Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Early Signs of a PF Blogger in the Making

As I continue to refine how my stuff is organized in my (relatively) new home, and put away stuff from those last couple of boxes, I've been digging into some more old notebooks. I found one that I didn't remember keeping at all-- I started it on January 1st, the year after I graduated from college. I guess I had made it a New Year's resolution to record "each day's spending, bank balances, the weather, what I did/read, who I called, mail received or sent and Things To Do."
Here is the first day's entry:

Jan 1st
CBT bal. -- [nothing actually recorded]
B. of B. bal.-- $16.81
Cash on hand-- $31 bills, $3.96 coin = $34.96
$350 in checks to be deposited
Visa debt [nothing recorded]
Other debts-- A.-- bills?
$ owed to me-- C: 4 months phone, K: 2 mo,? A: phone?
$ spent today-- $0.00
cold and sunny
went to G's house
called Kathy
A. called
finished A Place I've Never Been

The next few days record similar items. I read Beloved, took my grandmother and great-aunt to the mall, went to a movie with a friend, noted that I was worried about the economy and that one of my banks was owned by a larger bank that had just gone bankrupt. I also wrote some notes about completely ridiculous made-up things that my old roommates were supposedly doing after graduation, which I later managed to get printed in the alumni magazine-- I guess no one thought it was a stretch that a certain person would have quit her banking job to play a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle in the Icecapades.

After the holidays, I went back to work at my 2 day a week job. Most of my meals seem to have been bought at WaWa's & McDonalds. On January 14th I had an interview for an internship. On Jan. 23rd I wrote "Financially, I am f***ed." In February, I paid $35 to take the GRE.
Also in February, I noted that I had been to a party that was "fabulous, but somehow, things turned shitty. Felt very ill in the morning." I also apparently got an obscene phone call that I must have reported to the police as complaint #13898. I don't remember that at all.
The only things I seemed to spend money on besides food and rent were newspapers, an occasional book, art supplies and too-frequent trips to the used record store.

What is weird is that I was running up a balance on my credit card but I never seemed to note how much the total was, only that I was often paying a $10 minimum towards it. I also had to start paying back my student loans around then, at a minimum of $98 a month.

Sometime in March, I wrote this entry, in red ink on one of the last pages of the notebook:
A. OWES ME $10
bal. $144.50
must pay Visa minimum $10? $20?
must pay rent $260
will get $177.44 next paycheck
no more cash until after break

I'll have to go through some more notebooks to see if I continued to track my finances the rest of that spring, but it will come as no surprise that in early June of that year, I moved back in with my parents and tried to start over. Within a couple of months, I had a full-time job. Within a couple of years, I was renting my own apartment, and money was tight again, but it was never as bad as it had been in that notebook.
I remember being so depressed about it, and feeling like I would never get my life together. I never felt truly desperate, as I knew my parents would help me out up to a point, but I found it incredibly humiliating to have to ask. It made me feel like a complete failure, which I suppose was me being a little hard on myself, as I was all of 22. But college was over, and I wanted life to begin: life as in "making a living." It's strange to look back and realize that I now have pretty much everything I ever wanted back then.


Anonymous said...

Found your recent post something I want to share with my daughter struggling to move from the nest and accept responsibility for her own spending and budgeting. She has just signed for her first school loans (med school; we provided undergrad) and is depressed over making ends meet during a short time off before school starts again in earnest. Her checkbook is empty, wallet down to change, but her less than frugal tastes, a similar to many middle class teens to twenties, are still part of everyday life. (Are parent to blame for being enablers? Or can some overcome these environmental and peer desires?) She works a basic summer college job with minimal pay and sporadic hours ... not enough to maintain her lifestyle. ("tastes" defined as dates, movies, eating out, coffee shops, books, brand clothing, etc)

As a parent, I'm trying to do the right thing in making her accountable (without being cruel) and have committed to covering car, gas and cellphone and the occasional cash handout in weak moments. (I suspect my wife does the same) Nevertheless, knowing that this mentally depressing financial state and unfortunate fallback on a credit card is not good. I'm hoping that seeing her situation as more common than rare will be of help. "Misery loves company" ... but the light at the end of the tunnel is there. (although the distance and debt seems pretty big) Thanks for sharing this post; she is in good company noting the personal struggles even Madame X faced.

SavingDiva said...

I also remember that time in my life...I'm still struggling to climb out of it...I think I've finally gotten away from that stage, but I still panic when I spend too much money...an d every time I write a rent check...

English Major said...

This entire post is fascinating, but what really pops for me is this: $35 for the GRE? I just paid $140! Talk about outpacing inflation!

Anonymous said...

I assume your first attempt to leave the nest was in a roommate situation? That would explain the low utility costs and people always seeming to owe you money.

I did the notebook thing as well when I first established myself away from the family home. It was a scary time and jobs were difficult to find.

When things got tough financially I remember complaining to one of my brothers - I think I was talking about how hard it was to afford groceries after paying the other monthly bills. He shared that he lived off cans of greenbeans for a few weeks during some tough financial times. That made me feel better. At least I knew I was not a failure - everyone has to struggle at points.

Madame X said...

English Major-- you're right, I probably got a bargain by taking the GRE back then! Not that it was money well spent, given that I never applied to grad school!

BostonGal-- yes, I had 4 roommates, and the phone bill was in my name. I seem to remember that I was still chasing them down for money they owed me for a few months after we all moved out.

Anonymous said...

When I had my 5 roommates in college. I was in charge of all the bills including rent. I had everyone precontribute into a pot and paid bills from that. I also cut off internet to anyone who didn't pay on time... everyone paid on time.

Single Ma said...

Aaahh...the memories. When I read through my old documents, I smile at how much I've grown up. We've come a long way baby!

BTW, nice new digs ya have here.

Anonymous said...

Bronx Chica...wow i've only had notebooks as diaries. No finance stated since I was so focused on leaving my family.

frugal zeitgeist said...

I smiled at the person who cut off internet for any of her college roommates who didn't pay up (very effective, by the way). The internet wasn't even invented when I was in college. I'm only 38, but suddenly I feel old, old, old.

Anonymous said...

You paid $35 to take the GRE... I recently paid $130.