When money started making sense.

August 17, 2011 § 25 Comments

I was so happy to see the interest in my stock market and finance post. I definitely didn’t always “get money” or even love it.

For me, money used to be completely frustrating… because I felt completely out of control.

Until I realized that I was the master of my own ship and I was leader of my financial destiny I took the money I had for granted and didn’t understand when I didn’t have any.

I credit my father completely with igniting my money sense and teaching me the hard lessons the hard way. I could honestly not be more grateful. Here’s a little story.

Once upon a freshman year in college…

I was 18 – I was living in a dorm – I was in a sorority – I was loving life.

Not college. But you get the point.

My parents funded my college education and believed for my freshman year I should not work, but focus on school. I was given a small amount of discretionary money each month to use as I saw fit. Food, dinners out with friends, drinks…ugh… while studying all night. Riiiight!

[I really wish I had some college pictures to include here – but alas they are all Stateside.]

The money I was given was just enough. [Shopping sprees were not an option!] It was deposited on the 1st of the month and not a day sooner.

One month, one fateful month, I spent all of my money by the 29th. On the 30th a friend was having a big birthday dinner at our favorite restaurant and I obviously HAD to go. Problem : No money.

I called my father.

Usually such a nice guy.

“Dad, (in my sweetest daughter voice) what do you think about depositing next months money one day early? I don’t want more money – just the same money – only one day early.”

His response was clear. “No, Kristen. You can’t just “get” more money when you need it. You have to learn how to manage what you have and plan for the things you want.”

Seriously? My 18 year old self was at a complete loss. No birthday dinner? Not one day early? I was angry. I was mad. There was begging and pleading and tears. But there was no birthday dinner.

I hated the feeling of not being able to do something I wanted. I hated feeling of being out of control and I vowed never to let it happen again.

And thus started my over analytical money watching and my check book balancing down to the penny. I started tracking every stop that the money train made and where and when the dollars got off.

Knowledge is power and I refused to feel powerless again.

I know money and finances are very personal – but money and finances are also universal. We can’t exist without it. We can’t flip on the light switch or eat an apple, we can’t turn on the a/c (sigh!) without the dollar, the euro or the yen.

It was during that first year of college that my father instilled two very important lessons.

  • 1) Always live below your means. If you can afford X, live off of less.
  • 2) Never get into debt. I never had a credit card in college. I know this is different from most. I had to learn to manage what I had before I could even think about spending what I didn’t.

If I heard these lessons once, I heard them a thousand times. And I am proud to say I have followed them to a T. [Aside from mortgage debt.]

My money sense really started with my own control issues. [That’s an entirely different post!] But I now love the world of finance. I have created personal finance spreadsheets to manage monthly money flow and work towards bigger goals. I have no doubt my move to Europe would have been a lot more difficult, dare I say it might not have happened, if I hadn’t been prepared financially.

To quote myself, “I believe you have to live in preparation for great things to happen.”

I suppose I just want to encourage everyone that managing your money is possible. It’s not all rocket science, sometimes it’s just missing out on a birthday dinner. Thank you dad! Seriously – THANK YOU!

  • Side Note: To be clear about my college story I have to mention the following – My dorm was paid for so I had a place to live. Meals were included in my sorority dues so food was always available. I don’t want you thinking that my parents were letting me starve. Even for one day. 🙂

Are there any money lessons you learned the hard way?

What is your best budget tip?

[stock photo source]


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