I’m swearing off buying anything for a while (save food; it’s winter here and I don’t have a greenhouse). Between the various sets of (long-distance) grandparents with Christmas and my son’s birthday, we’ve been inundated with stuff. The New Year also tends to bring out the worst in my spending habits; I want to start the semester off “right” by indulging a little bit on me before things gets insane. Only a bit always turns into a lot.
I’m not very good with money. I saved as a child only insofar as I was able to pay for swimming. It was hard to save anything for college personally if I wanted to keep swimming and my family hadn’t saved anything either. It was just assumed that I would get student loans. So I did. When student loans showed up at the beginning of every semester, it was like winning the lottery. I paid tuition, books, and board and then had money to spend however I wanted.
And then I got credit cards.
No one intervened and said maybe I should save or that I should be smarter with my money. In fact, I behaved in exactly the way I had witnessed in my own home. But I reassured myself that I was going to graduate on time with great job prospects. I didn’t worry and just enjoyed the ride.
And then I decided to go to grad school.
The feast and famine cycle continued unabated. The beginning of the semester became the feast period to stock up on food in bulk, new clothes, and whatever else I wanted. I figured I had worked hard in school, so I deserved something for myself. It got worse as all of my friends who didn’t go to grad school started to make real money themselves.
Trying to do a budget didn’t help; all it did was depress me into spending more money because, hey, I was going to be broke anyway, so why not enjoy myself if only for a moment. As the reality of the academic job market began to set in, I got even more despondent and thus even more careless with my money.
But, thankfully, this story has a relatively happy ending. My husband and I both have jobs. We are able to meet our expenses (which include a lot of credit card and student loan payments) and still have a little left over at the end of the month. It helped that we moved to a house that is properly insulated and so we aren’t paying an obscene amount in utilities (in fact, that’s pretty much where any and all the wiggle room has come from). But my, our, bad financial habits still remain.
But it’s not just my bad habits I have to contend with. My family is now in a much better financial position than they were when I was growing up, and thus they generously lavish my kids with lots and lots of stuff because they can. It’s also to help us out, as it means we don’t have to worry about spending too much on our kids. But, then again, our kids are also learning that money, apparently, grows on grandparents.
So we all have some hard habits to break. And it starts by not buying any more stuff.