Sunday, October 25, 2009

Square 74: Genie

Yesterday I brought home some shiny Gatsby Lux yarn to incorporate into this blanket. I got infected sitting next to Rachel at Luttuce Knit's knit night recently. Rachel likes glittery yarn, and somehow I came away feeling this project needed some, too. I'm a bit of a natural fibre snob, so this is a new departure for me.

The yarn looked nice with purples and rich browns, colours that immediately make me think of magic. I don't even believe in magic, really, so where do I go from there?

If I found a magic lamp and the genie gave me three wishes, what would I wish for? I suspect most of us would have a hard time resisting the lure of riches, but my first thought was: "Please eliminate all my debt forever."

I didn't have to think about that one for long before recognizing the catch: the underlying problem is my own behaviour. No magic could erase that.

When I was a boy I had everything I needed, most of the things I wanted, and more. My parents were careful. They always had enough money for a comfortable home, new clothes, good food, family vacations plus a lot of things that many people would consider luxuries. And they never went in debt.

Somehow I did not learn from their example. I habitually spend money I don't have. It's not that I live lavishly, certainly not. Most of the time I worry about paying the bills and spend very little money. Then once in a while I feel rich, but instead of working on that debt, I immediately spend what money I have and a little extra.

At the time it feels like I'm rewarding myself for hard work, but in the long run, having no money is no reward. Someone recently pointed out that this behaviour is self-destructive, and suggested I perpetuate the problem because it is familiar and I wouldn't know how to act if I didn't have to worry about it. She was probably right.

When I was a boy I had a little plastic cylinder for banking all the quarters I got from my allowance. I would save money to buy something special every once in a while, usually a new fish for my aquarium. I've always liked pretty things.

Meanwhile I wanted to run away (most children think about it, don't they?), and imagined I could save enough quarters to get by on for a while. But nothing was more terrifying than the thought of being on my own without anyone to look after me. Nowadays I live alone and spend most of the time looking after myself. It's still terrifying sometimes.

I never saved enough to run away, and I never make much progress paying down my credit card, but if there is one thing I could change to make my life better, that would be it. No, a genie couldn't help, but recently I took inspiration from Leo Babauta, who blogs Zen Habits and claims to have changed a "laundry list" of problems and gotten out of debt by simply changing his behaviour. It's going to take some hard work, learning to keep a budget, and changing the way I think about a lot of things. It's a problem I'm ashamed to talk about, but lately I've been putting the word out to a few friends, and with this square I'm going on record, drawing a line in the sand.


  1. Being debt free is achieveable. The first step is to cut up the credit card. Terrifying I know but it is the ONLY way. For one week write down every penny you spend and what you buy. It is an eye opener believe me. Call the credit card company and negotiate for a lower interest rate.
    We all grew up being taught to "save up for.." our society has made it too easy to "have later." You can do it!!

  2. I am already at the lowest possible interest rate, but cutting up my credit card really is not practical. Just this week I've needed it to rent equipment for work and to borrow a car from the garage while mine was being repaired. But I do like the idea of putting it in a block of ice in the freezer. It is also possible now to get prepaid credit cards. I have booked into credit counseling, so hopefully they will have some ideas, too.