I guess I shocked a co-worker on Monday when I told him that I only had $45 in the bank to last me until payday. But, hey, it happens, especially at this time of year. Not only am I behind from Christmas, but I'm also trying to pay down a credit card pretty aggressively. And, I've already "pre-spent" some money for a New Orleans trip by paying for the hotel for four people.
The rut I've been in for several years is that I've got that "paycheck to paycheck" mentality going--for the first few days after I get paid, I buy whatever I want. I also pay all of the bills that can be paid right away. Then I try to hang on until the end of the month and hope that I haven't forgotten about the bills that I haven't paid. I know school tuition is coming, I know insurance is coming, but I forget about the smaller ones, like the bank draft for the newspaper subscription or the Netflix subscription or the $20 I gift to my children on Itunes every month. It's those little guys that can sneak up and bite you in the ass when you least expect them.
Especially when you only have $45 in the bank.
Now don't get me wrong, we have plenty of money, but my wife and I figured out that separate checking accounts were the way for us to go a long, long time ago, so sometimes she has money when I don't, and, less often, vice-versa. And I make mine work (usually) out of pride.
Here's a strange day to consider: did you ever have a day where you didn't spend any money? Did you ever string 6 or 7 of those together in a row?
Because the goal is not to bounce anything on the check card. Each overdraft is a $28 flush of money down the toilet.
So I'm on Day 3. After my New Orleans chowdown spending spree at the Publix on Saturday, I haven't spent a cent. Oh, wait, yes, I have. And this is life with bill-paying on the Internet. About 9 or 10 days ago, my daughter and I rented two movies from a Walgreens--Nick and Nora's Ultimate Playlist and Eagle Eye. We've had the movies for a long time, racking up a buck a day for each flick, but there's a question when you have $45 in the bank. Do you return the movies and pay the fee or do you keep them out until after payday, knowing that you won't be charged if you don't turn them in?
I turned them in. I'm ultimately richer, but short-term poorer.
Yesterday, I turned down a lunch invite. I ate at home. Chicken and sausage gumbo. Tuesday, I expected to do the same, but ran into a friend as I was driving home and off we went to the Boathouse. When it came time to pay, I decided to go credit card instead of check card. But then the waitress gives me the message: "Uh, sir, your card didn't go through."
Tomorrow, I will stick to my vow. Thursday, I'll forego the usual lunch out and hope that, with a Magoo's event looming in the evening, my wife will pick us up.
Friday, I'm in love. Because I get paid.
Will the same awful cycle start again? Probably not, since in the month of March, I've got to have money for New Orleans late in the month as well as some Florida Spring Break time. So I've got to hold out for some dough. Chances are, next month, once the bills are paid, I'll be looking for those days when I can say I didn't spend a cent.
Those days are few and far between.
Steve Earle's "The Week Of Living Dangerously," no less ironic than mine, comes from his second CD, Exit O, available at Itunes.