When I was young, I remember my parents teaching me not to “flash” my money in public. “It is not polite to show people how much money you have,” I can hear my mom say, ” you need to keep it to yourself.” As I have reflected on that concept, it has made me wonder. As I look around, are people not socially groomed to “flash their money around?” As a society, we are obsessed with what other people have and we make judgements about how successful they are based on their home, the kind of car they drive, and the designer handbags that they carry. And guess what…at a young age, I fell victim to that too. Feeling like I needed to prove my worth with material possessions, I signed on the dotted line of a loan application when I was just 18 years old in order to buy a new, shiny car. I was a freshman in college and was working and making good money for a college student. I lived at home and made good grades, so I felt like I deserved to treat myself. And like all new cars, once the new car smell wore off, I was left with my first car payment. I paid a car note every month from 1998 to 2017. Continuously trading in and trading up searching for the newest and best model, needing to get bigger and better. At the height of my car note experience, I was paying $948 per month in order to drive my dream car; a luxury SUV that would guarantee my safety and happiness. Well, like all of the others, within the first 30 days, the new car experience wore off and the first note came due. I am a smart girl and I know lots of things, and I am a banker, “I deserve this, and I am responsible with money…no problem,” or so I thought. Had I really used all of the brain power that I possessed, I would have figured out many years ago that had I not focused so much on the glamour of a new car, I could have put an average of $500 per month into a savings account for the past 20 years earning only 1% and have over $125,000 today! Just that little change in behavior of not having a car note would have made an impact in so many ways.
In 2016, when my youngest son was diagnosed with childhood anxiety and a learning disorder, I had to make some life changing decisions in order to get him the help and therapy he needed. We suddenly had an emergency on our hands and we had debt and no savings. In that moment, I decided, I needed to get a handle on my spending. What I learned is that my spending was a result of the many things that I was going through as an individual and I had to finally face the reality and consequences of my irresponsible behavior. Spending shame is a tough one and all too often, we bypass this very critical piece of information in our own lives.
What I learned is that when put in a situation that makes you choose between getting the help your child requires and driving a fancy car, you quickly pivot and sell that car! That was only the beginning of our journey. Fast forward two years later and I am happy to report that we are completely debt free, I drive a 4-year-old sedan that I bought used and with cash, we have a fully funded emergency fund and are saving up for a down payment on a house. Imagine that…saving up for something you really want; such a foreign concept in today’s world. Because I am no longer tied to car payments, student loan payments, credit card payments, second mortgage payments, I have the freedom to live out of a place of contentment and not have to stress over money. I am able to enjoy a life that is more persoanlly fulfilling and rewarding, and I no longer have to make choices based on what someone is willing to pay me so that I can ensure that it pays for my picture-perfect lifestyle.
I am still working through my issues of acquiring material possessions as a way to stuff emotions but have come a long way, so I celebrate that.
I know what it is like to be slave to money, car payments, and a job that no longer brings you joy, but pays well. Even when you are not struggling to pay the notes, it is still exhausting and steals your sense of peace. I would encourage you to dig deep and uncover ways that you may be flashing your money around.