Are You Doing Bad Things with Your Money?
Today my middle son hit my youngest son in the face with a Ziploc bag full of pennies. It was premeditated, and as I burst into the dining room to sort it all out, I found myself saying the oddest thing: “Don’t do bad things with your money.” It was an odd time to link money to intent, but it was also strangely fitting.
This discussion is in no way intended to establish what is “good” or what is “bad.” As long as you are not doing something illegal with your money, it is always a deeply personal choice as to how you should spend it. I’m sure no one can deny, however, that inappropriate spending can lead to a world of hurt. My son’s most recent outburst shed some light on how money can signify a conscious decision and why there is always hope for something better. As in the case of my young son (who is four and very stubborn), he used money to carry out a poor decision. Here are a few parallels of interest:
Money is simply the tool. As with most “bad” decisions, there is usually a premeditated mental process that a person goes through before acting badly. My son had the entire length of the dining room to determine that he was going to jack his brother in the face. Whether he used a Tonka truck, the flat end of his sneaker, or the aforementioned bag of pennies, harm was going to be done. Money was just the means to the end.
We can say the same for any bad purchase we make. If harm is to be done through something we buy, it is rarely in the transaction that we go wrong. We make a decision to buy it, and we follow through. Money isn’t evil… Money (whether cash or credit) just gets us there.
You don’t have to follow through. Simply thinking a bad thought isn’t the same as doing it. Getting angry and wanting to clock someone in the face won’t get you in near the trouble as winding up the bag of money and letting it fly. My son had plenty of time to rethink his decision. As you load up your cart with stuff you don’t need or want, take time to consider your options. Until you scan that card, you can change your mind. (I’ve been known to leave items at the checkout line after pondering their value. The cashier may not be too thrilled, but ultimately, it’s your right to walk away.)
Sometimes, you really can go back. Actions can’t really be “undone,” but they can sometimes be made better. The bigger the grievance, the more you will have to work at making it right, and the consequences may still be felt for years. If you act sooner than later, however, there is usually a way to help the situation. (As soon as my son realized what he had done, he dropped the sack of money and leaned into my youngest for a hug. He really did feel bad, and not surprisingly, my youngest forgave him.)
If you go overboard with your spending, you can usually make amends with your pocketbook:
- Take stuff back you don’t need.
- Sell what you can’t return.
- Make good use of the things you are stuck with.
Bad decisions don’t have to haunt you forever, as long as you learn and move on in a responsible manner. Money doesn't have to be a bad thing, at all.