Back in 2018, my husband started this blog and introduced himself. I had a different upbringing than him, and he asked me to introduce myself back then, but I didn’t make the time for it (something about being a first-time mom and going back to work 🙂 ). Now I’m ready to take over the majority of this task, but first wanted to share more about me. You can see whether it’s my post or his by the author listed by the post title.
I’ll come right out with it: I didn’t grow up with an allowance. I don’t have a pretty, neat story like he does. I mostly learned about the value of money through hardships in college, and then I let Rob lead my finances before we even started dating. That’s the quick version; now the long.
I had a check register, and my mom taught me how to balance a checkbook. I found the process fascinating and kept up with it, but it was always in terms of play, not actual budgeting of my money. Quick sidetrack: I remember having a sleepover at a friend’s house with 3 or 4 other girls. I was so excited about my new checkbook and how to manage the register, but we went overboard and I regretted how many checks we used in my checkbook. I hid at the top of the stairs to the basement, sulking in my decision and making it awkward for everyone. Things you wish you didn’t remember, but they always seem to surface and renew that 12-year-old’s embarrassment.
I had chores, but they were expected to be accomplished without payment. Before you feel bad for me, it wasn’t what it seems. My parents were GOOD to us. If I went to the movies with my friend, my dad handed me cash. I used to hang out at the mall regularly. I rarely bought anything other than McDonald’s and candy, but I can honestly say that I don’t know how I made the money to even buy those things (I’m assuming it was related to birthday cards).
I didn’t have a job until after high school. I really don’t know why; it wasn’t discussed and my friends didn’t work, so it wasn’t a thing I thought about. The first I remember it being discussed was right before graduation. I walked through my town’s main street and asked each business if they were hiring. That’s how I ended up working in a bagel shop every morning at 5:30 am. I was paid ‘under the table’ and continued to not understand the value of money and how taxes affect my pay.
During the summer after my freshman year of college, my dad told me that I needed to have a job before I could have a car. I was already back at the bagel store in the early mornings, but it wasn’t ‘full-time.’ I applied to several places, but not many places got back to me. I eventually got a second job working at a catering hall in my town, which took up my Friday nights, Saturday days and nights, and Sunday afternoons. For some reason that I can’t remember, this wasn’t enough to meet “full time job” level of income or hours worked because I then started working at K-mart as a cashier. I worked 3 jobs that summer. At the end of the summer, my dad let me bring his car to school (3.5 hours away). I was disappointed that I thought I’d be getting a new(er) car (disclosure: I expected to pay for it, but I thought the goal here was to prove I could make enough money to support the payment of it, and he’d help me get the car).
I was driving home for winter break, and the car just stopped accelerating up a hill on the interstate. Turns out, second gear on the transmission was shot. My dad said I could pay to replace the transmission and the car would be mine. I didn’t like the idea of having an unreliable car 3.5 hours from my family and was still salty about all the hours of work I had put in over the summer. I decided I wanted a leased vehicle because it didn’t require a down payment (amazing logic…), and I ended up with a Honda Civic for about $350 per month. At the time, I was working at JCPenney for about $5.85 per hour while attending school.
During the school year, my parents told me that they wouldn’t pay for me to live on campus in my junior year. They said either I needed to take a loan out or become a Resident Advisor (RA). Being an RA seemed to interfere with my social life, so I decided to move off campus because then I could pay month-to-month with the money I earned instead of needing a loan to pay a semester’s worth of housing up front. However, it wasn’t easy. All my friends were still living on campus, and I didn’t want a random roommate. I lived on the first floor of a house where my landlord lived upstairs. I couldn’t afford it, but I was determined to make it work, meaning I didn’t turn the heat on. I had blankets though … in Albany, NY. My mom didn’t appreciate finding out that I hadn’t turned the heat on by Halloween, and she started sending me some money. She sent me $100 for 6 months in a row, and that covered my utility bills through the winter.
When I started working, my parents taught me to contribute to my TSP (401k). I put the amount required for full match (5%) because if I didn’t, that would be like throwing away free money. Then they taught me that each time I got a raise, increase my TSP contribution with that difference since I was already living comfortably without it. I followed all of that advice and continue to share that insight with others.
Enter Mr. ODA. He showed up at my office nearly 2 years after I started working there. One night, before we were dating, he asked me my social security number. Odd! He told me I needed to build credit and was signing me up for a credit card that I was to pay off monthly. Multiple people had told me that I should always carry a balance on a credit card to “build credit,” and he was quick to right that wrong. Shortly after we started dating, he had me max out my TSP contributions and start a Roth IRA, and the rest is history. He’s lucky I’m such a quick learner. 🙂