Time Travel Therapy for Debtors

Being Erica Prudence

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.

tarticle-2586350-1c7a290f00000578-671_634x622 (Cool, good looking, fashionable, witty, 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 : )


8 comments on “Time Travel Therapy for Debtors

  1. Oh, that was SO good! AND, I have a new show to check out. I love that kind of stuff!

    I’m with ya, Ruth. I was always wanting to not look like “that kind of person”. You know, the one with coupons and lists and sales circulars. I think it took getting to an age where I didn’t give as much of a crap what other people thought of me. I never EVER thought I’d not care. I didn’t even ever want to be the kind of person who didn’t care. Now I don’t care what I thought about what I didn’t want to be.

    Yeah, it’s extremely freeing! I see you’ve arrived. Welcome to the club! 🙂

  2. If I could only! I would go back to my mid-twenties when I landed my career job, if I knew than what I know now. Just the basics of having a plan for my money and not over spending, what a different spot I’d be in. No regrets, always looking forward, but wow 20 years of this knowledge would have made a big difference.

    1. When you think of how far you’ve come after only a few years of money smarts, it is quite something to think of what 20 years would have accomplished. But I’m with you: No regrets. On the next 20 years!

  3. Mid-twenties, when my parter & I started getting significant money, for me too. We’ve never made financially catastrophic choices but I wish our choices had been made with an eye on a secure financial future rather than fitting a particular seemingly wealthy & glamorous (tho in reality, never that glamorous) identity. Like you Prudence, I didn’t want to be like my frugal, poor, daggy parents with their unstylish clothes and ugly house – that was my sole financial plan. That’s why I am enjoying fruclassity so much: financial smarts & a little bit of elegance.

    1. Thank you Kris! I’m glad you’re enjoying Fruclassity. Early- to mid-twenties seems to be the time we all wish we could revisit and modify. Actually, in my case, I would have to revisit several older years too. Oh well! Good thing it’s never too late to change. And yes, we can do so with a bit of elegance : )

  4. Oh man, I wish I could shop like my mom (does now, not like when we were kids). She’s become something of a gourmet chef in the last few years, and she has an eye for the most delicious ingredients. She’s a very thoughtful cook, but she’s definitely not frugal the way she was when we were kids. These days, she mostly just cooks for her and my dad, so I think it ends up being all right that she chooses exotic herbs and spices and semi-expensive cuts of meat regularly.

    1. I’m glad your mom is buying “exotic herbs and spices and semi-expensive cuts of meat”! Why not? She’s earned it after all of those years of frugal shopping, and I suspect she’s in a financial position to do so. For us, it makes a lot of sense to grocery shop frugally as we make our way out of all debt. The way I grocery shopped before was part of my denial in personal finances. I also look forward to the day when I will be able to shop like your mom does now, Hannah : )

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *