There Are No Winners And No Losers Just Champions
I really don’t like using the word “loser” as it is such a negative word and it doesn’t invite motivation to anyone who thinks it. If you think living on a budget is for losers I can’t help you because you are the only one that can help yourself.
If you use a budget I’m sure that you’ve had people who have asked you to hang out, go on holidays, travel, dinner etc. but you can’t because you simply can’t afford to it. We have and we politely decline. Some of our friends cringe when we tell them we use a budget but we do the exact same when we hear that they don’t manage their money at all. They earn, they spend then they deal. Earn>Spend>Deal… that’s not for us.
While at a medical appointment with my wife last month I decided to pick the brain of the staff member (I’ll call her Cindy) working on my wife about her thoughts on life as a young adult and finances, only because I’m nosey that way.
I had asked her in the quiet moments of her conducting a medical procedure on my wife about how long she had worked in her role in the medical field. She had told us she had been there for just over a year which was pretty much since she graduated from University.
When I had asked Cindy if she really needed a degree to do what she does she said no but she wanted the degree but not the student loans that came with it because having a degree meant more opportunity even if she couldn’t find a job in her educated field.
It was funny that she said that because it’s not the first time I’ve heard that now living in Canada. My sister-in-law said the same thing to me about having a University degree as she works for the government. As long as you have some sort of degree it looks good on your résumé she told me and for the most part, I agree that employers love the ‘degree’ aspect on a résumé.
I needed to know if Cindy was a financially savvy young adult so I proceeded to ask her if she uses a budget to track her finances every month. I’m sly but the only way I learn is by asking people questions and finding out how they view personal finance.
I was neither shocked nor surprised with what she had to say. “A budget, no but I should”, she says since my mentality about money and finance going into University had me believe that “budgets were for losers” who studied finance or who had nothing better to do than count every penny they earned. “I’m not that person any more”, she said.
The real world
Not many students think about what happens when they finish school and it’s time to live life in the real world. She told us that when she left for University she wasn’t prepared at all, especially when it came to spending and saving money. Her parents used to just buy her whatever they wanted so it was easy for her to do the same when she was on her own.
There really was “no thought process to my spending”, she said which landed her in over $25,000 in credit card debt and OSAP loans over the course of 5 years of school. It wasn’t until all the debts started piling up that she wanted to move towards living the debt free lifestyle but only wishes she didn’t put herself in the position she had. It’s funny how we always think we know what we are doing but can look back on our lives and realize we had no bloody clue and just coasted along believing we did.
Cindy’s parents approach to money management and buying her whatever she wanted is just another stark reminder to parents about how important it is to limit what you buy your children and to teach them about money. It’s a better lesson to have your children earn money than to just splash it their way when they want it or just to shut them up and make them happy. There is no reason parents need to give in.
It reminds me of my friend’s daughter and how he is working very hard now to change her mentality on ‘wanting’ everything she sees when they go shopping at the mall or the department stores. He will later learn that these lessons will benefit not only his daughter but himself because he won’t need to bail her out of cash disasters down the road.
Cindy looks to be in her mid twenties and from the sounds of it comes from a family that was modest yet worked hard for everything they earned but failed to teach her about money Many people lobby the school system in hopes they will offer personal finance education courses or even mandatory education for the students to enroll in as a credit course to learn in the least basic finances.
The budget loser mindset has to become a thing of the past because life isn’t as ‘simple’ as it used to be. I say simple only because we didn’t have the technology and gadgets back then as we do today.
We would play outside until the sun went down, we didn’t have cell phones and if we wanted to make a phone call we used the house phone. Looking back life seemed simple because I wasn’t lost in another world. The internet essentially is another world of its own.
In some ways we’ve made life easy with computers but in other ways we’ve complicated it and it’s costing us tonnes of money. Just last week a full computer system cost me over $2000 and it’s not built to last for life either. Cindy’s family lives in a pricier tiny community a short distance to Toronto, Ontario which is easier for her father to commute to work and not as expensive as living in Toronto.
Most times I have to give my head a shake when I see house prices in Toronto but house prices in London UK really is not that different. Big city, more opportunity, the more it will cost you but not all big cities land people fairy tale lives. It can be very tough, even for a student fresh out of school.
Growing up and living in a small community for Cindy posed few problems for her although her parents had to drive her and her brother into the city all the time when they needed to go somewhere. As they got older her parents bought a car for them (Lucky kids) although the brother managed to smash it up 3 times.
The last car that was bought was a standard transmission and since her brother couldn’t drive it anymore as insurance had gone through the roof she had exclusive rights to it. I’m sure she was doing the happy dance as I know my sister would have.
When it was time for her to go off to University she packed up her belongings into the back of her trunk and away she drove to Sudbury, Ontario to get her degree as an ultra sound technician. Life was good she says and although her OSAP loan was small she was one of the lucky students who got sucked into a campus credit card offer that was enticing although she wishes she had walked away.
Personally I don’t think credit card companies should be giving these students cards when they are not even working and have no way to pay them but if not maybe just the minimum payment. We know that if we pay the minimum payment on a credit card that it may take years even to pay it off.
So, now Cindy is buried deep in credit card debt, has a student loan and from the start she thought budgeting was for losers. I know you just thought, “look at who is the loser now” but really it’s not about anyone being a loser it’s about financial education. That’s what it boils down to in my eyes. We can’t judge how someone chooses to spend their money but we do know there may come a time where they will have to answer to themselves.
There are many people who think budgeting is a waste of time and all they need to do is spend less than they earn. Great, I think that’s fine as long as you actually are spending less than you earn and you know where your money is going. Either way we should know where our money is going, how else are we able to set goals and work towards achieving them if we don’t know what we are playing with?
Now that she is back living at home and probably coming up into her late 20′s she has to shack up with mom and pop because she can’t afford to live on her own. It sounds to me like her mindset has changed especially now that she has graduated with a degree and she is using a budget.
I never thought that she would get to the point where she says she uses a budget but she told me she wants out of her parents house and out of debt. I guess the older you get the word loser means nothing at all… it’s a silly word people use that are afraid to try something new or try to sound tough with.
She doesn’t care what it takes she is going to work as much as she can including overtime if available and pay down her debts to get her life back. Too many students get caught up in the fast lanes of partying, all-nighters, booze and the smush room that they forget about life during and after school when it comes to money flow and debt.
I don’t think this is unusual for many students once they graduate, especially when they have a taste of the real world. There is that sense of entitlement for some but not all young adults are the same.
Using a budget
Budgeting wasn’t easy for Cindy from the start she says because she was not used to tracking expenses, ever. She found a free online budget spreadsheet that she downloaded and started to use and put together a debt reduction plan so she set some goals for herself. Her goal was to pay off her student loans and credit card debt in 2 years or less so she could move out of her parents and back into the city.
Her commute to work is a bit long at the moment so finding a place in the city she works in would be ideal and save her wear and tear on her car, gas, car insurance and time. There are many pluses for making the payments happen fast and frequent because clearly she wants to be a financially independent as an adult who has her own place so she can have privacy.
I don’t know about you but living at home and having any sort of relationship would be a bit tough so now her personal life has taken a back seat as well. She’s not comfortable getting into a relationship and having to tell someone she may start dating that she lives at home because she has so much debt so she’s waiting to date and find the man of her dreams.
Cindy now saves enough money every month from her job to put $1000 on her credit card and $500 a month on her OSAP loans. She pays her parents $500 a month rent which includes groceries but if she wants any extras she has to pay for them on her own. She pays her own car insurance, car payments and cell phone bill. The cable and internet are part of the perks of living at home so she doesn’t have to cough up any cash for that.
She said she’s got a long way to go but she knows now the importance of budgeting now and why she was the loser thinking that she didn’t need to budget when clearly she did. I told her no one is a loser, we all live and learn and that is how we grow into the adults that we are.
I told her to take the experience and pass it forward to those other young adults ready to go to school and maybe one day she can tell her own children her success story. All this information and all I did was ask a few questions. In the end she was smiling so I hope what information I passed along to her helps her out a bit more or in the least gave her that little extra push she might need.
I asked her what top 3 tips she had for young students on their way to University or College.
I think it’s clear where she was leading with this one but for a student I also it’s important to create a student budget so you can save while you are in school rather than creating a bigger debt that you don’t need upon graduating.
Don’t just accept that you will live day-to-day and take things as they come. You need to plan as much as you can and expect that things won’t always go as plan but to be prepared for those times
A good portion of her money went to eating out vs eating in and cooking her own meals. We all know that eating out can get costly so telling your friends that you’re going to cook tonight should not be taboo or if you do go out with your friends to limit those times and eat something before you go so you spend less at the restaurant. You can also look for online coupons and restaurant deals to save some money.
I like a happy ending to a debt story but for this it was not only happy Cindy shares how her mindset had grown over the course of 5 years of her education at University.
I hope her story inspires other young adults out there who want to make a difference in their lives financially by planning ahead and being smart with the money they have and drawing up an action plan for their future while using a budget. There are never losers only people who fail to take the first step towards personal success.
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