It wasn't that I was necessarily bad with money, but I was careless.
I guess that was a nice problem to have. Once I got to a place in life where I could afford some things, it wasn't something that seemed to be a big issue. There was always enough money to go around.
Each year now the IRS sends out a history of your income. My first job, I worked at a Minyard Food Store in the summer of 1974, sacking groceries and carrying them out to the car of old ladies. Those "old ladies" were probably younger than I remember. I made $428 that year.
My first eight years of income, I earned $2,192. My first full year of "professional" employment, I made $14,840. I had a rent payment and a car payment. I don't know how I survived.
Living here in Gawd's Country, incomes are low, but fortunately, so is the cost of living. Still, before I landed this part-time job, my last full year of work (2010) saw my income only slightly higher than it was in 1994.
Clearly, that's an indication that the economy is still weak. The numbers bear this out. Check the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or this relevant story in the Christian Science Monitor. (See? There are some news sources you can cite that can't be dismissed as the "librul media.")
American earning power has been sharply eroded. Sometimes it feels like we're having to live on the equivalent of $14,840 a year.
Consequently, I've learned to be much more aware of my financial situation. Thanks to Al Gore inventing the Internet (NB: He didn't, and never said he did; that was BS perpetuated by wingers who hate him), you can check your finances several times a day. It used to be hard to stay on top of your finances; you'd have to call or go to the bank, or keep a ledger, or wait for a monthly statement.
Now, I am almost always aware of exactly how my bank accounts look.
That knowledge makes you more... accountable... and responsible with your money. It only takes a little effort to be able to successfully manage your personal finances.
And the best part is, through the hard lessons learned by a less watchful approach and carelessly falling into the temptation of easy credit, we are very fiscally solid these days. Our total "official" debt is the $2,900 we owe on our car. M has a credit card with a zero balance due. I don't have a card, although I'm considering getting one in a couple of months just to have around.
We have also managed to build a tiny nest egg. Now that I'm getting a paycheck, we're hoping to save $500 a month (or more) to stash a good chunk of money away for an anticipated move.
That's a big thing: saving. You've just got to do this. It not only gives you an emergency stash if you have an unexpected expense, but it also represents real freedom. Our goal is to put away $25,000 so that we can go when and where we want.