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The Intoxication Of That First Big Paycheck

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I went through college watching my spending closely. I had to. I made a little bit of money while I was in school, but the majority of it came from the summers. In fact, the majority of the spending money I had in college was actually made before I went to school. Aside from the couple hundred bucks a month that I took in during school, I wasn’t making much. Unfortunately, despite trying to watch my spending, I ended up blowing a lot of money. It wasn’t intentional or anything. Hitting the bars a couple nights a week tends to stack up after a while.

Thankfully, I was never truly broke in school. I managed to stay out of debt and pick up some hefty bar tabs, which, considering how often I drank, is a remarkable feat, if I do say so myself. However, as I said before, I never really had the kind of money that would allow me to go all out and spend on something I really wanted. No brand new flat screen, no high-end clothing, and no non-processed food. That is, of course, until I got my first postgrad paycheck.

It was awesome. My job is by no means the most high paying gig out there, but it’s not bad for someone a few months out of school. Seeing that much money in my checking account was intoxicating. I immediately understood how all those rappers feel when they talk about “getting money.” I had paper, as they say. Or is it duckets now? Green? Stacks? Shit, I listen to bluegrass music, guys. You get the point.

When it comes to what one does with their first paycheck, I feel that there are two schools of thought. The first is the “I’m gonna buy this, this, this, and that” mentality, better known as the “make it rain” approach. I’d be a liar if I told you I wasn’t feeling a bit of that when my first check hit my account. I had a decent amount of money, relatively speaking, and it seemed disposable, as far as I was concerned. Anything I wanted (primarily at the bar), I was going to buy.

The second approach, the more responsible one, is the “I’m going to start saving this up” mentality. Let’s face it. We’ve heard from our parents and everyone else that we need to start saving up immediately for years. Maybe after all those dinner table “you need to start acting like a responsible adult” conversations I’d actually learned something. Even though I wanted to start spending all my newly earned money, I was also thinking about saving it up. Maybe some investments. You know, long-term stuff that would pay off down the road. I even looked into some of the programs offered by my employer. It was pretty scary.

In the end, I didn’t really end up going with either approach. It’s not that I chose not to; I straight up failed to. See, I wanted to go balls to the wall and drink top shelf liquor every night at the bar, but then I remembered I have a job. It’s not like class where I can skip or go in hungover as hell. I actually have to be on time, productive, and not reek of liquor. Not to mention, I don’t live in a college town anymore. I live outside in a relatively small town in the middle-of-nowhere that is “the real LA”, lower Alabama. Not exactly the best night life around here. It’s illegal for bars to have beer on tap and you can’t buy booze on Sunday. Even if I wanted to risk the hangovers and go all out at the bar, it’d be damn hard to do so.

I ended up buying a thing or two here and there, but overall, it wasn’t near the grandiose expectations I’d had. I was able to put some of that money to things I wanted, but they weren’t things I thought I’d want. Postgrad things, guys. That’s right. This guy got himself a brand new Maytag. No new flat screen, no $150 bottles of scotch, but the new dining room set I got really ties the room together. Then of course, there were those other pesky things I have to pay for. You know, bills, rent, insurance, groceries, and gas. I didn’t factor that into the equation. As it turned out, after covering all those, there really wasn’t that much “green” left over.

I also failed as far as the whole saving thing went. It wasn’t because I went out and spent all my money on frivolous things. It was because I didn’t have that much money to save. Not to mention, I don’t know a damn thing about investing. I mean, I think we learned about compound interest at some point in high school, but let’s be serious. My major was a joke. I took three math classes in college, and that’s only because I had to take statistics twice.

What investments I did manage to make weren’t that well thought out. I took basic macroeconomics my freshmen year, and that was the extent of my education into the realm of finance. So, as you’d assume, I essentially know absolutely nothing about investing. The closest things I’ve had to a finance course were catching a couple minutes of CNBC, reading the WSJ once or twice, and watching Wall Street. My investment strategy was based heavily on my own habits. “I like to shop at Walmart, so I’ll invest in Walmart.” By invest, I mean buy a couple shares because it’s all I could afford. I know, folks. I’m the next Warren Buffett.

In all, my expectations of what I’d do with my first paycheck were not met. Yeah, I spent a little here or there, but it was nothing special. I didn’t go blow it all at the bars, nor did I make some serious investments that might pay off down the road later. If anything, all I really did was learn that I don’t make that much to begin with. I do have a sweet new washing machine and dining room set, though.

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John Blutarsky

John Blutarsky is a contributing writer for Total Frat Move, Post Grad Problems, and on an unrelated note, a huge fan of buffets. While by no means an athletic man, he was the four-square champion of his elementary school in 1997. When not writing poorly organized columns or cracking stupid, inappropriate jokes on Twitter, Bluto pretends to be well-read, tries to figure out how helicopters work, and actually has a real job.

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