Feb 6, 2013


I have a ridiculous relationship with money. I hate it, I really do. If there was a city that didn't use money, where we just got what we needed and helped where we could, I'd move there in a heartbeat. It is a bit mindboggling to me that a sick person cannot get help without paying, we let families go hungry or homeless when they struggle financially, and CEOs can make millions in bonuses off the backs of their workers who they pay $7.50 an hour. That is $15,600 per year in trade for 40 hours per week, for those of us that haven't worked for minimum wage in a while. Doesn't this system seem to lack humanity?

At the same time, I spend money constantly, without really thinking about it. For me, this is mainly a problem at the grocery store— I eat an organic, gluten-free diet, and while it is very important to me it isn't cheap. Sure, I think about cash flow and debt on the weekends or when I'm scheming to get out of it. But it is second nature for me to simply put what I want in the cart and "pay" with plastic. I don't add up my total as I go, and I don't pay much attention to prices.

I got my first credit card while in college. I think I got a free candy bar for filling out the application. I'm pretty sure I only did it for the candy bar (in retrospect, that was the most expensive candy bar in the history of the world). From that moment, I stopped having to count my pennies before a purchase. I didn't need to have the money to cover it, because I could just pay for it later...and, of course, I could always come up with a way to pay for it later, right? Wrong. It only got worse after college, when I got poorly paying jobs that fit my values. And that would have been fine had I made wise financial decisions. I have no doubt I could have lived on what I made. But if I didn't have to, why bother?

By the time I figured all of this out, my habits had been formed and I owed a whole bunch of money to the ugly banks attached to my credit cards. The thing is, the interest I pay on those cards is feeding the inhumane system I described earlier that I abhor so much. I've known this for years, but a habit is a hard thing to break.

We started a new budget this month. It's not going perfectly, but I am thinking about it a lot more every day. I just have to keep reminding myself that I could either purchase something now that would give me instant gratification, or pay off a few more dollars of debt and be out from under the weight of it just a little sooner. Some days, instant gratification wins out. But more and more, I'm not only valuing debt repayment with my mind but with my dollars too. I hope that within a month or two I'll have some new habits. The first step is admitting you have a problem, right?

Do you have trouble sticking to your budget? Do you have any tricks to share that work for you?

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