When you’re a kid, you probably don’t realize the value of a dollar. My parents weren’t rich, but they were comfortable enough so that I didn’t have to work to get most of what I wanted. Even when my mom lost her job, she was able to bounce back into another completely different field. She ended up quitting that and now works in sales and makes more than we ever have before. I watched her struggle but didn’t really have to experience it. I felt bad at times when I’d watch my stepsisters juggle school and work because their mom is a teacher and couldn’t afford to give them a lot of money. If they wanted money, they earned it. I never realized that my life wasn’t like that when I was younger.
When I got to college, things changed a bit. I finally decided I wanted to work because I had my schedule and I felt like I was ready for the next step. I had wanted to work in high school but hadn’t had a lot of luck, which ironically was a trend for my older brother and I. We were both interested in working but it just didn’t work out due to a lack of time, and my brother never heard back from the job he applied to.
I applied for a job at a grocery store and got it. I didn’t really know how to start; I wasn’t used to working, or constant discipline. I was horrible back then and sometimes I hated myself for not getting work right away. There was pressure to be good at the job, and even though I tried to give myself credit for being new, it was difficult for a while. However, I got better over time and eventually decided to work for my friends’ parents’ yogurt shop in the same plaza. This is where I feel like I started learning the value of a dollar. I saw my money slipping away because I didn’t know how to manage my money. After I left the grocery job, I stayed with the yogurt shop for a few more months. I was able to keep my routine of trying to save money, and though it wasn’t perfect, I stopped wasting a lot of money on stuff I didn’t need. I was able to save my money and prepare for an emergency.
When I had planned to start at UCSB, thyroid cancer caused me to go into treatment and defer a quarter. I didn’t work during that time or during my first UCSB quarter. To be honest, I hated it. I was bored and hated asking my parents for money. When I got a new job as a cashier I became happier; I craved the independence of working, as making my own money is so rewarding to me. I worked two jobs again for a while until I left the cashier job to focus on school and other commitments. Recently, I found out they were laying off my department at my job at the mall because the mall closed. I was already home but fully expecting to go back and it threw a wrench in my plans, making coming back to UCSB almost unnecessary.
I didn’t know what to do. I was back home and had no money coming in. I only had school to look forward to. I’m glad I don’t work now because I wouldn’t have the time, but a few weeks ago it was a hard adjustment. I was used to working. I filed for unemployment and was luckily approved, and although I was grateful for the government help, I miss the independence that comes with leaving the house and going to work, talking with people, making friends you wouldn’t know otherwise, and being able to learn new things about the workforce. For me, the ability to work equals the ability to have independence. You can make new friends and people rely on you for something, but you can decide what sort of job you do. Also, when you make your own money, people can’t tell you how to spend it.
One thing I noticed is that I’ve actually been pretty good with my money. Ironically, I’m trying to be careful because I don’t get a stimulus check and I want to prepare for an emergency. I have a lot saved and am trying to not spend too much, save what I spent for my laptop which was a necessity. I’m shocked at how well I’m doing. When I least expect it, I’m dealing with money pretty well and I’m as ready as I can be if an emergency arises. I hope I can keep going when this is all over.