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My new roomate saw me in the kitchen the other day and said she was impressed with my cooking skills. When I asked if she cooked, she replied, “by necessity.”
“By necessity” is exactly how most of us learn to handle our finances. Very few people have been taken step-by-step through balancing a budget, reviewing a check book, tracking bills and managing a savings. Instead, we are expected to figure this out for ourselves. It is no wonder so many people fall into debt.
There are a plethora of cooking shows on tv. Every cuisine, style, and cook time is shown with complete details and visual instructions of how to prepare each dish. Then you have personal finance, which is rarely mentioned on television.
When money is shown in the media, it is often because someone won or lost a large amount of it. Sitcom couples are rarely shown balancing their budget or saying they cannot afford something (without it being the joke of the episode). In fact, the only time money is usually discussed on television is during a credit card commercial.
Society in general tends to hush conversation about money. Salaries are never to be mentioned among friends, budgets are a boring topic, and no one wants to be the one who “can’t afford it” in the group.
As a child, money is invisible. It is not until your first job that money becomes relative and even then, it is merely disposable income as most 16 year olds live at home without many bills.
Without being taught how to handle money or given real life examples of proper budgeting, along with being surrounded by credit card companies, it is no surprise that we make financial mistakes!
We learn by making mistakes! This is okay! Since money is such a taboo topic, once someone is struggling with debt and finances, it is difficult to know where to go to find support. The only “support” I have heard advertised are the scammy “debt relief” commercials, which are clearly not very helpful. It is okay to admit your mistakes. All of us have made them! We all go over budget sometimes or forget to pay a bill until the day it is due. You cannot beat yourself up over that. There are numerous incredible stories online of people sharing their tales of conquering mountains of debt. It is possible to be debt-free.
This is why “PF” stands for personal finance. We all have different values, priorities, wants and needs. Spend your money, intelligently, just the way you want to. What worked for one person’s debt elimination strategy may not work for you. This does not mean that you cannot be debt-free. This does not mean that you failed. It just means you need to try something different.
Once you have educated yourself financially, conquered your debt, and established a savings, it is now time to spread the word. Be more open about finances. If a social activity is over budget, speak up. If you have younger family members, teach them about money. Heck, the older family members could probably use a lesson too.
Readers, what was your very first financial mistake?