Jackie and Jerry enjoying a "drive-thru free" moment!
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of abundance. Not in the “I’m so grateful that my life is so full” sort of way, but more in the “I’m completely overwhelmed by how full my closets are” sort of way. I suspect I’m not the only one who has ever felt this way.
Perhaps we all accumulate so much because lots of stuff is just so cheap. Perhaps it’s because even the stuff that is not so cheap, can be financed relatively easily at a low interest rate. My personal theory is that we have simply disassociated our spending from our money.
Let me illustrate this theory the best way I know how: with a story.
It was a Saturday morning. My hubby and I were headed to our son’s soccer game and, on route, we did what every parent does on route to a child’s sporting event: we picked up a coffee. We pulled up to the window, our coffees were waiting, Jerry “tapped” his card and we were on our way. Innocently, he glanced at me and said, “Isn’t that convenient, Hon?” That’s when I lost it.
“Convenient for who? The store, maybe. A convenient way to spend $100 dollars a month on coffee without even thinking about it. I can’t believe we didn’t make a pot of coffee this morning. We have at least six travel mugs in the cupboard…each. If people get any farther removed from their money, the whole world will go bankrupt and no one will even realize it until they can’t tap anymore!”
Jerry did the only thing he could as I continued to rant. He drank his coffee.
In that moment, I was reminded that even those of us with the best of intentions and knowledge of personal finance can be set up for failure. We have so many convenient, yet seemingly virtual ways to spend; email transfers, debit cards, credit cards, gift cards, reward programs, pay passes, etc…we rarely consider the cash behind the scenes. It’s like we are using play money so, of course, it’s easier to spend it on the stuff we want, when we want it.
My Mother treats her money like there’s a hole in her purse and - if she doesn’t check in regularly - some of it may have fallen out. If you didn’t know better, after every trip to the store you’d think she’d been robbed. I can see her now, feverishly going through her receipts and comparing her change to what she started out with. It’s quite the sight.
I’m not suggesting we go to that extreme, but isn’t “tapping” our money away a little extreme too?
At the risk of shocking you, I don’t think the answer is budgeting. At least not the way most people budget. A wise friend and Certified Money Coach, Karen Collacutt (www.karencollacutt.com), recently compared tracking your spending after the fact (which is what most people do when they budget) to using a GPS that tells you three turns later that you missed the exit. Not very helpful.
Instead, what if we thought about how much money we needed for our day or our week before the day or week began? Anticipate the spending, withdraw the cash in advance and feel it passing through your fingers. It’s a little radical, I admit, but that’s what we have committed to doing for the next month.
Best case scenario, it will force us to be more mindful of our spending.
Worst case scenario, Jerry will be able to enjoy his next coffee in peace.