Saving money was something I loved when I was younger but lost sight of in recent years.
I started “seriously” saving money when I was maybe 12 years old. My grandpa revealed he had about $1,000 in savings bonds for me that he had purchased when I was a baby, and I could cash them in if I wanted to. As a twelve-year-old, he might as well have said he was giving me a million dollars because I was completely convinced I had just become rich.
Maybe most kids would have wanted to spend that money on something awesome, but I didn’t. Partly because he played the reverse psychology game like a pro, saying, “You could open a savings account and keep that money… but I am sure there is something you’d rather buy.” Buy?! Lose my fortune?! There was no way.
Opening my first savings account
We went to the bank and opened a savings account together. I was too young at the time to manage my own account so my grandpa signed on as my custodian. We deposited the money from my savings bonds and that was that. I was officially in love with saving money. From the fancy lobby to walking up to the counter and talking business, I felt like a totally made adult and I loved every second of it.
When holidays and birthdays would come around, I would put any cash I was gifted into my savings account. My grandpa also gave me a $25 *allowance* each month that I would deposit (he still does to this day!). Every month we would look at my statement and I would marvel at the balance, watching that number grow.
I wasn’t just saving money to save, though. I was saving for a house. Even at twelve years old I knew that saving money wasn’t saving money, it was working towards a goal. Growing up I always lived in a condo and after my parents got divorced, my brother and I hopped around a lot. I don’t think I ever felt like I had my own home, and I knew once I was a *real* adult I wanted to buy my own house.
At sixteen, I got a job working as a hostess in a restaurant. I was paid about $3 an hour and was tipped out cash by the waiters each night (usually $40-$100). I made decent money but I was a teenager, so let me tell you — I had a lot of expenses: gas for my car, clothes for every occasion, Egg McMuffins before school and sushi buffets on the weekend. I practiced moderation at the time by spending my cash tips and saving my paychecks. I was only working about 20 hours a week so my paychecks were small but I usually deposited over $100 a month.
By the time I was twenty I had saved over $5,000.
Then life happened.
Temptation is real and real life is expensive
My dad’s side of my family is from Spain and it was always my dream to go there. I decided I would do a study abroad program which would help me meet my language requirement in school and also allow me to fulfill my dream. My family was encouraging but weren’t about to foot the bill. They were already paying for my school and said living in Spain wasn’t included in that room and board package.
I remember feeling completely crushed and desperate. I had to go to Spain.
So I talked with my grandpa and we decided to empty my savings account so that I could go. He said encouraging things like, “It’s your money” and “You can always start over.” Since I was spending the money on a study abroad program and not shoes or something frivolous, I guess he thought my decision was more responsible than reckless.
But part of me couldn’t help mourning the loss of my dream house that was about to go from having a $5,000 down payment to a big, fat zero. Not to mention, that was eight years of savings. It was bittersweet but Spain it was, and at the time I believed my grandpa was right. I could always start over.
Looking back, I don’t regret my decision. I didn’t blow the money on more makeup and froyo, or the countless other things that I spent my money on in college. Going to Spain was a goal of mine, and although that money was being saved for a different goal, it still went somewhere pretty special.
Did I ever start over?
Yes and no. I’ve ridden a similar roller coaster called “Saving and Spending Money” ever since. Historically, I’d go through periods of time where I would be really diligent about saving and then would drain my account for some kind of adult-related expense (or more usually, a trip of a lifetime).
Recently though, things have changed. My friend Dani (CFP™, ultimate Wealth Coach and fellow Invibed co-founder) has put personal finance back on my radar and I’ve started saving again with my twelve-year-old dream in mind: owning my own home.
Although my balance is smaller now than it was