What happens when you give a mouse a cookie?
If you’ve read the children’s book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, you know the answer. “The mouse will ask for a glass of milk.”
Of course, what happens when you give him that glass of milk? “He will ask you for a straw.”
What happens when you give him that straw? “He will ask for a napkin.”
As the book continues, so do the mouse’s apparent needs.
There is a domino effect---where one met desire creates another desire. Fun story, right? But what if I told you that the domino effect is not limited to fictional mice. People experience it all the time, especially when it comes to finances, but the result is not a cute mouse with a full stomach. The result is often rapid financial distress.
Here’s how it works in the real world—You decide to buy a new rug. The rug is perfect, but it makes the curtains look old. So, you buy new curtains. But once the new curtains are hung, you suddenly feel like you need new furniture. So, you buy new furniture. For some, this domino effect can go on and on. A significant amount of money (or debt) is suddenly spent without much thought.
According to a TransUnion study, those who apply for a new mortgage are two to three times more likely to get a new credit card or car loan, frequently during the first month after the loan application. One met desire, creates another desire.
So how can we avoid this domino effect? Here are three suggestions:
1. Have a budget. The Bible makes it clear that planning is wise. I know some people will run at the mention of the word, “budget.” Don’t run from it. Budgets are a tool to help you obtain and hold on to financial health. People do not suddenly wake up financially healthy. However, people can suddenly wake up in a financial mess. Get a plan and let it stop you from experiencing the domino effect.
2. Set purchase timelines. I have friends that refuse to make an immediate purchase. After finding an item they desire to buy, they make themselves wait a day or two before making the purchase. This prevents unwise purchases and reduces buyer’s remorse. If you have made a major purchase, make yourself wait a certain time period before another purchase takes place. By then, you will often find yourself with a reduced desire to buy that product.
3. Focus on your generosity. Generosity is an antidote for materialism. When you find yourself desiring to make a bunch of purchases, consider your past and future giving. When you are living with your hands wide open, you will find yourself desiring, not to make the next purchase, but to help the next person.
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is a fun children’s story, but the real-world purchase domino effect is anything but fun. Enjoy the book, but avoid the pattern. Don’t suddenly find yourself in financial distress because of an unchecked spending spree.