uh oh.

4 06 2011

i’m in trouble. not entirely sure how it happened, but my $1,200 post tax season cushion is COMPLETELY GONE, and i have exactly enough money to pay my bills… leaving me about $68 to last me until my next pay day. oh, did i mention that i get paid every TWO WEEKS?

FUCK.

summer is the spendiest time of year for me, filled with after work margaritas, flea marketing and new sun dresses… in the last month, i indiscriminately blew through over $1,000 of  lazy $12 “i forgot to pack my lunch” days, several “OMG this skirt is only  $18” days, and everyone’s favorite “i can’t show up to this brunch without at least $20 worth of champagne and donuts” days… i really have no idea what i bought, but i had a crazy exciting month, so i’m sure it was fabulous.

being broke, markedly less fabulous. Read the rest of this entry »





the plastic files.

3 02 2011

first and foremost, i would like to apologize for not posting yesterday. i am still getting the hang of the daily posting gig, and also drank one too many bourbons after a particularly rough day and ended up face down on the couch at 8:30 instead of  writing my post. i repent. also, i am hungover as hell today- so my body is repenting too. but on to the promised content!

so i am very proud to say that a year has come and gone, and i have not used my credit cards even once. i did have to borrow money from the boyfriend on a couple of occasions, and i did certainly have more than a few months of barely scraping by (including and especially this one), but it still feels like progress to me. am i delusional? is learning to control my finances a gradual evolution, or should i have figured my shit out by now? i worry that it’s like being an alcoholic, where i either need to quit cold turkey or never get better…

as usual, i still have dreams and hopes of getting a tighter grip on my money and finally making a bigger dent in my debt this year. i’m still way behind from xmas and more other random unexpected shit (burst pipe!), but i’ve started a new habit to help defray at least a little of any future emergency money madness: i have become a gift card hoarder.

usually after xmas, i take any gift cards i might have and rush my little ass to the mall and spend spend spend…  but this year i promised myself that i would hold on to them for a bit and see what happened.  i have also amassed a few more from rebates and online surveys (i’ve had great luck with these guys), and my cache is looking quite tidy (see above). here’s my master plan: Read the rest of this entry »





peligro! : why i can no longer go to whole foods.

31 01 2011

i rarely plan to go to whole foods. as a relatively new vegetarian still vainly attempting to recreate meat on her dinner table, sometimes i do find myself needing to get a specific item or two that i can only find contained within their four posh and perfectly manicured walls (have you seen their produce displays?)… but very rarely. usually, i find that i end up there accidentally (usually with a wealthier and far more health conscious friend), as a victim of  a “do you mind if we pop into the whole foods for a sec, i just need to grab some tomatillos and a cask of bulgur?” situation.

yet however i wind up there, the result is ALWAYS THE SAME. i can literally not enter through those sliding doors for more than 1 minute, without spending at least $20 (usually, on a single 10 lb. salad). like somehow, $20 is the cost of the ferry ride to get to the other side of the pricey health food river styx. as my ENTIRE GROCERY BUDGET FOR THE WEEK IS $30, this is clearly a problem.

well, that problem occurred yet again today. after a fantastic coffee date with my friend rob, he uttered the dreaded ” just need to pop in and grab a few things!”. in theory, i was supposed to drop him off there and keep on walking toward home base, but it was cold… and we were still talking… and ooh are those blackberries on sale for 2/$5? just like that i was in the door with a stack of produce in my hand grabbing whatever else seemed like a good idea at the time: seaweed & tamari rice cakes? faux buffalo wings? strawberry soy protein shakes? certainly nothing that would pass as a meal or that even have any real nutritional value.

today’s damage- $31. SURPRISE!!! MY ENTIRE FUCKING GROCERY BUDGET! and save for two bags of fake beef tips intended for making stroganoff, everything else was completely unnecessary.  in my universe, that whole store is just one big ass impulse buy. Read the rest of this entry »





getting to the mailbox.

16 11 2010

i pay my therapist to give me advice. that’s the way it works, right?  but today we talked about something we had never talked about before- MONEY. which is a little bit surprising that it took us this long to get to it… but what wasn’t surprising is that just like everyone else in my life, he gave me unsolicited financial advice. which is not what i pay him for.  and it made me really agitated for a minute.  i got a little sassy. there may have been some eye rolling…

but then, back to the part that i do pay him for, he made me talk about it.

step 1 of the 12 step process is admitting you have a problem, and i’m really good at that. probably too good. at the crazy doctor this week, i realized that I AM STALLING. i’ll admit my wrongdoings up and down and all over town, but i use my transparency as a shield to draw attention away from the fact that i’m not actually doing anything (other than making my slightly more than minimum payments), and i’m not sure why.

i have netflix movies from april sitting on my credenza. 4 of them actually, and i can’t seem to get them to the mailbox. theoretically, i should just put them in my purse and drop them in the mail slot at work, but it just hasn’t happened. it’s the simplest thing, and somehow i can’t manage to pull the trigger. it’s the same thing with money. yes, cutting back and saving money to throw on the blazing inferno that is my debt is difficult. changing lifestyles and making sacrifices totally sucks dick. but you know what’s not difficult? opening an HSA, or transferring my high interest credit cards to lower rate cards, or taking out a home equity loan and using it to pay off my debt.

every time i get agitated and defensive about money, it’s when someone who loves me has given me a sound piece of advice that i am just unwilling to follow. i try to turn it around to make it like they’re the jerk for meddling in my affairs, but i’m the jerk for being stuck, for being unwilling to listen and try. maybe i will make some big changes in the new year, or when i’m not so busy, or when i get my tax return money… but i probably won’t.

the good dr. and i didn’t get far enough to figure out why the hell i’m shooting myself in the foot like this, or how to stop being so stubborn and pointless, but it felt like a significant breakthrough anyway.

tomorrow, i’m gonna mail back my netflix, and maybe call my insurance company about setting up an HSA. at some point i need to realize that if i’m really serious about getting rid of my debt, i have to do EVERYTHING i can. not just the things that are easy.

please tell me that i’m not the only person who gets stuck on stupid shit.





Sorry kids, I’m not paying for college

18 05 2010

There was a great article in the NYT last week about the value of not getting a college education. Mostly, It dicked around with Bureau of Labor statistics about the fastest growing career fields, and how in the future we’re gonna need more nurse’s aides than nanosurgeons.  And while this is true, and while I completely agree that there is a great need to bring back the vo-tech and ditch the “college or career suicide” type propaganda that seems to be rampant in our high schools… I think that there are better reasons not to go to college than just the best odds for job security. That’s right. Sorry possible future kids, you guys can go screw, because i’m not paying for college. and here’s why:

1. 18 is way too young to know what you want to be when you grow up. Picture it- 1995. When i was 17,I graduated from high school telling everyone that I was going to be a genetic engineer. WTF?! Good at science, but with an obvious passion for art that was somehow completely overlooked by me, my family, and my educators, somehow I wound up at Smith College studying biochemistry. Needless to say, I spent the majority of my 2 semesters there smashed on cheap champagne and watching the Love Boat in the common room. But don’t worry mom and dad, it wasn’t a complete waste! I also learned how to build a gravity bong and got really good at cybersex before they kicked me out! And it only cost you $27,000. A giveaway!

My booze soaked cautionary tale is not unique. The typical American high school aims to trap you in the college machine, programming from day one that higher education is an absolute necessity in order to succeed at life (and that non-college goers are sentenced to permanent loserville, qualified only to work at gas stations and fast food chains). They then give you a brief 4-year overview of a few select subjects, boot your ass out of the nest, and expect you to make good decisions. Except that you’re 18, and you still need the approval of your parents, peers, and teachers, and it’s the worst possible time and place for you to make big giant expensive decisions about the “rest of your life.”

2. Shit’s expensive. A year of tuition at Smith College was $27,000 back in 1995, but it’s edging closer to $40,000 these days. Um, that’s $160,000 for 4 years- not counting all the other bullshit expenses like books and room and board. Sure, there’s financial aid and scholarships and grants… but it can’t be denied that still, SHIT IS EXPENSIVE. Even if you don’t have an honors track top 10 school kind of kid, state school is still not cheap. My eventual and reluctant alma mater, the University of Southern Maine, is still a good $15,000 (in-state) a year after room and board. Coupled with the above point about how ill-equipped teenagers are to make huge life decisions, I think it’s quite clear that college at 18 is a TERRIBLE INVESTMENT.

3. I never appreciated the value of learning more than when I was paying for it myself. After I got the boot from Smith, my parents foolishly STILL sent me back to school to try again. Admittedly, it was a much cheaper school much closer to home. But, how exactly does a summer of shame and repentance make me any more qualified to plan my future? I did manage not to get kicked out of USM, and may have even learned a few things (but not too many). I certainly had fun, but did I graduate in 4 years? Um…NO.

Despite the fact that I stopped attending school in 1999, I would actually be one class short of a diploma until December of 2005. When i was finally tired of being ambiguous about my education on resumes, I enrolled in a couple of classes and finally figured out why non-traditional students seemed so irritating to me back in the day. It’s because they were actually learning something. They showed up to class on time, did their homework, and generally participated in discussion regarding the material that they had actually read (instead of passed out on after one too many Brandy Alexanders). When I was the one paying $80 for a single book, I magically turned into this person, and it was kind of a revelation.

So when I say that I won’t be stashing my pennies away for baby Broke207 to go to Yale, it doesn’t mean that I don’t want him/her to go to college ever (or that I don’t think that a college education can be valuable and worthy). It just means that I want that choice to be free from the pressure that high school life so lovingly and liberally applies. I just want my imaginary future family to be aware of all the options (trade school, apprenticing, working up the ladder!), and experience the world a little before they start themselves out thousands of dollars in debt.





where’s candy finnigan when you need her?

6 04 2010

so, i read an article this morning entitled “6 signs you’re a shopaholic“.  now i’ve seen confessions of a shopaholic (meh). i’ve watched multiple episodes of intervention. so i figure that it’s going to be all like: sign #1– you hide your purchases from your loved ones.  or perhaps sign #3– you’re in complete financial ruin. going into this article, i was feeling exceptionally confident that i definitely was NOT a shopaholic. but now, i’m not so sure.

1. you spend more when you’re emotional. um, yeah. doesn’t everyone? i’m not exactly cleaning out the macy’s every time my boss and i have an awkward moment, but a really nice meal or a totally unnecessary pair of completely impractical shoes after a period of high stress or general bummed-outness is a beautiful thing. nice things feel good. so when exactly am i toeing the line between appropriate reward and blatant shopaholism?

2. your spending habits result in added stress. yes, every time i buy something that i really don’t need/can’t afford, it makes me feel a little guilty. yes, every time i get to the end of the month and realize that i don’t have any more $$$ to throw at my debt above the minimum payment, it makes me feel like a failure. but no, my apartment is not filled with bags of garments with the tags still on, my FICO score in the healthy 700s, and i haven’t dodged a creditor call since i was 19 (sorry columbia music house! 15 cds for $9.99 my ass!).

3. you’re a compulsive spender. check. once the dam breaks for me, it’s all over. if i choose to get one thing that i don’t need/can’t afford (usually both, see question #5), i am also simultaneously making a decision that i can have everything i want/can grab. 1 pair of full price pants at the gap usually equals $300 (or more) in new clothes.  i actually find that it’s easier for me to pretend i can have everything and let myself try things on. when i leave my brain open to the concept of buying, rarely do i ever find something so amazing that i can’t leave it behind. it’s the times when i tell myself that i can’t have anything, that i go apeshit and come home with a briefcase and 3 pairs of 4″ heels (true story).

4. you can’t live without plastic. this used to be true about me, although since the cards went into the freezer, i’ve definitely learned to live without them. that said, i still cheat a little with my gap card (i do it for the points!), but i always pay it off completely every month.  however, there is still something very seductive about credit that makes it hard for me to close my legs.  i always make sure that i have enough cash in my bank account to pay my bills, but if i want something additional and don’t have the actual real money, somehow i can always convince myself (see question #5) that i will have it next month, and that i’ll pay it off before interest even starts to think about accruing. do you know how many times that logic has turned out to be true? ZERO. yet i keep doing it. that’s seriously f-ed.

5. you’re constantly making excuses. guilty. actually, i’m the best excuse maker i know. everything from “i don’t want to  let that coupon expire” to ” i really need to start building a more professional wardrobe”.  i’m good at it because i can generally find a genuinely valid excuse to buy something. it’s not like “that top will look amazing one me when i finally get that boob job” or “my mom will really love these be-glittered gnome figurines”.   i’m smarter than that at least.  but the truth is that i’m a smooth talker, and if i want it, i can figure out a way to bring it home with a clear conscience. (until i actually get home and then the guilt settles in- see #2).

6. you’ve tried to control your spending in the past. hey wait! what if i’m trying to control my spending in the present? how exactly is that a bad thing? the best part was that their advice was “set up a budget”. um… so you mean “keep  trying to control your spending”? i’m confused!

so, do i have a problem? probably a little. i wouldn’t have $15,000 worth of revolving debt if i didn’t. but i also don’t think that candy and the intervention posse will be sending me off to detox anytime soon. i completed step one (admit you have a problem) a long time ago, and i’m making (slow but steady) progress. today’s little check-in however reminded me that i still have a long way to go.  maybe it’s time for some outpatient financial therapy?





outrunning the repo man.

18 03 2010

economy, i tire of you.  the layoffs, the foreclosures, the whole hopeless mess. with a good chunk of my friends presently on unemployment, i feel pretty lucky to have a job, but still pretty nervous about the security of said job. economic turbulence = unrest. every day is a new day where the rug could get unceremoniously yanked out from under me at any moment, without hope for the cushy severance packages that people were getting before our little recession morphed into a full on downturn. it’s scary. but obviously scarier for the people who already had their rug yanked and are just trying to figure out how the hell to pay their rent.

but today isn’t really about that. surviving a layoff is a post for another afternoon (probably a series of posts). today, it’s about watching people that you love fall to rock bottom, and not knowing what the fuck to do about it.

so i have this friend who is a freelancer. which is basically code for  no insurance, no unemployment, no safety net at all…  i believe the word roughly translates to: “first person to get slashed when budget cuts are on the table”. back in 2007 before the economy had started to visibly wilt, she was pretty much kicking ass. in high demand, edging up to 6 figures, feeling positive about the future. she bought a moderately fancy car and a condo, and hit the tropics during slow season. then 2008 rolled around, and things started to sag a little.  but, she forged ahead like nothing was happening, attempting to keep up her standard of living while she was waiting for things to pick back up. but they didn’t. 2009 was was the worst. she was able to pick up bits and pieces of work here and there for food and gas the phone bill… but the big boys, the credit cards, and mortgage, and car loan started to fall behind and behind and behind.

fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. she was completely broke and totally freaked out, but she’d been so good. i never once saw her dodge a creditor, and she never stopped trying to find work. there just wasn’t any. so when the repo man came knocking for her vehicle…it wasn’t a surprise. $1,100.

she’s one of the nicest people i know… and i really wanted to give her the money… but i told her that i didn’t have it. even though if she ever read my blog, she would know that i do. i felt terrible, and i still do.  luckily, the fairy tale didn’t end too badly, and she found another more liquid friend to help her out of the financial pinch of the week. but what about the next car payment? or the pending foreclosure? she’s in serious financial trouble right now, and it’s probably going to involve some really serious life changes before the economy even starts to catch up. technically i have the money, but do i really? i have a rule that i never lend money that i can’t afford to say goodbye to permanently. i’ve worked so hard for my little nest egg (which is still pretty sad), and if i let it go, what happens when/if i lose my job?

did i do the right thing? am i being greedy?