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Are You Proactive or Reactive?


Earlier this week, Jayden came to me with a look that said, Please don’t hurt me.

“Mom? I think my shoes are too small again,” he mumbled.

“What?!? Surely not! I just bought them!”

“Well, I have to scrunch my toes up to walk, and it hurts.”

Please note that my child is famous for waiting forever to bring up important things. Like the time he mentioned a “red mark” on his arm over the phone while I was at work, and it ended up being a serious allergic reaction that left his entire body covered in 3-inch welts. So when he says something is wrong, I tend to believe him.

I had him put on the shoes, felt them, and nearly died when I felt his toes “scrunched up” at the ends. I bought these shoes in December. Less than 4 months ago. And while I realize that he’s 13 years old and growing like crazy, I was not prepared for the fact that he would need new shoes every five minutes to make it through puberty.

Due to what I like to call “Fred Flintstone syndrome,” the only shoes that fit Jayden properly are New Balance. In case you’ve never had the pleasure of finding out, those things don’t come cheap. Especially when he may outgrow them before I place the order.

This is a test of the emergency budget system.

In the past, a situation like this would have been easy to deal with – I would have pulled out a credit card, ordered a pair of shoes (okay, probably two or three), and paid extra for overnight shipping. So what if it cost me $100 or more upfront, then twice that in interest? We’re talking about my child’s comfort here! Or, even worse, I might have asked my parents to “loan” me the money to order new shoes for him – money I would never repay, because what parents take money from their kid who can’t afford a pair of shoes?

These days, random problems like this aren’t quite as simple. Not because I have less money – in fact, I actually have more at my disposal now that I don’t have credit card debt. No, what made the shoe situation complicated is deciding where the money would come from. Do I use my debit card? Do I pull money from the emergency fund? Should I use my Paypal balance? Having choices can be overwhelming when the only choice you’re used to is Visa or Mastercard.

Just when I started getting that icky feeling of uncertainty, I remembered my cash fund for replacing Jayden’s clothing – a fund for those moments when he rips the knees out of his jeans or grows 5 inches overnight. I haven’t used any of that money in awhile, so I forgot I had it. How much is in there? More than enough for a pair of shoes, as it turned out. Problem solved!

Are you proactive or reactive?

Jayden went to school with non-scrunched toes this morning, all thanks to the fact that I hide money from myself. Some people may laugh at the thought, but it works for me. Regardless of the methods I use, this has made a huge difference in the way I look at financial matters, from everyday things like shoes to my long-term goals.

In my former life, I was reactive – I waited until something important came up, then tried to figure out what to do about it. Many times, that resulted in irresponsible decisions. Now I take a more proactive stance by realizing that shoes don’t last forever, appliances stop working, and cars get flat tires. Saving for them NOW is much better than freaking out about them later.

What about you? Are you proactive or reactive when it comes to financial matters? How do you handle the unexpected in your life?

About Andrea Whitmer

Andrea is a freelance web developer and mom trying to maintain a sense of humor in an otherwise chaotic world. She blogs in hopes of helping others avoid the same mistakes she made in the past. Join in the discussion here on So Over This, or connect on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or Google Plus. You can also subscribe to new posts via RSS so you never miss out!


  1. I guess you could say I'm a mix. I try to save for things like that, but I balk at using my emergency fund for unexpected expenses so I usually take awhile to figure out where the money for them will come from.

    • Same here – I know the emergency fund is for emergencies, but I HATE spending it. Sounds like we need Emergency Fundception – an emergency fund for our emergency funds. 🙂

  2. I usually try to be proactive. Being so broke during university, and then on such a low salary once I started working meant that if I wanted anything EVER, I needed to plan for it. I always tried to have money in the bank for those things that just come up, because I never wanted to have to say no to something because I didn't have the money, but I also have something of a healthy fear of credit card balances. Haha!

    Anyway, good for you! I'm so impressed that you've figured out a system that works for you! And also, don't sweat having to buy expensive-ish shoes for Jayden. Crappy shoes can cause some serious health problems down the road anyway. If it were me, I'd cheap out on just about anything else before I cheaped out on shoes for my kid. (Though I have been known to buy crappy shoes for myself…sometimes the flats at Walmart are just too cute!)

    • When he was little I could just grab some Walmart sneakers and be done with it. I miss those days! Then again, I usually bought expensive shoes too because I wanted him to look cute. :/

      I'm sure some people think I'm nuts for keeping money in a million different accounts/places, but it works really well for me. It's kind of like finding money in an old coat or something. If I don't do that, I always find a reason to spend it!

  3. All expenses come from the general fund. The hidden money is not to be touched. **said in deep booming god-like voice from above**

    I'm pretty mucha reactive, but I'm trying to change that. Right now the question is "where does the oil change money come from for my car?" I drive so little that I don't have to change it that often, but at least I have a coupon.

    • You know, that's one thing I always forget about, too! I use synthetic oil, so it's more expensive (about $60), but the good part is that I can go about 10k miles between oil changes. Not that I actually do that or anything. *whistles innocently*

  4. Alice @ Dont Debt says:

    I have to admit that I'm still reactive. I try to be proactive, but there are just so many things that come up that I haven't planned for. It's getting better, though.

    • I think it's always a work in progress. There are still things I forget about every now and then, but I'm just glad to be thinking about SOME things that I forgive myself when it comes to the rest.

  5. I have a few savings accounts for different things – long-term, short-term, emergency. But I also keep a secret cash savings in my safe. Every week or so I'll put $20 in it and not think about it until I need it. In December, I used what was in the safe for Christmas presents so there was no freaking out about staying on budget. It is a nice stash of cash that I don't think about often and there is usually enough in the fund to cover a small car emergency.

    • This past Christmas was the first time I had money saved in advance. I could not BELIEVE how much it lowered my stress to know that Christmas was covered!

  6. Wow this was a really convicting post. I think that far too often I'm reactive with my money, always believing that no matter what comes along I will be able to scrape together the funds and make it through. I also somehow believe that my stuff will last forever, like I have some kind of super immortal powers. However, as I recently discovered when my computer suddenly needed to be replaced, such is not the case. Luckily I had already started saving in my ImpulseSave account and was able to buy it no problem. It was a great to know that I can finally be an proactive saver, too!

    • ImpulseSave has been great for helping me do the same – it's amazing what a difference it makes! I'm really trying to be better about saving in advance, though there are so many things that can go wrong, sometimes it's overwhelming!

  7. I think I am a mixture of both, probably a bit heavier on the reactive side right now. Although I am trying to work on that. I really think it's important to save for unexpected stuff like car repairs and home maintainence, I just have a hard time doing that when I look at my debt and want to pay that first.

    • That DOES make it tough, when you want to get your debt paid off as soon as possible. I opted to do both at the same time, because I was afraid an emergency would come up while I was paying off credit cards and I'd have to use one again!

  8. I hide money from myself too! I think you are doing a great job getting on track and staying there!

    You may have heard of this – maybe not – but I love my online savings account. I don't get kickbacks from them (though when I tweeted and asked for a tee shirt, they did send me one for free!) other than $10 that they give everyone who has a friend open an account – but it might be something you might like.


  9. I think I'm more of a proactive person. I use auto save every month and consider that a bill. That way I am paying myself. I have enough put away to call it a healthy reserve. I am ultra stingy on things I dont want to spend money on, but also have no problem spending on things that make me happy.

    • Sounds like you have a good system going! That's what I started doing last year – I had to suspend it when I went to full-time freelancing, just because my income is so erratic, but I'm hoping to start again soon.

  10. I try to plan for everything. I hate when unexpected things come up and I don't feel in control.

  11. I'm mostly proactive. Occasionally, I have to be reactive – if I expected everything, I would be psychic, right? That's when I use my savings. I have three general piles of money: expenses, savings (retirement, college, taxes, etc), and zombie fund. I try to never touch the zombie fund.

    OK, slightly off topic, but really on point: I hope you can see my email address. I live around the corner from the New Balance factory and it's factory store. My kid has franken-feet and he wears NB shoes for that, but also because they are totally the cheapest shoes I can buy him. They even have a bargain bin where shoes are only $10 a pair. When you're ready for the next pair, I'd be happy to walk over and get you the next size up in shoes for Jayden, provided their price is good for you*. I have a smartphone, so I'm pretty sure we could pull off long distance retail with a little coordination. I'll pay for mailing them to you as a way of paying for reading your blog every day. If you're interested, send me an email.

    *I'm willing to concede that you could score some awesome web clearance that might be a better price.

  12. I've been trying to plan for things (like my dentist visits) and it is working out for me so far. Right now I feel like I am way underprepared for anything but that could be just the bad day speaking.

  13. I am a bit of both. Likely more proactive, but sometimes with kids and life in general you get thrown a loop and have to react. When my oldest was in grade 10 he went up 3.5 shoe sizes from Sept until June! And why is it that boys only tell you "Mom my shoes pinch my toes" when thier toes are all red and rubbed raw or well on the way to old lady bunions forming?!?

    Big fan of your blog by the way!

    • I'm glad I'm not the only one dealing with this! Please tell me it slows down at some point. (Probably right about the time they're adults and ready to move out.) Thanks for reading! 🙂

  14. I am proactive. But lately I have been very reactive. I am feeking our over expensies that won't be coming for another 3 months but I still seam to be hitting the ractive buttom… sigh..

    • I don't know, it sounds pretty proactive to be thinking ahead to 3 months from now! It's really hard not to freak out…totally feel your pain on that one.

  15. Awesome, awesome post.

    We have an account where I put money for all things car and motorbike related, as well as bills, insurance etc – but for things like clothes, we just fit those into the budget somehow.

    • I usually just buy clothing here and there – I've never really set a budget category for it. But with Jayden, I have to be prepared. Nothing like realizing he's on his last pair of jeans without holes when it's 30º outside! (That actually happened, and that's why I started sticking random cash in my closet.)

  16. Melissa@LittleHouseI says:

    Yeah for money that is already set aside! I have an 8 year old who is growing a lot. I hate to think about what it will be like when he is 13.

    • I'm telling you, between outgrowing clothes/shoes and eating 8-9 times a day, I'm ready to sell him on ebay! Boys are SO different from girls in that way.

  17. DrUpsidesown says:

    Sierra Trading Post tends to have good prices on NB and has a good range of sizes. Doesn't work in a toe scrunching emergency, but might help

    • Thanks for the tip! I'll have to look up Sierra Trading Post – never heard of it until now. If they have wide width, they may be my new BFFs.

  18. Kristina says:

    This is a great post. I try to be proactive but unfortunately we can't prevent everything and we can never be totally prepared for anything. I guess in a way we are all a little bit of both.

    • That's a good point – I like feeling prepared, but there will always be situations I couldn't imagine or things I don't have enough money to cover. Still, I try to get a head start since Murphy's Law seems to be written for my family in particular.

  19. I'm a fairly even mix of both. But I find that the older I get, the more proactive I become. These days, I have to be!

  20. shannon says:

    LOL!! I can relate to this post on so many different levels, I hide money from myself, too – it really works!! All my spare change and spare dollar bills I find in pockets, bottom of my purse, etc, goes into a basket. Since it's such a pain to take it to the bank or Coinstar, it's usually about $50 – $100 by the time I use it. Comes in handy for those 'kids need shoes' moments, which I can also relate to, having a 16-year-old boy and a 4-year-old boy.

    The New Balance thing cracked me up too. My little son's dad will buy him a new pair of New Balance shoes every time he comes to visit, and I laughed at it at first. Like, why spend that kind of money on shoes for a pre-schooler, but it's his money so whatev. But they are really great shoes, and this child is hard on shoes.

    Anyhoo, I hope your April is better than your March was. And congrats on the UK win!!

  21. Proactive here. I always try to and hope that I can handle unexpected problems with whatever balance is left in my checking accounts(I don't have auto deductions). If not, depending on the situation, it's a toss up between my savings or my EF.

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