When I was asked, as part of a Liebster Award nomination, to give 11 random facts about myself, I included, “I would love to time travel.” That might explain my instant addiction to a show my daughter found on Netflix a couple of months ago: Being Erica, a TV series that started in 2009 and went for 4 seasons. Erica is a 32-year-old whose life is going nowhere . . . until Dr. Tom, a therapist, enters the picture. Erica pours out her regrets in their first meeting, and Dr. Tom gets her to write them down. She has 4 seasons worth of regrets, and every episode brings her back to one of them. Literally. Dr. Tom, you see, is a time-travel therapist.
Erica has regrets that many of us can relate to – about her family life, her career, her romantic life, her social life . . . But not once does she express regret about her personal finances. Hmmm . . . Maybe that happens when she’s 52? The thirty-something Erica spends liberally as she zips back and forth through time. Bars, coffee shops, great clothes, take-out . . . I just want to tell her to stop! So I think it’s time for a new series: Being Prudence, starring yours truly, that delves into the regrets I probably share with many debtors.
Groceries: The Big Chill
My New Year’s resolution for 2015 has been to keep our grocery bills at $150 per week for our household of 4. I know that many of you manage on a far more frugal budget, but believe me when I say that $150 represents a big improvement for us. In the days when we had no frugal compass, we easily went over $200 on a weekly basis. I remember the cavalier way in which I would buy groceries in the old days, before the financial stress of my husband’s job loss hit us. No price comparison. No attention to price period. If I wanted it, I put it in my shopping cart. When neighbours would mention excitedly the sale on chicken or green peppers, I could only fake an interest. Who cares? I would think. 40¢ off. Big deal!
There was an arrogance to that attitude. An I’m-above-that-level-of-pettiness sense of superiority. Where did it come from? My parents were frugal shoppers. I remember going with my mom to the grocery store as a child, wishing she would buy all of the awesome stuff that my friends had in their kitchens. No, it didn’t come from my family. It came from the yuppy culture that apparently took over my subconscious longings in early adulthood.
Do you remember the movie The Big Chill? For those of you who weren’t even born when it came out in 1983, it’s a comedy-drama about a group of baby boomer college friends who get together 15 years later – upon the death (by suicide) of one in their circle. I was 20 years old at the time, a university student deciding upon my identity as an adult. I was definitely not about to go looking for it in the example set by my parents (which I did many years later – after I realized how much they had to offer).
Images of the thirty-something generation of yuppies were so much more appealing, and their ubiquitous presence in print ads, commercials, TV shows, and movies of the time worked their power on me. I would be just like them. So cool. So good looking. So fashionable. So witty. So rich.
Those of us who have seen the movie know that it includes many famous scenes. The dressing of the friend’s body. The dance in the kitchen. The sex. But for me, somehow, what stuck was the grocery shopping. In my eyes, it captured everything that was glamorous and cool about yuppies. Unlike my parents, this man and woman bought ALL of the awesome stuff. And they didn’t even care! How cool was that?
I hadn’t seen the movie in decades, and when I searched for that grocery shopping scene yesterday, hoping to link to it for this post, I was disappointed. Not because I couldn’t find a clip of just that scene. (I found it by scrolling though the whole movie, and it’s a mere 45 seconds – from 38:30-39:15 if you’re interested). I was disappointed because I could no longer see the appeal in it. These two people were just really bad grocery shoppers! Their cart was ridiculously full of things like Coke and processed foods. She was distracted and he was just lazy. I wanted to wake them up. Bring them to the fresh food aisles. Discuss meal plans with them.
Time Travel Therapy for Prudence
Whenever Erica goes back in time to relive one of her regrets, things are never quite as she remembers them, and the story unfolds with unpredictable twists and turns that always, in the end, give her new clarity – so that she’s in a position to make better choices for her future. The yuppies in The Big Chill are not quite as I remember them. Not so glamorous. Not so cool. Kind of dull. Funny looking. And I’m just not impressed with their grocery shopping strategy. How could I ever have aspired to it?
When I set out to do my first frugal grocery shops this year, I did not feel cool. Big calculator in hand, I weighed the red peppers and bananas, painstakingly assessed my receipt, spotted mistakes made at the check-out – all with a stifled mortification at how unglamorous I was being. After revisiting my past, I have more respect for the calculator-toting, vegetable weighing, vigilant grocery shopper I’ve become. I’m a bit nonplussed about what it was I found so appealing in those “cool” yuppies at the grocery store. I think it’s cool not to care about being cool. I think it’s cool to grocery shop like my mom.
If you could do time travel therapy for your personal finances, what point in your life would you visit? Your comments are welcome : )