How I Came To Realize The Value Of Money

This is all about my personal pecuniary past. Alliterative, yes!? I’d like to give you a synopsis of my history as it pertains to money. My hope is that this will allow people to identify with me a bit. I’ll outline defining moments I remember, some bone head mistakes I’ve made, as well as a handful of accomplishments along the way. These are the points in my life that have taught me the value of money.

The Value Of Money

My first memory of money is pretty early. I was probably five or six and my grandpa had brought over a coffee can full of pennies. He told my two sisters and me to guess the amount of coins held inside. I remember that I couldn’t lift it so I had to slide it along the floor on the carpeting. Grandpa told us that he was going to split up the contents of the coffee can between us and that whoever was closest to guessing the contents would get a majority. I didn’t fully grasp the concept that a nickel was worth more than a penny of even that a dollar held more value. All I understood was that I had never seen more money in my life, I couldn’t even move this can without a momentous effort!

Grandpa left us with the coffee can so we could formulate our guesses. My sisters both guessed but I, being determined and already money-driven by this age, wanted to think about it. I wanted that money. That night I took the pennies in my room and began counting. I spent…who knows how long dividing the coins in to stacks of ten and carefully placing them on my floor. When I finished I surveyed my floor and tallied. I wrote down the exact number for my guess! No finesse, not even trying to make it seem as if I didn’t cheat. I had to be certain that I would win. Once I had that money I’d be set! So much money I couldn’t even carry it!

Grandpa came back a couple days later to collect the can of coins and bring them to the bank. He returned a short while later with three envelopes and told us that we were all equally close so we all would receive the same amount. When he handed me my envelope he held on and caught my eye and kind of smiled. I’m still glad he didn’t call me out on cheating. I took the envelope and opened it to find a few bills and was thoroughly confused as to what happened to my pounds of pennies! I asked my grandpa and he sat me down to give me a lesson about the difference in coins and paper money. From that point forth I wanted to amass as much cash as I could. This desire never really went away.

By the way, I think the envelope contained something like twenty two dollars… I spent that money years ago.

My First Savings Account

I spent years collecting coins I’d find on the road, in the couch and the return slot in paper machines and pay phones. I saved all my birthday money as well as money I’d get for good grades. It took me a while but I finally saved up $100.00! This was the amount my dad told me was required to begin a savings account. He taught me about how in a savings account your money would earn money for you! My mind was blown. You mean all I had to do was put money in the bank and, once again, I’d be set! I kept my cash in an old plastic shopping bag at the time. I was a peculiar kid. I grabbed my bag and my dad brought me to the bank. My hands were shaking as I handed over my loot and I remember thinking that this amount of money must be a pretty big deal, seeing as how it took me years of saving to accumulate it. My bank account was set and I received my bank book in return. This, my dad told me, was where I could track my interest earned every month.

About a month later my first statement came in the mail. I grabbed my bank book and tore open the envelope and discovered that my account had earned three cents! I was ecstatic! I didn’t have to get good grades or have a birthday to get this money, I did nothing! I never had to worry about money again. This excitement lasted a few more months and quickly faded as I realized the truth of things.

Just Write A Check

The gray box Nintendo had just come out and my aunt and uncle had one and brought it over for a Saturday night. We played Duck Hunt and I was hooked. I wanted one of these and I wanted it bad. We couldn’t afford it my parents told me. I was incredibly upset by this and couldn’t understand why we could always get groceries, school lunches and clothing by just writing checks! Just write a check I told my parents! You do it for everything else, why not this!? They proceeded to explain to me how checks work and eventually I got it. And a few months later we got a Nintendo also.

My First Job

I was fourteen when I went to work with my mom at a sandwich shop called Subs Etc.. This was the first time I had a semblance of steady money in my entire life. Subs was a small, independently owned shop and paid minimum wage. Keep in mind I was fourteen and none of my friends had jobs so I was kind of a big deal. At this point in life I was still pretty obsessed with making and saving money and pretty much stock piled all my cash, which over time got to be a hefty ransom. It was all at about the same time that a few things happened in my life:

1. I decided to spend my savings on a computer. I bought this monstrous Gateway computer which at the time was just over two grand.
2. My friends in school were all getting jobs and I realized they paid better than mine. Much better. I became discontent.
3. I was offered my first real restaurant job.

The Game Changer

My best friend growing up, Chris, worked with our friend, Pat at a restaurant called Tejas. Southwest cuisine back when that sort of thing was newly all the rage. High price point, wealthy clientele and busy. They got me a job there when I was sixteen. I left Subs, making roughly $75 per week to begin my service industry career. My very first night at Tejas, as a wait assistant (busser) I made over $150. My mind: Blown.

I had a stark realization that night. I can make lots of money bringing things from one place to another… From a dirty table to the kitchen. Do it quickly and efficiently and make tons of cash. I hit the ground running. I worked as much as possible and made very respectable money. At age sixteen. I was netting well over $35,000 per year. At sixteen. Looking back, that was a bit problematic.

I bussed tables until I was eighteen and became a bartender and bumped up my income significantly.

Credit

Eighteen years old, working my ass off, moved out with a roommate, driving a brand new Mustang, and a pocket full of credit cards. Pretty high limit, too. For a while I was prodigiously good with my money and credit. Paying off what I’d spend each month without fail and banking money on top of it. Then, very slowly, I began spending slightly more than what I’d make in a month. I justified this and told myself it was a special circumstance and would only happen once. You can see where this is going… It happened more than once. It kept happening. Slowly, but it was happening. I wasn’t aware I was even in trouble at this point.

A few years later I was married. At the time I was the only person earning income. During this time, I maintained my same spending lifestyle…except I multiplied it by two. Not good. Remember I mentioned I’d talk about bonehead mistakes? Boom. This was one. It took literally years for me to fully realize the financial damage I’d done. I was tens of thousands of dollars in debt and I couldn’t afford the monthly minimums. It was shocking, humbling and quite frankly embarrassing.

We split up and I, being young and trying to do the right thing, took all the debt from both of our spending. Bonehead mistake? I cut my expenses to bare bones, lived out of my car and resolved myself to pay down my debt. I consolidated, I paid what I could and I worked with a debt management company that I would find out years later fleeced me out of thousands of dollars. Awesome. But at the time, I was doing all I could and eventually I got there.

Along The Way

I’ve held various jobs and dabbled with varying degrees of self employment. I’ve held virtually every position I restaurants, owned and operated a residential cleaning company, done data base management and repair and operated machinery in a chemical processing factory. Throughout all these experiences I’ve learned a lot, but I think the most important thing pertaining to this post is this: There is always a way to make money. Money won’t solve everything but properly managed, it certainly won’t make it worse.

These Days

I am still in the service industry. I’ve been bar tending and running bars for thirteen years at this point. It’s something that I enjoy, most of the time. I’m excellent at it and it pays well. I trade currency from home. One of my short term goals is to flip-flop my income ratios with trading and tending. My plan is to have full time income with trading by 2014 is done and to be quickly transitioning out of the service industry at that time.

As mentioned earlier, the debt management company that screwed me over came back up to haunt me just a few months ago and has been a bit of a nightmare. I’m dealing with that currently and will probably write about it once it’s all resolved. The IRS has been chatting with me. That’s just developed within the last week! Same story with that, I’ll figure it out and share when it’s settled.

Bullet Points

• Spend less than you earn
• Never be late on a payment
• Communicate with lenders if there is ever a problem
• Build a budget and stick to it
• Do not let things get to such a bad point that when you decide you must change it, it seems hopeless because it’s so daunting
• Pay attention and recognize problems early on
• Do not ignore financial problems – Face Your Finances!
• In fact, do not ignore any problems – Face Your Life

Share your bonehead moves! Comments and email are always welcome!

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  1. Pingback: Debt Settlement - To Settle Or Not To Settle | Face Your Finances

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