LESSON SIX: Control Your Money or it Will CONTROL You
“I Get Paid in Sunsets!” (Quoted by my Ex-Park-Ranger, Ex-Boyfriend)
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Money isn’t everything, but living with less than what you need to be comfortable sure stinks! I've been on both sides of the "coin" so to speak and prefer having more than less.
Studies have been done on just how much money a person needs to be happy and it has to do with a baseline number of where someone can have their bills paid, have a little extra and feel comfortable. This number is around $75,000-$80,000 and is something that a person should make per year to be happy. Making more than this amount has been proven and shown through real examples of people's lives and their level of happiness. At this baseline amount, the more money someone made beyond this amount was NOT shown to be an indication of having a higher level of happiness. How cool is that!
I've seen within my own life examples of this and remember what it felt like to be "poor." I used to be terrible with money, thus I had really bad credit, I couldn't get a loan easily if I needed one and ultimately I had to file for bankruptcy, not once but twice. Once in ____ as a Chapter 7 and again one last time (hopefully) in ____ as a Chapter 13.
For good or bad, I've already jam packed what most people experience through their whole entire lifetime, in the 41 years that I have been alive and the 23 years where I have been responsible for myself by being a grown-ass adult.
An example of one of the worse money decisions I've made in my past, next to putting all of my first ex-husband and my bills in my name (which later created a situation where I had to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy) was letting my teenage son Nick help make a decision about where we were going to live when WE decided it was time to move.
Long-term rental properties are very hard-time find in our seasonal, tourist hometown near Destin, Florida. Rentals go fast and there aren't a lot of them as short-term rentals are the preferred way that owners want to offer their properties. I worked as hard as I could to find us a spectacular place to live in an upscale area called SanDestin. It had all the "bells and whistles" that you could want so I scrambled to make sure that we got a property that I found online.
After my son and I looked at the chosen townhouse, I had to immediately put down a HUGE deposit over a month before we could move in, so that it would "hold" our spot. Then when the lease was emailed over, it was the WORST lease I have ever seen. It was great for the rights of the homeowner but total CRAP for me, the renter. I tried to question things that seemed crazy but because of the market that we are in, they weren't going to budge. So, I begrudgingly went against my better judgement and signed the lease, paid the first month's rent and then within a few days of signing everything, shit hit the fan so to speak and we didn't want to live here anymore.
The nightmare began and in the end of our horror story, I lost almost $4,000 for a place that we never lived in for ONE day. What assholes! I did what I had to so that I wouldn't get a ding on my almost flawless credit and rental record but retailiated by leaving terrible reviews online of my experience with this rental company. Ok, I learned more than one painful lesson with all of this going down.
I am sure that my outlook, my goals and priorities surrounding money are very different than the mainstream or what's normal for an average person. Once you go through financial hardship, bankruptcies, divorce, having to borrow money from family members, being in a position to have to go on welfare and get public assistance and just finding myself at rock bottom. Ever been there yourself? Man, it's an ugly place where your self-esteem gets roughed up and beat to a pulp and one that I wouldn't wish upon anyone.
With all of this failure and mistakes make, there is a very BIG upside to my story. Having gone through these experiences, really helped clear up what can blur another's vision of how they should handle money and how they should spend it.
Here's a few ideas of how I priority spending money. If you gave me the choice of spending money on organic food or buying a few new outfits, I'd always choose food.
I'd also rather spend money on travelling, trips and adventures than buying a home. Doing this means that I don't have as much financial security long-term, I get that and it's a conscious choice, but I'd much rather have experiences than things in my life!
Today, I can proudly say that I have a HELLVA lot better understand and respect for money. I have figured out how to pay my bills on time, to pay off the right bills asap, to avoid money pitfalls and get the best credit score of my entire life. I've been at this level for a few years now and get that I have to continue to make good "money choices" every day or I could end up back in financial ruin and emotional hell. It's not someplace I ever wish to visit ever again, so I work my ass off to ensure that money doesn't control me in this way anymore.
Link to my budget worksheet and Mint and money map. Offer insight into our beliefs on money and where it comes from, etc.
Listen to the "red flags" that go off and uneasy feelings that surface when you encounter a situation or event where something doesn't feel quite right. Most times, I've found that your gut doesn't steer you wrong or off course........when you pay attention and listen to what it is trying to tell you!