The first thing JJ from The Financial Graduate remembers when she thinks back on her university days is the numerous credit card booths set up all around her campus.
“There were lines of students signing up to get their first credit card, and some free swag,” says JJ. “It just seemed way too easy. All you have to do is turn 18 and be a student and you can have access to a credit card with no idea how to use it.”
She also remembers the students who would take out student loans and then blow the cash on a trip. They simply couldn’t control themselves. “They displayed an inability to delay gratification,” says JJ. “Then there were people who were more like me. We were the savers. We were willing to put aside some of our immediate wants and desires for greater returns and less debt in the future.”
“Less debt” is being humble. JJ earned bachelor’s degrees in psychology and communication and a master’s in experimental psychology. She spent 10 years in college and graduated without debt. She even saved enough money while going to school to put a down payment on a home three months after she finished school. But there were sacrifices.
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Moving out on her own
After earning her first degree with her parents’ support, they told her that she was financially responsible for her continued educational efforts. JJ believed that was fair.
“At this time, I decided to move out of my parents’ house and in with my then boyfriend (now husband),” says JJ. “It was a big change. Especially financially. Not only was I responsible for my tuition, but now I had to pay for things like rent and groceries!”
But she didn’t panic — and she didn’t overspend. They both worked multiple jobs and sacrificed. JJ worked full or part-time throughout her entire education. The jobs included working at a pie shop, gym, golf course, pub, admin at a psych office, door-to-door sales, research assistant and teaching assistant.
They also found an interesting, and challenging, place to live. “We lived in a basement suite for six years,” remembers JJ. “Being below ground for this long is not good for any human. Not to mention we always had the WORST neighbors living above us.”
She told me a funny story. “Our first neighbor and his girlfriend would get into some epic scraps right before bed every night. Their room was directly above ours, so we got to hear the intimate details.”
Her next neighbors weren’t much better. JJ says, “I literally didn’t have a solid night’s sleep the entire time we lived there.” But the rent was inexpensive. “I think we paid $600 a month. It was also really close to the university, which is why I decided to move in with my husband in the first place.”
The saver and the spender
I thought because JJ is super responsible with her money that her husband would share her obsession. I was wrong.
“I am a saver,” says JJ. “I want to prepare for the long term. My husband is a spender. He lives in the present and doesn’t worry as much about the future. Money management has been our largest point of tension. However, over 11 years we have developed a system that works well for us.”
Twice each month, when they are paid, they each put money into a joint account to cover all their bills and some investments. Then they have separate accounts for additional investing and spending.
“I am responsible for managing our money but I include my husband in all money decisions and I try to get him interested in where we are investing,” says JJ. “I like this kind of stuff, he doesn’t. So, it generally works for us.”
Something JJ told me sums up, for me, how she feels about emotional spending.
“I am practical and rational with my money decisions,” says JJ. “Maybe to a fault. If anything, I tend to overanalyze even the smallest purchases. I don’t even take the tags off new clothes I have purchased for a few days until I am totally sure that it was a ‘smart’ buy.”
That’s smart money management.
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