This story is part of the Broke Millennial No More series.
Growing up in an immigrant household money was never a topic. My parents measured wealth by the fact that they were in a democratic country where they could feed, clothe, and house us. My parents were illiterate in the conventional sense, having never completed primary school, and financially as well. I didn’t know what savings were, what budgeting was, or money management.
Like many children, I grew up with an allowance, but unlike many, it wasn’t tucked away for that thing I wanted. I spent the money on junk. Giving a kid $5 a week back in the 90s, and no rules, was a horrible foundation to lay. My first real job wasn’t until I was 16, and by then I had no better understanding of money than when I was younger – in fact now it was worse. I blew every paycheck on eating out, clothing, and such. If I ran out, I just asked my parents for more, and they would hand it over. (I can almost hear the financially savvy groan at this statement.)
Then I decided to get married in my early 20s and have a baby, setting myself up for financial ruin. The next decade was spent making bad decisions, bouncing from one job to another, and living paycheck to paycheck. This time I had an accomplice, my partner in crime and life, my husband. His money mantra (get ready to die a little inside): “if I have money today, there is no need to worry about tomorrow” (told you) was like pouring gasoline on a fire.
When I turned 30, I took a hard look at my life as a whole, and it stunk. I had absolutely nothing to show for the last two decades, except for collection letters, mountains of debt, and a credit score so low that the thought of rehabilitation seemed like an unattainable task. However, after being introduced to The Financial Diet and then Broke Millennial among other financial blogs, I sat down and took a hard look at where I was and where I wanted to be.
My first step was to find out where all my money was going. I meticulously tracked every expense using the Mint app. After figuring out where the money was going, it was time to cut back on the non-essential: fast food, fast fashion, and nonsense spending. I set a budget allowing myself to use credit, but my partner only cash. Just these three steps freed up $1000 per month in our budget, enabling us to pay back a loan we had immediately.
The next step for myself was to get a bank account (which I hadn’t had in years) and then a credit card. I am now proud to say I am the owner of both, plus an investment portfolio, a separate savings account, and an investment account separate from my bank through the app Milo, which rounds up my transactions and invests the change.
I had gone from spend, spend, spend to a money saving and investing machine. The importance of investing I learned from you [Broke Millennial], and the importance of automating everything from day-to-day life but still earned me extra cash. Using apps like User Testing, which makes me about $20-30 a month, an ESL teaching job, and food ordering service (which I can do from the comfort of my computer and home during my late hours, which would otherwise be spent scrolling through social media), I was able to earn another $600 monthly. Finding these jobs took a little effort, and I just sent out a couple of dozen resumes, but I had nothing to lose.
Now I can save for all the things I want to, I am throwing money at my student debt, and living comfortably, too. I no longer have to worry whether this month or the next will be our financial ruin. I still don’t consider myself wealthy, far from it, but I now think of myself as financially literate.
Souroush Jabbar is a serial professionalist, uni student, and study hustle aficionado. She spends her free time looking to add to her growing streams of income and continuing her financial education.
Written by Souroush Jabbar
Photo from Souroush Jabbar
Featured photo from Pexels
Edited by Bridget Dennin
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