First Step: Financial Awareness

12 Mar

The first two years my husband and I lived together, we didn’t have a budget. We each had our own accounts and took turns paying the bills. If I paid rent one month, he would pay it the following month. If I was paying rent that month, he was paying all of the other bills. We each paid our own credit card bills from our own accounts. I was responsible for paying the bills from each of our accounts. We lived moderately but spent money regularly. Friday night? Time to go out with the co-workers. Want a new video game console? Pick-up that PS3 because you can.

We didn’t make a lot of money but we were comfortable. We each worked full-time. We paid our bills, paid for cable television, bought our new (used) car in total, paid for our vacations—we didn’t have to really make an effort to save for these things. We were still able to save some money, didn’t really have any debt and essentially, we were fine.

So when I left my job, we had a cushion. We had some savings. We had two months of pay coming my way. I wasn’t panicked.

But then two months came and went. I didn’t have a job yet and a sense of dread started to come over me. How were we going to pay the bills? How were we going to live in an expensive city with our income completely cut in half? I applied frantically to everything and anything—even jobs that were only $10/hour and part-time. I didn’t care anymore. I felt a sense of desperation that I could barely contain. I just wanted a job.

It was at that point that a sense of monetary awareness sprouted within me.

We immediately slashed all of our spending. We didn’t need the cable television so we turned in our cable box. We didn’t need to order take out all of the time so we didn’t. We didn’t need to buy snacks so we bought our essentials. We didn’t really go anywhere or do anything for a few months—we only did it if it was free. We were able to cover our bills with only my husband’s income. We didn’t save any money and we probably lost a little bit but we were okay.

This was when I realized how much money we had been wasting. We were never big spenders but we were regular spenders. If we wanted something, we bought it. Obviously I’m not talking about extravagant things but everyday things that add up without a second thought: meals from the Chinese store, a cup of coffee from my favorite place, drinks after work, a new video game—anything.

Thankfully, one morning when I couldn’t sleep, I received an e-mail from Monster about jobs that applied to me. By six in the morning I had applied for a job that I eventually got. At first it was just busy work that didn’t pay much but eventually it became more. This became my first experience in the field that I am in now. I started to kick myself about how much money we had wasted the first two years we lived together. Then I realized there was no reason to kick myself; I was in the process of learning the lesson I was supposed to learn about money.

And that was only the beginning…

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