Secret Stack of Cash

I still have a clear picture of my grandmother saving her change from the market in a bronze canister she had in the kitchen, especially for her secret stack of cash. She could put in a $5 plus change and occasionally a $20, I’m not sure. What I know is, that canister was the closest thing she knew to an ATM. This is the place she would go to make ends meet, to treat me with the equivalent to baseball cards, only back then they were paper thin and you would glue them to the corresponding catalog. My favorite was a cartoon catalog with the theme “Love is…” and a cute couple would be drawn on the card doing something trivial with a tag line showing how love related to that. For example, love is holding hand, singing under the rain, watching the flowers grow, etc. Other times she would take me to the local bakery and we would both indulge in a pastry filled with cream and dusted with sugar, called “the Bomb”, wonder why. It was heavenly.

My grandmother was a big Italian woman, housewife, never had a Ladies Night Out in her life, nor worked for a dime outside the home. Her biggest splurge was a haircut and blow dry. She owned her body shape and I never heard her complaining about it, or God forbid, dieting! I would go to her house every day after school, as my mother worked, and she would welcome me with at least 2 different options for lunch, just in case I didn’t like one or the other. She wasn’t spoiling me, just making sure I’d eat. She never finished high school and migrated to Venezuela in her early 20s after WWII. Academically uneducated and raised to be a wife and a mother, she left behind all she knew to start a fresh with the man she loved and committed her life to. However, she taught me a lesson in my early years that is still current in today’s modern society and that I have always practiced. We women must have our secret stack of cash. But doesn’t a credit card serve that purpose in today’s world? No!! First, you need a place where you can pull money from and there is no record of it whatsoever. Second, when you put effort to save the money there is an added pleasure on how you spend, plus the secrecy of it touches excitment. Last, but not least, always have plan B, worst case scenario. I don’t like to think of it as in case of emergency, but rather, I have a solution.

Exactly, what is this money for? You name it, an unexpected police ticket. Are you kidding me? When is a police ticket ever expected! A pair of shoes that screams your name with a tag prize that should include free massage, a trip that your kids want to make and you need extra cash for their growing experience, a trip for yourself, or a treat within that budgeted trip, a surprise for a loved one, a gift, a visit to a tarot reader, a dining experience, to help a friend or family in need that you don’t necessarily want or need your partner to approve of or know about, a challenging month that you just need to make ends meet, a spa treatment and my all-time favorite: a class that you want to take to invest on yourself, but otherwise you feel it is not really justifiable. The secret stack of money is for an expense that is not on your budget, that is between you and the receiver and that will make you feel better and put a smile on your face before you go to bed. It’s a solution. That’s why I refuse to think of it as money I would use for emergency. However, ask yourself what would you do if you found yourself in an unbearable living situation, with a partner that abuses you and you just can’t get away from. The secret stack of cash takes a whole new level then. If you ever watched Big Little Lies, Nicole Kidman, who played the domestically abused rich wife, found herself equiping and apartment behind her husband’s back, just so she would have a place to go when the imminent event of leaving him would actually happen. Her therapist advice, by the way.

Honestly, when I was booming with my business I had a secret stack of cash that I discovered once we moved within Singapore. Such a joy to find extra money in a secret box in your bedroom drawer. Then when we moved to the United States I voluntarily donated it to our household, since we were buying a new home and we were breaking all piggy banks to make it happen. Today, the secret is out and like my grandmother’s back then, my stack is probably enough for a family treat in our favorite hamburger place. However, I still have one and I always contribute to it. Shed some additional light on how have you or would you use your secret stack of cash.