People are born different. Anyone who has ever met children knows this. Anyone that has multiple kids can attest to this. Every one of their babies came out with their own little personalities, likes, dislikes, favorites, what have you. Some kids are relaxed, some kids are bossy, some kids are nothing but trouble. Those are the most hilarious to hear about but the most frightening to have yourself. The point it, people are people no matter how old, and they are all different.
When I was little, I remember having a little field trip with my Brownies group to the local town center where there was a candy store that sold “penny candy” though by the mid 80s it was more $.25 candy. Each of us girls were given a $.25 to spend. I went in, looked around, and found some pieces that were $.10-.15. I ended up with two pieces of candy and my Brownie leaders thought it was hilarious. I was a good bargain hunter and they saw me going far.
My brother on the other hand was all about making as much money as he could. He had a paper route at 11 and forged working papers at 13 so he could get a job at the local grocery store (in our state you have to be 14 to work). He was good at saving and liked the finer things. When we took our first vacation to Disney, he had $555 that he had put away from his paper route money. I had about $3 left over from that week’s allowance.
I wanted to buy presents for everyone I knew so at the end of the day my dad’s girlfriend would give me her left-over change that she had for the say and I would collect it up and find the best things that I could for what little I had. And I did. Even if it was just a magnet or a shoelace, I made it work. Keep in mind this is still the mid 80s, things were much less expensive then. My brother bought himself a couple things and Mickey ears for our 3 little cousins and saved the rest. He was not about to spend all his hard-earned money.
Flash forward, I work hard, I make enough money to pay for what I need, no matter what I need. My brother says, “You’re good at making money stretch.”. He does not mean that I’m good at saving for the future, but I’m great at getting as much as I can with the money that I have, even if my bank account ends up a little low most of the time. I can’t help it. “It burns a hole in my pocket”. As they used to say. Thankfully I make enough so that when something does come up, I can usually pay for it in cash with my next check, but still saving is really not in my DNA.
When I had my son, I had no idea who he would be or what kind of ideas he would have. I started an account for him, that I do manage to save for, and I changed my spending habits a bit to include planning for the future, investments, insurance… you know, grown up adulting things. It’s taken a lot of work and self-discipline to accomplish this goal, but I understand the importance, but I still have a little trouble with Amazon and Target.
He was about 5 when he got some birthday money and I asked him what he wanted to do with it? He responded that he wanted to save it of course. He had to save it for a car so that when he’s old enough to work he’ll be able to get there himself. Swear to God. This is not one of those “kids say the cutest things” made up by a parent. These words came out of my Kindergartener’s mouth. I can assure you; he does not get this from me. He takes his birthday, Christmas, First Communion, and money earned from As he gets on his report cards and puts it in his bank.
Over the last few years, he has spent a little of his saved money, but it’s always a debate. He sees something in the store. Asks me to buy it. I tell him no, but he’s welcome to, and then he decides it’s worth to him. He has trouble saying no to certain stuffed animals. Don’t get me wrong, when he gets gift cards they do get spent in the appropriate place, but always at the appropriate time. He waits till he sees something that he wants, like one of those stuffed animals he can’t live without and chooses to use those instead of cash. Sometimes he’ll even trade me if he sees something at a store not on the gift cards. So, for instance if he sees a videogame at Game Stop and doesn’t have a Game Stop gift card, he will say something like, “Well, if I give you my Target gift card for $20 can you give me the $20 cash and I can buy the game?”. Which I do… because, as mentioned… Target.
I don’t tell this story just to brag about my amazingly perfect son. I tell this story as a reminder to those who may be struggling with money issues or have a spouse who is. Some people are just born with a different idea of money that you are. This does not give them a free pass to spend until bankrupt, but it’s just something that may take more work than you may think. It’s literally a part of them. They have to decide to make a change and learn how to do so. Excessive shopping can be considered an addiction, just like anything else done to access, but it can also just be bad habits.
Habits are the hardest thing to break because it’s not just mental, but it’s physical, like muscle memory. A person who is bad at money has a list of things they know that they want and as soon as they know money is coming in, they have a checklist of what can be paid for with that money. It’s like the food addict who is planning when they can do their next binge. And like any other habit or addiction it is easy to jump off the wagon by simply walking in a store or opening an app and seeing what there is to buy.
If you want to change your money habits it is best to talk to a professional. Come up with a budget and make sure you have some crazy money in there just in case, so you don’t feel deprived. Saving money is the best thing that you can do for yourself and your family. It’s not easy for everyone, but with the right help, it’s not impossible either.