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Black Friday

11/20/07 5:55PM By Leora Dowling
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Leora Dowling, commentator
(HOST) Holiday shopping begins in earnest this coming Friday, but this year commentator Leora Dowling is revising her priorities.

(DOWLING) I don’t consider myself a big spender - but I must be. Every month a bill arrives sporting the Visa logo and it never says I owe just $500. It’s true, everything except the Times and Cappuccino goes on the card. And we do pay the full balance off every month so we’re not carrying any debt.

But my husband sometimes voices concern.

I tell him he’s lucky I’m not a serious shopper; I won’t be heading to the mall on Black Friday. Dashing through the stores the day after Thanksgiving, or any day for that matter, doesn't thrill me.

Besides, the UPS guy and I are on a first name basis.

So I may just go to one of the thousands of Black Friday websites and snag a bargain. Or make a "free" call to 1-800-send-me-another-turtleneck, where I think I have a credit.

Truth is I’ve always spent with relative impunity. Like so many children whose grandparent’s were immigrants, I wasn’t denied much of anything. Dad’s "loans" were never repayable.

Marriage made things worse. I fell in love with a man who was already retired. Seemed like there was always plenty - and always would be. But travel and tennis lessons have all-to-quickly consumed the money I should have been saving for my retirement.

I’ll never forget the moment that shocked me into seeing the reality of my financial situation. I’d just returned from my weekly visit to the reflexologist and was feeling really relaxed. Then my husband said, "You know, someday you’ll wish you had the $40 dollars you just spent so you can buy food."

Since then there’ve been nights when I, like millions of other baby boomers, have lain awake worrying.

I see myself as a bag lady. Young, successful types toss coins into my empty Starbucks cup.

Well...not really.

But I do fear sharing a small room in a nursing home - with a roommate who loves television and is hard of hearing.

In those dark moments I feel my lack of financial discipline keenly. And I wish I could have followed my father’s advice and gotten a dependable job at an insurance company.

I’ve been trying to change my attitude about money and retrain myself when it comes to spending. I weigh the importance of each potential purchase. I ask myself if I really need it. Whatever "it" is.

Still, there are times when even after sternly telling myself "NO", I find myself contemplating how I'm going to smuggle what I'm
about to buy anyway into the house.

And now comes the day after Thanksgiving, the busiest shopping day of the year.

I’ll try to spend less this holiday season. I’ll buy exclusively for other people.

But a lifetime's worth of thinking that money does grow on trees takes time to overcome.

In fact, the first thing I did when I set out to spend less money - was buy a book, on how to spend less money.

Leora Dowling is a motivational speaker and writer living in Ferrisburgh.
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