A web friend has started a blog about her debt journey and was sharing some of her struggles and victories. I loved her candidness. (I have a thing about real. Transparent makes me happy and draws me in.) As I read her posts, I began thinking about all the financial oops-es we've made over the years. It occurred to me that maybe I wasn't free enough in sharing those. Not because I was hiding them, but because they didn't seem relevant to today's successes and growth.
But they are relevant. And they are relevant for a few reasons. First of all, they taught us what mattered to us financially. Also, I want you to have the full financial picture. Now Tony is NEVER going to let me just post his W-2s, but I do think it is fair for you to know that we've messed up. And how we've fixed it. We are in a good financial place now, but not because we've done everything right. I would never want someone else to be discouraged by their reality after reading this blog.
Also, in the name of fairness, I thought I should share my personal oops-es. One, because it's not fair to call Tony out on the blog and two, because Tony doesn't really have any. He's annoying like that. [Does this count: When we broke-up in 1997, he went out and bought a used, but swanky, Honda Accord. He brought it over to show me and said- and I promise this is the exact quote- "Look what I can afford now that I'm not dating you." Not a financial mistake, but who says that!?!]
One of the biggest financial mistakes I can remember started in the fall of 2002. Tony had moved in January for his job, and I was finishing my teaching contract in another city. In June, I joined Tony in the new location. In July, Chloe was born. By August, I was bored to tears. Tony was working, what I thought was, a lot of hours, and I had no friends. I would go to the mall to be around people. It was then that I discovered Gymboree. My new best friend. And my clothing addiction began. I would go once or twice a week. Every week. I knew all the employees, and they knew me. They started calling when the new lines came out, and they would hold pieces back for me. I started getting a special discount because of the amounts I was spending. It was glorious. Until Tony told me it wasn't.
For those of you who haven't met Tony, you should. He's as level headed as anyone you'll ever meet. He runs our family with a calm contented confidence. Some people have husbands who make commands and demands. I don't have to run purchases by him. I don't have to prove need. I don't have to have his approval before I act. But, my spending was draining the accounts each month, and was upsetting his financial goals. We had to talk.
Yuck. The talk. I hate it when someone has to "talk" to me. We sat down, and he pulled out all the receipts, and added it all up. Calmly, without emotion, he showed me the amount. I stopped breathing momentarily. Who knew Gymboree could get THAT expensive? Apparently, Tony did. I was ready for a lecture. Ready to plead my case (and Chloe was stinkin' cute in her little fully complete outfits!). That's not where the conversation went.
He got out a compound interest chart from one of his college courses. He showed me how much money Chloe would have had for college had I saved that money instead of making her cute for the moment. He told me that I was free to continue spending that much money on clothes, IF I did one thing differently. He asked me to hand the clothes to the cashier and say, "This dress with the matching tights is more important than my child's education." Umm. That'll stop you in your tracks. My calm, nondemanding husband got his point across. The clothes buying declined significantly as I took the time to think about what I was spending and why.
We've all made money mistakes. Some of those mistakes are bigger than others, but the fix is always the same. Either spend less or make more. And ultimately, until your heart is ready to spend less, you'll never make enough.