I pick the lion dancer this morning because he seems like a symbol of abundance today, the first day of a new month. The first of a month always seems like a good chance to begin again, avoiding the errors of the previous one. For some reason in the past months money has been tight for me. I know that my income was reduced by several hundred dollars a month when my previous higher paying job was eliminated last summer, but I do still have a job and I earn considerably more than many people in the world. I am blessed and fortunate in that.
So, why the feeling of parsimony? It is all about the credit cards. Over the years I let their balances creep up and creep up. I have two, which I swore I would never do again. Actually I have three, but one has no balance. It is that blasted Costco American Express card which I rue ever accepting. I’d heard about the great rebates, and my intention was to only use it for the amount I could pay off right away. But then things came up, and I couldn’t always pay it right away, and voila! It was maxed out. I learned in a difficult way about the vindictiveness of a credit card company. They arbitrarily raise interest rates, lower available credit without obvious reason. Okay, not exactly without reason. The interest rate raising happened because I missed a payment a year ago January after the big storm when I had no power for over a week and I had to suddenly come up with over a thousand dollars to have a fallen tree removed from my and my neighbor’s yards. I paid double the next month, but ni modo. My rate went up to 24.9% overnight, and they refused to even listen to my story of woe. Paying that card off became my new religion. Never again was I late on anything. They finally reduced the rate, and then after several months of perfect payment they arbitrarily reduced the available credit. So then I took out a 0% interest card and transferred the balance. I do not use it and am paying it off. But in order to do that, I have to be absolutely vigilant in making the payment I told myself I would each month. No months off for good behavior. I dream of the day that I have all that extra money each month, but that day is uncomfortably far in the distance.
So I budget, and now am doing the envelope thing. A few dollars each month parceled out into weekly envelopes so I never get to the last week or two with only $55.00 left. Or less. That has happened before and it is not pretty. This whole experience has left me with a new view of money. And myself. I realize that for years I kept up what I was doing because I had room on my credit card. I visited my mom because I could squeeze the airfare on my credit card. I bought those great shoes the same way, gifts for my children the same way. I have never been extravagant, really. I just didn’t have the cash, so I used my cards, always intending to pay back what I spent but never actually doing so.
So now I see myself as sort of grimy, somehow. Or maybe not grimy. Maybe inadequate is a better term. Like I should be comfortable at my age, able to buy what I want to – not still using envelopes. Being single is part of it, I suppose, not having anyone to share expenses with, but really, the truth of the matter goes back to self control. I want what I want, whether it is food or travel or a great pair of shoes. Or a new camera for my daughter. Or a good hotel room for her wedding night. And all of that is okay. Not extravagant, just outside my means because I already owe too much.
At the beginning of the year I found a snowball debt reducing tool. Here is the URL to it: http://www.vertex42.com/Calculators/debt-reduction-calculator.html According to this tool, I’ll be debt free within two years, as long as I can stand to be so vigilant. Meanwhile my computer is slowing down, my camera is not as agile as it used to be and my phone contract is up. An iPhone beckons me. I WANT NEW ELECTRONICS!! But I will resist and keep faithful to my snowball debt reduction, sending off big clumps of money every month to pay for the last things I wanted and had to have. But I’ll say right now, that my reward for having paid it all off will be slick and shiny. And paid for in CASH. I will get there, envelope by envelope. And boy, will it feel good!