Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Problem with Money

It's that there's never enough of it.

This just seems to be true.  I always think it's not true, because I think that if I earn more I'll be able to pay more on my debt, or save a little something, but that's just not the case.  Somehow, when you earn more (besides paying more of that income to the Tax Man) you have more or bigger expenses.

I have been reading about how Canadians are in some kind of debt crisis lately.  The Toronto Star's Moneyville blog had an article today about how the richest people in Toronto also had the most household debt.  It turns out that they have just a bit more debt than the richest folks in Vancouver, and just a bit less than the richest folks in Calgary.  It also seems that Canadian household debt is at some kind of all-time high, if we're to believe the likes of the Wall Street Journal.

I'm not used to thinking about myself as a household, but I am used to stressing about my debt-load.  I think I've existed in a constant state of low-level panic about money since undergrad.  It's been intensified over the last couple of years - with grad school, going to Switzerland for an unpaid internship, and then facing the daunting task of paying back my educational debt.  It's nothing of not a brutal Passchendaele-esque uphill battle through the mud of budgeting, guilt, and discipline.

I'm making slow and unsteady progress.  I have good months and bad months.  Living paycheque to paycheque is terrible, but is the reality of paying down debt.  Overextension is my day-to-day.  I get really frustrated with myself when I slip up and buy something that's not in the plan.  I'm trying to put my visa on ice but find it necessary to sometimes use it to bridge the gaps between pay dates.  It's too uncomfortable to constantly be trying to pay it off and then find myself short and needing to use it again. I think that this is the kind of cycle that Canadian families must find themselves in, and how people must gain credit card debt that spirals out of control, using one card to pay off the other and so on.  I feel the constant pressure of avoiding anything even close to that, and of wanting to really get on top of my finances and live in the black all the time.

However, sometimes when I have things figured out just so, and I'm keeping all the balls in the air, life sucker punches me - or throws a boot at my head, as the case may be.  That's what happened today.  I pencilled in all my expenses for the month, right down to gas and groceries, added it all up, surveyed the lay of the land.  All was well.

Then, on my way to my budgeted-in hair cut this afternoon I stopped in at a store that was having a sale. I spotted some interesting boots in the window, and knew I'd be tempted, but I went in anyway.  I looked at the boots.  They were just what I've been looking for for the past three winters.  I always came close to just the right boot, but never actually found it, until today.  And they were on sale.  They are these:

Frye 'Harness 12r' boot, in tan, made in
the good old US of A
Frye boots?  On sale?  Does that ever happen?  It was too serendipitous to pass up.  And yet, I am hit with the brutal materialism of the action of purchasing these at a time when I'm really struggling to get my finances reigned in and to stop buying things.  It's easy to justify - winter is coming, I've been looking for years, I used these to replace two pairs of sub-par boots that have enough life to be donated to others, etc.  Justification is stupid though.

At the end of the day, I am trying to console myself with the knowledge that I'm not in the same kind of debt as other Canadian households, that I can in fact pay these off my visa without much trouble, that it only represents one more month of discomfort in my bank account.  After that I'll be in the black, and will be able to live off of my monthly income without needing visa help.

That is, of course, until I do this exact same thing again.  Just like I always do.

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