A few weeks ago, on a drizzly Saturday evening, my family and I went to my sister-in-law’s place for a low key dinner get together. My wife’s parents drove down earlier that day and joined us. It was a fairly uneventful evening (one might even say boring) that was spent primarily with my in-laws fawning over our 1.5 year old son as he willingly entertained them.
We departed around 8pm and I drove our son home because my wife and I had taken separate cars (she was out running errands prior). The drive home was only about 5 minutes, but my son was able to nod off within that short amount of time. I was not too far behind him as I was extremely exhausted for some reason.
There were absolutely zero available parking spaces in our complex and, not wanting to tote my sleeping son a lengthy distance in the wet weather, I pulled up alongside a fire zone curb next to our unit. Switching the emergency flashers on to be safe, I hauled my son inside and started the process of putting him to bed. In the meantime, my wife arrived home and, after coming in to check on us, went off to get ready for bed. I then did the same thing since I was inexplicably zombie like and already half asleep. My wife decided to watch some tv to unwind and I went straight to bed. I had a fantastic night sleep!
You already know what happened except I didn’t realize it until halfway through the next day when my wife was getting to attend a birthday party. It smacked me right in the face: “wait, did I…did I move the car last night? Surely I must’ve…right?” But I hadn’t and the vehicle was gone. Towed away in the middle of night as it rightly should have been. (Side note: for those of you that enjoy irony, cars always park in this fire zone area because parking spaces are at a premium. Except, they don’t do it to temporarily unload something. Rather, they selfishly use it as an actual parking spot for hours on end. In fact, several times people have left their vehicles in same exact spot overnight without being towed. Aside from violating the fire zone regulations, it’s also dangerous because cars come flying around the curve and there are almost always near accidents. So, we’ve oftentimes reported this to the complex management. Apparently they decided to increase enforcement at exactly the most opportune time!)
Anyway, how much of a financial setback was this absent minded mistake? It cost $350 to get my car back!! Talk about highway robbery.
Costly Absent Minded Mistakes
We all make bad decisions that lead to financial setbacks. It’s an unavoidable part of life. Sometimes the losses arise after a thoroughly researched decision while other times they result from being careless, impulsive, or lazy (which type of bad financial decision is worse though?). In this situation, the mistake definitely fits the latter category and those can sometimes sting the worst because you usually don’t expect them especially when they are absent minded in nature.
Getting towed isn’t the only unfortunate outcome of a careless mistake that has recently befallen our family. I shared the story of how a fairly expensive grill was destroyed not too long ago. In that write-up, I conveyed how I initially cast blame on and was angry with my wife for the mistake. I went on to later admit that I could have been more proactive in taking steps that would have avoided the costly mistake (and many commenters made it a point to inform me I was just as much at fault!). This time around, I fully shoulder all of the blame for getting towed. About the only thing my wife could have done is consciously connect the dots that she saw the car still sitting there when she came in and that I never went back out. Failing to do that in no way makes her culpable.
What to Do When You are Solely Responsible for an Absent Minded Financial Mistake
I’ll admit, justified or not, I did feel guilty for wasting $350. And, for days, I was kicking myself quite hard. After all, that amount of money is more than the monthly payment we have for that car. Worse yet, it equaled almost exactly the yearly cash back rebate we got from our American Express Costco cards. Yep, a year of cash back completely wasted. That’s hard to swallow.
So, what can be done in such a situation? Here’s what helped me:
- Apologize – While I didn’t purposefully inflict harm or defy my wife’s wishes, I still felt the need to apologize especially since this was a substantial blow to our budget and sets us back a bit as we try to reach our financial goals. She wasn’t mad and she readily admitted she could envision herself making the same exact blunder. Nonetheless, I felt the need to apologize and quickly realized that trying to deflect blame was pointless. Also, I apologized to myself. It sounds silly, but really it’s not. You can’t keep kicking yourself for infrequent absent minded mistakes.
- Learn from it – If it’s possible, learn from the mistake. Now, I certainly won’t be able to fully avoid committing needless, careless mistakes in the future. That’s part of human nature. That said, I certainly am more mindful of where I park now! So, if you can extract some meaningful lesson from the mistake then be sure to not forget it.
- Sacrifice elsewhere - Make a sacrifice on something else to help offset the loss incurred. For example, if you’ve got a hobby that requires cash outflow, perhaps you hold off on any expenses until you recoup the cost of the mistake. Or, let’s say you were planning on going to your favorite musical artist’s upcoming concert. You can get back on track by foregoing it.
- Earn extra income - This may not be so easy to do, but if you get paid for overtime you could pick up an extra shift or two. Or you could use the mistake as the impetus to start up a side hustle/business to supplement your income.
- Move on - Above all, stop dwelling on it or harboring resentment towards yourself. Time helps you to accomplish this objective, but it can be tough at first. Just realize stuff like this happens no matter how careful you might be. Accept it and move on.
Have you made a similar boneheaded mistake that ended up being costly? What was it? How did you rectify the situation? If there was nothing you could do to resolve the matter, how did you deal with your internal feelings of guilt, anger, frustration, etc? Any advice or tips to add?
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