This whole not-spending-money thing over the past 2 months has got me thinking about what makes spending money worthwhile. Why do we do it? Does it really mean anything in the long run?
A few weeks ago, my inspiration for the spending fast (And Then She Saved) posted a link through her Facebook page - leading to a comment stream about the best money people had ever spent. Here are some of their stories:
"I walked into a Safeway today and stopped at the deli. A lady was waiting there. She was an elderly woman, and she said she had been waiting for 45 minutes and no one would wait on her. When they finally did, she asked the price of an egg roll and the fried wontons. It was evident she didn't have much money. Finally in frustration, she said, "Forget it," and started to leave. That just felt so wrong. I called out, "Stop, stop, you can't leave, come back here. Pick your dinner out. I'll buy it." It came to a mere $7.50 or so. The thought of someone walking home hungry, feeling broke and upset just felt so wrong. I told her that I had just sold a book and the meal was no big deal. She asked about the book and I told her about my friend having cancer and how it was important to get it done to honor what a gift he is to me and how much I love him. She said that her husband had cancer. We walked out and I grabbed her a copy of the book and signed it for her. She said she had a book she was working on. She hugged me and said, "I love you." For a mere $7.50 I got an "I love you," from a stranger. Best $7.50 I have spent in a long time."
"While summering it up in Europe my sophomore year of high school, alone, I came across a homeless man with a dog pretty late at night in some British back street (I was walking back from an American friend's house to the hostel I was staying at). The man was holding his dog in his arms, and it looked like they were both trying to catch some sleep. Without thinking, I walked across the street to a convenience store and bought a deli sandwich, a can of dog food, and a carton of milk. I went back to the alley where they were both still sleeping and quietly set everything next to the man. Right as I was exiting the other end of the alley, I heard him say, "God bless your soul young man," and he started crying to himself. I started tearing up myself, but didn't turn around and just nodded my head instead. To this day, that was the best money I have ever spent."
"I once found 20 bucks in a store parking lot when I was about 13. Me and my dad were pretty poor at this point. Hell, we didn't even have a home. We were secretly sleeping where he worked.
I probably should have just given him the money but I wanted to surprise him. So I walked down to the and bought a few pints of Haagen-dazs (my dad's favorite ice cream) and then walked down to where he was working. He took a 30 minute break and we sat outside eating it, just chatting about the world and how we fit into it. It really was one of the best memories I have from that time. From that point on I'd try to scrounge up little bits of money to buy us treats like candy, cups of noodles, ice-cream, or whatever I could manage. Just so I could sit and talk to my dad in between his 15 hour work shifts.
So, whoever lost that 20 dollars - Thank you. Those were dark times, and little moments of happiness like that is what got us through it."
"My girlfriend at the time, and I drove to Las Vegas on a whim. As we got closer I joked about getting married while we were there, she called me on my bluff. The next morning we had breakfast, got our marriage application and went to the Chapel By The Courthouse. For $40 we got a no frills, no pictures, 5 minute ceremony by a pastor (wrong word maybe?) by glasses so thick I could see his soul in his eyes. I got married in jeans and a t-shirt to my beautiful wife wearing jeans and a tank top. We drove back home to a friend's house to enjoy carrot cake and bottle of Martinelli's sparkling cider from a grocery store. 8 years later it's still the best $40 I ever spent."
"Every morning I go to Bigfoot Java here in Renton. It's literally the highlight of my day, one of the few things I wake up and look forward to. The same two baristas work the M-F morning shift, so I see them often.
A few days ago, Seattle just got hit with a big snowstorm and the power was out. Freezing and miserable. I went in to work, because I had nothing better to do and I drive a beast of a vehicle. On my way in, I pulled up to Bigfoot... it was pretty clear they had no power, but both baristas were sitting there, bundled up and freezing their asses off. This isn't a starbucks, it's a coffee stand that is basically a closet. They explained they were closed, but had to stay there because the company prides itself on "never closing". Weird. Anyway, I left thinking damn... that blows.
So I drove 15 minutes to Kent, picked up two hot chocolates and a few apple pies from McDonald's (one of the only places open after the snow) and brought it to them. The smile made it worth the 10 bucks, 30 minute round trip, and being late for a meeting."
"I go to this noodle and bubble tea shop near my apartment about once a week. Last Thursday while I was drawing some things in my sketchbook as I ate, the two girls next to me had a third friend arrive, seemingly upset. She then went on and on about how bad her life has been lately. How nothing since the new year has gone right for her. How her thesis is in trouble, and how this is the last time she can go out with friends for the next four months. It might have seemed a little bit dramatic, but you could tell she was unhappy. I thought, "Nothing good has happened since the new year? That needs to stop." So when I paid my bill, I went up to the waitress and mumbled to her so the girls didn't hear, "Let me pay for her drink. I think she got the taro flavor?" The waitress tells me to pay about $4.50. I do so, and leave as fast as possible so they don't know what I did. Fast-forward to the following Tuesday, I go back to the noodle shop for my weekly visit, I'm sketching again and I get a tap on my shoulder. A girl starts complimenting my drawings, then asks, "Were you here last Thursday?" I pause, "Yeah?" "I was sitting with my friends next to you when you were here." I was startled cause I never expected to get a response, "Uh... Yeah." "You paid for my friend's drink?" "Oh, yeah. She said something like how nothing good happened this year for her and I felt like that needed to change a bit." She replied, "Well you made her day." I always expected to be anonymous, but it was still nice to have confirmation that she felt better. I will do more random things like this in the future."
"I used to work at Walmart in Michigan 5 years ago, we used to get a lot of migrant workers come in to pick fruit over the summer...this one lady always came in with her kids, always bought the necessary stuff like bread, milk, baby food, formula....and never seemed to have enough money to pay for everything. She always had to put some things back, which always just seemed to embarrass and upset her.
One year I got a decent amount of money back from my tax return - so I had some extra money for the summer. So I am at work, I am called upfront to the check outs, I see the same Mexican lady with her 3 small kids, one is a baby...I was called up to put back stuff she could not afford, was not much, maybe $40 of baby formula and baby food and bread and milk but she looked REALLY upset saying in broken English 'I need to feed my baby'.
So I asked the cashier the amount of everything with the stuff she put back added to it, it was $70...I just pulled out my wallet and paid for it, added some candy for the little ones too, she cried and kept thanking me, I felt that she deserved some help, people always needed it. The rest of the summer she made it a point to come and see me at work, and the kids always said thank you every time too, totally worth it."
So nice to read about the kindness of strangers, isn't it? I hope it inspires you as it did me!