35 Cents Lessons

My quest to not spend any money until Wednesday was tested in a big way today. Everyday, I log onto my Bank of America account wishing that some magic money appeared and praying that I did not write a check back in November that has finally been cashed. A quick scan revealed that I was pretty much in the same boat I was in yesterday minus a few dollars my husband spent. Feeling pretty confident that I didn’t actually NEED anything, I told my husband that I was going to hold off on grocery shopping until Wednesday. His response, “Sure, except we really need bread.” Darn it! He was right. What was I going to feed my picky 7 year old for breakfast and what was I going to make her sandwiches for school with?

Where was I going to get bread from? Brainstorming, I came with three creative ways I could purchase bread without using my credit card. First, I checked the mail to see if there were any magical coupons in there for bread. That turned out to be unsuccessful, believe it or not. But I did find a coupon for free GoGoSqueez I requested a few weeks ago which was nice since I don’t have any fruit to put in my daughter’s lunch box. Next, I headed to Best Buy and tried to purchase a gift card to Target with the $25 certificate I got for some December purchases. The cashier thought I was crazy, “No, we only sell Best Buy, iTunes, Visa and Amazon.” When I asked if I could buy the Visa card, she of course said that I couldn’t use the certificate for Visa gift cards. That would have been too easy, I guess.

Finally, my last idea was using my ShopKick app to score a $2 or $5 gift card. Shopkick is an app that gives you points when you walk in or scan items in select stores. Problem was that I didn’t have enough points on it to add up to anything. So, I decided to go on a little journey for some points. Starting at Best Buy and ending up at Target, I managed to score the points I needed to get me to $2. I was hoping for $5, but it just wasn’t going to happen without wasting gas. Surely I could find a loaf of bread for less than $2, right? Wrong! Even at Target, the cheapest bread I could find was $2.36. But it was only $.36 more. I definitely had enough loose change in my wallet to pay for that. Confidently, I headed to check out with my free coupon and iPhone app opened with the on the screen.

Of course, as soon as it was my time to pay, my iPhone timed out and my coupon disappeared. Frazzled, I tried quickly to find it feeling the stares of the people behind me. I even offered to let the family behind me go first, but they said they weren’t in a rush. Then all hell breaks loose. First, the cashier doesn’t know how to scan my free coupon. I am not sure what she was doing wrong or if she just didn’t know what she was doing it, but she had to call over a supervisor for me to get the free applesauce. After a few minutes, both Target workers figure out how to let me use the coupon. Then, it was time for the shopkick e-gift card. As she scanned my phone, the machine kept asking her how much I wanted to put on my gift card instead of taking the amount off. The cashier must have asked me about three times, “How much is this for again?” and I would repeat $2.  I tried using humor to hide how embarrassed I felt blaming technology and apologizing every time her angry machine beeped at us. I could see the line behind me growing and the people judging me and my $2 gift card. Finally, the manager was called over and I had to tell her the amount I was trying to redeem. I am not sure the manager got it to work, but she somehow was able to take the amount off leaving me with $.36. Instead of using the cents I had in my wallet, I automatically reached for my target debit card and had her run that. I just wanted the whole thing to be over. My target card reduced the charge by 5% so I ended up paying 35 cents for apple sauce and bread.

As I walked out, I had an overwhelming sense of sadness and embarrassment. Many people in our country struggle with feeding their families everyday. Had I really wanted to, I could have charged the entire amount and walked out of the store. The imaginary voices and thoughts of those around me judging on my life humiliated me. I could hear them saying things like, “Why is she making such a big deal over $2?” “How is she wearing TOMS but can’t afford bread?” I was mad at myself as well. How did I put myself in this situation? Why is my credit card out of control? Why didn’t I just charge the $.36? Would it have really matter?

I sat in the parking lot for a few minutes collecting my thoughts. I realized that I am blessed that I actually know when my next paycheck is coming. I was proud that I didn’t waver in my goal and run my credit card which is what got me into this mess in the first place. Most important, this is my fault! I spent money on things I didn’t need in December so that now I don’t have money for the things I need in January. I can’t blame anyone for this predicament except myself. It was a hard lesson to learn, but I hope I remember this next time I go to charge something I don’t need.

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2 thoughts on “35 Cents Lessons

  1. I share your perspective completely – overspending in December drove a crisis in January. I’m fortunate, but many people aren’t. I love the detail about wearing Toms and not being able to afford bread. I also relate because – like you could just charge the amount – I could just swoop some out of savings. But that’s not the point: the point is balancing the household budget and fixing what is clearly broken: the negative spending.

  2. You are so right! This cycle of negative spending has gotten out of hand. It will take disciple to get things right again and hopefully I will learn from my mistakes.

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