Friday, April 06, 2007

It makes the world go around.

If you are like me, the weird thing about making more money is that you are afraid to do anything with it.

Like, for example, I got a paycheck this month that was several hundred dollars more than I used to get. Before I got said paycheck I told myself that I would take that extra money and give it to my college to pay off a significant chunk of the one Perkins loan I owe them. (I owe other student loans, but only one small one to the University).

The money is sitting in my bank account. Because I don't want to see it go away.

I know that's dumb. I know it's "extra" money, because I know that I was doing just fine without it before and my expenses really haven't changed, except for the stupid student loans that I'm going to have to start paying back soon. So why can't I just write the check?

So many people are freaks about money.

I am one of them.

When I was a credit counselor, I saw a lot of people who had money issues. Some of them had money issues because they were a stay-at-home mom for fifteen years and their husband left them and the only job they could get was at Taco Bell. Some of them had money issues because they never had anything growing up and overcompensated later. Some of them were compulsive shoppers, or poor planners. Others, especially women, had spouses who ruled the home with an iron fist and would not allow them enough money to even cover basic necessities. They grew to rely on credit cards to buy things like groceries.

Most, however, had what I like to call self-inflicted money issues.

Like this one couple? They came in to see me one night with a huge stack of credit card bills and a huge bunch of attitude.

They were a married couple with three young children. They both worked as guards at a local prison. I recall that their gross income, combined, was around $58000 annually. It seems as though they both netted just under $1900 a month. So, let's say they brought home $3800.

They owned a double wide trailer for which they were paying $875 a month. That did not include taxes (city and county, mind you) or insurance. Also, they had a lot rent of $195 a month. And, they had a second mortgage on the home through a local finance company for $335 a month.

So they were paying $1405 a month for a double wide trailer. Before taxes and insurance. In the area they lived, that would have bought a really nice house. When I pointed out both the amount that their housing was costing them monthly, they seemed really surprised. I said something like, "Wow, you could have a nice house for that amount of money!" they both rolled their eyes and told me they couldn't afford a house.

They both had cars, which they told me they needed. This counseling took place in 2003 and both of their cars were 2003 models. His car payment was $495 a month. Hers? Was about $400. Car insurance was $225 a month because he had a lot of tickets. They were really behind on the car insurance.

I asked if they could just carpool, since they worked the same shift at the same place and they immediately said, no, because sometimes after work he wanted to go help his brother.

No, I'm not kidding, they really said that.

The electric bill averaged $300 a month. I don't know about anywhere else really, but in the area I lived at the time, utility bills were brutal if you lived in trailers. They were really behind on the electric bill. They owed somewhere in the neighborhood of $1000 and the bill was red- which meant cancellation was imminent.

The house phone had been shut off. They needed $300 to get it turned back on. They both had cell phones though. His plan was $59.99 a month. Hers ran her about $120 a month. I asked if they could combine plans to save money and they said they couldn't. No explanation as to why, but they couldn't. I asked why they HAD to have cell phones and the woman, very snippily, informed me that she had children and she couldn't be without a way to reach her children at any given moment. I asked her if she had a phone on her desk at work and she said she did.

I asked how much they spent on groceries and she said about $100 a month. I questioned that, as they had five people in the home and that is ridiculously low for five people, even if you are a super shopper. She insisted that was correct and they didn't eat very much.

I asked her how much they spent eating out.

"We never eat out," she said, taking a long drink out of her McDonalds cup.

I told her that McDonalds WAS eating out, because it was food not prepared at home.

They got really irritated at this point and said, "You just need to help us with our bills!"

I tried to explain that the reason they were having trouble paying their bills is because their living expenses were to high. They didn't care, they didn't want to hear it. I told them I wouldn't look at their bills until we finished their living expenses. They got very annoyed, but agreed and snapped each answer at me. The answers included a $100 a week hip-hop dance class for one of their daughters, and $30 a week, per kid, for allowance because they never had any money growing up and since they made good money their kids weren't going to suffer like that.

They had $60,000 in credit card debts.

They were angry at me for "not helping" them, and called my boss to complain the next day.

Those people? They had self-inflicted money troubles.

I swore I'd never be one of those people, and largely I am not. I'm not behind on anything, I don't have excessive debts, and I don't overspend for basics.

But I'm still a freak about money.

I'm so afraid to have nothing. I never want to be there again.

Logically, I know this won't happen. Logically, I know I'm stronger now than I've ever been. I have more education and experience than I've ever had. Every day I gain more experience. Every day I meet more people who have influence over my career. Every paycheck I deposit money in the savings account. Every paycheck, I chip away at the debt I do have remaining. As much as I hate the debt I have from my student loans, I don't regret that debt at all. Because that debt means I have education, and education has opened doors for me.

Emotionally? It makes me a Weepy McWeepster.

I don't know how to change.


frannie said...

I have had nothing- it is a dark and scary place that I never want to be again.

you have been there too- and you have seen a lot of others there through your work.

you are not a freak- you are smart.

well, you aren't a freak about money- other things? well, that's a different story. :)

Anonymous said...

I love having money and spending it...but, I HATE parting with it. Makes me sad. I want to spend that $400 bonus last month on crap I WANT. But, I don't want the money to leave my checking account.

A credit counselor, huh? Interesting. Making my brain click and think...

FYI: GO YOU for the extra worked hard for it and deserve it!!

CPA Mom said...

Why change? You are smart about your money and know the pitfalls to avoid. So what if it makes you cautious. That is who I want to be when I grow up.

I've been so poor the only thing we had to eat was potatoes (no toppings), 25 cent mac 'n cheese boxes and 12 cent ramen noodles. I never want to be that poor again.

Dawn~a~Bon said...


Just reading about those people you counselled makes me mad. Why do people think they're entitled to absolutely everything they want exactly when they want it.

I'm with you sister - I'm currently obsessed with my Honda payments and how much I still owe and how much I'm paying in interest and how much money I'll save if I pay it off early. I think about this EVERY MORNING in the shower and several times a day at work!

HeatherAnn Fragglehead said...

Do you know that for a long time now you've been my financial hero? Because you are SO responsible. And you really have your priorities in order. And I totally understand why you freak about money. I can understand that. But maybe, in a way, it helps you... because you know how to save, you know the importance of it.

I want to smack that family around. Seriously. $30 per kid per week? In a month with four weeks (I know you know this), they spend $360 on allowance. What in the freaking hell could the kids possibly need each month that adds up to $360?!?! That's damn near one of their car payments! AAACK!

I've been less that great with money, and I still see the ridiculousness in this.

Alpha Dude said...

Dear Weepy,
You are not a freak about money. You are wise. The Bible says that if you can be trusted with a little, you will entrusted with much. Enjoy your "much". You've earned it, in every sense of the word.

It sounds like you've got your debts/payments under control.
Don't freak about it, just enjoy this awesome day God made special just for you.

(The reason you don't know how to change is because you DON'T need to!)

velocibadgergirl said...


Lizarita said...

You will ALWAYS be that way. My sister? The doctor? The one who has over a bazillion dollars in her CHECKING account, no debt, and like, another bazillion invested? won't spend $15.00 on a new bra for herself from Wal-Mart. She has more money than she knows what to do with, but she won't spend it. And honestly? She'd rather give it to me than spend it on herself.
We weren't POOR by any means while growing up, but we always saw my parents struggling to make ends meet. But we were always clothed and fed and blah blah. But just because you suddenly win the lottery, doesn't mean you have to go out and spend it all, y'know? And that's a good thing. Your momma raised you RIGHT sistah!

Julie said...

$60,000 in credit card debt - wow. The most I ever had was $11,00 racked up after college. I never thought I was going to pay that off - it was such a relief when I did.

Heathie said...

Oooohhh. The story about that family got under my skin! I'm horrible with managing money sometimes, but even I'm not that bad (and I'm lucky to have a money-smart hubby)!
If you have your loan payments under control, I'd say save that extra money. Pay yourself! The main thing that keeps poor people poor is that if they do get an increase in income, they adjust their spending so they still don't have extra money. I'm still working on avoiding that trap. There's just so much junk out there that I want! ;p

Shanilie said...

Wow 30$ allowance! They are just asking for money problems I guess. Then don't need money for now, they need to start making positive changes for now so that they don't have to come to you again in the future.

You worked hard for your money so it is up to you when and how you want to spend it. Between Ryan and I we have approx 50 thou in debts and we are content making the minimum payments for now. I want to have some $ at the end of the month to live. You're an educated, intelligent woman and you should be proud of that.

My bro joined the military straight from grade 12 and now he has a good paying job with no debts...sometimes I have to admit...I'm a little envious :S

Bethany said...

I want a $30 a week allowance!

Anonymous said...

I am also a freak about money. I have been to the don't-have-none place and I do NOT want to go back.

Denise said...

Argh I am at the dont have nothing place now and it sucks.

Amy W said...

I agree, you are pretty damn smart with your money.

Love the new look!

Emma in Canada said...

You are very smart with money, you can't use the word freak. Me, I'm not so good with it. I can't believe that couple didn't take your advice. I wonder where they are today.

Jocelyn said...

You know what? If you have to be a freak about something (and don't we all?), keeping money in a bank account is not a bad way to go. At some point here, maybe you can make a deal with yourself (self-deal-making is one of my freakish things) to take half of the extra hundreds and apply them to the student loan, thereby keeping some but also taking a step forward with some.

Not everything has to happen right away, all the time, just because it makes sense. People don't make sense.

Oh, and I LOVED your rundown of that overextended couple. I get so sick of people *needing* things like two cars to drive to the same place at the same time.