when financial behavior becomes set in stone


Have you ever bought a lottery ticket? Have you ever used a coupon? Have you ever incurred non-mortgage debt? If you haven’t ever, will you ever, just to try it? Just to see where it takes you?

I have some financial behavior that is set in stone. You do, too, I bet.  Me?  I hate debt of any sort. I can’t stand seeing money spent on “fancy” cars, even though I’ve owned several nice new mid-range cars. On the other hand, I am careless about spending money on eating out. I can spend money on big-ticket items if I think they benefit health or quality of living, but I agonize over spending smaller amounts on items I might not “need” – think “new shoes”, for example.

Most behavior is learned. Some is not. I know where I got the idea that money spent on “going out” was money well spent. I know where I got the idea that any money spent on books was money well spent, too. I also know why I think ANY debt is awful, and why I get antsy about buying expensive (but hopefully good quality clothes). Most of these behaviors were learned at a young age, and they fit in with the world view I developed as an adolescent and voila – now these money behaviors are part of what define me.

I often wonder if I will ever apply for a $300,000 small business loan, or splash out on a BMW. It’s easier to imagine the loan than the car, I guess. I drive an almost 10-year-old Pontiac because I just don’t care about cars. It has an air conditioner and a CD player, and it makes – for an old car – acceptable mileage. The loan? If I was suddenly struck by inspiration to start a coffee shop or a hardware store or something like that, maybe… but it would be so out of my normal financial behavior that even writing that seems odd to me.

Without being too specific, I spent some time a few days ago listening to a radio show from a political commentator whose political views were 180 degrees from my own. I was stunned by what I perceived as the commentator’s completely insane view of reality. Imagine trying to listen to someone try to convince you that the sky is pink. I wondered whether there was some truth in what he said, and whether I could ever pull some of that truth out and live with it. I doubt I could, in the same way that I can’t imagine suddenly strolling into an Audi dealership, ready to buy. Some behaviors and thought patterns are hard to change – for better or for worse.

photo by Q U E E F