Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lessons I Could Learn from My Younger Self - Value Cash

Recently I've been thinking about my relationship with money and spending, particularly how it has changed since I've grown up. The value of a dollar has been altered in my mind, and I think that it was my younger self who had it right. So over the course of this week, I want to explore some of the things that I had right as a kid.

First, as a child I valued cash. I think that this is pretty common among children. Money is something foreign to kids; as a kid, you only receive money if an adult gives it to you. Thus, money serves as a gateway into the world of adults. Think about your first memories regarding money. Despite the fact that it was most likely a very small amount, it would fill me with a sense of power. Even a penny meant something to me. I remember getting a dollar from the tooth fairy and feeling like I owned the world. I remember thinking that if someone had $100, they were most certainly rich.

Since I valued money so much, I found it very difficult to spend. I remember one year I really wanted to get a new bike. When I made this request to my parents, my dad said, "Well, then you better save up." I had absolutely no idea how much a bike cost, but I knew that it was A LOT. I saved my money for months in a little container - money from doing chores, the odd found quarter, gifts, profits from lemonade stands. I remember opening up my little bank to add the money, and feeling euphoric at the sight of the folded bills. I would take them out and carefully count them, wondering when I would have enough for a bike. I would lift the container to feel it grow heavy from the weight of the change. Finally, I felt like I certainly must have had enough.

I remember bringing my bank to my parents, and we counted it together. At this point it was around $19. "Well," I asked my parents, "Can I get a bike now?" They then informed me that I really wasn't even close to having enough money for a bike. Part of me was disheartened, but I also was incredulous. How could a bike cost more than the $19 that I worked so hard for? What a rip off! I didn't even want it anymore, and I made do with the hand me down bike that I had, until I was surprised one Christmas with my own brand new bike. Since I knew that this bike obviously cost a fortune, I was thrilled to have it.

I remember adding money to that little container for quite some time, getting up around $100. Even though I wanted things, I barely spent that money. When I would be out with my parents and request some toy or another, they would tell me that I should use the money I had been saving. It very rarely seemed worth it.

I'm not sure when it happened, but I eventually strayed from that mindset. An older version of me, broke into that little container that I had worked so hard for and spent the money. Granted, it did take awhile to get through, but eventually it was all gone. I have no idea what I even bought.

As an adult, I don't even deal with cash. I very rarely have cash in my wallet, and when I do it is always from some random occurrence. Instead, I use my credit cards for everything. I always pay by balance so I never pay interest, but it is true that using a credit card just doesn't have the same sting as using cash. I have been trying to get into the habit of using cash more frequently, but I really would love to get back to the mindset of my young self and ask myself a crucial question before I make a purchase.

Is this (bag/ pair of shoes/ necklace/ makeup/ DVD/ etc) really worth trading my hard earned cash for?

Most of the time, if I'm honest with myself, the answer will probably be, "No."

4 comments:

J. Money said...

Brilliant story (and oh so true!). Really enjoyed reading this. a lot :)

mirko said...

Very nice story. I can easily see myself in that same aspect. Why did I have to buy all that crap for my 'racing car' in my 20's.... ;(

Anny said...

Thank you for sharing! I keep my emergency $20 in my wallet but pay for everything cash. Paying with credit hurts me more :P

"Since I knew that this bike obviously cost a fortune, I was thrilled to have it." made me laugh

camorra said...

Ha, I definitely feel that. Once I got plastic, my bank account dropped $1000 within the course of 3 months. Considering that I was in high school with no income, that was about 1/3 of my net worth. Lesson learned: don't let other people spend your money. (At least 2/3 were spent on other people who "forgot" their wallets - I'm in college now and I haven't even come close to depleting that much)