Growing up I learned from my parents that if I wanted to buy something I had to earn it. I remember this one time I really wanted a new pair of tennis shoes and they were quite expensive. At the time they were R$350,00 (U$60 in the current exchange rate). The agreement I made with my parents was that I would get R$0.50 (U$0.01) per dish washed, it took me months to make that amount of money, but I still remember how excited I was when I finally went to the store to get my dream shoes. My dad, having "great" sense of humor, went to the store earlier that day, bought the shoes and told the sales person he would be back later with me, and asked her to tell me the shoe was sold out. I was devastated, but my dad couldn't resist and quickly told me it was a prank. I was as "amused" as any 12 year old would be.
I remember that moment as my first "money lesson". I didn't grow up with allowances and didn't get money for good grades or anything like that. As my mother would say "you didn't do more than your obligation". At the time I always got upset when she told me that, because I had other friends that got money for good grades and good behavior, so I felt like it was unfair. Looking back now I could not agree with her more, kids should not be rewarder for doing something that is no more than their obligation. If my dogs need money, they have to work for it. LOL!
Growing up with that mindset made me very aware of the hard work you have to do in order to receive money. So I was really good at saving it. I was known in my group of friends as "mão de vaca" (penny-pincher) and I was not ashamed of it one bit. I always made sure the bar tab was split fairly and that everyone had contributed the same amount of money to a party I was hosting. To this day I still have friends that call me out on my "cheapness", but I don't mind it. What they call "cheap", I call frugal. And frugal is not a bad word!
All that penny-pinching mentality I had all my life went out the window when I was thrown into the crazy experience that is Black Friday. When I first visited the U.S. in 2012, I had planned my trip around Thanksgiving and Black Friday. There was no better opportunity to save money than that time of year, or so I thought. The problem with Black Friday is that you end up "saving" money on things you don't even need in the first place. I got caught in the excitement of it all and ended up buying way more than what I "needed". But hey, I was still saving money right? Not really. As my husband always says: "It's free if you don't buy it".
When I moved to Louisiana to start college in 2013, the consumeristic bug had already caught me and made a permanent home. I couldn't wait to decorate my new dorm, buy a new wardrobe for school and find all the cool art supplies I could get my hands on to experiment in class (I was an art major). I spent so much money my first year of college I don't even like to think about it. But I felt like the more I bought, the less I had. I never had anything to wear, even though I had two full closets in my dorm. I always felt the need to go to Hobby Lobby and see if I could find a new supply for my school project, even though I could start my own supply shop with what I already had. I always wanted the latest decor item from the dollar section at Target, even though I had no more space for decorations in my room.
I first realized my shopping habits were a problem when I had to move back to my aunts house at the end of my freshman year. I used to drive a Ford Escape and I probably had to make 6-8 trips with a full load just to bring my stuff to her house. And that was me living in a room, can you imagine if it was a house? At the time I thought it was annoying, but I didn't give it much thought after a few days. The reality check finally kicked in when I had to move 5 times in one year. I could not take it anymore, the amount of boxes I had, specially compared to my husband's, was ridiculous.
That is why I am so grateful to have found minimalism at the end of that year! If it wasn't for that, it might've taken me several more years to acknowledge the problem and deal with it. I talk about that discovery in depth over here, but it was thanks to minimalism that I was able to take back control of my money and my life, and go back to my penny-pinching ways. The most important lesson I learned throughout my journey is that less is more and that we should "love people and use things, because the opposite never works".