My Worst Money Mistake

Do you hate wasting money?


I can’t stand it.


When I was a kid, I was always looking for ways to make a buck. If there was a deal or an opportunity to be made, I was ready to pounce.


When I was in the 4th grade, a local video game store was having a sale.


Immediately I began crafting a scheme.


I went through their inventory and cross-checked their price vs. Wal-Mart’s price. You see, Wal-Mart had a return policy that didn’t require a receipt.


My plan? Buy games at a low price at the local store and “return” them to Wal-Mart for a profit.


Shady. Unethical. 4th grade Craig sounds like a sleeze-bag.


I found a game that was $10 cheaper at the store, so I emptied out my money jar to buy as many as I could.


Stash in hand, I practically skipped up to the customer service desk at Wal-Mart. The clerk looked at me the way you’d expect someone to look at a kid holding a stack of unopened copies of the same game.


“I’d like to return these, please,” I squeaked with a smile.


Still skeptical, the clerk asked, “Do you have a receipt?”




“Okay, we can refund you the amount of our lowest sale price,” he told me without emotion.

The smile dripped off my face as the return amount appeared on that tiny screen on the cash register.


It was less. A lot less.


I grabbed the games in my arms and headed back to the local game store only to be met with a “no refunds” policy on sale items.


I was stuck. I tried to game the system and lost. Defeated, I took the games back to Wal-Mart and put the cash into my significantly less full jar.


There are a ton of lessons we could glean from this. And if you ask me, 4th grade Craig got exactly what he deserved.


But as I reflect on this story this morning, I realize its role in shaping how I approach business now.


A few takeaways I’d like to share with 4th grade Craig:


  1. Never risk more than you can afford to lose.
  2. Business decisions should line up with your values.
  3. Always look for opportunities in overlooked places.
  4. Test an idea before going all-in.
  5. Fail again. It’s how you grow.


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