Tween Cash Hoarder

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I find myself thinking about my childhood lately. I can’t pinpoint the reason why it’s coming up now. Maybe because I recently spent some time with a cousin I grew up with. She lives on the west coast and we don’t see each other often, although we do communicate by text a fair amount. As you know, various incidents, smells, sounds, etc. can trigger memories and feelings of deja vu. Since she was an integral part of my childhood (we were close in age), I’ll blame my nostalgia on our extended lunch. I’ve thought about a variety of childhood related incidents. Some happy, some sad. Not many that I would share here either because I do try to keep some of my privacy, but here’s a funny one that fits in with the theme of the blog.

As a young child, I was a money hoarder. I had actual wads of cash in my room that no one knew about.

I was gifted this white and pink play-cosmetic set that was approximately 6″ tall and 12″ wide. It had 3 compartments that contained hair and makeup items. I kept the original parts in the top 2 compartments but the in the bottom section, I took the pieces out and stored my cash there. I had a weekly allowance throughout the school year, of which I saved 50% (I’ve always been a fan of living below my means well before I had a name for it). In the summer time, I would visit my grandmother and my aunts in New York City. It was in hot and loud Brooklyn dog days of summer that my grandma taught me a valuable lesson: do not tell one person that another gave you money. This turned out to be a windfall for my 12-year old self since my dad has 7 sisters. I would get a $20 or $30 here and there from one person and be equally grateful for the other 6 also giving me money approximately the same amount, without ever revealing my prior good fortune. This was your mid-90s low-tech crowdfunding. Being 10 years older than my next youngest cousin also meant that I was getting ALL the monetary gifts. Since I was too young to have a secret bank account, I kept all those unspent funds in my cosmetic-turned-cash box under my bed, wrapped in a rubber band for full effect.

Granted I didn’t get to keep much of that money as I was an avid reader who spent spent all of the extra cash on salacious books that I used to hide from my dad. My funds went to that rather than savings. Typically, my mom and I would go downtown one Saturday a month and she would swing by the book store, where the smell of unblemished paper and the sight of pristine paperbacks arranged with military precision from wall to wall gave me a head rush. I’d power walk to the fiction section that contained both the types of murder mystery and historical romance novels with adult scenes that were unfit for my age but fueled my imagination. I’d pick one or two with the most compelling summary on the back cover and do a victory strut to the register where my mom was waiting for me. I could feel the piercing gaze of the salespeople who watched intently as I reached into my crossbody bag and pulled out a wad of 10s & 20s as I prepared to pay for my bounty.

I don’t purchase nearly as many books today as I did 20 years ago. I don’t have as much free time. I have discovered other (more expensive) hobbies. But fictional books that took me to another place and another time were my luxury pastime. And since, as an only child, I was my own source of entertainment, cultivating my imagination was instrumental in learning to enjoy my own company. I didn’t have a job but I “hustled” and saved for what I wanted, a concept that I still carry with me today. It really does show that the story of our formative years is the critical to understanding our behaviors in adulthood. My mom keeps jokingly asking “Why are you like this?!?” when I have never NOT been like “this; she just was not paying attention or she is not making the connection between my past and current behaviors. This is why putting children on the right path early on matters. Because just like I was overly cautious as a child, I had an equal likelihood to exhibit risky consumerist behavior that would have landed me in hot water when I got my first credit card at age 19.

I think we should all take the time to consider how our past behaviors may have been a glimpse into the future, and how they connect to our conduct today. Not just with finances, but in love, friendship, career and beliefs.

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