A Working Budget – Before An Online Cash Advance Was Available

Have you ever stashed away money for a rainy day? What did you use it on? Was it really raining? Did you ever add money to it so you could secretly start saving up for something special? Were you able to do it?

These questions may sound silly, but I have to tell you, first hand, that I once had a secret stash spot in my kitchen which provided me with quite a bit of “extra” purchases when I was first starting out on my own. Moving into my first apartment was a great feeling. I was only able to afford beach chairs for living room furniture and accepted hand me down kitchenware, I thought I was living big. I held two jobs, had a car payment and was living on my own. What more would a 22 year love to have? Lots!

I didn’t grow up in an area where there were cash advance stores around every corner, and online options… well, they weren’t in existence yet. I lived in the time of the envelopes in a shoe box system. It was quite a complex system on its own; multiple envelopes, all labeled with paperclips readily available. We didn’t have debit cards back then, I did have two credit cards, and then there was all the other typical living expenses added into the mix. I handled it well. Each envelope had a fixed amount marked clearly with a black permanent marker and every time I added a receipt into the envelope and subtracted the amount. I even highlighted the remaining balance so there would be no confusion.

In this system, I kept my finances nailed down to the penny. I even had a separate envelope for “outings with friends”. I guess it is recorded more simply now as “entertainment”, whatever your category’s name, the concept is still the same – don’t go over your limit.

In my kitchen, there was a tin container my grandmother had sent me cookies in when I was in college. I loved the container, and I loved putting money in it. Anytime I had leftover money from my “outings with friends” and “food costs” categories, I would place it in my tin can. I also placed my earnings from extra shifts I picked up on weekends with my second job. Besides money, the tin can held my “I wish I had” lists. It was a good incentive for me to not overspend and cut back on spending when it came to the envelopes which fed my tin.

I kept my money flow on the upward swing as I put money away in my tin. I managed to make some of those purchases. I bought a washing machine and a second hand dryer; I was able to buy a recliner for my living room, a VCR to watch movies since I didn’t have cable TV, and my most prized possession at the time, a new computer. I went to stores comparing prices and quality and as I was determined to buy my wants, I also wasn’t going to make the purchase a rushed decision. I paid cash for each one. They were mine and I was more determined to save for the next purchase as I drove home.

Maybe it is a good thing that there were no debit cards back then, no online cash advance opportunities and no payday loan stored around my area. My credit cards were saved for emergencies and I was debt free. It felt good.

I have a new goal in life. I want to get back to that financial status someday. I want to be able to buy extras and have room on my credit cards in case of emergency. It will happen.

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