Sunday, March 12, 2006

tiny the wine

One of the ugly things I tend not to talk about is money, or at least my lack of it. But score a mini-victory for me: I recently paid off a credit card that had been hounding me with its high interest and big balance since 2000. I am able to double my car payments to eat away at the principal. I have money left over even after paying all my bills and grocery shopping while hungry, without a list, at the slightly more expensive supermarket that has organic goodies. I have a little something in TWO savings accounts (a very little, in one, I might add).

I guess compared to my post-grad school, indebted-up-to-my-eyeballs, paycheck-to-paycheck and eying-the-change-jar-to-see-if-there's-gas-money financial status, I am finally comfortable.

But this is the comfort of someone who can go to the movies and get popcorn and a bucket of soda if she wants, or can go to the dealership not worried about what they might find wrong with the car (thank you, Kia, for the awesome warranty), not someone who can comfortably expense a surprise weekend in London because her passport expires next month. (Sad but true - I actually priced it out. I guess my collection of stamps will not grow as I hoped it might.)

My point in mentioning all of this is that I find myself with little windfalls every month and I am profoundly uncomfortable with the money in my pocket. It burns a hole there, as though it needs to spent right away, or it will disappear. So in the past month I have bought a few new clothes (a rant on this another time, I promise), a few things from Amazon (impulse items - me working in the book biz is like giving free samples to an addict), and, yesterday, on a trip through Borders I paid $127 retail for various books and DVDs. (I should be just getting it all from work, where I get a whopping 44% off books and 20% off media products.) If I had sat on all those purchases and saved the money, I'd have had what I needed for the trip. That's worrying! I can't sit still with a little money. How will I ever be able to manage large sums, like my retirement someday?

Well, I have a new inner voice (thanks to years of therapy) that tells me to go easy on myself. Maybe I need a period of adjustment to not living in hard times, to get the feel of it. It wasn't that long ago that bills ate everything up. I think I'm entitled to enjoy my tiny riches for right now.

At least until I remember that I owe Lexus-sized amounts of money to the gummint for my edu-macation, and if I want to retire, ever, I might-could start saving up a little in the mattress for that (another rant, surely, on this).

We live in confusing times. I am actually very proud of my ability to take care of myself financially, largely without assistance from anyone (the odd check from Mom, but that's it). I have myself to thank/blame for whatever my resources are right now. BUT I do receive weird hints from older-generation people (mainly women) to the effect that my "girl money" isn't nearly as impressive as my income could be if it was combined with the salary of a husband.

Yes, that's right: I should get married if I want to really help myself financially. As if I am not really taking care of myself, and that only a man could "save" me. My mother sent me an
un-funny cartoon from the New Yorker not too long ago where one woman effectively says to the other, "It's better to have married for a retirement fund than not to have married at all." Well, it would be funny if I didn't know that that happened to be her own personal philosophy. It sort of undermines the idea that I can be independent and support myself as a woman and says that only a man's money can really make my life comfortable, and choosing loveless marriage is OK if it leads to personal financial gain. So what happened to women's lib?


Blogger karen said...

Your personal financial success might or might not be better if you had a partner. Sure, a partner might contribute a second income and wouldn't that be groovy! A partner might also want to buy a house instead of renting an apartment. A partner would need a second car - and he might want a Big Manly (moneysucking) Truck (trust me...even my humble hubby is not exempt from BMT lust). A partner would require more food, more clothes, more laundry quarters. At the end of the day, you might or might not be ahead. So, take heart and have confidence! It sounds like you're on your feet and you should enjoy that!! On saving, I'll share what works for me:

First, only carry an American Express card around. You have to pay that off each month, so it makes you think twice about what you're spending. I do have a MasterCard hiding out in a safe somewhere because, while we have already encountered more than our fair share of Horrifying Unexpected Household Repairs, I expect we're still not exempt and when the day comes I want to make sure we have a way to get the work done fast.

Second, however pitiful the amount you can save each week, divide it neatly in two separate accounts one for "spend now", the other "spend later". ING lets you have as many accounts as you like with no minimum so it's easy to keep the money separated. Even at my wimpy $25 per week I'm shocked to look at the difference in my accounts after a year - my "spend later" pile actually looks like I could go for more than just a movie! "Spend now," meanwhile, tries hard to look like it's more than pocket change but it's usually crippled by my Starbucks addiction. Still, I've just renewed all the passports here and would love to take off and collect a few stamps! Sadly, though, my "spend later" is only big enough to afford me the trip in anything approximating the style I it'll have to wait a little longer. Meanwhile, I'm off to get a latte.

Talk soon?

3/13/2006 02:08:00 PM  
Blogger bibliofilly said...

good advice...and thanks! I am on a pretty much cash basis so life is good. I do have to maintain a fund to make sure I can cover travel expenses for work, which is good practice. I like the "now/later" approach...I should probably be more diligent about keeping lists of things I'd like to buy and their relative urgency. For me, this year, the goal is a REAL vacation someplace I want to go that doesn't involve crashing on someone's couch. I'm thinking a summer rental some week in the Adirondacks where people could come up and spend a night or two if they want.

3/13/2006 11:14:00 PM  
Blogger karen said...

If you get the urge to take a girls only trip to somewhere sunny, let me know...I'd love a few uncomplicated days in Aruba. :)

3/14/2006 10:55:00 AM  

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