Sorry for the lack of posts ... I just haven't been inspired to write. Until this morning.
I like to write about certain things. Obviously, the environment is one of those things. But I also like to write when I've noticed something in myself of which I have been critical in others. In other words ... when I've learned something (and eaten a little crow).
This morning a couple of lines of thought came together for me and I thought I'd share.
First, some background. In September of 2008 I was doing some very lucrative contract work ... $20,000 was going to be available in the coming months to do research work. We were expecting a settlement on a law suit we had filed two years earlier. So money was coming, we just weren't absolutely certain of when. We were undisciplined with our money and, I guess on some level, feeling entitled to more than we were able to afford. We had $21,000 in consumer debt. This isn't strange. Lots of people have this kind of credit card debt. I wasn't comfortable, but money was coming. So I didn't worry about it too much. Until the stock market crashed.
The day after the big crash I got the call to stop work. There would be no $20,000. To date we STILL haven't gotten a penny from the law suit (although judgment was in our favour - there was never even a discussion about a settlement). We were sitting there, me with no work and bills up the wazoo.
I was a fan of "Til Debt Do Us Part". And I started watching it even more. We dug in and got our financial house in order. I believe it took 2 1/2 years to get most everything paid down. We are much more careful now with how much debt we carry and where we carry it. So as I continue with the discussion below, I don't want anyone thinking that I am just talking out my ass. I've been there. I don't know what it's like to run into a severe financial situation, because I saw one coming and averted it. But I DO know that you can change your ways ... financially.
So here's the thing. I see a lot of people - people I know, people on Facebook, people on T.V. - who are in really bad financial straits. They spend far more than they have, or a large unexpected expense arises, or a health problem reduces earning potential. They don't know how to handle their income, and they didn't plan for potential disasters (could be any of us, really - most people don't plan for disasters). They (and I) were never taught how to really handle their money, probably because we have lived in a culture and a time where we didn't HAVE to learn - there has been lots to go around and the banks want us to carry debt. So where is the incentive to learn? I am in NO WAY talking about any one person here in this blog. There are lots of people who live like this. It is incredibly common. There are just tons of people out there who are over-extended. And that's okay until that job ends, or that contract is cancelled, or someone is hurt and can't work.
I was watching an episode of "Til Debt Do Us Part" quite recently, and the parents of the kids at Christmas-time just didn't know how they were going to pay for Christmas with the limited funds they were allowed for the month. They said that the kids DESERVED a happy holiday. And here is where I now (after personal experience) get miffed. The kids deserve love, affection, and fun. But these things don't cost money. And which is more important - money for Christmas presents, or money for the mortgage? No one deserves anything that costs money ... if that money isn't available. There are lots of things that can be done to celebrate Christmas, Valentine's, Easter, Anniversarys, Birthdays, without costing a lot of money. But you can't skip your payments. And, no, you don't DESERVE that expensive car just because you work hard. Lots of people work hard and don't have expensive cars. If the money for the payments needs to be used for food or housing, you don't deserve that car at all.
The other thing people do so much is buy a lot of small things. This only costs $5, so I can afford that. Until you buy 10 of them - the justification is the same every time, but now you're in $50, not $5. It's called the Latte Factor - a term used in the book "The Automatic Millionaire" which I would recommend to anyone who is having financial struggles. The point is that if you can buy a latte every day for $3, then you could also have $60 every month to invest and grow if you just didn't have those lattes. It all adds up. So the thing is that you can totally nickle and dime yourself into OR OUT OF the hole.
Okay - so where do two lines of thought intersect? Well, I've been trying to lose weight as I mentioned in a previous post. I've finally stopped gaining weight, but I can't seem to start shedding it. And why??? Well, because "I was so good yesterday and my weight is down .4 lbs, so I DESERVE a treat". Sound familiar? The truth is that you can nickle and dime yourself fat, too. For me it's just not as easy as the money. The money was hard, but sensible, concrete, not controlled by an addiction. The weight is something altogether different. I have issues with eating and am certainly addicted to sugar. Maybe not 250lbs-addicted, but enough that I'm going to have to figure out why I eat like I do and try to change things. And I'm going to have to stop deserving treats and try to eat only when I'm hungry. And only healthy food (not sugary or deep-fried foods). And that's hard - but for anyone out there who has lost weight ... well, you know it can be done (I've done it before, so I know it can be done, too). Just like I know you can straighted out your finances.
Here's an article to make you think: http://motherjones.com/blue-marble/2012/02/sugar-toxic-regulated-alcohol-and-smoking-ucsf. I definitely have to stay away from sugar if I'm going to lose any weight at all.
I'll start tomorrow :)