06 March 2010

Lesson #18: Don't spend too much on jeans.

The posts are coming up in no particular order, other than what I feel like writing at the given time, which is now, from a list of 30+ topics I generated at the start of the project.  However, I like this lesson for number 18, because a very important thing happens (sometimes) when a kid turns 18.  No, not the porn.  Not the cigarettes.  I'm not even talking about the voting, although that was cool.

Let's talk credit cards.

For me, there was a lag in the understanding of credit cards, and the need they served, until I became an adult.  When I was a kid, I didn't really get it.  I figured if you needed something, you bought it.  And if you didn't have the money, you just waited until you did - from allowance, birthday money, gift lists, whatever.  Of course, I was living at home and supported by my parents, but still... I had a job, I spent my own money, so this view made sense.

What I didn't understand is that as you get older, the expenses get bigger.

There are the givens: rent, insurance, utilities (yay running water!), tuition, groceries.  There are the luxuries: beer/wine, movies or dinner out, new clothes, vacations.  Then there are the hobbies: sports gear, motorcycles, sailing, fishing.

Yeah.  As kids get older, hobbies get more expensive.

A huge percentage of Americans carry 'revolving debt' - a credit card balance that never goes away.  And this sucks.  They spend a huge chunk of change each year on interest.  They sometimes live beyond their means.  I'd look up statistics, but this blog is about me, and not social commentary, so... just look at your own life experience/that of your friends', and you'll probably at least in part agree with me.

So really, Lesson #18 is about fiscal responsibility. (wake up! Not an Econ lecture.)

I'm working on it.

I've gotten much better, on this side of my 20s, asking myself if I really need to be spending money on ____.  I knew someone in college who would take whatever she wanted to buy, say a sweater, and calculate the number of hours she needed to work to pay for that.  She would then consider if that item was worth the time she was going to spend to earn it.  I think this is a great way to go about things, because it cuts down on the likelihood of an impulse buy.  So that's what I try to do.  I've also gotten much better at saying 'no, I can't afford to do this' when I know I don't have the money budgeted.  I have a financial calendar that plans each account.  I shop sales and outlets, and keep in my head a dollar amount I'm willing to spend for a given item.

Occasionally, this gets blown out of the water.  I consolation-shop, or find a deal I don't want to pass up.  I fit into a pair of size 6 jeans for the first time in 12 years, and in a fit of triumph shell out three times what I'd normally spend.  Every once in a while... maybe... maybe, this is ok.  But not too often.

So the lesson is, be responsible.  Minimize debt, or better, eliminate it entirely. Have a plan.  And don't spend too much on jeans... unless they make your butt look awesome.

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