Photo Credit: @cjphillipsvisualsllc on IG
In The Beginning
I don't know about you, but I grew up in a home that didn't teach me how to have a good relationship with money. My first encounter with coin was with an actual coin. I had seen on a tv show back in the 80's that you could find money in the couch. So, one day when I was helping dust the furniture, I stuck my little five year old arm around under the plastic covered cushions and to my surprise I found two shiny quarters. I was so amazed that it actually worked. After I rubbed them together for a while (and probably even put them in my mouth, because that's what kids do) I put them in my little pocket and fantasized about what I would buy from the corner store. Somehow, my mom found the quarters first and asked me where I'd gotten them. I told her and she beat me for stealing. I was more shocked by the accusation of theft than I was about the beating. I didn't understand for the life of me, how it could be considered a crime when we lived there. It was our house. Therefore, finders keepers/ losers weepers. However, my mom was convinced that I'd stolen from her. She was appalled and I was hurt and upset. Alright...I have to accept it, because I had to stay in a child's place and I did.
Then, sometime later at my dad's apartment, my sister took some change out of his ware game board (pronounced like war-rie for those who are not of Caribbean decent). She got punished as well. I thought to myself, if both of my parents felt that strongly about their loose change with their own children, maybe other people felt the same way about their money too; even within a family setting. In hindsight, I guess they were worried that if we did that where we lived, there was a good chance that we'd do that where we didn't.
As I got older, my young mind thought, "when I have kids, I'm gonna save money for them so they don't have to worry about getting nor having it." When I actually did have a child, I realized how expensive parenthood actually was. I understood more that every penny really did count. Sir and I were only 25 and 26, but professionally we were rooted in the world of finance on two different ends of the spectrum. He on the risky and myself on the more secure side. We both made money. I made a lot less at a much slower rate, but I had a firm mental grasp that even though we didn't come from money, it was damn sure out there to be had. It was just the making and not wasting of it that truly mattered. Saving and investing it held far more weight for sure.
Learning To Budget
When I tell you that I put my budget hat on by the time I was about 32 (and before that if I'm being totally honest), just believe me. However, I did this without a rule book and with lots of financially irresponsible people around me. The world that we live in is very irresponsible as a whole (sometimes myself included). It encourages over-spending. It encourages debt. I started getting information where I could. Even though Google was around by then, I didn't know to use it and I damn sure wasn't thinking of Googling ways to create a financial plan for myself. I was financially independent even as one half of a couple. Financial books were incredibly boring, but I tried to read them (as per Sir's advice). I also watched quite a bit of Suze Orman. Outside of being completely honest about what I had vs. what I did not, I wrote E V E R Y T H I N G down. I mean every single thing. I wrote it on post it notes and in my journals. I wrote it on napkins, I wrote it on mail. I had to see it everywhere so it would sink in, " This is what you actually have my little darling." I held myself accountable. I wrote what I owed every month; What I had in the bank (checking and savings). The amount that I had left over bi-weekly after taking care of my lifestyle expenses baffled me often. The balance would be about $100 - $500. That's all the wiggle room I had to do laundry for three, buy groceries, pay for transportation and any entertainment. To this day, I don't know how I did it. Especially with all those damn kiddie parties, vacations, family gatherings, helping others who thought I could afford it. My mind couldn't envision a world where I was able to save. There was too much going on and I wasn't making nearly enough to handle it and save the amount that Suze said I should have in an emergency fund and that was just in case something went wrong. I knew that I had to try harder and that's what I did.
Once I got my mind right and used to the truth, I started cutting out all the little things that I could not afford at that time. This was so hard. I loved getting Netflix movies in the mail at least once a week. I loved buying little gifts I didn't need while walking through Grand Central terminal after work (like Godiva Chocolate covered strawberries) mainly on payday. I loved buying my son clothes and toys endlessly. Loved buying S H O E S and dresses! You get the gist. I had to cut all of that out for a while. Sometimes I looked and felt like an asshole, but I knew my future depended on getting my life in order. My baby and I needed a healthy savings. I had to change the way I thought and behaved before he was able to really watch my habits and mimic them. Above all, I didn't want to be a parent that gave him a spanking for stealing my change. If he had his own, we could sidestep that and we surely did. In our house we have respect for each other's money. Even in the smallest of ways. If I find money in the wash, I give it to the person who's pocket I found it in and they do the same for me. This happens because we each have our own supply. We each receive, spend a portion and save the rest. Practicing good financially moral habits helps keep the flow of money circulating. Also, talk to your kids and your immediate family about money. Talk to them about investing. Talk to them about future business plans. Include them. This way everyone is working towards similar goals. Do this even when it seems unattainable. Keep the mindset that you may not have it yet, but you are in preparation of receiving it. Then create a solid plan of making and saving to your desired amount. While you wait, educate yourself at your level of understanding. Talk to successful people you may know, about how they made their money. Familiarize yourself with the difference between an asset and a liability. An asset being something that provides future economic benefit, like cash, an education, or an internship. While a liability is an obligation, such as a loan, debt (this includes a mortgage that you can't afford), owning back taxes, etc.
Figuring out how to save in a manner that properly suited me took serious trial and error. I would save and reward myself and keep rewarding myself. Then have to start all over from scratch. I did that so many times. At first, I saved all my change for about a year. I saved for me and my child separately. He never spent his money, because he always spent mine. That wasn't the goal anyway. I wanted him to have something when he left the nest. Then, I started saving according to the week in the year; the first week of the year, I saved a dollar, the second week I saved two, the forty-second week I saved $42 and so on. That was when I realized how much money truly adds up if you just stick to the plan. Then one year I got wiser and realized that if I paid off all of my outstanding bills, it would free me up to truly save the kind of money I wanted. That's when I started saving $250 every two weeks automatically. I paid myself before I paid anyone. Guess what? That's the one that worked. My mind functions better in the form of a simple list. So here goes...
Every November create a new bullet journal or an electronic spreadsheet. Add every living expense to it. Include entire balances, this way you are truthful with yourself and you see exactly how much you owe. No holds barred. Don't be scared. If you are scared, do it anyway and look at it everyday until you get comfortable with the amount.
December is not a month to overspend. It is a month to plan a new and improved upcoming year. I do this every December without fail and it has changed my thought process and my financial life. I don't await Christmas so much as I await December 31st. That is the day that I pay everything to zero. Before I was able to do this I would take the total and divide it by twelve and pay that exact amount every single month. I don't keep cards that I don't use (this means going without sometimes). I currently have no store accounts and I am so happy, because it took almost 10 years to achieve that. I do not spend more than I can pay off monthly. Remember, peace of mind comes when you owe N O O N E. Financial health comes when you create security for yourself.
Start speaking from a place of abundance. Exercise saying "not right now" to yourself and your children. Don't be afraid to explain why - refer to your goals. This helps everyone strive for greatness at the same time. Refrain from using words or phrases such as, "Broke", "Can't afford", "I'm Poor". Those are absolute no no's in my mind and around my spirit. I try never to say the word "Debt". I've seen y'all in the comment section of anywhere. Be creative and speak prosperity over your mind, your children, your home, your family and friends. Like Kendrick said, "I wanna see the family stronger. I wanna see the money longer." Let's get it!
Pick a dollar amount that makes you feel secure and aim to save that amount.
Cut out unnecessary spending for a while. Do it when you feel comfortable enough to do it. Keep in mind the sooner you do this, the quicker you will get to your financial goal. Whatever you cut out, put the equal amount in your savings account. i.e. If you cut out cable, put the amount that you'd spend on cable in your saving every month.
Be respectful of your money and the money of others. Be slow to borrow. I try never to borrow. Ever. This includes loans and overdraft.
Pay your lifestyle expenses (bills) on time. Omit paying a late fee for anything. It's a waste of money.
Whenever you receive a monetary gift such as a refund, a stimulus check, or bonus try to save about 60% of it.
If you have a 401K or retirement account make sure that you max it out. I promise you will not miss that money over time. This is more important if your place of employment matches in any way. Try to keep up with how and what your money is invested in.
Finally, spend less that you earn and save every two weeks. Allow your savings to grow. Manage it well.
No one deserves the good life more than you do. You deserve to have all the things that bring you comfort, but you want to make sure that you're planning for the long haul. Also, your children deserve financial security and a head start. At best, they deserve to know basic rules of how to govern themselves monetarily in their future.
One main thing that helped, was minding my business. Other things included focusing more on my hobbies and pouring into myself mentally, emotionally and spiritually . I have no doubt that you'll figure out the right plan for you. If you need motivation, here's what I'm watching, reading and listening to:
Succession: Season 4 (HBOMax)
Bad behavior can also be a good lesson.
This is the last go round for The Roy family. In the fourth and final season, you continue to learn that being a part of the 1% is not all that it's cracked up to be. They are all filthy rich, lonely and miserable humans. Ahhh makes for great television. It's so good.
How to Get RICH (Netflix)
Ramit Sethi is a financial expert who not only wants people to envision their rich lives, he also walks them through the good, bad and the ugly in order to show them how to live it. This show reminded me that I still have a few goals to tackle.
Working Moms (Netflix)
Speaking of final seasons, Working Moms is in its seventh and last. I'm sad to see it go. Kate is my favorite character in the show, because she's so effortlessly quirky and funny. I love watching the comedic twist of juggling kids, marriage, a career and friendship. It's a good time, but also stressful. Don't miss it.
A Thousand And One
More than living real life, I love watching and reading replicas of it. A Thousand And One is set in my city, Harlem, New York during a time of my youth. When things were simple and extremely complex. This story is about good and bad decisions, abandonment, rescue, sacrifice and above all, love. Teyana Taylor slays as Inez, a former child of the foster care system taking care of Terry and rescuing him from a similar fate. I'm going to watch this one over and over. A huge thanks to Aunty Tory for taking me to the premier.
Women & Money by Suze Orman is my certified go to. It's a simple step by step plan to become Strong, Smart and Secure about your money. It's good for men too. Dive in.
Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki has been on my bookshelf for years and I'll never get rid of it. Also, one day I will finish it in it's entirety. It's a classic, buy yourself a copy.
The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene plain and simple this book will teach you to become more empowered within yourself, while avoiding being manipulated by others. Especially those who seem to be more powerful than you. Keyword: Seem. This is another classic that stands the test of time and will remain on my shelf.
Rave & Roses by Rema
This entire album is a feel good vibe. It's giving move your fucking body all over the place. Hold on tight, roll your waist in a slow wine and grind. My favorites are Calm Down, Soundgasm, Jo and Mara. I'm dancing with my face pushed up while I type this. It's giving grown and sexy party on a beautiful spring night. Who gon' take me? lol
Once Again by John Legend
Okay, so we're going back to 2006 for this one and I'll tell you why. I plum forgot just how good this album was. Omg...talk about nostalgic... I was really wrapped up in my love life then and trying to make it work. Heaven, Each Day Gets Better, Again, Maxine, Where Did My Baby Go, Maxine's Interlude, Another Again...It was an era of "Good Music". My son was raised on it. It's partly why he has so much flavor.
Finally the piece de resistance (insert accents - I'm doing this on a chrome book)
Call Me If You Get Lost by Tyler, The Creator
When I tell you that I studied Call Me If You Get Lost, just trust me... This album stays on heavy rotation in my apartment and in my vehicle. I'm still studying it. I think I love quirky, honest, creative, loud, quiet, stylish, wealthy mf'ers who don't give a damn what anyone says, because they know they're fly af. Oh, that's me hahaha. That's also Tyler. At this point you know he's gonna kill it. CORSO, LEMONHEAD, WUSYANAME...
MASSA, RUNITUP, JUGGERNAUT...
I spent an entire day on every word of WILSHIRE. Just repeat, repeat, repeat. SAFARI, EVERYTHING MUST GO, WHARF TALK... forgive me, I was so hype just now. HEAVENTOME led me right to John Legend, because he sampled Heaven. The whole damn album gotta be played on the highest level in a clean, fully gassed up something black and red. Get into it.
This month was so full bodied. Spring is in full bloom. I'm well into 90 days of focusing on myself, I'm brimming. There's been so much quiet time mixed with a balance of spending bits of time with my family. My cousin, Phil came to visit and he took the best pictures of us to add to our memories.
Right now the future is so bright. I'm trying my best to get as quiet as possible within myself so I can follow each and every necessary step. It looks, smells and feels like wealth. That's in regards to being wiser, healthier, stronger, happier, having more time on my hands to do all of the things in my mind. I don't want to miss a thing. Never forget that we're building a legacy and fulfilling a purpose, which we all have.
Strive to be great.
A L W A Y S,