- DD3 = Dear Third Daughter
- DH = Dear Husband
DD3 vs. me
One of the byproducts of our more frugal lifestyle is that we stay in and do things like play board games more often. I tried to teach DD3, when we first ramped up the frequency of our Monopoly games, to DO something with her money. She would pass Go, collect $200 . . . and then just let that money sit there. She wouldn’t buy every property she landed on as I did. “You’ve got to buy more properties,” I explained, “to increase your chances of getting a full set so that you can put up houses and hotels. That’s how you win.” And when she finally did secure a full property set, she wouldn’t get houses as soon as she could afford them. I’d think to myself, She’s got all of those properties and all of that money, but it’s not doing her any good. For my part, I would max out in my house-buying, keeping just enough money aside in case I landed on one of DD3’s more dangerous properties. DD3, on the other hand, would take forever to spend $300 from her $2,000 stash for one house per space. Why not buy two? Why not three? You’ve got the money! I found it frustrating, but I kept my mouth shut. She would just have to learn the hard way.
My “bad luck”
Inevitably, things would go wrong. For me. The stash of cash I kept “just in case” would drain quickly in one unfortunate round:
- A Chance card: “Pay poor tax of $15”.
- The Luxury Tax space: $75.
- A Community Chest card: “Pay hospital $100.”
- The Go To Jail space (no $200 for passing Go this time). $50 to get out of jail.
- Then – Arrgh! A landing on DD3’s property with the house on it.
My cash already drained, I’d have to mortgage one of my properties. The beginning of the end for me. Just bad luck, I thought the first few times. But when bad luck keeps revisiting, you have to take a closer look. Maybe there was something to be learned from DD3’s stubborn insistence upon saving – her painfully measured way of spending. And maybe I needed to take a closer look at my own game. Why such a compulsion to spend as much as possible and to save as little as possible?
A close look at losing in real time
With a new awareness of DD3’s superior Monopoly wisdom, I played with her again a couple of times this past week. Same results! Only this time, I was conscious of each disastrous step in real time. Here are a couple of snapshots of my thinking:
- Ugh! I didn’t buy a green property last time around, and here I am landing on one again. I’d have two now if I’d bought the first time. If I land on a green again next round, I’ll kick myself for not having taken advantage of this opportunity.
- DD3 has 3 houses on each of her orange properties – and over $2,000 in cash. I have the advantage of owning more properties, but I only have $400. Still, I’d better buy some houses because I have to benefit from my property advantage.
In the end, I had to mortgage two of those green properties I felt compelled to buy. And when DD3 had hotels on her orange properties, I landed on one – cash strapped. Those houses I’d bought did nothing for me. It was game over.
Connections to my real money management?
I can see two connections between my modus operandi in Monopoly and my real life personal finances:
- My discretionary account is always bone dry by the end of each month. While DH manages to save a little from his discretionary allowance (exactly the same as mine) – to the point where he can go away for a week-end of snowboarding – I consistently spend it all, often cheating and borrowing from the next month before it arrives.
- My disagreement with DH last week stemmed from my greater desire to get rid of our money (in a positive way – by paying off debt) than to save it. I referred to our savings as “sucking my momentum”.
Mrs. Frugalwoods wrote an excellent post this past week about her former fear of spending. “Saving money isn’t the worst default position …” she noted. “The problem is that I was saving from a place of fear, not a place of strength.” If I try to identify the “place” from which I have rid myself of money throughout my whole life – clearly including the present – I would have to say it has been a place of panic. It’s even evident in my thoughts and advice on Monopoly.
- “You’ve got to buy more . . . That’s how you win.”
- I would max out in my house-buying …
- … I’ll kick myself for not having taken advantage of this opportunity.
- … I’d better buy some houses because I have to benefit from my property advantage.
These are not thoughts and words of calm confidence; there’s a tense compulsion to them. A fear that time and chance are going to pass me by. A dread that the future will provide no opportunity. Maybe I’ve got the youngest-of-5 syndrome? Make a mad dash to the counter to get a cookie before they’re all gone. I’ve got to mellow out. I’ve got to have more faith. More confidence that no mad dash is necessary – that there’s a cookie on the counter with my name on it, and it’s not going anywhere until I get there.
We’re coming to a point in our “Total Money Makeover” (Dave Ramsey style), when savings will play just as great a role as paying off the mortgage – the last debt standing. There will be a hefty emergency fund to save. There will be greater investments towards our retirement. There will be short-term savings for cars, furnace, air-conditioning. All this in the face of soon-to-be greater expenses. (More on that later.) We will have to be measured in all aspects of our finances, and there will be no room for my panic.
Awareness is the first step to any positive outcome, and so I’m hopeful that I can get a handle on my money-ridding compulsion. I used to spend it all chaotically. In the last 3 years, I’ve thrown it against debt, hand over fist. I have to learn how to just hold it. Save it. Watch it grow. A few lessons from DD3, a few more games of Monopoly – it might just do the trick.
Does fear play a role in your management of finances? A fear of spending and a compulsion to save? A panic to spend and an aversion to saving? What’s your strategy in Monopoly? Your comments are welcome.