Not Spending Money

September 16, 2012 at 10:44 am (Life) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I’ve always been very good at not spending money.

I remember going to the city as a young teenager (13 I do believe) with five bucks and coming back with the same amount. It was a school trip. They took us in to listen to classical music and we must have packed a lunch because I have no recollection of eating out and I think I would have remembered this. I do remember trolling around the mall for a little bit (probably less than an hour) and I remember the flat tire the bus got on the way home. It was a long day.

All the time I was unemployed, I never resoled my rubbers or bought work clothes since I didn’t need them. Since I got my new job two months ago, I’ve spent only two hundred dollars on new clothes. I own three pairs of black pants and ten work shirts plus three sweaters for winter. Thus, I can go two weeks without repeating a look. However, sometimes it annoys me when co-workers point out that I keep wearing the same outfits over and over.

But I not going to run out and spend unnecessary money on new outfits just because everyone else has noticed how unfashionable I am (and always was).

This is what dealing with money feels like to me; like I’m struggling up a long, steep, never ending set of stairs and I’m never going to make it to the top or if I do it will be on my knees, beaten and broken.

I don’t want to feel this way about money.

Everybody praises my money skills. They admire how easy it is for me to live within my means. It’s not easy.

What it is, I guess, is a learned skill. I’ve always (mostly) only spent what I have or know I will have at the end of the month. It didn’t matter if I was making twenty-five cents an hour babysitting (yes, I’m old) or over fifty thousand a year as I am now.

Worrying about money…

Growing up, I didn’t get an allowance. The family allowance my mother got from the government went towards clothes and school supplies. I didn’t have my own money until I started babysitting at thirteen. My mother insisted half of what I made went into a savings account, this was nickels and dimes but when I left for community college six years later I had saved up six hundred dollars. I know, that’s not a lot, not now and not then, but it was better than nothing and it covered my books and first two months room and board.

I was lucky that the rest of the money I earned I got to spend on what I wanted. What I wanted was magazines and books. Thankfully, I got the books for free from the library and most of my magazines cost around fifty cents. So, four hours of babysitting bought me a magazine (remember, I had to save half). Ironically, most of the magazines I bought were considered fashion magazines (Seventeen, Young Miss, Glamour, Cosmopolitan) but back then they covered a lot more than fashion (they had short stories, news, and opinions).

Occasionally, I would buy myself an LP (after making a deal with my mother; to be allowed to buy my first record with my own money I had to get over ninety on my next two quizzes. Easy peasy – when I was motivated) and I also had to save to buy presents for the family. Honestly, I never felt much of a need for make-up, shoes or more clothes.

Back then, when I was young, a grocery store might let you charge groceries until the end of the month but we had not heard of credit cards or did not have access to other means of credit (ie department stories). You wanted something, you saved for it and then you bought it.

I’ve always lived a no-frills life. My phone is basic black with no special features, like call waiting. I only recently got a cell phone and a vehicle (that I seldom drive). I got these mostly because everyone else was concerned about my lack of mobility and perceived safety. I also moved out of the city where it was easier to be without these two items.

All my life, I have struggled between the idea of too little vs too much. I have tried to find a happy medium between too little and too much. I have gotten really good at not spending money. This is okay, I guess.

I knew I would never life in a castle or a place like Fallingwater. I only recently started to aspire to owning my own home but I don’t think I ever will. When I went back to university and acquired a high debt (over fifty thousand dollars – just recently paid off) I ruminated on the fact that this money could have bought me a house in the small town where I grew up (with money left to spare) but the government (who financed my loan) would never give single, child-less me money to purchase a home.

I use to dream of houses, of living in a large, colourful Victorian or a simple cottage by the sea. I guess, at one point, I must have thought I could have all that and more. It would still be nice to have a home with a bay window, an attic (I’d give up having a basement if I could have an attic) and an octagonal tower room (I could be Rapunzel).

When I first went to college when I was twenty, they had us do a Vision chart (see above). I only recently crossed off the third item and at some point, between then and now I gave up on the idea of ever owning a house. Hopefully, before I’m done with this world, I’ll publish that mystery.

Even back then, I didn’t have grandiose hopes.

I have always asked myself; “Can I afford this?”

Even now, when I am finally earning over $50,000/yr, I get nervous when I can’t save a third of it.

I had planed to go into the city next weekend just because. Well, not quite! Word on the Street is next Sunday, it is a book festival and if I were still in the city I would so be there.

But now, now that it will cost so much more, I keep asking myself: “Is it worth it? Can I afford this?”

I’ve always been good at not spending money. What I need to learn is the balance between too little and too much. I need to learn how to spend money!

My favourite kid’s book about money is:

Alexander, Who Used To Be Rich Last Sunday,

By Judith Viorst.

Stay tuned – the conversation continues next week.

1 Comment

  1. howanxious said,

    Oh! That is so very true. I think I am on my way of becoming just like you. Or may be not. Because sometimes I get a little extravagant as well. Money- the problem to all the problems and their solution as well- I hope I knew how to carry out that fine balance between too less and too much.
    I will definitely try the book, you mentioned- may be I will get a word of wisdom from there.

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