I’ve gotten into my fair share of financial scrapes over the years. Times when I was literally out of money and stuck for what I was going to do next.
- 7 months into my 9 month study abroad trip in Germany, I ran out of money and was unsure how I was going to get any of my stuff home with me;
- 8 months into my 10 months study abroad trip in Japan, I ran out of money and was unsure how I was going to get any of my stuff home with me (are we noticing a theme here?);
- The car my boyfriend (now husband) was driving broke down and we needed to get it repaired but didn’t have any money saved and didn’t have any credit cards;
- Our wedding, which was supposed to cost $7,000 ended up costing closer to $9,000 and we only had $500 left to spend on it before we were going to have take on debt to meet our obligations.
And every time, after I’d called my parents in tears, and cried myself to sleep wondering how I was going to manage to dig myself out of this one, money has magically appeared in my life.
I don’t want that to sound any more mystical than it has to, but at first, that’s how it seemed.
In Germany, about $1,000 was transfered into my account, which I was very careful about spending and managed to get myself and my things home with me.
In Japan, about $1,200 was transferred into my account, which, again, I was very careful about spending and was able to get everything I cared about home safely.
The car repair ended up being around $1,000, which appeared in my account as a wire transfer.
The extra cost of the wedding was supplied again by my Grandmother in the form of a check for $1,500.
My family is not wealthy, and after I was saved the second time by the mysterious influx of cash, I had to know whose life I was ruining by getting into trouble. My dad told me that I wasn’t ruining anyone’s life, my Grandmother had been saving aside money for each of her three granddaughters since we were very little, and had put that money in CDs when she had enough. Each of us had 4 or 5 CDs in our names, which he and my Grandma had been using to help us out as we needed it.
The wedding ate up the last of my CDs that she had saved for me, but I’ve never stopped being grateful for her foresight. My Grandmother’s never made any fuss about having saved the money, or even told me about the CDs until I asked directly.
When I did finally talk to her about them, and asked her how she saved so much money despite not having much herself, she told me that every week she put $5 aside into a savings account for each of us. When she had enough in the savings account (I think she said the amount had to be $1,000), she rolled the money over into a CD, usually a longer-term one (three or five years) when we were younger and then a year-long one when we were older and she knew she might have to have access to the money more quickly.
Until we needed it, she just kept rolling the CD over and letting the money grow, and every time she had enough in the savings account she opened a new CD.
As I said, my family has never been particularly wealthy, but my Grandparents, who came of age just after the Great Depression, have always been frugal, and done their best to minimize expenses. When you’re living below your means, $5 a week is not too noticeable, but it does add up.
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