Learning to Take Financial Control

Growing up, my family didn’t have much money. Vacations consisted mostly of the five of us (my two sisters, myself and my parents) loaded into the station wagon, luggage in the back and driving to Florida or North Georgia or somewhere else within the limit of time that we could put up with each other. I don’t remember my parents ever talking about saving money, I didn’t get an allowance and I was never taught anything about planning for retirement or investing or any of that stuff. It’s funny because I started working as soon as it was legal for me to do so, right at 15 or 16, and I started spending my money as I made it, saving a little here and there but mostly just buying what I wanted or contributing to groceries or, once I had my car, saving for the insurance premiums.

So when I got married at 20, as he was older than me, I thought he knew how to handle money because of his age and expected experience. Boy was I wrong! Didn’t realize I had married a big spender with big dreams and a very modest income. In the end, before I walked out, I was working two jobs just to keep our heads above water and he was spending as fast as I could make it. When I would bring up concerns or beg him to stop spending or demand to know what this or that charge on our credit cards were, or when I tried to set a budget or adamantly refuse to apply for another loan or credit card, the ex was very good at making me feel like I really didn’t understand finances. He would try talking me into things, bullying me, and guilt-tripping me. And I admit, y’all, that there were lots of times when I questioned whether I knew what I was talking about or not.

But here I am, left his carcass over 2 years ago, all my bills paid on time every month, some money in the bank and I’ve even taken the money I got from our house sell and invested some of it. I’m not rich by any means, but I have an awesome credit score and I don’t have this gnawing ache in the pit of my stomach when I get the mail every day or the phone rings or I go grocery shopping. I don’t have a running total in my head to make sure I have enough to buy food. So obviously my instincts were good, and I’m learning more about how to plan ahead for the future and balance what I need or want now for what I need and want later.

The cool part about this is that I am learning to dream for things I want again. Vacations that I never thought I’d be able to afford (and I’m talking like a week at Disney not a two month long European cruise) are not only possible, they might actually happen more than once in my life. Things that I never allowed myself to think about buying or doing, are within my reach if I’m careful and plan. That’s such an awesome feeling! I don’t want so much money that I don’t need anyone or anything. But I am happy to have self-confidence in my abilities to deal with my finances and occasionally spring for something a little more self-indulgent.

I love feeling like I can help people who need it without depriving myself of my own needs. Not that I minded in the past but it’s nice to not constantly worry about it anymore. It’s nice to know that I’m not crazy or a little (and this might not be PC so forgive me if it offends because I’m not trying to) slow and can’t understand basic finance stuff. It’s nice to have the validation that I can take care of myself, mostly, and that just because I’m younger than some people, maybe not as experienced, or I’ve never had enough money to think about whether to invest in the stock market or put it in a CD that I can learn and take control and be in the driver’s seat and come out okay in the end. I will admit that I’m grateful to know how to do without and count every penny, but I’m also grateful that I don’t have to be quite that careful anymore…at least for now. Life is always subject to change. lol

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