In an act of desperation last weekend, I spent $20 on parking.
On my way to a work-related thing, I was in a rush, stressed by traffic, and not thinking clearly. I said, “eh, what the hell,” and pulled into a parking garage that I knew was going to be ridiculously expensive. To add insult to injury, there was parking across the street for half the price. It hurt a little.
But I added the $10 difference into my “money regrets” budget. I got the idea for this when I came across an interesting money saving suggestion from author Ramit Sethi:
“Keep a ‘Stupid Mistakes’ sub-savings account. Just the simple fact of having one will sharpen your focus on avoiding the mistakes in the first place. And when you do make a stupid mistake, you’ll be able to use your sub-savings account as a buffer to keep your automation system on track.”
It’s a little self-deprecating, but that’s the idea. We all make dumb money mistakes, and having an account dedicated to those mistakes will not only help fund them, but also let you see how much they’re costing you. Ideally, this will help you stop making them. But I take a different approach–one that focuses more on regretfulness. Silly, silly regretfulness.
Ugh. Money Regrets.
I’ve always held on to financial regret a bit longer than I should. It runs in my family, but I think a lot of frugal people have this problem. Here’s an example.
Last week, I went to an auto shop for some maintenance. The next day, I found a 50% off coupon from that shop in the mail. I called and asked if they’d refund the difference–they wouldn’t. “You’re still thinking about that coupon, aren’t you?” my boyfriend asked later that day. In fact, I thought about that coupon at random times over the next couple of days, and it annoyed me.
Regret is a waste of time. If you make a mistake, learn from it, but then let it go. And money goofs are simply going to happen sometimes, no matter what. How was I to know that coupon would come? It’s unproductive to keep thinking about something you can’t change.
Obviously, you want to let go of these regrets. And that sounds easy enough, but even now, as I think about that overpriced parking, I’m a little irritated. So here’s my solution for dealing with it.
My “Money Regrets” Budget
Unlike Sethi, I don’t have a dedicated account for my stupid mistakes. I don’t have a fund for them. Instead, I make a running tally of my financial screw-ups, and write them down. Then, I work on erasing them. Here’s how:
• By cutting back on something: A few days ago, I was in line at CVS, and I added a bag of sour Jelly Belly beans (my fave) to my purchase. Then, I considered my “money regrets” tally, and I put them back. I added $4 to the tally.
• With an unexpected windfall: Last week, my restaurant meal came out late, so the waiter deducted from my bill the $5 beer I ordered. I add that to the tally, too.
I do this until my “money regrets budget” is back to zero.
It might seem a little much, and my budget will likely even out whether I keep a tally or not. And I’m pretty damn sure I’ll buy that bag of Jelly Bellies at some point in the near future. But the point is–this process helps me stop worrying about dumb little money goofs that happen, inevitable or not. It makes me feel more in control. I know I’ll make up for that money, so I let it go.
Do you guys have a hard time with small money regrets like this? What’s your method for letting them go?