You get what you pay for…
Have you ever heard that expression? It usually comes from some well-meaning asshole who is trying to make the point that you got bamboozled or were being cheap.
Or how about, there’s no such thing as a free lunch? As in there are strings attached to everything and everything has a cost, maybe not monetarily, but it’s sure to cost us something.
Sometimes I wonder how sayings like these got started or why it’s the negative train of thought that always sticks. I’m not saying these sayings are wrong. I’ve certainly got bitten on the ass a few times when it came to situations like these. But it, I don’t know, makes it seem like being frugal – not cheap – is a bad thing. Like wanting to save money, extend my dollar is stupid or just not possible.
But I grew up poor. I’m not sure there was any other way in West Virginia. Sure there were a few people that were able to build the brand new house way up on the top of the mountain, but most of us were down in the holler either in a trailer or a coal mining camp house.
But we always had enough. The only reason I was ever hungry was because I refused to eat what was made. Even then I was usually able to choke down enough to be full.
I had toys. I had clothes. I had everything I needed, plus a few things I didn’t.
And somewhere along the way I learned that it’s possible to have a pretty decent life without spending a lot of money. I’m sure it took a lot of planning and budgeting, but my parents always made sure we had what we needed – including cable T.V. sometimes.
Yep, I’ve always loved watching T.V.
So now that I’m an adult I can more fully appreciate the tightrope walk money management is sometimes. Back when I was first on my own I had no clue what to do with my money or even a desire to learn. I worked, had money after I got paid at the end of the week, but rarely did I have any money left by the time the next payday rolled around.
It was the first time I ever had to worry about where my next meal was going to come from or how I was going to pay my rent. The stress and worry was like a hungry, sadistic animal chewing its way through my brain. It made making bad decisions seem like the only choice I had.
It was the first time I cursed my parents and growing up poor. Not that my circumstances back then were necessarily their fault, but it’s always easier to blame someone else…
Something good did come out of it, though. I was fortunate enough to meet a genius when it comes to money management and I was smart enough at the time to recognize it. Yep, I’m taking credit for the one good decision I made at that time. I was also smart enough to trust him enough to let go of the control enough to let him help me.
But the real good that came out of that whole time was that I learned the real value of money. It is not the accumulation of shit. It is not being able to say, ‘look what I have’. It is not paying ridiculous amounts of money for something just because it has a certain label.
The real value of money is being able to look at an item and recognize whether buying it is worth the investment. Being able to look at something and seeing if the quality is there even if it doesn’t have a name brand. It is understanding that a brand name is only there for recognition purposes and to make you spend more money. It is a marketing tool used to sell more shit.
The real value of money is to know how hard it is to come by sometimes. The real value is to know having and spending it does not – and never will – bring lasting happiness. The real value is to know that sometimes spending less to get more is an awesome thing to be proud of and waiting to spend it is way more satisfying.
So I no longer curse my parents or even that short amount of time I spent scared and hungry. It taught me valuable lessons I will never forget. It made my life now possible.