A pretty embarrassing occurrence took place this weekend on the way back from my parent’s house. Up until now, we’ve had a relatively easy and laid-back time driving to and from their house. We had been warned by R’s co-workers to be aware of speed traps in some of the smaller towns we pass through, but we had never seen any sign of them.
Honestly, we had barely seen any sign of police activity at all! Most of the roads we take are one-lane rinky dink things with decent speed limits. They’re certainly higher than back home, and we have been enjoying that.
A little too much, I guess.
I’m sure you can all see where this is heading.
Our run-in with the law
Okay, that might be a little dramatic, but here is what happened.
We were minding our own business, going along one of the more major highways, when I spotted a cop car on the opposite side, heading toward us. R immediately slowed down, and tried to get behind the other cars in the right lane. But when he saw the cop’s blinker turn on to come over to our side, our hearts sank.
Slowing down was futile at that point. When I saw blue lights turn on, I sat in the passenger seat, panic-stricken.
We were getting pulled over.
A million thoughts started racing through my mind; I was shaking; I couldn’t breathe; I kind of had a mini anxiety attack.
Let’s backtrack a little
This is how I’ve always reacted to getting pulled over, mostly because in my childhood, I remember my dad getting pulled over several times. (Yes, he’s quite the crazy driver.) Then a fight would ensue between my parents, and it’s obviously not a relaxing experience.
I was pulled over once in my entire driving life (seven years almost), coming home from R’s house, at 3AM one night. Funny thing was, I had seen the damn cop already – but he had someone else pulled over. Somehow he managed to catch up to me (I must not have been going that fast!), and I almost died. Thankfully, he only gave me a warning.
After that, I’ve been really careful about monitoring the speedometer. I police R myself, alerting him when the speed limit changes, because I’m really paranoid.
Having dreams of being in law enforcement one day, I’ve never been comfortable having any sort of confrontation or interaction with officers. I feel so ashamed of my actions and it’s really easy to blow things like a simple ticket out of proportion. Unfortunately, I couldn’t help myself in this instance.
So there we were, one of maybe three other cars on the road, and we were the winners.
The cop approached our car and asked R how fast we were going, to which he responded, “Around 70?” Again, I’m usually really good at looking over to make sure we’re not going that fast, but for some reason I was busy singing along to a song, and R told me he didn’t think we had been going very fast.
“77” was the answer we really didn’t want to hear. “77 in a 55” just made it worse. In our “defense,” the speed limit is normally 60 on that road, but for some reason it alternates between that and 55, and at some points, 45, so you really do need to be on top of things. We were also going down a hill, and I could have sworn there was another car in front of us going faster. But of course, none of that matters.
At this point I was a frantic mess, and the cop asked me if I was okay. I have to say, he was a friendly officer, and we honestly lucked out in that regard. R handed him his license and my registration, and he said he would try and help us out.
After five minutes he came back with a ticket and said he reduced the violation to 64 in a 55, and the total fine came to $82.
How does this relate to personal finance?
There are a few lessons we can learn here. First, it just goes to show you unexpected expenses can come in many forms. Cat from Budget Blonde has a great term for this: gremlins. She even mentioned speeding tickets there! It really does pay to have a little set aside for days when crap happens.
Second, R and I got too comfortable. It wasn’t until a week ago that we saw three cops on the same road. Someone in front of us actually got pulled over. At the time, we were thinking, “Yay, it wasn’t us!” Oh how the tables turned. For some reason, we both failed to notice that we were going way too fast. Back home, there were medians on major roads, and cops didn’t really pull you over unless you were going 85. R’s experience led him to believe the likelihood of getting pulled over was slim.
This can happen to anyone with their finances, especially when you’re not tracking your spending. You might settle into a routine, think you have it all figured out, and then bam! One day, you take a look, and realize your bank account doesn’t have nearly as much money in it as you thought.
Third, if you don’t speed, there’s no need to be on the watch for cop cars. Suddenly, there’s not as much pressure when you’re driving. You can set the cruise control at an appropriate speed, and enjoy the ride.
Let other people pass you and get a ticket – it’s not worth feeling “left out” of the crowd because you’re not following their speed. Do I really need to reference the Jonses here? Similarly, don’t be afraid to be frugal simply because others are throwing money out the window.
Always pay attention, and always be ready. Then you won’t have to worry about your finances as much. When you’re in control, and know where your money is going, you’re in a great spot. You can’t hope to get ahead when you have no clue how much debt you’re in, or why you’re living paycheck to paycheck.
Fourth, it was really easy to beat ourselves up after this incident. It’s something that was in our control; we got a ticket because of our negligence. However, it was the first one R had ever received, and my record is still clean. Is it the end of the world? No. Were we upset because it was something that could have been easily prevented? Sure.
But make sure you put things into perspective. Sometimes it’s not worth it to freak out about things in light of the bigger picture. Is one $82 ticket going to break the bank? Nope. Remember to forgive yourself for mistakes you make. No one is perfect.
All in all, it could have turned out worse for us, but some people need to learn lessons the hard way. R has promised me no more speeding on his behalf, and I no longer expect him to roll his eyes and say, “Who’s going to pull me over here?” when I tell him the speed limit has changed! Our normal three and a half hour trip might turn into four hours, but at least we aren’t putting ourselves at risk.
What’s one lesson you learned the hard way? Have you ever been pulled over? What’s the last unexpected “life happens” expense you encountered?