Money mistakes and lessons learned in our home.

written by Bari Tessler February 5, 2021
Money mistakes and lessons learned in our home.

Dear Friend:

Sometimes we forget that everything we know, we once had to learn for the first time. Whether speaking to facts and data, or experiences that challenged or shifted how we make decisions, pursue our aspirations, and align our day to day living with our deeper values.

We see this in our relationship with money and, as our journey progresses, we process and integrate the lessons we’ve encountered as we travel and grow through life.

It’s easy to forget how far we’ve come, how much we have stretched and grown, overcoming obstacles and stretching for new summits. Then we make a mistake and our momentum falls away. We slip into feelings of shame, blaming ourselves for not knowing better, not “seeing it coming,” for screwing up AGAIN.

In these moments when we face the reality of our mistakes, it may feel as if we are the first and only person to be so foolish, naive, misguided…the list goes on — and on. Or maybe you feel caught in a cycle where you keep coming face to face with the same lesson, and you’re frustrated that you haven’t just “learned better” yet.

Take a deep breath.

This is a gentle reminder that we have all been there — you are not alone.

You’re human — and humans make mistakes.

This is a conversation we’ve been having in my home recently. I have a twelve-year-old son, and my husband and I are very open in talking about money and working through big emotions as a family. Sometimes we’ll gather cozily together, talking into the night as we share, debrief, and connect.

My son recently got his first gig as a video game trainer, teaching a younger kid how to play his favorite game, Fortnite. So we went to the bank together, where he finally got his own checking account, and a shiny new debit card. At an hour or two a week, he isn’t exactly raking it in – still, it’s an exciting new step in his journey and relationship with money.

We are still actively teaching him how to make good money decisions, while also practicing giving him more leeway to make his own choices. Usually, this looks like seven dollars for a new Fortnight skin — think of it as a new avatar to play in the game — he usually runs it past us first, but it is his money and his choice to make.

The other day my son approached us about a more significant money decision — he wanted a new Fortnight skin, no surprise there. This skin was the crème de la crème, and another player was selling it for about forty dollars.

This is a pretty big jump from seven dollars, especially when you’re twelve. When we tried to talk through the decision with him, he got frustrated — after all, we had always said his money choices were for him to make.

As his sense or urgency and frustration grew, I was saying over and over, “please, let’s not make an urgency buy,” and “we don’t make purchases from a place of urgency in our family.” But I wasn’t getting through on this one, and I sensed that he needed to go through with it. He didn’t want to slow down and talk it through or give it a few days.

As I tried to calm my son, he admitted that he was a little worried that it might be a scam, but his friends were confident everything was on the level. Eventually, he decided to offer the player half of the money upfront. In exchange, they would send the skin to him, and he would send the second half of the payment. I was happy to see him come up with such a reasonable solution to an emotionally charged situation, and off he went to negotiate.

Well, it did turn out to be a scam. The other player had accepted the first half of the money — enough for three of the skins my son usually buys — and then promptly blocked my son (and all of his friends). Back to us he came, defeated, swimming in shame, and blaming himself.

My husband and I sat down with him to talk through what had happened and help him process the emotions that were overwhelming him. Finally, he said, “Yeah, right, like you guys have ever made any mistakes!”

Of course we have made money mistakes! And sometimes we still do — we are human, right?!

So my husband shared his own story of making a money mistake when he was starting a new business ten years ago and invested a lot of money in new video equipment. In hindsight, he could’ve bought used equipment or less equipment in the beginning, building the collection as the business grew. It wasn’t a good money decision – but we tend to learn lessons after the fact.

I was about to share a money mistake I’ve made, but our son seemed to really let in his papa’s story, and so we sat with it, together.

We typically have a family protocol – when we’re feeling that sense of urgency, “I want it now!” or even when we’re considering a slightly more costly money decision – there’s a 24 to 48 hour processing time in place now.

We’ve learned that we make better money decisions once we’ve had more time to sit with them, ask some deeper questions, and genuinely feel into whether we truly want or need this. Not because we can’t be trusted to learn from our experiences and mistakes, but to give ourselves time to question that impulse, that sense of urgency. To do a Body Check-In, and to sit with that, too.

I think the most important thing is to learn from those mistakes and to shift your approach for the next time you are in a money decision making moment. When our son came to us to discuss another purchase this week, we asked for the 24-hour “think about it” time, and he was able to work with his urgency a bit better, agreeing to wait and discuss again the next day.

Whether you are just beginning to build an authentic relationship with money, or you’re a seasoned traveler of the ebbs and flows of your money journey, we all make mistakes. When you feel that urgency swelling behind a money decision, or you find yourself standing with a lesson to learn — be gentle with yourself. Breathe. Do a Body Check-In.

Ask yourself, “what value do I anticipate receiving from this purchase? Will it bring more ease into my life?”

Consider how you might feel after the purchase has been made — is this a reasonable and manageable expense for you right now?

Is this money decision aligned with your personal values and aspirations? What about your long term financial goals?

This journey is lifelong — growth requires us to stretch and learn — and that can leave us feeling vulnerable. Wherever this finds you, please let this be a gentle reminder that we are always learning — this is right, good, and perfectly okay, even when it feels uncomfortable.

Each time we dance with money decisions and challenging emotions, we can shift our response just a little, and find ourselves with a different result. Give yourself permission to get back up and try again. I know the shifts will come.

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