I used to have two responses when faced with stress: spend more or eat more. I still sometimes struggle with stress-eating, but stress-spending hasn’t been an issue since I started this blog.
My mother’s recent health problems, however, have brought a whole new meaning to the word “stress”. “I can’t believe this makes me so tense,” I told Kris. “I know Mom’s in good hands. She’s going to be fine.”
“It’s understandable,” Kris said.
So I was surprised the other night to find that, for the first time in ages, stress drove me to shopping. After a recent visit to the hospital, I found myself in the middle of a nearby mall. What was I doing there? I hadn’t been to a mall in years, and yet there I was, back in an old familiar place, looking for comfort.
I made a deal with myself. “I cannot use my credit card,” I thought. “Or my debit card. But I can spend whatever cash I have in my pocket.” I opened my wallet to look: I had $17.
I made a bee-line to the Barnes & Noble. I used to visit bookstores once or twice a week (spending money on nearly every trip), but one of my keys to building wealth has been to avoid them completely. If I’m not tempted, I cannot spend.
For fifteen minutes I wandered the store, admiring all the lovely new books: books on personal finance, books on gardening, books on writing. In the end, however, I bought a comic book (of course). I spent $12.99 on The Pride of Baghdad, a graphic novel about lions that escape from the Baghdad Zoo during an American bombing run.
I drove home, read the book, and thought, “I could have borrowed that from the library.”
I’m not sure how I feel about this experience. I’m not mad at myself. “It’s only $12.99,” I keep thinking. Yet I know that’s a slippery slope: spend $12.99 to soothe myself today, and what will I spend tomorrow?
I also know that it’s important not to beat myself up for this choice. One of the keys to my financial turnaround has been learning from my mistakes. Instead of letting a single small error lead to a spiral of failure, I’ve taught myself to accept it and move on. In this case, I recognize that I spent $12.99 to cope with negative emotions, brought another piece of clutter into the house, and bought something I could have borrowed from the library.
There’s no guarantee that I won’t react similarly in the future, but by consciously noting the choice and its implications now, I make it easier to do the right thing in the future.
GRS is committed to helping our readers save and achieve your financial goals.Savings interest rates may be low, but that’s all the more reason to shop for the best rate.Find the highest savings interest rate from Ally Bank, Capital One 360, Everbank, and more.