Debt Reduction, Everyday Living, Money Saving Strategies, Where My Money Goes

Memories of who I used to be

A few weeks back I decided to buy a new pair of black pants for work. I found a pair that was on sale ($7), but when I went to another store, I found a different pair that fit better, were also on sale and were just a better deal all around.

On Monday I returned the pair I had decided to return and while the clerk was processing my returned item, I found myself shoulder-to-shoulder with another woman who was taking advantage of a sale that the store was having. (Buy one item, get another for 75% off.) She had a stack of shoes, some jeans, a few shirts – it was a shopping spree of some pretty impressive proportions.

“That will be $161.54,” the clerk told the woman, who promptly whipped out her store credit card for the purchase.

I’ll be honest – there was a part of me that cringed when I saw that. That part of me that also wanted to shriek “nooooooooooooooooooooo!” and warn the lady of the perils of credit card debt.

I did none of those things. I just smiled as the other clerk handed me my old receipt and my bank card after processing my return and then I left the store.

As I walked out of the store and headed to my car, I realized that I was that woman a few years back. I had store credit cards at my favorite shops, I spent many free weekends at the mall scouring for sales and buying clothes in my ever increasing attempt to look more professional, look hotter or frankly to make me feel better about myself – whether it was failed relationships, the five pounds that I gained or lost or grappling with being a workaholic or being so far away from my friends and family.

I don’t know – I know that I’m still pretty crappy managing my money and I know that if I was more of a frugal person I would pay off my existing debt faster, but there’s one part of the money mystery that I have covered – the credit cards were cut up years ago and I probably won’t open one ever again. It’s like being on a diet – I know that if saltine crackers are in my house, I can mindlessly eat a whole tube of them in one sitting. Same thing with Girl Scout shortbread cookies or macaroni and cheese – I know what triggers to avoid. Financially, I think my weakness is credit cards – so I don’t have them. I don’t really miss them.

12 thoughts on “Memories of who I used to be

  1. Ummm, aren’t you making some awfully broad assumptions based soley on your own previous experience(s)? Alot of stores have sales that also offer an additional discount if/when one uses the store card. Do you know for a fact that isn’t/wasn’t the case? Do you also know for a fact that this woman doesn’t pay her credit card off every month?

  2. Of course I’m making broad assumptions. 🙂 There are wonderful people out there who manage to pay their credit cards off in full every month, but a lot of people use credit cards to live beyond their means and when I see someone plunk down that much money on four pairs of shoes, three pairs of jeans and some shirts – my radar goes up.

    And in this lady’s defense – she did earn 3 $20 coupons to be used on future purchases. But if you read the find print on those, you have to spend x-amount of money to get the discount and sometimes those deals only extend to full-price items and don’t go towards sale/clearance deals. Is this a deal or is this just an excuse to spend more money? I used to work in retail – and I’m torn over the value of these incentives.

  3. I have the very same issue with Girl Scout Shortbread cookies. I just tell myself that I am eating them all to get the temptation out of my house :-).

  4. Hey, you’re a long way from being that woman (with the broad assumptions and all). Give yourself some more credit for that than you are. It’s not easy one bit, and frankly, being “poor” can be miserable on many levels–speaking from experience here.

    Learning to be more frugal takes time, but it does happen. I actually went to Ikea on Sunday and only got the three items on my list, although I spent time eying up other options I’d really like!

    I went to REI to recycle my shoes (impulse purchased some snack bars I would have otherwise bought elsewhere, because they were on sale), Ikea for the three items, and then the co-op for groceries, and even before I had gotten to the co-op, I was hyper-aware of that “retail suck machine” that you get sucked into, the feeling of “I want that because it’s so cool.” I avoid a lot of stores because of the retail suck machine, and then you learn to be reasonable and it’s less of a trigger over time–so there’s hope for you yet!

    And yes, I totally share your feeling about wanting to yell out NOOOOOO!!! when someone like that lady is buying a lot at once. And those future coupons aren’t worth anything unless you already know you’re coming back for something else (perhaps you buy clothes now, and undergarments later, if it’s a store like Lane Bryant).

    What’s with me writing novels on your blog as of late?

  5. Maybe it wasn’t your place to say something, but in a way I wish you had. I use my credit card for almost every purchase, but then pay the balance off in full each month. I’ve been surprised and disappointed that another shopper has never questioned my use. I would certainly expect a comment when I’m using my card for really small purchase, such as a when I run into the store for milk. Again, since I pay off my bill it’s not a bad practice to use my card (plus I earn rewards) but other shoppers can’t know that and by now someone should have at least asked me if I understand how credit cards work. I wrote about this issue last year on the Lending Club blog: http://blog.lendingclub.com/2008/02/26/lack-of-financial-advice-from-fellow-shoppers/

  6. I’ve shipped off my old running shoes to Nike to recycle them into running tracks and playgrounds, but this is nice because it’s just a drop off so you don’t have to pay for shipping, and they apparently take all kinds of shoes, as long as they don’t have things like steel toes that can’t be ground down.

    The shoes are ground down into chunks and put into a pillow like container and used to help absorb oils spills and the like. REI’s collection boxes are just inside their front door (this is the one by MOA, in Bloomington), so you don’t even have to go inside the store and be tempted to buy anything.

    I even recycled my old dress shoes after conferring that it would be ok!

    Other recycling tips: did you know that Ikea recycles CFLs, regular lightbulbs (they say, why not?), and batteries? It’s near the returns area if I remember correctly. I actually did a post about that a while back.

  7. The hard part about REI recycling, though, is getting around the Lyndale-494 reconstruction…I ended up in the back door, which is why I think I even went in in the first place.

  8. Hi Michelle,
    I can so relate to your post. I remember being that person and dropping that kind of borrowed money on clothes I couldn’t afford. Not a care in the world and the mentality of paying it back later.

    Great job on returning the pair of pants that you really didn’t want when you found the other pair you really liked. Pants need to fit right and be comfortable in them regardless of how cheap you can get them. Otherwise it is just $7 wasted that sits in a drawer or closet.

  9. Thanks so much for the taking the time to post this information. With the economy the way it is right now with all the layoffs and more to come; government spending and deficit out of control; the continued housing slump; one wonders where to turn for help.

  10. Mike – Kind of funny – my sister-in-law and I had an interesting discussion about this post and whether or not I should have said something. But what is funny is that anyone who would see me shopping and took a glimpse at my wallet would probably wonder if I was being responsible because I never carry cash. All of my funds come from my bank card which is deducted directly from my checking account. Thanks for commenting! 🙂

    Mr Plastectomy – Thank you for understanding. 🙂 I was telling Future Husband the other night about how I used to be when it came to shopping. I think I’m doing better, but man … I’m almost embarrassed to think about how much money I wasted!

    dr – thank you for reading. 🙂

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