When I was a kid, my mother had a drawer where she put the bills – the electric bill, the phone bill, rent, etc. When she would get paid, she would put a portion of that bill’s amount into the envelope. Then when the bill was due, I would take the envelope down to the phone company or the electric company, pay the bill, get a receipt, and bring it back home to my mother. But my mother would complain that there was always more month than money. I didn’t understand that comment until I became responsible for my own finances.
One of the principles of good financial health is the pay yourself first. In our house since the month lasted longer than the money, paying oneself was a chore. BUT … in my mother’s bill drawer was another envelope called “something”. Her “something” envelope would get a dollar or two put into it, if she had it to spare. And that did not happen often enough. The “something” money was sometimes used when she needed a new uniform and did not have the full amount, or I needed a new pair of shoes, or we needed to make a quick run to the grocery store. The “something” envelope never had a lot of money in it and was never able to act as a real savings. But that envelope many times kept us out of trouble.
I remember one time my mother had had a particularly rough week. She and I had not spent very much time together and she was bone tired. So she took her “something” envelope and bought us dinner. That was a true rarity. We always cooked and ate at home. It was such a special treat for both of us.
So years later when I graduated from college and landed a very good job, I would think of my mother’s “something” envelope. Even though I tried to pay myself first and accumulate funds in my savings account, I always kept a little in a piggy bank (my version of a “something” envelope) in case I might need a little help with my finances, or just go to the movies, or whatever. I remember my mother asking me once about where I had learned to do this. I told her I had spent 6 years in college and 18 years with her. In college I learned from books. At home I learned from her.
So you may want to pay yourself first and feel, as my mother did, that your month out distances you money. Just remember that a little something on the side can really add up.
Brenda Gayle Bryant is the owner of the gayle group, is certified in QuickBooks and Microsoft Office, and is a past board member of both the National Speakers Association and American Society for Training and Development. Although she has been a corporate consultant for many years, her passion is teaching people sound financial techniques