I was having a conversation with my husband the other day, and he was teasing me like he always does about how much I keep track of money. Ever since we got married (and even before), I have created a budget, checked our accounts every day, and raised hell any time an unknown fee or transaction pops up. On this particular day, we were discussing how much money to transfer over to savings, and he told me to transfer as much as I needed to. “I know how consumed you are with money,” was the text he sent, along with a laughing-crying emoji.
Although the comment was made somewhat jokingly, it stayed on my mind for a while. A million questions began to run through my mind: Am I really consumed with money? If so, why? How do you stay on top of your finances, but not become consumed by it? My thoughts quickly shifted to the time in my life when I realized just how bleak life could be without money. I had graduated from my local community college, and had my sights set on Atlanta to complete my bachelor’s degree. Although I had no job lined up, and no money saved, I figured things would work themselves out once I made the move, so I packed my things and drove down over the summer. Once I arrived, I moved into one of the campus dorms and tried to get acclimated to finally being out on my own. I soon realized that living in a new city could be quite pricey, and since I was having no luck finding a job, I used my credit cards to pay for basic expenses like gas and food, as well as a major repair on my car that cost around $1800. Eventually my cards were maxed out, and still no job. The due dates on my credit card payments came up, and I couldn’t even pay the minimum. My car started having issues again after the repair, and died on the intersection minutes from campus. I left it to go make a phone call (because my cell phone got cut off), and by the time I got back to the spot where it broke down, it had been towed. Of course I didn’t have the money to get it out of the impound, and I never got my car back.
By the end of the semester, I had no car, I was months behind on my credit card payments, and couldn’t even afford to buy food. Thankfully, I had some great friends at the time who would pick me up and pay for meals, but other than that, I was financially drained. I ended up getting a job, then got fired six months in and was back to square one. I finally admitted defeat and moved back to St. Louis, worked there for a while, served in the military for 5 years, separated last year, and now here I am.
I’ve long since cleaned up my credit, bought a new car and paid it off, and learned to build up savings. I’ve had some form of steady income for the last 6 years, but I still have that nagging fear that a situation like Atlanta will pop up again and I’ll lose everything. I guess that’s why it may seem that I’m “consumed” with money. Will I ever be rich? Who knows? That’s still a work in progress, but I can do my damnedest to make sure that I’m never as broke as I was 8 years ago. I think that determination not to go backwards is what can become borderline obsession if I feel like there’s even a fraction of a possibility that I won’t have enough to stay afloat. At the same time, I don’t want to live in constant fear of having nothing.
Do you find yourself being consumed with money? How do you find a balance?