On Sunday Husband and I had planned to take 6 year old J on a three hour road trip to see my lovely and talented friends in a play. It was a Christmas show and, I thought, the perfect opportunity to introduce him to the magic of live theatre.
Well, as life often does, a wrench was thrown into our plans when Husband became ill with the flu in the night on Saturday. He was not up for the trip come Sunday morning. So I went from a leisurely day riding shotgun to having to drive a truck to (and around in) the city. Particularly parking downtown! ACK! Picture the Clampetts approaching Beverly Hills, if you will :)
I also had to do the chores and fuel the truck before we could go, and drop off O at gramma's for his playdate. My morning was quickly getting behind schedule but soon enough we were on our way. Adventure awaits! We had planned a lovely lunch out (somewhere with nuggets and fries, J promised me lol) and a walk through Toys R Us to find a Christmas gift from J to O.
We were over an hour away from home when I realized I had forgotten my purse. Thankfully, I had shoved a $50 bill into my pocket that morning so I could pay my friend for the tickets as she had bought them for us. Very, very quickly, my mindset went from a fun day together with my boy to "Oh my goodness, what if something goes wrong I don't even have my ID or credit cards!"
I quickly realized how fortunate I was to have any money at all on my person. Yes, I had a cell phone and could call my friend and meet her before the show to borrow money (I actually did, afterwards). But I had the opportunity to finish that drive, spend the afternoon in the city, and drive home, all with the sense of being vulnerable should anything go wrong. I didn't have a mastercard in my hand to wave around and fix whatever came my way. Without a purse it might be hard to get anyone to help us if we needed it. In fact, people might not believe my story at all. Without ID I might be accused of stealing the truck, kidnapping the child, God knows! (Yes, that is how my brain can amplify a simple problem in to a calamity! LOL)
Believe me, I know that many people would be grateful to have a $50 bill in their pocket right now. In no way am I trying to be ignorant. It was a wake up call to me, though, to return to the feeling of not having any money that I remember from when I was young out on my own. And even when I was young and broke, I had a huge safety net in that my parents had money and food if I ever needed it. So many people have no safety net at all.
Normally we travel with snacks and drinks. J even suggested he pack his lunch kit and I agreed. But the hectic morning got the better of me and I grabbed my coffee mug and off we went. "If you get hungry I'll buy you a bag of chips," I told him as we raced out the door. Once I realized I had no purse, I explained to J that we wouldn't buy his brother a gift that day. "I was just going to say that," he gamely agreed. He is such a grown up little boy! $50 is more than enough to feed us two meals each but I wanted to have a bit of money in case I needed it and I had planned to stop for some fresh veggies to save me a trip to town later in the week. We stopped at a Smitty's for our lunch and I was quickly dismayed to find that there is very little on the menu for under $14. Yes, I could have ordered toast or a bowl of soup. If I was really in a situation where I only had $50 to get by we would have been purchasing our lunch at a grocery store. Anyways, I had poutine for $7 and J got his nuggets and fries with an apple juice for $6. So we were then down to $37.
During the show's intermission J insisted he needed a drink. Water and juice was $3/bottle as was coffee. There went another $6 (for what it's worth, he got the juice. Yes, that's too much juice for a kid in a day. If you want the truth, he also had a juice at supper. It was a total free-for-all day). So by this point we were down to $31 and still had to pay for our parking spot in a pay lot. I had parked at Toys R Us because I felt more confident parking the truck in the larger lot; although it was completely packed with Christmas shoppers I did manage to park with no problems. After the show I borrowed $20 from my friend just to be sure we would get home okay.
If you make a $10 purchase at Toys R Us your parking is free, so we did look around but there was nothing for under $30 that we could decide on and the budget is $20 max. Needless to say it didn't hurt my feelings to say to heck with shopping, at this point, and just get on the road home. The parking came to $7 and part of me wondered if it wouldn't have been smarter to pick out a $10 item for a future birthday party and at least have that to show for the experience, but in the moment it was more important to me to save that $3. With my purse along I might have bought a $30 gift and considered the free parking a savings on the gift but I didn't have $30 to spare.
Our day out was still great. J got a wonderful backstage tour and he was fascinated, as was I, with all the bells and whistles of a real theatrical production. The show was fantastic. For a 6 year old to watch real actors at work in person was, to me, priceless. There is such a difference between mindlessly watching TV and taking part in the intimate atmosphere of the theatre. I am so very glad we were able to do it.
As for sitting in the discomfort of not having my credit or debit card to back me up for a day, I am glad I had the opportunity to really think about what so many women are facing. Sure, it's men too. But as a woman alone with my child on the road with no ID and very little money, it didn't take much imagining for me to put myself in the boots of a woman who has had to flee abuse with only the shirt on her back and no idea where she is going. Of course I didn't feel her fear or anguish. But I could imagine her vulnerability and it reminded me to reach out, often, to my local women's shelter and donate gift cards and hygiene products to help those that find themselves in need.
I write this from a position of incredible privilege. An afternoon with only $50 ($70, actually)? Pfffffft!! So many people would love to have a vehicle in good working order, a full tank of fuel and $70 to help them get where they are going.
I save our pennies year round so that we can splurge on little excursions like Sunday's. I am so fortunate to be able to pick up and go on a 6 hour round trip on a whim. I am so aware of that. What I wasn't aware of was how secure I feel wherever I go because I have a credit card and access to emergency funds. Spending a day feeling insecure was a good reminder why I do what I do to save money. It was a reminder that others aren't fortunate enough, for whatever reasons, to have that sense of security. So many people live with insecurity and stress all the time. It was a good reminder to do what I can to help those who could use a hand, and an excellent motivator to keep squirreling funds away in case of emergency. Not to mention a reminder to double check that I've got my purse :)