The Money Shot

by Ouida on March 16, 2010

My photo gallery is the group of rotating photos that appears on the right side of this blog. One of those photos is a money shot. A shot of me palming some cash. $10,000 to be exact. Worried what people would think, I was reluctant to include the photo in my gallery. But there is a story there. One worthy of a blog exploring the realm of personal finance. The year was 2003. I had already retired about $80,000 in debt and had begun saving money. My money, your money, my debt, your debt are nothing but numbers on a piece of paper. I do not believe this is an accident. Financial institutions and popular media exist to separate us from the reality of our money. Witness the Visa card commercial popular at Christmas. The toy store is humming with purchases, the cash register ringing, when someone has the audacity to present to the register with cash rather than plastic. Immediately the festive atmosphere in the store grinds to a halt as someone is forced to make change. The customer actually apologizes for paying in cash. Good riddance to that customer and the store is abuzz again as people swipe their cards. The value of the transactions is never shown, people just mindlessly swipe their cards. Of course the hangover that inevitably follows that level of frenetic spending is never shown, just happy people swiping their cards. In 2003, I had retired some serious debt and, for the first time in my life, was saving money. I never wanted to go back to the debt nightmare that it had taken years to get in and out of. I knew I had to get a hold, literally of some of my money. To touch it, to feel it. Then it would be real and I’d have a visual when I sought to spend it. So I called my bank manager, Tom, and asked for some time in the vault. Tom used to work in an outpatient mental health facility and he told me he was willing to do anything within reason to help me feel comfortable with my money. But why the vault? Tom was a bit concerned. I told him that I wanted some time in the vault because that was where my money was. Tom agreed and we agreed on a date and a time. I went to the bank at the designated time, Tom met me with a withdrawal slip, and asked me to fill in the amount of $9500 dollars in order to avoid triggering a Patriot Act alert. I got the remaining $500 dollars from the ATM. I then sat in a private room just outside the vault and played with my money. I threw it in the air (so that it was raining money). I spread it around the floor (so that I was sitting in money). I waived it under my nose (so that I could smell the money). I took pictures. I never knew who was on the $100 dollar bill until that afternoon at the bank. Now I will never forget. When I finally emerged from the room, I ran into Tom. Literally. He was about to knock, apparently I concerned several people and they thought Tom should look for me. It was just me and Benjamen in a closed room. What could go wrong? The town that I live in is very dependent on a cash economy. It is not uncommon for Tom to see cash deposits of 5 and 6 figures. Many people here are connected with their cash. When it runs out, their lives stop. Through years of financial mis-education, I was utterly disconnected from my money. The ones followed by zeroes on my credit card statement that just kept multiplying until I was left with the hang over. Now I have a visual, the plastic that comes out of my wallet corresponds to a set amount in my bank account which in turn corresponds to the wad of cash I held in my hand that day. That exercise one summer day in 2003 may have seemed silly to those who watched me, it certainly was fun and it lead to a level of consciousness I have about my money. I now spend consciously. Conscious spending, isn’t that really the beginning of freedom and a healthy relationship with money?

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Money, Gollum and The Ring
March 17, 2010 at 9:23 pm

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott Pearcy March 17, 2010 at 5:56 am

Great story, Ouida. Renae and I are working out of a similar situation right now. Soon we will have retired some significant debt and I can’t wait until we can sit in a bank vault and throw Benjamin around. I think the entire country needs to get into the mindset, “If you can’t pay cash, you can’t have it.” I think we would all be better off. Regardless, that’s the philosophy that we are going to practice.


Ouida March 17, 2010 at 8:16 pm

Scott, I think that is great and congratulations making headway! Money is a living thing and tends to flee those who get into trouble with it. I know for me the deeper the hole I was in the harder it was for me to hang onto and make decisions about money. It was like I didn’t respect it. Your comment was inspirational for me because it reminded me that once you get clear with money you have to develop on ongoing philosophy of relating to money. Therefore you just inspired the next post!


Ruth T. Vincent March 23, 2010 at 2:47 pm

In retirement, I’ve concluded it is very important to stay debt free. Its really been hard to resist putting that 40″ HDLCD Flatscreen for my bedroom on plastic!


Ouida March 23, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Yeah, I know. But I do believe you are right. Debt free is key in retirement, but it is important at any age!


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