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.