Couldn't pass up a chance for a Wii...
My financial story through adolescence was pretty typical: I got a small allowance for typical chores; I had a savings account that I put birthday checks from Grandma into; and would hit up the parents for money when I really needed something (which was surprisingly often). In high school I earned cash through jobs summer jobs painting and doing odd jobs, and by babysitting. Once I entered college, I opened up my own checking account, got an ATM card, and had a credit card with my parents as co-signers (or co-card holders?) meaning they got the bill. The credit card was for emergencies, of course.
I started college at a private institution, as that's what my sisters and my friends had done. I found many things to spend my hard earned cash on, most noticeably CD's, concert tickets, and booze. The summer after my first year, I decided to give the whole credit card thing a whirl, and started buying things here and there with the card. I figured each one was just $15-20, and that was pretty cheap. Then, I heard from my Dad when he got the bill. Not good. Apparently, all those little charges added up, and I couldn't very well chalk them all up to "emergencies." Lesson learned.
After spending some time off during college, I decided to go back to a city college, for about one tenth the cost of my previous institution. I was mainly subsidized by the parents, and my finances were a bit scary. I mainly kept a checkbook by looking online and seeing what my balance was. Surprisingly, that didn't work out so well. Bounced checks, last minute calls for bill money, and using cash back at the drugstore since there was less than $20 in my account. Luckily, these foolish times would change thanks to the new lady in my life.
She straightened me out, and taught me the ways of a balanced check book. We sorted out the finances, and were soon living together. Another lesson: living in sin can greatly reduced rent bills. We both decided to go to grad school, and forgot our city college pasts, deciding to go to private school. We were young and slightly gladly ignorant, and loans felt like Monopoly money. It wasn't until we graduated and entered our careers that we realized the chunk of debt that we had accrued. To top it off, we both went into public service fields. While these can make you feel great (sometimes), they are not the highest paying positions. But, we both agreed (i.e. she told me) that we would constantly save and aggressively pay off any debts we could. This included the car loans we took out, and paying off credit card bills on a monthly basis. Now we just have our college loans.
I know that education is an investment, but we still wish we had invested in a cheaper education. We are expecting our first kid soon, and we'll be going down to one salary. Not sure exactly how this will go, but I think that the main lesson I've learned is that if you're generally happy, the money stuff will work out. We've prioritized what we need and what we want, and then what we really need and really want. Sure, there are sacrifices, but they seem to go away pretty quickly, and we haven't bounced a check or gotten threatening phone calls from any collection agencies, either.