My Financial Faux Pas Revealed

For a state that insists on constantly bragging about the health of its residents, Denver airport has some of the least healthy and least appealing options for dining of most any airport I’ve visited in America.  I fly through Denver often these days, and I never thought I’d be left longing for the time when I would connect through Charlotte, where at least there were choices (then again, maybe that’s what keeps Denver residents so trim, the fact that there’s nothing good to eat at the airport).

Because I don’t typically travel for business, I’m always on vacation when I fly, and I like to kick off my leisure weekends not by planning ahead and packing my own snack bags, but by dealing with my food and drink choices on a whim. While nothing says “travel” like a day-old sandwich at the bottom of your bag, I’m willing to spend a little extra money while in transit.  Unfortunately, Denver’s unappetizing options have left me without a choice—I’d rather buy my food on the plane.

I can hear the collective gasp of the financially savvy—What! But it’s so expensive! Why would you do that?  The truth is that the effort it would take to buy groceries to make a snack to take with me on the plane simply isn’t worth my time or money.  I’d be left with a pantry full of half-empty snack bags, and a rumbling stomach on an airplane all because I forgot to move the food to my shoulder bag and now it’s tucked up somewhere in the overhead compartment.

Or—maybe I’ve just got a few financial bad habits I’m still trying to work out of my system.

We’ve all got them—weaknesses—even the most financially fit among us.

I’ve got three major ones, not including my airport indulgences: I always spend on Fridays; I’m epically guilty of buying something for one occasion; and I get intimidated into buying things by helpful or particularly trendy salespeople.

I don’t get paid on Fridays, but I do have the day off, and I always find myself prepping for the weekend by spending money.  Depending on what my weekend plans are, I find my spending in different categories. If I’ll be home, I’m going to roam the empty Friday-morning supermarket aisles with all the stay-at-home moms and elderly folks, reading the ingredients label on every fancy jar of tapenade.  I’m going to pick out a couple of bottles of wine, good ones, because I’ve got friends coming over, and I’m majorly guilty of overspending for my guests. If I’m heading off on a weekend getaway, I’m going to go looking for that perfect outfit/pair of shoes/bag for a specific location.

Which leads me to my second financial faux pas: purchasing something for only one occasion.  Especially when it comes to travel or to an event I’m excited about, I’m way more likely to spend unnecessarily.  Sure, I could go to New York without the perfect pair of ankle boots, but why would I want to do that to myself?  When you’re truly passionate about something, it can be hard not to push your money towards it, which is exactly the position I find myself in again and again when it comes to travel.  Just a couple of weeks ago, I got so excited about a date that I wanted to buy something special.  I went to a fancy boutique downtown—on a Friday, no less—and asked for help picking out a dress.

This one is cute, but it’s pretty expensive,” the girl admitted, showing me the price tag.  She must have known I was a local, which meant I’d be a little more cautious about spending, since the cost of living in our area is so high.

I don’t mind if it’s expensive as long as I like it,” I said honestly, which was probably its own blunder.  Since when did I become the kind of person who says things like that?  Still, the beautiful boutique girl intimidated me a little bit, and I wanted to show her that I could buy something beautiful.

Which is, of course, a faux pas all on its own: feeling obligated to buy something when a shop has spent time on you, or because you simply feel you can’t say no, or because you don’t want to seem too poor or financially inept.  Luckily, I was absolutely enamored of the dress, but did it warrant almost eleven hours of work at my day job?  Probably not.

And yet, there it is, in my closet.

There’s no reason to be ashamed of this kind of spending as long as you’ve planned for it: can you account for a $9 airline sandwich in your travel budget?  Do you know how much you planned to spend on food this weekend, and are you willing to sacrifice at least one craft cocktail at that place you love for this little indulgence?  If the answer is yes, then spend the money.  If not, maybe pack your snacks next time, and good on you if you can be that organized.

Recognizing my financial mess-ups is hopefully the first key to remedying them. Some people might deny ever having those moments of weakness, but we’ve all got them, our financial faux pas, and if we really want to change, the first step is admitting the problem.


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