Money. Or one of those life lessons I really don’t know much about, but pretend like I do anyways.

“They’re just so stupid with their money. Young and stupid. They think they need to have the same stuff as people who make more than them, but they don’t have a pot to piss in. Now they go and pay $800 for this dog and they’re buying a new house and they have a young child. They’re just so irresponsible.”

This coming from an older lady (mid-fifties) I was talking to today about a young married couple we both know. She’s always talking about saving and how expensive things are and once she gave me a twenty minute lecture on the sins of leasing a vehicle. So, I never told her we actually lease our van. I didn’t want her to be a) embarassed and apologetic or b) lecture me futher.

I kind of have a soft spot for younger, struggling couples. I know how they feel. I know what it’s like to watch others around you buy new cars and go on yearly vacations and have new floors installed and feel like you want to be able to give your family the same things. I know what it’s like to go deep into debt to possess a fraction of those material wants. Heaven knows Richard and I did it. I got my first credit card in college and we maxed the $500 limit in weeks. We had store credit cards that charged us 31% interest, but thinking back on it now they saved us in some ways and I’m glad we had them. As newly married parents, we would sometimes run out of money to buy groceries and there were times when we would venture into the Eatons cafeteria to eat a meal. After rolling pennies to buy milk and nothing else, we could always depend on the Sears card to provide diapers and formula.

We ended up in quite a bit of trouble with debt eventually, but coming out on the other side of it I can now say it was a good lesson learned. All told, we now have less than $10,000 debt. I don’t consider our mortgage a debt as the equity in our home more than makes up for it. I don’t consider our lease a debt as I look at having a vehicle as more of a rental agreement. That car is just going to lose value every year you have it so it’s not an asset in any way (also, we hate our van and with a lease we get to give it back at the end of the term and never set eyes on it again. I consider that valuable). We have a little nestegg of money for a rainy day and some retirement savings. I feel good about our financial health now, but I’ve never been able to say that about our family before.

I think every young person has to struggle a little bit in order to learn how to manage their money better. Everyone needs to get a credit card or a loan or make a big purchase that supercedes what they’re worth. It’s a valuable and necessary lesson. So, what this woman said to me this morning about the young couple kind of slapped me sideways a little. They’ll get better with their money management. They both work hard and I know they just want the very best for their child. They’ll probably sink a little deeper (or a lot) into debt before they find the tools to turn it all around. But I know they’ll be fine.

I know.

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8 responses to this post.

  1. I think sometimes a little money struggle is good for young couples. I know it was good for my husband and me anyway. It taught us right away how to be (fairly) frugal with our money. A lot of those early harld learned lessons are now really coming in handy since we’re a 4 person family living on one income.

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  2. Posted by Amy on August 17, 2007 at 5:32 pm

    We got in some debt trouble, too. My husband went from being a bachelor, splitting bills 50/50 with his brother, to a married man supporting a wife and a 2 year old on one income. That was hard. Even when I went back to work, we still got behind. It wasn’t entirely because we were irresponsible (that did play a part, of course) but most of it was because there wasn’t enough money to pay the bills. We’ve improved, but still live paycheck to paycheck. But, I’m ok with that for now. Because it’s a lot better than where we were 5 years ago! When we look around at couples our age who have a lot of stuff, there is a part of us that is jealous. But mostly, we’re just glad we learned our lesson BEFORE we ended up with tens of thousands in credit card debt.

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  3. Amen! When I was a single mom, I had five dollars left before payday a week away more times than I care to count. As long as I had stuff I could bake with at home and some tins of food (or frozen stuff), we managed. One of the worst things that nickled and dimed me in those days was the school. Every day a notice came home for “we need money for this and that” and it was seriously ridiculous (the alternate notices were consistently for headlice, so I guess I preferred the former). Once I moved to Vancouver I was appalled at how much stuff was subsidized in the City. I was appalled because not many single parents or young families can afford to live in Vancouver and why wasn’t there more subsidy in the suburbs? Still scratching my head over that one!

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  4. I totally agree. My hubby and I went through the same thing for the first 2 years of our marriage. I know now that because we struggled, we’re a lot closer now (and smarter). I also think it’s good to make the mistakes early. Then you have time to fix the problem and learn your lesson.

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  5. I think we all have to go through it. How do we learn how to manage and about budgeting if we don’t? It is all a part of growing up and every experience makes us smarter…well, hopefully.

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  6. How true… only now, after years of marriage and a mortgage that will finally be paid off next year (yay!) do I actually have some money left in my pocket before the next paycheque comes. I think the majority of people live this way; there are very few who can afford to buy big (and necessary) purchases with cash when first starting out…. unless they had a rich relative to help them out. Lord knows, when / if my daughter needs help, I’ll be there …. something my parents did for us when we needed them.

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  7. So true. I had a lot of time to learn how to manage money before my dh and I met, but god knows, I was in debt and dug myself out when I was in my early/mid 20s. I’d like to hope that I’ll be better at teaching my kids money management than my parents were, but I don’t believe that it’s possible to learn it abstractly. I think they’ll have to figure it out through trial and error, too.

    Reply

  8. Great post! My husband and I are a young couple but thank goodness we went through the “Credit Cards are Great!!” phase before we had children. We just had to learn the difference between need and want.

    Reply

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