I grew up lucky. My family always had food to eat and a place to live, and I knew I could call my Mom or Dad for a ride if I wanted to leave a sleepover. That is privilege. And my parents reminded me of that.
But we weren’t rich nor did we know rich people. Like me, most kids I grew up with knew that if they wanted to go to college or university they’d have to save up and pay for it themselves, and those whose parents paid their tuition worked incredibly hard so as not to waste what their moms, dads, or both had fought and saved for.
Spoiled rich people were something I read about or saw in movies, but never in real life.
Spoiled rich people were something I read about or saw in movies, but never in real life. There were a few members of the upper middle class who orbited around us, some of whom bragged to my parents when they bought a new deck or sprang for a new living room set (and it always came off as rude and tacky and made my Mom sad), but those were the exception. I’m from a blue collar, working-class city and I’m proud of it. To grow up meant to get a part-time job and begin saving towards some type of future. Laziness wasn’t an option. Not when work also meant financial freedom.
But that didn’t mean I wasn’t terrible with money.
But that didn’t mean I wasn’t terrible with money. From the age I started babysitting (12) to my first part-time job (McDonalds, age 15) to my foray into full-time/part-time retail (16-24), I had no idea how to save or spend wisely or do anything but shop. Which wasn’t anybody’s fault but mine: ?my parents tried to teach me to save, my Grandpa helped with my first and only semester of college (it was a gift), and every place I worked was generous with shifts. Which didn’t negate the fact I was also young and very stupid. I believed money would just happen, or miraculously appear in time for a tuition payment. Which made no sense because that was nothing I was taught. And also it never did, because that’s not how money works. Which I learned by rolling coin and eating only canned goods.
I believed money would just happen, or miraculously appear in time for a tuition payment.
The road connecting college, university, and eventually becoming a writer is a long, drawn-out one defined by stories of big mistakes, painful life lessons, and a lot of apologies (made by me) after the fact. But here’s part of one of those stories: ?I moved out shortly after dropping out of school, taking out a $10K loan, and convincing myself $800/month was enough to eat/ and live on, and quickly learning about eight months later that I was tragically wrong.
…it would be fine because I said it would.
I’d put months of rent on my line of credit that I was using as a bank account. I desperately waited for paychecks I could use to pay my phone bill or buy groceries or avoid maxing out my Visa (which was about $25 away from its limit). I was earning less than what I first moved out on, and had foolishly spent my first few months splurging on dinners out, random decor (truly: ?I don’t have any of it now, and I don’t remember what it was), and convincing myself — like I did as a teen — that it would be fine because I said it would. But where I once had my parents to fall back on (as in: I lived with them), I was alone now.
I’d put months of rent on my line of credit that I was using as a bank account.
They’d explained before I left that they wouldn’t be able to lend me money if I needed it, but would always welcome me back if I needed a room. At the time, I rolled my eyes and thought they were undermining me. And by winter 2010, I was using rolled coin to pay Visa bills, living off $8/week (which can buy a surprising amount of Chef Boyardee), and keeping the heat turned off in January. But I was stubborn. It took another month — and two back-to-back cases of the flu — before I admitted defeat. So, after giving my lovely elderly landlords my notice, I crawled into bed with a bottle of wine (something I’d always managed to spend money on), and cried harder than I think I ever had. Mainly because I didn’t have anybody to blame but myself.