It’s funny how my perspective on money has changed. From an early age I learned that a lot of the world runs on the exchange of funds. Even though I had no money of my own, it’s kind of hard to miss how my parents paid for pretty much anything we needed. Still, since I was not involved in the exchange I had no real concept of what it all meant.
It wasn’t long before I started the simple, and fairly typical, process by which I earned money by completing chores for my parents. I may have started earlier than some, seeing as I needed to be involved in everything my older brother started doing (which he absolutely loved. Never complained about how unfair it was at all. Not once.) This development brought me to an interesting cognitive turning point.
The thing is, once you start earning money and using it to buy goods and services, your perception of value changes. In your child-mind, things you buy are more important than things you don’t need to pay for, because they’re worth something. Even the cheapest of items is inherently better than something that’s free.
Now, fortunately for all the parents out there, it’s obviously more complicated than that, since fun is factored in to the equation. So yes, a picnic with your mother may be worth more than a piece of candy, even though the candy costs you 25 cents and the picnic is free. However, some turkey sandwiches with your mother is much less exciting than a trip to the ice cream parlour. You pay more, and ipso facto, it’s worth more.
This is a pretty common idea in the marketing world: If you make a customer pay anything, even a petty charge, they will feel like they got more out of the experience or product. If you give something away, well, it obviously wasn’t worth very much. This doesn’t mean you have to charge for everything, but your target population will enjoy themselves more if they have to shell-out some cash.
It is also not uncommon, however, for a person to start cherishing their free experiences, and I am no exception. There’s some point at which a person’s priorities change from price-less to priceless. Family reunions, which generally are a pain while you’re growing up, suddenly become irreplaceable memories. In contrast, a night at the bar (which can easily cost $30) just becomes a minor expense that you become less and less wiling to pay.
Still, even though I am more focused on the experiences than the price, I find I’m more willing to pay a higher price for a better quality item. For example: all throughout high school I rarely bought a pair of shoes that cost more than $20. Now that I have had a job and am used to comfort, I consider a $100 pair of shoes to be pretty cheap.
This isn’t limited to shoes or clothes either. In the past month I have spent an inordinate amount of money in the process of getting ready to move to China. In fact, I have spent more money in the past month or so than I have ever had to my name before this year. What I am saying is, I am readily spending more cash in thirty days than I could have imagined possessing throughout my childhood and adolescence. It’s a big leap to make.
Trust me, I have not been paid well enough to simply write off major expenses, and I do not have enough money in the bank to be careless with my funds. If anything has changed, it has to be the end-goal I have in mind.
I started my first full-time job in November 2013, and quickly realized that, despite my bump in salary, this money would not go as far as I had hoped. Before long I had car trouble, and resigned myself to paying for the rental house I left in my college town, as I was still on the lease. Every gain I had in the eight-month period I worked at this job was quickly followed by an expense. I was paying for a room I couldn’t live in, and paying for repairs and gas for a car I only needed because my job was across town. But I had to pay for these things to work the job, which was a position I mostly needed so that I would have enough money for those things. It was a pretty solid catch-22.
Mostly, it is not an experience I wish to repeat. I will do everything I can to avoid a similar situation, where I am dependent on a salary so that I can pay for the things that allow me to keep my salary (confused yet?)
People say money is the root of all evil. I’m not sure they are wrong, though I think it’d be more apt to say “money is the foundation for evil action,” or maybe just “money kind of sucks.” Regardless, I certainly won’t recommend you focus on making money just for the sake of affluence. Personally, I’m planning on keeping just enough money around to get to the next country.