"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Plank Pullin: The Money Edition

It’s Plank Pullin’ time! The one day a week that we strongly resolve to ignore the multitude of specks and sawdust around us and pull one bona fide plank from our own eye. Matthew 7:3-5, style.

A few of you know this already, but I also keep a (often neglected) blog about money, specifically about our journey in paying off our debt.   You can read the entire story there, but in the interest in saving time:  We married young, and had part-time or low paying jobs for quite a long period of time.  Racked up a whole bunch of debt.  Worked really hard to pay it all off, and moved to Arizona debt free.  Somehow (thanks in large part to a crashing real estate market and a failed "investment" house that we're still living in), we racked up some debt again - although thankfully not nearly in the scale we'd been under a decade ago.  Having debt of any sort is a terrible and suffocating feeling, one I can't wait to be free of.  While we're finally in a position where we're making a very comfortable income, we are often living as if we make almost no money at all, so focused we are on putting everything extra towards our debt.

You could say money and finances are big interests of mine, but that wouldn't be entirely accurate.  I think I'm knowledgeable about it, having read just about every book, article, and website on the subject, but.... I still worry about money, I stress about money, I am WEIRD about money.  How am I defining 'weird', you ask?  Here's an example:

A couple of weeks ago, we joined some friends for a morning outdoor event.  It was early, and we'd been in a rush, so I hadn't gotten to have my daily cup of coffee.  I lamented to my friend about my missing liquid energy (I'm a much more likeable person when I've been fully caffeinated) and she said, "Oh there's a Starbucks right down the street."  And in the 2.4 seconds that it took me to tell her, "That's okay, I'll just wait till I get home" I had a fiery, indignant, unspoken internal dialogue that went something like this:

"Starbucks??  You think I can just afford to be going to Starbucks all willy-nilly?  Do you have any idea how much Starbucks costs?  Must be nice to have money to be going to Starbucks all the time.  Must be nice to have money to throw away."

Totally irrational right??  I don't know why I do it.   She was trying to be helpful.  And the ironic thing is that I absolutely could have afforded to get a coffee at Starbucks (I almost never go though, because I really do think it's ridiculously expensive for coffee), but I didn't, just on general principle.  We also very rarely buy bottled water,or eat at nice restaurants or any kind of restaurants, or buy new clothes, or get professional haircuts or manicures or pedicures or eyebrow waxings (or pluckings or threading or whatever is popular now)  I have a very, very hard time spending money on things that aren't necessities.

Worse than that though, is that I find myself getting judgmental, even angry, towards people who are irresponsible with money.  Interestingly, it's not so much strangers that I have a problem with.... if I see some random person spending jillions of dollars on something excessive, it's easy for me to imagine that (likely or not) they live an all-cash lifestyle, have no debt, and also give jillions of dollars to charity.  No, where I have a problem is with the people who've made me privy to their financial information for whatever reason, and continue to make bad choices.  I really don't like knowing that someone is behind on their Visa bill or their electric bill or their rent... and is meanwhile eating out, going to the movies, and buying fancy new gadgets.   One part of me tells me to chill out, that it's absolutely none of my business.  The other part says that it very well IS my business, as it's partly because of that kind of irresponsible spending that the housing market has done what it has, and the reason that we are so unbelievably upside down in our own mortgage (which, by the way, we faithfully pay on time every single month)  Either way, the feeling is unpleasant and all-around icky, and I'd really like to stop it. 

So consider another plank pulled.  And help a girl out by not mentioning your overdraft fees and your new iPhone in the same sentence. 

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