Money Metaphors (You wouldn't punch a kitten, would you?)
My boyfriend and I occasionally (at least weekly) argue over money. I like to spend it, he likes to save it. We have fundamentally different ways of looking at money. He carefully researches purchases and buys high quality goods. I like to buy the first thing that catches my eye. He spends money when he has some extra to burn on things he needs, I spend money to make myself feel better, regardless of whether I have the actual cash to blow. (See also: Relationships and Money: Two Sides of the Same Coin)
That's My Money!
Not that long ago, my boyfriend said something that really threw me for a loop. I was defending my spending habits, which aren't easily defensible, and we ended up arguing over something like a dental bill. It wasn't for much, but it was something I forgot to pay. And I was hit with a late fee. And then another late fee.
And I, as usual, casually brushed the fees aside with one of those "It's JUST money" type of comments that so infuriates the beau. If I accrue late fees, I pay them. Money, to me, is often something to just be tossed at problems. I don't look at my receipts after buying groceries. I don't worry about being charged too much, since I figure that carefully studying my receipts makes me look petty. In fact, this is an attitude that gets me nowhere. I don't protect my money.
"You don't protect your money!" my boyfriend exclaimed, clearly exasperated and in need of a drink.
"Protect? It's not an infant. It's money."
"Well, maybe it's time you start thinking of it as an infant."
He could see my wrinkling my nose, mentally picturing changing my money's diapers. "Ok, then, how about a puppy? Or a teeny weeny wittle kitty? Remember when the cat was small, like 4 weeks old?"
My heart melted, recalling the times when our cat was too tiny and delicate to shred the curtains or torment the dogs or knock vases off of shelves.
"Yes. She was just this little orphaned baby kitty...." my voice veered off into dangerously high-pitched territory as I pictured her teeny little claws and pink nose, and the way she would try to meow but ended up sort of hissing instead.
"Well, think of your money like that. Whenever you go to spend something, imagine that you are handing someone our kitten. And think about what the results are going to be. When you just casually lay your money down without thinking about it, you are putting the kitten at risk."
"You mean, when I get hit with a late fee, it's like someone punching our kitten?"
"Ok, that's just sick." He walked out, and I found him 20 minutes later, curled up on the couch with a purring cat on his lap, both of their eyes directed at an episode of The Sopranos. They both turned to glare at me as I walked in. No doubt the cat had been filled in on abuse-by-proxy and was already planning which of my shoes she would leave her next hairball in.
Alright, kitten-punching is a little sick. But it was powerful for me, because I hate the idea of animals being mistreated (so much so that I refused to finish watching The Brothers Grimm, an already awful movie that stupidly features a cheap, obnoxious "tragic gag" in which a small white Persian kitten is chopped to pieces). In fact, I once got angry at a friend who had a virtual pet, one of those Japanese toy-devices that has a digital puppy on the screen. My friend thought it was hilarious that if you "kicked" the "puppy", it would "squeal". I wouldn't talk to her for about a week after that.
So I've got issues. But let's say that I can turn those issues to work in my favor. If I really manage to equate my money, emotionally, with something that I find dear and worthy of protection, I might be able to force myself to treat my money with the respect it deserves, thereby giving myself the kind of financial security that I deserve (and need).
I don't have a lot of money in savings, even though I know I should. I haven't become adept at saving money yet. Better than I used to be, but still not good.
But there was a brief period a year or so ago, when I saw the light when it came to the benefits of saving. And it was a bright light indeed.
You already know that you earn interest on the money in your savings account. You probably know that you should shop around for an account, be it savings or money market, or whatever, that gives you a good interest rate. But I never appreciated with this meant until I saw the results.
Last March, I was in the process of buying a home. Not being the saving type, I was using my inheritance from my grandmother, along with a loan from my parents, to put the necessary money down on the house. The money had all been transferred into my savings account, and it sat there for a while as we signed papers and secured inspections and fretted over the neighborhood (too close to the freeway? safe to walk at night? etc.).
It was only a while later, when I was in the process of transferring the down payment from my savings to my checking account, that I noticed the interest that I was earning on it. I generally earn about $0.11 per year on my savings account. I'm not going into detail about how much was in there, but it was a really good sum. And I don't even remember how much interest I was earning, but I know that it was enough to pay for lunch every day for a month and then some.
And that's with a not-so-high interest rate at a not-so-incredible bank. I wish I had put it into my credit union, because I probably could have had dinner every night for a month with THAT interest rate.
So, with savings, I have to think of the money I put in there as my lunch program. The phrase "make your money work for you" doesn't mean that much to me, but the thought that I end up with a free lunch everyday does mean something to me.
It's with that in mind that I've started squirreling away a bit of money. Nothing to brag about at this time, but I'm glad I'm doing it. And while my interest rate is nothing to crow about, it's nice to see the money ad up like that. Whenever I feel like I'd rather take the money out and, say, buy dog sweaters or something, I remember that that money can earn me a free lunch, and carelessly spending it is like punching my kitten.
Odd as it may sound, that helps.