It’s Not the Money I’m After

My relationship with money is complicated.  My dad makes good money and growing up I never really felt like I was major league missing out on anything in particular.  At least not that I can think of looking back.  God knows I may have felt differently at the time.

I got an allowance.  It started in 5th grade.  I remember sitting in the back seat of the car while my parents discussed what my sisters and my’s allowance should be. It was determined that I would get 5 dollars and my sister would get 3.  Coincidentally I was in 5th grade and my sister was in 3rd.  Once we realized this, we proceeded to get a raise in allowance as we moved up the grades.  Once I got to high school they decided that we would max out at $10 a week.

There were plenty of ways to circumvent the system.  My dad is the man you want to pick up the phone if you’re a telemarketer.  With a little convincing I could get him to buy me things.  Mom said it was because he was the one earning the money, so he felt freer to spend it.  I have no idea how accurate that is.  I just know that one weekend my dad stood up and declared “I haven’t spent enough money yet this weekend, let’s go to the mall,” and I will still sometimes remind him of that moment.

When I turned 15–the age that they bank would allow me to have my own bank account–we signed me up.  For my first bank account my mom had to be there to sign for anything.  It didn’t feel like a real account.  A few years later I got a proper account with a checking account and a savings account linked together and online banking and a debit card.

After we moved cross-country allowances kind of fell apart.  A lot of things stopped after that move.  Saturday morning breakfasts with dad.  Family trips to the mall.  It’s not that they were scorned, simply that they had run their course and were replaced.  We went to the farmers market on Saturday mornings.  My sister and I made grocery store runs where she would drive and I would rant about the inadequacies of 2-way stop signs.

When I started school in Chicago a few years later, I was given a monthly allowance.  It covered groceries, sundries, clothes when needed, and–after I moved out of the dorms–rent.  This changed by the month, but I was never in need of money.  If I ran a little too close to the edge in a month I would call mom and she would transfer more money into my account.

Now as I’m starting to do my own taxes and look for my own apartment, I’m starting to think of the day-to-day realities of being financially independent.  A huge part of me is scared of money.  What is there to spend money on anyway?  A place to live, food to eat, clothes to wear.  Yoga classes, eating out, travel, camping/climbing equipment?  It seems that the best things in life cannot be bought.  But how do we find them?

I want to have friends to hang out with.  I want to have some way of being busy every day, a routine to get into.  I want to make things.  Physical things with yarn and string, and more ambiguous things with words on a page.  In my life it is the relationships and the accomplishments that I hope to be proud of.  Not the state of my bank account.

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