When Good People Make Bad Decisions

For millennia, good people have been making bad decisions: Eve did it when she took a bite of the apple; Juliet did it when she married Romeo; Amelia Erhart did it on her final flight. It happens.

A week ago, I learned that Rugged Bear, a local children’s retailer, was going out of business. Ironically, my husband was the one who informed me of their upcoming liquidation sale.

We don’t buy our kids brand-name clothes very often. So far, we have been blessed with abundant, high-quality hand-me-downs and nearby consignment shops. Our kids’ clothing needs wont for nothing. They have a surplus in most categories and half the time, outgrow items before they even show wear.

So it was that I wandered into Rugged Bear on an unsuspecting Sunday, two days after their liquidation sale began and four days after my husband informed me that he’d been rewarded an unexpected bonus.

Shrewd decision making and rational choices have never been attributes I have pinned to myself. An hour later, I left the store with a bag full of final-sale items and a receipt full of superfluous things.

Granted, not all items purchased were frivolous, I did manage to make some good choices. But, when I was in the thick of the shopping frenzy, in the midst of a wealthy suburb, I admit that I was suckered in to selecting some things that I might otherwise not have. I got lured in by the  commentary of fellow shoppers. Here are the sorts of things I heard: “Where am I going to buy boys formal wear now that Rugged Bear’s going out of business?” “Ooo, look at this winter gear, it’s 80% off!” “I was just in here yesterday and already half the stuff”s gone.” DH is convinced these were all seeds, planted by the liquidator on behalf of Rugged Bear.

I got home and my hard-working husband was none too pleased that act one—prior to actually receiving the bonus check—involved buying deeply discounted children’s items from a store that heavily inflated the cost of their goods to begin with. In his words, getting 80% off of something that was 150% more than I might spend otherwise was not really a deal.

But that’s not quite how our discussion went. Just as I am not blessed with making sound decisions, DH is not blessed with having a laid-back disposition. Oh no, on the contrary, much like the impending outcome at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, DH had a meltdown.

It was perhaps one of our first major disagreements in ten years but it was of epic proportions. Of course it didn’t help that his fast-paced job had recently kicked into over-drive, nor that he was about to start a work week that might see him logging as many as 100 hours. But, it also didn’t help that I didn’t touch in with him first. Something we’ve grown accustomed to doing whenever it comes to making major purchases.

I think marriage may be one of the biggest decisions a person can make in life because with it often comes a series of other mind-boggling, life-altering, major decisions like having kids, giving up a career, combining finances, managing a household, working through issues and making mature, rational decisions on a daily basis.

First, you have to learn how to combine your lifestyles and then (if you’ve chosen the parent path) you have to figure out how to jointly raise your kids. Things you thought you saw eye-to-eye on before become points of departure. Freedoms you once enjoyed become luxuries you seldom participate in. The I becomes the we. Mine, ours.

For me, the greatest challenge has probably been giving up my job. And I’m surprised to admit it. I have never climbed the corporate ladder, never been on a major career track, I just landed good jobs and had decent success doing them. For the non-profit world, I earned a respectable salary and felt good about my place in the world. Yet I also longed, someday, to have the choice to stay home with kids. To have the luxury to be able to put my working life on hold and revel in being there when  I thought my kids would need me most.

What I didn’t anticipate was that the loss of financial freedom would be my cross to bear.

The feeling that any and all financial decisions need to be joint decisions; the idea that whimsical spending impacts far more than just my bottom-line; the concept that I am accountable to others and not just myself. These are hard for me and sometimes seem grossly unfair. I hate that I can’t treat DH to something because he’s the main one providing our household income. I don’t like seeking approval or permission to do things. It feels somehow suffocating. Somewhat belittling.

So a week has passed and the incident should be water under the bridge. DH and I have addressed it, talked about it, apologized for it and moved on except that I haven’t exactly moved on. Somehow this impasse, this lapse in judgment, this occasion of erroneous spending has been like Pandora’s Box. The lid has been lifted, the evils escaped. Perhaps my one remaining comfort is that Hope remains, right?

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. christine
    Mar 15, 2011 @ 11:58:15

    love the post Ky. It is that more complicated when the FEMALE spouse makes more than the male, although his job provides INCREDIBLE benefits to the family in the way of minimal health care costs and stock options. Combined finances is a no brainer to me, if you are committing to marriage, but a slippery slope nonetheless.


    • growingmuses
      Mar 16, 2011 @ 15:40:46

      I think if you’re of the mind to take his last name, you have to be willing to go for the whole, traditional shabang. Keep your name, OK, maybe keep separate bank accounts too and only combine what your modern-era mind-set thinks necessary. But, me? call me old-fashioned, I’m a traditionalist. It may take my whole marriage career to get this one down but I’m working on it.

      Thanks for your insightful look into the juxtaposition of modern marriage, where the woman might indeed be the main bread winner…wonder if there are men out there willing to take their wive’s names instead ;o)


  2. Caitlin
    Mar 15, 2011 @ 12:01:30

    Is it inappropriate that the first thing I thought when reading this is “Rugged Bear is going out of business!?!”

    One thing that stood out in this post is that you consider this one of the big blowouts in 10 years.
    Of course they always say that money is the biggest cause of marital strife. I imagine it must be even more the case when one person is earning the majority of the income. A classic and epic problem, one which I hope will generate discussion.


    • growingmuses
      Mar 16, 2011 @ 15:27:16

      No, it’s not at all inappropriate…initially had started out the post that way too, it’s devastating, I know. Probably why DH’s disapproval of my “thrifty,” last-chance purchases was also such a blow. Luckily, not only is writing therapeutic for me, it’s also helpful in airing out the issue to gain both insightful feedback from readers AND from husbands. Money will continue to be an issue in our marriage, I think until I start earning a more significant portion to contribute. Right now, DH earns (most of) it and I manage to spend (most of) it.


  3. Nikki
    Mar 15, 2011 @ 16:40:34

    I can empathize with you. We were suckered in by a big sign that said “Going out of business” and came out with purchases – good ones, necessary ones, but my DH said the same thing that your DH did – “these were marked up and are now regular prices!”

    Hope doesn’t just remain – LOVE does….right? 🙂


    • growingmuses
      Mar 16, 2011 @ 15:36:30

      Well, it depends on whether you’re referring to Pandora’s Box or 1: Corinthians. In our case love definitely remains, hope is in question. I have heard so many similar examples of people walking out spending more than they imagined going in and now I’m wondering about sticker mark-up. Is it possible that a company entering bankruptcy would squeeze more out of unsuspecting customers who come in looking for liquidation bargains? I say yes! Thanks for your comments Nikki. And thanks for reading


  4. slightlywonky
    Mar 15, 2011 @ 17:13:19

    Hang in there! I’m sure that the majority of people out there can completely imagine a similar scenario in their own household. Yes, money is one of those top stressors in a marriage. What two people have identical thoughts about it? Everyone is not going to agree on whether it’s best to spend money on a nice camera, or clothes for the kids, or whatever. This Pandora’s Box may be about just money…or perhaps it’s about communication too. Yet another of the challenges of marriage!


  5. Karyn @ kloppenmum
    Mar 15, 2011 @ 18:59:47

    Compromise isn’t easy. Over-spending is easy. Work stress is no fun. Having no money you’ve earned yourself, is no fun. Marriage is a work in progress. I think most of us have been there and done that. 🙂


  6. evafannon
    Mar 23, 2011 @ 13:25:59

    I felt your pain as I was reading this Kyla. (BTW – LOVED the 11th paragraph – that really spoke to me!)

    I will say that even if both parents are working, it doesn’t change the fact that “all financial decisions need to be joint decisions” (in our household anyway). And even though I haven’t given up my job, I can still sometimes feel frustrated by having to consult with DH about purchasing decisions.

    Since you and DH have already talked it through, I would chalk it up as a learning experience…I’ll bet you will think twice before shopping at a liquidation sale again 😉 And keep in mind what you wrote… “The I becomes the we. Mine, ours.” Although you don’t bring home a paycheck, you make his paycheck (“I/mine”) possible by staying home to raise the kids (“we/ours”).


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