Dear Maureen….let me tell you some things about money.
I wish I had written that letter to myself and included all the lessons I never learned.
You know the old adage, “if I only knew then what I know now.”
I would have saved myself a ton of problems, a heap of debt and a lot of financial pain.
You see, I’ve been poor. I’ve been rich. I’ve lived paycheck to paycheck. And I’ve been comfortable – my new definition of wealth.
I grew up poor and was fortunate to marry someone who was rather well off. After we had divorced, I lived as though I was still married and soon found myself living hand to mouth.
But, I was determined to move up the ladder and get a high paying job, which I did. I was pretty well off until a string of bad decisions brought me to the point in my life where I found myself poor again.
During those times that I was well off, I wish I had done a few key things differently. It would have made an enormous difference in ensuring I never got to the poor later phase of my life.
Things I’d Tell My Younger Self About Money If I Could Go Back In Time
DON’T USE CREDIT CARDS TO MAKE YOURSELF FEEL BETTER
I learned at a young age I could make myself feel better by making purchases I could make myself feel better by making purchases. In the beginning, I would spend my entire paycheck on things I felt I needed or just had to have.
Eventually, I applied for my first credit card. It was an American Express; the kind you had to pay off each month. Of course, that didn’t always happen, and when I could no longer keep up the payments because my purchases were more than I could afford in a month, I graduated to a revolving credit card.
I say that like it was a good thing – like I just graduated with honors! But at the time I did think this was a good thing. I thought I was becoming an adult with credit cards and the spending habits to go along with them.
Over the years, my spending habits and corresponding debt rose and rose until I had amassed so much debt I was drowning in it.
It took many years and a lot of self-reflection for me to see how the ways in which I used credit cards was a replacement for what I was missing in my life.
Denial was my best friend; it helped shield me from all the ways in which my spending habits were detrimental.
When I finally hit rock bottom, I got my head on straight and found new ways to fill my needs that had nothing to do with spending money and creating debt.
REMEMBER YOU’LL WANT TO RETIRE SOMEDAY
When you’re young and naive, you think you’ll live forever. You don’t understand how much the clock is ticking and that you’re heading for your twilight years.
But, the reality of life is we all get old, and when we do we’ll need the resources to live out our life, hopefully in comfort.
Because I didn’t fully understand the realities of life, I thought I had plenty of time to save money.
But life moves fast and, coupled with my bad decisions, I wasted many years not saving the money I’d need for retirement.
Fortunately, I’ve course corrected and have been on the right track with fully funding my retirement. But it’s been difficult to think about the time and money I wasted on stupid things and how I could have seriously jeopardized my retirement.
STUFF IS JUST STUFF
When I was 21, I gave birth to my daughter Carrie. For the first five years of her life, I was a single mother.
During those beginning years, due to feelings of guilt, I would usually overspend and make way too many purchases. Christmas and birthdays were opportunities for overindulgence.
She would often tell people; I’m spoiled but grateful.
After I had married, it was a little better controlled, but once I found myself divorced, those feelings of guilt crept back in and my spending ways dramatically increased.
Instead of cultivating opportunities for us to be together doing things that were free or low-cost, I often would take her places that were quite costly. I felt like I needed to splurge all the time to make up for all the guilt I had for divorcing her father and taking her away from a pretty good life.
Unfortunately, I taught her some terrible money habits and worked diligently to help her correct her course and change her relationship with money. But it’s a process, and she has her own money journey to take separately from mine.
Today, I make a conscious effort to spend time with my family in ways that don’t cost an arm and a leg. We spend time together hanging out, watching a movie, Sunday dinners, going for walks and lots of other ways that don’t end up costing a fortune.
EXTRA INCOME DOESN’T HAVE TO BE SPENT
I was never good at saving money when I was young and so whenever I got money for my birthday or a pay raise at work my mind would start formulating a spending plan.
My mother would often say I spend money like a drunken sailor. I have always been pretty good at saving money, but whenever I got extra money for my birthday or a pay raise at work, my mind would automatically think: Yay, now I can get
But here’s the thing: money doesn’t need to be spent. Instead, I’ve learned to save for a rainy day or to invest and watch it grow.
This doesn’t mean I’m a stick in the mud and that I don’t have any fun. Fast forward and my mind has shifted from spending it on things, to saving and investing it instead.
$100 IS NOT A REAL SAVINGS ACCOUNT
Back in the day, I had such a B-A-D relationship with money. I stupidly thought having a $100 in savings was pretty good. I had a few bucks tucked away if I needed a few dollars for a night out on the town or a new pair of shoes.
The real meaning of a savings account was not lost on me when I lost my job in 2003 and almost lost my home to foreclosure.
Over the next several years as I struggled to build a business and keep a roof over my head I learned the real meaning of financial hardship and the importance of having a substantial savings account.
Lucky for me I survived it all, kept my home and my business grew.
One of the best ways to bust your scarcity thinking is by giving.
It doesn’t have to be a ton of money, but by giving to one’s charity of choice, you activate the process by which when you give you get back two fold.
What I’ve learned over the years is when I freely give, even in tough times, somehow I’m able to find exactly what I need to make ends meet.
Related: My Financial Freedom Checklist
BE SATISFIED WITH WHAT YOU ALREADY HAVE
Looking to become less materialistic?
People who are most grateful don’t suffer from ‘I can never have enough’ syndrome.
People who appreciate what they already have are less likely to fixate on getting more. Plus being grateful and less materialistic enjoy greater life satisfaction. Ya!
Related: 6 Ways To Be More Content
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to go back in time and course correct?
But we learn from our mistakes and without the errors, we wouldn’t be able to reflect in a way at ensures we truly learn from the past.
Using these 7 strategies you can prevent yourself from making some of these same mistakes. Now you’re armed with the knowledge to ensure you’re treating your money wisely.
MY FAVORITE MONEY-SAVING TOOLS
EBATES: Want to earn cash back when you shop online? Ebates acts as a shopping portal offering coupons and cashback from over 2,000 online stores. I always check on Ebates first whenever I shop online! You can join Ebates for free and get a $10 welcome bonus when you sign up through this link.
DIGIT: Like the idea of saving but need something automatic? Digit is the perfect solution if trying to automate your savings strategy. In essence, what Digit does is use an algorithm to detect spare money and then transfers it to a secure savings account – so you’ll always have something to fall back on. Sign up for free!
GROCERY BUDGET MAKEOVER: Is your grocery budget giving you a serious kick in your families spending plan? Grocery Budget Makeover helped my family slash $6,000 a year from our food bill! Learn more about how Grocery Budget Makeover can help you save money too!