debt

Can You Be Financially Insane?

Maybe I’m just financially insane. Have we considered that?

This week I was waiting with bated breath to see which would land first: my $795 rent check in my $600 account, or the $400 from my freelancing client that would prevent the check from bouncing.

The $400 landed first, and I felt this rush of relief, and then that day I spent money compulsively, like, out-of-body experience compulsively. Oh, I thought, Something is definitely wrong with me.

 

Did I mention that guy with the ADD? I was interviewing one of the top experts on ADD in the country, and we got to chatting about distraction, etc, and he said, “It sounds to me like you have ADD.” He even offered to hook me up with a center in Seattle that diagnoses ADD. But of course the analysis is $260, so we’ll just have to wait and see on that one.

 

On this Monday I might have to take money out of my Fuck Off Fund, because, per the ush, I set myself up to go on a trip that I don’t have money for. I’m going to try to lemonade stand it a little while I’m there. It’s a music festival, and I’m going to do portraits. But also, I don’t know. I’m going to feel it out.

I thought this blog would be a journey toward financial wellness. Maybe it’s just the observance of a disturbed individual living out her dysfunctional life. Ah well, it’s still pretty fun.

One of the reasons I feel insane is that career-wise, things are going well. I’m in Glamour and Cosmo this month. (Pay: $0) I found out I was in Feminist Fight Club. (Pay: $0) I have amazingly successful people in my corner trying to help me along and get me work. My book is sitting here right next to me.

And still. Bank account:

It’s the peak time of something, that something being the space between the growth of my career, in reputation and network, and the stagnation of my earnings.

I haven’t saved for retirement in almost two years. I’m hoping that what I’m putting away, in time, work, and dedication to this career, will pay off in compound interest.

 

 

Taking action is the most important thing. Yesterday I spent the entire Sunday setting up my Society6 store with the illustrations from my book (done in collaboration with Tony Ong.) I went to my favorite coffee shop and they gave me my tea for free, they were playing Pinkerton, and Ace Ventura was on the TV. I felt more hopeful.

Somehow, I’m most comfortable with less than $100 in my bank account. It feels like home.

I haven’t been using YNAB, even though I labeled all over my cards to do so. It’s just so easy to ignore, because it does exactly what it says it does, which is shows you what you’re stealing from.

 

Ok, let’s face the numbers.

I have $73

I have to pay $40 to eBay for selling a friend’s breast pump on there. (True story)

The guy who was going to go to this music festival with me couldn’t, and I sold his ticket, and I didn’t give him the money at the time, so I owe him $325.

I still owe $500 for my skin cancer surgery.

I owe my tax account probably $300.

I haven’t saved anything for taxes. This terrifies me. I swore I would never do this to myself. YNAB tried to convince me to keep my taxes in the same account as my other stuff. It seems like I’m not financially sane enough to do that.

My earnings thus far:

So according to this sad little income report, I owe $2,800 if we assume 20% toward taxes.

Also I’m on track to make just $33,000 this year. Not. Great.

 

What we’ve done here is taken someone who might be financially insane and put her in a low-earning, unreliable profession. Will she make it?

 

Yes dammit, I want to make it. I commit myself. To whatever padded room, whatever straight jacket I need to not hurt myself.

Jessica Moorhouse said she would help me with bookkeeping, which is a skill I’ve never learned.

Liz at Express Credit Union said I should get a business loan to build my credit for something I need (which I’ll tell you about later). She said she’ll watch it to make sure I don’t use it for anything else.

 

Shouldn’t I be able to do this without help? Sometimes you can’t, and trying to convince yourself otherwise only gets you in more trouble. You need those padded walls so you don’t bonk your head. An accountability buddy is a kind of padding.

This blog is a kind of padding. You just need to do what you have to do, and this is what I have to do: continually confess, to live in a state of confession, do my weekly washing of my weekly sins. Forgive me readers, for I have latte’d.

 

What is wrong with me? Something. But I can work with it.

 

 

 

 

 

“What if you agreed to never lend me money again?”

Paulette: What the fuck is wrong with me, with money?

Sis: Consumerism plays a part, lack of discipline.

Mom: Advertising.

Sis: Predatory marketing.

Mom: Peer pressure.

Paulette: I am here with my mother and sister if you couldn’t tell.

Mom: But also what happened to you when you were a young girl and that is in third grade, father lost his job, and we went from living on the water with waverunner and pool and Cadillac and custom van and all that to we can’t afford it, we can’t afford it, we can’t afford it; and that was difficult for you to be in that environment.

Paulette: That was a sweet van.

Mom: That was. We had a little TV in there.

Paulette: And Nintendo.

Mom: So that really messed up I think a lot of perspective because you were no longer able to do what we had always done. And I think it was frustrating for everybody and challenging.

Paulette: I feel like the number one problem is like I just spend whatever money I have.

Mom: I think that’s a problem with a lot of people instead of planning ahead when you get your money whether it’s the beginning of the week, every two weeks, every week, if you don’t plan ahead for your budget, your bill is coming up, and you have $500 in your checking account, it feels like that’s your discretionary money when it’s really not.

Sis: We have to tell our money where to go.

Mom: Right.

Paulette: I am like, literally, the other day, I put in an $1,800 invoice and then it was like I had – my brain was like, you have $1,800. And then I was just going along like normal, spending, spending, just going to the grocery store, going here, going there, and then after I went to an exercise class really early in the morning, and then I started to run to the grocery for like $13 worth of things, and I went to check out, and I could not, my card got declined; and when I saw how much I had, I had like $89 in one account and then negative $80 in the other. If I had done the transfer, it still wouldn’t have added up to $13.

Sis: Wow.

Paulette: So I had to be like I am sorry, I can’t buy these. I had to walk away and the guy was like, “that’s okay,” I am sure it happens.

Mom: Happens all the time, yeah.

Paulette: But it was like – and I just kind of waited for the shame bomb to explode because I know we had to leave groceries as a family when we were little.

Sis: I think proactively looking at that, for me, mobile access, right on my phone, to up-to-date information on my account is something I am trying to be disciplined on checking every day, so you know where you are at. So we are not walking through a minefield with a blindfold and going, well, I hope nothing goes off. I hope everything is okay. I mean, we shouldn’t be approaching cash registers not knowing…

Mom: Not sure, yeah.

Paulette: Yeah, I just kind of have this like general idea and I remember at one time my best friend’s husband, it was like, we were all just hanging out, and in the morning I saw him looking at his bank statement. I was like, “Oh, what are you doing?” He was like, “oh I just check my bank balance every day.” I was like, wow, what else are other people doing!

Sis: Yeah, well, that’s a way to live.

Paulette: I know. You know how much is in there? It’s weird. Where’s the excitement in your life?

Sis: It’s like we have on-off switches, have money, don’t have money.

Mom: Yes.

Sis: We need to find a great way of being better informed and I think telling our money where to go is important. I just think like for me I feel like I need to be more proactive on budgeting and putting my money where I want it to go versus, oh, look what happened.

Mom: Yes.

Paulette: It’s like the cognitive dissidence between the person who makes the plan and the person who goes through the world, it’s like, I just can’t connect the two.

Mom: I have to quote Suze Orman, one time I was watching her when I was going through a particularly tough time and she said you control your money, your money doesn’t control you. And do you know that was like shocking news to me? I thought my money was controlling me, that I was constantly in debt and all. I felt like my life was being controlled by money.

Sis: Well, and I have kind of an awakening of sorts when I hear Dave Ramsey talk about never having a car payment. I was 30 something years old before I ever heard that. I thought, well, you just always have a car payment. It’s like, again, it’s, oh, look at this way to live, this is new and different and you pay zero interest. The first time I bought a car or vehicle, cash, it was extremely empowering and at least four people along the way automatically assumed I was financing and it was a wonderful thing to be able to say, not paying cash, I am not financing. One guy was like, oh, you are not financing. I said, no, I am just going to pay cash.

Mom: Yeah. And all of my friends buy a new car every year, every two years, three years, whatever.

Sis: Same.

Mom: And they all say to me – because my car is now, whatever, 10 years old, they all say to me, aren’t you getting a new car? And my answer to them is no, I like my car, I like my car. That’s what I say. And I finally said to one of my friends one day, I don’t want to have a car payment, this is paid off.

Sis: Yes, exactly.

Mom: And that she got. Then she didn’t ask me again after that. It was like, oh, that makes sense.

Sis: And I just had a good friend who wants to take a different job in a different arena that she’d be much happier in but would make much less money. We were discussing the financial aspects of that and she said something along the lines of, well, of course, I will always have a car payment and I wanted to say to her…

Mom: No, you don’t have to, yeah.

Sis: No, you don’t always have to have a car payment. There’s different options where that’s concerned. So, I think it’s really just – a lot of it is financial education.

Mom: I agree. As Americans, we see way too much advertising and what we look at as a deal, like 20% off, sale on clothing, cars, whatever, you know, trade in your car for $3,000 rebate. So people are thinking, oh, I can put $3,000 in my checking account if I trade my car in, but they are not looking at how much interest they are going to pay on that $3000.

Sis: Who was just saying something about 26% interest?

Mom: Yeah, that was me.

Sis: My nephew is 14 years old and we are trying to teach him about money.

Mom: So the way I got the credit card with 26% interest was they offered zero interest for a year. And I took it because I had $8,000 debt that I had to pay off for roof. And I was paying that down, I figured in a year I would get that paid off. And I have the credit card, it’s over the year, I am still spending like I am getting 3% back and zero interest. And I just casually mentioned, oh, by the way, what is that interest. I know it would be high, 18% or something like that. She said, 26. I almost fell off my chair.

Sis: Well, that’s like when I went through a difficult period between jobs and right before Christmas, the month of December, I received – it must have been seven pieces of mail from these – nothing short of predatory lending, with interest rates of 40 – one was 80 I think…

Paulette: What?!

Sis: Yes. And the laws must have changed and I need to better educate myself on that. Somebody posted something on a Dave Ramsey page and it was like 246% or something. It was 200 and something percent interest. In my opinion, that should not be legal.

Mom: No, not ever.

Sis: And everything I got was showing a catalogue image of a young child opening their Christmas present, so they literally say something about happiness and Christmas, this season, it’s so manipulative. And I was like, you know what, I have a Christmas budget for my 14-year-old and he’s well aware, we manage expectations this year, we’ve talked about that. And that’s probably fine, but just in doing that and not falling for any of that makes me feel more empowered. Like, oh, I recognize this as what it is, and shredded them all and that was the end of it.

Mom: And I think that’s the key. Back to this credit card just for a second, interestingly enough, I lost a credit card from this bank and then it showed up in a jeans pocket later on down the way. You cannot cut those credit cards in half literally, they will not be cut. So, when I handed it into the bank for security reasons, I said, by the way, you can’t cut this in half. He goes, I know. So, in some ways, they are forcing you to keep your card or let them shred it so you don’t have that – and I’ve heard of people like putting their cards in a freezer with ice in a bag, I can’t use it, and…

Paulette: Well, I remember, that’s one of my first memories like after our family went bankrupt is you saying like Paulette come here, look at these, look at the percentage rates here, look if I am late on a payment, and I remember knowing that our credit score is bad.

Mom: Yeah.

Paulette: And that’s such an interesting, like life score, it’s literally called your score and if you, even as a kid, I am like we have a bad score as a label.

Mom: Yeah.

Paulette: But now I have bad credit because I don’t have any credit cards.

Mom: That’s another trap and that’s how they get a lot of college kids, because you need to establish their credit.

Paulette: Establish your credit.

Sis: That’s what they tell them.

Mom: Yeah.

Paulette: Turns into, when I went to live with you in Hawaii, how many Duke’s lava flows did I have, several. But I was like, I will pay this. It was $200 and the card had a wave on it. So, I would say, this is my Hawaii card, and then charged it up.

Sis: I’ve warned Peter. When you go to college you will be inundated with offers and I want him to be educated on predatory lending and how it actually works, and what you will be personally accountable for on the backend of this. It sounds great now because you don’t have to have the money and you can go shopping, but here’s what’s going to happen later. You are going to have to work much harder to get that same amount of money.

Mom: And banks, of course, they do their marketing, they do their research, so what do they offer you? Five different beautiful photographs to choose from for your card so that every time you pull your card out, you see your favorite picture of those five.

Sis: It’s something emotional.

Mom: There’s no komodo dragon going… you know like…

Sis: They have cards now where you can get whatever picture you want on it. We need to get – even on a debit card, it should be a komodo dragon, like you are sure about this, I am kind of, just this animal.

Paulette: I want to put a picture of me crying on the phone to Mom.

Mom: Or just the word, “no” with an exclamation point.

Sis: Something that makes you think twice.

Mom: Yeah.

Sis: And that goes to the ease of how easy it is to spend money now. With Amazon, I mean, and everything, all the online, and like you were talking about the ads before, I get so many emails even after I am unsubscribing, I am still getting a plethora of emails from anywhere you order online and things like that. So I am trying to be better about unsubscribing from anything that’s tempting me to shop, because, yes, when you tell me that you have half off a clearance, that is something that I want to look at, but I don’t need any more Eddie Bauer hiking pants.

Paulette: Yeah, I just went through last night and unsubscribed from a million different places to start the New Year.

Sis: Good for you.

Mom: Good for you.

Paulette: We are related.

Sis: It’s in stereo now.

Paulette: I feel like I’ve done so many little systems and tips and tricks and stuff, but it’s like so hard to – I don’t know, to keep it, like Jeri and I were talking about, it’s like you hold the key to your own jail cell. I am like, well, I want to. But I know I shouldn’t but like I am in charge, so ultimately let’s do it.

Mom: Another tip that I did, two things I did after we went through bankruptcy; one was, if I had $125 for the week to spend, I got it in singles, and I would put it in an envelope in my software or nothing original there. But that way, I knew how much I had for the week, so if I was buying some groceries or giving you guys lunch money or whatever, I could see my money literally disappearing and how much I had to hold on to in order to have gas to get to work that very last day before the paycheck. So, when you are desperate, you have to go to desperate measures. So, Paulette, in order to make budget and be the artist and writer that she is, lives in 175…

Sis: 150.

Mom: 150 square foot – I can’t even get that through my head.

Paulette: Well, I haven’t made it as an artist yet.

Mom: Well, you are making it as artist because you don’t have a full time job.

Paulette: But I can’t do what I did last year. I didn’t make more money than I spent as an artist. That’s my goal.

Mom: I know, but you will.

Sis: That is the goal.

Mom: You will get there.

Sis: But you survived last year.

Mom: You survived it.

Sis: And you are not in an office environment that you don’t want to be in. It didn’t come to that is what I am saying.

Mom: And you didn’t go in that because you did get a small inheritance. So, that’s what allowed you to do that.

Paulette: It was that, I didn’t think that I was trading my fuckoff fund to go to South America, but it was the not planning ahead for how long that was really going to cost me to come back to Seattle and get a new apartment and the furniture, as small as it is, I needed very specialty to figure that space out. And I also wanted it to be like a home, but then I just ended up nipping away my fuckoff fund. I am the fuckoff fund girl with no fuckoff fund, which is some bullshit.

Mom: Yeah.

Sis: But you recognize that and you are working to fix that, which is something you should be proud of. We can’t forget to kind of stop and look around every once in a while and say okay, these are the positive steps I’ve taken instead of always beating ourselves up.

Mom: Right. And knowing that the next time that check comes in, you will allocate and you will also take some of it and put it toward the fuckoff fund so that you start rebuilding – instead of overspending, you are going to start rebuilding. Even if it’s $3 a week, you are going to put something positive which will help you to feel good about the way you are handling money.

Paulette: The thing that got me was when I started using your credit card again, and under the euphuism of like do you want to use my card to pay my insurance, like, with the understanding that I paid back but it was funny how it was like that euphemism that was like, oh, I am not going into debt, using my mom’s card to get through this month or whatever, but I was never – it’s always that when I have money, I go up to this level of living that seems normal to me, where I am like, I am going to go swing by the coffee shop, and I don’t do that every day, like I mostly drink maté in the morning, because it’s so cheap but I purposely didn’t get WiFi in my house so that I would spend a little time out. So that I could go to the coffee shop and be around people. I just decided to make that choice. So, the cheapest thing they have is a $3 mint tea. A latte can be as much as $5 or $6 with tip because – actually almond milk which is actually more expensive.

Mom: I know.

Paulette: And then when I am working out like on a Saturday, I can spend like $35 if I sit all day and I am just like, I am going to get, like a muffin and a coffee, and then three more hours go by and I am like, I should get a salad, and then I’m thirsty again. It’s like you feel like you have to pay for your place there. And then, I am like, oh I have $400. And then my cell phone bill comes through – I need to cancel all my automatic payments, because it’s like…

Mom: That’s surprising for me, what you say.

Paulette: Oh yeah. I did that for a while when I was a reporter in St. Augustine. I just had all the due dates in excel spreadsheet and I got my paycheck, and I looked at the next two weeks, and I went and I looked and I went to the website that I had linked in the excel spreadsheet and I just paid my bills. And then I just knew that nothing was going to come through my bank account for the next two weeks.

Mom: Which is a relief absolutely.

Sis: So I have a lot of different kinds of expenses going on. I have barebones minimum what I need to pay. My rent is $795, which includes utilities, which is…

Mom: A steal for Capitol Hill

Sis: As cheap for Seattle, absolutely.

Paulette: For Seattle that is crazy cheap. I am one block from basically what I consider my community center which is a timing center, I take classes at and work with and it’s just the place I most often want to be, and super close to Elliott Bay bookstore, which I love. So that was just my – that’s what I choose to do. I could have $500 rent, 40 minutes away, but even with the utilities then it’s like cheap.

Mom: Also, your transportation and commuting, you need to get.

Paulette: I have a 20-year-old car and my car insurance, that’s paid off, my car insurance is $78, so that’s even not like a minimum, minimum. I could get rid of that but I super do not want to.

Mom: No, you can’t really.

Paulette: I mean, I could.

Sis: She lives in the city.

Paulette: I like right in the city. I live a block from…

Mom: You could get rid of your car, yeah, you could get rid of your car.

Paulette: Yeah, I will not drive uninsured.

Mom: The weight of the car insurance.

Paulette: A lot of my friends don’t have health insurance.

Mom: Yeah.

Paulette: And what else? I don’t know. And so then there’s like, oh, and like Spotify is 10 bucks a month. So that’s discretionary but it’s not like impulsive.

Mom: Right, there is a difference.

Paulette: And it’s so crazy how you can just be like oh should we go out real fast and then it’s like a $50 difference.

Mom: Yeah, eating and drinking out, so I have a friend who’s going to retire soon, and we were talking about what she could do, she’s going to bring in the same amount of money, and of course every year the expenses are going to go up, her house insurance, car insurance and all that. And I said, one of the things you might want to consider when you retire is to think of all the things you can do for free, picnics in the park, going to the beach, walking, going to the library, all those things that are quality things, like you could work at the library and bring a bottle of water with you for free.

Paulette: I love going to concerts. I mean, there are some unforgettable experiences…

Mom: Yeah.

Sis: Obviously, we are very traveling family.

Mom: We are. Well, one of the thought is to have two accounts and one – if somebody has a regular paycheck, and they put half or two-thirds in the account that is the automatic pay, because that’s what their expenses are, and then they take the one-third or whatever is left over for their discretionary money, to have two different accounts, one has a credit card attached to it or debit or not, just checking your savings and the other one, they just don’t touch, they only put the money in and it becomes auto-pay; if they want like an automated easy way to live their life without ever having a late payment.

Paulette: I will do stuff like that and then I will just use all the money in the first account and then pop some over from another account. It’s just out of control. I feel like it comes down to that moment of saying yes or no to something when it just – everything flies out the window.

Sis: And there’s also the brain chemicals that are firing up as you are getting ready to purchase something and I just read something that said the average high from purchasing an item that you get lasts 7 seconds, 7 seconds! So by the time you even walk out of the store, it’s done, but that good feeling that you get excited about or whatever, it just makes you want to go shop, whether you are suppressing other emotions or just wanting to do something nice for yourself. We also have to consider how much we tell ourselves – well, I deserve it; well, I am working hard, I deserve this; I deserve a great retirement, so that needs to be my priority.

Paulette: You guys remember that woman I interviewed who was out of money at 72?

Mom: I remember you mentioning her.

Paulette: It scared me so much, she was like the ghost of retirement future because she had been a dancer in Paris and she lived in the Caribbean, she was like, I lived in the Caribbean when birth control got legalized, talk about a party.

Sis: She sounds great.

Paulette: She kept joking about going to Tahiti and we were like sitting in her empty condo where she’d sold everything off and then she put all her money in her condo and it was Florida in 2007, 2008, and she lost everything, and it scared the shit out of me. So I think it’s crazy that I’ve done pretty well staying out of debt besides this little blip with borrowing money and borrowing the magical number that I just put on the internet. But suddenly I owe my mom money, but I can’t like amass anything that is touchable. I just touch it and couldn’t spend it.

Mom: And I don’t know if the answer to that is just an automatic withdrawal. The other thing is too you are doing work, you don’t have a regular paycheck.

Paulette: That’s true. That’s very difficult.

Sis: With contracting, as I know well, when you get a lot of money after working hard for a little bit, and then you might go a month or two without working, trying to stabilize that from a budget perspective has been really challenging for me. But, I want to rebuild my retirement and also we have to be prepared for things…

Paulette: Such as fuck off fund type situations.

Sis: Exactly.

Mom: And not just that, but also if somebody gets a cold or you get a cut and you really have to have stitches, those kinds of things are expensive.

Paulette: And oh fuck fund. I wonder also if the feeling of chaos, that was the financial situation growing up makes me feel like anything I get I am just going to lose anyway, so I should just like spend it. There’s like a manic nature to my spending. So yesterday, after you gave me that Christmas money, and I was going to use it to go to that writer’s conference, it was just like I just had so much fun like buying the flight, like, just immediately it was like turned into not money – the magical alchemy of returning money into not money, I’m very good at it. And even when you were giving, like during our little Christmas celebration, it was so fun.

Sis: It was fun. And I think we are allowed to enjoy a great Christmas when mom does that, however, we just have to recognize our limits, that’s part of the problem. We have money, we want to do whatever the fuck we want to do, and we have to realize there are consequences to that. So we have to decide as adults…

Paulette: As human adults.

Sis: As human adults what actions we are going to take to get the outcome we want, and work – that’s what we are struggling with right now is putting a plan in place that works.

Paulette: What if you agreed to never lend me money again?

Mom: I can agree to that. You have to agree not to cry on the phone.

Paulette: Oh my god, remember that one time I had like $400 in NSF charges over three months, and I didn’t want to add it up, they just kept happening and happening and happening…

Sis: And last thing you want to do is look at it again.

Paulette: Yeah. And I finally added that, I was like $400, that’s when I was a reporter making 26.

Mom: Did you hear how you just described that? They just kept happening.

Paulette: They just kept happening. It was like a magical – I don’t know what, like, I don’t know, some kind of horrible miracle. And this year too, I started working for an international client and because of how difficult it was, there was like, oh my god, it’s so complicated, they had to do a wire transfer, down under, and it took – I finally got paid five months after I put the invoice in. it was like a few thousand dollars, which means so much, and then that was like the beginning of the end. And then I could have that like kind of victim mentality, like my invoice isn’t coming in. So Bippity Boppity. It really is more like take care of myself. I really just want to take care of myself, just want to learn to take care of myself. I need to figure out what my block is. Any thoughts?

Mom: I am going to blame it on our society, shopping malls being seconds away, stores with their – they know what colors to put out, they know how to entice us. I was at a store recently and it was like a home goods type of store, and there was so much there that I would have loved to have brought home, And I did buy one small thing, brought it home and put it on my crowded counter and said, oh, it wasn’t that I liked that item that much, it was I liked the way it was surrounded, and so beautiful and clean and designer type look. That’s what I was buying. I wasn’t really buying that small article.

Sis: Yes, but I also have to say, we can’t just say, well, we are targeted as consumers, because that absolves people of any personal responsibility.

Mom: No, absolutely.

Sis: And the bottom line is it is our responsibility to function well within our means.

Mom: Absolutely.

Sis: And that’s something we have to work on figuring out.

Paulette: It’s like we have to arm ourselves and yeah society is tougher than ever. We are also really bad at it as a family, because I was telling Jeri we just like to have fun. She’s like, you guys are fun. And it’s like we like to have fun. I was like, I am possessed by the fun beast. I am a funaholic and she’s like – because I don’t think I am a shopaholic but it’s like I have a really hard time with the yellow shit. Just being like, well, it’s my one chance to do this, so I got to do it.

Mom: Yeah.

Paulette: And I understand that.

Sis: I feel like so many of our happy childhood memories involve money, like dad getting the boat…

Paulette: The boat for sure.

Mom: New puppies cost money, everything.

Sis: I think that is part of the issue that you and I have as far as, oh there’s money, great, look at everything I have to have fun with. But we are not really looking at, hey, how much of this – what percentage of this should I save, what percentage of this needs to go into my retirement? This is for utility or barebones items, this is to fund discretionary, like maybe we just need to decide on a percentage. Any money we get, 20%, we can do whatever we want with, that’s kind of high, let’s maybe do 15 with that.

Paulette: Strippers and coke!

Sis: Didn’t I say, don’t shame our family?

Paulette: Oh, it’s late, too late. Now, there is one episode of intervention where I am like I am never trying coke, because this guy lived in a condo building, he’d been like an ad exec I think or some nice job, and then he lived on the roof of his old condo secretly, and all he had left was a bike. I was like, I cannot afford to a coke habit, I am never going to try coke.

Sis: Good for you.

Paulette: I know. I never tried it.

Mom: Thankfully. So I think, some of the things we need to do is start teaching children young to give them, even if it’s a dollar when they are three and it’s four quarters and they put two in their piggybank and then the other two they get to keep, a non-breakable piggybank or something like made out of ceramic, so it has to actually be broken in order to get back into.

Sis: Two they can spend.

Mom: Right, two they can spend. So you teach them that, and then when they are in first grade, second grade, you give them, you go to a bank and you start a little bank account where they have a savings account. And I think those are important steps to take. You guys did that.

Paulette: I still remember Pam, you had like a big glass bottle and you had taped the tub, so how are you going to get in there and then we are like digging in there.

Sis: I do not recall this.

Paulette: Oh my god. On my trip to Italy last year, I am like, I got my tweezers in this old money bottle that I was like, let’s never have nothing again fund. I took all the money out of it literally.

Sis: Again, travel is your coke. And I understand that, I am taking a trip, it was a big trip that we had planned that I cannot readily afford but the girls were like, we need to buy our tickets, I will just put yours on my credit card. Okay. Because we are planning this huge trip and it was my idea a year ago when I was making good money…

Mom: A lot of money.

Sis: And so I am doing it and I know better, but I also – it’s that thing, it’s a big birthday year for us, we do it every year, I started this tradition a few years ago, they are finally willing to go to an international location again. So, the bottom line is I want to do it, and I am going to do it.

Paulette: Oh my god, it’s true.

Sis: And we probably just need to do more work to be able to afford it. When we do things like that…

Paulette: Yeah. I know, because I also, in theory, I am like, I wouldn’t trade being an artist for all that fancy stuff, but then now I am just an artist and I am trying to have that fancy stuff too. And Amanda Clayman, the financial therapist said to me, she was like, well, maybe you are just someone who needs to make more money. And I was like, all right, but, I have had so many ups and downs in my life that I think it’s – I don’t know, I want to say, I will spend all the money I have, no matter how much it is. But when I did work at the tech company, I did pay off $20,000 in debt.

Sis: Which is awesome. You should be really proud of that. I mean, I know just even listening to Dave Ramsey’s show sometimes, you will hear people say that they have a combined household income of $280,000 a year, and they don’t know what to do with this money and they are going broke and they are struggling. I mean, I think besides poverty levels, if you are making a wide variety of levels of income, everybody struggles – if you are not educated on money, regardless of what money you have, you are going to struggle with what to do with it. We need a better plan and more education.

Mom: I think too that no matter how much money you have, when you get the bigger home and the nicer neighborhood, now you are around neighbors who are going to go to more expensive restaurants. And Paulette, you love living in Seattle, so that’s something that’s important to you, to live in a city. Therefore, everything is a little bit more expansive than suburban…

Paulette: Yeah, I remember in college going to New York City, and having a shot of tequila for $7, that seems so expensive. I was just like, oh my god. And now, the $12 cocktail is like not even a blink. So delicious!

Sis: But also, we have to choose our priorities and what’s important to us. I would love to live in Manhattan. That’s something that I would love to do, I would love to live in New York, but you also have to look at what you can afford. So, until my son graduates high school, I will live in the suburbs, but after that, we will see – I would love to live in the city, I am not suited for suburbia.

Paulette: I mean, New York – I feel like New York is where I draw the line, it would be so good as a writer to be there. But I am just like – seriously I am just like, I don’t want to work that hard just to live, because some people – my friend is in a band, and he like came home and we were like, oh, how’s New York. And he’s like, oh, you know, hand to mouth. I was just like, hand to mouth, why?

Sis: But have you looked at the cost of living for New York versus Seattle? They are not that far apart.

Paulette: Seattle is creeping for sure.

Sis: Seattle is pretty much there. I mean, they have what, like the third or fourth most expensive rental market in the country?

Paulette: I mean, I live in a shoebox with a small kitchen, so yeah.

Mom: With nice amenities.

Paulette: I like it. It’s got nice amenities, I have a Jeff Goldblum shower curtain.

Sis: Yeah, your apartment is fantastic, and you did get an amazing deal on it.

Paulette: I do love my apartment, I really – and it’s so funny how people are just like, I like your apartment. It surprises people, like they can’t figure out why they like it.

Sis: It’s not a hovel.

Paulette: It’s not a hovel. No, I really – I like it, it’s good. But it’s also – I think that I am struggling right now to have that next financial goal, because it is getting more and more like – well, I can’t buy a house. So like what’s next for adulthood?

Sis: I think your next financial goal is very clearly in front of you and that’s to rebuild your fuckoff fund.

Paulette: That’s true, but then what next?

Sis: Well, go one at a time.

Mom: And possibly just be able to build a travel budget.

Sis: That’s a good one – fuck off fund, travel budget, and you don’t have to buy a home. You can decide how you want to live or we move to New York and buy something, you know, whatever. There’s a lot of options.

Mom: Yeah. In the meantime, you travel and you do well…

Paulette: Not anymore.

Sis: First, we build the fuck off fund.

Mom: Yeah. But you are in Florida right now.

Paulette: That’s true, this is for family. I mean, that’s the other thing, it’s like, we say, like, well, I have to go home for Christmas, and you really don’t – there are some people who are too broke to travel for Christmas. That’s like a regular thing that we – we just wouldn’t say no to that, because I think just the way that dad died, so suddenly, and we were so young, we are just like, you never know when it’s your last chance to do something.

Sis: Yeah, and I missed the last family Christmas because I was in the Marine Corps, so that last family – the last time I saw him was at Tampa airport early December when I was flying out to another duty station.

Paulette: Yeah.

Sis: So, yeah, it is important, it’s definitely important for us to be together on holidays. And we do well with traveling as a family for the most part and going on trips together that everybody enjoys, things like that.

Mom: Right.

Paulette: And I think that it’s like if you asked us, like, what is your priority, do you think that getting Starbucks every few days or getting whatever you want on Amazon is worth missing Christmas? You would be like no, of course not.

Sis: That’s ridiculous, yeah.

Paulette: And you never say like I will take this instead of this, but you spend that money little by little all year and then when you need your flight home for Christmas, you don’t have that money, you didn’t budget it, you didn’t save it all year. So then you are like, I don’t know mom, if I can come home. And then mom says, well, what if I buy half your flight? You are like, well, okay. You just make it happen. So it’s like planning and I think a little bit of what it felt like to go through bankruptcy was that there were so many no’s for so long and it was like this rubber band stretching back and back with like the desire to just buy things, to just go to the mall, as I saw my friends doing, just fucking buy things. We’d go and then you would watch everyone do these things, you just wanted to do what you couldn’t do. And then when you finally get your hands on any money, it’s like, oh my god, you are like ravenous to spend it, to have that feeling of like just spending, just being – like to me, the freedom feels like in spending. When I am spending money, I feel free to do that. Even if I am trapping myself later…

Mom: You feel empowered I think.

Sis: No, I think free is the right word. We need to – for me personally, I need to work on that feeling, that freedom feeling that we have, we have to understand, is that really freedom, not if I am putting it on a credit card, and this is going to make me upset later.

Paulette: Well, humans have that present bias where we give more, we care more about the present moment than ourselves in the future. There was one study that said, we even – there’s like a different part of our brain with regards to our future selves and our present selves. It’s almost like we are thinking about a different person.

Sis: That makes sense.

Mom: We all know that obesity is a very bad thing. It lands you in the hospital with all kinds of complications, diabetes and all that, heart attack, and yet, we have a tremendous obesity problem in the United States. So that speaks to what you are just saying.

Paulette: I think it’s very similar, yeah.

Mom: This ice cream tastes delicious now, screw what happens later to my body.

Paulette: And there’s the level of personal responsibility for obesity versus going to the store and seeing all the food, it’s like, when you see pictures of food, the neurons in your brain, almost calculate that as food you are about to eat. So then it wants it. It’s crazy. Our brains are so fucked up, we are not – seriously humans have been hacked and we just have no idea what people know about how we work. We need to read our own manual and we just don’t. We are like, we think we are much more rational than we really are.

Sis: That’s makes a lot of sense. I mean, I remember reading a statistics that the average human has to make 200 food choices a day because that’s how many places you drive by. Even like, fast food, it’s over 200 a day – I thought it would be like, oh, I don’t know, 15-30 – over 200! I was shocked by that. So you are feeling inundated all the time, but it’s the same with spending. It’s right there.

Paulette: Every morning I walk by Oddfellows Cafe, which has delicious pastries, Pettirosso has delicious pastries and coffee and a buddy of mine owns it. And I just want to like pop in, this is very much dad. I remember you pop in, you get a coffee; you say hi – it’s really social too. I think we are such a social family. We like that social element and that often costs money.

Sis: And for me, it’s like I don’t want to feel restricted to be the front that can’t do certain things. I don’t want to always just bring water with me, and so I want to be able to have that social element and go off for a drink and be social. So, I need to create a balance with that.

Mom: I remember a time when I would go out to dinner with my friends and I would order soup, because it was the cheapest thing on the menu. And they would say, aren’t you going to eat anything? No, no, this is good. And they would say, do you want your soup before the meal or after? And I would say, no, that’s my meal. So I was spending $4.91 and they were spending 10…

Sis: 20, 30…

Mom: 50, whatever.

Paulette: And I guess looking at what everyone else is eating and then if someone is like, do you want this? I’m like: yes! Then I feel like a little…

Mom: Scavenger.

Paulette: Yeah, feel like a fucking scavenger, and I felt like a scavenger as a kid, and I don’t want it to be the shame thing, where it’s like I can’t afford that. I want it to be just very non-emotional, like, oh, I choose to be a writer and right now, this is where I am at, but there’s just all this shame wraps up in it.

Sis: I wonder if we focus more on the goals of it, and instead of inundate it every day so much with options, what if we created things around us that were more reward focused, like I see people do these debt free kind of, they make these poster boards or whatever – they do all kinds of ways, they put for every dollar they pay off, they put a paperclip in a jar in the kitchen, and they can see it every day.

Paulette: Oh and that’s like a graph.

Mom: Yeah.

Paulette: Nicole has paid off a ton of money over the last six months.

Sis: Good for her.

Paulette: And I said, I was like, oh did you make a graph? She’s like, no. I was like, oh you got to make a graph. She’s like I don’t know how. I am like, just go to Google Sheets and like it’s super easy. And we were both working on computers and all the time she’s like, oh that is extremely pleasing. I was like, I told you. Yeah, so that visual element definitely does help. But I want to learn to just live within my means. That’s it. Is it from watching Beverly Hills 90210? Did that ruin us?

Sis: Possibly.

Paulette: I was going to get a car when I was 16, in the driveway, of course, because that’s how life works. But I am very happy, I had such a great year, but I need to balance those things out.

Mom: I think you are on your way and I think you are well on your way. So, the reality checks are sometimes not fun, but you have the checks in place, you see what you need to do. I think you are going to have another good year.

Paulette: I need to go from a scavenger to a predator.

Sis: I like it. Apex predator, let’s go. Plan apex predator.

Paulette: What’s an apex?

Sis: My god!

Paulette: A cat?

Sis: You are the writer.

Paulette: I don’t know everything. I went to public school in Florida.

Sis: An apex predator would be like certain sharks. It’s the top of the predatory chain.

Paulette: All right. My goal for 2018 is to save about $10,000 in my fuck off fund. Thanks mom and sis.