How on earth do starving artists and writers manage to create when they have survival to worry about? Yesterday was a stark, cold day of bleak terror as I rode the bus to the credit union, closed my account and rode back, realizing that only $19 stood between us and zero.
So of course, I went to the nearest 7-11 and blew 10% of my entire fortune on a Coke and a bag of lime potato chips. This is the attitude toward money that got me in this fix.
I suppose that some writers and artists actually need to live on the edge in order to feel the terror so they can express it. You'd think there would be a better way.
If that's the case, I should be a regular Stephanie King. Maybe that's why SK is so good at writing horror - he's lived through terrors of his own. Well, not the fear of poverty, at least not lately, but we all have our own private hell hidden deep somewhere, don't we?
"What are you afraid of?" That was the game we used to play, sitting around my half-sister's kitchen table.
"Death by drowning," said she.
"Being alone," said he.
"Homelessness," said I.
So why, then, do I persist in pushing my luck? Why do I seem to fear solvency far more than destitution?
The truth is that I fear money. When I have it, I get rid of it as quickly as possible. Money doesn't just burn a hole in my pocket, it burns my soul.
I fear money because I don't know what to do with it, because there can never be enough of it to quiet the roaring debt monster at my back, because it makes people ugly, because it can't make me happy, because it is the root of all evil.
"If you won the lottery, what would you do?"
"Pay off the mortgage," said she.
"Buy a mansion," said he.
"Give it all away," said I.
And I would, too, but I'm afraid the original good intention of giving it to charity would be shoved aside while I threw money at all the people I owe and feel guilty about. Like all the hapless lottery winners who wind up with nothing in a couple of years, I'd be back to zero in no time.
I've already done as much when I grabbed the brass career ring twenty years ago and blew the opportunity through fear and foolishness. My half-sister did the same when she inherited a million dollars from her adoptive parents. She lost her overpriced house and was living on Social Security a decade later.
No wonder I'm afraid of money. It leads straight to poverty.
Why is it so hard to hang onto money? What's the problem here?
Discipline, of course. Not something that post-Depression Americans have much of a grasp on. Or was the Depression itself the direct result of American abandon? Maybe this is a basic flaw of the American [or even human] character. Let's face it, people who actually do have the discipline to save their money and invest it wisely are considered suspect in our materialistic society.
But getting back to me - this is all about me, after all - how do I get me some 'a that? The only way I've ever been able [okay, willing] to live on a budget has been when I had no choice, either because it was the only way to keep a roof over my head, or when I hired an accountant to manage my big salary and give me a weekly allowance. That worked pretty well until my future ex-husband came into the picture. We truly were kindred spirits where money was concerned.
So now I will be forced again to live on a strict budget. It's a relief, actually. I was becoming quite anxious about not being able to resist my son's increasing plaints for games, gadgetry and fast food.
Now the answer is easy: "No money." When there is no money, there is no argument, no pressure, no need to stand fast in the face of persistent teenagers, bill and tax collectors.
It's so much easier this way.
i am sitting here today with an income that is approximately three to four times what it was one year ago (it was very, very small then, part time intern's wages). back then i drove a deathtrap micro-truck $300 -- paid for), lived in a rented room (paid for by chris, who had money then) & i had lots to spend. now i am living in a nice suburban neighborhood, driving a nice buick, having nice DSL & so broke, it's unbelievable. every month we are about $300 shy of what we need to live on. i've cut back in every way possible except of course the technology & transportation & housing -- i.e., i eat a lot of top ramen, wear the same clothes all the time, & don't bother with things like haircuts & makeup. but i can sit here on a fabulous computer & surf all day, so, life is good right?
by kd at February 3, 2002 4:39 PM
yep, as long as we've got a fabulous computer and high-bandwidth, all is right with the world.
by lavonne at February 3, 2002 9:37 PM
um, mg -- in case you don't see it, this is what i see at the top of your main page:
"Warning: Wrong parameter count for strstr() in /users1/b/badsamaritan.com-28859/public_html/lgf-reflog.php on line 34"
by lavonne at February 3, 2002 9:38 PM
Well the Depression was caused, basically, by rich people and banks taking all the money from the poor people, putting it into the stock market, and the markets crashing - with all the poor people losing all their money because banks back then weren't insured by the FDIC.
But I can relate. Even though we make a fairly mad income right now, we don't save as much as we should. I worry sometimes about if one of us lost our job. About all we manage to save is 10% of my income into my 401-K. That's supposed to be for retirement, but I think most people nowdays (if they are younger) think of 401-K as more of "unemployment insurance."
by Charles at February 4, 2002 12:44 AM
'Sfunny, 'cuz I suffer from the polar opposite problem: I have a borderline inability to spend money on myself. I have my nice cushy software engineer's salary at the moment... and I live with my dad to save on rent, and bargain-hunt deals on pasta to save on food, and drive a utilitarian Plymouth Neon to save on insurance, and otherwise hyperminimize my expenses. My sole vices are high-speed internet access, baseball games, and the occasional geek trinket; last I checked, my savings rate was somewhere well north of 80%.
I dunno where I'm going with this, really. Just offering an interesting contrasting worldview, I guess.
by Antwon at February 4, 2002 1:08 AM
I have no money at all now, so I'm driving an $800 car and contemplating doing all of the necessary repairs myself with borrowed equipment. The only piece of furniture that actually own is from K-Mart.
I seem to remember a well-paying support job, with a nice apartment all to myself and nice furniture to go with it. I also remember monthly credit card bills of $1500, which meant that I was, on average, spending more than I made any given month. I think bornfamous is right - money DOES lead directly to poverty. And since I'm hoping to become a university professor, poverty will by my mode du jour for the forseeable future. Ahh well.
by westernexposure at February 4, 2002 5:49 AM
Antwon: ever consider donating a little spare change to needy Californians? I can think of two, right now. Ok, i admit it, Bornfamous needs it more than I do, but let's not forget I just upgraded the DSL I already can't afford, to support the multiple computers, so, I am a little tapped. We are a worthy cause! Save the shortsighted Californians!
by kd at February 4, 2002 12:06 PM
I suck at money handling. Thank GOD I married an economist, or I wouldn't have anything in the bank. :/
by skits at February 5, 2002 2:54 PM
I managed to save enough money in 2000 to only work 4 months in 2001, live reasonably well, and not run too much up on my credit cards. It's not that I'm frugal, because I like stuff. It's just that I feel guilty about buying stuff, so usually spend months researching my purchase. I still spend big money on big purchases, but only once every 3-4 months instead of after every paycheck clears the bank.
by mg at February 5, 2002 11:49 PM
I took my car off the road a couple months ago to save the $1800/year insurance (2 clean drivers, minimum liability only, Philadelphia PA). But even though I bike and walk a lot now--and like it--I feel broker than ever. I too work in tech, more than 40hrs/week with freelance on weekends. Very perplexing. I think I can hear Kenneth Lay laughing...
by maniabug at February 7, 2002 4:19 AM
I have to say that it looks like God is protecting you from what would be your worst enemy--to have a lot of money.
If you were as rich as SK, it would destroy you--or someone.
by videojeff at February 7, 2002 9:39 PM
I earn 60 bucks an hour and My wife recently informed me that last year we only cleared about 5 bucks from our business. We could bankrupt out of the money we owe creditors, but then what? I'm so sick of money. I am going to go out and make a ton of it. I'm going to hoard it and be one of those old geezers that has it stashed under his house. A few years ago, actually about 4, some friends of my sister's who had been poor all their live's, bought an old beat up farmhouse. The porch caved in before they got moved in and the husband broke his leg. Out of the hospital they finished ripping up the porch. The previous owner passed away and left a fortune under the damn porch. All silver dollars. A very big, deep hole FULL! Old, corroded, but some very valuable very spendable. They got rich.aI heard, They were very, very rich. Got a shovel?
by Sky at February 26, 2003 1:46 AM
At 16 i was a labourer, making a cool $500 a week and for me that was a fortune, i couldn't spend it all and i actually tried, Now i am a computer geek (Its a lot more wussy but i cant argue with the pay) I get over 2k per week and am still broke. Mind you, i'm sure many of you will relate to this, i live by the mantra of joe demaggio "From time to time i may be broke but i am never poor" I would rather live well, have nothing in the bank and have a stripper on my lap every friday night and a fresh bitch in my bed every saturday than have a savings account. You cant take it with you! Stress less my brethren, tell the credit card company to kiss your proverbial, the check is in the mail, i get paid next week, haven't you recieved that payment yet? Use their payment and get drunk in a strip club, live a little, and worru about it next week :-)
by Phoenix at July 18, 2004 3:10 PM
I AM A POOR STUDENT OF ENGINEERING.
AT PRESENT I HAVE ACUTE SHORTAGE OF MONEY TO COMPLETE MY STUDIES.
I WOULD BE VERY GRATEFUL TO YOU IF YOU HELP ME FINANCIALLY.
by samrat at January 4, 2005 2:52 AM