A Generational Quandary

I have a problem. One that I’d love to solve and am figuring out how to grasp. I’ve been talking to my fiancé about wedding planning, finances – you know, all the fun stuff. Well, it’s not going as smoothly as I’d like. I took some time to really talk through the problem. Although it didn’t start with me, it’s up to me to solve it. 

I grew up in an area that was low to middle income. My family was considered middle income on paper and we had no access to generational wealth. I knew of financial troubles at home based on the food we ate and other means to an end to have some money in the home. Nothing illegal was done, but we saw our fair share of CoinStar machines. 

As time went on and I got closer to graduating from high school, I had this assumption that my parents had a savings account for me for college. I mean, they wanted me to go so I figured if they wanted me to go, they had a way to pay for it. The mind of a teenager. I now know that there’s a possibility of unmatched expectations. I know they wanted better for me, they just didn’t know how to make that dream happen. I did go to college for undergrad and grad school, but there were challenges to trying to attain the American Dream, so now I have student loans that have not become a thorn in my side. I believe I’ll get determined to do what it takes to pay them off – it will require getting out of my comfort zone.

It’s really interesting that I’m writing this today. I just listened to a podcast about pain and suffering. It stated that pain is inevitable, but suffering is an option. We have a choice in how we deal with our pain. As I reflect on my spending habits, how they were formed, and how I currently live, I’m reminded that I do have to change if I want better outcomes for myself and a better future for my family. I don’t want things to get so bad that I’m forced to change. I do know old habits die hard. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible. 

There are options that I’ve considered to not only manage finances, but to earn additional income. Another scary thing for me is developing a budget. I have so much FOMO (fear of missing out). I also had to work through some shopping habits that were tied to my emotional state and the need to feel good on the outside because I felt like crap on the inside. I’ve also developed resistance to having to be that strict – I want to live how I want to live. I know that I have some challenges ahead of me, so I’m not a lost cause. I can look back on the financial mistakes I made and reflect on why those choices were made. 

One thing I think about is if I’m proud of the choices I make with money. Living check to check is a very scary notion. It’s a reality to many that missing one paycheck can have a drastic impact on your life. That doesn’t make me comfortable at all. I have conversations with my fiancé all the time about our future plans, but a part of me feels like we aren’t being completely honest with each other so as to not disappoint the other. (Don’t worry, we’re going to couples counseling soon.) There are a few things that encourage me and keep me motivated: my ability to be creative, my fiancé’s many talents, and our desire to leave a legacy for our children. 

So what are my next steps? Well, I’ve already started packing my lunch more to avoid buying lunch which can get very expensive over time. We plan dinners and have kept our fancy dinner outings to weekends (just a few). Wedding planning has also forced us to look at our spending habits outside of food. Like, do I really need new lipstick when I still wear masks because I don’t trust folks? Or how many pairs of shoes do I need in an apartment right now? We’ve also cancelled some streaming services and kept our specialty grocery store trips to a minimum. 

Am I struggling? No. Do I like these changes? They’re not too bad. I am glad we’re making these changes now and considering what’s important and how they align with our goals. Our children shouldn’t suffer because we’re being selfish. I know how I felt growing up with promises and expectations and how that led to distrust with family members. I don’t want our children to feel the same. This life, these changes are not only about our wedding, but changing the trajectory of generational issues so our children don’t have to make the same mistakes we made. We’re the change makers.

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