The Money Gene: You Have it or You Don’t

Now is the time of year one gets catalogs. Tons of them. In snail and e-mail. Sales. ½ off, 50% off (yes, that’s the same thing) buy-one-get-one-free. Click-bait, all of it. I saw a coat. I have a thing for coats. On my iPhone, of all things, I clicked on the email, went to the website, added the coat (oh so cute but oh so expensive!) to my shopping bag. But however, I had to first apply for ace 24 catalogue to get some discount on the products.

Then I hesitated. My excuse to myself was this will be easier to buy on the desktop. Later, at work during a looming-deadline moment of shopping therapy, I went back to the site. And I didn’t feel the need to buy the coat anymore. scs

It works. Click on it, put it in your shopping bag, but don’t press buy. At least not for a few hours. A few hours is the key. The hard part is not going back three days later, because one keeps thinking about the coat, and how cute it was, and how it was so perfect for so many reasons. A coat to join the many coats arrayed in my closet. A coat to replace the coat sent to the give-away box.

The husband and I were at the local Social Security office. We had waited six weeks for our appointment, and jumped the line of a good hundred walk-ins stuffed into the waiting room. It was like the Department of Motor Vehicles; take a number, sit on a plastic chair, take out your phone and play solitaire for an hour-and-a-half. It’s a sad, unhappy place. Lots of people in need. I’m told that Social Security is well funded—for now. But it doesn’t seem right that this district office serves half of King County, a very big county. Can our Democratic House do anything about that?

Anyway, my narrative has wandered. When we were done straightening out the husband’s oddness—someone with his social security number and name had tried to apply for his Social Security payments, or so they said—we ended up getting a load of “back pay”. The very helpful Social Security clerk made a happy joke–”And it’s the Christmas holidays, too.”

We don’t spend anything on Christmas, except a good meal and a great bottle of wine. Our family no longer exchanges gifts, and not even Christmas cards, although I send one of those self-made photo cards of the dogs. So the money is coming into our savings account, and already I am nervous.

Like the expensive coat. Like my grandmother said, and I’d love to hear an updated, hipper version: “That money just burns a hole in your pocket”.

She was so right. Our family split between the frugals and the spenders. I am one of the spenders. I’ve nearly crashed financially a few times, but always found a way to pull my ass out of the fire. So now, retirement is near, a long-sought golden thing, and frugality is looming.

So don’t touch that money. That money is going to pay, you guessed it, credit card balances!

Don’t need a new pair of leather boots. Don’t need new towels, dog beds, or iPhone. Everything is comfortable and working fine, especially the dogs.

Don’t need a new coat.

Money is like a drug. We all crave it, but some of us binge on it, while others make it last as long as possible. It’s a great feeling when one can treat your friends to dinner. Or buy food for one’s niece after she and her family move from Texas to a nearby town. It’s lousy to feel broke. Or cheap. Thriftiness is like cilantro–you love it or you hate it. It’s in your genes.

Thus the drug analogy.

So far I have not bought the coat. So far all the catalogs have gone to the recycle bin. Speaking of recycling, is it better to spend the money to get your power mower repaired, or to just get a new one? I honestly never bothered to think about it.

Now I’ll have to. But I will spend a bit on that good bottle of wine.



About Jill Zeller

Author of numerous novels and short stories, Jill Zeller is a Left Coast writer, 2nd generation Californian, retired registered nurse, and obsessed gardener. She lives in Oregon with her patient husband, 2 silly English mastiffs and 2 rescue cats—the silliest of all. Her works explore the boundaries of reality. Some may call it fantasy, but there are rarely swords and never elves. More to the point, she prefers to write as if myth, imagination and hallucination are as real as the chair she is sitting on as she writes this. Jill Zeller also writes under the pseudonym Hunter Morrison


The Money Gene: You Have it or You Don’t — 7 Comments

  1. I do this with wish lists. I’m not sure that my wife really gets the psychology behind my Amazon wish list being things that I’m not going to buy. It’s the same with photo gear sites. I could take such better pictures with this new gazillion pixel camera. But on the web no one will be able to tell so on the wish list it goes.

  2. I will share you advice given me when I was in college years ago: pay for everything with folding money and put the change in a jar to be counted sometime later. It always feels like free money and it is easier to convince yourself that this is the only place you can get your splurge money from. There was a brief time when banks no longer counted change for you when this whole scheme was a bit difficult, but now you can trot down to the local grocery store to use their change counter. They do charge a hefty fee (almost 10%!) if you want actual cash back but if you will take gift certificates (like to Amazon or Home Depot then you don’t have to pay a fee at all. And you can buy a new mower with no worries.

  3. In my family the switch has two positions, on or off. Either we’re fanatically frugal or it’s all out, price no object. The trick is to save the on button for only a very tiny set of things you can blow it all on. The children’s education and real estate are the traditional Chinese expenditures. I was prepared to remortgage my house and sell off all my possessions to send my daughter to college. But luckily, since she too has inherited this tendency, she applied and got a four-year ride to the college of her choice. I did however sell off my entire XMen comics collection for her.

  4. Thanks to some recent and upcoming house and car maintenance, I’ve had to shut off the spending faucet. I never spent much in any one place, but “never much” times 5 or 10 adds up.

    I recently cleaned up the ‘Zon wish list, deleting items that had resided there for years. I wondered why I wanted some of those things in the first place.

  5. I don’t even try buying clothes or shoes on line. I’m a weird size and have to try on everything. Can’t do that online. Books and CDs however… Especially since I have a CD/DVD player on my computer and headphones to overcome the tinny speakers. I need more Gershwin as background and inspiration for the WIP.

    Now hubby has fully retired and trad publishing is drying up our income is shifting and I’m learning to pinch pennies and rob Peter to pay Paul its a good thing I never learned to depend upon online purchasing.

  6. I don’t buy anything. I have been both frugal and poor, and getting the idea that I can afford a few things hasn’t sunk in. But like Phyl I have some challenges in clothing, plus I hate the current colors. My birthday this year was splurging on two pairs of good shoes that are the only dress sandals that fit me. With luck they, in rotation with another pair, will last a decade or more.

    Didn’t expect to buy a small house last month, but Airbnbs that were safe (non-moldy, non-VOC) were so hard to find and usually pushed $100/day. That was money that was gone. I have a chance of getting this back eventually. So–real estate.

    How lovely, Brenda, that your daughter got a full scholarship. If I had young ones now I would be doing everything I could to make them bi or tri-lingual, since wiser countries have free university. I know the kids might not come back to the US, but they would know a lot more about the world they live in. And their college would be covered.

    But that was pretty much the splurge for the year. Medical bills are where my money is going.