Some people have it, some people don’t. Everyone needs it, but not everyone wants it. Some people will do anything to get it, and some people will do anything to avoid giving it away. People have killed for it, people have died for it, and entire governments have risen and fallen based on it alone. People handle it every single day, and yet some people can go years without seeing any significant amount of it. If you don’t have it, you want it, and you can almost never have too much of it.
Of course, I’m talking about money. Also known as scrilla, cheese, Benjamins, dough, cash, gravy, greens, cabbage, scratch, bread, bills and that thing that keeps disappearing every time I open my bulging-with-bills mailbox. Money makes the world go ’round, money is the root of all evil. Mo’ money means mo’ problems, but no money means massive credit card debt. Trust me, I know from firsthand experience.
Money is probably the single most significant stressor in my collegiate life. And I know I’m not the only one. My friends, my co-workers, the guy struggling to make change in the line behind me at the Laundromat – everyone seems to be feeling for funds these days. Or maybe I’m just more aware of it after receiving my own credit card bill this month.
Having decided not to take out loans, and having been denied financial aid until the 2007-2008 school year, I’ve managed to make it through college on the strength of four jobs, the occasional rent check from my parents and a whole lot of scrimping, saving and sales-rack shopping.
Oh, and my credit card.
My credit card that now boasts a big enough balance to merit me asking for help from my parents – something I’ve been desperately avoiding since the summer I turned twenty and my dad decided to quit his lucrative job for something more rewarding. Unfortunately, the salary of an elementary school teacher doesn’t even come close to the payday a producer gets, so I decided to ease the parental panic a bit and offered to assume full financial responsibility for myself. Well, I offered after lots of hinting, coaxing, cajoling and the like from my father. Either way, although I went into financial independence with all the enthusiasm you’d expect from a self-proclaimed shop-a-holic whose shoe budget has suddenly been replaced by regular bills, I’ve come to take a lot of pride in the fact that I take care of myself. But, like many college students, it seems that the money I make in my four jobs just barely covers the bills and the beer each month. Forget paying off my credit card debt. Many sleepless nights, and quite a bit of nail-biting later, I finally scraped together enough money to get my debt down to a nice, even, round number. That’s still well into the four figures – about two figures too many, as far as I’m concerned.
So, I did the unthinkable. I asked my parents for help. And, a whole lot of ego-soothing, pride-swallowing and email-composing later, I got it. My father’s reply was simple “Give us a little bit of time to figure out an action plan. Love you, Parental Units.” It was short, but, I felt better already. And sure, the solution will probably end up being a loan rather than a gift-after all, I’d feel much better about borrowing the money from Mom and Dad than merely taking it, and I’m sure they’d agree-it almost doesn’t even matter. What does matter is that I know they’re going to help me figure it out.
As a senior who is self-sufficient for almost all intents and purposes, asking for help is hard. As one with a powerful pride like mine, it’s almost impossible. This close to graduation, it’s hard to admit that maybe I’m not completely capable of covering all my expenses myself, and harder to admit that I can’t even make enough money to cover the cost of my admittedly irresponsible spending from freshman and sophomore years. It’s like, even though I’ve matured past putting down hundreds of dollars on denim at Nordy’s, my credit card collectors won’t let me forget my freshman year financial faux-pas. And, admitting that they still haunt me is like admitting that maybe I haven’t made it as far from freshman year as I’d like to think I have.
Then again, maybe things have changed for the better. After all, not only did I confront the credit card problem head-on, but I swallowed said pride and asked for help along the way – something I never would have dreamed of doing back when I felt the fresh-out-of-high-school sense of something-to-prove. Maybe financial maturity isn’t all about being able to cover all the costs of college all the time. Maybe it’s not even about choosing to pay the bills over choosing to buy the beer. Sure, those things are sound strategy, fiscally-speaking. But, maybe the whole maturity thing comes more from how you handle the high cost of college than it does from how well you manage to make your money stretch. Then again, maybe I’m wrong.
All I know is that asking for help may have hurt in the short-term, but I already feel the weight of every single cent on my last credit card statement starting to lift. Whether or not asking my parents for money was a move my ego loved, having the foresight to understand my own financial limitations and the ability to forego my pride in favor of finding a solution to the stress of straining my savings each statement period, is something I can be proud of. It may be a mature move. It may not be. But either way, it was the right move for me, and a reminder that sometimes, taking care of yourself means asking for help from someone else – even when you’re almost a full-fledged adult.