I hate money. Mostly I hate it because I have none. I feel like no matter what I do, I’m just getting by. I’m budgeting food and missing a bill. I’m getting hit with a $600 bill for my new tooth crown, $150 for a new car battery. Whenever I’m a little bit ahead, something happens and I’m forced back behind. It’s a frustrating circle.
My mom and I had a conversation this weekend that I wanted to tell everyone. My mom is doing pretty well for herself right now. She has a good job, is happy in her career, has a house that she’s renovating and can often take small trips with her family. I thought ‘she’s gotta be less stressed than me’. The truth is, she’s not. She said that she owes a lot of her house still, her car is just about shot so she’ll need a new one, every time she turns around she needs a new roof of new drainage downstairs. No matter who you are or what you do, that’s life. Things come up, and you just get through them.
Here’s why she’s less stressed. Money is just money. She said this to me a hundred times. It’s just money. No matter what you do in life, you’ll always have debt, you’ll always have to pay something off, you’ll always have things come up. People with more money have higher rent/mortgage, more expensive cars, and larger bills. Are they better off? In a way, sure. They have nicer things. But they’re also stressed about money because maintaining that lifestyle costs so much more.
My mom says that unless you are one of those people who just make so much money it doesn’t ever matter, then money troubles are never going to go away. You can either prepare to stress about it your entire life, or you can just learn to sort of roll with it. Your car breaks down. Well, that sucks. Get it fixed and eat noddles for the rest of the month. You can’t pay your phone bill, well, find a way. If you get credit, don’t use it. It’ll become your rainy day fund. Then you’re grumble about paying it off for a few months, but that’s life. Money is life. It’s another thing that will never go away. Just like maintaining your health or weight, wanting to be thinner, wishing you had something just out of your reach. It’s never going away.
Now I had a moments panic. Holy crap it’s NEVER going away. I’m going to stress like this FOREVER. But that’s not what she means. She means not to stress, because in the end, it’s never going to make a difference. Sure, you can ‘not stress’ as much as you like, but you’re still going to be stressed about it. It’s just learning to accept it as part of your life. Your need a new tooth, well, let’s figure out how to pay for that. You need a new battery, well, put it on the credit card for now and pay it off.
People who get into crazy credit debt are those who use credit to live outside their means. I’m bad at that sometimes. I know that I only have $100 left until the end of the month, but that doesn’t stop me from blowing half of it on drinks with friends one night. That’s because I want to hang out with my friends and I want to have fun. I don’t want money to control me. But I also don’t want to end up in so much debt that there’s not getting back from it.
My mom never really had money. Growing up, she was one of six children. It was penny pinching for them. When she met my dad and they decided to have kids, they lived on one income for years. My mom shopped at thrift stores and my dad did any needed renovations by hand. When she went back to school to become a teacher, she thought, finally, we’ll have two incomes. But then my dad got home, and instead of two incomes, they were back to one. After my dad passed, my mom was on her own for the first time in 30 years. She and my dad didn’t have much in the way of savings, but she wasn’t broke. So she decided on the lifestyle she wanted, and made it work with what she had. A few years ago she started thinking about retiring, and made a plan to buy a house so she’d have equity at the end of it. She’s in more debt than I am right now, but she’s happy and loves her life. Being debt free isn’t the answer. It’s just being able to live the lifestyle you want within your means. My goal is not to be rich. It’s to have enough income to do the things I love, and not have a heart attack every time something comes up.