When you’re a kid money is nothing more than an obstacle to your happiness; and generally never because you don’t have enough, but because someone was too lazy to buy you what you wanted and instead gave you the cash or a gift card. You couldn’t spend it fast enough. Then by the time your parents get sick of you (roughly between ages 13 and 16) you suddenly find that you don’t ever have enough money and that everything is way more expensive than you anticipated it being. Besides, who needs basic comforts when you can use that money to buy front row tickets or whatever the Kardashians think are fashionable?
So let’s go back to a time when things were simpler and all agree that life is way different now…
Buying gas for your car might actually be where the phrase “nothing in life is free” comes from. When you were a kid, your parents hauled you around wherever you needed to go – school, soccer or baseball practice, Grandma’s house. If you were really poor, you rode the city bus and let the tax money take you everywhere.
But then when you turned 16 and got your own car, you no longer saw a trip to the movies as only costing $39.50 for a single ticket or whatever ridiculous price the theater charged. You then started factoring in the cost of gas, too. And maybe your parents were fantastic and paid for your gas until you moved out of the house. Either way, you no longer took fancy road trips or spontaneously bought tickets to a game or concert because you were also accounting for how much it would cost your carcass to get there, and suddenly life was way more expensive than you realized. Suddenly your friends that stayed home and played board games every Saturday night didn’t seem so weird, did they?
If you like taking showers that last long enough to empty the hot water heater, then having to start paying your own water bill is one of the bigger wake up calls in your life – somewhere in between your high school friends having kids and difficulty initiating your pee stream. I was lucky enough that the two apartments I lived in during college covered the water and sewer in the rent. The hot water heaters were also big enough that you could shower for 45 minutes and never lose that sauna-like environment. But the farther inland you move, the more expensive water tends to get.
Now the showers that used to fill nearly an hour of your day get drastically cut to 15 minutes tops, and that’s only if you inadvertently start daydreaming. You even start strategically planning your showers. Maybe you used to shower twice a day – once in the morning and once when you got home from the gym. Now? Not anymore. You’ll go to bed a little musty if it saves you $15 on your water bill each month.
Remember how you used to enjoy being comfortable? Well when you start paying your own electricity bill, screw comfort. At this point you’re doing well just to be functioning fairly normally. In the winter, you only run the heat when you’re sure you’re on the brink of hypothermia. When I lived in Greenville, I only turned on the heat once, and that was when a girlfriend got too cold because girlfriends are always too cold.
In the summer you condition yourself so that 80 degrees inside your apartment is actually quite refreshing. At the very least, you compromise and buy a couple of fans because constantly running those on high is somehow cheaper than keeping 600 square feet at a constant 73 degrees.
2. Toilet Paper
As a kid, toilet paper was always the one thing you never seemed to run out of. No matter how many rolls you went through, there always seemed to be a full stack under the bathroom sink. But when you get out on your own and you have to buy toilet paper for the first time, you tend to buy the cheap, single ply, nearly transparent veil of toilet paper after recovering from your mild heart attack upon finding that the toilet paper you grew up on costs so much more than butt tissue should.
But then you realize that the cheap stuff you just bought is the same kind that you find in department store bathrooms, and you can use as much of that as you want because it’s free. So you vow not to make the same mistake the next time and you buy the good stuff. But things are different now. You start planning your bathroom trips that require toilet paper. If you can help it, you only start peeing at your own place and start using the bathrooms at department stores, or work, or your friend’s or family’s house. Why? Because you aren’t paying for the toilet paper there.
In the future I plan on writing an article about things you don’t think about paying for when you have plenty of money. TP might be #1.
When I say food, I mean very specific types of food. No one needs to have steak and lobster every night. Obviously you can do without air conditioning or quality toilet paper if you wanted to go all Bear Grylls with your life. But you have to have food. The problem is that when you’re responsible for buying all of it yourself, you realize how easily it all adds up.
When you were a kid, if your mom brought home generic brand Hot Pockets or generic brand Chips Ahoy!, you had every intention of smothering her with your pillow that night because the generic brands somehow tasted so much different (i.e, worse) than the brand names, even if they were the exact same thing.
But when you’re on your own, generics are your best friend. Need ketchup? Sorry Heinz, I’ll take this Food Lion brand that may very well be re-packaged Hunt’s ketchup that’s a whole dollar cheaper. No more Sunbeam bread. No more Maola milk. No more Kraft cheese. No more Doritos. It’s all generic brand. At this point you know they taste different, but you don’t care. You’re just happy it doesn’t kill you in your sleep.
Even now although I’ve got brand name food money, I tend to choose generic brands most of the time because I still would like some money left over to buy stuff that isn’t food, or to be sure I can pay my Time Warner bill because they’ve screwed me over again…