Monday, June 29, 2009

Portrait Update: Greenville, North Carolina

Back in February I gave my two cents to Portraits of an Economy. Now I only wish I would have put those pennies in my forever-empty coin jar.

The truth is that five, six, seven months ago I somehow had more money. I somehow had more stuff. I somehow managed to dine out nearly everyday of the week. I somehow managed to do all that and still pay our obscene gas-heating bill. I bought new outfits for special occasions. I thought more about not decorating the Christmas tree than all the gifts I was charging to my shiny new credit card. I went to the movies at least once a week. I got new phones. Quite a few of them, actually. I partiedOften.

Then that big mean bull on the top of Rebecca's blog kicked me right in the ass.

One day I just didn't have any money.

One day my dog ate my power cord. Another day my bank account over-drafted six times in a row (long story). The next day a check bounced. Then I realized my car's loan payments were running low. Then I realized that credit cards REALLY DO accumulate interest. Then I realized my phone bill was late. Then there was a mix up at work with my timesheet and I would only get one paycheck that month. Etc.

I didn't pay much attention to my money troubles. I had my job and schoolwork to handle, and with all the tales and horror stories of the "worst recession in years" plastered all over the media, it was easy to blame the selfish and irresponsible actions of the Wall Street big-wigs. Somehow I thought that because millions of people had lost their jobs and savings, homes and retirement funds, that I was just one of them - part of a crisis. Then, at some point I realized that my financial situation doesn't have much to do with the economic recession at all- it simply rhymes with those that do.

When someone would say, "Money is tight these days..." I could honestly say, "I know the feeling." What I didn't realize is that that person's empty wallet may have been from a job lost or a home foreclosed, while mine was from racing to see the next big 3D movie after dinner at Olive Garden and a trip to the mall for a quick shoe-binge.

I'm still reeling from feelings of guilt and selfishness. I have a job that pays more than enough to live off of. I have a nice place to live. I have more outfits than days to wear them. I have a reliable car with a full tank of gas. I have a fancy phone. I have nothing to complain about except my own stupid spending habits. "Stupid is as stupid does."

I've bucked down.

I cleaned off my bookshelf and started selling stuff on Amazon. My Nintendo DS looks good on eBay, and all my old phones did me proud on Gazelle and BuyMyTronics. I've started "cooking" more than going out, and employ the use of my best friend's food stamps whenever possible. I also joined her wireless family plan, which cut my phone bill in half and got me an even fancier phone (for FREE). I discovered that Netflixpales in comparison to a combination of borrowing friends DVDs, YouTube, and Hulu - and at some point I'm going to approach my roommate with a proposal to cancel our cable TV (we'll see how that goes). My shoe collection is no longer growing at an exponential rate, and it turns out that yardsales are fun (until someone ganks your big-dollar salad bowls).

My plan is to make it through my own, self-made recession, so that when the time comes for me to actually feel the real blow of an economic downturn (let's hope never!), I can make it through relatively unscaved.

I've always been a strong swimmer, but money is murky water with a bitch of an undertow. Even if I have to doggy-paddle, I'm gonna make it to the other side - debt free and kicking my heels.