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January 2, 2009

The future's so bright, I gotta wear an Excel spreadsheet....

MONEY!! Spending! Debt! Foreclosures! Bankruptcy! Bailouts! The crash of the stock market! No matter where you turn, the economy is on every channel, every headline, it's the news that makes the news.

Um, it's not been really good news. It hasn't been exactly confidence-inspiring. People are freaked OUT. There aren't a lot of jokes. Well, I keep joking that my 401(k) is now a 101(k), and my dad says his IRA is an IOU these days. But they aren't funny jokes.

And as this new year starts and people find themselves staring at their finances (and the finances stare back) it's a good time to start exactly where you are. You're there, after all.

It's almost quaint and dorky now, my little resolution back in May to stop spending money on buying non-essential stuff. That was still long before the market tanked and before banks started closing their doors and before the $5/gallon gas, even. And now of course I thank my lucky stars I had the good sense to stop, drop and roll quarters before stuff started getting hairy. (Have I mentioned lately that I work in the banking industry?) By the time the world was getting intimate with the Fed Chairman, I was already used to basic cable and picking the longest line at the grocery checkout so I could peruse magazines without buying them.

Listen, I'm fortunate. I have my job and then there's the writing stuff and I'm not upside-down in a mortgage or staring at $35,000 in credit card debt like I was a few years ago. I remember after my divorce -- it was right in the middle of the real estate market explosion -- people would tell me all the time I was "wasting money" by renting a house, "throwing money away" by not buying.

"But I owe so much in debt," I would say. And folks would say you can still buy a house and home equity lines and blah blah blah. "Think of the tax write-off you'd get!"

"But even if I could get approved, I can't afford a down payment," I said.

"You can get a loan with no down payment!" How many times did I hear that in 2005, and 2006 and even in early 2007? And people would tell me all about 0% down and interest-only and so on and what a fool I was for renting a tiny ancient house in the valley when I could buy! Buy a house! It's a great investment!

I was so overwhelmed by credit-card debt at the time that the very idea of owing ONE MORE RED CENT made me want to hide under my bed with a bag of Oreos and a flask. I think about all those times when folks at work or friends of mine or co-workers

Posted by laurie at January 2, 2009 3:29 PM