Looking back, it is quite shocking to me that despite living in and managing a sari-sari store, and hearing all these conversations about money and transactions, that I haven’t really learned the crucial skills of personal finances. I’d argue that the business side of money is more familiar to me. Grandma introduced the concept of delivery costs, wholesale pricing, booking fees, profit and loss throughout my years living with her, but managing one’s spending at home is a whole different ballgame.
Living with my relatives during my first years in Edmonton, I had grasped a few thoughts about spending. Whether they are good or not can be debatable depending on context or one’s own preferences. For instance, a common phrase I remember hearing was “this was on sale when I was walking in the mall, so I bought it.” As a young adult who didn’t really know better, this idea seems really exciting. Earning my own money and seeing what is left after bills and school payments are paid for, it seems like an enticing challenge to see how many new pants I can get away with buying.
2009 is when I almost accidentally stumbled upon the benefit of a Continuous Savings Plan and what TFSAs are. I remember going to the bank, just after turning 18, asking if there was an instantaneous way for me to set money aside after every payday so that I could save enough money to sponsor my brother and to have enough for tuition fees every semester. So, I set up two TFSAs where money gets transferred.
When the next payday came and I checked my bank account, the balance is only half my paycheque. What in the world happened?! Then I looked at the transactions and realized, oh, the deductions for my two TFSAs already happened. It felt kind of sad seeing my smaller balance right after payday, but seeing my savings grow was kind of exciting. Even after university was over, I used the same system to save for the recent trip to the Philippines, which is quite costly. And now that the trip is over, the same system should help with future large expenses.
With my significant other, I learned to eventually embrace the benefit of budgets, and more specifically, budgeting software. While it sounds so basic, the concept of “don’t spend more than what you earn” is something that took some getting used to. Having credit cards and installment payments available at one’s disposal, makes this more challenging to implement in my opinion.
As I learn the value of personal boundaries from a psychological perspective, having reasonable limits on spending has actually helped as well. Learning the subtle distinction between deprivation and being reasonable has been a challenge, but it has been worth it.
In some way, looking at previous expenses also acts like a nostalgic trip down memory lane. When I look at my credit card transactions and see the list of the restaurants we went to during a trip, it feels like a nice recollection to me that cannot always be expressed in photos. Seeing my income tax return come in is a reminder of whether I filed my taxes on time or not. Seeing when I purchased my art supplies for making quilts and pillow cases and realizing that these have been in my living room for three years now, feels rewarding as well.
Moving forward, the plan is to reflect more about my spending habits in a more philosophical and psychological way. Topics that I’m learning about are ethical consumption, consumerism, supporting local business or social enterprises when shopping, living a minimalist lifestyle and learning to be kind and assertive at the same time when I cannot loan money. The numbers, the transactions, our behaviours and our values are all reflected in that list of expenses, whether we admit it or not.