On the crushing stress of debt.

May 13th, 2017 | Posted by Mush in Finance | Soapbox - (0 Comments)

In which I lecture.

This article advises you to immerse yourself in all the miserable details of your debt, and feel how bad you feel for an entire week, because apparently remorse and guilt will somehow magically attract money into your life. Because your debt is the result of your own terrible emotional flaws, and not a system set up to put you in debt.

“Unconscious spending habits”? Like you’re somehow not aware your outgo is higher than your income? “Messy money practices”? How is being poor in a rich society a messy money practice? Don’t spend any money for a whole day! Fuck you, person who wrote this article who has obviously never been broke a day in her life. Poor people tend to have to buy every day, because they can’t afford to purchase in bulk.

When you’re living hand-to-mouth, you tend to buy food and gas daily, in small increments, with the ten bucks you have to your name. You can’t go buy $150 worth of sensible groceries to last you for the next three weeks of frugal meal-planning, because you don’t have $150. You can’t cross town and fill your tank at the one gas station with the lowest prices, because you don’t have enough gas to get over there, in the first place, and even if you did, you have to eat so you couldn’t even buy a quarter tank anyway.

These sorts of articles about debt, about writing it all down in excruciating detail, living cash-only, really getting a handle on it… they’re all bullshit. You fuckheads have literally no idea what you’re talking about.

To fix debt, you need money. That’s it. Emotionally torturing yourself with your poverty, in minute detail? For an entire week? Is just weird. You already know you own more than you can pay. You’ve already tried to earn more. This isn’t psycho-fucking-therapy, it’s math.

I repeat: only money fixes debt. Nothing else. Not guilt, not self-recrimination, not even more austerity. Just money.

Odds are you’re not in debt for making extravagant decisions. You’re probably in debt because you were given a line of credit you could not support, by a greedy corporation eager to exploit human nature, were or are un- or underemployed through no fault of your own, or went to college to get a degree that doesn’t boost your earning capability (because that’s what they said you were supposed to do and you were compliant).

Very, very few people live beyond their means in the sense of buying too many extravagant things. Paying rent and bills, buying food and clothes, and having the same sorts of extras everybody else in your class has (like vacations and iPhones) is not extravagant.

Most people in debt are in debt because their employers don’t pay them enough to live like the rest of their class lives, or because they can’t get any or enough work. Not because they’re greedy or lazy. The numbers show most poor people actually work more than full-time.

Wages have remained stagnant for the past thirty years. You’re not earning what your parents earned at your age, and yet society expects you to do what they did and buy a house, get married, have two cars so you can both get to work, have new cell phones every two years, own a sufficiency of linens and dishes and furniture and be able to afford hobbies and toys.

Having to choose between groceries and the dentist is bullshit, but being told to take better notes and avoid spending for an entire day to get out of debt isn’t advice, it’s abuse.

In which I don’t think I got the job.

Well, it’s Wednesday afternoon, and I haven’t heard back from the CU. Pretty sure they offered both of their lovely P/T teller positions to other applicants. I’m sad, because I really wanted to be able to live and work 600 feet apart, and have regular hours, and spend my work time in a quiet building.

I opened an account there anyway, because being 600 feet away it’ll be the only convenient place to buy quarters for laundry.

Oh, well. Guess I’ll call the other place back, even though I don’t really want to do full-time helpdesk, but maybe it’ll work out.1

I suppose I could apply at the Cub grocery store a few blocks from here, but that’s basically just like the last job, what with the industrial lighting and the standing up and, probably, the random scheduling.

So, the ideal little job I want being pretty much off the table, I responsibly paid my Chase rewards card off (like I do every month) and it took almost half of my remaining funds. As wonderful as it is to sleep in and cook Scott’s dinners and shop online for shoe racks, I guess I really need a job now.

Ugh. Job hunting. So hard. Especially considering that the comfortable, reasonable part-time job seems to be a thing of the past. Retail offers nothing but part-time so they don’t have to pay bennies but it’s really much closer to full-time hours because they’re always understaffed, and ‘real’ business offers nothing but full-time because apparently there’s no such thing as a qualified applicant who will accept part-time employment anymore.

After much consideration, I’ve determined that in order to finish unpacking the last few boxes, we need a little rolling rack for the bathroom, a shoe rack for the closet, and possibly a small shelving unit for the bedroom. I also continue to want-but-not-need an old fashioned coat rack to put by the door for umbrellas and jackets and bags and crap. Even with that many purchases, I still wouldn’t have any place for the officey/desk box of stuff that you’d normally store in your desk but Scott’s desk doesn’t have any drawers or storage or anything, so where the hell are the checks and staplers and mail-that-needs-to-be-saved-for-awhile supposed to go?

Anyway, after staring at stuff a lot, that’s where I’m at. Everything’s full but I still have more stuff to put away. Ergo, we need to obtain things to put said things away in.

I’m going to go throw the bedding in the wash, and then go get milk and eggs. Everything is humid (68%) and hot (81F) and I’m miserable because in my old age I no longer tolerate heat well, but at least it’s overcast so the temperature has stayed down. Sorta. But not really, because HUMID. Even with two fans going in a tiny apartment it still manages to feel stuffy in here; guess I better fire up the A/C.

1 It didn’t. I called the HR lady and she told me that the entire bank is moving to Plymouth in October, abandoning their downtown tower. WHO KNEW. Bus ride from Uptown to Plymouth? An hour and twenty-four minutes. Each way. And I happen to know from my adventures last week that cab fare is forty bucks. So no jobs in Plymouth, that’s for sure.

Money and credit, poverty and fees

September 12th, 2014 | Posted by Mush in Finance - (0 Comments)

In which I have rejoined the regular people.

Once upon a time, I was married.

My spouse, who said, “You don’t have to worry about money. We can always get more money,” and whom I believed, talked me into quitting my job. And then he quit working himself, so we lived on my credit cards for awhile (because he didn’t have any credit to live on, because he’d never filed taxes and basically didn’t exist).

Then, because there wasn’t any money coming in, well, some bills stopped getting paid. And some nasty collections agency took fifteen hundred bucks out of my checking account [illegally] and there was nothing I could do about it because I was broke and legal counsel ain’t free.

Shortly after, for various reasons, the marriage ended. Interestingly enough, although money is one of the top reasons for failed marriages, it was buried pretty far down on my list of reasons for leaving. I was exhausted by being miserable; being broke was merely icing on the cake. It’s not like I hadn’t been poor before. Only this time my debt was actually the debt of two people, one of which wasn’t going to help me pay it off.

I cashed out my tiny little 401k and drank heavily for a year.

When I surfaced, I tried to open a checking account. Nope, you’re listed at TeleCheck. Can I open a savings account? No, no, you can’t.

So I got a pre-paid debit card. It cost $1 to $2 per transaction to use it, but you can’t survive without some sort of bank account. Eventually I started paying the $69 annual fee instead of the per-transaction fees. And I just resigned myself to being poor forever.

Because when you’re below a certain line financially, everything costs money. Far more than it should. It costs money to use a debit card, it costs money to cash checks, it costs money to pay bills. Once you’re a certain level of poor, you pretty much stay there unless someone pulls you out of it, because you’re charged for transactions that are free for everyone else simply because you’re poor. I’ve paid hundreds if not thousands in “poverty fees” in my life and I know that being poor is expensive.

Well, that $1,500 judgement that overdrew my checking account and basically destroyed me financially was over seven years ago now, and I’ve paid off most if not all of those bills. So on a lark I applied for an Amazon Rewards card. And I was approved! AND the card came in the mail with my credit score, which is now, mysteriously, almost 700 printed on the letter.

Which means I now have a free checking account with free bill pay, and a VISA card that pays me from 1 to 5% just for using it. In short, I no longer have to pay for the right to use my own money. I get paid for using my money. Even though I’m no different today than I was two years ago, except I actually have less income.

I’m now one of them; and the only reason for this is that I haven’t had to pay rent since 2005. All those years of paying off my marriage’s debt and having zero revolving credit has made me a good credit risk again, even though I have very little income, and have historically earned very little. Which is to say, companies that extend credit? After all this? Still don’t give a shit if they ruin you by giving you too much rope as long as they get their fucking fees out of you.

Luckily I’m old enough now to have conquered most of my avarice; I won’t be buying things I can’t afford with my nifty new credit card. And I’m glad that using my own money is not not only free but earns me rewards, but I think it’s fucked that I spent most of the last decade paying for the right to spend my own paycheck.

Charging the poor for being poor is nothing short of evil. Especially since most of the poor are there not because they deserve to be, not because they’re ignorant or lazy or sub-par, but because they just don’t have someone to help them up over that invisible line.

Greed, I believe, is absolutely the worst of sins because of the endless misery it causes in the world.

In which I got to see the view from the 27th floor.

When I told people I was moving to Minneapolis, they invariably responded, “Oh, for work?” and I kept having to say, “No, for love. I think I’ll temp or something,” because apparently grown people don’t just move two thousand miles unless it’s for a job.

Then I got here and sort of looked around, became mildly overwhelmed (remember, I haven’t lived in a real city in a long time), and thought it would be better to work in the neighborhood, maybe someplace I could get to on my bike? You know, nearby?

Except that, well, the bulk of jobs nearby are retail and pay eight bucks an hour or are in obscure businesses in big buildings I have no easy way of finding anyway.

EIGHT BUCKS AN HOUR. Jeez! I can’t even get out of bed for that, let alone dressed.

So another week went by, I got a better handle on the area, and I returned to the temping idea. I freakin’ LOVE temping. So I applied at three temp agencies… and Friday, one of them called!

Saturday, we took the bus to St. Paul for a Cinco de Mayo street festival, which was fun, but mostly the day’s experience gave me a better handle on public transportation here. There’s a rush hour bus stop on the corner, and, for non-peak times there’s a park ‘n’ ride eight-tenths of a mile away with a bike rack for me to chain the Raleigh to, and the 9 bus goes right to downtown Minneapolis in ten minutes.

My interview at Robert Half went well over an hour, and I got to speak with three different recruiters! They were all really nice, and the meeting was in a conference room on the 27th floor of the US Bankcorp building with an amazing sunny-day view of Minneapolis. I wanted to take a picture, but was afraid it would be tacky to get caught with my cell phone out in an interview.

Now I’m glad that home improvement place didn’t call me back, because I’d much rather temp — I love the variety — than run a cash register for $8.20 an hour, even if it is in the neighborhood! Based on the things the various recruiters said in yesterday’s interview, this company really sounds promising, and I could do both those sudden “Can you cover reception for three days while the employee is out sick, starting in one hour!?” assignments and, apparently, the occasional three month-long project gig. With a bit of time off afterward I’d be quite happy.

So. Very. Excited! Even bought myself a metro transit card!

Doing it wrong.

May 22nd, 2012 | Posted by Mush in Admissions | Finance - (6 Comments)

In which I wonder what my old age will be like.

Yesterday, I read an opinion piece in the New York Times. It was a good man’s story: older, loyal, secure; then his company “restructured.” Now he’s been unemployed for years. He’s too old to get a job; he has a preexisting condition so he’s unable to get insurance; he “always did the right thing,” and is now facing abject destitution.

He’s not much older than I am.

I have not done the right things.

I went to college, yes, but I didn’t have any discipline. I took classes that interested me, dropped out of those that didn’t, and in six years of higher education came away with substantial and still growing debt and no marketable degrees.

I got married, yes, but I chose badly. I didn’t choose someone who would make a good helpmeet and life partner. I chose someone who, at first, rocked my socks off in bed and who, unlike anyone else, actually asked me to marry him. But that was it, there really weren’t any other important qualities there between us, not the kinds of qualities that get you through your working years and safely into your dotage with your needs modestly taken care of. So naturally we divorced, and that left me with no equity and even more debt.

Now I’m of an age where I should be investing and building my retirement. Instead, I have no savings and no insurance. For the next few months, I’m giving 30% of my monthly income to my dentist so I can keep a tooth. As soon as the root canal and crown are paid off, I’ll do the same thing for my eyes, because I really need my prescriptions updated. After that’s paid off, no doubt, something else will happen, and I’ll pay that off too.

But eventually something might happen that I can’t make payments on. What if I get hurt, or need medicine? I’m employed, so I’m not eligible for many types of relief, but I earn too little to, say, be able to spend a bunch of money on meds every month.

I’ve been insured fewer than four years since I started working.

I’m not borrowing trouble. I’m stating that it is statistically likely that I will need something I won’t be able to to afford.

Which means I have failed my end of the social covenant. I should have educated myself more carefully and made myself more employable, no? I should have chosen a decent partner1, and together we should have earned and saved enough to pay for ourselves. I should have taken steps all my life not to be a burden on anyone, right?

I mean, isn’t that the social covenant?



September 14th, 2011 | Posted by administratrix in Finance | Work - (14 Comments)

In which I rejoin the workforce!

Last night I took myself out for dinner and drank a lot of wine (because that’s what you do when you’re damn near broke and the check you’ve been expecting for weeks still hasn’t shown up, right? RIGHT?), which means I was still in bed at 10:30 this morning when G’ma called up the stairs, “Shelly! There’s a man from BMI here to see you!”

A what from what? Did she say BMI? “Um, okay. I’m not dressed! Tell him I’ll be down in a minute!”

I grabbed some clothes from the floor and put them on, found my glasses, put my messy hair up in a pony tail and stumbled downstairs.

The man turned out to be RB, my old boss from BMI… with a job offer! Their network engineer has taken a position elsewhere, and since they really weren’t excited at the prospect of running ads and doing interviews and background checks and calling references and finding someone with the right personality for their small office, they thought of me! (I left because I wanted more responsibility and there was, at the time, no room for growth.) Then they checked my blog and saw the job hunting post, realized I was still available, and started trying to hunt me down. Since I hadn’t answered my phone, RB decided to jump in his car and come find me. (more…)

In which I apply for jobs.

So I’ve been more-unemployed-than-less now since December 2009. That’s nearly two years, if you do the math. Sure, I spent nine months of that time in school taking CCNA classes, but I didn’t really enjoy it because I perpetually felt like I was way far behind and I got a shit grade I may never get over in one of my courses the last trimester.

Today I applied for a retail job at a Halloween store. (Yes, I just wrote both RETAIL JOB and AT A HALLOWEEN STORE. I will only stab myself in the eye socket with a broken chopstick if they call me for an interview.) Tomorrow I’m going to apply for a clerk’s position at the liquor store next to the Hasting’s over on 9th.

I’ve gotten one callback from all the applications I’ve submitted, at a rate of no less than three per week, since I got out of school in June. It was for a part-time, minimum-wage, first tier tech support position in a suburb of Portland. I accidentally deleted the number.

If it weren’t for gigs and the few hours I get from that remote QA testing job, I wouldn’t have been able to buy a four dollar bottle of wine today. (YES, I AM DRINKING FOUR DOLLAR WINE. THAT’S FOUR DOLLARS I DIDN’T SPEND ON CRACK.)


November 23rd, 2010 | Posted by administratrix in Finance | Whining - (6 Comments)

In which the banking industry has no manners because it feels it doesn’t need to.

I’m listed at Chex Systems.

The reason for this starts with a d and ends with ivorce; long story short, all the bills were in my name and we lived just at the very edge of our means and then he quit working and a bunch of shit went ballistic. An unscrupulous creditor put a lien on my checking account and fucked up my financial life. But instead of going bankrupt, I found a debt reduction program and I’ve been paying off my debt for the past three years. Even though it was our debt. So I’m not only not bad, I’m good, mmm’kay? Any bank should be pleased to have me as a customer, because if I were to find myself owing them money I would pay it back. (more…)

In which I need to vent or cry or complain or get a hug or something.

Bindu kept me up much of last night with terrible episodes involving screaming (the vet calls it “vocalizing”) and panting and whimpering and coughing; she’d calm down and almost sleep in between, but every couple of hours it would start all over again. Her squeal would have me leaping from bed to comfort her and pet her until she seemed to stabilize; in the process I’d end up working myself into a full-blown anxiety attack with the shakes and the clammy palms and the achey skin and the inability to get back to sleep and the whole nine yards.

She woke me up again at a quarter after seven; she was panting a little and looking haggard, but she was upright and clearly ready to start her day, so could I please get my human ass up and remove the blockade at the top of the stairs so she could get on with it? I petted her and asked her to wait 15 minutes for the animal hospital to open (no one had answered when I’d called at three and again at four in the morning, but their office hours begin at 7:30). I made an appointment, got dressed, gathered my things, and carefully carried my dog downstairs and then outside.

She seemed spry enough, and promptly peed… and then she walked about fifteen paces and started with the squeal/cough/pant thing again. She seemed to be in pain and looked abjectly miserable. IT FUCKING SUCKED. I put her in the truck and, still hoping it was a back problem that pain meds could resolve, drove her to the vet and checked her in, explaining that she’d once had a back episode and that her behavior reminded me of my ex-husband’s when he ruptured a disc. They asked me to approve radiographs and sedation; I approved blood work too because of her age (she’s ~14).

When I got home around nine, I promptly curled up in bed with a pillow over my head and crashed for two hours.

The vet called me with an update around one o’clock. Blood work, in areas I can’t explain that have something to do with poor organ function, indicates problems. The radiograph shows an enlarged heart and an enlarged liver. The vet wanted to do an ECG to find out more about the heart problems; for lack of anything better to do I said okay. Due to various factors (distended belly, coughing, drinking lots of water), the vet also suspects an endocrine condition called Cushing’s disease as well. Secondary blood work and ECG will need to be evaluated, she said, offsite.

The vet reported that Bindu doesn’t seem to have arthritis or a sore back, and that her discs looked good in the radiograph. Therefore, it seems that last night’s episodes – and the first one I noticed the day before, and the one G’ma noticed the day before that – were not actually due to pain from a slipped disc or back-related spasming, which is what I’d suspected, but from heart failure. (Most of the time, I was told, such episodes cause fainting, but in some dogs who fail to actually faint they manifest as “vocalizing, stiffness, panting and coughing.”)

Essentially, I’m waiting on another $90 test, one I don’t really need, to tell me that my dog is in the process of dying.

Last week I received an email from my advisor notifying me of a lecture today. I was pretty excited about it, after the disappointment of learning that my curriculum was all online. An actual in-person lecture, on campus, with people!

The Bindu thing dampened my enthusiasm a great deal, but I was grateful for something to do to help me occupy my mind. No one needs to know that I nearly burst into tears twice on the drive over there.

When I got to the lab, the whiteboard said the instructor was out sick and that there were no classes today.

Last month, when I went to Planned Parenthood to get a bladder infection treated, they shortlisted me for a free mammogram program. So I went and got my boobs smashed and shortly afterward I received a lovely letter telling me that I don’t have breast cancer.

Today, I got a bill for $86.

There was some kind of SNAFU in my client’s A/P department and my September 23rd invoice never got processed. I was assured last week that it would be paid Monday.

Today’s Thursday, I’ve just dropped a couple hundred bucks I don’t have on the vet, I owe St Mary’s ninety bucks, my settlement program is unpaid, and I have a $300 tuition payment due on the 20th. I haven’t paid my rent, either.

Guess who’s check wasn’t in the mail today?

I should be studying or working, but I’ll probably just sit here, freaking out and trying not to, until the vet calls back.

They called back. The voicemail says the ECG is done but they won’t have the results until tomorrow, and that I can come pick Bindu up.

Except that I can’t handle another night like last night, and I have no reason to believe that tonight will be different as there has, as yet, been no treatment for the symptoms I took her in for. The vet wanted the ECG and offsite blood work results before prescribing anything.

God, am I the worst dog mom in the world if I leave her there so I can sleep without listening to her wails? I can’t stand her suffering, but leaving her in a cage in a concrete room overnight seems like a sin. But if I bring her home, I’ll carry her up and down the stairs to save her the strain and have a panic attack every time she falls down and coughs, and as much as I won’t want to admit it all I’ll want to do is get away from her.

Oh, God. I always told you I would be a total wreck when this, the end of Bindu’s life, came along, and I totally am.

Update: I cried. Then I meditated. Then I called the clinic and said that I am “unable” to pick Bindu up until tomorrow. (I made it sound like I didn’t have access to a vehicle right now, which is completely untrue.) So, not only am I a bad dog mom who leaves her beloved to spend the night in a cage in a concrete room across town, but I’m a liar as well.

I am not pleased with myself, but this is not the first time since developing a panic disorder that I’ve been displeased with my responses to things. Usually when I’m freaking out I just suit up and go do whatever it is anyway (I don’t even know how many times I’ve done gigs in the throws of a full-blown panic attack), but I know that another night with a screaming, coughing, panting dog in my arms will… — it will, um… — hell, I don’t even know what it’ll do. I don’t have words for it. I just don’t want to do it. Even though it’s my duty, because I took responsibility for that dog’s life and health and comfort over a decade ago.

There may be treatment options, once there’s a diagnosis, I just don’t know anything about cost or efficacy, and she is 14 so none of this is entirely unexpected.

As G’ma has just returned from her afternoon volunteering at the museum, I’ve shared all the vet information with her. I told her I’d left Bindu at the clinic overnight even though they said I could come get her. Then I teared up. G’ma said, “We care too much about the little buggers. We might not show it, but we really do.” And then she went and made a cocktail and brought it to me here at my desk. For my part, I struggled not to start crying until she’d gone back upstairs.

In which I complain about living in a state with a 9.1% unemployment rate.

I just read a job listing at WorkSource. The job is called PT ORDER ENTRY SPECIALIST II.

The description says, and I quote verbatim, The FT Order Entry Specialist II will check accuracy of and enter orders for equipment and parts, balance daily order reports, request closing reports and acknowledgments daily, provide various bookings and shipments reports, maintain integrity of open and closed sales orders. Review initial sales orders for completeness and accuracy and input into log book. Perform file maintenance, update sales orders, balance the “shipment to customer” with accounting daily. Track and verify customer purchase orders for each piece of equipment ordered. Produce weekly order and shipment reports for both business units. Monthly, generate and mail verification of bookings totals and reports to appropriate personnel. Provide support for product specialists and field sales as required.

Yeah. It’s glorified data entry and report-running. Anybody could do it.

What’s fucked up is the part where they list the necessary qualifications to be considered for the job: Two year Associates degree (A.A.) accounting degree, plus four years business accounting experience.

A fucking associate’s in accounting? To enter sales orders? Are you fucking kidding me? Four years’ BUSINESS ACCOUNTING experience? Really? With that kind of qualification, you’re a fucking ACCOUNTANT, not an order entry specialist. Jeez.

I was idly looking at job postings because I haven’t received my EUC (emergency unemployment compensation) ruling yet, it’ll take the EB (extended benefits) people two days to call me back, I’m totally broke, I haven’t been awarded any financial aid for school yet, and:

The EUC program expired on June 2, 2010. The U.S. House passed legislation to extend the dates people can apply for and receive EUC benefits, but the bill is currently stalled in the Senate. The Senate is not expected to take the bill up again until July 12, 2010 or later.

If the bill becomes law people will be able to apply for EUC until November 2010 and receive benefits until May 2011.

Long story short, I don’t know yet but I might not be able to do the school thing if I don’t get EUC and/or a financial aid award.

Which would suck, because I was really looking forward to a year in community college, taking computer science classes with twenty-year-old geeks.

I haven’t paid my rent, I’m a month and a half behind on paying my settlement company, I need new glasses, I want new books, I need to pay my dentist, and my dog’s eating shitty grocery store brand kibbles.

My debit card is ten dollars overdrawn, I’m about to disable my Netflix and eMusic accounts, and the only reason I can drive anywhere is because there’s still half a tank of gas in the truck from when dad was here and filled it up. (I don’t drive much.)

G’ma lets me eat her eggs and bread and has offered to buy me groceries when I run out of my own, but I Do Not Want to cost her money. I’m stalled on my little data entry project for NLW because the Amazon Seller’s Desktop application isn’t working and their ticketing system is backed up. My next paying gig isn’t until August.

Long story short, I was surfing WorkSource because a part-time job right now would be freakin’ excellent, and data entry is my bitch.

Now please excuse me while I figure out the best way to spend my last $20 at the grocery store. I’m thinking tofu, ramen, and beans. Maybe some lentils, too; they’re cheap protein.

Hopefully poverty will help me dominate next week’s competitive diet stats!