It was a cold, snowy night in early February 2009. I, like many others in the publishing industry, have been no stranger to the massive layoffs, reorganizations, consolidations, and other developments that had become commonplace since the economy first tanked back in Fall 2008.
A few months prior, I moved a three-bedroom apartment in Jersey City right when the first news about bailouts and TARP came out. Great timing, right? Nonetheless, I was doing my best to save where possible and be even smarter about my finances. I had some short-term goals I was looking forward to completing once I received my federal tax rebate. Things were looking up, and I was looking forward to reaping the fruits of my saving and reallocations over the past few months.
All of a sudden, I thought everything had changed when I received word that I would be taking unpaid days off along with an unexpected increase in my rent. Already stretching every penny I made, I thought that I had to put everything on hold. I was rethinking putting money into a certificate of deposit and Roth IRA just a couple of months before. So I did what every independent, responsible 24-year-old does — I called home. After talking to my mother for about 30 minutes, I realized that I could still do everything that I wanted to do — get a gym membership, purchase a BlackBerry, go out and enjoy being, well, a twentysomething in one of the greatest cities in the world.
My problem was that I had very long-term goals in mind with the nest egg that I have, and I thought that this was going to derail all of that. I even remember mentioning buying a home in the suburbs for my family. One, I’m single. Two, I have no kids. This is a very long-term goal that isn’t going to happen for at least several years, and certainly wasn’t going to affect me at this moment.
At the core, I had to realize again that money is a tool. It’s kind of like the story in the Bible in which a master gives three servants “talents”. For the full passage, click here. Basically, two of them went out and invested it with varying success — but in the end they both increased what they had. The third servant was scared what he was given and buried it in the ground. The master commended the first two, and gave them even more. The third one, well, he was left out in the cold. The point is, I had to remember why I was saving money and be realistic. Saving money for a rainy day and then keeping it locked away when the downpour comes is pointless. I had scrimped and saved, and if I just took the money and kept it locked away because of a small stumbling block, no one would benefit. Why save, then?
I had to ease up on my very stringent philosophy on money and save according to goals I wrote down for myself. The days of stuffing mattresses with money are over. We all work hard for our money, and with a little planning we should be able to enjoy ourselves while still knowing in the back of our minds we have allocated for all of our bills, obligations, and other basic needs. You know, common sense — or cents. This epiphany, and my recovery from it, is what laid the basis for Living With Common Cents. We don’t have to be experts to be good stewards with our money. We just have to possess common sense and be open to some new — and not so new — ideas.