We have all heard the saying that the only things certain in life are death and taxes. I never gave much thought to taxes, assuming it is just a fact of life. I never gave much thought to death either until I had no choice.
I grew up in a family that never had much money. We were on food stamps, lost a lot of belongings because my parents didn't pay the storage unit bills, received reduced lunch, and got our clothes from thrift stores and hand-me-downs. I never asked my parents for anything. People assume because kids are young they don't notice things or understand what is going on. That really isn't the case. A child may not be able to truly comprehend what is going on, but they know enough to realize their family is 'different' even if they don't know why.
As I got older and our money situation worsened, I was forced to help out with the money I earned through a part time job. I had to pay for my own car, car insurance, and clothes for school. My father often "borrowed" money from me for household necessities like food and a water heater. I got angrier as my friends would complain that their parents wouldn't pay their car insurance. Their parents paid for everything else and I felt they didn't realize how lucky they were.
I moved out on my own at 18. I am now 30 (almost 31) and the worries of managing my money as poorly as my parents did still haunts me. I have made money mistakes in the past, like using credit cards and letting an ex-boyfriend drive me into a lot of debt. I worried I would never get ahead. Fortunately, I worked two full time jobs a few years ago for a year straight to get myself in a better financial situation. A big driving force in that was the death of my father.
My father died when I was 23. He had gotten lung cancer after a life of smoking and hard drinking caught up to him. I didn't have a great relationship with either one of my parents, but at one point my father and I got along. While he was in the hospital I spent a lot of time sitting next to him. We would watch the news, I would get the nurses so he could use the restroom, and I tried to just be there. During that time I realized that he didn't mean for things to be the way they were. I think, deep down, he wanted us to have a better life. He just couldn't figure out HOW to do that. He was the master of get rich quick schemes; hoping they would pay off so he could save the sinking ship that was our life. I would see the other person in the hospital room constantly get visits while only a few of us saw my father. He wasn't perfect by any means and I struggle still with my forgiveness towards him. But seeing my 63 year old father cry because they told him there was nothing they could do for the cancer made me think maybe it wasn't all on purpose.
Shortly after he passed away, I read The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. I was determined not to have a life like my father did, barely making ends meet, just to die by myself. The book gave me so much hope that I could get out debt that I cut up all my credit cards on the spot. I shut off my cable and Internet to save money. I worked 80 hours or more a week plus trying to do school online. I wanted to be free. The morning that I made the final payment on my car and had no credit card debt was so exciting I wanted to scream it to everyone. I felt like I could break our family cycle.
That was about 7 years ago. I have had a lot of ups and downs in all regards of life, including money. I read Dave Ramsey's book over again when I need a boost. I know that I paid items off before and can again (although I try not to get in a hole at all). I finished my Bachelor's and Masters even through family deaths, family tragedies, changing jobs, and moving repeatedly the past year. I wish I had found Dave Ramsey's book years before. It gave me hope that I could be financially sound even though my parents never were. It gave me hope that I cannot have money being the driving force behind all my decisions. The biggest thing that you have to do is face your financial situation and then do something.