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Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash - shadows of echoes of memories of songs — LiveJournal
j4
j4
Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash
Money. It's a gas.

This is a difficult one for me. It's funny -- I can cheerfully admit to sexual shenanigans that would shame a stripper, I'm happy to discuss my health (both mental and physical) with all the strangers who might be reading my unprotected journal entries; but admitting that I have serious problems managing my money is somehow much harder, much more embarrassing. However, it's reached a point where I need to say something about it, if only because admitting to other people that there's a problem is a necessary step for me in admitting it to myself.

[NB the following cut-text is very long and a bit rambling.]


The situation:
Okay, let's start with the basics: I earn £16,750 (gross) per annum. My bank let me have £1500 overdraft, of which the first £500 is interest-free. I'm usually floundering around near the limit of my overdraft. I have over £800 to pay on my credit card, although I'm trying to transfer that balance to a different account so that at least I'm not paying interest on that for another 6 months.

Where does the money go? Well, £450 per month goes directly into the joint account to pay towards the mortgage, council tax, utility and phone bills. Approximately £60 per month goes on my martial arts lessons (£15 per lesson, one lesson a week). Other than that, my outgoings aren't fixed -- we don't have a set system for agreeing who pays what towards food and other sundries for the house, and so far I haven't been contributing to the petrol (well, diesel) or other costs of running and maintaining sion_a's car; I'd be happy to do so, but sion_a doesn't mind that I don't, since I rarely use the car and frankly the amounts involved would be trivial if I paid proportional to my usage.

The problem:
That doesn't account for much of the money, does it? So where else does the money go? Basically, I'm a compulsive shopper. I've been thinking seriously about what I spend, and the trivial pointless things that I spend it on -- and how short-lived is the pleasure it affords me -- and come to the conclusion that if I had the same kind of relationship with drinking alcohol, I'd be seriously considering seeking help for alcoholism. Or, more likely (which is more analogous to what I've been doing lately, financially speaking) slowly drowning in an alcoholic stupor, and in my brief moments of hungover sobriety vowing that I'll give up completely -- starting tomorrow.

I go into town most Thursday lunchtimes -- one of our only perks at work is a free bus into town once a week, and I nearly always use it -- and it's not unusual for me to come back laden with purchases. Books, food (either comfort food, or exciting new ingredients that I plan to use -- but rarely do), CDs, and clothes are the most frequent purchases; and somehow I always seem to be able to justify the purchase at the time when I'm buying it. You see, that neat little blouse in the Cancer Research shop would be useful as something to wear to work, and it's only £3.99, and the money goes to charity; and that book will teach me exciting new things (not that I ever get round to reading half the books I buy, particularly with my mind in its current diffuse state), or complete a series that I'm collecting; and that CD is something I've been meaning to buy anyway to replace my taped copy (and after all, it's practically a moral duty really to get rid of that pirate copy and buy the real thing); and as for food, well, I need to eat, don't I?

More recently, the purchases have been getting bigger and bigger, and more impulsive, and more reckless as I start to work on the logic that I'm in debt anyway, so a bit more that I'm not going to be able to pay won't really make much difference... and that's a slippery slope. Okay, so the set of three samurai swords was good value, but I still didn't have that £100; it's just added to the pile of increasingly unpayable debt that my Visa card is accumulating. And as for the dangers of internet shopping... it's so hideously easy to fill in those innocent little numbers, click that button, and have SHINY THINGS delivered to your door... and only the spreading columns of red on the bank statement testify to the actual money involved in the transaction. (And, well, it's hardly worth looking at the bank statement if you know you hardly have any money.) So it's all too easy to say yes, I can afford those books; yes, I can afford half a dozen red roses for my fiancé (when a better token of my love might have been to actually contribute something useful to our household); yes, I can afford those tickets for that show; yes, I can afford those pretty things that will make my friends happy. Of course I can. I click the button, and the things arrive! If I couldn't afford it, that wouldn't happen... right?

I've been torn as to whether to say all this because I don't want to make my friends feel guilty for me spending money on them. I like spending money on other people; I so often see things and think "oh, [whoever] would love that", and I love it when I can buy something, however daft, for somebody just to show that I thought of them, something to make them smile or laugh when they're feeling stressed and tired and miserable. But more and more I've found myself wondering whether I'm really buying these things because I want to make other people happy -- though I do think that's a big part of it -- or just because I like buying things. I particularly like the feeling of getting bargains -- that book that I've wanted for ages for "only" 2 quid in Galloway and Porter, or that rainbow tank-top for "only" 10 quid in the Miss Selfridge sale, or six Muller corner yoghurts for "only" £1.49. And the "only"s add up; the pennies flow easily, and the pounds seem to flee all by themselves. The feeling of buying lovely things (whether for myself or for others) is like a drug ... and, as with most drugs, the rush doesn't last very long, the amount required to get the desired effect increases with usage, and there are all kinds of potentially dangerous side-effects.

I also worry if pleasing other people is a kind of addiction in itself -- having started buying things for people, I feel like I have to continue; and, subconsciously, I feel like I'll be worth less to other people if I don't do that. Not to mention the social pariah that I feel like I'll become if I don't stand my round, or if I always insist on dividing up the bill at restaurants rather than "just throwing 20 quid or so into the pot". Which probably means that, at least at some level, I'm spending that money because I'm desperate for people to like me, terrified that I'll lose my friendships.

Don't get me wrong, intellectually I don't think that my friends are so shallow that they'll start hating me just because I can't keep up with their spending power. I know they're better people than that; they wouldn't be my friends in the first place if I thought that they only valued me for what I can spend, what I can give. But at the same time... I want to contribute. I want to give unexpected gifts. I don't want to have to nit-pick about the division of the bill in restaurants, because it's embarrassing, and it makes me feel like I'm being petty and small-minded. So there always seems to be some kind of moral justification for spending money I can't really afford -- I'm doing it to make people's lives easier, to make other people happy. Of course, in the Grand Scheme of Janet's Screwed-Up Values, making my life easier (by not getting myself even deeper into debt) doesn't come very high up the priority list... so deep down I guess it's all a self-esteem issue. Now there's a surprise.

I've mostly dealt with the question of the money so far; I also want to address the issue of the things that I spend it on. Why do I want those things? Is it just that I'm addicted to the process of buying things, or am I addicted to the things themselves? (Am I just a material girl in a material world?) I've thought about this a lot recently, and I think it's a bit of both. There's a number of issues here -- first, I'm aware that to some extent I'm valuing myself by the things I own. I like owning beautiful things, I like having them admired. I've long claimed to try to stick to William Morris's maxim: "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful"; it's a good rule by which to live (and shop). Unfortunately for my finances, "beautiful" is a fairly broad church in my world; and when assessing whether something is "useful" I seem to be able to wilfully ignore the fact that there's no such thing as objective absolute usefulness: if I never use it, it can't be all that useful. It seems simplistic to suggest that I'm hoping to transfer that beauty and usefulness from my possessions on to myself -- to become beautiful by owning beautiful things, and so on -- but I think it's probably not that far from the truth. I'm trying to create the identity I want through my possessions -- but I want so many different identities, so I end up buying so many different things, and sometimes, when I'm feeling particularly restless, it feels like the crazes and fads and identities fly past so fast I barely have time to get the new image out of the wrapper before I've moved on to something else.

This feeds into the second branch of my reasons for wanting to buy things -- self-improvement. If I buy books on time-management, I will be able to become more efficient! If I buy books on decorating and interior design, I will be able to make my house a place of calm and beauty! ... All of which seems to neatly evade the question of when I'm actually going to read all these books. Yes, so my shelves are full of books on an eclectic and esoteric variety of subjects, but the important question is: how many of those books have I actually read? "I'll buy that 'Teach yourself Cantonese' book, it's only cheap, and it would be fantastic to be able to speak/read/write Cantonese." But money doesn't buy knowledge; it doesn't buy the long hours of learning required to acquire these new skills. (I feel that it was a major turning-point in the acceptance of this when I resisted the urge to buy a book called "De-Junk Your Life", for only a pound -- I realised that the best way to "De-Junk my life" was preventative, i.e. resisting "Junking" my life in the first place with books that I never read.) I often feel like I'm skating over the surface of a million ideas, a million subjects, things that I genuinely do want to know, want to learn, but I won't admit to myself that I never have the motivation (or, perhaps, the skill) to learn those new things. So I buy the book, and somehow never quite get round to actually using it. But hey, I bought the book. ... To go back for a second to a comment I made in response to jiggery_pokery's livejournal recently, it's like buying souvenirs of a place I've never visited -- but it's the journey that makes the difference, not the destination, much less the cheap plaster models of the landmarks you see there.

The solution?
The only thing I can definitely say about the solution is that it's not going to be easy. Giving up any kind of addiction is hard, and the way I usually do it (e.g. when I've given up caffeine) is to simply stop it -- if I try to "cut down" first, I know that it's all too easy to slip back into old habits. After all, a little bit won't hurt... and then a little bit more... and then by that time I might as well not bother about having given up. But with spending money I can't just "stop it" -- there are some things that I do need to buy, and drawing a line between "essentials" and "non-essentials" seems to be virtually impossible for me. For example, food is an essential, but where do we draw the line between "necessary" food and "luxury" food? Is a birthday card for my grandma "essential", since she'll probably be offended if she doesn't receive one and I don't want to hurt her? Is that train journey to see a friend I haven't seen for months "essential", or should I just effectively tell my friends that seeing them isn't worth the cost of a train-ticket to me?

The problem is, that while there are grey areas, I know I'm semi-consciously using the existence of those to avoid even the obviously black and white areas. Yes, perhaps that packet of dried fruit (a snack for work, a slightly-healthier alternative to the otherwise-inevitable biscuits) is a grey area; but I know another slightly different shade of silver nailvarnish isn't "essential" by any rational definition. I know there's no sense in buying more books that I don't have the time or energy to read when I haven't read half the books I already own. I know that I don't need to buy more clothes when I can't fit the ones I have into my wardrobes and drawers, and hardly wear half of them anyway.

Basically, I need to be ruthless with myself; I need to ration the amount I spend, and I need to make a real effort to clear the debt that I've already amassed -- because it only gets bigger and bigger, even if I don't add anything new to it, as a result of the interest I'm paying on it. As I said, I'm trying to move my credit card balance to an account that will be interest-free for 6 months (if only First Direct will hurry up and sort out my application), and that'll help; but it will only help if I actually pay off the debt. And I don't want to have to resort to cutting up credit cards, or leaving debit cards at home when I go shopping; but if that's what I have to do to get my finances under control, then that's what I'll do. The money I earn should be adequate for my lifestyle (and while I am looking for better-paid jobs, that's treating the symptoms rather than the cause), and if it isn't, I'm managing it badly.

I've tried to do this once before; I kept a note of everything I spent during a week, and during the six weeks or so that I managed to do this I found that the mere process of tracking the expenditure made me more careful about what I spent. I was horrified at how much money I was casually spending, and how quickly it all added up, and for a while (even after I stopped recording every expense) I was much more careful about how much I spent... but the carefulness began to lapse; then there were several holidays and suchlike during which I felt it would be impossible to keep track (ironically, since these were all occasions when I ended up spending far too much money) -- there was Glastonbury, then there was BiCon, and then Reading, and then the Cambridge Folk Festival, and then a week in Dublin... and then Christmas was the final nail in the coffin of economy.

However, I think it was a worthwhile thing to do, and would be a worthwhile thing to try to do again. Starting tomorrow (just like that diet), I'm going to keep a note of every penny that I spend, and see if this will force me to be a little more careful. I'm also going to try to remember that saving a little is better than saving nothing at all, and if my willpower fails and I buy something unnecessary, this shouldn't make me give up on the whole idea.

Anyway. I'm saying all this in public for a number of reasons:

1) As I said above, admitting the problem it to other people is an important step in really accepting that there's a problem.
2) If I say it here, my friends may be less surprised and more understanding when I have to turn down social events for financial reasons. Although I really hope they won't start feeling guilty about the things I've bought for them recently -- really, I still think money spent on making other people happy is better spent than money spent on buying myself more pointless stuff with which to clutter up my life.
3) External accountability -- if people see me enthusing about new shiny things that I've bought, I hereby give them full permission to remind me that I'm supposed to be economising. I reserve the right to argue that the purchase was fully justified, but please do feel free to remind me anyway -- at least it'll make me think about what I'm doing.

(Phew. That wasn't easy.)

...

Having said all that, it seems crazy and contradictory to say that I'm in the process of buying a car; however, this is something I've been meaning to do for a long time, and the money isn't coming out of my current account, it's coming out of savings that I've been setting aside for years for "something big and important". I decided what kind of car I wanted, I knew roughly what budget I had to work with, and now I've found my dream car -- went out to Haverhill to look at it on Saturday -- and I've decided that I'm going to buy it. This is another good reason to start being sensible about the trivial things that I buy -- I suspect I'm going to need substantial amounts of my spare cash to look after the new arrival. (I'm not going to tell you what kind of car she is until I've actually got the keys and can supply .JPGs, but she's gorgeous, and I'm utterly in love with her.) I realise that there are a lot of expenses involved in running a car, but I think I'm being realistic about these: the insurance, believe it or not, should only cost me something in the order of £100 per year; I won't have to pay road tax (from this you can extrapolate at least one fact about the car); and since the terms of the insurance will probably include a mileage limit, I hope the petrol expenses will remain at a manageable level. It's the maintenance which is likely to be the biggest problem, but this is actually another incentive for me to be careful what I spend elsewhere -- if I want to keep my utterly beautiful shiny car functional (and shiny), then I'm going to have to make sure I have the money available for parts and servicing.

(I'm picking the car up next Saturday. Watch this space...)

Now playing: Oysterband, "Granite Years"

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Comments
emperor From: emperor Date: February 17th, 2003 02:41 am (UTC) (Link)
I know exactly what you mean about thinking "ooh, I'd like to be able to do that/ know about that, I'll buy this book"; said book then languishing un-read on a forgotten corner of a bookshelf. At least working out at the vet school means I go past G&P much less often now.

*hug*
lnr From: lnr Date: February 17th, 2003 03:38 am (UTC) (Link)
FWIW I was much the same for a long while as an undergrad, and still suffer from it a little now, though I'm trying to be good again for a while at the moment. I keep being caught out by the fact my overdraft's not too bad at the moment and then realising that's cos I've spent loads on credit cards instead this month and it's all sitting on there instead. I really do know what you mean about plastic money not seeming like money at all, and like you must be able to afford it because it just works. Anyway, I dunno how much I can do to help but I'll certainly try be supportive.

And I can't wait to see the car!
j4 From: j4 Date: February 17th, 2003 03:57 am (UTC) (Link)
I dunno how much I can do to help but I'll certainly try be supportive.

Thank you love. I doubt if there's that much that anybody can do to help, to be honest -- I just have to start acting like a grown-up where money is concerned. But thank you for the support.

And I can't wait to see the car!

Ohhh, it's just too long till the weekend! (Especially since daneel_olivaw is visiting, as well -- too much to look forward to!) But sion_a says I shouldn't talk about the car until I've actually got her, because it'll jinx things somehow. I can't keep my mind off her though -- I keep feeling all bouncy and excited every time I think about her. It's worse than a teenage crush! **sigh**
jiggery_pokery From: jiggery_pokery Date: February 17th, 2003 04:59 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow. Very much respect for you for having the bottle to really try to get to grips with what has got to be one of the most difficult areas of your life - really, anyone's life. (Suspect that you may be getting fewer messages and more unstated "I agree, but don't know what to say or how to respond"s as a consequence.)

I've heard the "food diary" technique being very effective for lots of people who have been struggling to control their relationship with food and was going to suggest the "money diary" technique if you hadn't said that you were going to implement it yourself (and that you had found it worked for you already). Are you going to post parts of this diary to your LJ at all?

On the other hand, I would hate to think that this new technique became a massive self-imposed guilt generator. I know people talk about "tough love" and all that, but it's hard to see self-imposed guilt generators doing more good than harm. Maybe I'm wrong at a general level here.

Hugs, warm thoughts, strength and the free best things in life to you. :-)

PS Is it a tractor?
j4 From: j4 Date: February 17th, 2003 05:23 am (UTC) (Link)
I've heard the "food diary" technique being very effective for lots of people who have been struggling to control their relationship with food

Indeed. I've said before that what I need is something like Slimming World but for money -- "Saving World", I guess! -- so that I have some kind of combined support-and-accountability network. In the absence (as far as I know) of such a thing, LiveJournal will have to do. :-)

Are you going to post parts of this diary to your LJ at all?

Possibly -- this partly depends on how I end up storing the information. If I keep track of my spending in an Excel spreadsheet I may decide it's just too much faff to try to turn the information into something that I can post to LJ. Also, it's probably going to be phenomenally boring reading through every tuppence ha'penny I spend -- but if people seem interested then I'll see what I can do.

On the other hand, I would hate to think that this new technique became a massive self-imposed guilt generator.

If it feels like it's turning into that then I shall try to come up with a different solution -- I don't need help generating guilt. :-/ I suspect I will feel guilty from time to time -- both for buying things I don't need (when my willpower fails) and for not buying things for other people when I would otherwise have done so. But I think that guilt is something I've got to confront, and work out why I feel it, and whether I really should or not, since it's part of the underlying problem.

Hugs, warm thoughts, strength and the free best things in life to you.

Thank you! :-) Very much appreciated.

PS Is it a tractor?

No! It's much, much, much sexier than that.
jiggery_pokery From: jiggery_pokery Date: February 17th, 2003 06:08 am (UTC) (Link)
I've said before that what I need is something like Slimming World but for money -- "Saving World", I guess! -- so that I have some kind of combined support-and-accountability network.

There could well be a web site in that already, or at the very least, a LJ community. Can't really think what to search for to find it, though.

In the absence (as far as I know) of such a thing, LiveJournal will have to do. :-)

Yes, I know what you mean there. My friends list has acted as my support group, my sounding board on several occasions. Sometimes I feel that we can only take it so far; I'm no expert on this subject and there are subjects where I feel that an expert's view in addition to (or sometimes instead of) a load of friendly lay folk's view would help very much. Well, I know we're all trying the best that we can for each other and that that's something, at least.

Posting occasional links to an Excel spreadsheet, if you produce one, might be a solution which works.

But I think that guilt is something I've got to confront, and work out why I feel it, and whether I really should or not, since it's part of the underlying problem.

Sounds key to me. Sounds difficult, too. I fear that there may be no easy answers, maybe no answers at all. I guess we all need to work out what we're comfortable with, what's practically capable and then trying to work to overlap the two if they aren't the same.

No! It's much, much, much sexier than that.

Is it... a brand new combine harvester? (I'd give you the key!)

Unrelated topic - have you changed your LJ bio recently, or have I only just started paying attention to it? I still can't work out how you apparently manage to get repetition in your interests list twice, too!
j4 From: j4 Date: February 17th, 2003 06:14 am (UTC) (Link)
Sometimes I feel that we can only take it so far; I'm no expert on this subject and there are subjects where I feel that an expert's view in addition to (or sometimes instead of) a load of friendly lay folk's view would help very much.

I think if I wanted expert financial advice then that might be the case, but it's more an emotional and psychological issue for me, and to be honest the professionals in those areas are really just people who have more practice in dealing with them. Often friendly lay folk are just as good at offering support and advice; also, you can consult more of them at once (and thus get a variety of different opinions, which you can then weigh up yourself) without it breaking the bank. ;-)

Is it... a brand new combine harvester? (I'd give you the key!)

No! (Something tells me that these aren't serious guesses... :-)

Unrelated topic - have you changed your LJ bio recently, or have I only just started paying attention to it?

I added the bio earlier today (didn't have one at all before). Hope you like it.

I still can't work out how you apparently manage to get repetition in your interests list twice, too!

Heh! That took a lot of fiddling. Basically, I cheated (but I leave the question of how I cheated as an exercise for the reader).
jiggery_pokery From: jiggery_pokery Date: February 17th, 2003 06:26 am (UTC) (Link)
I kind of dislike ignoring the serious points to concentrate only on the fun points here, but it's a good indication of how well you've got the serious points sorted out.

Hope you like it.

Yes. Very Reeves & Mortimer, though I suspect that wasn't quite what you had in mind.

I leave the question of how I cheated as an exercise for the reader

Current theory is that it's a fake comma - possibly a piece of Unicode which looks like a comma without triggering LJ's "if there's a comma, it separates the interests from each other" internal mechanism.

*views source*

*sees answer*
j4 From: j4 Date: February 17th, 2003 06:35 am (UTC) (Link)
[LJ bio]
Very Reeves & Mortimer, though I suspect that wasn't quite what you had in mind.

It was almost exactly what I had in mind. :-) I was aiming for something somewhere between the "Shooting Stars" bios and the Sandman writer/artist bios.

*views source*

Oh, good point. Not much of a difficult "exercise" for the reader, in that case...
jiggery_pokery From: jiggery_pokery Date: February 17th, 2003 06:41 am (UTC) (Link)
*imagines Janet slowly rotating and pulling faces, in the style of the Shooting Stars celeb intros of the first couple of seasons*

Tell you what - delete your comment and mine so that you know I know how it's done but only people who have seen our comments know the technique as to how to find out. Hee hee!
j4 From: j4 Date: February 17th, 2003 07:18 am (UTC) (Link)
Better idea -- while they're gone, let's all hide. :)
julietk From: julietk Date: February 17th, 2003 05:01 am (UTC) (Link)
Firstly - general hugs & support. You're right, admitting that you have a problem & that you intend to deal with it is a really useful first step.

I, too, felt horrible about having to limit social spending (buying drinks at the pub, that sort of thing) when I was skint during my MPhil. I spent a lot of time drinking Cokes, & a lot of time apologising for not being able to stand a round. Everyone was enormously good about it throughout, for the record, & kept insisting on buying me drinks. I am now starting to pay back my accumulated karma on this :-) But people generally *are* understanding - most people have been broke at some stage & know how it works. In particular:
Is that train journey to see a friend I haven't seen for months "essential", or should I just effectively tell my friends that seeing them isn't worth the cost of a train-ticket to me?
It's not that it's not *worth* it, it's that the money just isn't *there* (or, if it is to be, you need to know in advance & save up for it, sort of thing). I know you know that really; but thinking about it as you phrased it makes you feel worse about it. If you see what I mean.

Plastic money sucks: it never feels like Actual Real Money. I have massive trouble with that & always have had - even now I have a real salary, I'm trying to use cash wherever possible.

Good luck! - it sounds like you're planning on doing the right sorts of things. And it *does* get easier once you get out of the habit of just Buying Stuff.
*hugs*
j4 From: j4 Date: February 17th, 2003 05:30 am (UTC) (Link)
I, too, felt horrible about having to limit social spending (buying drinks at the pub, that sort of thing) when I was skint during my MPhil.

*hugs* I do remember you being distressed about it at the time. Mind you at least you had a good excuse for being skint -- that is, you were having to survive on no salary at all, and you were doing it for a good reason, i.e. furthering your education etc.. I feel like I should be able to stand a round if I've got a Real Salary, and if I can't, it's my own stupid fault. <sigh>

Thanks for the hugs and support, anyway. Haven't spent any money today so far... :-)
julietk From: julietk Date: February 18th, 2003 03:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Mind you at least you had a good excuse for being skint

I know what you mean - but you do have a good excuse as well, really. I mean, you have debt, & you're trying to clear it. The extent to which the debt is your "fault" in the first place is, by now, kind of irrelevant - the point is that it needs to go away. If you see what I mean? I mean, after all, I was choosing to be poor while I did my MPhil, because of wanting the extra education, so that was my "fault" as well. Debt-clearing is just as good & sensible a reason - maybe looking at it in that way might help you feel better about the lack of social money?

Thanks for the hugs and support, anyway.

More available on request!

Haven't spent any money today so far... :-)

Hurrah! :-)

j4 From: j4 Date: February 18th, 2003 03:19 am (UTC) (Link)
you do have a good excuse as well, really. I mean, you have debt, & you're trying to clear it. The extent to which the debt is your "fault" in the first place is, by now, kind of irrelevant - the point is that it needs to go away. If you see what I mean?

I guess that's a better way of looking at it. As for whose fault the debt is... well, it can only really be my fault, but it all just seemed to happen without me realising it until it was too late. :-(

When I first started at university I was determined not to get into any debt, not even overdraft, but I soon realised that I wasn't going to be able to do that. Perhaps if I really had lived on nothing but toast for four years I could have done it -- not to mention not buying any books etc. -- but I decided that a bit of overdraft wasn't a bad thing, since it was all interest-free at the time, and that I could always pay it all off once I got a Real Salary.

The problem is, this got me out of the "debt is BAD" mindset, into the "well, debt is sometimes unavoidable, and I can always pay it back later..." mindset. Slippery slope. Incidentally, HSBC help that slippery slope -- the interest-free overdraft increases by 500 quid each year that you're a student. So as you get into more debt, they say "Don't worry, you can get into even more debt".

The combination of already being in a debt-tolerating mindset and being excited at having a Real Salary (I can afford to buy a book and it doesn't mean not being able to afford food this week!) meant that I got into more and more debt, and of course now that I'm a graduate (and as we know, all Oxbridge graduates start on at least 40K a year) they decrease the interest-free overdraft, so I'm paying interest on the debt, and it's all d00m.

Anyway. <sigh> Have spent money today, but for car-related stuff (insurance etc. -- can't say in any more detail without giving away stuff about what kind of car it is) so that doesn't count. No, really...
From: ex_lark_asc Date: February 17th, 2003 05:58 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, first of all *hugs*, and well done for facing up to it.

I think I've been in much the same position myself; I used to comfort-shop constantly when I was a student. Still do to some extent; except I've started to notice it far more now since the size of the expenditure has jumped by several more orders of magnitude than my income has increased by. New stuff is way more expensive than charity-shop gear, and in any case I don't have the time to comb charity shops now like I used to.

I've just been looking over my monthly incomings and outgoings again in the light of the fact that it's coming up to the time at work when I get to start things like the pension scheme, and at the moment I have about 250 quid actual disposable income per month, which is just about enough to absorb unforeseen expenses (like my car insurance was last month *blush*) and a few little bits and bobs for people I care about, including me :-) It's not really enough for me to start paying a pension scheme anything more than a few quid a month yet, but I'm hoping that I'll be able to find some corners to cut since I think pensions are kind of important..
j4 From: j4 Date: February 18th, 2003 03:42 am (UTC) (Link)
New stuff is way more expensive than charity-shop gear, and in any case I don't have the time to comb charity shops now like I used to.

I very, very rarely buy actual new clothes; basically I only buy new when I actually "need" an item of clothing, or rather when I have a specific item of clothing that I want, and I go out and look for it. When I scour charity-shops I'm just browsing, the fun is in the looking and if I find something nice it's guaranteed to be something I don't really need -- something that if I hadn't seen it, I wouldn't have realised I wanted it.

If I only bought new clothes I suspect I'd probably spend less money on clothes. The only really risky times would be big sales... but to be honest there's rarely that much in mainstream shops that I like anyway.

it's coming up to the time at work when I get to start things like the pension scheme

Ah, I'm already paying a few quid a month into a pension. I decided that if I just went for the lowest sensible contribution, I probably wouldn't really notice the difference, but it would force me to save something. Seems to be working, in that I'm not organised enough to keep track of where the money's going, but I know that some of it is going somewhere that I can't spend it.

Hey ho. Thanks for the hugs, anyway!
simonb From: simonb Date: February 17th, 2003 03:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
I hit a similar situation a couple of years ago when our tenants moved out and we became a little worse off each money (to the tune of the mortgage payments).

I found that I was spending quite a bit on CDs, videos, etc that I didn't really need. Whilst I did listen to all of the CDs I brought (after all, they can be listened to whilst I do other things like work, DIY, code, do housework, et al) most of the videos I brought remain unwatched and will probably end up being sold on at some point as we don't watch videos very much these days thanks to the DVD player.

Anyway, I ended up controlling my spending habits by not using my debit card (I've never had a credit card, mainly by accident) and using cash instead; I'd get the cash I'd budgeted for out at the start of the week and then spend from it. Anything left over at the end of the week would become a part of the next week's money (or put into a separate account for saving up for nice things). I do the same things with petrol for the car and grocery shopping.

I've since written a script which takes my outgoings and works out a week-by-week account of what is going out my account for the month which I've found to be quite helpful - I should be releasing that to the world in the near future.

As for getting a car of your own if its something you've been planning for and saving up for a while then I don't see anything wrong with talking about financial planning and then talking about buying a car; having driving her & I look forward to seeing your new & shiny car :)

*hugs*
j4 From: j4 Date: February 18th, 2003 03:27 am (UTC) (Link)
I ended up controlling my spending habits by not using my debit card (I've never had a credit card, mainly by accident) and using cash instead

I've realised why I'm so resistant to schemes like this, despite the fact that they're obviously a Good Idea(tm) -- basically it feels like another stage of admitting-there's-a-problem that I can't quite make mentally. I can admit that I have a problem with money, but, well, it can't be so bad that I have to lock up my credit cards, can it? ... but of course it can, and it probably is, and I need to admit that to myself.

The other problem is part of the reason I got a credit card in the first place was for "emergencies". (The rest of the reason was that it was so easy, you just had to tick an extra box on the student account application form, and I think you even got More Free Stuff if you did. Sigh. Evil banks.) So the idea of leaving something at home which is meant to be there for "emergencies" seems wrong somehow. Of course, I can't actually think of any real emergencies for which I'd desperately need a credit card...
bopeepsheep From: bopeepsheep Date: February 18th, 2003 05:16 am (UTC) (Link)
Evil banks
BTDT. Remember "Banks are Bastards. Discuss"? For a bank to tell me that turning down a £20K job (and sticking with an £8K one) was "better" for me because I couldn't afford the first month's travel before pay day, was pretty evil IMO. I'm STILL pissed off with them for that, and their attitude re graduate accounts when one hadn't had a student account (yes, Mr Bank Manager, some of us didn't want student accounts, some of us weren't allowed them. But that doesn't mean we don't want to take post-grad qualifications, or apply for a graduate loan, and the bank's own literature doesn't prevent it, so why, Mr Bank Manager, are you so snotty about it?). Gah. Eighteen months on that still annoys me.

I can't actually think of any real emergencies for which I'd desperately need a credit card
I can, but I won't tell you, you'll only get paranoid about it. And it's NEVER likely to happen to you, so that would be pointless.

I think you've got the right attitude about trying to deal with all this: my solution was to put my head in the sand, so that DH had to bail me out (bless him), which was not constructive and cost us both more money than it needed to, in the end. The advice you've given yourself, and that has been given here, sounds like the kind of thing I (ironically) advised people to do when I did this kind of thing for a living way back when, and also sounds like the advice I've been given (and ignored), so go with it. And don't fret about stuff - we certainly won't hate you if you don't come and visit us, so long as you don't hate us for not coming to visit you either (if I can't travel, which has been the case recently, although that's getting better). We will try to come over at some point though, I've finished all those books!
j4 From: j4 Date: February 18th, 2003 08:22 am (UTC) (Link)
Evil banks

Yow. You have had it bad. You have my sympathies. I was mainly talking about general moral badness rather than specific vindictiveness ... The worst thing HSBC have ever done to me is ringing me up at 8am to shout at me for not paying credit card bills, when I hadn't had any credit card bills for months, because they'd inexplicably reverted to sending them to an address at which I hadn't lived for over a year. They didn't even apologise, they said I should have paid anyway. Okay, so maybe I should have noticed that I wasn't getting any bills, and chased them up, but it was still their fuckwittage that was primarily to blame!

[thinking of emergencies]
I can, but I won't tell you, you'll only get paranoid about it. And it's NEVER likely to happen to you, so that would be pointless.

Oh, but I want to know now! Otherwise I'll probably just be imagining worse things...

And don't fret about stuff - we certainly won't hate you if you don't come and visit us, so long as you don't hate us for not coming to visit you either (if I can't travel, which has been the case recently, although that's getting better).

Of course I won't hate you. :-) And thank you for saying that you won't hate me -- I know logically you won't, but it's reassuring anyway. How come you can't travel? Is this SC-related? How's things going generally? (Reply mail if you'd rather not talk about this on LJ!)

We will try to come over at some point though, I've finished all those books!

Argh, I've barely started the ones you lent me! I've been pretty much unable to concentrate on anything more taxing than Enid Blyton lately -- partly side-effects of the ADs, and partly just general lethargy and mopeyness etc. Currently re-reading Tamora Pierce's "Protector of the Small" quartet, which is admittedly very good, but I have read it about a gazillion times.

The problem is that I have enough comfort-reading that by the time I've got through it all it feels like long enough since I've read the stuff at the start... so I can just start all over again. e.g. it now feels like quite a while since I've read the stuff at the beginning of the Chalet School series, because since the last re-read I've got through lots of Tamora Pierce, some Stephen King, all my Willard Price "Adventure" books, all of Malory Towers, and all of St Clare's ...

... this way madness lies. But I feel panicky and uneasy at the thought of picking up new books, because I know I won't be able to concentrate on them or follow them properly. I couldn't even finish "Thief of Time", for god's sake, which is the last new (i.e. haven't-already-read) book I tried to read. If I'm floundering on Pratchett there is something seriously wrong with my mind. :-(
bopeepsheep From: bopeepsheep Date: February 18th, 2003 08:42 am (UTC) (Link)
[thinking of emergencies]
I can, but I won't tell you, you'll only get paranoid about it. And it's NEVER likely to happen to you, so that would be pointless.

Oh, but I want to know now! Otherwise I'll probably just be imagining worse things...


OK, one emergency that actually happened - my parents went out to the Balearics to see my brother, who was working there, three summers ago. Due to unusual Dad-incompetency re time differences, they missed the plane, and as they had easyjet tickets, they were pretty much stuck. Owing to another unusual parental-incompetency moment, neither of them had a credit card on them (they'd just gone for the weekend, and were staying with my brother so didn't need hotel/fare money). So I got a phone call at 11pm Sunday night saying "help". I had to pay for a couple of tickets over the phone so that they could get back on the final flight that night (which was due to take off appx 10 mins later). They could have waited until the following day and tried their own credit card companies, but a) they had nowhere to stay as my brother had caught an earlier flight to another island (he was doing a week in each resort, as "hotel cabaret") and b) I was going to be uncontactable for the next two days and they would have needed me to go over to their house to get their card details in order to do this anyway, not having the relevant info on them.

Me not travelling has all been SC-related - I get faint and wibbly from time to time, and when we went to Sheffield by train in Dec I was quite ill (both travelling and the day after). I almost begged FIL to take us home by car, I was so worried about travelling back. In the end we came back by train, and I got a cold, and spent Christmas feeling crap, and so generally I am very anti-travelling now. I certainly wouldn't contemplate it on my own - even the 4 miles into town can be quite yukky, and I've found myself getting off the bus at random stops just to breathe deeply for five minutes. It's partly nausea-related (although I don't throw up on my fellow travellers) and partly a kind of mild agoraphobia. But it is getting better, as my general health is improving. I feel a lot better now it's getting lighter and sunnier, too (despite the cold). Come "spring" proper, I should feel a lot more like going places.

See my LJ for how things are going generally. :) I'm shopping like mad, since Boots have this big promotion on right now which works out at around 25% off in Advantage Card points (I've racked mine up into the area of £40odd now, and it's still climbing!).

W/R/T books - no hurry. I am not going to start claiming mine back just because I've read yours. But I do think I should return yours before they get tidied up in the general house-sorting-out manoeuvres, and then I can snaffle some more. :) (Which reminds me, I wonder where my Blyton/other school stories are? I have the entire Chalet School series somewhere...)
j4 From: j4 Date: February 18th, 2003 09:25 am (UTC) (Link)
OK, one emergency that actually happened...

Ah, that's not something I'm likely to get paranoid about, since I don't tend to travel that much, and rarely if ever on my own. And besides, my original thought was that so long as I had access to a phone, not having a credit card wouldn't be too much of a problem; and your example supports that theory. :-) Yes, it's a stress and a faff that I wouldn't want to have, but it's not inescapable-without-credit-card.

Me not travelling has all been SC-related - I get faint and wibbly from time to time ...

Ugh, all sounds horrid -- big *HUGS* to you! Can totally understand you not wanting to travel if you're feeling like that.

W/R/T books - no hurry. I am not going to start claiming mine back just because I've read yours. But I do think I should return yours before they get tidied up in the general house-sorting-out manoeuvres, and then I can snaffle some more. :)

Fairy nuff. When I have my SHINY SHINY CAR I might even be able to drive over and see you... :) and that way I can bring more books!

I have the entire Chalet School series somewhere...

Really the entire series? Even the ones that haven't been reprinted since the first edition? If so, then ENVY++. I won't ask to borrow the ones I don't have, as I know I wouldn't let collector's items like that out of my sight, & I wouldn't expect you to do so either!

bopeepsheep From: bopeepsheep Date: February 18th, 2003 09:41 am (UTC) (Link)
Yup, the entire series. I was very lucky to buy a load of original hardbacks (some with covers, some without) at jumble sales and so on when I was about 11 - I think someone in our village died and their lifetime's collection of books ended up distributed among the various charities, judging by the sudden influx of second-hand books in that market. I bought more over the years, and did resort to abebooks for one about four years ago, which I think was the last remaining missing one (I paid about £30 for it, which is probably more than I paid for the rest put together!). They're all at my mum's, somewhere.

PS - I can still think of more "emergency"-type emergencies. I'm just too good at paranoia... :-)
(Deleted comment)
j4 From: j4 Date: February 18th, 2003 08:12 am (UTC) (Link)
I will tell people how much (*snort*) I earn simply because it puts a lot into perspective and also means that people apprecaite why I can't do as much as they can.

I don't know how much you earn, but I've had people tell me that they can't believe I can live on how much I earn. Which is just crazy... Mind you this is really only the "I wouldn't get out of bed for less than 30K" kind of sysadmin who does this.

I know you're not earning very much money, but IMHO that's balanced by the fact that you're doing something worthwhile. I'd feel less guilty about contributing so little if I was underpaid mainly because I was doing something charitable or generally Good (I can't exactly define what would count here, but I know the current job doesn't count) rather than just doing a crap dead-end job because I'm too lazy and stupid to get anything better.

so, when do we get to see the car?!

Hopefully I'll be picking it up on Saturday -- I now have insurance sorted out, and the lady who's selling the car says it's going in for MOT on Friday (she's paying for the MOT), so if I do pick it up then (touch wood!) then I'm sure I'll want to show it off straight away. :-) OTOH daneel_olivaw is visiting me this weekend so it's partly up to him, I want to spend time with him rather than just spending the entire weekend being in love with my car.

Mind you, I suspect it's going to be a case of "love me, love my car" from now on. At this rate I think I'm going to have to factor the car in to my poly lifestyle as being morally equivalent to another partner!!
ewx From: ewx Date: February 18th, 2003 12:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
My credit card is set up so that it always get fully paid off from my current account each month - so it acts very similarly to a debit card in that I know I'll have to have the money available to pay for whatever I buy with it and can't just let it slide. (So why not just use a debit card, you might well ask...)
lnr From: lnr Date: February 19th, 2003 03:26 am (UTC) (Link)
This is a good state to be in, and certainly one I'd recommend once the debt is under control, but it's hardly one you can jump to immediately when the balance on your credit card is bigger than the remaining portion of the overdraft in your current account will cover. And I discovered the interest on my current account was actually more expensive than on my credit card, so if you could pay it off but it would leave you in interest paying overdraft then you're still worse off.
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