It only cost 40 bucks.
It was gorgeous. A midnight blue with tiny sparkles, a stretchy fabric that hugged my curves and revealed my shoulders. It was greatly marked down on a Black Friday in a mall I didn’t want to be in spending money that I honestly didn’t have, but I felt so feminine in that dress and I knew my husband would like it, too. I bought it and dreamed about where I would wear it, where we would go.
We had two small children at the time. Life was good, but it was also hard. We scrimped and saved so that we could give our kids experiences. Things, too, that would make their growing up special. We didn’t often splurge on us because of it. Please understand that we have no regrets. We have great memories of their years in our home.
But, there weren’t as many of those moments when it was just us. Alone, spending time looking adoringly into each other’s eyes. Holding hands, me stealing glances of his beautiful soft blue eyes. Him, caressing my umber tresses, still long at this point in my life.
We decided that we would go down to the city for an overnight stay. We chose a date in December during my Christmas break from school. We would stay at a lovely hotel downtown (I still rave about that bed!!) and have dinner at the revolving restaurant atop a sky-scraping hotel. We planned for a carriage ride with white horses around the city’s circle.
The date was set and the kids had a place to stay overnight. Now, to figure out what he would wear!
The 160 dollar savings quickly dissolved into a very expensive date. First, Ben didn’t have a suit. He had a few sport coats and assorted khaki trousers. He had retired from the Air Force without much of a need for fancy clothes, so there was no black suit. His shirts were probably two decades old and his ties were mostly cast off from his father. No clothing maven, this dude! I saw it as an opportunity to begin adding nicer clothing to his ragtag collection. He didn’t feel quite the same about it as I did, trust me. But, he was a good sport so off to a local men’s shop for a good black suit. To which we added a new white button-down shirt, a fresh red tie, socks and undies. Oh, and shoes. Yes, I know. He owned the tacky Florsheim’s that the military foists on their members. And so, he needed new shoes, too.
It didn’t stop there. It was winter and we both needed appropriate winter coats to go with such finery. And, I needed, well…foundation garments to support my middle-aged frame not much more than a half dozen years from delivering two babies. (Ladies with a few curves will understand this.) And, shoes. And, jewelry. And, a trip to the salon.
By the time we spent the money on the clothes, the hotel, the dinner, and the carriage ride, my $40 dollar dress cost us well over two grand!
What I Know Now
I wouldn’t have traded that special evening for all the tea in China, but I did learn a lesson. That time alone could have easily happened wearing our ordinary clothes, eating at a local restaurant and spending a quiet night at home – for a LOT less. The point of the night was to be together childfree for a span of 24 hours! All the trappings were completely unnecessary.
Why are the lessons we learn about money always some of the hardest lessons? And, why do we have to learn them over and over?
Especially today, when our cell phones bring us dozens of advertisements by the hour via social media, our emails, when we watch videos or read content, we must be ever watchful that we don’t get reeled into the latest great sale. Most of what we have serves us just fine, so that cute doggie bed, the make-up that you thought you needed, the shoes, the weight loss supplement – all those…you are not better with them. Yet, we keep clicking away in search of the next thing that will bring a revelation to our lives or at least a little momentary thrill.
Moreover, for every site you click on and every piece of information you surrender to these “businesses”, you sell pieces of your life away. Digital cookies allow websites to cater to your tastes, tempting you with more buying, but more concerning is that you open yourself to being hacked potentially having your identity stolen.
Consider a few of these questions before you lay out your hard-earned cash:
- Is it a need or a want?
- How will it improve my life?
- Is there anything that I already have that I could use instead?
- What will happen if I don’t buy this item? (Consider other opportunities “lost”. Did it irreparably change your life because you didn’t buy it?)
- Do I actually have the money?
- Am I in debt now and how will this make that worse?
- Do I have room for this item, or is my house filled to the max with items that I haven’t continued to use?
- If I die tomorrow, will this item be a legacy to my life in a positive way? Will my children who have to clean up after me, be glad that I bought it or be annoyed that it is one more thing to throw out?
- Can I borrow the item? Or, do I really need one for myself?
- Why do I really need this? Is this an emotional purchase?
- Does this fit with my values? Is it in my budgeted priorities?
- What else could I do with that amount of money that is better for me?
Twenty-five years from now when you begin thinking about retirement, you will wish you had every dollar you spent on these frivolous things back in your savings account. For every dollar you spend, you fail to save for true needs and wants and for that lifestyle you will desperately need as you get older.