This post by Maria Nedeva is part of the Yakezie blog-swap. Maria is the blogger behind The Money Principle: a personal finance blog that will ‘make your head hurt and your wallet sing’. There she writes about money management, wealth, health and anything that takes her fancy.
I still remember, with a good portion of embarrassment, a conversation with very close friends around our kitchen table. This took place over a decade ago and we were reminiscing about our summer jobs. By that time, we were all highly successful in our respective occupations and hence the conversation was coloured by the romanticism of distance and selective memory.
Even so, my friends were talking about working at IBM (washing vegetables in the kitchens), waiting tables and washing the walls of mental institutions. Awhile into this conversation, I felt that I should contribute something – after all I did have summer jobs and I made extra money all my life; well, most of it since my late teens.
“I worked on an archaeological dig during one summer.” – I chirped in.
“Is this all?” – asked one of my friends.
“No” – I replied – “I also worked for a number of research institutes during the summer vacations and even term time.”
That was that; my friends were convinced that the socialism of Easter Europe was a really spoiling social system and my husband confirmed his opinion that I am ‘the most elitist person he’s ever known’.
Whatever the impression that I left – and have had to live with ever since – this is the truth. Since my mid- to late teens I’ve always earned money on the side. When I was in high school, I worked on archaeological digs or as a tourist guide at historical sites. As a matter of fact, we just visited one of the places where I used to work. At that time it was simple: I got paid a little, I gave what I earned to my mum and had to beg for a pair of new jeans. Such was life, my upbringing and the dictates of my consciousness.
When I went to university (to read sociology and philosophy) things changed. I started working at couple of research institutes – collecting and analysing data. Not everyone did it: it was just that I was good at it, I wanted to do it (this is the craft of social science; if you learn method and empirical approach you are pretty much set) and I was rather successful convincing people that I am ‘their girl’ and they can count on the quality of my work.
At the later stages of my degree and during the time of my (first) PhD, I started analysing data and writing reports. Someone would bring me a large pile of cross tabulations and in three days they’ll have a report. I became (affectionately) known as ‘The Great Analyst’ – after that I was never short of ‘side hustle’ and extra cash. Best thing was that I was paid by page; and I was even back then a rather prolific writer.
This was my main line of extra income but I also translated technical texts and played chess for money; good thing I won most of the time.
In my youth, I hustled like a pro and was never short of cash!
I learned some lessons; but if you find these surprising, please remember that we are talking about socialist Bulgaria where money was just a thing you buy other things with, investing was something nobody knew anything about (after all, we were to reach communism when money becomes redundant by 2000) and as to saving…well, who wants to be like her parents, anyway.
I lived a life of hedonistic abandonment and loved every second of it!
How about these lessons, then? I learned the following four lessons:
Earning money is easy
This was a very positive lesson to learn. Many personal finance bloggers would argue that it is much easier to save money than to make it; well, my experience tells that making money comes easy if you have the education, experience and the ‘hunger’ to hustle.
Learning this lesson when I was young(er) helped us immensely over the last four years or so: after all, paying off roughly $160,000 of consumer debt in three years was largely through increase of earning and improved money management.
Whether and how much of this money I managed to keep is another matter entirely.
Waiting for the tram is lame!
Having all this money I was making on top of my usual income and having nothing better to do with it than spend it meant that I started living a life very different from the life of my friends and colleagues. I never waited for the tram longer than 2 minutes; any longer and I waved a taxi.
I had a great shock and a lesson in humility one day. I told a friend of mine that I am so ‘poor’ at the moment that I couldn’t take a taxi. She was outraged! Her problem was to buy food for her two kids and pay for the heating. Talking a wakeup call! After that, I stopped taking taxis and when my friend had the opportunity to buy the apartment she was living in, I helped her with money (actually, I gave her most of the money she needed for that). But I never forgot that money is to nourish our lives and give us pleasure.
Spending money on your friends feels great
Yep! Once I stopped wasting my money on taxis and started waiting couple of minutes longer for that tram, I discovered that spending money on my friends is great! I invited my friends to nice restaurants, I took them to the opera and the theatre, and I gave them money when they needed it.
I never lend the money; it was a gift to the people in my life whom I loved and who didn’t have the opportunities to make money that I had.
I will never regret doing this and would do it again were the situation to arise.
And in emergency?
For emergencies I always had my parents. But don’t think of it as me sponging off them: it was an investment of sorts. When I was young my parents helped me out when there was a need. When they got older, all they put in me paid off handsomely: I never forgot their help and supplemented their pensions for the last twenty years of their lives. It was my duty and my honour to do so!
May be the lessons I learned when I started earning money ‘on the side’ are un-conventional. But these have served me great: I doubt that without learning these four lessons I would be at the great financial place where I am today.
Little House Note: You can read my post over at Maria’s site here.