Semi-Adulthood and Money

I somewhat recently had my birthday.

When I turned 18 there was a noticeable difference in how my life operated. No longer was I required to get parental signatures or have to have them present for everything. It certainly felt a little weird going to an appointment alone for the first time, but it's become to feel more normal. Still I'll worry in the moment that I won't have a certain piece of documentation that I'd need to get from them, but so far that hasn't come up. In the moment I truly felt adult, like there was a clear distinction from the time before my 18Th birthday and the time after. Now when I look back at that time I find it a little silly, I see how I was still very much a kid, just now with the abilities of an adult. I wasn't paying bills, hell I didn't have a job for another 6 months, but in the moment it just felt so impactful. Even then at 18, I was conscious of the fact that I was in fact NOT a real adult, but starting on the path.

Now I've passed another milestone age, 21. I wasn't expecting much to change, even before Roomie became old enough to buy booze, we had pretty easy access to alcohol and my parents have been giving me beer since I was 16. We sometimes go to this billiards hall/bar that I had snuck a few underaged drinks in prior to my birthday, so it was nice to go up to the bar and properly order for once. Roomie, I, and our high school buddies all went to the billiards place for my birthday, we had a blast. The tab by the end of the night was a little over $100. On the Uber ride back I kinda was shocked with how utterly fine I was with that amount. Before I got my job at the store, a $100 night would mean penny-pinching dinners and bouncing debt between credit cards, but now $100 was an amount I'd be perfectly content with paying in whole, though my friends did pay me back their fair share. When we got back, we went for a little snack run at the local 7/11. Half-jokingly I suggested getting a pack of cigarettes to round off all the things I could now do. A few of the other guys said they'd partake if I did and so I purchased a pack of Marlboro reds. It felt kinda weird, like I was doing something wrong, but knowing I was able to do so. We smoked a couple that night, but I haven't touched them since; I'm not looking to become an addict.

The bar tab lack-of-shock caused me to think back on these periods where I suddenly feel more adult than before and find that it's almost always been tied to an increase in costs or income. When I was growing up my parents gave me an allowance of my current age in dollars weekly, so at 7 years old I would be given $7 a week, $8 at 8, and so on. This kinda made each year feel more distinct. They'd pay for all my necessities but any toys, treats, or games I wanted had to come from my allowance. I feel like this taught me the value of a dollar and taught me how to save. In 8Th grade it got bumped up to $20 a week and when I got my drivers license they bumped it up to $120 a month, to cover the ~$40 in gas it cost to go between home and school. After I graduated high school, they cut off my allowance and said that I'd need to find work for money, which I happily agreed, it felt like my chance to grow up. I was in a weird living situation that meant I didn't have any real living expenses except food, so once the last drops of my birthday money ran out I needed to find work. Initially I did a couple labor gigs I found on craigslist, then after that got started with Doordash. If it weren't for that living situation, Doordash wouldn't have cut it, but I was able to make it work, barely. There were a few times where I'd put the last $7 dollars I had in my bank account down my gas tank and hoped for a night of good tips with deliveries. I got a second part-time job where I was a courier boy for an IT company that put me in less financially precarious position.

Once I moved to Sacramento, I struggled again making money with Doordash. Gas went back up to pre-pandemic prices. So when my mom asked me to put up an ad looking for a helper doing ranch work, I said I could do it and I had a new job. Early on we had tons of work to do, so I was always busy. I could pretty much guarantee every day I went up I'd make $100, but I'd be whooped tired the next day so I'd only be able to really go up 2 or 3 times a week. This was significantly better than Doordash which I quit immediately. It was around then when I also got a credit card, initially only with a $300 limit. I was pretty good for the first few months about not spending more than I could, but after a project I was working on required more money than I expected, I ended up in debt. I eventually made it out, though a few months later when my bank offered me a credit card with a $200 signing bonus, I accepted. This kinda enabled me to bounce my debt back and forth between the cards, sending a Venmo using one of the cards to Roomie, then him sending it right back and using that to pay off the other. This was mostly fine, a few times I got close to being in a dire predicament, but I made it out ok. Then work started drying up and it was apparent I wasn't going to be able to pay off my cards if I didn't think of something. I started using my college savings to cover groceries, which was a significant chunk of my costs, so I was almost completely paid off when Roomie told me about the opening at the store.

Now I find myself feeling very comfortable. I'm no longer living paycheck to paycheck, crossing my fingers that I'll have enough money while fueling up my car. I'm starting to put money aside for saving. I'm feeling more adult again, however there's this somewhat ever-present reminder that I very much am not. My rent and utilities are all being paid for by my college savings, as well as my education of course. All the utilities are in my name so I pay the bills using my credit card and then later reimbursed, so I'm constantly aware that if it weren't for the money my parents set aside for all those years, I would need to be working full time if I ever wanted to pay for the quality of life I'm living right now.

At the same time I do not have a ton of money to throw around, looking at car prices is humbling. It makes me understand how so many hard working people in this country can get trapped in debt, barely scraping by. It also makes me frustrated with our infrastructure. I love cars, but the fact they are practically a necessity for employment unless you're in an urban area and lucky seriously frustrates me. A decent enough used car still often will require costly maintenance. I just can see how you can be in an unending cycle of trying to make enough to pay off your bills, constantly stressed, until that eventually kills you or leaves you with another bill you have to pay off.

I guess understanding all this stuff is just part of becoming an adult.

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