Girls just wanna have funds

One of my first lessons in money, I learned at the toy store. It was after school and my mom took me with her to the mall for whatever reason, and I begged her to take me to look at some toys. I tried to be a big girl about it; my mom has this little game where I could point at anything I wanted and wish for it, hoping that Santa might be eavesdropping. The “game” worked for a while, until I realized I was being conned, so I begged and begged my mom to get me the Barbie beeper (It’s just so necessary). With the iron will of Kublai Khan, she refused despite my growing surliness. I cried so hard on the ride home, feeling like the most abused kid in the world as I ate my takeaway KFC, seasoned with my salty tears.

My mom is a tough negotiator — she didn’t want me upset (a post-iyak vomit situation loomed close) but she knew she had to straighten me up. So she said, “Rate the beeper from 1 to 10. If it’s a 10 and you still want to buy it when we come back, then maybe we can get it.” Of course, I was the kind of trash heap child that insisted that I wanted it, 11 out of 10, even though I pretty much forgot about it once we got home. And when I did get it for Christmas, I barely remembered how much I suffered to get it under the tree. At that point, the damn beeper was just one of my many cool gifts that year.

See, that’s the thing I learned about money. If you’re not the one holding it, earning it, and keeping it, you pretty much don’t give a fig about how it’s spent. The older you get, the more its necessity becomes apparent, despite how little we try to rely on it. We need it without wanting it. We look for it and don’t have enough of it at the most crucial moments. It’s that weird cousin of yours who’s really good at fixing computers. You love him (kind of), and despite him quoting every 9gag post he’s ever seen, you kind of keep him around to fix the router every once in a while.

It helps to think of how the money that took you hours and weeks and months to earn can be spent in mere minutes. That, among many others, can be your first grown-up lesson in money. And when you’ve become the boss of your own bank account, don’t forget to treat yo’self once in a while. Even grown-ups can enjoy beepers sometimes. Especially the Barbie kind.

While I knew all of this about money early on, I didn’t actually realize that in order to be a functional human, one must not only have a decent amount of it, but a constant influx of it. (“You mean a job?” Yeah, dude, welcome to your funeral.) This, in fact, negates the idea that adulthood means you get to do whatever the hell you want. You don’t, because before when you thought a thousand pesos could fetch you a bunch of useless things with spare change for cake, now you have to think of that money going towards paying your phone bill instead. And, of course, you have to think of your future as well as your possible future progeny’s — saving up is essential. Then you have to work towards investing in assets, and being a straight-up adult in every possible way. That includes — but is not limited to — the ability to take care of kids and not start random fires.

While before it was understandable to scrape all the coins you’ve got together to pay for gas (we’ve all been there), your grown-up version is kind of expected to keep it together 24/7. The good news is that it’s never too late to undo any ill-informed money decisions. Reaching bottom-of-the-pit levels of financial insecurity — when I thought I needed a skirt more than I needed dinner — means that I’m still negotiating my way around my financial independence. I’m not the best at it, but I’m not so bad at it either. (“That is a HUGE lie” — Marga’s parents.) So from a friend to a friend, here’s a list of some of the wisdom I’ve learned in matters of finance:

1. Set a goal for yourself, and stick to it. Do you want your own car by the end of the year? It’s possible — and you don’t even need to sell a kidney.

2. To get stuff done, don’t be afraid to talk about money. If not with your parents, seek out a financial adviser in a bank who can help you figure out what to do. Just make sure to ask someone trustworthy, not someone looking out to take it all away. (Read: Ponzi schemes and “Open-minded ka ba sa business?” messages on Facebook.)

3. Set a budget. Try to limit ATM withdrawals, or set a schedule for it. If you can, leave it at home so you won’t get tempted by sale signs and the inevitable impulse purchase. Don’t reach the point where you can’t count how much lipstick you own. That is a very bad sign.

4. Make room for savings. The younger you are, the less you have to spend on. Maximize that freedom by setting that 13th month pay aside, and allotting a savings part of your monthly salary. Ideally, it should not be touched in the short term, but can be useful for those rainy days and the occasional seat sale to Seoul.

5. Get a credit card (to build your financial profile), but stick to using it for the essentials.Essentials are gas, groceries, utility bills and emergencies. Essentials are not booze, shoes, or a lock of Zac Efron’s hair on eBay. As tempting as that sounds.

I can’t say that this is 100-percent, the best advice in the world. (No financial genius is perfect. Even theRich Dad, Poor Dad guy filed for bankruptcy in 2012.) I myself still try not to deviate from the path of financial enlightenment each day, and it gets harder when I can shop online in my pajamas. It helps to think of how the money that took you hours and weeks and months to earn can be spent in mere minutes. That, among many others, can be your first grown-up lesson in money. And when you’ve become the boss of your own bank account, don’t forget to treat yo’self once in a while. Even grown-ups can enjoy beepers sometimes. Especially the Barbie kind.

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