Before I signed up to do NaBloPoMo, I sat down and made a list of topics that I could cover throughout the month to make sure I would always have something to write about. Sunday Scribblingswas at the top of that list. For those of you who haven’t heard about them, they provide a post topic towards the end of the week and keep a blogroll of all the people who post on the topic. So if you’re doing daily postings and need some inspiration, there’s plenty there to get you going.
Money is something that I’ve struggled with my whole life. Growing up, we didn’t have enough, ever. During college, I could never make enough to keep up with what I spent, so I transitioned into credit cards. After I graduated, Manly and I spent three years sending every spare cent we earned to the credit companies to pay off our debt. Now that we’re out of debt (mortgage excluded) and have some savings, I can breathe a little easier. But after all those years of angsting over ever dollar that I “wasted,” worrying about money has become an ingrained habit. I can’t bring myself to just go out and buy things that I would like to have without analyzing the purchase beforehand:
- Is it something that I need (ex: turkey roasting pan two Thanksgivings ago when we were hosting dinner)?
- Is it something that we will use for years to come (ex: small table for front hallway to catch keys, purse, etc.)?
- Is it something that I really, really want (to pass this test, I walk away from the item in question. If I can’t get it out of my mind, I go back and buy it. Otherwise, I forget about it and I haven’t spent any money.)?
- Is it an investment (um, struggling here. I don’t think anything’s ever passed this test.)?
- Does it cost less than lunch out with Manly (ex: $18 bookshelf that I broke down and bought this weekend)?
Unless I can answer “yes” to one of those questions, I usually won’t spend money on a purchase. I think it also helps that I give myself a fixed spending budget each pay period, so I always have a dollar-amount limit that factors into the analysis. Manly has referred to me in the past as a “money-squirrel” and I think that’s the best description of me that I’ve ever heard.
In some ways, I envy Manly with regard to how he deals with money. Once he paid off his debts, he was able to start enjoying the benefits of his salary. He can make a decision to purchase something much faster than I can, and he doesn’t worry as much about the cost. Of course, part of that, I’m sure, is knowing that I make sure all the bills are paid and groceries are bought, so he doesn’t have any responsibilities other than paying off his credit card each month (cash back + no interest = better use of dollars). But even when we were in debt, he was more willing to spend on things to enjoy, like dinner out or new clothes, than I was.
I don’t think I’ll ever be totally comfortable with regards to money. The more I make, I’ve noticed, the more fear I have of losing it. One of my biggest fears is always that I’ll lose my job, and then we’ll go bankrupt and lose the house and LIFE WILL END! Despite the fact that I’m a qualified engineer in a engineering town, and dear god, if some of those bozos I graduated with cound convince a company to hire them surely I can do the same. And it’s not like Manly couldn’t handle the household bills himself, because he’s making almost as much as I was when I first graduated, and we didn’t starve then either. At the end of the day, I think part of my fear of money is my fear of losing control. Having enough money gives me some control over my destiny; not having enough gives other people control over me. Money might not always buy happiness, but it can buy security. And security is something that I value far above the material goods in life.