Hi, Len Penzo dot Com fans! I’m Jana and I run a personal finance blog, Daily Money Shot, where I talk about money (but not the boring parts). I’m thrilled to be guest posting here, and when you’re done reading what I have to say, come say hi on Twitter or Facebook!
When I was in college, I was in a sorority. One of the perks of this was date parties. For those unfamiliar, a date party is just that—it’s a big party, usually at a bar or restaurant, and all the sisters brought dates. Usually boyfriends or guys they really, really liked. We would get all dolled up, our dates would dress in suits or the whole khaki/dress shirt/tie combination, we’d hop in a car or on a chartered bus and we’d go dance and drink until it was time to go home.
Basically, it was a school dance with legal drinking.
I’ll never forget one particular date party. My date, who was my boyfriend at the time, drank a lot. Like a lot a lot. In fact, he drank so much, I had to have a friend’s date go fish him out of the bathroom because he was getting sick (very attractive, I must say). As a result, we boarded the bus last which, in hindsight, turned out to be a blessing.
You see, as we were settling into our seats, my date looked at me lovingly and said, “I’m going to throw up”. To which I yelled, “Get off the bus. NOW!!!”
Unfortunately, my date didn’t listen.
Instead of walking off the bus and throwing up in the trash can on the sidewalk (which just screams “classy”), he opened the bus window and let it fly right down the side of the bus. As my sisters gaped at him with a combination of shock, amusement and relief that he wasn’t their date, I let loose a string of expletives that garnered the mild response, “What? I didn’t get any on the bus.”
Then he passed out until we got back to campus.
We thought the ordeal was over until I got a call from our chapter president. Not only did my date have to pay a fine for his actions, he had to pay to have the bus cleaned.
Considering he worked for one dollar above minimum wage, and all of it had to go towards his living expenses, this was not exactly a welcomed sanction. For him.
For me, it was sweet, sweet revenge. I’m not saying I gloated but I will say that I took maybe just a little too much joy in telling him he had to give my sorority $150.
He, on the other hand, was not amused. But he did own up to his mistake and pay the fine, which showed that while he made a terrible decision, he was willing to (literally) pay the consequences. His fraternity brothers were impressed and proud, but he was secretly ashamed of what he did. It was not his proudest moment.
It’s a good story now, but I assure you nothing good can come of throwing up out a bus window.
So what does all of this have to do with money?
In its own way, this tiny story says a lot about the way we choose to manage our money. For instance:
- Making smart decisions pays off better than making impulsive decisions. My date could have made the smart choice and left the bus. Instead, he went with instinct and had to pay for it. The same principle applies to sticking to a budget. Let’s say you’re on a strict budget and you’re out and about, running errands. You find that you get hungry and you forgot to pack a snack but you know that you’ll be home in 30 minutes. You can either make the impulsive decision to stop and get a snack or lunch, putting a dent in your budget, or you can wait the 30 minutes and eat at home. Almost always, waiting the few minutes is the more prudent choice.
- Your negative behaviors affect others. My date’s behavior not only got him in trouble but it got me in trouble as well — I got a very stern lecture about proper behavior from my chapter president, and being the center of gossip has never really been my thing. But I’m pretty sure my date wasn’t thinking about the consequences when he used the window as a vomit receptacle. Kind of like how many of us don’t think about how maxing out that credit card, or how skipping that loan payment can affect our spouses or children or even friends and coworkers. When we make poor financial choices, it puts a strain on everyone close to us. They internalize our stress and often make it their own. That’s not fair to do to people we care about. Especially those who want to help but can’t.
- Taking responsibility for your actions is the first step in preventing future mistakes. Sometimes, the only way to learn is to mess up. Especially as it pertains to money. However, we’re not going to learn our lessons if we don’t acknowledge or accept our role in our financial distress. We have to admit what we do wrong and own those errors in order to fully learn from them. Like what happened with my date. Admitting his mistake and paying money he couldn’t afford to an organization that he didn’t belong to, for a choice he didn’t have to make, taught him not to drink so much. At subsequent date parties, he watched his alcohol consumption.
Barfing out a bus window is never a good choice. It’s gross, it’s embarrassing, and just think of the poor people standing outside the bus who may become a casualty. No one wants that. But if it’s something you do, make sure you own up to it; don’t hide from your mistake. Apologize to everyone who you affected. And then don’t do it again.
The same goes for your money.
In addition to writing for Daily Money Shot, Jana is as a freelance writer and founder of the blogger mentoring program, Bloggers Helping Bloggers.
Photo Credit: Bill McChesney