"An economist is an expert who will know tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday didn't happen today." - Laurence J. Peter

Am I A Sucker? Day 9

By , January 9th, 2013 | 12 Comments »

dog gone sucker

I don’t usually give money to people. I’m far too familiar with the many scams that are out there, and I know that my money will go a lot further and help a lot more people by purchasing food for the food bank rather than give it to individuals begging on the street (I have had a habit of putting $5 toward the food bank fund every time I was asked for money in the past — I would like to continue that, but may have to reduce it to $1 with the current minimum wage challenge restrictions). So I wasn’t really expecting to hand $10 to a total stranger today, but that’s exactly what I did.

Since this is my last day visiting my mom before heading off to my second house sitting job this year, and having a ton of work to do, I decided that this probably wasn’t the best time to test if I could be more productive at home or at the library (I’ll do that testing when I have a longer period to visit and can do all three back to back). So I headed to the coffee shop to work knowing I still had money on my card that I could use to get a drink. I did find out the least expensive drink is a small coffee ($1.75), but unfortunately, I don’t drink coffee. So I have to settle for my $2 tea.

I figured with the card and a day full of article writing to do, it was going to be an inexpensive and uneventful day. So much for my predictive powers…

The rain started to drizzle and I was working away from the coffee shop when a young woman and her daughter came in to use the ATM. There had been a few other people that had come in to use it, and although I wasn’t really paying attention, I made out that it wasn’t working at the moment and people couldn’t withdraw money. There was something in the young woman’s voice that made me look up. With the little girl by her side, she was panicked. I sort of made out that they were supposed to see a movie together at the theater, but she didn’t have enough money for the tickets. She desperately asked where the nearest ATM was, and the staff explained that there was one about a 5 min. drive down the road. She looked at her watch, grabbed the little girls hand and started to run out the door.

There was just something about her demeanor and actions that made me conclude that the movie was really important. I’m not sure if there was any special meaning for the movie they were going to see, but my gut told to me that she needed to see the movie and she wasn’t sure how she was going to get the money to do it. Without really thinking about it, I got up from my seat and ran out the door after the two. I managed to catch them after about 100 yards. She turned and you could tell her mind was running 100 miles an hour trying to figure out how to get to the nearest ATM and still make the beginning of the move.

I asked her how much she needed for the movie. She seemed somewhat confused by the question. I asked again. She said the $10 would do so I reached into my pocked, pulled out a $10 bill and gave it to her. I think she was more stunned than anything, then an immense look of relief. She thanked me profusely and asked how she could repay. I simply told her to make sure to pay it forward to somebody else someday.

I really have no idea what the whole story is or whether she really needed the money or not. I just had the feeling she did and acted on it. Was it financially smart thing for me to do well living on a minimum wage budget? Probably not. There certainly may be sometime during this challenge where I wish I had that $10 back. But my gut tells me that it was the correct thing to do under the circumstances. I guess my basic feeling is that I hope that if I am ever in a situation where I was in such a panic, that there would be somebody who would be willing to help me out.

One of my biggest worries with the challenge has been that I would begin to over analyze all the daily financial transactions I make so that the money becomes the overriding theme of each day. Whether I was right or wrong in giving the woman the money from a financial perspective, my hope is that I can keep that spontaneity to listen to my gut and do what seems to be right at the moment rather than always stepping back and over analyzing.

So what’s your opinion? Did I make the right move, or should I have found out more of the story before offering the money? What would have you done in a similar situation? Do you give money to strangers, and if so, under what circumstances?

Today’s Spending

Food: $0.00
Car: $0.00
Housing: $0.00
Travel: $0.00
Misc: $10.00

Total: $10.00

Total Spending

Food: $7.39
Car: $0.00
Housing: $0.00
Travel: $0.00
Misc: $16.15

Total: $23.54

Next article: Day Ten: Do I Really Have To Try To Date?

(Photo courtesy of savanna-smiles)

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  • Alexandria says:

    My general rule of thumb is to never give money to strangers, BUT the exception is I do rely on my gut. I have been moved to give money to people before, and a random act of kindness really has little to do with “true need” at times (I am sure I have given far more in a situation like this, whereas maybe *never* if someone asked me). That said, not sure I would do the same if living on minimum wage, but you aren’t really in that head space. I’d do the same – with my current income I would not blink at doing the same, and it would hard for me not to just because I was “pretending” to live on minimum wage. If you were really and truly living on minimum wage, I think you would just feel and think a little different about it – I know I would.

  • mjrube94 says:

    I agree with what you did. I did something similar with a guy while waiting for the train to work. The train pulled up and he ran to the machine in a panic to buy a ticket but didn’t have time. I offered him one of mine so he could catch the train. He tried to refuse, because he had no cash to reimburse me (he was planning to charge the trip on his credit card). I said the same thing – no problem, just pay it forward. I have to say, the positive feeling I had all day was worth much more than the $8 for the ticket.

  • colleen says:

    As a person on a real minimum wage income, I would not do the same for a movie, now if it was for something more important I would help. I try my best to help people, I also do couponing and make boxes of groceries for my neighbors. What I am getting at is for this challenge feel authentic I think you will have to really live like one of us and keep your compassionate side with out giving away your shirt.

  • Wendy says:

    There is a movement right now called 26 Acts of Kindness. It encourages people to do 26 good deeds in memory of the victims at Sandy Hook. I’m glad you told her to pay it forward. Statistics that I have seen show that poor people give a larger percentage of their income to charity. I also believe you were investing in Karma. Well done.

  • sara l says:

    I always listen to my gut and in this case, I think (and hope) I would have done exactly what you did. As you pointed out, there seemed to be something important about this event for her and you helped her a great deal, I’m sure.

    The author and teacher Jack Kornfield says something like: If you have the impulse to give something (money, time, goods), do it. Don’t talk yourself out of it or second guess yourself.

    I don’t always do that I’m afraid, but I’m trying.

  • Fe2o3ez says:

    You did well. There are some that will say that maybe you shouldnt have helped her because she was going to see a movie, which is a luxury item. However, I wager to say that those people have never looked into the eyes of a child and had to tell them that “No, we cant make the movie today because Daddy/Mommy doesnt have the monet right now.” Children dont know the difference. To them it is the same as saying there will be no bread for dinner. If they have been promised something that they look forward to, they will be disappointed, and no parent enjoys the disappointed look of their child. Congrats on your selfless act!

  • CB in the City says:

    You are doing so well financially on your challenge, I think you had the means to give away $10, which is something you clearly felt compelled to do.

    I give to strangers, too. I like to think that if I were in a pinch, someone would help me, too.

  • Debbie M says:

    Right move. What if you lose the bet by $10 or less? I’m pretty sure this would not be the thing you would regret.

  • mimipaula1 says:

    Jeffrey, I appreciate your willingness to share what you had with the young mother and her child.

  • JD says:

    I don’t as a habit give money to people but I do and probably more often than my husband would like. It never is a lot but if I can spare it then I do.

  • Amish Author Sicily Yoder says:

    I would have given her the money if my gut feeling was to do so. I paid for a lady and her daughter’s food at Chik-Fil-A one time; they were traveling, as it was along the interstate. She insisted on giving me a check back for the food.
    Once, when I was a traveling merchandiser, I handed a man on the roadside my whole packed lunch- cooler and all. Again, I went with my gut instinct.
    Jeff, you are doing an awesome job with the challenge.

  • Gailete says:

    You may have blessed this woman far more than you know especially since you don’t really know her circumstances. I bet she will treasure the memory of a stranger helping her out.


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