Today’s THINK ABOUT IT came to me officially (though I didn’t know it) on January 30th, 2009. While on the way home from the airport after spending the holidays with my family in Pennsylvania, my wallet was stolen. The actual event was fortunately non-violent. A man on a crowded bus “helped” me with my giant suitcase, while his friend grabbed the wallet from my purse. I had no idea that it was missing for two hours.
In the two hours that the men had my wallet, they managed to make ten transactions across all five of the cards in the wallet (personal debit card, personal credit card, business debit card, business credit card, and health savings account debit card), spend my cash, and use my gift certificates from the holidays. Fortunately, I called the bank and had the cards closed before they could do any more damage. And over the next few weeks, all of their fraudulent charges were eventually reversed. Besides a lot of tears, headaches, phone calls, and affidavits, the ordeal was pretty much over.
Without a wallet for the first time, I was forced to depend upon cash for spending over the next several days. Up to that point, I rarely carried cash and charged everything on my credit cards, paying in full each month. A delayed debit card, if you will. But living on cash exclusively was an eye opening experience. I found myself ordering differently at restaurants and bars, uninterested in “going shopping,” and generally much more aware of my cash flow. This experience opened my eyes to living a more financially mindful life.
The Silver Lining
I’m proud to say that I’ve stuck with the habit long after the new credit and debit cards have arrived. Sure, my groceries, gym membership, and large expenses still end up on the card. But I’m now pulling $100 a week from my checking account and budgeting my money accordingly. If I want to shop, that might mean I don’t go out three nights a week for dinner. If I’m at a bar with friends, I might forgo the last drink in order to pay for the cab ride home. And I haven’t gotten a professional manicure in 2010 (yet).
What I’ve been surprised by is the lack of resentment I feel towards this informal ‘budget.’ Rather than wishing I could buy whatever I want, I am enjoying each purchase I make, more than before. And this is not to say that I won’t by nice, expensive things in the future (I love Rebecca Minkoff handbags way too much), but now I’m much more thoughtful and purposeful with large purchases. In addition, this new habit is helping me make another intention for 2010 come true, to save more money for my future.
So though the pickpockets initially caused me to lose cash and gift certificates, this experience has now inadvertently helped me to save money and realize to my intentions for 2010.