Earlier this week I received the following email:
- From: Bank of America
- To: The Gay Gasp
- Subject: Activity Alert: Your balance has dropped below your requested alert limit
As I opened this email, an email that I am familiar with, it was another reminder that I would be broke until pay day on Friday. With January’s arrival and talks of resolutions in the air I always look at my finances as the biggest area in need of improvement. Paying off my credit card(s) has been on my To-Do list ever since I’ve graduated college. This January is a little different in that I had the realization that I will probably never have enough money. To put it real terms, I realized that my credit card balance will always be higher than the balances of my checking and savings accounts. Right now my savings account is resting at an impressive $25 and my checking account is even less. The bar is set low. I’ve paid everything off before but I can’t seem to maintain those good habits and inevitably my balance grows like weeds in an unattended garden. It’s not a reality I enjoy living in but one that I can’t seem to get away from. Poor is not the appropriate word for my situation as I am better off than a lot of people. First world poor is a better description. Clearly I’m being a good homosexual and a good American by living above my means and trying to keep up with everyone around me who makes more money. I like to think of it as supporting the economy. This is neither a complaint nor an attempt to pass blame on anyone but myself. Time and time again I have consciously made the decision to choose fun over saving.
Unfortunately I didn’t follow in my father’s super saver footsteps. If I told him I went to see a therapist for severe depression and paid for it on a credit card he’d much more concerned about the money rather than the emotional reasons for the visits. He taught me good financial habits but they really never stuck. It’s not that I don’t know the good habits; it’s that I usually choose not to follow them. The two basic principles of saving money are to either cut down on expenses or make more money. While I have plenty of experience with trying to cut down I am well aware that my income has basically plateaued. Unless the Power Ball jackpot is in my future there is no major change in income in my future.
My professional philosophy is to find a job I enjoy and not be too focused on the paycheck. I’ll always choose a lower paying job that I enjoy over a high paying job I hate. It’s the old adage: I work to live not live to work. For example, I will stay with my current employer as long as they’ll have me simply because they give so many vacations days. (I currently have 23 with an option to buy 5 more) Again I’m not trying to make excuses. The problem isn’t a lack of ability or opportunity but rather a lack of drive and desire on my part. I am at the bottom of the totem pole at work and even though there have been plenty of opportunities to be promoted. I just know I would hate the job I would be promoted to and would quickly want to quit. I’ll stick with the job because I generally like it and I can honestly say I don’t mind coming to work everyday. You’re probably starting to see why I don’t expect any big pay increases in my future. There are plenty of jobs that pay better but most of them are totally unappealing to me. I’ve often thought about going back to school and getting my masters but then what? I would have paid thousands in tuition only to graduate and still lack the desire for the jobs that my new degree has made available to me.
The lesson here is to focus on the balance. I need to change my way of thinking rather than make an unattainable resolution to totally pay off all my bills in one year. My efforts will be redirected toward cutting down on all the unneeded stress associated with my finances. Living credit card free is clearly a losing battle so I should stop wasting my time trying to achieve that goal. In those moments when I’m no-joke-broke and waiting for the next pay check I need to remember that the money I am lacking was already spent in wonderful places like Seattle, Maui, and New Orleans. If I had to do it over again I would still go on every trip and I wouldn’t trade those memories for an extra hundred in my savings account. So this January I resolve to focus on maintaining a healthy balance. I will continue to have fun and travel all the while keeping my finances under control.
Talking about money is a tricky thing because no one every wants to talk real numbers. Often money is talked about in vague generalities so we are left to make our own assumptions about the actual reality. Everyone from a minimum wage cashier to a 6 figure doctor complains about not having enough money so it’s hard to tell who really needs it and who doesn’t. With this in mind I want to provide some of the specifics about the realities of my financial situation to provide you with a clear and honest picture.
- I make just under $22/hr
- Other than rent, food and travel are my biggest expenses
- I have a 401k set up but I do not take the maximum deduction
- I have always paid my bills on time
- I often need a credit card to pay for daily expenses when my account balance dries up close to pay day.
- I don’t know my exact credit score but I assume it’s pretty decent considering my bank recently took it upon themselves to raise my credit limit.