I remember growing up thinking my family was rich. My parents were separated but both were able to establish themselves into a home and we never went without. From the vacations to the weekly toy store trips, I thought my parents were balling. I had literally no idea how hard they had to work or how many sacrifices were made to make sure that my brothers and I never knew struggle. By the time I was old enough to spend my own money and blow out my own credit cards, I was thousands of dollars in debt and working minimum wage jobs. The absolute definition of struggle. Today, as a single mom, I’m caught in a nasty cycle of minimum payments and maxed out credit cards to keep me and my 3 year old daughter Malia above water so I am trying to do all I can to make sure she never falls into this trap.
I didn’t appreciate money or even understand how it all worked back then. I would ask for things and I got it. It all seemed easy! I didn’t see the work behind the money. So when Bank of America gave me a $5000 credit card at the age of 19… first of all… like, who does that?! I immediately knew that this was all types of trouble and wanted to send it back. I barely made $300 on each paycheck at the time. My parents told me to keep the card for emergencies. What does a 19 year college student who is away from home know about a damn emergency? Every time I wanted pizza was an emergency. Every new gadget I “had to have” was an emergency. Being eligible for that one card set me on the path of colossal credit card debt and I didn’t even blink… until Credit Karma came along and I learned all about the joys of credit scores and income to debt ratios.
All I could think was, “Why didn’t anyone teach me this crap?” Financial intelligence can make or break our future and yet no one talks about it before it’s too late. Schools want us to know and pass history courses but money talk?! It’s nowhere to be found other than those irrelevant economics courses… I ain’t worried about understanding Wall Street… I’m worried about if I can afford to stay on my street! I make it a point now to teach Malia about money and how to use it responsibly. I still use my credit cards to supplement my single parent income but only for necessities like groceries or gas to get to work. If Malia asks me for something we don’t absolutely need and I don’t have the cash for it… she gets hit with the absolute “No ma’am. We are super broke right now.”
All I could think was, “Why didn’t anyone teach me this crap?” Financial intelligence can make or break our future and yet no one talks about it before it’s too late.
I’ve taught her that my paychecks hit on a Friday. Being the smart cookie she is, she has started to save her requests for that day. She will ask me what day it is and if my response is Friday, she unloads the list of asks she’s been holding on to in her sweet little head. I run down all that my paycheck has to pay for aloud with her and if there’s money we can afford to spend on fun stuff, we do! If there’s not enough then I explain to her that sometimes the important things use up all of our money so we have to find $FREE.99 things we can do for fun. Of course, she gets sad but once I start listing out all the fun things we can do at home for free, she’s all smiles.
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I want her to get used to hearing about our budget so that she grows up knowing that money is a resource that must be managed properly. The last few weeks whenever she asks for things that cost money, I ask her if she wants a really great party (she turns 4 on April 25th… I’m going to hold the tears for later) or if she really wants whatever she’s asking for more. She will usually choose the party and I remind her that unfortunately, mama doesn’t have the funds for both. It’s the hardest thing telling my sweet girl that I can’t afford to give her everything she desires but I truly believe that being open and honest about money with her now will serve her better for her future… it’s also crazy motivation for me to get my financial life in order!
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