money health weekly


It's Not Because of a Lack of Money


"Mo money. Mo problems."

-Christopher "Notorious B.I.G." Wallace


1994: I'm mowing my grandparents' lawn in the summer heat. It's hot, and the grass is really long because I haven't been by in a while. Sometimes I have to stop mowing and shake the mower up and down because grass clumps get caught in the blades.

When it's all over, Grandpa pays me $5. My friends and I jump on our bikes and peddle our way to West Acres, a mall on the southwest part of Fargo, ND. It takes a long time to get there, but it's a fun ride. I waste my whole five-dollar bill on arcade games, even though Grandma reminded me "not to spend it all in one place."

I don't save any of it. I don't even have a passbook savings account. Every dollar I make gets spent within a day.

Total 1994 Inflow: ≈$300

1997: I'm just waking up. It's noon, and I want to keep sleeping. I worked until 3 a.m. last night and have to work again in five hours for another 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. shift.

I enjoy working long hours. If I work 20 or more hours in two days, then it's really easy to get overtime. Overtime means more money. More hours means there is less time to spend my paycheck.

With each paycheck, I treat myself with some new toy that I never could afford before. With one paycheck I buy a stereo for my car. With another, I buy a stereo system for my home. There is always something I want to buy.

I still don't save anything, although I now have a checking account so I can pay bills, even though I often get overdraft fees, especially when I have too much time on my hands with which to spend. Instead of making sound money decisions, I find a way to trick myself into not being able to spend my money.

Total 1997 Inflow: ≈$20,000

2006: I'm working full-time in Minneapolis, MN. This is my first job that pays a salary, and it's nice to have consistent paychecks. I make more money than I have ever made before. Now that I feel like a "grown-up," it seems like I have to spend money on grown-up-type stuff. I don't feel comfortable in my old beater car anymore, because everyone I know drives newer vehicles. Most people I know live in nice apartments, so it seems to me I should be looking for a "better" place to live. Plus, I make money now; I like to spend it going out for drinks at happy hour with friends and coworkers. Socializing is what I'm supposed to do now.

I'm still don't save. I make a lot more money, but my lifestyle got