My Spendy Teen Years…

This post was supposed to be published yesterday… but somehow I messed up… there goes my streak of Tuesday/Thursday posts… Oh well, it’s published now…

Last week I started writing about my financial upbringing and how I have been so lucky to grow up in the situation that I have. I ended that post nearing the end of my elementary school days.

Junior high school was when I started getting a bit more spendy, a bit more independent with my money, and a little less responsible with it.  I would babysit, and instead of getting a pay cheque that had to go to a bank before I could use it, I would get cash… and cash could sit in your wallet and get spent… I’m sure I put some money in savings… but mostly I think I spent my money on special lunches in the cafeteria, or going to the food court in the shopping mall for lunch, or buying random cheap knickknacks during those lunch time walks to the mall.

I got my first credit card sometime in junior high school.  It was technically not “mine” but attached to my mom’s card.  But I wasn’t allowed to use it without permission (and being the super good kid that I was, I followed the rules).  It was mostly so that I could go do my own clothes shopping with my friends and not have to drag my parents around with me.

I don’t know that I really fully understood credit cards back then, but having one got me familiar with the concept and that a credit card didn’t meant I could spend whenever I wanted…

Although I was spendy and slightly silly with my own money, my parents also made sure that I learned more responsibility around money in junior high too.  Any time that I wanted to do something expensive, like a school band trip to Disneyland, the deal was that if I could fund-raise or pay for 1/3 of the expense (plus my spending money for on the trip), my parents would pay for the rest… It was a pretty sweet deal really, and it definitely was motivating to get me to sell my chocolate covered almonds, or whatever else was the fundraising trend that year…

I didn’t really get summer jobs until high school, but I did quite a bit of babysitting…  But I did mention before that I’m not a huge baby or kid person… and this was true even back in high school, so once I was old enough to look for a “real” job, I did just that.  And just like with my newspaper route in my last post, my sister paved the way for me on this one too… She had been working at the neighborhood corner store during her time in high school, and I guess she did a good job… so when I went in and asked if they were hiring, they didn’t hesitate to give me the job.  I spent the next few years working evenings, weekends and holidays at the corner grocery store.

Since that money was once again coming in the form of a pay cheque, it would get saved up in the bank account again, and helped pay for quite a few fun trips during high school.  I still had my credit card for emergencies or for approved items (new soccer cleats or a new pair of jeans, etc.) but I guess I was lucky that I wasn’t super spendy… Don’t get me wrong, I definitely wasn’t frugal, but I seemed to occupy myself with lots of activities rather than go shopping.  I had learned early on that I needed to save up for things I wanted… If I spent all my money at the food court or on CDs, I wouldn’t be able to go on that weekend ski trip or the 2 week trip to France with my school over spring break.  So I am very fortunate that my parents somehow got that ingrained in my brain so I did it without really being aware of what I was doing…

Lucky for me, my family was leading me down the right path… My high school graduation gift from my grandfather was a $1000 contribution to an RRSP for me.  This was the start of my retirement savings… I didn’t start contributing myself for many years, but at least I knew about my RRSP and was aware that eventually I should be putting money in it.

By this time, my sister had taken a job with a bank while going to university, moved out and bought herself a condo.  She did a good job of leading by example…

I took a bit longer to get there… For university, I made another deal with my parents… If I stayed at home, where living was obviously cheaper, they would pay for my schooling, if I paid for my books and everything else.  Pretty sweet deal.  And even better, if I got my schooling paid for by scholarships, they would pay for my books instead, since the scholarship would mean that I “paid” for my schooling myself… Being the dorky nerd that I was… I managed to get my first two years paid for with scholarships.  Free school!  The program I took at school was a co-op work experience program, meaning that after the second year, we started doing paid work term placements every other semester.  This meant that my program took longer to do, and I sometimes had to be at school during the summer semester, but it also meant that once my scholarships had run out, I had my work term wages to pay for the following school semester.  It’s a pretty sweet set-up really.

I totally realize that I was extremely fortunate that my parents were in a position to help me like that, and that we lived in a town where I could live at home and go to a good university.  But I’m also very glad that my parents did give me 100% of the funds for my schooling, so that I had to learn the value of my education.

After graduating university, I managed to snag a well paying and interesting job in my home town.  My grandfather (who gave me the RRSP money) passed away shortly after I graduated university and left me an inheritance that was enough for the down payment on my first condo.

So that’s how I ended up leaving university with no debt and a head start in to life after school.  I know I was extremely lucky and fortunate to be given that start in life.  And it really is too bad that I didn’t realize how good my position was at the time… I can only imagine that I could be in a position to retire already if I had explored the non-traditional route right out of university…  But alas, I did not have my personal finance awakening until just this past year, so I’m playing a bit of catch up.  Lucky for me, the head-start I was given should let me catch up pretty quick.

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