Posted: 12:58 p.m. Wednesday, May 22, 2013
When I was in college, I learned quickly how easily it was to buy the things I wanted thanks, in part to credit cards. I was a 20-year-old with very little income and a lot of wants.
I wanted to eat outside of the cafeteria. I certainly didn’t need to; I had a meal plan paid for with my housing plan.
I wanted to wear the “right” name brands. Grunge was the fashion. Why did I need a name brand flannel shirt to wear? I could have spent 50 cents at a thrift store and saved myself a lot of money.
I wanted a bike to get across campus easier. Campus was big (one of the biggest in the country) and I did have to get across it quickly so a bike was definitely something I benefitted from. However, I did not need to use a credit card to buy it. There were far better options out there for me, like paying cash for a used bike.
I wanted a trip to Florida for spring break. No, I didn’t need to go where “everyone else” was going.
Back in those days, I owned a lot of stuff and I did a lot of things, but I didn’t learn a valuable lesson, one that every child and adult should learn and live; I didn’t know the value of saving for something I really wanted and working hard to earn it.
I never spent any time working a few extra shifts at the daycare where I worked so I’d have a few extra dollars to put towards buying a great bike. I never told my friends “No, I can’t go out to dinner tonight. I’m trying to save my money to go on a spring break trip.” I never found considered my options or my future when I wanted something. I just charged it.
Today, I have learned my lesson. I have seen the value of saving for something I really want and found pleasure in working really hard to buy it. I’ve passed this lesson on to my kids and I’ve seen the pride they felt by being able to do the same thing.
The lesson started a year and a half ago when I decided I wanted to buy a Kindle Fire HD. I decided to save my money, turn that money into Amazon gift cards (so I wouldn’t be tempted to spend it) and put it all away until I could buy one.
I have a very small income while I’m in grad school and my budget is very tight. Yet, I’ve found ways to bring in extra money to save for it. I have completed surveys online, joined websites to earn rewards by reading emails, completing surveys, watching videos or searching the web. I have used my blog to bring in extra income by offering sponsored posts. I have written extra articles for websites that bring in money each month. I have worked another job a couple of weekends a month as well.
And in the year and a half since I started this, I have saved enough money to buy three Kindle Fires; however, I still don’t own one. What I have found along the way is that there are far more important places my money could be spent. Recently, I decided that I needed a new blender. I’m working hard to improve my health and I eat a plant-heavy, vegan diet. I make all of my food at home, a new blender that works really well would be great.
I weighed the pros and cons of the blender and the Kindle Fire and decided that my health was more important than my leisure reading. (There’s no reason why I can’t keep using the library.)
I’ve reevaluated my wants and needs three or four times in the year and a half and I’ve discovered more about who I am and what makes me happy.
My children have done the same thing. The day my son saw an item available on Amazon.com that had been out of stock for months and he realized that he’d saved enough of his allowance to buy it, was a great day. He said to me “mom, if I’d have bought that silly toy last week at the store, I would never have been able to buy this. I’m so happy that I thought about it before I spent money on something I wouldn’t be playing with. This toy makes me happier.”
That lesson, that conversation, that day made me happier than any bike, flannel shirt, dinner out or spring break trip I ever took as a college student.