Total Money Makeover: My Beginning

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Budgeting? Saving? Who the hell does that? No one I knew. I mean, I’ve obviously heard OF people who very consciously save and budget their money but I’ve never met them. I mean, maybe I’ve met them before and that topic just didn’t come up. Wait, maybe it did come up and I just put my earmuffs on and walked in the opposite direction. I now ask myself how I became a 31-year-old wife and mother who has only recently decided to embark on a total money makeover in order to achieve a debt-free life.

Why didn’t someone teach me the value of a dollar and encourage me to save as much money as possible? Why didn’t someone sit me down and tell me about the repercussions I would face if I didn’t become financially savvy? I could ask myself these questions all day.

The only person I can blame at the end of the day is me. I suffered from a little problem I like to call financial ignorance… FOR YEARS.

But how did this all of a sudden change for me?

A lot of factors went into why I have recently decided to start my financial journey. I know the word “journey” is like an eye-rolling, overused term but everything in life is a damn journey. I don’t care what you say.

So why… why did it take me so long to decide to save, budget, invest, and work toward becoming debt free?

Well, for one, I grew up similar to a lot of you where my parents worked several jobs and we lived paycheck to paycheck. Back then, it appeared that the only way out of the hole was to keep working multiple jobs for as long as humanly possible. When I see situations like this now, it becomes evident that extreme financial awareness is just something that isn’t passed down through the generations. Couple that with American culture, inflation, and “Keeping up with the Joneses” and you have the recipe for complete financial DEpendence. Because of the way I grew up, money equaled struggle. Money meant working WAY too hard only to have a few cents left to your name. As a result, I sub-consciously ran away from money and any opportunity to make more of it.

Secondly, I HATE NUMBERS.

I HATE MATH.

UGH! PUKE!

Because of this, I even ended up developing a hatred for money. I struggled my entire life with anything related to math and numbers. Luckily, the list of things I’m absolutely terrible at is fairly short but “MATH” is number one on that list, written in red, bold letters and underlined 357 times. I have a memory from first grade that is so vivid, I can re-live it over and over again any time I allow myself to.

All I need to do is close my eyes and there she is… the sad, extremely anxious, 7-year-old me.

She’s sitting at her desk, heart racing, palms sweating profusely. She’s acutely aware of every set of eyes on her as she stares blankly at the board, trying desperately to count the coins that are being projected in front of the class.

A dime? Three pennies. Shit, what’s that small one with the smooth edge? A nickel? Oh God, she doesn’t remember. Everyone is staring at her. Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Ugh. She looks down at her lap and catches a tear in her open, trembling hand. She wants to run away and never come back because she can’t count change. No matter how many times her mother has tried to teach her, she still doesn’t understand and now everyone knows it.

This moment reminds her of that time in Kindergarten where she worked up enough courage to get in the ice cream line in order to buy a “Choco Taco.” When she got to the register, the mean lunch lady told her she didn’t have enough money and made her put the ice cream back. When she got back to the table and peeked in her lunch box, she realized she had missed a dime in the plastic baggy her mother had so lovingly packed.

But she didn’t know the value of a dime.

She couldn’t possibly bear the humiliation of getting back in line only to be scolded again and told that she STILL didn’t have enough money.

The tears really start to form now and she’s brought back to reality as her teacher urges her to share with the class how much money is being projected onto the board. The pressure is too much.  She feels so stupid and vulnerable. She gets up, covers her face, and runs out of the room.

This is a moment she knows she will remember for the rest of her life.

…But she has no idea how it will negatively affect her as she grows.

Yeah, well, now I know!

I am very much aware of how my learning disability when it comes to math has been the result of multiple mistakes, missed opportunities and a lack of confidence during my life thus far.

That mortified, embarrassed feeling is a huge factor when it comes to why I never focused on my finances until recently.

A third reason why it took me so long to decide to save, budget, and invest is because I never felt like I made enough money and when I think back to my earlier years, I definitely wasn’t making nearly enough. I was being taken advantage of because I didn’t know my worth. As a matter of fact, I didn’t think I was worth anything for a long time.

It took me several years to become the woman who finally understood that she deserved a higher salary and would fight for it until she got it.

The younger me looked at money as evil and would have felt like a fraud asking for more because I didn’t believe I deserved it. P.S. We all deserve money and we all deserve to be as wealthy as we aim to be. As Jen Sincero says, “a healthy desire for wealth is not greed, it’s a desire for life.” (BTW – Her book, “You are a Badass at Making Money” is incredible).

Last but not least, I was surrounding myself with like-minded people. Meaning, the ones I was spending the majority of my time with were ALSO not financially conscious or aware. We’d get paid at the end of the week and then treat that money as if it was our reward for working 40 hours and then blow it all within a few days. Restaurants, bars, and clothing stores owned my ass and I didn’t even think twice about it because we were all living that “care-free” life.

As I got older and became more “mature” and “responsible” while acquiring some sweet bills and a sick mortgage payment, I began to spend less.

But, let’s be honest… I still just went out and bought whatever I wanted when I wanted it.

For years, I justified this way of living because I am not a materialistic person whatsoever. I wasn’t going out and buying brand name stuff and expensive items. I didn’t even have a credit card at the time. Instead of going out and buying one expensive thing (which always felt wrong to me), I would go out several times a month and buy many different, inexpensive items, not realizing how much it all added up.

In one month, I could have saved up and bought the expensive, front row seats at the Bruins game (OR INVESTED MY MONEY) but instead I would end up with 5 shirts, a yoga mat, two bathing suits, 10 bottles of nail polish (I don’t even paint my nails), a deposit on a puppy we never decided on getting, a blender, a Buddha statue for my new office (because like, I’m so chill and enlightened, right?), 8 plastic organizers (thanks, Marie Kondo), 3 self-help books, and enough groceries for the entire neighborhood (oops, gotta throw out all this produce again. Sorry kids in Africa).

When I think back on this behavior and this straight up carelessness, it rattles my bones.

It kills me to reflect on the past 16 years of having an income and hardly having anything to show for it. I guess I shouldn’t say anything. I mean, we have a house and a happy life and we’re able to consistently pay our bills and have food in the fridge BUT what I didn’t realize was that living that way was taking me SO FAR AWAY from the life I envisioned for myself and my family.

So, what made me finally decide to take the steps toward financial freedom and becoming debt free?

I’ll tell you what it was.

FEAR. Straight up FEAR.

The thing that prevented me from starting this journey 16 years ago is the exact same thing that crept up and slapped me in the face, causing me to wake up and smell the dollars.

How did fear wake me up?

Because, my greatest fear in life is not being able to fully and truly LIVE while I’m here on this earth. The thought of having to work for the man, 40+ hours a week while being away from home and from my family only to retire at the age of 75 with little to no savings makes me sick to my stomach. The thought of my son dealing with the consequences of having parents who really struggle financially is one of the saddest things I can think of.

I don’t often say thank you to my fear because he’s a serious jerk most of the time but in this case, he was on my side screaming at me to make a change and I listened. I FINALLY listened.

This fear led me to a dude who has already started to change our lives for the better.

This dude’s name is Dave Ramsey.

Ever heard of him? Probably. He’s growing more and more popular as people around the country start to wake up and chase their dreams.

I bought Dave’s book, “The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness” and I read it in three days.

We began implementing Dave’s baby steps toward a debt-free life and over a span of one month, we made more money, saved more money and became one step closer to living the life we imagine. A HUGE, heavy, weight has been lifted off of our shoulders. I’ll be sharing with you exactly how we’re doing this.

Of course, this journey for us has just begun. I’ll always refer to it as a journey: the act of traveling from one place to another because that’s exactly what we’re doing… traveling from debt to freedom. The shittiest place in the world to the best place in the world.

This isn’t going to be easy and sometimes it won’t be fun.

But as Dave Ramsey says,

“If you will live like no one else, later, you can live like no one else.”

I will be sharing our journey along the way in order to keep myself on track and hopefully inspire some of you to start taking some financial control over your lives because, really, you can’t afford not to.

It’s time to wake up and smell the moola, folks.

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