Monday, May 14, 2012

How to spend a windfall (or yet another way my childhood shaped my life)

My best friend and next door neighbor from childhood, Cindy Scott, and I practically shared a birthday. Mine is June 4 and hers is June 6. We also shared friends, so it was natural that we'd share birthday celebrations.

What we didn't share was socioeconomic status. I was raised by a practical and powerful, single mother. My father was the prototypical deadbeat dad, and our financial situation fluctuated wildly. By contrast, Cindy's parents remained married until her mom's death in 2005, and they were solidly middle class. Her family had Oreos, and bought cold cuts from the deli counter, which was proof to me that Cindy's family was in fact, rich.

Which leads me to my story.

One year, right after Cindy and I turned eight, we were going through our birthday loot. Me? I got $5 in a card from my Gramma. And Cindy? More like $20. In the spirit of continuing our shared birthday celebration, Cindy's mom offered to take us both to the local K-Mart to spend our birthday money. My mom agreed and told me to buy socks. Little did she know that Cindy had generously agreed to share her money with me. So, in 1978, with $25 and our eight year old desires, we headed to the Big K. And we came home with Sean Cassidy posters (dreamy), giant DIY color by number posters with lux markers, and handfuls of other impulsive and age-appropriate shwag. I remember feeling unfettered pleasure and the sense of having everything I could ever want.

But the feeling did not last long. Because I got into trouble for squandering my windfall on something I wanted rather than something I needed. (My mom would say she was trying to teach me responsibility rather than introducing me to self-denial and guilt, which, nearly 35 years later, continues to dominate my financial life.)

And now my current dilemma.

I recently won a $50 gift card to my favorite store in the universe, Wegmans.

So what do I do with it? Spend it on a treat, or save it for something I need?

What would be a treat? Take out from one of their on-site restaurants for me and my friends, a fancy cake and fixings for a nice dinner for my upcoming birthday, or a flower arrangement for myself.

What are more practical uses? Snacks and supplies for my next family gathering in upstate NY, supplies for baking and wrapping Christmas cookies this year, birthday and other cards to have in hand for sending to loved ones, or supplies for the house after the renovations at completed.

What would you do?


Meg said...

My mom was and is a practical soul. She'd use that gift card to stock up on good cuts of meat that were on sale, and then she'd freeze them for Sunday dinners far into the future.

I'm pretty practical -- I tend to save instead of spend, and I have a hard time doing things like vacations -- but I have my stupid money tics, too: Sephora, Whole Foods, etc.

But if it's "found money", I think it's fun to indulge a little on an experience. I think I'd use the card to buy two fantastic steaks or a beautiful piece of fish to grill some night this summer (just the two of you!), along with a lovely bottle of wine or a six pack of a craft brew you both love. With the remainder, I'd stock up on ibuprofen.

Yep, I'm weird.

Kara said...

For Christmas my father-in-law gave me a $50 Wegmans card. I, too, am having trouble figuring out how to spend it. He says he gave it to me to buy something for ME, but with two infants in the house there's major guilt to do that. I'd love to hear how you spend it. (P.S. Congrats on winning it. Where did you get it?)