The summer of my junior year in high school, I got my first real job, working as a lifeguard at my local recreation center. The hours were weird, sporadic and each weeks schedule was different. The pool was big and crowded, kids would try and get away with as much as they could, and you were in the sun all day. Did I mention my boss was incompetent and passive aggressive? What about only getting paid seven dollars an hour after taxes? A shitty summer job. But what it taught me about necessity and budgeting is something I still use to this day and am grateful for the experience as a whole.
So put yourself in my shoes. You spend your first two weeks of summer working a job for the very first time. The way the hours worked was you would work five days a week, and each shift was between four and eight hours long, depending on the day. You would be up in the lifeguard chair for fifteen minutes, then someone would come to bump you out and you would go on to the next chair and take the place of the person who was sitting there. This would happen three times in total, and then you would get your thirty minute break, fifteen minute break if the pool was crowded that day, which it usually was. There were two sides of the pool, so you would alternate between these throughout the day. So there I am, having worked for two weeks, having done nothing besides work, lift weights, watch anime and sleep, because hey guess what I didn’t know at the time, working a job tires the hell out of you. I go and pick up my paycheck, take it out of the envelope and what do I see? Two hundred and seventy three dollars addressed to me. This is why I had been working for the past two weeks? I had blown the whistle countless of times at kids, cleaned up melted ice cream on the pool deck, taken out soggy used diapers and old pizza trash for only close two three hundred dollars? This is what I was sacrificing my summer for? In three days that entire paycheck was spent. I bought expensive cloths( I bought three t-shirts that were each fifty dollars each, what an idiot) that didn’t fit me after three months to impress a girl that did not like me. I had Chipotle for lunch for three days straight, and bought an Xbox 360 game. That was where two weeks of my summer had gone.
This trend continued for the rest of summer, until the last week of summer where I told my boss I was quitting, which then she forgot, which resulted in me not showing up the hours she had scheduled me for, which resulted in he pool not having enough life guards, which resulted in the pool getting shut down for the day, which resulted in me getting fifty angry calls that I did not answer, which resulted in me getting the stink eye every time I go into the Recreation center to work out or swim ( I go in there six days a week) to this very day. But that’s a story for another time.
At the end of summer my bank account had no money in it, and when I looked around to see where all of the time and money had gone, all I could find were a couple dozen Chipotle receipts, a pair of nice shoes I had only worn once (which may or may not have also been bought to impress the girl that still did not like me), a couple of video games, and some expensive cloths that were still too small. It was depressing to say the least. To say the most, it was like I had been in a contest on how to spend your money like an ass, and I had gotten first, second, and third place. What an American hero I was.
So there I sat, in my room wondering what the hell had been the point of it all. School was starting in a couple of days, and this summer had been the worst by far. I had been working to much to do anything exciting but also not enough to to fill all of my time, which had put me in this weird state where it seemed like I was always just waiting for the next time I would work, enough time to do little things but never enough to do anything spectacular. But there on my bed, I learned to ask myself two questions about money and work that I still use to this day, which makes me look more fondly at all the time I wasted that summer.
- Why am I working?– With every single purchase I make, I think about the time it took working to purchase the item I want to buy. Suddenly that ten dollar candle you want buy doesn’t seem worth the hour of work it took to get the money it costs. You begin to ask yourself ‘Is this why i worked that one hour? Was I using that one hour of my life to make enough money so that I could purchase this item?’ When looking at purchases that way you are quite easily and quickly able to find what items are essential to your life, and what things are extra that you don’t need. Impulse buying becomes nonexistent and you learn more about yourself when you know exactly what items in your life you find necessary to spend money on.
- Is Working Even Worth The Time?- Work takes time away from your life. Work is apart of everyone lives’s in some way. But with work comes years and years of time that is just that. Work. It is nothing more. You are not learning anything new, growing as a person, experiencing more of what the world has to offer, or even contributing to some greater cause. Work is like a purgatory where you are neither growing backwards or forwards, 99.99% of the time you are simply staying the same. I could have not worked that summer and all I would have missed out on was a few lunches and some clothes I didn’t need, with some other dumb purchases thrown in there. The cost of time was not worth the items that came because of it. Now listen up because this is important. Once you start to look for it, you realize how often the phrase ‘I just need XXXXXX amount of money, and then I’ll be fine’ gets said. It’s the classic story of the young adult who says they want to work hard for a number of years and save their money, and then at age forty they will have the life of relaxation and freedom. But how often do you see that scenario playing out? Look around at the people around you and see what their lives consist of. What you will find is that even those who make well upwards into the hundreds of thousands of dollars range still are always racing to pay their loans and expenses. The young adult working hard slowly but surely builds up a variety of expenses that he finds necessary to his life. The nice suits he has to buy to impress clients, his boss and co-workers. The fancy car. The good house in a respectful neighborhood. The cost of a family and wife, putting the kids into a good school and buying them the things in life they want (not need, but want). Paying the variety of phone, insurance, house, electric, anf car bills. As the kids grow and need (want) more, a cell phone of their own, a car too. And what about vacation? The social states you have built for yourself begins to be the thing that matters to you most, and so you are always chasing the maintenance and growth of it well into your later years. Your friends and family all see you as this certain person, what would they think if you started driving around in a beat up car, or if your kids started wearing clothing from good will. Will they think you can’t provide for your family? It is a slow process, but one that consumes many. You must ask yourself if the work is worth the time, worth the hours and hours of mandatory dedication that have to be done no matter what. In my case that summer, the work was not worth the time. I could have easily just have not worked and what I would have missed out on were things I could have easily lived without. If you make sixty thousand dollars, learning to live your life just spending thirty thousand a year will give you thirty thousand dollars to save a year, giving you financial freedom much quicker than most others. You could also live on thirty thousand dollars a year and find a comfortable relaxing part time job where you make roughly that, giving you the freedom to follow your hobbies and relax, letting you do whatever you want with your abundance of time.
So maybe my shitty summer job can also help you figure out what kind of things you feel you need and what you can get rid of. Hopefully at least it will make you think twice before buying that two hundred dollar pair of shoes.