Christian Financial Advice and Biblical Stewardship

Find Value in Your Financial Mistakes

  • 2005 16 May
Find Value in Your Financial Mistakes

Have you made any mistakes lately? Want to talk about it? Most people don't. Can't say that I blame them.

It's embarrassing.

When the mistake is a real boner, well that's something you hope to never think about again. And that's a mistake.

Take that fire in my kitchen. It all boiled down to a small mistake-an error in judgment. Setting a skillet of oil over a hot burner then heading for the garage for just a moment to tell your husband that lunch will be ready in five minutes only to be distracted by the arrival of your son and getting caught up in a funny story, well, that's a mistake.

It's not like I intentionally attempted to burn the house down. But had I not learned that it doesn't work to leave hot oil to take care of itself, it is likely I would have tried it again.

Mistakes are useful because they teach us what doesn't work.

While we're on this subject of things that do not work, let us also review the definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

I've accumulated my list of mistakes over many years. It's like a trophy now-a specific compilation of things that I have proven that simply do not work.

Take a peek:

It doesn't work to be in a supermarket without a plan.

Walking into the grocery store without a plan-for me that means a specific list, coupons and cash-is a terrible mistake. I know me. Without my "crutches" I am a $200 mistake just waiting to happen. And if I'm hungry? Make that $300.

It doesn't work to buy extended warranties on appliances.

Statistically, if an appliance is going to fail it will do so in the first 90 days (the product comes with a warranty to cover this time frame) or after five years (extended warranties aren't that extended). For the record a laptop computer is an exception to this mistake. Laptops fail routinely, trust me.

It doesn't work to lease a car.

And it really doesn't work to roll the shortfall and extra charges at the end of the lease into another lease. To repeat this mistake over and again for no less than 22 years straight is to come dangerously close to insanity.

It doesn't work to buy a 7,000- gallon blow-up swimming pool.

Actually I didn't even know such a thing existed so I can't even say it was something we needed. Standing there in the middle of the Home Show I managed to pull off the impulse purchase of the century (thankfully, it was in the last century). That was a mistake that just kept on giving lessons to be learned until the day several years later we begged Goodwill to just take it away. Please.

Here's the larger lesson I learned from that detour into stupidity: A true need is never realized while standing in the aisle at Costco, Bloomingdales, Any Home Show, Wal-Mart, Nordstrom or fill in the blank.

If you need something you know you need it before you walk into the store. It is not a discovery you make after you arrive.

It doesn't work to carry more than $100 cash.

Carrying a single $100 bill is a great deterrent for overspending. You don't feel broke, but it's a bill you hate to break. It is also the tipping point. More than $100 is dangerous. For me it creates a feeling of excess that burns a hole in my wallet. It disappears.

It doesn't work to live on credit.

When it comes to mistakes, depending on credit to bridge the gap between what you earn and what you spend is a big one. Debt is a terrible liar, insisting that while you don't have the money today, you'll have it next month. Or the next. Debt keeps you stuck in the past, always stealing from the future.

Debt is reversible, thankfully-provided you don't do it over and over expecting that eventually, somehow you will get different results.

That would be insane.

© 2005 The Cheapskate Monthly. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

 "The Cheapskate Monthly" was founded in 1992 by Mary Hunt.  What began as a newsletter to encourage and empower people to break free from the bondage of consumer debt has grown into a huge community of ordinary people who have achieved remarkable success in their quest to effectively manage their money and stay out of debt.  Today, "The Cheapskate Monthly" is read by close to 100,000 Cheapskates.  Click here to subscribe.