28 April 2005

Money Changes Everything

Do you remember payday on your first job? My first job was working at a bookstore in the local mall. I didn't have a checking account yet, but back in those days the credit department in the mall's largest store would cash your paycheck for you. After counting my money, I would hide it deep in my purse and make careful plans for how it would be spent. Once I started making more money, I opened a checking account. This meant that I didn't get my full two weeks' pay in my hand, but I still kept some spending cash and my cautious attitude toward money.

Gradually, my attitude toward money began to change. I think it started when I switched from cashing my checks to using direct deposit. Money almost stopped being real to me. I went through a long period where I never felt like I got paid. Back when ABM handled the bills, my money would go straight into the bank for him to pay bills. At least when I had to cash my check, I would have money in my hands for a few minutes before I handed it over for my share of the rent or some other bill.

My money mindset shifted a little more when we got a debit card. I didn't even notice it happening at first because it took a while for places around here to really accept the debit card. With my checkbook and my debit card in hand, I have enjoyed a sense of freedom in the past year (those of you who know my spending phobia, just remember -- it's all relative). I can get something to eat at a restaurant or buy something on a shopping trip with friends without 48 hours' notice to ABM so that he can get some cash out of the bank for me.

This week, however, I ran right into my former self lurking in the bottom of my purse. During the morning meeting at the ministry, it was announced that the cafe would only be taking cash or food vouchers for payment and it started immediately. I had been paying for my lunch with a check. The vouchers can only be purchased in a book of ten and I wasn't prepared to pay $32.50 on such short notice. Luckily, I happened to have a little cash that I had been stashing in my purse for something special so I was still able to eat. I noticed, though, that I was much more reluctant to buy a dessert or an extra side dish when I was paying for my lunch with actual money. When I was paying by check, I thought nothing of buying dessert and an extra vegetable side, even if I was just going eat a couple bites of each. I also had to make a yarn purchase and it made me sick to my stomach to see the roll of money getting smaller in my change purse. I thought that I was getting over my hangup with money, but I realize now that using plastic and checks has just lessened the pain of spending it.
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