Living When Every Penny Matters

One of my most distinct memories as a child was a trip to the store with my grandmother that taught me that every penny matters. There was a new kind of chips – Baked Lays – and she was so excited to try them. She had just seen them on Oprah and finally they were in our grocery story in rural Georgia. When we got home, my grandmother opened the bag of chips and immediately spiraled. The bag was only 1/2 full.

“Why is this bag empty?” She asked angrily. “This is simply unacceptable.” Then, instead of enjoying the chips, she pulled out a pad of paper and pen to write an angry letter to Lays. “I can’t waste money on expensive chips if the bag isn’t even full,” she said. 

I never once saw those chips at my grandma’s house again. She was far too stubborn and cheap to buy them because of this waste of money. She wanted me to hate the chips, but that wasn’t the lesson I took from that day (they’re my favs, in fact.) Instead, the lesson she left was this idea of waste: this idea that we couldn’t possibly spend more for something we like or that we were being taken advantage of by quality. The cheap one worked just as well – whether it was a chip, an education, or something else. This idea of frugality was doctrine in my family. But instead of teaching me all the best budgeting tactics, this doctrine planted fear that somehow it would all run out. That every penny matters.

Over the last few years, I’ve had to battle this money demon and to say I’ve changed everything would be a lie. I’ve really struggled to unwind all these false beliefs and fears from my bottom line whether it was pricing services far too low or sitting on cash like I lived in the Depression instead of making investments that help my business grow. But most of all, I struggled to let go of the belief that good was good enough when it came to what I needed. That I didn’t need those trips or experiences. The value, at least in my mind, were the savings. 

What I was saving for? I’m still not sure. I think it was for all that life I thought I’d live someday. 

Last year, someday came but not in the way I ever thought it would. Someday came by way of a van, camping, and driving across the country now – not in some imaginary world where I was older, wiser, or where I had enough – but now. While all that was such a dream, I had this one very specific dream I shared on a Zoom happy hour with Lauren. “I want to spend Pride in the most beautiful places.” I knew this month would be busy. Chaotic. But I wanted my physical space to be so beautiful that it could heal me in real time. 

Instead of laughing at me, she sent a link on Instagram the next day. “Go here,” she said. “I have dreamt about this place.” There, I saw a house that was everything I’ve always dreamt about but never imagined actually having. An A-Frame with a big porch where the water meets mountains and there are no neighbors in sight. Then, for the first time in my life, I considered that I could have this. Even if it was just for a day, I could go there. 

It was available for a week in June. 

As I clicked Book Now, Lauren cheered me on. “I’m doing it,” I said with my voice trembling. “OMG,” was her response. Then she asked, “Maybe I can come?” I nervously said something like, “Yeah, if you still like me.” 

Wishing that girl would come with me on this trip wasn’t the only dream that came true this week. 

My other dream was to live a life where I can say that good enough is not good enough for the rest of my days on this planet. That I will not settle – not with the people I surround myself with, and surely not in my pursuit of peace. Whether it’s a big bag of chips or a business investment, I’ll allow my gut (literally and metaphorically) to decide. I won’t let some society that benefits on my sacrifice lie to me and tell me it’s too soon to enjoy my life. I want to see my life as a half full bag of chips. 

I want you to, as well. Because if you grew up in a house where money was always a worry, I know you worry, too. Especially now. You’re reading the same headlines I am and worried about a recession. Truth is, most of us are worried about what happens next no matter what the market says because that’s how we watched others survive. But we don’t have to live this life where every penny matters and becomes part of the thought process. We don’t have to live at some bar just below the bare minimum to survive. 

Don’t wait to live. Don’t save every moment you can live now for someday.  

This Airbnb is a representation of a relearning – new lessons in my life – and I feel so honored to have spent my week here. If you want to see more pictures and videos, you can follow me on Instagram and get the behind the scenes view. But for now, I need you to remember this. 

Your dreams aren’t bigger than you. Your imagination isn’t big enough for your potential. So whatever it is you want – whether it’s a week in the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen, a date with a beautiful soul, or a big bag of chips – get it. 

I need to get some chips now. 


Weekly Letters

Kat Kibben View All →

Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.

Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster,, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.

Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.

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