Friday, June 01, 2007

money worries

Recently, I read a great post by The Veggie Paparazzi about getting sane when it comes to money. She went through a lot more challenges than I have, but many things about her story, especially her urge to stick her head in the sand when it came to money, struck a deep chord with me. Lately money has been a cause of some anxiety for me, and I've been finding myself looking at job sites much too often, even though I know it's not a very productive use of my time.

We have balances of less than $1000 on two different credit cards. But that is deceptive in a way, because instead of credit card debt, most of our debt is in the form of student loans and a mortgage. We also have a smallish car loan. These are all better than credit card debt in the sense that I'm not likely to go out and open another car loan on impulse, but I still feel uncomfortable with the amount of debt we've managed to accumulate in our life together.

I am aspiring to the kind of life that my grandparents lived. They paid for most things with cash and never had a credit card until they tried to get one for a trip to Europe when they were in their 60s. I have been doing better in the last year or so, mostly because choosing to lower my income by becoming a full-time graduate student meant that I had to give a good, hard look to the things in my life that I was willing to give up to make that happen. One of the big things was shopping as a recreational activity -- that's why I tend to post about the rare occasions when I buy things. Of course, I could go a lot further, like Alex Martin, who spent an entire year wearing the same brown dress. But I think that it helped that she is tiny and cute and would look great in a paper bag. I will stick to being frugal in my own way.

I'm not alone in my debt worries. It's so easy to get credit that many of us in the U.S. have huge debt balances.
Americans spent 1 in 7 of their take-home dollars on debt payments last year, up from 1 in 9 in 1980. Experts say few consumers are able to calculate the true costs of such payments.
The average family owes more than $9,000 in credit card debt alone. It's not so bad when things are going well, but unexpected events can make things dangerously tight for many of us. PBS did a great series, which turned into the book Affluenza, on America's "painful, contagious, socially-transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more." There's a lot of pressure to spend, spend, spend, but in the long run, buying all that stuff never made me happier. Two books that really helped me out of that trap were Your Money or Your Life and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Simple Living. While I didn't take every step these authors discussed, I did use them to think about what I was and wasn't willing to give up. De-cluttering my life has helped me feel a lot more peaceful, and I really don't feel deprived because I don't have more clothes (my closets are already too full) or fancier cars (which would just make me worry about scratches every time I go to the grocery store for a loaf of bread).

That doesn't mean I don't worry about money. I still haven't had any big developments in the job-search arena, and I've had a gap in my graduate student pay that has made things a little snug for my comfort in the last couple of weeks. I feel pretty confident, though, that the things that we've learned during this little lean period will help us manage our money a lot better once I start making a real salary again.

What does this all have to do with weight loss? Pretty much everything: Delayed gratification, budgeting, planning... it sounds familiar, doesn't it? Luckily for me, my desire to spend a lot on clothes actually goes down when I lose weight, because I'm not as worried about having just the right thing to distract people from noticing the size of my thighs.

Speaking of the size of my thighs, I have two little victories to report. I had a magic number on my home scale today: 155. It's unofficial, of course, because it's not the Weight Watchers scale, but I'm hoping that it's a predictor of good things to come. Also, I finally tried on my Ann Taylor suit skirt without Spanx. (Yes, this is the skirt I bought for my non-existent job interviews.) It fits better than it did, but I'd still want to wear at least a light shaper underneath. Maybe when I lose a little more, it will fit even better. It looks like I'll have some time before I need it.

2 comments:

  1. thank you for sharing your thoughts on personal debt... i was always good w/my money but it wasn't until my b/f said i should try 'budgeting' that i realized, i sucked... i've had credit card debt, throught my life, and no savings - haven't been able to save anything since i live on my own so... but thanks to him and some personal restraint - my credit card will be paid off this summer and then i'm moving on to my student loan... and from there, maybe my car and definitely savings... :o)

    and i'm going to be first to admit that i could NEVER wear the same dress for 365 days straight... but its a great concept so i give her credit... :o)

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  2. Maybe that’s why I’m having such a hard time with dieting. I’m bad with financing, and I’ve never budgeted anything in my life.

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"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07