Lost and Found: Unexpected Revelations About Food and Money {BlogHer Book Club)

Geneen Roth is known for her books about food; mainly about how to stop compulsive eating. She holds workshops and retreats about eating habits and food, but turns her attention to money after she loses her life savings in the Bernie Madoff scandal. She discovers that her behaviors behind the way she handles money are similar to how she used to behave with food. This is quite a revelation for her.

She writes, “Do we really have to keep repeating the same patterns over and over?
Is money so impossible to understand?” (p.168)

In this book, Roth explores her relationship with money. She determines that the way her mother and father treated money as she was growing up has much to with the way she treats money. Money is a mysterious thing to her; it is as if she acknowledges that she has plenty of money that she is not the wholesome and spiritual person she wants to be. So she ignores money. She shoves it into the account that Madoff has control over, and then loses it all.

To be honest, as I was reading this book I felt like Roth comes from a very different place than I do. She writes about her grandfather “who had his silk underwear embroidered with his initials at Sulka, despite the fact that they were barely scraping by.” (p. 35) This is a far cry from my own modest upbringing. I don’t even know what Sulka is, but I assume it was an upscale store.

Some of Roth’s revelations about money are valuable lessons, and we can all learn to be more aware of where our money goes and how to pay attention to our spending habits.

signatureJoin the Lost and Found Discussion at BlogHer Book Club! Disclosure: I was compensated for this BlogHer Book Club review but all opinions expressed are my own.

The Way We Shop

I have the Hunger Games trilogy in my Nook. I really want to read it. But instead, I am reading a book that I signed up to review for BlogHer. I’m eating my lima beans before I can bite into that juicy steak on my plate.

In this book, for which I will write a review in April, the author is bitten by the shopping bug. She is in New York City, and is shopping on Sixth Street. There is one problem; she and her husband have just lost their life savings in the Bernie Madoff scandal. She really shouldn’t be shopping, but the allure of the shops is unstoppable. She goes into an eyeglass store and finds an irresistible (to her) pair of frames–with lenses, this pair of glasses will cost her about one thousand dollars. She does walk out of the store, but obsesses about buying the glasses during her whole stay in New York, visiting the store two or three more times.

If that were me in the store, I would have been able to walk out without obsessing. I have never been able to spend that kind of money. I probably never will be able to buy a pair of glasses that expensive. However, the author of this book was raised in a house of privilege. In the past, she did spend that kind of money…in fact, it was soon revealed that she bought glasses at this same store in New York the year before, probably at about the same price. Obviously, she doesn’t shop at Glasses “R” Us like I do.

As I read this chapter, I couldn’t relate to the author at all. I wondered; do we spend money according to how we were raised, or according to our current financial situation? If, as a child, your family has a small income, do you continue to live as though you have a small income as an adult–when in reality you can afford to spend money? What about vice versa?

Shopping habits seem to go as far back as childhood. My grandma was a teen during the Depression; she lived frugally and hated to throw anything away. Everything had some use. When I was a little girl, we didn’t have much money either. My sister complained that she never got a new pair of shoes; she always wore my old shoes. My mom would take us to farm auctions to find furniture; she would drag us from garage sale to garage sale to find bargains. Sometimes I could hear my parents whispering and worrying about money.

When I was 22 and out on my own in the real world, my paycheck as a first year teacher was meager. We were paid on the 20th of the month, and so I had to budget my money carefully; making sure I had enough for rent, car payments and utilities. I was on my own financially. And I learned quickly how to be good with money; how to make my payments on time, how to not use credit unless I actually had the money.

Ed grew up in a similar way; we see eye to eye in money matters. We want to teach our daughters the value of money and help them have good spending habits. While I used to hate going to garage sales, I have recently discovered the value of garage sale-ing. A couple of years ago I looked for a bike for Lily, and found one in good condition. Lily test rode it, and loved it on the spot. Not only was it inexpensive, but it was fun to talk with the mom whose daughter loved that pink bike.

We certainly could have afforded to buy a bike for Lily. But we knew that she would outgrow a small bike quickly; every summer her legs get longer and longer. Rather than spend the money on a new bike, we were trying to be wise consumers. Plus, Ed always teases me that his middle name is “Green.” Finding a bike at a garage sale is the definition of reusing a product.

And so I think that the way we shop is a little bit of both; we were raised to be frugal out of necessity, and now we choose to be frugal because we wish to be smart spenders.

How do you shop?