Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Consumer Math

Last week, I went shopping with Anna Mae and Taylor which really got me thinking about consumer math. Throughout the trip, I helped the girls calculate tax and sales-off percentages on items they were considering. Not only that, they were keeping track of how much money they had and how many more stores we planned to visit. It was certainly an exercise in practical math for the girls but it was also very revealing to me.

I'm not the best money manager. It's very difficult for me to save and I've gotten myself overextended on credit more than once. I tend to buy what I want when I want it regardless of the cost. That's the way I've operated for most of my life though in recent years I've gotten a lot more self-control in the money department. Ironically, it has helped to have Cindy manage our money. Each month she gives me the money we've budgeted for my "free" spending, and I'm pretty good at sticking to that amount. I don't always know how much I have spent or how much I have left (the lesson the girls were working on), but I know when I'm out of money. Or at least, I know when I don't seem to have any more money. Cindy is flabbergasted when I find 10s and 20s tucked into the pockets of clothing I haven't worn for a while or have thrown into the laundry. Once I found $100 bill that I'd won at the slots in Tahoe. I had tucked it into my DayTimer to use for something special and found it 9 months later. Though I misplace my cash at times, I don't realize it. I just think I'm out of money. Cindy, on the other hand, keeps track of every penny. I swear she knows if she's down a quarter.

On our shopping trip, Anna Mae was like me and Taylor was like Cindy. While Taylor was clear about exactly how much she had and what she was willing to spend, Anna Mae was more free-flowing. Her mom described our trip as "recreational spending" which was an eye-opening term for me. It describes my shopping style exactly. Though I don't really like shopping very much, when I do shop, it is often a recreational trip rather than a conscientiously planned venture.

All this is leading to the life lesson I'm working on which is to keep careful track of my spending and the money that I carry. Given the state of the economy and my reduced income since retirement, it's high time I learned this lesson. Thank goodness my granddaughters are working on it at the early age of 11.

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