No Money, ‘Mo Problems [Confessions of a Twenty-Something]
I remember the first time I actually thought about money and what it meant. I was about ten years old. My family and I sat down to dinner, and as per usual, I spilled ketchup all over myself. I grabbed one of my mom’s really nice cloth napkins and began to wipe up the damage. That’s when my dad snapped. He started yelling at me and claimed that I didn’t know the “value of a dollar.” I just sat there dumbfounded. What the hell is the value of a dollar? Why was this a big deal? It was later explained to me that I had just ruined my mom’s nice, expensive napkin—stained it to no end—and my dad was frustrated that I didn’t care. But let’s be real, I was ten! What the hell did I know? I thought the tooth fairy was my sole source of income.
Until a few years ago, I did not know the first thing about handling my money. I didn’t pay attention for a second in Consumer Ed class nor did I listen to my dad’s lectures on “saving money” to “put in the bank”, whatever that meant…I was a teenager. I had a part-time job in high school, but all that money went to clothes and gas and things that really didn’t matter. Once I went to college, I was living the dream. I was spending the quarters my mom gave me for laundry on handles of Skol vodka. Ten dollars here. Twenty dollars there. It didn’t matter! I had no bills to pay, (thanks to my step-grandma’s will that left me enough money to pay for college), and life was good.
Fast forward thirteen years, I’m twenty-three, being as frugal as ever because I’m graduating in a two months with (thankfully) no debt, but also no profit. I’m starting to wonder how I’m going to survive on the money I make right now, and the economy hasn’t been kind to my family. We’re not struggling by any means, but money isn’t coming the way it used to because my dad recently received a pay cut at his job. It’s not easy to save, especially when many of your friends are pretty willy-nilly with their paychecks and you want to do fun things too. It’s also not easy to save when you fall in love with an article of clothing from an expensive store that you shouldn’t be browsing around in the first place. Recently, I was at the mall and came across the most amazing purse in the world. It was $80.00 dollars. That’s eight burrito bowls from Chipotle! (Because I convert all costly items into how many burrito bowls I could eat with the money I’m spending…seriously, I do.)
I know that once I graduate, I’m going to face a lot of decisions regarding money and finances—and that scares the hell out of me. Is this real life, Universe? You expect me to A) go find a job B) go find a husband C) move out and be on my own and D) save up enough money to be able to have a social life/eat three meals a day. Come on, now! That’s just crazy. My friend and I joke about how if our parents were to kick us out of the house right now and we were only allowed to take the things we purchased, we’d be dead within 24 hours. Now, we joke about that, but it’s not far from the truth. I hate to face this fact, but I still like to pretend that I’m a little kid with no responsibilities. I believe that part of me just doesn’t want to face the fact that life is going to catch up to me, and I can’t hide behind my parents (and their money) forever.
As graduation rapidly approaches and my time as a carefree student comes to an end, I need to be more aware of how much I’m spending and if it’s something worth the cost. I do slip every now and then (thanks a lot, $60.00 at that 4 AM bar last weekend), but I think as I begin to face the reality that the “real world” is going to come whether I like it or not, I can start to be more careful with how I spend my money. We’re all struggling to “make it” and have everything we’ve dreamed of since we were little, and I’m learning that nothing comes easy or without some hard work and discipline. My dad taught me an important lesson at dinner that night that my ten-year-old self might not have cared about but my twenty-something self does. It’s time to grow up and save up!
Katie is finishing up her undergrad at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. She enjoys wasting hours on Facebook and tweeting things no one cares about. When asked the question, “Do you do marathons?” She promptly responds, “Of course! Which show?” Follow her @KatieGarrity! Or read her personal blog where she talks incessantly about Ryan Gosling and hummus here!