I remember the first time I tasted financial freedom. I was a year or so into my first full-time job and I had finally gotten the hang of budgeting and covering all of my needs. I had a plan to repay my student loans and build my emergency fund, so I could finally save toward something I wanted with what was left over. That was the moment when money became not just frugal but fun to me. Because all of my bases were covered, I had the freedom to choose and pursue my next goal.
When my husband and I first met, I was a graduate student working about 15 hours/week and living as frugally as I could. He was an art student who also worked full-time at the front desk of a hotel. I kid you not, when we met I thought my husband was rich. He lived in a 1-bedroom apartment — by himself, with laundry in unit! He even had cable TV. Seriously, what more could you want? I was living in an apartment near my school with a roommate, uneven floors, and laundry a parking lot away. To me, he was the paragon of adult living.
Have you ever heard someone say “money is just a piece of paper”? I get where they are coming from – it really is just a piece of paper. But what it represents and the power that we give to money can make it so much more (or so much less). Much of how we view and use money is forged in our early years by watching the people we love handle it. We take on the positive behaviors they taught us, but we may also bring with it their fears, anxieties, and blind spots about money as well.
When money comes your way — whether that’s a paycheck, side hustle income, or an unexpected tax refund — what’s your first instinct? How you answer may say a lot about your money personality. Are you a saver, spender, giver, or acquirer? You may be just one, or a combination of two. No money personality is better than the other; each has strengths and growth areas.
It may help to think back to how you handled money growing up. As a kid, I can still remember the joy I experienced as I gave part or all of my babysitting money away. I know — I was a pretty odd kid! But it always came back to already having all of my needs met and wanting to use my money to help others.
A few weeks ago, the lovely career coach, Lisa Lewis, interviewed me for her blog series about money. During the interview we got to talking about whether or not you can ever have enough in savings. The desperate pursuit of the elusive “enough” too often leads people to live in fear: fear of spending too much, fear of giving away too much, fear of not having enough to support themselves and their family.
I was cleaning out my pantry this weekend. Literally every time you opened the door, something fell out — seriously, so embarrassing! As I began to reorganize the items, I realized pretty quickly that 1/3 to 1/2 of what was in our pantry was actually expired. As I piled up the items to be recycled and thrown away, I was filled with regret: for the food that was never made, the money we wasted, the fruitless labor that went into making the items I was so carelessly discarding, and the many people who go hungry every day across the world.