Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Financial Epiphanies...finally

Some time ago, GatherLittle by Little began a chain on financial epiphanies, that moment when you realize you've Got to Do Something:


This got me to thinking about my Critical Moment...actually, there were several:

*Realizing early on that if I wanted to go to college, I had to work for it. That meant clerking all through high school at a hardware store. It wasn't bad...my boss was extremely kind, and I liked the work. (Well, except for the farmer's (and my) red face when he asked for a female connector.) Through college, I also:
-- broke dozens of eggs for Sunday morning breakfast at the cafeteria, stocked the ice cream machine, washed dishes in the 'pit'
-- clerked for an income tax preparer, as well as other secretarial jobs
-- manned a pick-your-own-apple stand
-- installed lightning rods at a college in Michigan's U.P. during spring break one year
-- cleaned house and walked the dog for a family, in return for room, board and two meals a day (in grad school), cleaned house for others, too
-- made eggrolls for a Chinese fast food place (where I also met Dave one spring afternoon!)
-- typed papers for other students, was a classroom assistant and tutored
-- taught a college class (really! ENG 291 Children's Lit) and managed a children's book fair

You name it, if it was legal and not immoral...I probably did it, or thought about it. I got some financial aid, and my wonderful parents helped out a lot, as well.
It also taught me that I could do a wide variety of things. My mom said I should be able to do at least three things well -- because then I could always find a job doing one of those three things. If I could accomplish more than that, the possibilities were even stronger.

*No one was going to take care of me. I had to take care of myself. I knew women who married or had long-term boyfriends so they wouldn't have to plan, to care for themselves. (They let him do all the thinking, instead.) I had more faith in myself than that...even after I was fortunate enough to meet and marry Dave.

*If I gave my word, I was going to keep it. This meant that even if things went badly, I wasn't leaving. No matter what. And the bills would be paid. No matter what.
At one point in our life together, Dave got really sick. He was forced to quit his engineering job, and for three months, he didn't work at all. Nothing.
Then he took a job bus driving -- at a quarter of his earlier salary.
I was working at the quilt magazine...so I started working more. My business began to grow. I took any short-term job I could, from catering to checking out at Wal-Mart. I stopped spending, except on the girlies or absolute essentials. For years, I bought no clothes, except for underwear, except on deep clearance, or at the thrift shop. (Nearly all of our Christmas presents came from the same place, as well.)
Things slowly got better. To our mutual astonishment, after a few years we realized that our bills had been paid throughout this time. We had no debt, and had paid our credit cards -- in full --every single month. God's grace and sheer stubbornness...that was it.

And finally:

*We could teach our children about finances, but the responsibility was -- and is -- theirs. As our girls went out into life, they chose to do things we didn't agree with. They let people take advantage of them. And invariably, they would come to us for help when stuff went wrong.
At first, our hard-won money would bail them out. But after several episodes, we began to see the value of saying No. No. And no, again.
This broke my heart at first. (It still aches.) But our girls are finally -- mostly for better -- realizing that, well...
No one could take care of them. Except themselves.

Now, what opened your eyes, finance-wise? Do tell!

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