Back to an old D

Debt. Yeah, debt is a scary thing for me. I think I pretty much grew up maybe upper middle class. How’s that for certainty? I mean, my family never talked about money. Ever. I think I only saw my dad paying bills once or twice growing up and then only as a teen. The only time money was discussed was if you were “wasting” it or spending too much on utilities, as in, “why is the TV on and no one is in the room?” my mother would yell, turning off the TV. I’d be right behind her, having gotten some water or answered the phone (yeah, way out there in the kitchen). Also my mother yelled about letting water run and opening the fridge, all great consumers of electric. But otherwise no one talked about money.

I deduce that we were upper middle as an adult, looking back at the clothing we wore and the cars in our driveway. Of course, this may have been due to my mother’s frugal nature, for all I know. I mean, we rarely got any clothes that hadn’t been marked down at least once, not to mention the grand layaway plan for school clothes. My mother watched for sales and tracked when mark downs were likely to occur – she still does. She can tell you when it’s time for your favorite kinds of clothing to go on sale at Macy’s, for instance. “Oh, don’t buy that yet,” she’ll say, “wait anther two weeks and they will mark it down 50% off.” So far, she has always been right about that.

Where was I going with that? Ah, debt. So, ok, I grew up having what I needed and some of what I wanted (my mother was also opposed to “spoiling” us, which meant that if we really really wanted it, we wouldn’t get it). I moved out young and did ok for the first 2 years, not rich but I had enough to take care of myself. Then came the lean years. I won’t blame it on my partner at the time….out loud. We were really broke. I mean, we were eating saltines with the last bit of Miracle Whip on them for lunch. I ditched the partner and moved in with a family nearby, working as a nanny. We were poor there too, she worked all the time, two and three jobs at a time. I did everything else, most of the time for little or no pay. Bill collectors called regularly – not for me, for the woman I was working for. I learned a lot, though, about how to deal with a bill collector from her and our ridiculous situation. Sometimes I would put the crying youngest child on the phone with the bill collector rather than explain to them for the millionth time that they were not going to reach her at home.

I moved out later, went back to school, etc, etc, etc. I was broke a lot of the time. I learned fast, though, and was pretty good at being broke. I still managed to go dancing a few times a month, buy music I liked and have tunes in my vehicle. These were things I considered pretty important at the time. I didn’t have much money for frivolity, but I paid all my bills on time. I had credit cards by then, and I nearly always paid them off in full after a month or two. I had one bad banking deal where a roommate and I shared an account and a pay check bounced – that was insane. I think between the two of us we bounced 30 checks – imagine the fees! Yes, that was a bad time.

Fast forward a bit. When I finally started working “in the real world” (i.e. not part time, not as a student), I was doing pretty good. More money for frivolities and I still paid my bills on time. I did not carry much of a balance on my credit cards, only the occasional trip to Italia or tires for the car. I’m not much of a gatherer or collector, buying lots of stuff. I try to keep it simple. Apart from books and accessories (as noted in a previous blog). I am getting better about the books, though, I have pared them down over and over again…but that’s another blog.

So, I was doing pretty good 8 years ago. And then I partnered up again. We were together a couple of years and decided to get married. When I left on my honeymoon, we had enough money to pay off whatever debt we had incurred (for the honeymoon and wedding) and I did just that when we returned. That was the last time the credit cards were zeroed out, I think. Again, I am not blaming my partner. I’m not!

I really think it is something about me and the way I interact, want to interact, want to be when I am with someone else. I am totally serious. Check this out: this person mentioned a concert this week on fb. I am interested in the person and the concert, so I ask if they’d like to go with me. They messaged me back saying they can’t afford it this month for whatever reason. Now, the healthy thing to do would be to say, I understand, maybe next time, something like that, right? The first thing that occurred to me to say, instead, was to offer to buy their ticket too.

Seriously? First, I have never been out with this person so I have no idea…I mean, I don’t even know them. Second, lately it seems that I have been attracting people without money and maybe this is a hint (I’m not trying to judge, just saying, don’t I want to be with someone who doesn’t make errors with their money?). Thirdly, HELLO, I just incurred a huge debt for the dog’s bills WHICH I am planning a fund raiser for. What am I thinking? I can’t afford a ticket either, much less TWO. Scary.

I am ready to be done with the debt, and part of that means not doing things I can’t afford. Not for me or anyone else.

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