I’m in my 30s now, and while I’m not that old yet, I feel like I’ve been had the financial journey so far. I won’t be able to share it all one post, so you’ll just have to come back and hear it in pieces.
To start, I’ll share my first experience with money: paying for snacks from the neighborhood ice cream truck.
I grew up in Oxnard, California, where a lot of Mexicans immigrated to work in the farm industry. So I had a lot of Mexican neighbors and classmates and grew up with their culture, particularly their food and music. I also developed a love for their ice cream trucks, a few of which made circuits in my neighborhood or near my schools.
I, of course, had my favorite ice cream truck, the only female-led one by a wonderful lady named Toshiro. She made the best pepino!
To this day, I cannot replicate the thick goodness of her chili/lemon mixture. I would lick that styrofoam cup clean once I finished eating the fresh, perfectly thick cucumber slices. I’d first use the toothpick to gather the residual chili flakes from the sides, then finish it off with my tongue. SO GOOD.
It was one of the more expensive items on her menu, so it would be a treat when I could afford it. I would ask my parents for their spare change any chance I got, then turn around and spend it on the ice cream truck after school. So this habit of getting money then spending it was one of the early money habits that I developed. I had no concept of saving money at that point, because why? I could just buy pepino each time I amassed a full dollar!
Well, as you can guess, that habit didn’t serve me well when I got my first job in high school as a seasonal worker at Gap at the Camarillo Outlets. My paycheck would be gone in just a few days, transformed into some clothes or lunch from the food court.
This habit followed me into college, when I had access to cash thanks to my student loans. In hindsight, I could have borrowed way less in student loans if I knew how to budget my money well. But how could I know? My public education didn’t equip me with financial literacy skills, nor did my parents know the skill themselves well enough to pass it on to me. So I struggled for a long time to figure out how budgeting could help me control my spending.
Now, I know! These days, when the ice cream truck comes around my neighborhood, I can sleep soundly knowing I can more than afford that pepino.