Monday, June 10, 2013
If FB had a relationship status for money, mine would be "It's complicated."
And for a time, we were poor. My mother went back to college and we found a little rental house. I ducked my head in shame when a substitute teacher asked me loudly why I only paid five cents for my lunch and I had to explain the reduced lunch program in range of the listening ears of my new classmates. My father rarely sent the meager child support checks on time and my mother fumed about it. To us. To say that I was angry about the turn our lives had taken would be an understatement.
I believe that's when it started. I began squirreling money away, terrified that I might need it and not have it. Because I had seen how easily it could happen. The ten-dollar bill in my birthday card from a relative? You might find that rolled up and hidden in the curtain rod. The pockets of my winter coat, in between book pages, in the space behind a dresser drawer - all were good hiding places for money. Coins were counted and purchases very carefully considered. I went door to door offering to rake yards or wash cars for a buck here or there. And you better believe that when I hit 16, I took the $200 I had saved and bought myself a battered '68 Chevelle so I could work at McDonald's.
So here I am at 50, established in my career, and I still fret. I'd mostly laid that aside until my own divorce and holy God did that stir it all back up. But I was determined to do it differently so that my kids would not be burdened with worry. When people criticized me for buying a house and pouring money into fixing it up and furnishing it, I sloughed that off. Yes, I'll take a big financial hit when I try to sell it. But it's been a good home for my boys, they got their own rooms, and I don't regret a single decision I made.
However, I do like two things that involve money. First, great food. Thankfully I'm a good cook so mostly I can provide that myself, but I admit I will spend money on eating out. And second, travel. But it is so, so hard for me to carve money out to go somewhere and I am really itching to travel. So I've resorted to a little shell game with myself. My sister told me about a plan of setting aside a sum of money every week, adding a dollar each time. $1 the first week, $2 the second, until the last week you add $52. In the end, you've saved $1378. But that would mean saving only $10 the first four weeks and having to cough up $202 the last four. I suggested it might be more fun to randomize it. And while I was thinking that through, I came up with my own plan. I divided the year into 2-week periods, reminiscent of how I used to get paid before I was self-employed. Wait... let me take a moment to recall actual regular paychecks... yeah... that was nice. Aaaanyway. On 364 slips of paper, I printed the numbers 1 through 14 26 times each and folded them up. Every day, I draw one and put that money in a bag. To make sure I don't forget, I have a little calendar to record each day's amount and the total amount.
I know that it's the same money regardless, but somehow it doesn't feel that way. And this is not my only money issue. I can't bear to owe anyone money, so I only go into debt for housing. I have a mortgage, but other than that, I'd rather buy a used car than take on payments, and won't buy anything I can't pay for. I use a credit card the way others use a check book, for the convenience and the frequent flyer miles I'm earning on it. But I keep it paid off because I have a horror of paying interest. And it's not even that I won't spend money. I believe in tipping wait staff well, for instance, and when my cervical cancer ended up costing me $15,000 out of pocket for tests and surgeries, I considered it money well spent. But pay someone to do anything I can reasonably do myself? Nope. That's why you will find me all summer mowing my own yard.
Every time the money in the vacation fund bag on my dresser tops $100, I will pull that out and sock it away in the safe in my basement. In my cold war era house, the original owners built a bomb shelter in the basement with a safe that is permanently cemented in. You heard me. Seems I'm not the only one with a little anxiety about the future.
Posted by Secret Agent Woman at 9:47 PM
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Hmm. Toughie to comment on. I'll pass on the money part, and just remark on the 'ambiguity'.ReplyDelete
As a counterpoint, ambiguity can also be seen as the realization that all issues have two or more sides. Understanding that allows us to see what others who disagree more clearly, and what their issues are. This is a step towards peaceful living, and the necessary compromise. I'm ambiguous about many things, hunting, guns, etc., but that doesn't mean I don't decide where I stand, it's more that I have some understanding of those who think different.
Not where you were going with this post, no doubt. Just the part I felt I could comment.
I'm actually quite comfortable with ambivalence - I hold potentially contradictory views on may issues. For instance, I'm ambivalent at times about dating! And to me, ambivalence isn't even about understanding more than one position on an issue, it's about actually holding more than one position yourself. WHich is why I have problems with multiple choice questions - my answer is often, "It depends."Delete
But ambiguity -the murkiness or lack of certainty - is what I'm talking about. But just as an example: when I was pregnant the first time, the uncertainty about what I was actually heading into with the birth itself - how much it would hurt, whether I was strong enough, and so on - was very difficult and frightening for me. No book or Lamaze class in the world can truly prepare you because it's an experience that is deeply individual and defies description. But I don't think you can even wrap your mind around that particular ambiguity unless childbirth is an option for you.
It's so funny, I don't know whether it's because you and I are both LIBRA'S, but I often read your insight and feelings about things, and find that I am the SAME WAY!ReplyDelete
Yeah, I can't bear to owe anyone money either, and will pay my bills BEFORE they're due, just so I can get things paid off as quickly as possible.
I don't make a TON of money, but I know how to stretch it and use it pretty well. I'm very much a minimalist, so I don't require a lot of STUFF in my life to be happy. Just the basics. But like you, I enjoy spending whatever extra I have to TRAVEL. Even if it's a day trip in NYC. But what I really want to do is go to Italy. So I may have to copy your brilliant vacation fund plan. That is AWESOME!
Oh, I do the pay-before-it's-due thing, too! I just want the debt erased, even if it's the temporary debt of, say, an electric bill!Delete
Italy is high on my list, for sure. I like Europe and what's not to recommend about Italian food?
ha. i hear you...pretty cool idea on socking that money away for an amazing vacation...i had money once...now if i make it through the month i am good...no credit, cash only...next year i will start making enough that i feel human again and will sock some away once more.....ReplyDelete
There's something to be said for having experienced both sides of the coin if it helps you develop frugality. I find saving money really lends peace.Delete
i completely get you on all points. my inclination is to be more like you for many of the same reasons. not so my husband. it's been the source of conflict and then actual financial problem. the last three years i've spent steering the titanic away from the iceberg...because that's about how quickly the process can go. sigh....ReplyDelete
I was fortunate that my ex and I were pretty well aligned on money. We read "Personal Finance for Dummies" early in the relationship and both got on board with saving. But I know lots of couple more like you where one is a saver and one is a spender.It's a tough one - sex and money are the two biggest sources of conflict in most relationships!Delete
What a great and fun savings idea!ReplyDelete
I stash away money regularly--mostly $ 20 bills. Last time I cracked open a terra cotta piggy bank there was $2200 inside--worthy of a good vacation :-)
I read about the loss of your bedroom with a lump in my throat. That breaks skin, and although there is healing, scars toughen that skin. Your competence and resilence must in some part come from that
Oh money. It keeps asking me out and I keep accepting. Currently if our condo in ptown doesn't sell and close by October, JB and I have a capital gains crazy mess. But I keep saying, it's only money. It's not cancer and it's not Iran .
I am really liking your personal posts. Well written and honest
I don't know why I've felt compelled to construct posts just lately that are painful even to write. But my blog was starting to feel unbalanced - all the flowers and walks and food and de-cluttering are true, but it's not the whole picture. I know you understand that.Delete
"It's only money" is my mantra whenever I take a financial hit. And then I count my blessings.
I understand this, though my experience with poor came as a mother with 4 kids to worry about endlessly. That experience taught me to save like you do. When my kids had moved on and I remarried, my new husband was also a saver. It is a real blessing to me. And a good thing with our current situation. We could easily have ended in financial ruin if we had not been careful.ReplyDelete
We both have "stashes" and there is a deep satisfaction each time we pay into them. Travel and going out for special occasions are our aims. That and the security of knowing peace as long as it lasts.
Your story with your husband's health problems would make a good one for one of those financial planning books - under the "why savings matters" section. And I figure if worrying makes you more likely to save, then in that way it's a healthy thing.Delete
P S- I love your sunny face clock.ReplyDelete
Thanks! I made it to brighten up the bomb shelter!Delete
I share all the spending traits that you mentioned. I'm not really sure on the psychology behind mine, though. My family had a very middle class lifestyle, but didn't pay for my college, so I faced some very lean years, working minimum wage jobs, paying for tuition and living expenses. And then I got married and paid a lot of my spouse's grad school expenses because I had the full-time job. So, eight lean years must have really messed with my psyche, because I get pissed if I pay $2.99 for milk and see it the next day for $2.69.ReplyDelete
I hate over-paying for things and will actively avoid looking at prices of expensive items right after I've bought something. I'd rather not know!Delete
My childhood felt safe and I never really wanted for anything, but I grew up in a neighborhood where having only one sibling was a sign of prosperity :)ReplyDelete
As an adult, I have never felt truly comfortable or safe, financially. It is still a struggle, but one I'm fairly resigned to. I am just very careful about what I choose to spend money on. And when it is not my choice, I tell myself that it's just money. I have a job and I will earn some more.
And that's all you can do, I know. Be frugal when you can and not freak out when you can't.Delete
I'm a huge contradiction - on the one hand I worry about money and whether I'll have enough when I'm older, on the other hand I've never saved much because I've always had low-wage jobs and higher priorities like buying a comfortable home. I have no idea what my finances will be like in my seventies - I might be poor or I might have inherited a large sum. I just take things year by year in a slightly nervous state of mind.ReplyDelete
An inheritance is one are where there is no ambiguity for me - it won't happen. So I can't just hope for the best. In twenty years, I will have to have provided for my retirement.Delete
good post. I like you randomizing idea. It's much like random expenses that come at you in life, car repair, home repair, etc.ReplyDelete
I think you have a good handle on money management.
Fortunately, I actually am good at managing money.Delete
Oh I just remember another thought - "Somewhere not in this country" - more adventure most likely but you're not implying that there is no fun places here in the US are you?ReplyDelete
I can't imagine how you'd think that - remember all those posts I just did on my fun trip to Massachusetts?Delete
Love your creative plan for vacation money!ReplyDelete
For different reasons to yours, I began childhood comfortable and then moved to poor. I think it always remains with you. But the good thing is that I know how to be poor: and although I hate it, and fear it, it does not reduce me to impotence as it does my husband who has no experience of reduced circumstances and just collapses when we hit a difficult patch.ReplyDelete
Your way of dealing with it is admirable and I love your way of saving for travel. Life can remove everything from you in old age, but as long as you can keep your marble, memories will never leave you: travel gives you such wonderful ones, so I am totally in agreement with you. Get out there and have fun. Cannot wait to hear all about it:)
Maybe I wouldn't have learned frugality without that experience. Because you're right - although it worries me, it also galvanizes me into action. Collapsing is not an option!Delete
I completely agree that experiences are a far better use of your money than things.
I know I have wasted a lot of money over the years and then when I hit 60 I was like "why did I do that?" I could have had more money for retirement!!! I like that savings plan your sister came up with and also you other savings plan. Way to go....ReplyDelete
I think knowing I have no one to fall back on keeps me focused and motivated.Delete
My mom doesn't like to go under a certain amount in her checking account because she said she never knows what's going to happen. I need to build up a plan like that, because I'm irresponsible with money.ReplyDelete
I also like to spend money on restaurant food, and I heard yesterday that there are three restaurants opening up across the street from me. Eek!
I agree with your Mom. In fact, I write that amount out of my balance to keep it hidden as a back-up.Delete
Three restaurants right across the street? Wow, That would be hard to resist.
This post really resonated with me, too. I spent my earliest years with Depression-era grandparents then in a single-parent household to which the non-custodial parent contributed nothing and then to a re-married household in which my stepfather was a good provider. Sadly, none of them taught me to manage money. I had to learn that while working and spent my days off scouring the shelves of the local library for money management books and periodicals, especially those for women.ReplyDelete
Now that I cannot work, money is a whole new ballgame...
I received absolutely no guidance on money management either. In gard school, my ex and I bought "Personal Finance For Dummies," which really preached the importance of avoiding debt and saving for retirement. I also find Dave Ramsey's books useful. But yes, a change in life situation/disability changes the game.Delete
If we post about how perfect life is all the time, it becomes a bit of a bore. That's why I too post of my flaws and downtimes.ReplyDelete
As to money and me, we've had a troubled relationship. I expanded a successful business which was a HUGE mistake that I'm still paying for. I don't have a mortgage which helps, due to some lucky real estate investments in the past and a couple of inheritances which I was very fortunate to receive.
I don't worry about money most of the time. If my life exceeds my cashflow, and it may well might, the social underpinnings of Canada might save the day. If the world continues as is, which I doubt. I should have done my own post. Sorry for the length.
I never mind long comments - it's nice knowing that something here resonates. And I agree - I don't want to only talk about all the good things, because that would be an unfairly skewed version of my life and not genuine.Delete
Maybe I should move to Canada? (Actually, I would if it weren't for the cold!)
I like to squirrel money away in coin jars for some reason. I hate car payments. I only had one new car in my life and I hated it because of the monthly paymnet.ReplyDelete
Same story for me with cars. I haven't had a car payment in more than twenty years.Delete