Holding the phone to my ear, I realized I was sweating on a 20 degree day; I felt nauseous because my 15 year old jeep had been long overdue for work when the tire fell off. I knew I had to take it in.
I had to pay for my tires, my oil change, an entire engine flush, and the transmission. My friend owned the shop, so I was fortunate to pay a discounted price but that discounted price was still $2900. I couldn’t get over how expensive the rust eaten car was.
I didn’t have the money to cover this, so I had to work double shifts at the resturant through the weekend to come up with the cash. That weekend happened to be horrible with particularly difficult customers, so I barely came above on tips. When I finally was lucky enough to come up with the cash, the bank closed my account because I didn’t have anything left after that. It was a nightmare.The worst part of it all though was the feeling of utter humiliation in having to ask my friend for a big financial favor.
I should have started saving then, but it wasn’t until a few years later that I used this lesson to enforce the behavior of saving money instead of spending money “because I could.” I saved with a purpose so I could spend with purpose.
It was a glorious lesson to learn because there is comparatively little stress in paying those big bills when the money is already there. I never examined prolonged gratification as an attainable or real discipline because, frankly, I didn’t like it. I was forced to pay for the car repairs, but things changed when it was something you could choose to purchase or to walk away from like a dress or new pair of shoes.
I didn’t want to wait for the things that I wanted because that meant that I would forget I wanted them. (I remember once actually ordering a magazine subscription thinking that one day I would like it, and that when that day arrived, I would be happy that I ordered it when I did, at a discounted price… Not so much. )
It was hard for me to change my ways, but saving and enjoying the things you put your money into is not rocket science. Prolonged gratification is critical to financial peace, a sign of maturity, and proven to make the result more pleasurable.
So, save! Save for bills first, but then save for something you really want. Challenge yourself to find the things you are willing to save for.
I didn’t like asking myself this question but it has helped me: “Will this ________ make me more financially secure one year from today?” I have found that unless I am shopping for mutual funds the answer is almost always no.
Now I am not saying never treat yourself, but when you think about a new pair of shoes, a manicure, a new tool, or a new appliance challenge yourself to come up with concrete reasons why you don’t need it. Discipline may not be fun, but it is so empowering. Control becomes empowering when you stop allowing your impulses to control your behavior. Trust me (the girl who never wanted to save), not having to worry about how to pay your next bill or feeling guilty about treating yourself is way better than financial anxiety.
Flickr/ Spending Money
This post has been sponsored by InAltis Capital Management, LLC.