- I was raised by my father on a low income, but when I visited my mother she always drove an expensive car.
- She couldn’t afford it, but seeing how others treated us made me want to do the same.
- I ended up in debt and did drugs until I got sober and dealt with my mental health and trauma.
I grew up on a low income, and that’s one of the main reasons I’ve been so bad with money my whole life. I love my parents, but their lack of financial literacy and the way they spent money led me to develop terrible spending habits.
I would only realize later in life that my mother’s obsession with making it look like we were well off would play a role in my spending and my accumulation of debt.
I have always been surprised by my mother’s beautiful cars
Today my mom has been sober for 17 years and helped me get sober 10 years ago. But growing up, she was an alcoholic and married to my former stepfather. He was a high school art teacher, and my mom was pursuing her doctorate in psychology while working a low-paying job. Even though they clearly didn’t make enough money to lead an extravagant life, you’d think they were quite wealthy.
My dad raised me, but I visited them during school holidays and was always amazed at how many beautiful things they had. Mainly, I was shocked by their expensive cars.
My stepfather drove a nice Corvette and my mother loved fancy cars. I can’t remember a time in my life when my mother didn’t drive a Mercedes-Benz or a BMW. Part of me knew they didn’t make a lot of money, but as a kid our view of money was still pretty skewed.
It felt good to be part of my mom’s extravagant lifestyle, even though she couldn’t afford it.
Eventually I started to notice how often they argued over money and how they constantly talked about the need for expensive things. It was weird for me because I lived in a small apartment with my dad, and he drove any old car he could afford until it broke down. Their spending was strange, but I also realized that I felt different being with them – like I wasn’t looked down on by others.
For most of the year I was the lower class kid while all my friends lived in big houses with nice things. I always felt worse because we didn’t have much, but I didn’t feel like it to be surrounded by beautiful things when I went to visit my mother.
I found myself in debt
As I got older and started working, I wanted to keep that feeling; maybe that’s why I’ve had such a strong work ethic throughout my life. I wanted to work as hard as possible to earn as much money as possible to buy nice things and never be despised again. This desire to look rich that I inherited from my mother has led to debt and more anxiety than I even like to think about.
I wasn’t making as much money as I needed, but I didn’t want anyone to know that. Whenever friends wanted to go out to eat or go to bars and clubs here in Las Vegas, I was always going to spend hundreds of dollars on a night I could barely remember. When my roommates and I were looking for apartments, I always agreed to live somewhere much more expensive than I could afford.
In addition to overspending, I was also battling costly drug addiction.
I continued to struggle to keep my head above water while trying to live this lifestyle and feed my habit. Eventually I reached the point where I started getting the worst types of loans. I started taking out payday loans, which can have interest rates of 40% to 199% for longer loans. This means that a $500 loan could cost me between $200 and $995 in interest on top of the $500 I originally borrowed.
It was common for me to go to another payday loan establishment to withdraw money to pay off the original loan with another company. I even took out a mortgage on my truck, which I swore I would never do. A title loan is when the company can take your vehicle if you don’t make your payments – not a situation I wanted to be in.
Coping with my childhood trauma helped get me on track with my finances
When I finally got sober in 2012 and started working on myself, I had to do a ton of work on my mental health which dealt with my childhood trauma, my self-esteem, and my life. other problems.
All my life, I hadn’t realized why I was passing like this. All the while, I was just doing it to impress others the same way my mom did. Like my mother, it brought me neither happiness nor fulfillment. In fact, it made me more miserable, anxious and exhausted.
Ever since I started reading about human behavior, I’ve learned the concept of conspicuous consumption. This term came from sociologist Thorstein Veblen, who discussed it in his book, “The Leisure Class Theory‘Basically, conspicuous consumption is when we buy things with the intention of showing off our status, and it’s something we all do.
I completely changed my financial life because I realized that I didn’t need to impress anyone. Now I only buy things that bring me happiness. Every time I make a purchase, I pause and ask, “Why am I buying this? Is it for me or for others?”
I even taught this to my son when he felt like he always needed the new Fortnite skin. He was only 9 or 10 at the time, but it stuck with him. Now that kid can make their Christmas and birthday money last for months. In fact, he still has money from last December as I write this in July.
My mom just bought a new Mercedes-Benz, but now that she’s sober and an accomplished psychologist, she can afford it. I don’t know if she managed to stop trying to impress others, but I’m grateful that she was able to break the cycle and help my son avoid the same mistakes.