Credit: Getty / Chris Clor

Since I was a teenager I’ve known one thing for sure; I am bad with money, specifically extra money. I can pay bills on time. I don’t have any credit cards. I have student loans, but doesn’t everybody? I’m definitely responsible with money meant for something, but disposable income is where the trouble lies; my brain knows there’s money in my wallet and it drives me crazy for it to just sit there. It’s as though if I don’t spend it, someone will take it from me. I never really did much about my relationship to money, I thought one day I would just “get it right.”

Most of my life, my family and I have grown up in poverty, and that’s where my bad relationship to money comes from — if you don’t make enough, you forget about trying to save any money. That’s nowhere near possible. The lack of money never escaped me as a child; my friends had things I didn’t, and it bothered me. The idea of “going without” (clothes or food) made me feel ashamed and less than. On Christmas of 2004, I remember my youngest sister and I having our very few presents in unwrapped cardboard boxes, which I’m sure couldn’t have been easy for my mother to watch. Some times were better than others.

It would be a lie to say that my family’s issues with money didn’t affect me now as an adult on opposite ends of the spectrum. I’ve always seen money as security: food, clothing, and shelter are necessary things, but at times, I felt as if I should be able have things I needed AND wanted, and because of that, I spent a bit recklessly. Other times, I have forced myself to put more money away than necessary, because I’ve been scared I’d fall upon hard times again. For me, my money problems aren’t solved with just getting a job, even with a degree.

As a disabled american, finding a job that will lift me out of poverty isn’t exactly possible, because there are stringent government rules for Social Security Disability recipients. If I violate any of the rules, such as having more than $2000 in my bank account, I lose my disability benefits and health insurance, which for a permanently disabled person is a nightmare.

These days, I’ve learned a bit more of a spending/savings balance, which is still a fight — after all we live in a spend, spend, spend society, and as young people we’re constantly comparing our lives to one another. I don’t think my relationship to money will ever be perfect. I don’t think anyone’s is, but noticing the problem of my relationship to money is a start. It means that it won’t always be like this, and it’s not the end all, be all. Mistakes are okay, because they’re part of the learning process — and even money requires learning.