A money lesson I learned as a kid determined the house I live in and the car I drive as an adult

A money lesson I learned as a kid determined the house I live in and the car I drive as an adult

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  • I experienced a major case of buyer’s remorse with my first childhood purchase at age 5. 
  • I learned that buying something just because everyone else is won’t make me happy.
  • As an adult, I prioritize my spending to meet my own goals, no matter what my friends are doing.

When you think of keeping up with the Joneses, you’ll likely imagine adults competing with each other in the form of bigger houses and shinier cars. But I fell into the trap of keeping up with the Joneses as a kindergartener. 

As a 5-year-old, I wanted to have all of the cool toys. Despite having a playroom bursting with a large collection of toys, I set my heart on a special heart-shaped pillow that all of my friends had. 

Of course, I didn’t have a reliable income as a kid. So I started saving up money by getting paid for chores around the house and putting any birthday money in my piggy bank. Once I saved up all of my money for this enticing pillow, I marched down to the local mall with my mom. I handed over my cash and walked back to the car with my coveted pillow in tow. 

But after returning to the car, I took a closer look at the pillow. And what I found was a disappointment, which led to tears. I quickly realized that the pillow wasn’t worth all of the money I had diligently saved for this purchase. After a tearful moment, my mom helped me return the pillow and get my money back. 

I left the mall without the pillow I had wanted for months. But I got to hang on to my funds for another day. I also learned a lesson about money that I’ve carried into my financial choices as an adult. 

I spend on what’s important to me, no matter what my friends are doing

I learned to make financial decisions based on what’s best for me. Instead of following in the footsteps of my friends, I decided that it was better to make money decisions on my own. 

As a kid, this meant spending money on my own unique interests and hobbies. After walking away without the heart-shaped pillow, I hung onto those funds for a while. A few months later, I spent the funds on a CD that I really wanted. Although my CD of choice (Kenny Chesney’s No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem album) wasn’t popular among my friends, I was happy to dance around the house to my new favorite tunes

This lesson has served me well as an adult, too. 

For example, when it was time to buy a house, my husband and I opted for a smaller house than we could technically afford. Many of my friends live in more exclusive zip codes with more space for entertaining. But we chose a smaller home that better suits our long-term financial goals. 

And I’ve been driving the same 2008 vehicle for years. Technically, I could afford an upgrade to a vehicle that has spent less than a decade on the road. But I’m perfectly comfortable in mine, even if most of my friends and family have shinier rides. And my decision to stick with my older ride allows me to spend on other things that matter to me, like a honeymoon in Scotland. 

I learned early on not to base my spending decisions based on what everyone else is doing. If I follow the Joneses, I often end up with a big case of buyer’s remorse. 

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