In college, I can still remember having $21 in my bank account, writing a $20 (with tip) check for pizza, having the check bounce because my bank had taken a two dollar fee out and then having a $20 bounced check fee added on that I couldn’t pay.
It sucked. It sucked not having money to do things with my friends. It sucked because I was always one car repair from not being able to pay my bills. It sucked all the way around.
Then I graduated from college with a psychology degree and the first job I got was as a Walmart portrait studio assistant manager. The job stunk. The pay stunk. It was miserable.
My first few years out of college were tough. I did without. I borrowed money from my parents in a crunch. I got into financial jams that were hard to clear.
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Then, slowly but surely, I started socking away money. Eventually, I got up to the grand total of $2500 and I realized something amazing. That relatively small sum had changed my life.
Because if my car was busted, I could afford to fix it. Because if I lost my job or alternately got so sick of it that I quit (which happened more than once), I could find another crummy job without worrying that I would lose my apartment. I can still remember walking into an antique store, looking at this wild, cool stone-carved table with gargoyles that cost $1500 and thinking, “I could afford to buy that if I wanted to do it.” Did I? No. I lived in an apartment; what did I need with a table like that? It was the principle of the thing. I could AFFORD to buy it and it felt really good. Once I got to that point, a layer of worry and anxiety that was so regular I almost didn’t even realize it was there, left me and never came back.
I am not going to tell you it was easy saving that money. When you don’t make a lot in the first place, it’s hard to sock it away. But, I will tell you having that money in the bank will do more for you than furniture, electronics, partying or vacation ever can. Being able to breathe easier because you have a little money back for the first time will do more for you than you can ever imagine.
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