Thursday, September 26, 2002

I am terrible with money

Well I don't typically do this but I'm going to simply bare my mistakes to my peers, family and world.

The mistakes have to do with my terrible irresponsibility with money. I'm no gambler or anything like that. I couldn't even if I wanted to be, I never have any money! There is the problem. I make a reasonable wage, certainly nothing to be ashamed of. I live pretty well too. I have a nice apartment and car. I wear decent clothing. I enjoy a nice meal out often. I have nice toys. There is part of the problem. I buy these things but little is saved.

I have stated and still hold that I want to buy a house or plot of land by my 30th birthday. That's less than two years from now. I have a LOT of work to do. I only just opened a savings account today.

This all stemmed back at least two years ago as well. I knew even then I needed to save. But like I said I'm financially irresponsible and I was worse then! I got over the credit card thing years ago, thankfully, but I'm still paying those debts. I'm doing well on that now, but that was a hard lesson to learn in itself. But that's another story.

Without anyone or anything to suggest I save my excess money or be more frugal, I have and still do, to a certain extent, spent my excess money frivolously. I'd see a good bargin and buy the product. Not because I needed it, but because I wanted it. I'd justify the purchase by pointing out how much I had saved by buying it then, as I would have purchased it anyway. That argument if flawed, but I bought it. I didn't want to think any different and no one was there to say otherwise.

Even now I fight with myself about if it's cheaper to eat in or out. Please keep in mind that I'm a single guy cooking for myself. Go to the store and try to plan meals for one. The meat departments don't often package for the single person. That said, I have found great deals. I buy frozen chicken breasts in a resealable bag. I also found a box of individually sealed 8oz steaks. If you buy the breakfast steaks and pork chops, sliced up they make good stir-fry meats. I do cook for myself in the evenings, with very few frozen dinners, but my lunch is still often out some where with co-workers. I have gotten better at saving on food though.

Back to the point at hand. I argued with myself for a long time that I wanted to put every spare dime towards paying off my credit cards. I was putting a lot towards them, however I was still blowing a lot too.

Things over this past summer got tight too. That is what is primarily responsible for me cooking more. I realized I was spending way to much on food. I also realized I was buying beyond my means. I decided to ask Melly for help. (note she has helped me with my finances many time prior as well, more about that in a moment.) I told her that I would tell her about any purchase I was planning to make prior to making it. Not only would this help me from impulse buying, but she would also remind me that I should be saving that money.

That is what happened today.
There is a website, DoveBid, that auctions off large corporate capital, either excess or bankruptcy liquidations. The last couple of days they had the Enron auction! They had all kinds of neat stuff. Big 50 inch Plasma screens, tons of computers and monitors and other stuff. Well a group of us at the office looked over the asset list and noticed that they had a lot of 12 18 inch LCD monitors up on the block. We thought, hey if we can get them for $200 a piece, that would be awesome! And truly it would be. Those things are not cheap. They range in price from about $800 to $1200, depending on quality and brand. I told Melly what we were up to and she suggested that I should be saving that money. And she was right. I immediately knew that she was right. What did I need an 18” LCD monitor for? I have two 17” monitors already! So they are CRTs rather than flat panels. So what? LCDs don't do well with games either I hear.

It was the right thing to do and I'm glad Melly said something. In all reality I knew before she said anything that I didn't need to be doing that. I just needed her to tell me. I needed her guidance. She then proceeded to yell at me for not opening a saving account yet. Frankly I deserved it too. I didn't like it much. Not because she was yelling at me so much as that she was speaking the truth and I didn't like having to own up to my own weaknesses. Part of me wanted to bite back, but I knew that I would only be taking the frustration I had with myself out on her and that wouldn't be fair. It's not her fault I'm a lamer when it comes to money.

She has been trying to get me to open a savings account for some time. At least a year if not more. I tried early on, but I was denied for some reason and I didn't have the interest to check into why. So I let it drop. Then about 2 months ago I tried again, via the phone with a local bank. They were going to open it up for me right over the phone with me. I was quite pleased at how easy it was going. I had money setup and ready to go. Then I got a shocker and was told I was denied. Huh? How are you denied for a SAVINGS account? I was stunned and disappointed. The lady I talked to suggested I go to ChexSystems and request a statement of why I was denied. Now this isn't a credit report. This is something totally different. This is something banks use. I'm not exactly sure how it works to this day.

In any case, the ChexSystems statement had a notice from my old bank from over 2 years ago. It said, “Unstatisfactory Handling – All Debts Paid”. It suddenly dawned on me what this was all about. I switched from this bank to an Internet bank, to help me do automatic payments (has saved my butt!). Well there was still an outstanding check and it bounced. At this same time I moved. So my bank didn't have my new address. I admit totally, that this was my fault. It was my responsibility to make sure the bank had my new address and that all checks were cleared and the account was zeroed out. I didn't do either. About 6 months later I get a letter from a collections agency about the account. I promptly paid the debt, but the damage was done. I had no idea of the consequences.

That bad mark will remain for another 5 years. The only way to remove it is if the bank chooses to. I asked them to and they refused.

Apparently it's some FDIC rule, though Melly and I argued and researched this rule and never came to a decisive conclusion, and no bank would accept my savings application because of that bad mark. Not even the smaller home-town type banks. As long as they were FDIC insured it was a no go. Many people, Melly, my parents and my boss, suggested I go down to a bank in person instead of calling on the phone. I think they were right, but I think I was refusing out of principle. My being there face to face should NOT matter. I suspect it would have made a difference though. I don't like it, but tough shit for me right?

My mom suggested Credit Unions. She did this about a month ago. I didn't look into it like I should have. So when Melly today told me I should save instead of doing an auction for monitors, I told the guys I was out of the pool (they went for about $700 a piece as it turns out, way more than any of use were willing to pay.). I immediately did a search on Google for credit unions in the area. I thought I was doing a pretty good job, but I got pretty discouraged quickly when I saw that most of them had membership requirements that I could not meet. I must have just totally missed the one Melly found.

This situation put a LOT of stress on Melly. She doesn't mind helping me with things, but I believe she feels that this is a very basic thing. How can I be so irresponsible with my money and expect to achieve the dreams I talk about? She is looking at the future. Us together. How can I support a family the way I treat money now? She shouldn't have to be my accountant or my financial adviser. She might not mind if I was more responsible, but I treat money with such abandon, that I think she is afraid that when we are together I will do the same with her money. I can understand her concerns. Even if I didn't mean to do those things, it still would be a serious strain on our relationship. Money always is a relationship strainer.

She left for lunch to cool off. I couldn't blame her. I went to lunch too. When I got back she had found and called a local credit union for me! She found one that I could become a member of simply by making a small donation to an Autism charity. I had no problems with that at all! I didn't even care what the interest rate was.

I told her that I promised to do it tomorrow. Then I stopped myself and thought, wait, what are you doing? You have been putting this off until tomorrow too much. That's why it hasn't been done yet. I cannot keep putting things off. I then told Melly I would go check with my boss to see if I could do it right then.

Since my boss knew the situation I was fighting with he was gracious enough to let me go do it right then and there. Good thing it was a slow day. It took me longer to find parking and walk to the bank than it did to actually fill out the paper work and get all setup. So I have an account now. Yippie!

Except there this wasn't quite the time to break out the noise makers. Melly brought up a couple of very good points when I got back. One, I should have been saving, even if it wasn't in a bank. A twenty here and there in the back of a dictionary or something wouldn't have been at all difficult. Hell that would have helped offset my car problems!

The second thing was, why did she have to find this bank for me? Why couldn't I find it? Why did she have to make the long distance call to the bank? The only answer I could give her is that I was feeling beaten down. Money and it's institutions baffle me. I've never learned how to make it work. It's not a good excuse, but when you don't know what you are doing its hard to stay on task. I wasn't feeling like I was getting encouragement. I was going through the motions but I honestly was so discouraged by the whole thing that at lunch I decided that perhaps a small safe in the closet was my only option. Hey I even considered savings bonds!

She shouldn't have had to do that leg work for me, but I'm infinitely thankful that she did! Without her help I would probably sitting here now wondering how I'd do this.

I NEED help when it comes to money. That's why I went with my Internet bank. I can schedule all my bills to be paid every month without a hick-up, given that I don't over spend. This has been a key for me paying off my credit cards. I'd be doing good, then I'd miss a payment and the last two months worth of payments would be eaten up by fees. Now my credit is improving and the cards are nearly paid. Even my other bills are paid this way. I write ONE check a month and that is my rent. I'd pay that electronically too if it was an option!

If it wasn't for that online bill payment system I would in the same spot I was 2-3 years ago. Struggling to keep my head above water.

I hate money. There are only two things I HATE in this world, racists and money. But unfortunately we have to live with both. I can ignore the ignorant racist idiots, I cannot ignore money.

Thank you Melly! Thank you for all your patients with this. I AM getting better and I will continue to become more adept with my finances. I promise!

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