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July 5, 2005

Mo' Money, Mo' Shoes

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Whenever my financial outlook is particularly uncertain, I have the inconsolable urge to shop. I can only assume this is a plot hatched by the government and key retail establishments (mainly Target, and anyone who sells cute shoes), and they have implanted some kind of reverse financial homing device in my brain. I bet all those years of getting salmon to swim upstream was just a beta test.

Remember when Americans were urged to go out and shop right after 9/11 to keep the economy going? Yes. Well. Let's just say I can be a very patriotic woman. Each time I was faced with a new purchase, I could practically hear the Star-Spangled banner playing. I was a single-handed economy-buoying machine.

So ya'll know. With money.

I must be a social throwback. At any moment I'm just going to show up in a hoop skirt and corset, because I swear (embarrassing as it is to admit) I just assumed that I would be married and happy my whole life and have some nice manly man there to do the bills and paperwork-filing and insurance and these evil taxes and so on, and in return I'd be real pretty and do the cleaning and cooking and we'd all have kids named John Boy and be living on fucking Tara.

So.

That did not happen. And before ya'll go thinking I have not a single brain in my head, can I tell you that I kept my end of the bargain, and I work some long hours, and do laundry like no tomorrow, and make amazing fried chicken? And that I do indeed provide value in areas which we shall not detail here because my parents read this here website? And that in my defense I did once wear a hoopskirt to Old South week?

Also, in my defense, I am a dumbass.

All people, even those who have been caught in embarrassing photos with hoopskirts over their heads, need to be intimately involved in their financial well-being, and that is a fact. Take it from me, your friendly local cautionary tale. I had no idea what the total of my personal debt was (Oh, I had an idea, but the exact amount? No. Hi! Denial much?) And all the bills, and how exactly to tackle the debt -- it was all scary and depressing and looming up at night in the form of this:

One nightmare in which me and the cats live in a storage shed in North Hollywood and eat beans out of a can. And I am surrounded by boxes of cute shoes that I cannot wear anywhere 'cause no one invites me to things anymore because I live in a storage unit with four cats and my imaginary friend named Zappos who eats beans from a can with me and tells me about new shoes I can never afford to buy. And there are bugs.

But once the whole singleness and spinster life and so on began to sink in, I decided that someone has to bring home the meow mix and cute shoes and so of course I called a house meeting. Unable to convince the four cats to go out and find gainful employment ("Sobakowa, you would be a great LAPD officer! You can hit people! Legally!") I decided I must have a PLAN and this PLAN is to 1) find out how much debt I'm actually in and 2) Figure out how NOT to be in debt my whole life. And also get a checkbook.

Ya'll would never know I work at a bank, would you?

Before the spinsterdom, I never needed to know what anybody at this place was talking about since I am the artiste, and they can't tell a pixel from a pigeon, and it all worked just fine. But I was suddenly in a dire need to KNOW what goes on in checkbooks and bill paying and high-interest rates, and luckily here at the bank there are all sorts of people who know about money and banking (No way! Ya'll come bank here! We know about banking!) and it occurred to me I might be able to ask questions, financial questions, and no one would be the least bit surprised or offended for two reasons:

1) I use a ziploc baggie as my change purse.

and

2) These people love to talk about exciting things like BANKING.

So I picked some brains and learned some stuff and I put all my bills in one room and one long afternoon I had a party with some wine and a calculator and this guy I met, named Microsoft Excel. He is Excel-lent.

(Actually he sucks, but anyway. I needed like 27 people to help me do this spreadsheet budget thingy so it adds where it should add and tallies and looks purty, because any spreadsheet of mine shall be pink.)

And I made up a budget to track every single thing, what comes in and what goes out. And it works! I mean, if you have to type up on the computer to Mr. Excel that you spent eighty hundred dollars on yarn and shoes, ya'll know. You can cut back in appropriate areas. So anyway, if anybody out there wants it, you can click here and get a copy. It's got placeholder numbers but you get the idea. You just put in what you make at the top, what all your bills are, and then it adds and subtracts and stuff. MAGIC! Gnomes! I do not know.

Now, through the mystical world of Excel, I have figured out all these ways I can save money (like bringing my breakfast and lunch to work, and not shopping at the 7-11 for groceries, and so on) and it's so liberating to be 100% totally in the know about my money. It's still depressing as fuck, because debt? Looming like that storage shed nightmare. But the key to all success in life is just having a PLAN.

And I PLAN to pay off my bills and I PLAN to then save up a whole pile of cash and then I PLAN to buy all the shoes ever made. Everyone needs a plan! Now if I can just get the reverse-homing device to stop telling me I need to go shopping, all will be jimdandy. Target... target... target.... storage shed. Budget. Hoop skirt. Ya'll know.

Posted by laurie at July 5, 2005 11:26 AM