I would like to think that for our age, Connor and I do pretty well financially. We of course, have our ups and downs and moments of financial stress and penny-pinching, but we always pull through. I was taught at a young age the importance of hard work to earn money and save, which was sometimes difficult as a child when I would want to buy a new barbie doll that day rather than save for a car that I would get in ten years. Nevertheless, I always followed the rule of putting half of what I earned into savings, and sure enough, by my sixteenth birthday, I had a car. It wasn’t the most beautiful and expensive one on the road (read: ’91 Honda Civic Hatchback spray-painted black), but it got me around town and took me to hang out with friends. Something about earning what you have is really fulfilling, which is why I sometimes shake my head when parents go out and buy their children brand new cars for their 16th birthday. I sure as heck won’t! When you earn things yourself, and you take the time and do the work to earn that thing, you treat it better. And even if you don’t, it is still a confidence boost knowing that you did it on your own.
Connor and I are totally on the same page with this, and I think because of that, we do a really good job saving for things that we want, rather than sliding our credit card every time and dealing with the payments/loans later. I think this is pretty cool considering we are living in an age that having 10 maxed out credit cards is normal. In fact, we enjoy the process of saving money. It usually starts with a need or desire for something currently out of reach. Sometimes it is something we both look forward to having (like a house), and sometimes it is something only one of us wants/needs (like a new tool for Connor, or a camera for me). We have multiple savings accounts which are organized and named by things like money for rent and bills, travel, a future house, etc. Depositing cash from a paycheck and separating the money into these accounts, then seeing how much closer we are to our goals is always a highlight. And when we finally reach that goal and get to make a purchase, it is very rewarding. Plus, no future loans to pay off! We are currently debt-free, even after two college educations and a wedding (all in thanks to our wonderful parents), and we don’t plan on having any loans until we buy a house.
I also have learned the importance of sharing the task of managing money. It is very common that one person does the finances and pays the bills, but where does that leave the other person when it comes to understanding where you are financially? And, if you should really be buying that scarf (yup, my bad) or is it a time to only be buying what you need? In our relationship, I usually understand our situation the best because I organize where the money goes from the paycheck to the savings accounts, but Connor is actively involved and informed each time I do so. He is also better at holding me to what needs to be done (“do you really need that scarf right now? you said we were a little tight on money…”). Working as a team keeps us in check, keeps us both excited about saving and the progress we make, and we both reap the benefits of a job well done (he will finally get those tools he has wanted so badly, and one day, we will have my dream house!).
We buy what we can afford, and we keep those long term goals in mind. So many people seem to just not be willing to wait to get that brand new car to show off to their friends, or they just don’t care that they will be giving chunks out of their paychecks for the next 10+ years for something that really doesn’t matter! Sure, I want those nice things too, but it isn’t worth it to me to be financially stressed and in debt to get a good reaction from friends. I hate owing things and being in debt to someone. This is good! I pride myself in knowing that I will never be in debt for something as superficial as a nice car. We will work our butts off to earn it fair and square. And until then, I will drive a decent car that gets me to work and back so that I can save for it. I think there needs to be a shift in our thought processes in order to better analyze what is necessary. So much of that for me comes from goal-setting and working towards those goals.
Connor and I have worked hard to involve these actions into our lives (notice I say “actions” because it isn’t always easy and you constantly have to reevaluate things). Sometimes you do have to make sacrifices today to get to a better tomorrow, but having a balance is important, too. I don’t think you should go the complete opposite direction and starve yourself so you can save some extra money, just as I don’t think you should use your credit card to get what you want, unless you can afford it (I always pay off my credit card before it is due as to not collect interest. I have a credit card to BUILD credit for that “someday” house, rather than DAMAGE it). We live well today, but we don’t live an extravagant life of luxuries. Occasionally, I buy a new scarf (have you got the hint on this one yet?), or we go out to dinner and a movie. We don’t go out and buy a brand new Bentley (this one is for you, Con). You can still live a good life on a little, and truly, those things are usually experiences rather than worldly possessions, anyway.