It’s Financial Literacy Month and I’m pleased to be part of an awesome blog carnival today hosted by Shannon from The Heavy Purse. In case you are unaware, Shannon’s passion is all about helping parents raise financially confident and responsible children. Her perspectives on that issue are some of the best I’ve read. I highly encourage you to check out her site, especially today and see what all the other carnival participants are writing about.
The topic for her financial literacy blog carnival is our biggest money “A-ha” – that moment when you realized things had to change. Well, I’m in no competition with my fellow bloggers today, as I’m sure they will share great moments in time and lessons that spurred them to change. I’m pretty sure though none of them will be talking about this…
Shopping for shoes.
That’s right…my financial life really did change one while shopping for shoes.
My Life Altering Moment While Shopping for Shoes
I’ve shared the details of my story here before, how I chronically spent more each month than my wife and I brought in. I was driving my wife crazy as our budget never worked and we continually took money out of savings each month to cover my undisciplined spending. Through a series of events – which included being exposed to Dave Ramsey’s teachings and some personal conviction and soul-searching on my part – I began to turn the corner. We cut up our credit cards, developed some oneness in relation to our finances and goals and attacked our budget with abandon.
Our first step was to go to an all-cash and debit card system for transactions. Credit cards hadn’t worked for me so we decided to give this new system a try. I was very nervous about this, having never really believed in paying in cash for anything.
One area we specifically chose to target for cash payments was our clothes budget. We each received a set amount in an envelope each month and were free to use that on our clothing needs. No problem right?
Shortly after this transition to a new method of payment, I went shopping for shoes and jeans one evening at a local department store. I had already picked up a pair of jeans and was headed to the shoe department to get some casual dress shoes for work. That’s when my attention was drawn to the sign all shoppers love to see:
Shoe Sale: Buy One, Get One Half Off!
Now this may seem strange for a man, but I love shoes. I really could fill up a closet full of them if I let myself. Sneakers, running shoes, casual, dressy, hiking boots…you name it, I’m there. So that sale sign was just like saying “Sic ‘em” to a dog.
Foaming at the mouth, I immediately found a pairs of Dockers then another pair of shoes that I loved. Then I looked at the price tags. “Oh, this would be an incredible deal” I thought. Can’t pass this up.
Only problem was I didn’t have enough money in cash to purchase the jeans and two pairs of shoes. The added cost of the half-off pair of shoes would have put me over budget by $25.
But it was such a great deal! I was stuck.
The first thought that ran through my head was, “I’ll just use my debit card…it’s only $25.” No big deal.
I tried to scenario plan on how I could justify the purchase to my wife. Based on how I had manipulated conversations in the past, I could surely convince her my breach of etiquette was no big deal. She wouldn’t really care anyway, right?
Then from out of nowhere, like the white angel sitting on the opposite shoulder, another voice said, “But you committed to change. Are you really serious about that?”
Talk about a buzzkill. I was ready to have a smackdown with my conscious right in the middle of the store.
Instead I paused, and thought, and breathed. For five minutes, I waged this battle in my mind.
Finally, as if I were having withdrawal symptoms, my shaky hands put the half-off pair of shoes back on the shelf. I walked to the register, purposefully not looking back at the shoe department for fear I would change my mind.
What I Learned About Myself While Shopping For Shoes
I’ve thought about this moment many times over the years. Though not over a lot of money, it’s the biggest money related decision I’ve ever made. On that day I learned:
*A little decision, simply drawing a line in the sand somewhere, can have a huge impact.
*My choices reflect how seriously I’m committed or not.
*Marketers really understand what triggers our emotions and spending patterns.
*“It’s only” excuses block us from real change.
*Commitments, especially to those you love, should not be taken lightly.
Most importantly that day I found the willpower to change. Until that point, I had always questioned whether I could overcome my bad spending habits. That decision served as a defining marker and told me “Yes, you can do this!”
Questions: What would you have done in my situation? What has been your biggest money “A-ha” moment? Anyone else like shopping for shoes?
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