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On money... and NaNoWriMo

2003-10-21 - 11:01 a.m.

Iíve always been good with money. Call it frugal, call it cheap, but Iíve always lived pretty well on whatever I happened to be making. In grad school, I didnít feel I was under the same kind of hardship my fellow students complained about. On $15k a year I had my own apartment, ran an old car, paid my tuition and paid all my bills without any help from anyone else. I had a friend who claimed that she couldnít afford eyeglasses she desperately needed because her prescription had changed and she was getting headaches. I just didnít get that Ė she had roommates splitting the bills and no car. How could she not put the money aside somehow for something so important as glasses? Glasses can be expensive, true, but how do you not get them, even if you have to cut back elsewhere? Even more unfathomable was the friend who claimed to not have enough money to eat so he worked out an elaborate plan. He had enough money for food to last for two weeks but wouldnít have any more coming in for a month, but rather than eat for two weeks and seek emergency loans or help from the student food bank for the next two, he decided to stretch a two-week supply of food out. Hereís the catch though, rather than eat less all the time and feel hungry for the whole month, he felt that it was easier for him to fast for two days and then eat for two days. Hunh? And this is the same fellow I saw blow almost his whole termís student loan on an effects pedal for his guitar right at the beginning of the term. I knew someone else who went to the bank machine (ATM for you Americans) of a bank that wasnít her own and paid the dollar Interac fee because her bank only gave out money in 20-dollar increments and she didnít have $20 in her account so she was taking out $10Ö to buy a pitcher of beer.

Now, I donít typically drink alcohol, which has saved me a lot of money over the years. I have from time to time (and for the ďwinter of my discontentĒ a few years back, which I plan on keeping in my mysterious past, I drank too much) and I have nothing against the idea of drinking, I just usually prefer not to. Plus I get migraines (which Iím sure will merit their own entry sometime in the future), so drinking isnít a great idea for me. I didnít drink a lot as a student, certainly nowhere near as much as the people around me did, for the simple reason I didnít feel it was a good use of my money. I went out dancing all the time; sometimes I had a few drinks, occasionally more than a few, but mostly I danced and interspersed lower-cost drinks like soda or water throughout my evening. Spending my last $10 on beer? Not something I would do. Not something I can comprehend doing.

Now that Iím ostensibly a grownup, Iím still finding it hard to actually spend money on anything that doesnít seem essential. Part of me wants to fly south this winter, buy that Palm pilot with the adorable portable keyboard, drive around in a Mini Cooper (or any car significantly younger than my 18 year-old Ford). I just turned 31, I have a decent job, I just finished with all the complicated finances that a small housing development involves and have a weighty mortgage like a normal homeowner; isnít it finally OK to have the shiny toys and various accoutrements that my peers seem to have been buying all along? Canít I cloak myself in glamour? Buy lipstick and fancy face creams, get my hair cut at a salon, and go to a masseuse with a light heart?

Apparently not; old habits die hard.

I can never, never turn down free food. I could for awhile but then I was unemployed for 6 months in 1999 and havenít been able to shake that habit since. I will still walk blocks out of my way to avoid giving a penny more to banks that post record profits while they penalize people for not keeping more than a minimum balance in their accounts, AND give these people not a penny in interest for the privilege of borrowing their hard-earned money (which is really what youíre doing when you open an account with a bank; youíre loaning them your money which they use to make money for themselves Ė can you tell this is a pet peeve of mine?).

At least I am finally becoming able to get rid of socks that sprout holes in the toes and heels. They become rags rather than going into the trash but weíve all got to start conquering our demons somewhere.

(Did you notice that I conquer demons with holey socks? Man, is that a bad pun.)

Before I forget, NaNoWriMo is coming! Go check it out!

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