I Suck At Money (But I'm Learning to be Better)
I'm not good with money.
There, I said it. That wasn't so hard. I spend most of my time worrying about money -- where I'm going to get it, what I'm going to do with it, and why I don't have enough of it -- but I don't think I've ever admitted to not being good with it, to actually having a learning deficit when it comes to cash. And now, here on this fine website where people admit to all sorts of unsavory things, I'm admitting that I don’t know what the fuck I'm doing with my money.
It's kind of a relief, actually.
I'll pause here to say that I'm lucky to have the sorts of money problems I'm about to detail. I'm privileged and I know that. I've got a roof over my head, more food than I can eat, health insurance to cover my medication, employment (like Julieanne, I'm a freelancer with 18 jobs), an education, houseplants and a membership to Weight Watchers.
All my money problems are my own. They're First World Problems of the first-worldiest sort. But I'm gonna guess you've got a few of these problems, too. Even though you might also have far bigger financial issues to deal with, I bet you'll be able to relate some of this crap. So here we go.
Now it would be uncouth to come totally clean about my financials, but suffice to say this bitch spends way too much on food (mostly dining out), rent (hello New York City!), and local transportation (we do have a subway here, and it goes everywhere, but I avoid it much of the time.)
Confession: I spent $1,700 on cabs over the course of 7 months last year.
Guess how much I spent on iTunes in that same time period?
Clearly, I have a problem. (And credit card debt.)
The good thing about the tedious work of tallying up each and every expense from 2011 (hi, tax season!) is that it makes you realize some important stuff. In short: I may not be the stereotypical cutesy lady-in-the-city shopaholic -- I don't give a shit about handbags or shoes -- but I do live beyond my means.
However! I've been told there is a way out of this financial muck and mire, a path lit by the flames of wisdom that arise from a burning torch held aloft by a powerful, charismatic feminine force. She is my Gandalf the Blonde. She is my Mahotmama Gandhi. She is my blunt, no-nonsense Midwestern power lesbian Sherpa. She is Suze Orman, and she is going to get me the fuck out of this mess.
Or, rather, I'm going to get me the fuck out of this mess. And Suze's going to help.
If you're not familiar with The Suze, know this: She was brought to us by Oprah, from whom all good things come. Right now I'm rereading Suze's "The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous and Broke," a tome I sort of skimmed enough last summer to motivate me to check out my FICO score. And lo, it is good (my FICO score, and the book).
Suze makes me feel like maybe I can actually figure some of this shit out. Here are a few things I have gleaned from her thus far:
1. Figure out a reasonable payment schedule for my remaining student loan, and stick to it.
Guess who was just pretending that loan wasn't there, because the company hasn't been begging me for monthly payments? Yours truly. The last time I looked at the loan, it seemed reasonable enough, and there was an adorable little due date that seemed eons in the future.
Guess how much it's ballooned in the years since then? 15%! Good times, good times. But instead of engaging in my usual strategy -- calling myself an idiot and crying -- I logged into the magic loan website and set up a monthly payment plan.
2. Take the fucking subway.
I'm agoraphobic. Sometimes I'm afraid of large groups of people. Sometimes I'm afraid of travel. Combine these two things, and you have the New York City subway, a special place full of wondrous surprises that also happens to be (usually) the most efficient way to get around this city.
In the past, I've taken cabs and told myself, "You deserve this. You work hard." I've also told myself, "You have a problem other people don't. It's okay to accommodate it this way." And I've also told myself (beginning to see a pattern?), "You fucking idiot. You're a lazy, stupid, spoiled baby and that's why you take cabs. You're worthless."
None of those strategies has led me to save time or money. Therefore, it is time for a new strategy: just taking the subway. I know I'm scared. I know it pushes all my agorafabulous buttons. I know I'm not a bad person or a lazy person or a selfish person because of my fears. I also know I need to just do it.
If I need to dose myself with Klonopin, I'll do it. If I need to invest in an extra self-help book or an extra session with my psychiatrist, I'll do it. If I need to drag myself kicking and screaming down those stairs, I'll do it. If I need to listen to Enya and mentally chant "bananaflower" or "tumbleweed" over and over again, I'll do it.
Because maybe, instead of the approximately $250 a month I spend on taxis (plus my $100 MetroCard), I can cut it down to, I dunno, $75 a month on cabs plus the $100 for my MetroCard (I'm not trying to be a hero here. I'm just trying to cut back) and reserve cab rides for super late nights or the rare times when a cab actually will get me there faster.
I recently asked all of you where I should move, and you responded with some incredibly helpful comments. In the midst of my book tour, I was wild with jealousy over my friends' seemingly idyllic lifestyles in not-New York (chickens in the backyard in NC! A monastery and mountains out the window in Los Angeles! A pool house -- and a pool -- in Houston!)
Then a few things occurred to me: I have work here in NYC; I'm (for better or for worse) close to my family; and I live in a wildly overpriced 1-bedroom apartment in a wildly overpriced, super-trendy neighborhood. And then I read this little bit of wisdom from Suze: Don't live in the trendy neighborhood. Deal with a longer commute.
In retrospect: duh.
Fast-forward to today, when I took a gander at Craigslist and found a number of 1-bedroom apartments for a full 50 percent cheaper than my current rent. They're in safe, boring, resolutely untrendy neighborhoods approximately 40 minutes outside Manhattan.
So I'd have to get up earlier in the morning. So I'd be farther away from all the stupid truck noise in Long Island City. MY SOUL WOULD FLOWER. My groceries might actually be cheaper. I'd live around people I could actually relate to instead of all the married corporate yuppies around here with their $500 baby prams. (I totally envy them and wish I were one of them; I just can't relate to them.)
Anyway, that's all for now. I'd love to hear about some of your money problems (and solutions) in the comments. And if anybody out there has ever actually turned her financial life around and finally gotten her money right -- lady, would I love to hear from YOU.