Bonnie: Why I Hate Cats And Love Saving Money

After my lesson in start up costs, I decided the next business venture shouldn’t require seed money from my father. Unfortunately, there are limited options for a seven year old striking out into the business world. After a few failed attempts at friendship bracelets and paint-by-numbers sales I had a break through in the pet sitting business.

Our next-door neighbors had a cat named Bonnie. Bonnie embodied evil. She would lurk behind the couch near the door. When I stepped over the threshold she’d propel herself towards me hissing and swiping the air with her claws. For five dollars a day I braved the possibility of death by satanic cat and diligently cleaned her kitty litter and put out fresh food and water each morning and evening.

mean cat(What I saw)

CatSwipe(What was probably happening)

Needless to say, I still am not a fan of cats and would much rather rough house with a German Shepard.

puppies3                      (Yes, I deliberately juxtaposed an adorable puppy photo with the evil cats.)

The money from taking care of Bonnie went right into my childhood savings fund, a candy tin hidden in my closet. Perhaps the threat of my money being taken created the need to hide it (years later I was devastated to learn about taxes). I filled up that tin can with dreams of buying my first car, a red Mitsubishi Eclipse.

eclipse

(No, this did not end up being my first car.)

The dreams of buying a car at 16 died when my family moved overseas and getting a driver’s license was impractical and improbable for a young gaijin. Instead, the pet sitting empire expanded.

Those early years of pet-sitting taught me how to earn my own money and more importantly to save it. With no living costs, except entertainment, I could bank most of my earnings and routinely would save up for large purchases or just save “for the future.”

A decade after my tussles with Bonnie, on the eve of my departure to college*, my father gave me a book called The Rules of Money by Richard Templar. Rule 27 read, “Start Saving Young (or Teach Your Kids This One If It’s Too Late For You).”

Mr. Templar suggested coming up with a “figure” to save from each paycheck. He wrote that he personally put aside 50 percent. Not to be outdone by the man, I put aside 50 percent of all my paychecks in college in order to create a “nest egg” for my post-college adventures. I dreamed of a going to Australia for a year or back-packing through Europe for a few months.

In reality, neither of those happened, but I did end up needing a savings cushion. My first “real world” job brought me to New York City, the United States’ most expensive city to live in. A land that requires 50% of my current paychecks to pay rent. But my first “real job” paid about $200 bucks a week. An amount that didn’t even cover a month’s worth of rent. More on that to come.

Saving your money from a young age is one of the greatest financial lessons to learn. I don’t, however, recommend saving it in a candy tin, even if you are eight. As my father says, “Compound interest can be your best friend or your worst enemy.” More to come on that too.

* Ironically enough, my college mascot was “The Bonnies.” Political correctness forced the University to change from the original mascot, the Brown Indians.

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Donuts and Dollars

In the summer of 1996 a glazed Krispy Kreme donut changed my life. My sister and I had two boxes of donuts set up on our Fisher Price yellow-and-blue picnic table right at the edge of our driveway. Our mother’s garage sale lured folks in while my sister’s big blue eyes and my charming sales pitch secured the purchase of our Krispy Kreme donuts. We charged a horrifically marked-up price of fifty-cents apiece.

https://i2.wp.com/blogs.babble.com/family-kitchen/files/2010/09/krispy_kreme.jpg

In reality it probably only took an hour for us to sell all our donuts, but at the time it felt like eons. Handing over those donuts to die-hard garage sale enthusiasts was grueling work in the heat of a North Carolina summer morning. Looking in my teal fanny pack I counted out $12 and proudly told my father I’d made a lot of money that day.

He asked to see the earnings. After being subjected to seven years of “candy tax” at Halloween I clutched the pouch to my chest, refusing to show him.  Feeling the weight of all those quarters I imagined what this money could buy at Toys-R-Us.

My dad scooped up the fanny pack and carefully counted out the money on our picnic table and proceeded to give me my first lesson in economics.

“You have twelve dollars here,” he said.
“Yes,” I said. “I am going to Toys-R-Us.”
“Well, it cost me three dollars to buy the donuts you sold,” he said while he picked up three dollars worth of quarters.
“Then, you had your sister help you sell them so you need to pay her.” he rationalized while handing my four-year-old sister $2.00. 
“So, after expenses, your total profit was seven dollars.”

He smiled while pushing the remaining piles of quarters towards me.

At that moment I had never felt so cheated in my life.

IMG_2974

Now, looking back, I see the beautiful gift my father bestowed upon me. I understand and respect money.

The parable from my childhood always elicits interesting responses. Many of my peers seem to view my father as a heartless Scrooge snatching away petty cash, while others nod their heads in approval.

If you fall into the first category, don’t fear. My sister and I received plenty of Christmas presents and never had to chip-in on the cost of my birthday parties.  My father simply chose to teach me lessons about money from an early age, lessons that have greatly benefited me as a millennial.

IMG_2976 IMG_2975(yeah, we rocked that Barbie Jeep)

The millennial generation is portrayed in popular media as whiny, over-indulgent brats who feel entitled to live off their parents well into adulthood. Hence the moniker “Generation Me.” I’d like to give my fellow “Generation Me” members a break.

Sure, some of my fellow millennials still live off of parental welfare. But often times I find that it’s because they simply have not been given the tools, or the shove out of the nest, to survive without it. How are we supposed to know how to survive, and thrive, financially if we were never taught the skills to do so?

I’m embarking on a quest to continue my education about finances. Shortly after graduating college I moved to New York City.  It has proven a great struggle to financially survive living in the Big Apple on funds that, initially, placed me barely above the poverty line. My main goal at the time: keep my balance sheet out of the red.

The basics of finances I understand, the importance of savings, developing good credit and how to balance a checkbook. Other things like IRAs, stock market investments and consolidating debt are outside of my scope of knowledge. Hopefully, sharing my own stories and what I learn along the way will help some other broke millennials who aren’t enjoying the stark reality of living without the Bank of Mom and Dad.

You can also follow the journey on Twitter: @BrokeMillennial