My Huge Character Flaw and How I (try) to Manage it.

A recent conversation in my car.

H: “Mom, how come we can’t buy a G Wagon?”
Me: “Because we can’t afford it. We wouldn’t have money to do anything else. No trips. No swim team. Maybe no house. Nothing.”
L: “Well, Mom, if you spent all your money we would still be a family and it would be OK.”
H: “L, are you crazy? If Mom spent all her money, we wouldn’t have any left and we would have to live on the SIDEWALK!”

I think he meant to say street, but he made a good point. I found it so interesting at such young ages they already had very different ideas about money. H loves to watch his money pile up. He can tell you how much he has down to the cent. He is always planning on how he can make more money and save more money. He won’t buy the $27 toy until he has almost $200 saved because he doesn’t want to feel like he has depleted his funds. L, although I know her sentiment was tenderhearted, has the opposite view on money. She doesn’t even know where her money is half the time and she sure couldn’t tell you how much she has saved. If she knew she had $70 she would probably want to buy 10 Barbies and ask us to cover the difference. (We wouldn’t.) You’re going to argue, “yeah, but she’s only four-years-old.” To that, I would say, you haven’t seen this girl in Target. If we venture in to the girls section she is snatching dresses, shorts, and swimsuits up left and right. I see something in her that tells me rational thought goes out the window when she is shopping and what I see is me.

I am the WORST at money. The worst. Ask my husband. He will confirm this. So would my parents! J and I always joke, I can manage time and he can manage money, but… in the end what is the most important to manage? I would argue your money.

I don’t know why I’m so bad with money. I always have been. After hearing my kids talk, I wonder if it’s kind of innate. I’m not saying that is an excuse, but it did made me wonder. My reasoning skills are shot when I see something I want which is usually clothes. If I have $5, I’m spending $5. If I have $500, I’m spending $500. I remember at 17, my friend, Anna, helping me write out a budget in crayola marker in my bedroom. I think we allocated $20 a month in CDs. When I was 20, I remember sitting in an apartment with some frat guys I hung out with trying to make a budget. I think by that point, we had allocated $20 to buying drinks downtown which honestly seems kind of high now. I’m pretty sure I could get $1 well drinks anywhere on Sixth Street in 2001. Anyway, I can’t even tell you how many budgets I have made with J. Actually, we now call them “spending plans” in hopes that verbiage can affect my behavior. In any case, creating the budget wasn’t the problem. I had plenty of people helping me do that. The BEHAVIOR was the problem. It IS the problem.

This is probably the closest thing to addiction I can relate to. I KNOW I shouldn’t buy something, but it’s honestly like I can’t help myself. It’s almost like an out of body experience where I just see myself making the purchase and afterwards, I think… how did I let that happen? Then the guilt and shame come rolling in. The thing with shopping is, you have to do it at some point. I had to go buy H tennis shoes when his disappeared at Urban Air, which means I have to walk into DSW. If I was responsible, I wouldn’t even let my eyes float over to the women’s section. But, my wedges were coming apart so I strolled over and saw new wedges that would be perfect. Oh, and I had a gift card so… really, it wasn’t that bad. And it wasn’t. But that scenario times 20 is the problem. The other issue… I love clothes and putting together outfits. I think it’s so fun and it makes me happy! I really need to find a job making money doing this for other people instead of spending my own money to create a ton of outfits I have no place to wear ’cause let’s be real: these days I am pretty much going to HEB and swim practice in workout clothes.

So, how do I combat this huge character flaw of mine? Well, a couple of things. Being self-aware helps. I know what I can handle and I know what I can’t. Credit cards are my crack so I don’t carry them. I don’t open new ones even if they are going to give me a huge discount. Just say NO to the card! Also, I have my own spending account. A certain amount of money goes in to my account each month and that’s what I have to spend. When some people have found this out they are aghast that I have an “allowance” from my husband. I don’t see it this way. I see it as a way to protect my family from my spending habits. I can still spend, but when the money is gone, it’s gone. Also, sometimes I have to do a little reset. Lately, I’ve been a little “spendy” and I can tell it’s heading in the wrong direction. I made a commitment to myself that I’m not buying clothes for the months of May and June. I enlisted the help of my neighbor who is going to keep me accountable and, believe me, she won’t put up with any of my lame excuses. In fact, she’s already called me out in Instagram. I’m definitely not perfect when it comes to these tactics (except not carrying credit cards), but these are small ways in which I try to be responsible to manage my out of control spending.

We aren’t perfect people and we all have something with which we struggle. I used to think that being a “responsible adult” meant that I would get my act together with money and suddenly turn in to a super saver. Turns out, that’s not going to happen. But that doesn’t mean I’m not a responsible adult. Now I realize that being responsible means recognizing your issue and setting up guidelines for yourself to manage whatever your Achilles heel is. For me, it takes continuous reassessment and continuous adjustment of the spending boundaries I set up for myself hence, the no shopping for two months.

Is there anything you need to reassess and readjust in your life? Remember, progress over perfection.

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