“Well, I guess everyone has their thing.”
I inevitably hear that phrase at the end of some of the conversations I have with Amanda. It’s sort of a way to explain away behavior or opinions of others that don’t quite seem to fit with the rest of the picture.
Though we all think we are the normal ones, even you probably have “a thing.” Let me explain.
Money vs. Music
Some of “my things” are related to money. While I spent most of my college class time in the business building learning how to go make millions, Amanda spent her days practicing violin and talking about music theory in the infamous fine arts building.
Needless to say that we held some very different views on money when we got married. We were both frugal, but we definitely placed a different emphasis on the importance of money.
I remember asking her why all her friends decided to go into their artsy fields despite not being able to make much money in those fields. Her response was initially very hard for me to believe. Get this—she said that not everyone cares about making a lot of money. Can you believe that!? I didn’t either.
In my mind, people went to school in order to get an education that would position them to get wealthy. Everything else just seemed inconsistent to me. I can just see her telling her college roommates about me and my strange money views–“well, I guess everyone has their thing.”
What is “a thing?”
A “thing” is something someone does that seems inconsistent (to you) with their other behaviors. It is a perceived priority that seems out of place.
It’s kind of a way to say, “I don’t really understand it, but I’ll love them anyway.”
Here’s a more recent example.
TV vs. Cookies
My kids definitely watch TV on occasion, but we really try to limit it. They do not have free range of the computer, TV, or any other device. They spend a lot of time playing outside soaking up the sun. This is something that is important to us.
We have some friends who used to occasionally watch our kids for us. We really liked that they had energetic young kids the same age as ours, but we struggled with the fact that their kids had total free range of the downstairs TV. The parents had no idea what or how much TV their kids watched, and we didn’t necessarily feel comfortable with that.
On the other hand, we all shop at the local Meijer grocery store. It’s a grocery chain in the Midwest that we hadn’t even heard of until we moved out here. These guys are smart. They totally cater to their customer base. They occasionally have free activities for kids, and if you stop by the bakery, each kid gets a free cookie—every time.
Now where do you think my kids will shop when they get older? It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that by doing simple things to create good associations and memories for kids that they are creating future lifelong customers.
Anyway, each time my kids come with me or Amanda when we shop, of course we stop by the bakery to get the kids a free cookie.
Our unlimited TV friends, however, refuse to let their kids take advantage of those free fresh-baked goodies. They feel very strongly about limiting their kids’ sugar intake. We’re talking like maybe one treat each week. Now I’m all in favor of limiting sugar, I just can’t imagine doing it to that extent with my kids.
To us, it seems contradictory that they would feel so strongly about letting their kids have a free cookie in the grocery store but so lax with their TV time and media exposure. Why is that?
It’s because everyone has their “thing”.
I guess they have a “thing” about free cookies. I guess (one) of our “things” is TV.
People have a lot of different “things” in the financial realm as well. These are financial priorities that seem out of place.
My dating thing
I am generally pretty tight with our money, and it seemed strange to Amanda at first that I was so willing to part with it for date nights (with her, obviously).
It’s true that dating doesn’t have to be expensive. You can try the hundreds of creative and silly ideas in the “Dates for under $1” books (which I’ve done plenty of), but I guess I value the traditional dinner date.
Between dinner, a babysitter, and maybe some other activity, a date can easily run between $50-$100. We’re not doing that every week, but it is important to me, so I guess dates are one of “my things.”
My paintball thing
When I was about 13, I bought a paintball gun for $300. I had probably saved about $1,500 or so by mowing lawns, and until then I had never touched my savings.
It was the largest purchase I had ever made, and I think my dad may have feared that I was being wasteful, but he didn’t say anything. The purchase was inconsistent with my history of diligent saving, but I ended up getting a lot of mileage and good memories from it over the next few years.
There are a lot of otherwise very frugal women out there who spend hundreds of dollars on hair treatments every month or two.
There are a lot of frugal families who occasionally take expensive vacations.
You can see the same phenomenon reversed too. My grandma, for instance, who has done quite all right for herself, has been known to haggle over just a few dollars.
What’s your thing?
Maybe your friends really do have misaligned or even irresponsible priorities, but maybe not. There are usually circumstances and details we are not aware of.
I do think there is a difference between judging someone and noting a behavior that seems peculiar to you. But unless we are in another’s exact situation, we’ll never quite understand their “things.”
The key is to recognize and own our “things.” Evaluating our personal financial behavior might cause us to eliminate some of the behaviors that are inconsistent with our goals.
But we may also decide that there are those little inconsistencies we prefer to hang on to, such as in my case, the occasional 11pm Taco Bell run.
So what’s your “thing”?