The bell rang as I pushed the door of the local convenience store. There was a big mirror placed below the ceiling, tilted so that the cashier could keep an eye on the visitors in the store – in case somebody got the hots for shoplifting. My eyes would always accidentally lock on the mirror, and this time I saw a 40-year old man with a darling little girl standing at the register.
I kept checking the mirror – couldn’t help it – as I was browsing the snacks. The man and his daughter couldn’t see me (unless they looked up in the mirror) because there was a shelf between us, but I could hear their every word.
“Will that be all?”, said the cashier. The man had placed a 300 ml bottle of vodka in front of the register.
“Daddy, can I have this?” – she was holding a mini-chocolate, the kind they make half the size of a regular chocolate bar.
“No baby, I don’t have that much money with me.”
The dad was drunkish. He could still keep his balance and talk okay, but he slurred a little. I looked at him at the mirror and froze in terror. I knew this man! He used to be such a good guy!
The girl put the chocolate back without saying a word. Her dad felt bad.
“Pick something smaller.” He meant “cheaper.” (That’s what love without money looks like!)
The girl picked a banana and looked at the cashier woman. “How much is this?”
“It’s 50 cent”
“Do you have anything for like… 20-30 cent?” the dad asked.
In the mirror, the cashier was pointing to different kinds of small sweets, the girl was gripping the counter with her skinny hands, looking at the sweets. She didn’t look eager the way other nine- or ten-year olds are supposed to look when they are about to get a treat. She looked hurt, and… tired. Obviously this wasnt’t the first time they were going through this.
I had long picked my snack, but I didn’t dare come out from behind the shelf. I didn’t want to embarrass the dad any further. Drunkish or not, he was still awake enough to realize what’s going on and to understand that this wasn’t right. He too looked hurt and tired and helpless. I bet that it was moments like these that made him hate drinking, hate himself for drinking, and maybe – for a brief while – get decided about quitting.
I felt so bad for witnessing this that I thought about offering to pay for the girl’s treat, or offer to pay for whatever else she picks. Because I, at that moment, was full of cash. I had gone to the store to pick whatever I wanted – snacks or chocolates or nuts or fruit. I was going to go back home and continue watching the movie (which was now on pause) on my brand new laptop, in a big house that had expensive insulation done so that it stayed really cool even in hot summer days like this one. (Yeah, why are some people rich? It’s not fair… unless you are one of them.)
The man paid – all coins – and they left.
What happened reminded me of the days when I too had gone to the store with only coins in my hand. No, I was never into drinking, but I used to smoke. I also used to spend on really stupid things. And I used to not know how to be good with money. How to be good TO MY MONEY.
But at the time, I didn’t think it was important. I also thought that some people were just born with good money skills while others – like me – were born with different skills. Writing. Dancing. (I think that’s about it.)
I started this blog about the same time when I started my money recovery: I beat down debt, I saved, and later I invested. Flash forward two years, and here I am in that store watching the drunk dad and his daughter. Who are broke.
“God please don’t let that ever happen to me,” I thought. “And please don’t put me back to being poor ever again. I don’t ever want to be without money, ever again!”
A few days ago I was visiting with my boyfriend. I was lying on the bed, hands crossed under my head, looking at the ceiling as I listened to the sound of him showering. We’d just had another talk about moving in together.
Actually, it was about me moving in with him.
He lives in a nearby town, 30 minutes by car. So that’s good, I thought.
But my job is back in my hometown. It’s well-paid. Can I move in with him and still keep my old job? Even though the commute is short, it would still cost too much for me to drive each day. Public transport was cheaper but way too slow.
I sighed and turned the TV on. All this thinking was giving me a headache. If we wanted to move in together, I’d have to change town, change jobs, and quit giving dance lessons. And how was I going to hunt for a job in another town while I was still employed? I’d have to take a full day off for a one-hour interview because I’d have about 2 hours traveling to and from.
The other option was to give notice and start looking for a job AFTER I quit… jobhunting in the recession…
“Hey whatcha thinking about baby?” he asked me fresh out of the shower. I told him.
“Well,” he said, “you can do that. You have no loans to pay, and you have a place to stay. You’re fine.”
I thought about that for a minute. He was right. I had enough savings to last me a couple of months. Four months if I stretched them. After all, this was exactly the type of situation I was saving for! Thanks to my money, I had options.
I had the option to look for a job while not worrying about travel expenses. I had the option to buy a car (though a cheap one, but who cares as long as it runs). I even had the option to quit my job prematurely and spend a couple of months at home while looking for another job. I had the luxury of PICKING my type of job, instead of being cornered into jumping on the first offer I received. All thanks to my money.
See, that’s what being good with money is all about. That’s why it’s so important. You must understand money and you must understand how to manage it in order to have a lot of money. Having a lot of money means having a lot of options: