Last weekend I was back home spending a day with my family while I was in St. Louis, and spending time in my hometown reminded me of the days when I was in high school and didn’t have more than a few hundred bucks to my name.

I was driving a crappy car that hardly ever worked, but I needed it to get to school or practice of whatever sport I was playing at the time or work.

This reminded me of a time when I literally couldn’t afford to fill up my tank with gas. Never mind that my car was basically a steel tank and got about 5 gpm (gallons per mile), which may or may not be hyperbole. There was actually a time when I literally believed my gas tank had a hole in it because I thought there was no way I was burning gas that quickly. The point I’m trying to make is that the only thing “green” about my car was the paint job.

Not having gas money sucks

gas tank to gas tankIt was such a crappy feeling to pull into the gas station and hope you have enough cash in your pocket to buy gas for a day or two. There were so many times where I had to resort to emptying the ashtray filled with loose change to come up with $2.38 so I could purchase enough gas to make it to work that evening.

Nowadays, I pull into the gas station about once every two weeks when I’m running close to empty, swipe my AMEX, and fill up the tank knowing that I’m getting 5% cash back for the purchase and that I won’t even have to think twice about having enough money to pay off that credit card in full. Having enough money to buy a full tank of gas is truly a small thing, but it does make a noticeable difference in my life.

It took a trip back home to remind me how terrible it feels to live “gas tank to gas tank”. There is so much extra stress and unhappiness when you struggle to pay for the most basic essentials, yet it makes life that much sweeter when you have made it through the worst times.

It’s not so bad

I doubt many of us are exactly where we want to be financially (I know I’m not), but I also doubt many of us are in the worst place we’ve ever been. I recommend you take a minute and think back to a time when you were poorer than you are today, and come up with one tiny thing that you used to worry about, but don’t anymore.

Once you come up with something, post it in the comments. I would really love it if you could help me make a big list of things we take for granted, and hopefully it will help us all realize that we don’t have it all bad.

This post was included in the Carnival of Personal Finance

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