Money can be a really scary thing sometimes.
It’s scary to be in debt or to not have enough money or have to constantly worry about such issues.
One of the many things my parents have taught me well is how to manage money. We never had a formal sit down talk about it or anything, but like many other things we learn, I learned through observing. And what I have learned from observing my parents, are what I believe to be very important lessons in handling one’s money.
Money is a Fact of Life
It’s sad to think that good intentions can be foiled or limited by something as materialistic and silly as money.
I had my first experience with that harsh reality with the robotics team at my school. We started the team from scratch Fall of 2014 and the competition we were doing was the cheapest college robotics competition you could ever do (robotics is an expensive hobby).
Even so, the first question the team’s adviser asked me was, “How do you plan on getting the money for this?”
What I learned from being on the front lines of fundraising for the team is that money is easy when you’re not the one having to worry about it. But when you are the one responsible for it, all hell breaks loose.
Also, it is scary and massively intimidating to have to sit in front of somebody and ask them for money. You feel small and bad that you’re having to ask and it’s just an all-around intimidating thing to do. And that’s why fundraising is so difficult and why you should have mad respect for those who do it.
Everything Comes at a Price
The chair of the engineering department told me this once when working out the team’s budget for the year. He said that the department will help fund part of the team but in return we must do something for the department. That something is STEM outreach in the community to help expand the department’s image.
Everything comes at a price, and you must be careful that you are able to wake up even.
It’s a Give-Take Kind of Relationship
The logistic of making sure you have enough money is really to start saving; and saving means prioritizing. If you buy this, you cannot buy this. And if you need this, you have to take money from the things you don’t really need so you can afford the things you do need.
It takes a lot of self-discipline to be smart in the way you save, but it is a crucial life skill to be able to prioritize (and the sooner you start, the better off you’ll be).
It’s Not About the Money
A friend of mine who goes to another school, went through a similar experience as me when she was also starting a new group on her campus. Their group needed about $2500 for that pilot year. About $2000 of that budget went to buying necessary supplies. The other $500 went to being able to go to competition.
Now, going to competition was not mandatory per se. But she knew that if their group did not bust a move in their first year, the school would lose interest in supporting them and the students who showed initial interest would no longer be interested in the group either. She believed so much in the group that going to competition became mandatory for them in her mind. And therefore making sure they had all the needed supplies also became mandatory. They had to meet their budget line.
The group was able to raise $1300 from local and university sponsorships. It was a month before competition and they were still $1200 short from making their budget. So what my friend did, and one of the things that reassured me that she was among the greatest people I know, is she wrote a personal check for $1200 and sent it to the university as an anonymous donation for the group. And then she started looking for hotel accommodations.
Logistically speaking, in the grand scheme of things $1200 is chump change, but to a college student that’s a considerable amount of money. Especially when you consider that that money wasn’t going towards something that was directly for her, like for her to study abroad or a new computer or anything.
When I asked her about it she said that giving that money in one swoop of the pen was easy because having the group meant that much to her. When she graduates she won’t think about the money she gave; she’ll think about the group she started from scratch and how that group will still be around after she leaves. She’ll think about the legacy she would have left at her school, and that to her was priceless.
Moral of the story in one line: it’s not about the money; it’s about the investment that the money goes towards.
Quality, Not Quantity
It is very important to get the most out of your purchases.
Casey Neistat, the film maker I mentioned in an earlier post, had to max out his only credit card in order to buy the very first computer he ever owned. It was with that computer with which he started making his own movies and videos. He now has his own studio in New York in which he makes the movies he wants to make on top of the other zillion things he does.
Now, I’m not telling you to go out and buy that yacht you’ve always wanted because you’re willing to commit yourself to using it every weekend.
But what I am saying is to ask yourself honestly before you buy anything: What are you going to use it for? Are you really going to use it? And what are you going to gain from it?
And before making that purchase, make sure you have some damn good answers to those questions.
No Chasing Allowed
Whatever you want to do, never go into it for the money – you will not make it because that “selfishness” will come through in your work and nobody likes a fake.
You’ll be a fake because a writer’s ultimate job is to write, not to make money. You’ll be a fake because an actor’s ultimate job is to make films, not to make money. You’ll be a fake because a musician’s ultimate job is to make music, not to make money.
The ultimate goal in life is to do what you love, not to make money.
Focus on doing whatever you’re doing really well and the money will come to you.
Money is not something to chase; it is something that comes when it is well deserved.
Housekeeping Note: The mason jar pictured above is a jar my ex-roommate and I started keeping in our dorm. We called it the Semester Jar, and what we would do is put our spare change in the jar throughout the semester. At the end of the semester, as a treat or when we needed a break from finals, we would use the money collected to get pizza or something of the sort. It was our way of saving.
The wallet pictured above is the Plaid Magic Wallet from Charming Charlie.