You know that sinking feeling you have when you have signed the papers on that brand new car and for some reason the new car smell is replaced by sweat. You look down and think, “IT’S BRAND NEW, WHY AM I SWEATING?”.. oh what have I just done? You have a vision of that payment book fresh out of the mailbox. Now I have a payment for the next five years. You then ask, “Could we have just repaired that old one?” Of course not I NEEEED this tool, boat, these shoes, golf clubs, dresses.
Let me share with you a story of mine. A decade or so ago. Wait. Did I just say that? A few years back, (yeah that sounds better) I was a traveling musician. No not for a circus. I played bass for a gospel singing group. There was more to it than just music, we were an evangelistic team. Music was part of what we did. If you know much about the low end you know that it usually takes a bigger badder setup to move the wind in a gig.
It all started in a Guitar Center store somewhere on the West coast. I was playing through a Hartke 210 Combo at the time. I have had that thing for 15 years and can’t kill it. I always wanted an extra cabinet AKA 15″ speaker to put under it to complete the rig. We were at Guitar Center for a few things that we needed to maintain the equipment. Something pulled me over to the bass section. What did my eyes behold? The perfect addition to the 210 combo. There it sat in all its lowly glory, a 15″ cabinet that would move enough air to dry your clothes.
I looked at the price tag. I quickly calculated the cash stash. I grabbed it up and moved towards the counter. In my head all the time calculating the price vs savings. Quickly the purchase was rationalized. It was for the work of God. My entire tiny nest egg would be smashed, but I would be able to get that air moving. Did I try to negotiate a lower price? I can’t even remember to be honest. This hungry man that worked on commission saw me coming. I was sold before I got to the counter. Before I knew it my back muscles were helping me carry out a sweet addition to the rig. Oh and a “free” t-shirt to boot! YES!
Happy as any man could be I loaded that puppy up. Then it hit me. You just spent your entire savings on this thing. Pride appeared before me and said, “but it is for the work of the Lord” My other friend Tight Wad or common sense as I call him for short tapped me on the shoulder. Here is the short conversation.
Common Sense: “You just spent your entire savings on this thing!”
ME: But I got a FREE t-shirt!
I could then see the ESPN logo and that scene was played out in slow motion. That is when I knew I had to kill pride. So I slowly reached in.. no not for a gun. Nobody got hurt, technically. I unloaded that bundle of lowly goodness and set it on the curb. I told the rest of the crew, I can’t keep this. They said.. why? Because I can’t afford it. That is when I threw pride to the ground.
I employed those back muscles to carry the cabinet back to the salesman. It was twice as heavy going back into that store as it was coming out. That is because pride latched on to my leg. Pride struggled to say, …but you have already paid them for it. You know you have always wanted this.. I kept moving forward fully determined. It was reminiscent of a scene in a war movie. I was carrying a fellow soldier out of enemy territory. The guy in the shop had a puzzled look on his face as I struggled to carry the cabinet back in. He couldn’t see pride wrapped around my legs. Before he could ask, I said to him, “I can’t do this”. “Do what he asked?” Keep this.. I … I .. (in my head I said, I can’t afford it) need my money back. Pride then lost his grip on my leg. The salesman handed over my cash and I gave him the t-shirt. it was as if he was the principle in graduation, and I was the graduate, except it was cash and a t-shirt in the exchange instead of diploma and a handshake. I heard pride exhale it’s final breath.
Apologies poured from my mouth as I began to thank him for understanding. They returned with kindness and told me to just keep the shirt. This scene reminded me of a Coca Cola commercial I saw more than once as a kid. This football player was walking out of what appeared to be a dark ally that apparently led to the field. He looks back with sweat pouring off his face and hands a kid a nice cold Coke. Makes me want one now.
That shirt reminded me of the experience every time I put it on. You know how long you keep those t-shirts. It lasted so long it became a friend of the family.
Moral of this story? Take your time have a Coke and a smile. Think through a purchase. Be sure to think about opportunity cost. It could be that you decided to tap into your emergency fund for a purchase that obviously wasn’t an emergency. This could put your or your family at a huge risk if there were an actual emergency. Can you hear that alarm? Yea the one that interrupts the programming on radio or TV. That is your signal that there could be an actual emergency. Most of the time thankfully it is to check your awareness. Red flag raised! Lights flashing! What’s the right thing to do here? Give it time. Discuss it with your spouse, particularly if it is not in your budget. Here is an idea. If you see something you want to purchase, budget for it. This assumes you have money set aside for emergencies, not late on any payments, there’s food in the pantry. I could go on here, but I think you get the idea. You would be surprised how many don’t get it. Put the money back each week/month and you will be able to enjoy your purchase without guilt. To boot your spouse will not complain either.
Have you ever had a similar story? I would love to hear about it.