March 2, 2011

my! what BIG eyes you have

I confess my eyes are bigger than my wallet these days. But I thought I was doing okay in that department. I've never been one to actually sit down and balance anything other than what I could carry with both hands, my chin (by tucking things underneath) and my arms. So back when I was in General Math my freshman year of high school, I thought "no problemo" to the chapter on learning how to balance a check book. There were six of us my freshman year taking the class with good ole Mrs. G. The rest of our class was in Algebra I. Not my cup of tea. In fact, math has never been a good subject for me.

I recall that I did not fair well in "learning how to balance anything," that year. In fact, I think I barely passed the easy class with a D-. I was not a good student after I hit junior high. I suppose I never applied myself but I also didn't really care. I only cared about the social status of high school, my freshman year, that is. Academically, no. My second oldest brother was born a wizard. He got ALL the smarts in my family. All of them. The rest of us siblings struggled and barely hung on. By the time I was a senior in high school, I could have wall papered my entire bedroom with all the Pink Slips I had received!

Upon entering college, everyone was writing checks to pay for gas, booze and movies. I couldn't be left behind and naturally I had gotten myself into much trouble that way too. My mother probably lost more hairs and turned a lot whiter with me, the last kid of the bunch than any other of her offspring. But how would I have known, our family keeps a tight lip on every one's finances. And I was no exception.

I learned the embarrassment of going into each place of business when my checks bounced. I was a mere age of 18 when I first had to do this feat. I should have learned my lesson there. But no, I didn't.

In 1989, I left college after four years without graduating to become a nanny out East. I was doing very well managing my meager wages and following it like a hawk at the bank until I met the bestest besty friend I've ever ever ever known. Still to this date, she rules the roost for friends.

Her BIG eyes taught me something evil. She was a spend-a-holic to the highest degree. At first I was in awe of her shopping capabilities. I admired her and ooohed and aaahed after she bought one terrific item after another. And not at clearance like I was always taught. Nope. She was a full-priced item kind of girl. Nothing was off limits to her.

It all started one day at Filene's in a city near Boston, Massachusetts. We were at the cosmetic counter trying on oodles of perfumes. She found three she HAD to have and whipped out her Filene's credit card and that was that. I was eyeing a bottle of something sparkly I recall. The sales lady assumed I was like my fabulous friend. And then she asked the most god awful question ever. "Would you like to apply for a Filene's credit card?"

I panicked. My small town roots on the prairie never prepared me for this kind of world. I was taught good values and really had high morals. I was raised in a strong Catholic home with great family ties. And here I was, standing in a busy (and fabulous) store with a fancy schmancy lady smiling in front of me dangling the forbidden apple right in front of my face!

And I caved. Not only was I approved for the credit card, I was given a super high spending limit. I was both mortified AND thrilled all in one. My fab friend gushed with joy. And like her, bought three very expensive perfumes. All I had to do was sign my name.

I'll spare you the details of my credit card nightmare that went from 1989 to 2005 when I had to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy. It's a long life of shame, humiliation, anger, stupidity and stress. Must I say anything else???

Fast forward to present day. 2011. While I own absolutely zero credit cards....Oh wait. I own two store cards but my balances are almost paid off. Really. I swear. Girl Scout promise swear! But no Visas or Discovers or Mastercards or gas cards or any other works of the Devil. I've been slowly building back up my shitty credit since the bankruptcy. I was told it takes 7 years from the time you file. I'm six years in to my seventh year.

Stupid is as stupid does.

Anyways, here I am, March 2, 2011 and I have literally $2.06 to my birth name. I get paid on Friday. My $275 rent comes out a few days later and a slew of scheduled online bills follow. Yes, I'm saving money from my old rent of $465 and bills from my life in the other village... but I've added on new headaches that I didn't know would occur. When I signed up for cable/Internet here, I was told my monthly bill would be close to $60. According to the bill I received just yesterday, $91.53 will be coming out of my checking account very very soon. And I was told my electricity wouldn't run any more than $40 or $50 bucks. Yeah, ah... $92.24 is due in 18 days.


So last night I froze. In bed. I turned down all the heat in all the rooms --- each room has it's own thermostat. Every one of them at 12Noon yesterday were at a lovely 52 degrees. I wore two pairs of socks, thick sweat pants, a long thick short with a hoodie over that and a ginormous down comforter and I snuggled up like I was in a cave with no room to budge. And that's how I slept. When I woke up this morning, my eyelids were icy and my nose was so cold.

I guess it's a good thing I don't drive to work anymore as I only live one block from my job. Gas is now a record high in these parts of the Dakota Territory. $3.28/gallon.

I Girl Scout promise I will learn to balance my check.
Starting tomorrow...