Posts filed under ‘thoughts’
One of my most vivid memories of money came at the age of 11. I became friends with the new girl at school. The new girl and her family moved into a brand new neighborhood that had popped up about a mile from my home. I visited her one Saturday afternoon and was amazed at the size of the home she lived in. It was easily two to three sizes larger than the tiny rancher my family and I lived in. It was also the first home I had ever been in with a ‘guest’ room. It boggled my mind to think that a home could be large enough to have a bedroom that was unoccupied 99% of the time. But at the time I honestly don’t remember thinking “this girl’s family has more money than mine”. I don’t think I equated the size of her home with money.
A few months later though I learned the clear difference between her family’s spending habits and my own. My mother and I were invited on a shopping trip with my friend and her mother. In middle school I desperately wanted to fit in, as all children do, and like any other girl I thought brand name clothes were my ticket to the top of the popularity pyramid. When we arrived at the mall we first went to the Limited. My friend and I tried on clothes while the two moms chatted. Shortly after we emerged from the dressing room with the clothes we wanted. I remember my mom looking at the items I selected. She picked up each item and glanced at the price tags. The other mom didn’t even look at the pile of clothes on my friend’s arm, she simply grabbed them and walked over to the register. While in that store, my mom asked “are you sure these are the clothes you want?” I remember, because she asked me that question at least two or three times. I answered “yes” and she paid for them.
As we continued to shop my friend purchased new clothes from every single store we went in. As my friend’s mom walked up to the register in the second store, my mom turned to me, and said “we just can’t keep buying clothes.” There was something in my mother’s eyes that day. She seemed disappointed that she couldn’t buy more for me. She seemed saddened watching my friend’s mother buy outfit after outfit. My mom didn’t make another purchase that day. It is one of the first true memories I have of the significance of money. Interestingly, my mom remembers that day too. I had a falling out a few years later with that friend. Now 18 years after that incident, my mom said, “I can’t believe how many outfits that woman bought for her daughter.” Obviously, that was a significant day for both of us. It was my first glimpse into the feelings of inadequacy that can be brought on by the lack of money.
There is no better way to tell a tale than to start at the beginning, and so to comprehend my current finances you must first understand my relationship with money. When I think back on my life, even back to the earliest years of childhood, I have very specific memories of money. Despite the fact that I lived in a middle-class, one-income, family I rarely remember going without as a child. So given that fact, it seems particularly odd that I would remember those rare occasions so vividly.
Take for example, my 9-year-old desire to play the piano. While all the other girls I knew wanted to join the band and play the flute or violin I desperately wanted to play the piano. Honestly, I can’t even remember where I got the inspiration, I don’t remember any of my friends or neighbors playing as a child. For months I begged my parents to buy me a piano and finally one Saturday afternoon we arrived at Stu’s music shop. I remember the way the store was laid out, how the pianos took precedence in the middle of the floor, while guitars and trumpets hung on the walls behind them. The keys looked so black and shiny that I couldn’t resist sitting before them and tapping. I’m sure, my parent’s wanted to fulfill my 9-year-old dream more than anything else in the world, but within moments of our arrival it was all to apparent that they could not afford a piano. I remember the expression on my parent’s faces as we walked out of the music store, minutes later, empty handed.
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, in that moment I formed a distinct association between pain and money. In this case, the pain my parent’s felt in disappointing me. There are other moments in my childhood, like this, that I remember. I’m sure if you think back to your childhood you too can recall incidents with money, whether positive, like the time my dad found money at the ocean, or negative, like the time I lost a roll full of quarters at the carnival.
Although my parent’s didn’t set out to teach me about money that Saturday afternoon, lessons were learned, and ideas unknowingly formed in my 9-year-old mind. I cannot say for certain how that moment affected my relationship with money, but I can say that as an adult I have always been particularly cognizant of the correlation between money and goals. Obviously, not all dreams require money, but many of them do, and so I make a conscious decision with every purchase, to spend today or save for the goals of tomorrow.
If you are reading this, I encourage you to think about your relationship with money and the memories and experiences that have formed those correlations. If the relationship is negative, now is your chance to reflect on it and change it. Looking back on that moment in the music store I could have formed a million different thoughts and feelings about money. Of all the lessons I could have learned, I chose to recognize that saving money can help me reach future goals, while spending will decrease my chance of reaching them.
My son snowboarded out west for the first time this year. The price tag for two days worth of lessons was just under $500. Surprisingly, I did not bat an eye. No. I happily pulled out my wallet and wholeheartedly believe that money was well spent. By the second day he was riding the chair lift up the mountain and sliding down with an instructor by his side.
I considered my reaction to such a big expense a fluke. I weigh every financial decision, both big and small, so surely I would go back to my penny pinching ways.
But imagine my surprise this past weekend when I happily handed over $200 for custom insoles and a new pair of running shoes. I didn’t compare the prices of shoes in the store or ask myself if I really needed new insoles. Nope. I walked in knowing what I wanted and handed over my credit card without any hesitation.
It doesn’t end there. Today I walked into a gym near my home and paid seventy dollars for a one and a half month membership. I also paid $6 to the most expensive parking meter I have ever seen.
Why the change of heart? We have a very large financial cushion in the bank and shrinking mortgages.
While I don’t want to become frivolous with my money I do want to spend it on the things that matter to me. Like getting in better shape and providing enriching experiences to my son.
Plus with two kids constantly undertow I simply don’t want to waste time pinching every penny. I have enough things to think about during the day and I don’t want money to be one of them.
A few thoughts/questions about travel on this snowing evening:
- We plan to fly out west next month and I am unbelievably concerned about a four hour flight with an eleven month old. We opted NOT to buy a seat for the little guy and I am a bit terrified that he’ll fuss the entire time as he tries to climb on and off our laps. My husband isn’t great with crying babies let alone the other passengers on the plane. Is this one of those times where saving money will come back to haunt me? There are still seats available. Should I buy one for him?
- We are staying in a condo for three days and a hotel for the fourth. Since the condo has a washer and dryer I plan to pack only three sets of clothes for each of us. By the time I pack coats, snow pants, gloves and all that other fun ski gear I figure I won’t get much else into the bag. Since we’re carrying a car seat and a booster seat I’d prefer to check only one bag and have my husband, four year old son and I carry lightweight backpacks on the plane. It’s tough to hold a baby, hold my older son’s hand, a car seat and luggage. I think it would be best if we can cram everything into one bag so my husband can carry the car seat and roll the luggage while I keep hold of the kids. Does that seem possible?
I recently read the story of Matthew Jackson and cannot get this young man’s good deed out of my mind. If you aren’t familiar with the story read the details below:
Jamie Lynne-Knighten is on a mission to pay it forward to honor a good Samaritan who was killed 24 hours after picking up her $200 grocery bill.
On November 10, Knighten had a crying 5-month old baby in her arms, a cart full of groceries and a line forming behind her at an Oceanside, California, Trader Joe’s checkout counter when she realized she had left her debit card at home.
The mother of two attempted to pay her more than $200 tab with her credit card that declined repeatedly due to anti-fraud lock. As she was attempting to reach her credit card company get the lock lifted, a young man in line behind her offered to help.
“The gentleman behind me quietly says ‘May I?’ ” she recalled in a Facebook post about the encounter. “I’m overwhelmed and didn’t think I heard him correctly so he repeats ‘May I? May I take care of your groceries?’ ”
When she refused, the man, 28-year-old Matthew Jackson, asked again.
“This time I look at him and he says ‘I would be glad to take care of your groceries as long as you promise to do it for someone else..’ and I came to realize how much it would mean to him if I humbly accepted,” she continued.
Now crying, Knighten asked the young man for his name and where he worked, hoping to find a way to acknowledge or repay his good deed later.
Unable to stop thinking about the kind stranger, Knighten called Jackson’s boss at LA Fitness more than a week later to share his kindness and ask about sending a gift.
“That’s when [the manager] started crying,” Knighten told NBC San Diego.
The manager then explained that Jackson had been killed in a car accident less than 24 hours after the chance encounter at Trader Joe’s, the Los Angeles Times reports.
As a mom of two small children, (four and 8 months), I can only imagine how stressed this woman felt and how happy she must have been to receive assistance from a complete stranger.
This morning I was also helped by someone I never met before. I walked into Macy’s carrying two huge boxes and pushing my son’s stroller. When I reached the counter the cashier informed me that I could not return housewares in the clothing department and that I would have to take the elevator downstairs. It was difficult enough to get from the car to the checkout counter without dropping anything and the idea of walking any farther seemed logistically impossible.
I asked the cashier to make an exception, but she simply said “no” and pointed to the elevator on the other side of the store. A very kind young customer turned and offered to help. She took the two boxes and offered to meet me downstairs. She not only met me down there, but also offered to walk them all the way to the housewares department.
I asked if I could do anything for her, but she smiled and said ‘I’m a flight attendant. I like helping people.” She smiled, turned and walked away. There are so many good people in this world and my encounter today and Matthew’s story above are a reminder of all that is right.
A few months ago a whole bunch of drama spun up between my in-laws, myself and my family. Every few months my husband and I seem to be in the dog house for some crazy reason or another and at least once a year a big blow up occurs that sends us into our respective corners.
Every time this happened in the past I was able to ignore it, rise above it and generally not let it bother me for more than a day or so. Our relationship continues and I do my best to be in their presence and to act pleasant, (despite all the turmoil), in front of them.
This time something changed for me. This time I cannot seem to look past the problems. This time I have two children. This time I have a baby to take care of. This time I am almost forty. This time I realized that nothing will ever change. This time I realized that no matter what I do I will be judged and criticized. I am tired of the drama and sick of being told I do not measure up to their standards.
I am no longer capable of smiling in their presence and pretending that nothing is wrong. As a result when we are together it is uncomfortable and awkward.
Over the past few weeks I have spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about this situation. I have replayed the events of my past too many times and vented much too often.
I am not certain how to proceed. I wrote a letter and spent hours every night for an entire week revising it. I removed the emotion and anything that would further inflame the situation. I sent that email but it was so dumbed down it didn’t really say anything at all.
When I sit down with my thoughts I am unable to articulate why I am mad. I can cite specific incidents, but it is difficult to explain how those incidents made me feel or why I am angry about them.
I worry that my actions will impact my husband’s relationships with his family and that my children who are very close to their grandparents will lose that special bond. For the record: My husband believes my thoughts and feelings are warranted.
I’ve thought about writing another letter. One that expresses the truth of how I feel and why I feel it, but I worry that nothing will change as a result of my words. I worry that my words will provide further ammunition that they will use against me.
In the mean time I feel sick to my stomach over the matter. It’s the first thing I think about when I wake and the last thing I think about before going to bed. My emotions are incredibly raw.
I know that things will not change, but I also know that I need to see these people quite often. So if I cannot fix the problem how do I come to terms with it? How can I be in their presence but not be bothered by their judgements? How can I sit across the table from someone who is weighing my every action and word?
And most importantly how do I learn to let go? How do I resolve to no longer waste my energy on things that will not change? How do I learn to stop getting hurt by their accusations?
A few odds and ends…
- I wasted too much time this past month dealing with a very toxic relationship. Unfortunately, I haven’t resolved the problem but I have gained a new perspective on the situation. I would like to know why nasty people are always dragging the rest of us down. Isn’t it amazing how a positive person can make you feel happy and a negative one can pull you right down into the mud?
- In financial news we spent another $20,000 remodeling and upgrading our house. The house feels so much more spacious and open now, but in the past year we’ve spent over $60,000 to improve it! It sounds crazy, especially since we are considering moving in the next few years. The school district here isn’t the greatest, so we need to decide between private school and moving.
- My son started his second year of preschool two weeks ago and was already struck by his first cold. How on earth do we prevent the transfer of germs while he is in school? We wash hands as often as possible and clean all of his plastic lunch containers in the dishwasher. I’m considering taking off all of his clothes each afternoon and moving them to the laundry room. Last year he was sick every few weeks and most of the time the rest of us got sick too. I would really like to avoid that this year, but I have a feeling I won’t be able to.
- While the oldest is in school my youngest and I run as many errands as possible. It’s much easier to get out of the house with a baby then a baby and a preschooler, but all of these trips are costing me money. It’s so easy to pick up a few extra items in Costco or Target.
- In other news I’ve completely curtailed my desire to purchase new books. I receive a few books through a book review program and pick up the rest from the library. Who knew it was so easy to place items on hold? I can now get in and out of the library within ten minutes. In fact, finding a place to park and walking into the library takes longer than picking up the books or checking them out!
- My son will turn four in a few weeks and due to the drama mentioned above my husband and I need to host two separate birthday parties. My son won’t mind celebrating twice, but I don’t really want to bake two separate birthday cakes. I’m considering making strawberry shortcakes or something else fun. I even saw a cute idea for turning pound cake into miniature birthday cakes; maybe we’ll take that approach.
- I also need to create a list of birthday gift ideas for our family members. Every year I add items to my son’s Amazon wish list and let people choose among the options or pick something on their own. I think our families would rather review the list and pick their favorite then come up with ideas on their own.
- I’m happy that cooler weather has arrived, but I am not looking forward to the winter; bundling the boys in coats and mittens is not fun. Speaking of which I need to buy my oldest a winter coat. I’m heading to a consignment sale this week. Let’s hope I can look for the coat and not pick up a bunch of unnecessary items.
At my previous job I was offered a gift after five years of employment. What was five years worth? $200 seemed the going rate as each gift in the selected catalog was roughly equivalent to that amount.
At the time I waffled between two options: a very girly, pink bike and an ornate Waterford vase. At the time our garage was filled to the brim with shelves full of stuff. I already owned a bike, (though not a pale pink one), and had no room to store another, so I settled on the vase. If I could go back in time I would probably pick anything other than that vase, but at the time I was recently married and it seemed like the perfect choice to fill my new china cabinet.
Fast forward another ten years and the china cabinet is no longer in residence here. The plates, cups and saucers have all moved out so art supplies and children’s toys can occupy that space. The china was transported to the attic, though I doubt we’ll ever remove it from there. But what about that Waterford vase? What on earth could I do with it? It was heavy and unfortunately not designed for a large bouquet. When we brought flowers home they stood too stiffly inside it’s confided area and looked quite stifled and tight in there.
I wondered if I could sell that vase? I searched eBay for similar items, but even at low prices it seemed no one wanted the piece I owned. I found a few companies offering to buy Waterford, but none of them wanted it either.
I was told the number of crystal collectors is rapidly declining. “Who wants crystal,” one representative asked. “These days people want big screen televisions and trips to Tahiti.”
He went on to tell me that as the older generation passes away many children, (now in their 50s and 60s), have no desire to keep these family heirlooms. After all, even those who regularly entertain rarely do so with crystal goblets and sterling silver flatware.
We are a perfect example of this. We rarely host events, but our last party involved a backyard barbeque. We served food on paper plates with plastic cups and filled a wheelbarrow full of beer.
If we are representative of our generation it’s not difficult to see why the value of Waterford and other fine crystal is falling. There simply isn’t a market out there. Very few people want the stuff and even fewer are willing to pay good money to acquire it.
My family owns quite a bit of cut glass but I’ve never eaten off those plates or poured wine into those delicate glasses. This wasn’t the case for my grandmother who used them daily as a child. Even my mom remembers being served lemonade from crystal pitchers. This hasn’t been the case in my lifetime. I’ve only seen them behind glass doors, inside a china cabinet covered with a thin layer of dust.
I understand collecting beauty for beauty’s sake, but I doubt our generation or the one that follows will have much need or desire for china or crystal.
As for me, I no longer wish to own something I have no intention of using. If it is going to sit in a cabinet and take up space I’d prefer to pass it on to someone who might covet it.
As for my Waterford, I donated it. I hope it finds a new home where it can be treasured.
Once a week I intend to write a few words in either this blog or my children’s journals, but with the introduction of our second child I cannot seem to find the time to focus on either.
My older son gave up napping a few weeks ago, so I have absolutely no quiet time between the time I wake in the morning and the minute I go to sleep at night.
The oldest will return to preschool in the fall and that should give me just a few minutes a day for myself. I say should because some days the baby falls asleep in his crib with a minor tap, tap on the back and other days he struggles to either fall asleep or stay asleep without intervention. I sure hope this settles he gives me at least an hour of quiet time once the school year begins.
I know some families can add another child with very few ripples, but I have found it quite draining to have two children in the house at the same time.
On the money front:
- I finally received a $50 check that should have been mailed on May 19th. It took two months and nine emails to get things straightened out. I had just about given up hope when the check arrived in the mail.
- I am in the process of gathering baby clothes and equipment to sell at consignment. I know I’ll make less selling them at a consignment shop, but I’m not sure I want to go through all the effort of tagging and hanging them for a consignment sale. Can anyone offer advice on this topic? It seems so much easier to take them to a store.
- I desperately want to sell my old dining room furniture. With the addition of my second child we simply don’t have the room to eat in our kitchen anymore and the dining room is now a place for eating, playing and chasing. I’m tired of maneuvering around the furniture. We paid a lot of money for the china cabinet, (probably $2000 or more), so with any luck we can sell that piece for a few hundred dollars. I don’t think anyone would be willing to buy the rest of it.
- In order to get rid of the china cabinet and other furniture we need to move and purge quite a few things. The china, which we used once in ten years, was boxed up and moved to the attic. A few bags were donated and other things were moved. It is amazing how much stuff we owned but never used. I initially felt guilty about the way money was wasted, but as I get rid of it, I feel surprisingly free! Why hold on to things we have no intention of using? I’d rather make more space for the life we truly want to lead then the one we are pretending we might live some day.
- I suggested moving the kitchen table to the dining room, but my husband was pretty hesitant about the idea. Honestly it makes perfect sense to me. We aren’t using the kitchen table in its current location and it’s just another piece of furniture that seems in the way. My husband doesn’t like the look of that table, so I’m pretty sure I’m going to be overruled on this one.
- I want to spend a ridiculous amount of money to renovate our sun-room. We’ve already spent $164,000 on maintenance and renovations, so I know spending another $20,000 sound crazy. Unfortunately, without these changes the room cannot really be used year round and right now it is a great place for the kids to play. My husband thinks we should definitely proceed. It will make us more comfortable in the short term and may ultimately help us sell the house one day.
The children are calling so it seems those are all my updates for now!
I consider myself a lucky person. I typically focus on the positive over the negative and I wonder how that impacts my overall experiences in life. Do good things happen because I push aside the negative in favor of happy thoughts?
Here’s an example: It took my husband and I two and a half years to conceive two children. The good news: we have two children. I believe my struggle with infertility makes me appreciate their existence that much more.
Here’s another one: I suffered from not one but two fairly significant medical traumas over the past ten years. The good news: it could have been worse. I could have suffered from more serious problems or even died. Those medical issues have changed my outlook on life and in some strange way I am grateful for the wakeup call they created. I was lucky enough to have a husband who stayed with me, (WITHOUT WAVERING), throughout my medical crises.
And another: I was laid off days after giving birth to my first child. The good news: I had a high paying job that allowed me to save a significant amount of money during the twelve years that I worked. I made smart financial moves in those early years and had a healthy financial cushion in place to catch my fall. So healthy in fact that I decided to remain out of the workforce after my son was born.
There have certainly been negative things in my life, but I prefer to focus on the positive. A family member recently asked about my son waking in the night. I told her, “I am not sour at the idea of losing sleep. I am grateful that I have a child to tend to.” Of course, I crave more sleep, but looking at the bright side certainly helps me through those early morning hours.
Life seems too short to focus on the negative. There are so many amazing things to feel grateful for!