self medicating.

6 01 2012

i’m not very good at transitions.

when i was a freshman in high school, i blew out of all my classes and got bumped out of honors english. i spent too much time oogling boys at the skate park and drinking  yukon jack and kool aid from my best friend’s parent’s liquor cabinet. by sophomore year, i was back to my honor roll making, science fair winning, overachieving self.

when i was a freshman in college, my best friend and i used to joke that we should start a band called “champagne headache”. but for serious, i spent the entire year drunk on korbel watching “love boat” on the couch in the common area, and learning how to build the perfect gravity bong.  by graduation, i was back to my dean’s list making, resident assisting, overachieving self.

i’m convinced it was because i started kindergarten just days after i turned 5. always being one of the youngest kids in the class kind of messes you up. but whatever the case, i always get severely beat up when i’m wrestling the kraken that is change. although i do eventually end up victorious. usually.

as much as i overachieved with bong making and box wine swilling in my younger days, i’ve pretty much grown out of my substance abuse phase (save for the occasional too much bourbon day). however, i do have an equally destructive coping mechanism that still remains…

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the chopping block.

19 11 2010

so after spending some time rolling around with tuesday’s therapy musings, i got to thinking about how i use shopping to ease my anxiety. any time i’m about to make a life change, or do something that is stressful to me, i make myself more comfortable by assuring that i am wearing an impeccable outfit. new job= new wardrobe every time, assuring that even if i do make more money at said job, i won’t actually ever get to see any of it.

as many of you know, i’m about to embark on yet another crazy performance opportunity in the form of the burlesque nutcracker.  generally, this would mean several hundred dollars in new lingerie and dancewear, but i’ve decided to try and fight the power. for the snowflake number, instead of getting this (which i really really want to the point where i’ve convinced myself that i NEED it), i will borrow something completely cute and serviceable from someone who was in the number last year. not mine, not perfect, but so far more painless than spending $68+ shipping on something that may or may not actually contain my boobs, and that i will likely never wear again.

well, as i’m thinking about the HUGE (and potentially) lingerie sacrifices that i’m about to make, it made me start thinking about what would happen if i lost my job or got sick and had to make some real sacrifices- what would  be the first to go?

1. as much as i hate to say it out loud, my $100 a month cell phone bill is LUDICROUS. goodbye iphone, hello virgin mobile pay as you go… could i get by with no phone at all?

2. goodybe dr. shrinkage. $300 a months for therapy is a lot. i find it hugely beneficial, but i could survive without it if it meant being able to make my mortgage payment.

3. my student loans are steadily shrinking, and i get to write off the interest every year on my taxes. but if i had to make some cuts, these guys speak the language of need based deferment, which is a blessing indeed.

4. those are the big ones (and we all know that i can’t stop paying my credit card bills- as much as i would like to), but then there’s all the little bits and pieces like neftlix ($17), my gym membership ($10), and non-specific spending money in general ($75). i don’t have cable, and i would have to be in pretty dire straits before i let anyone pry this internet connection out of my little clenched fists.

5. i can’t weed out things like medication, but i do think that if i was really proactive about it, i could axe my food budget down to $15 a week. although i might have to get over the ick factor of shopping at the save-a-lot or the dollar store. hey, at least i don’t eat meat.

still, as it turns out, i need at least $1,200 a month to get by. it’s a lot. it’s scary. it’s exactly why suze orman recommends 6 months worth of expenses in the bank for everyone.

is there anything you wouldn’t be willing to cut?





actually, i’m pretty sure it is your fault.

28 10 2010

so i’ve been hearing these commercials on my morning radio show where some dude starts yelling off a list of horrible financial woes:

debt collectors knocking down your door?
up to your eyeballs in credit card debt?
thinking that bankruptcy is your only option?

but then he brings it down just a notch to let you know:

IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT.

sure, people hit hard times. medical bills, lost jobs, some other things that i can’t think of right now… but the majority of people that i know who are financial wrecks (myself absolutely included) are that way because they made poor choices. it fills me with rage to hear the debt consolidation/credit counseling agencies preying on people’s need to be in denial about the reality of their financial situations. nobody wants to take responsibility for fucking up, but if you ask anyone in a 12 step program, admitting that you’re a fucking mess is the only way to make it better. so fuck you debt consolidation agency. IT IS MY FAULT- and here’s why:

1. i don’t pay attention to what i spend. i put my credit cards in the freezer over a year ago, which is a distinct improvement, but my debit card is with me all the time. i go out to eat constantly, buy crap on a whim (can you say series of 4 horse paintings?), overspend at the grocery store (i was in the whole foods for 5 minutes yesterday and still managed to spend $14). even thought i’m not creating any new debt, i’m not giving the money that i have the reverence it deserves- i just keep unceremoniously shoving it out the door.

2. which brings us to admission #2-  i don’t save enough. probably because i’m spending all my fucking money on nothing. for the most part, the really bad debt disasters happen when people are spending up to the hilt of their income and don’t have a cushion saved up for emergencies. then, the first time that shit goes really wrong, they bust out the credit cards. like i did. repeatedly. from the ages of 18-30.

3. even though my 2 cards are in deep freeze at the moment, they got in there in the first place because spent the first 10 years of my adult life spending beyond my means. i wanted to have grown up clothes, i wanted to buy people decent xmas presents for a change, i wanted to find out what it felt like for money to be no object. except that it is an object, a very big object with an 19% APR. too bad i don’t pay more than the minimum on my cards every month. it’s good that i’m not racking up new debt, but if i can’t control my cash flow enough to afford to make bigger payments on my credit card, then i’m never going to get out from under it.

maybe it’s because i just watched confessions of a shopaholic AND maid to order back to back, but i’m sudden feeling possessed to try to make some greater changes in my life. i’ve made progress from where i was, but i’m stalled out. i still have $13,000 worth of credit card debt, and i’d really like it to be gone by the time i’m 35 (that’s T-minus 2 years and counting). maybe i hate dave ramsey because i know that he’s right about making severe lifestyle cuts in order to cut my debt… actually, it’s probably the religious thing, but i am definitely in denial about the fact that real debt reduction does require some sacrifice. now, i’m not going to go all crazy and start making drastic lifestyle changes (eat out less? stop shopping? start buying produce at walmart?) or anything… but i am going to admit that what i’m doing now is definitely not working.

step one down… 11 more to go.

what is the one habit/addiction that you SHOULD cut out of your life for financial reasons, but just can’t seem to let go?





accepting exceptions.

28 07 2010

was i supposed to be on some sort of cash diet or something? it was sort of like i blacked out and woke up in a ditch and all my money was gone, except for the part where that didn’t happen. bring on the carelessness! my attempts to majorly rein in my spending this month somehow completely derailed this week as i proceeded to make exception after exception after exception…

exception #1: sister and her husband came to visit from albany. delicious barbecue dinner (split with the boyfriend) -$50

exception #2: sister’s visit ran concurrently with my niece’s 2nd birthday. dora the explorer microphone -$15

exception #3: accidental impulse purchase of coveted belt at target while buying dora microphone- $16

exception #4: purchased gas for friend who keeps hauling my ass home from dance class- $20

exception #5: bought a compilation of oldies on itunes to sing in the car with my little sister (she’s a living oldies encyclopedia)- $27

total damage: $128 (on top of the allotted $50 i spent on tomfoolery earlier in the week).

looking back on them all, only the belt (which i do love and have been stalking for many months) counts in my mind as a true foible. gas, gifts, and time spent with loved ones (especially loved ones who live 5 hours and 11 minutes away and never visit) hardly qualify as mistakes, so why do i feel so guilty about it? it’s roughly the same feeling that i get whenever i cheat on a diet:

i am only very slightly overweight. but, i remember what it feels like to weigh 25 lbs. less, and i miss those days with great desperation and self criticism that indicates that i will never be happy in my current skin. i even know how to lose weight (what i should eat, how much exercise). however, whenever the part about sacrifice and sucking it up rolls around… i fold like the foldiest folding chair that ever folded. out roll the excuses about how i’m going to start tomorrow, had a hard day, or how a few more calories won’t hurt. i am the motherfucking excuse master. somewhere in my stupid head (even though i think i want otherwise),  i know that i’m “not that fat”. i am normal and passable (acceptable even!) to most in a way that makes the urgency less um… urgent.

with money, i have a lot of debt, i have minimal savings (thank you stupid fucking roof), and i have a strong desire for financial freedom… but i also have enough income to pay my bills and go out on the town when i want to . as long as my bills are paid, i don’t HAVE to put any of that money toward my debt or my savings, and i don’t. there will always be an excuse to spend more and save less because i’m selfish and lazy and don’t want to give up any immediate quality of life- even if it means my quality of life will be infinitely better in the long run. i understand, but i don’t “get it”.

what is it about money and food (consumption!) that leave me so completely powerless and in a perpetual state of treading water? and furthermore, is there some sort of suze orman/jillian michaels hybrid (terrifying!) who will come to my house and scream at me to get real? i can see the problem so clearly, but the solution is nowhere to be found. it’s not as simple as “eat less” or “spend less”, that doesn’t work for me. but what will?





raising the roof.

26 05 2010

i wish i could raise the roof all 1998 style (can a get a woot woot?) about the process of getting a new roof, but it’s been all sorts of suck since day one. we hadn’t even had our condo for a full year when the water damage started. sure, they told us during due diligence that we would need a new roof in the next 2-5 years, but we figured we would have at least one recovery year before the giant assessment of doom descended upon us. but then *BAM*, 1 giant shingle ripping windstorm, and everything falls apart. our beautiful (and stupid expensive) brand new professional paint job reduced to a bubbly saggy mess in 24 short hours.

now not only was my heart broken about the paint job, but with one of the 5 units in our tiny little condo association undergoing foreclosure (meaning that the guy hadn’t paid mortgage or condo fees for 6+ months), i was also wicked pissed. why you ask? well, because when a condo association needs a new roof, and one of the units is in foreclosure… everyone else just has to pick up the slack and pay jerkface’s share of the bill. which isn’t so bad when it’s a $75 heat bill, but when it’s a $15,000 new roof- it becomes significantly more pricey. and thus, i become increasingly more filled with rage.

i suppose we were lucky enough to get that big chunk gifted to us by the boyfriend’s parents (although that too came with it’s own “complications” [ahem, demon dog anyone?]). but that still left us with $1,375 each to come up with by june 1st. the crazy thing is, i actually had it. there was almost $2,300 in my savings account, and for the first time in my life ever (i’d never been able to keep more than about $25 in savings at any given time), my emergency fund was actually ready for the emergency. so why did it feel so bad when i had to write that check? last night as i transferred the cash over to my checking account, and saw my hard earned savings dwindle down to less than $900, i felt a huge sense of hopelessness and loss. i had been doing so well. i had made real progress. i had felt so successful. and here i was again, back down to an almost empty tank.

i automatically have $100 a month put into savings from my paycheck, and then any other outside earnings, single check rebates, or other miscellaneous income have been getting thrown in there to boot. this was a good year, and between tax returns and freelance jobs, i was able to come up with almost another $1000 of miscellany to stuff under my savings mattress. i’m just afraid that this next year won’t be as kind, and that my race to have 2 months worth of living expenses in the stronghold could take another 2 or more years to build. i was so close.

i think i get it now. saving money is like taking prozac. it takes the edge of worry off of working and living in a world where expensive emergencies can streak across the road like a spooked deer at any time. sure, my new roof looks nice, will add resale value to my home, and will most hopefully prevent any future water damage… but it took a little bit of my security with it, and i think i’m going to be in mourning for a little while. *i’ll be in my room*





minty fresh.

20 04 2010

it’s freaky sometimes how the posting stars align. this weekend i was going through an old all you, and i ripped out an article about a free budgeting website called mint.com. then of course there was yesterday’s meltdown about how out of control my spending has been lately. then this morning, i read an article on mashable about how mint.com is now offering expanded services. perhaps the universe is trying to tell me that it’s time to go for a minty test drive?

i decided to screw the research portion of the evening, and go straight to the sign up phase. oh, did i mention that it’s free? it actually felt really bad at first, entering in all my account numbers and passwords. i am aware that mint is a highly respected and secure site, but it’s still a little scary to think how much damage someone could do with all that info just hangin out in one place. but again, i decided to give the anxiety phase the finger and try to get to the good stuff. i was able to plug in both my credit cards, my bank account, and one of my two student loans (bummer that the lender for the larger of the two wasn’t available). i still haven’t sorted out importing my mortgage, but that’s more the fault of me using a small local bank (i do think it’s possible in time though).

regardless of the 2 unimportable  accounts, and the vague uneasiness about dishing out my data, everything was quite simple and smooth. it initially took a little finagling to make sure that all my checking account transactions were appropriately classified so they fell into the right categories.  although there’s a really nice function that lets you apply a classification across a group of transactions, and i found the whole setup to be super-intuitive.

now that mint knew all my secrets, what mysteries would be revealed?  well, as it turns out (as evidenced by the above pie chart), i actually spent more money on eating out this month than i did on my mortgage. those 5 pairs of shoes certainly put an unfortunate dent in there as well. even when i’m balancing my checkbook, even when i’m paying attention, i’m never quite vigilant enough to catch everything that flies through my accounts. i’ve been keeping an excel budget for YEARS that to me seemed fair and reasonable. but when mint made me set up a budget for coffee and movies and restaurants and clothes… it made me realize how insufficient and quasi-delusional my budget really is.  no wonder i was always short at the end of the month (always borrowing from the next paycheck down the line). shame!

because mint looks at all incoming deposits and expenditures and throws them automatically into budget buckets over the course of the month, i no longer need to waste time trying corral my finances into a woefully ineffective excel spreadsheet. instead, i can spend my energy monitoring my spending and trying to keep it under control.  i’m pretty positive that if i keep up with it, mint will keep me honest. it will now be entirely impossible for me to be in denial about where my money is really going. $38 on coffee- check. $235 on shoes- double check. all laid out beautifully in cheerfully colored pie charts and bar graphs.

the only feature i wasn’t particularly impressed with was the “ways to save” tab. really, it’s just a place to get online quotes for loans and credit cards and so on… i’m assuming that’s how they make their money. i know that i can get better rates on pretty much all of their offered services via local banks and credit unions, and i also know that it will be pretty easy for me to avoid that tab all together.

all in all, mint is a lot cooler than i thought it was going to be, and if you’re having a hard time getting your hands around your finances (and don’t mind giving out some personal data), it’s a must try. and no, they didn’t pay me to say that. as always, nobody pays me shit to do shit (except of course my actual employer). although also as always, i would love to whore out my opinion for cash. mint.com of all people should know at this point how much i need it.





hitting the wall.

11 02 2010

i was so enthusiastic about gambling on february 1st, but i’ve spent $27 and made $28  (i lost my $7 lead after a disastrous round of lucky lobster bingo on tuesday night), and i’m having a hard time parting with my cash.  it’s a strange feeling that i’ve never had before. i think it’s called “saving”, but i’d have to confirm with my doctor.

up until recently, i’d never had more than $100 in my savings account.  usually more like $.24. or possibly -$2.13. i had one of those accounts that automatically transferred $25 into my savings every month. but every month, i somehow ended up transferring it all right back out. somehow though, even though i was living paycheck to paycheck, i was still making it work. i paid my bills on time, i pecked away (very very slowly) at my debt. i was doing fine, and saving was not a priority. saving was for suckers who lived in fear, suckers who didn’t want to use their money for fun.

except that the problem began to arise that i was only able to stretch my paycheck most of the time.  i’d be ok until i needed to pay an enormous tax bill or buy xmas presents, or get office casual clothes for a new job (pantyhose are pricey!). out came the plastic. and slowly, the credit card bills would start to creep back up, and the minimal headway i’d made on my debts would be lost in the shuffle.

last year, as part of my 43 things, i decided to open a christmas club account. this ended up being kind of stupid and pointless for a number of reasons, but it did get me balance transferring $100 a month into a savings account that was inconvenient for me to dip into.  and as of today, that account holds $1465.66. more money than i’ve ever saved in my whole life. (dismal!)

that’s where the weirdness comes in. now that i have it, i don’t want to spend it. i need new running shoes, and i should probably stop wearing my pajamas to dance class- but i can’t. i have in mind a perfect number, and i feel like i’m not allowed to touch it until it gets over that amount. if i ever do get there, it will be enough cash to get me through for a bit if i lose my job, pay a big-ass medical bill, or have some sort of other catastrophic money sucking emergency.

i know i’m pretty slow, but i think i’ve finally figured out why people save money. it makes me feel safe, and that safety is turning out to be worth the self denial that is saving.