about the size of a brick, and struggling to use it - (I had just become a civil servant and not using it was not an option) but these days financial spreadsheets or even specialised financial software are available.

    I think your point of "me, myself and I" is very valid. To be honest even though I have only myself to worry about finance just is more complicated as one grows older and one has responsibility for running a house as well as a wardrobe and a social life. I think it would be wonderful to have someone to talk to about financial priorities as financial planning can be a very lonely task but I have no-one but myself to blame if things go wrong. (And no-one else to blame me!)

    But I think one of the most important things is that if Doctor Noah Drake (and I haven’t got a clue who he is/was) is in town, you still should have the possibility of going to see him (if he’s that good). Needs are of course the most important, but satisfying the odd want is life-enhancing.

    1. The household stuff and planning for retirement do complicate things more, don't they? Ha ha, Rick Springfield was a rocker in the early-mid 80's from Australia and had a role on the popular General Hospital. We all wanted to be "Jesse's Girl" as he sang about in 1984!

  2. We lived similarly in our early years of marriage. There was no room in the budget for anything other than necessities, so that is how we lived. We were in college and all of our friends were equally broke, so all entertainment had to be free. College is the best place to be broke because there are free things to do all over the place and we did them. I mean who woudnt want to go see a Planet of the Apes marathon in a gym? Funny but looking backwards it was harder yet easier living.

    1. Right, and no one had spare money so a banner night was watered down quarter beer night (before 9:00) at a club.


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