Thursday, December 11, 2014

When $100 is magical

Once upon a time, I accompanied my mom to the grocery store. She grumbled something about only having 10 dollars, and then quickly went into the store while I waited in the car. Though confused by my mom's tone of voice—she made it sound like 10 dollars was a useless lump of change—I imagined all the wonderful things I would buy with that kind of fortune. Why, I could get 20 candy bars for that much money! I could get 10 things off the dollar menu at Wendy's! I could buy a beautiful bag of marbles, a book, maybe even a Barbie.

Ten dollars was all it took to open up a whole new world of opportunities.

It wasn't long before people started tossing bills at me in exchange for watching their kids for a few hours. Payment for my services soon turned into checks that went straight to the bank.

In no time at all, money went from being a treasure to a commodity. I needed much more than 10 dollars now to imagine a life of riches. One hundred dollars would do it.

As a poor college student who now understood the feeling of helplessness caused by having only 10 dollars for groceries, an extra 100 dollars had enough power behind it to change my entire month. I could buy enough food to last for weeks, fill my car with gas several times, or even splurge on fast food just once without feeling guilty. It would be 100 less dollars I would have to save for tuition, or would pay for a nice chunk of books for one semester.

This time, though, the money wasn't a medium to get frivolous things. I stood in awe of it because every little bit made a noticeable difference in my quality of life.

Well, I graduated from college, and soon even the magic of 100 dollars disappeared. Now that I had established some stability with plenty of wiggle room, my dreams suddenly got a lot more expensive.

So the last four years when I've gotten my Christmas bonus (always $100 or less), I've stopped for a minute to think about the responsible things I could do with this extra money. Buy Christmas presents for other people. Put it in savings. Make an extra student loan payment.

But none of those options ever sound appealing. One hundred dollars isn't going to make much of a difference, no matter which good cause I try to dedicate it to. (Not to mention the bonus always comes in cash, which means a 20-minute trip to the nearest UCCU branch if I want to be boring and responsible.)

But there is one thing that has high potential for personal satisfaction: guilt-free indulgence. It's how I started my Harry Potter wand collection. It's paid for a couple extra movie tickets and delicious restaurant meals.

And this year, it allowed me to live one of my fantasies: a bookstore shopping spree.

This $100 was magical.

It started out like this:

Usually I'm more impressed by $100 bills, but this was the most
enthusiasm I could muster on a Tuesday right after work.
And turned into this:

This was before the BYU-Utah game happened.

I love Christmas.

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