Why weren’t we scared of approaching our twenties as many are entering their thirties?
Simple. We did not understand that becoming an adult has a dark side. As children, we would ask our parents for money and presents, but we did not understand the value of the dollar. Or why our parents would complain about those half empty bottles of water that are piled up around the house.
When our parents would say “I don’t have the money”, we would assume they were lying because there was money in their wallets/ purse.
Parents made life seem seamlessly perfect. Television made it look easy to work anywhere and live a glamorous lifestyle. The movies made people believe that success will come within a few months based on a 90-minute film.
It all ends happily ever after they say. Become a grown up, no one will ever tell you what to do they say. HA! Here was my first experience with adulting.
My mother has always advised my sister and I to never join the military without a degree. Well, because I was rebellious, I decided to go to college for a year and DROPOUT by means of military enticement. Why not? I was finally 18. I am legally independent.
When I broke the news to her, and basically insulted her with the “I’m an adult now”, I actually saw her heart broke. That did not feel good. Disappointment sprawled across her face like a child whose parents forgot her birthday. I did not care. I thought I won. “Ha, your youngest baby is an adult now, you have no jurisdiction, hahahaha!!!” Her attitude shifted quickly from “I can’t believe this” to “Who don’t hear does feel” (Caribbean mothers love this saying).
I thought I was going to be rich! They signed us up with military bank accounts with awesome perks. We were not allowed to touch that money until we graduated so I knew I was going to be STINKIN’ RICH!!!
When I was finally able to see the commas in my bank account. It was only $1,000. They were paying us but also deducting for pretty much everything from our G.I. Bill to the room and board. Also, I was not being paid for my rank. I was livid. I guess they explained this in the beginning but I did not listen. RULE NUMBER ONE: ALWAYS LISTEN FOR THE FINE PRINT.
A few months have passed and I am in “A” school. We were still in barracks and had more freedom, so I was splurging every chance I got. Remember, I am getting paid enlisted pay. Pay day is every first and the fifteenth. I have 14 full days to make that money stretch. I did not have to pay for food, rent, light bill, car, or insurance. I had five hundred dollars every two weeks for whatever I wanted. So I acted responsibly. I put my money in an interest bearing account and bought stocks.
HAHA! PSYCH! I blew it at the mall. Buying clothes that were cheap quality and plastic shoes that cut into my feet. I ate out every day. I signed up for every credit card because my credit was A1. I also took out two loans just because they said the military always gets approved. Guys take note, I STILL DID NOT HAVE A CAR. I bought a $900 tennis bracelet and a matching $800 ring. (Both items went M.I.A. within the year)
I bought things that did not matter.
One day I was out on liberty with one of my shipmates and of course I tried to show off at Victoria’s Secret. Why not, I had a $500 credit limit. That card declined. Apparently when you pay the bill late, they drop your limit to ONE DOLLAR! I tried another credit card, but that was maxed out as well. Last resort was my debit card. Swiped. I tightened my sphincter and wiped sweat off my brow as I held on to my last chance of saving face from this embarrassment. INSUFFICIENT FUNDS! DECLINED! NO MONEY!
This just could not be right. I am a sailor, I cannot be broke! “WE GETS DAT MONEY”! I pulled out my pink sliver, which was the smartphone at the time, and called my bank. My account was OVERDRAWN four dollars and will be accruing a twenty-dollar overdraft fee. I could have sworn I had money. RULE NUMBER TWO: ALWAYS CHECK YOUR BANK ACCOUNT BEFORE AND AFTER SPENDING.
I was bummed. I stayed in my room for the weekend. I had nine more days until payday. I was broke like a joke. My friend came to my room and said in these exact words, “Hey girl, I’m going to Burger King, you want something to eat?” HELL YEA!
That drive took forever but we finally made it. There I was, staring at the menu. I could smell the fresh fries and the juicy burger as we approached the window. There was so many options, I did not know what to get. She ordered her food. It sounded great, I think I might just get the same thing. The cashier asked “Anything else?” As I opened my mouth to order, she said “NAH! That’s it for the first order.” WTH???? She damn well knew I did not have money. What was I going to do?
I did not want to look like a bum. I had to think fast. “Girl never mind, they smell like they ain’t change their grease.” I could have killed her. Now I thought we were going back to base so I would be in time for the mess decks, instead she parked her car up and tortured me as she ate. She chewed slow. I tried not to look but all I can do is imagine the taste of the double cheese, double meat, caramelized onions. My mouth started watering again. Every time she chewed, I swallowed. She did not finish the meal. She began to ask if I wanted it, but then she said “oh I forgot you don’t like the grease”. Me and my big mouth! RULE NUMBER THREE: NEVER LEAVE THE HOUSE WITHOUT MONEY.
From that moment on, I vowed to myself: TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE.
These are the rules/ goals I have made to never suffer again.
- Budget wisely. If you do not need it, don’t buy it. Just because everyone else are wearing it, it does not mean you need it. Also, pay yourself. My formula is 10%= tithe, 25%=save, and 65%=Bills and spending. Never fails.
- Save for a rainy day. Your account is at a surplus. Why not add to that? Take a step further create an emergency fund, get a 401k, invest in the stock market, get an IRA. INVEST IN SOMETHING.
- Always check your bank account. Do Not Get Caught with Your Pants Down at the register.
- Any job is better than no job.
- Be resourceful. Use coupons and sign up for FREE rewards programs.
- Avoid risky loans. Especially on items you need, such as your car or your home.
- Learn about your bank procedures. This can help you save money and you may have a credit limit available to you.
- It is okay to turn down something because you cannot afford it. We are not in the third grade. Do not get peer pressured out of your money.
After learning these life lessons, life went a bit more smoothly. I did hit a few snags which will be discussed later on in another post.
I am super excited to turn thirty in a couple years. These life lessons are always something I can count on. Now I can appreciate what my parents have been trying to teach me.
Thanks for reading.