Monica Thorns. Business Operations at Youth Guidance

Monica Thorns, Business Operations at Youth Guidance

We are pleased to have Monica Thorns share an “aha” money moment and memory with us.

About Monica

Monica is operations/program manager at Youth Guidance in Chicago, Illinois, whose work is steeped in social impact.

One of her favorite things to do is a needs analysis, due diligence, and streamline of a project. Once done, she gains great satisfaction in documenting and having a plan or roadmap in place for a successor.

Even as a child, she liked to understand why things were done in a specific manner and wondered if it was justifiable to just say, “we’ve always done it this way!”

Monica has always wanted to get her money’s worth and hated waste. Later in life Monica realized, at an early age she was essentially learning and doing her own “SWOT” analysis and seeking an appropriate ROI.

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In Her Own Words…Penny Candy

Growing up in the days of penny candy that actually cost a penny, it was always a challenge to get the most I could for my nickel or dime. If I had a quarter, I could fill a bag plus and make the contents last for days.

And if I had a dollar…Whew! My family would always tease if I had $1 on Friday, the following Friday I would still have 90¢ (if not the entire dollar).

I would barter, exchange babysitting services, make bets or whatever I could to preserve MY dollar. Heck, I even had a “side hustle” of earning money from my neighbors when they didn’t want to complete their chores!

I would tell myself, if I could get money another way, why should I spend my dollar? When I did spend my dollar, I certainly wanted to stretch it as far as I could.

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Passbook Savings

I also remember the days of a bank “passbook”. It was so exciting to watch the numbers grow, and even to see that my money would make money (interest).

My mom explained how it worked and I initially funded it with birthday money. The few times I made a withdrawal were disconcerting to me. I did this only if I saved for whatever the goal was at the time. My rationale was, if I didn’t have it, I couldn’t get it—something I learned from my parents and grandparents.

You had to earn it. I would never spend to the last of my money. And, once spent, my focus was on returning to—and then surpassing—the original amount of money in my account.

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Tried and True Money Rules

While I didn’t have a “formal” money education, I followed several tried-and-true rules passed down from family (and watching others who didn’t apply them). 

(1) Separate wants from needs.

(2) Save for what you want. You may later find you don’t want it and can do better.

(3) Compare prices but get the best quality you can afford.

(4) You don’t have to “keep up with the Joneses”. They may have less than you.

(5) Don’t go into debt but if you do, get out as soon as you can.

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The Frugal Habit

I’ve worked since childhood and retained my practical ways even in college. When receiving the check for my college loans, I always dutifully signed it over to the university. Some classmates wondered why I didn’t use it for fun. It didn’t make sense to me. If I did this, where was the money coming from for this purpose?

I did work-study jobs, part-time jobs, and babysat through my four years. In fact, I was so popular, I ended up contracting out some of my childcare (getting a “cut” for the referral).

The babysitting money was my “fun” money. All the rest went towards my tuition contribution. The loans I did have were paid off within two years of graduation since I had little overhead when I moved home (although I contributed to my upkeep) and aimed to avoid debt.

My frugality has continued throughout my adulthood, and my family still teases “I have my first dollar”.

While to some it may seem I’m a “cheapskate”, I prefer to describe myself as practical. I live a simple life. My basic needs are met, I have short and long-term savings, no debt, and have been able to invest as well.

And those tried-and-true rules? I’ve passed them on to my son. He is employed, with no student loan debt, has a “move out” fund, pays rent until he does, owns some investments, and a has goal of saving for a car.

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What I Believe – Priorities

I believe tried-and-true rules will never go out of style and should be passed on, especially in our “disposable, get the latest” society. I was fortunate to have parents who lived what they taught and also remember Consumer Education classes. It’s more than just about how to spend, it’s also how to think.

These lessons can and should start early, whether using a piggybank or an online account. It’s always applicable to know that there are and will always be mandatory budget line items or, simply put, needs, wants, and savings.

The biggest lesson for some to learn is to be able to think short and long term. Change your lens and think of the following questions:

-Do I need or simply want this?

-What need does this purchase fulfill?

-Can I postpone my desires?

-How can I make the most of what I have?

-Is money working for me or I am simply working for it?

-How are you defining wealth?

-Can you really afford it?

-If you say “yes” to this, what are you saying “no” to?

-Is there a better use of this money?

Such questions do not mean a life of deprivation, simply one of priorities. What are yours?

Life should be enjoyed. Just plan for it. Don’t let the wrong decisions crush your ability to do so.

Discover more about Monica Thorns, connect with her on LinkedIn: Monica Thorns.

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