We all love money. We all need it. And yet it’s a point of stress for most. It’s hard to know what enough is. When it comes to bills, the strain involved can feel like an unwanted visitor always knocking at the back door. But it’s one of those things–you know you gotta deal with it, so why not manage it well? And yet most don’t, won’t, or can’t stay in control of it. What a person does with his or her own money is profoundly personal, but it really bugs me to see people fuck up the simplest things. Some of the most conservative, balanced, conscientious people I know manage to fall woefully short in this arena. You need it to live. It sucks. But you either manage it or it manages YOU. And I see people do the same dumb things over and over again. If they’d just listen to me… well, maybe you will…
A bill should not constitute a financial emergency.
Bills come every month. Or quarterly. Or twice a year. Either way, you know they are coming. People talk about being “hit with a bill.” Why so shocked? The entities that send you bills aren’t out to make your life hell. You’re the one that bought it, used it, or ordered it. You should know what to expect every month. If not, write it down. You have bills that stay the same every month and bills where the amount fluctuates. You can look back at a few months or a year of the fluctuating bills to come up with the number that you spend on average. And then there are your monthly purchases. Assuming you use a credit card for average purchases, look at your credit card bill to see where you spend your money most often and how much you spend at those places when you do. It might take doing something silly like sitting in front of the TV with a few different colored hi-lighters and pens and marking up a couple of your last credit card bills. Either way, if you don’t make yourself aware of your finances, you’re in for one shock or another almost every month. It’s planning for the inevitable, which most people do in every other arena except when it comes to their money!
Don’t spend your credit like its cash.
You’re not spending money when you use a credit card. You’re spending credit. Let me say it again: You’re not spending money when you use a credit card. You’re spending credit. It is deceiving because you can use a piece of plastic to receive real goods and services that you can touch and eat and bring into your home. When you run a credit card, you are basically spending your future. It’s that serious. You’re assuming that you will continue to be able to work to generate the cash to pay for these purchases at a future date, or that you will one day, magically, be so much better off than you are now (do you also believe in unicorns?) and will be able to deal with it then. In principle, you’re banking on the future, and thus an unknown. With this in mind, it would behoove one to use a credit card conservatively. People with copious amounts of credit card debt make me wonder if they hate themselves. They are consigning themselves to a future of indentured service to companies that could care less about them, bleed more from them through interest, and offer no benefits. And yet some of the smartest people I know seem to have no problem with this.
Don’t do nothing about credit card debt because it’s too difficult to deal with.
You probably can’t pay it off at the moment. But you can launch a systematic affront to the problem and pay off a little each month on top of what your normal bill is. Because you know what? The interest rate they are charging you is a systematic affront on you. Fuck them. Stop being a pussy and complaining and launch a counter-attack no matter how small. Just don’t bend over and take it. Simple enough.
People let themselves get financially pricked and don’t let it bother them.
Don’t get bled. If someone came up to you and pricked you with a pin or needle, you’d find it slightly startling and a little rude, right? Well don’t let that happen to you financially then! Some easy examples:
- If you’re not using your Netflix or any subscription service, cancel your account or put your account on hold.
- If your bank is charging you for going below the minimum amount in your checking account, then keep the minimum amount in there to avoid the fee, and only tap into it for an emergency. (At least then you’ll have an untouchable chunk of change for an emergency!)
- Don’t pay late fees. If you can’t pay your bills on time, have one place where you write down all of the due dates together as soon as you open each respective bill. Late fees are insulting. So don’t insult yourself.
- If you’re not using a monthly membership, cancel it. (Even if you’re pissed at yourself for not using it and you’re hanging on to it because you’re stubborn.) You will re-join when you’re ready.
Most people have to have things instead of financial security.
It’s sad to see people sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the temporary. When it comes down to it, our actual needs are very basic and it’s not always easy, but it’s doable to have those needs met. When and if extra money comes in, we feel a rush of power because we experience what it’s like to have financial leverage. But that shouldn’t be a brand new feeling. You should have a savings account and other investments and always have leverage. It shouldn’t feel special. It shouldn’t feel like your birthday: you don’t need a fucking present.
Building financial security is the slowest construction project you will ever be involved in. It’s not a magical process. It’s done one brick at a time. And it’s a great feeling. Please break this news to yourself: it doesn’t mean living a conservative, boring life. You don’t have to sacrifice pleasure or opportunities. Please spend a little bit of your money. You need to live a full life. There’s nothing wrong with buying a video game, or a pair of shoes you want, or having a nice meal, or surprising your kid with something. But when it comes to your future, those things are vapor. You should be enjoying the present while preparing for the inevitable. Grow up and stop living in birthday mode.
Don’t be selfish.
I’m obviously an advocate for being financially conservative, but please don’t let that stop you from being a good person. Pay it forward. Be a good tipper. Pay people back for movie tickets or meals if you said you would. Decide that helping someone is okay sometimes. We’ve all had times where we’ve needed someone to help us carry a burden for a short while. Support the arts. Support a cause. Hell… support CHUD. It feels good.
Don’t be foolish with your money and then cheat the government on taxes to pick up the slack.
Grow up, plan ahead, and do what’s right. I’m tired of people telling me that they can’t afford to pay taxes. What they’re really saying is that they don’t want to afford to pay taxes. Well who does? It sucks. You know that if you cheat the government, there’s a good chance you’ll get away with it. But if you do, it’s a fuck you to all the other people that are doing the right thing. What made you so special? Everyone always has an excuse to not do the right thing when it’s difficult. How is your excuse better than every one else’s?
The way people manage or don’t manage their money causes me to question if they hate themselves. They do things that only hurt themselves and their families. If you manage it right, it’s empowering. If you don’t you walk around with a dripping wound. Your choice. But please, make the sane one.