It is obvious by the bone structure in my face I have more strengths than weaknesses. Except when it comes to money, I am a lost cause.
When I turned twenty-six last month, I made it a personal goal to expand my financial vocabulary beyond the three terms: over-draft, minimum payment, and approved. So, after I was done blowing out the birthday candle on a $50 bottle of 2007 Joseph Phelps Innisfree Cabernet Sauvignon, I took my good-looking self to the bookstore down the street and turned to the financial experts for help. Maxing out the sixty dollars left on my credit card, I returned home with a grande half-sweet vanilla latte and brand new copies of Suzie Orman’s Nine Steps to Financial Freedom, Robert T. Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad, and David Chilton’s The Wealthy Barber. Sitting down to read the first and last chapters of each best-seller, I learned that in order to start saving money, I had to stop spending it.
“Not a problem,” I said to myself the next morning when I crawled out of bed and made coffee at home for the first time in a year. Determined not to spend more than a cent, I decided not to visit Eva at de Dutch for my favourite salmon benny and instead treated myself to a banana. At lunch I met my editor downtown at one of the half-dozen Starbucks next to Pacific Centre to discuss my upcoming article. Fortunately he picked up the check on my double Americano, so despite the fact it was two o’clock in the afternoon and I was starving and hopped up on caffeine, I had already saved $45.
“Under no circumstances,” I told him, “will you let me venture across the street and in to that mall.”
“Not a problem,” he said, “seeing as how you don’t have time to shop since your article was due three days ago and I have yet to see a first draft.”
Twenty minutes and one disgruntled magazine editor later, I found myself standing outside the front entrance to H&M.
“No Fox,” I said to myself as I felt my left Hush Puppy inch closer to the glass door, “don’t do it.”
It could have been the double espresso pushing my heart rate over the edge, but I became remarkably anxious. My teeth made a mess of my freshly manicured nails while my stomach growled and my feet would not take no for an answer. “It never hurts to look,” was the last thing I remember saying to myself before my hand was on the door handle and I was one tug away from no returns, exchanges or refunds. Then, just as I was about to step in, the most insane thing happened. My reflection in the glass door started talking to me.
“Turn around,” he said, “there is a bus right behind you that will take you home.”
I recognized his impeccable fashion sense and perfect complexion, but his voice was much different than mine. It was deeper, slower and much more mature. Come to think about it, he sounded exactly like Morgan Freeman.
“But what if I don’t want to get on the bus?” I whimpered, releasing my grip from the door in order to check the temperature on my forehead.
“Then your financial dreams will never come true.”
I didn’t care for his dramatic emphasis of the word ‘never’ but nonetheless found him convincing.
“I’m sure one pair of suspenders won’t hurt.”
“FOX, YOU MUST LISTEN TO ME,” he boomed as I let out a girlish scream. “I am the voice of reason – that whisper in your ear which you have ignored all these years. But now that you are almost thirty and becoming a man, you can no longer shut me out. Do you want to be financially comfortable Fox? Do you?”
“Well yes, but –” I had never seen this side of me before. He was aggressive and controlling and it kind of turned me on.
“May I ask you a question Fox?”
“That depends if you are going to buy me a drink first.”
“Do you go to sleep at night dreaming of the day you will bring a chocolate lab home from the shelter and name him Sir Elton John? Do you check the mail each morning and think to yourself, ‘one day, my baby boy Locklyn will arrive in the post?’”
“Why, how did you – of course, yes!”
“THEN YOU MUST NOT SPEND ALL YOUR MONEY ON CLOTHES.”
His wrath shot through my spine like a lightning bolt and made every curly hair on my body stand straight up. He was right, if I wanted to save money I had to stop spending all of it in on my wardrobe. I stole a glance from behind my shoulder and saw the bus driver smiling back at me. He reached out his hand and waved it as if to say, “Come with me, I have cushioned seats, an emergency sun roof, and I will take you home.”
I was at a crossroads and didn’t like it one bit. I felt as if a ten-dollar pair of suspenders had suddenly become the difference between a life filled with happiness and love, or one spent alone with a bottle of red wine and a really great outfit. Sadness overcame me and I turned back around to see my reflection bearing the exact opposite expression as me.
“It is time Fox,” he said, “Go now and you will be one step closer to reaching your dream.”
My shoulders were resigned and my neck was defeated. I dropped my head to the ground and joined the line of people waiting to get on the bus. When it was finally my turn, I lifted my right foot up in the air and it then occurred to me that: in the event my dream did actually come true, I had absolutely nothing to wear! What on earth was I supposed to put on when I took Sir Elton John to the dog park? And what’s the point of having a child if you cannot dress them up well enough to make the other kids jealous? I planted my foot back firmly on the sidewalk and looked at the bus driver once again, except this time with my fire in my eyes.
“I am not going anywhere,” I told him. “This is my stop.”
With a gush of air the doors folded closed, the breaks released and before I knew it the number seventeen was nothing more than a small orange light flashing in the distance.
I raced back towards the front door and watched my reflection’s face as it turned from surprise to anger to fear.
“I don’t know a lot in this life,” I raised my finger at him. “But I do know one thing, and that is that – thrifty is one word - I will never know.”
“Fox,” he pleaded, his speech speeding up, “take a deep breath lets talk about this youdon’tknowwhatyou’redoingpleaseFoxNOOOOOOOooooo.”
It was too late. All reason was gone. With a fatal swoop of my hand, I hit the wheelchair button and waved goodbye as the two automatic doors exploded open in front of me. On a war path, inside I stormed through a herd of Chinese girls carrying Louis Vuitton bags in one hand and their father’s black Amex cards in the other, and skipped up the escalator to the men’s section. Within seconds I found the exact pair of dog-walking suspenders I was looking for plus a pair of faded denim jeans to match.
Later that evening, I took a cab to Gastown to show off my new outfit and ease the discomfort of buyer’s remorse with a bottle of Argentinean malbec. I drank the last sip of wine, and for the first time that day I admitted to myself I might actually have a problem, my glass was empty.