by Brittany Vacura, DDS
Much of my experiences and opinions related to money stemmed from my upbringing. Societal expectations of women came into play as well.
We are conditioned to see women in domestic roles, cooking and raising children, but not as sole providers and not typically educated in topics focused money. As I developed my independent opinions and ideas, I formulated my own money mindset.
This mindset has been my drive to better my life for myself now and for my future.
I’ve learned the importance of financial literacy in everyday life through trial and error.
Similar to Newton’s law, every financial decision has a positive or negative reaction. I am of the belief that knowledge is power, and when you don’t have that knowledge you are setting yourself up to be in a position where someone else has the power.
The First Time I Had Money
My first experience managing my own money came when I was a junior in college.
I was conducting a summer research project on campus where I was paid $4500 over 10 weeks. I could honestly say prior to this point I never saw more than a few hundred dollars in my bank account. Although I was 20 years old, I was a student living on campus in a bubble that consisted of cafeteria food, coffee, alcohol, and midterms.
I had a meal card that I swiped when I was hungry, and I didn’t have any bills that needed to be paid. Yes, I was legally an adult, but I had minimal responsibilities. Because of this, I didn’t really know how to manage money. There was no incentive or reason for me to be aware of these things. They didn’t impact me.
As the summer research money appeared in my account, I slowly started going on shopping sprees, getting pedicures, and going out to nice restaurants. Eventually, I lost track of myself financially.
At the end of the summer, I made a list of things I wanted to buy with my leftover money. When I checked my bank account, I realized I had less money in it than I had prior to starting the job. Where did all of that money go? I will never know.
This was the catalyst for me to start tracking my money.
The final catalyst to really gaining financial literacy was my first experience attempting to buy a house. I relied on other people’s financial advice for so long and never questioned it.
Grow Agency in Personal Finance
When I found myself in a vulnerable situation where others had the ability to influence me in the wrong direction, I realized it was now my responsibility to look out for myself.
I had a mortgage broker pushing me to buy so he could get a sale. He was just like my realtor, pushing me to buy so she could get a sale. The house was way more than I could afford at the time.
When I shared my hesitancy with them, I felt more pressure. It was in that moment that I realized these people didn’t have my best interests in mind.
I swore this would be the last time I would allow myself to be taken advantage of. I walked away from the deal and never spoke to either person again.
From this point forward, anytime I needed to take care of something related to finances, I researched it aggressively. I didn’t allow myself to go into any situation blindly, and I asked for as many opinions as possible from reputable sources only.
As a female I continue to find myself in situations where stereotypes and assumptions are made that could cost me.
The Final Straw
I see this commonly in the auto industry. Awhile ago, I needed my cabin and engine filter replaced in my car. I was fortunate that my boyfriend could do it. I watched him as he removed the old filters and placed the new ones.
During a routine oil change later, I was told by a mechanic that I needed them replaced again. The attendant brought out a dirty filter to emphasize his point. I immediately recognized that it was not one of the filters my boyfriend had replaced. This led me to write my name on my filters and keep a binder of every single car maintenance invoice.
Moving forward, I track when certain services are due to avoid being taken advantage of each time I get my oil changed.
Power of Knowledge
Because I have increased my knowledge, I have increased my power and financial resiliency.
As I’ve learned more and more about how to set myself up financially for the future, I’ve become motivated and passionate to share this with others. I know I may not get it right every time, but I give myself grace because I’m going in the right direction. That’s the beauty and power of community – sharing wisdom and helping uplift others.
Downloadable Guide to Budgeting Money
Brittany is a general dentist currently practicing in Sacramento, California. She prides herself in her ability to strategically plan out treatment in a way that makes it affordable for her patients.
She also loves educating and coaching dental students on how to tackle their student debt.
On her quest to becoming debt free herself, she enjoys reading about personal finance, going to CrossFit with her husband, waiting for the arrival of her puppy, and home improvement projects.