A late night rant on financial courage, the Big Scary Abyss of Doom, and spur-of-the-moment root canals.

by Megan M. on March 23, 2009 (Blog) |

You’re about to witness a late night rant. Let’s see how coherent it turns out, shall we?

I’ve actually been going about this all the wrong way.

I’ve been putting off important parts of my life “until I have more money,” but I’ve been discounting the very mechanism that continues to bring me money, month after month, even when I am down to a week between me and the Big Scary Abyss of Doom, the very mechanism that has never failed me so long as I maintain confidence in it.

That mechanism is real, undeniable need.

Sometimes I call it “desperation.” (I do not recommend that mechanism. Please use a different one whenever possible.) But it’s not hopeless the way desperation is—it engenders action, not despair. My best work (my most amazing feats of daring and success) happen when they absolutely need to.

And whatever you call it (even if you say “desperation” but don’t really mean it), there’s something to be said for having a working mechanism. I’ve been examining my life for a method that turns my “three week margin” set point into a “three month margin” set point, and continues to improve from there. The whole time, the whole time, it’s been right there in front of me. So let me explain how this works:

Let’s say I have $2500. Awesome! $2500, I say to myself, that will pay most of this month’s bills. It will get the rent paid and we’ll be through to the 15th or so. Fantastic!

Then I will go to the dentist and the dentist will put on his Bad Face and say “OMG!!1eleven, you need a root canal!” And I will say “WHAT!?? I DO NOT!” and the dentist will say “OMG!!1eleven you SO DO and it will cost ELEVENTYBILLION DOLLARS.”

Then I will pass out.

Nightmare, anyone?

When I wake up, I will say, “Well crap, I guess we have to pay them eleventy billion dollars. Write the bad dentist man a check.” And then (probably after I obtain painkillers for my pending root canal) I will go about deciding how to make more money. Because, well… I have to. Whining, fearing, arguing, none of this will help, so I mostly don’t bother. I just fix it.

Sure, I’ll be nervous. Sure, I’ll feel some trepidation and worry a little about whether I can do it. But mostly (because I’ve done this a ton of times now and I know that it always SOMEHOW works out) I will enforce a sense of confidence and determination, and I will get the thing done. Even down to the wire, all kinds of excellent things can happen to turn things to my favor. The trick is to plan well and make them happen much sooner than later.

And I can do that.

I don’t know why I can’t do that when I DON’T need the money in the next three weeks. I’m still working that part out. It’s a fascinating process.

And in the meantime, there are things we “need.” Not root canal need, but state of mind and organization need. Like bookshelves. Incredibly useful and legitimate business expenses that I’ve been putting off, a whole list of them. Groceries (those are nice, I like those). And we haven’t really bought new clothes in, gulp, probably a few years now. (Hell, they don’t even have to be NEW. Just new to US!)

I’m not talking about hauling off on a daily sushi binge; I’m not talking about spending a great deal more money than is usually in our budget every month. I AM talking about increasing that budget gradually, planning for it, and proclaiming myself capable of dealing with the additional margin. Why on earth not? Many lookers-on were skeptical that Marty could quit his day job and we could both survive perfectly well working for ourselves. Listeners shuddered when they found out that we added a big monthly car payment right around the time he quit. Oh yes, and then our rent went up!

Would you like to guess how many times we’ve actually been unable to pay our rent? Go ahead, guess.

ZERO. (Was that what you guessed?)

How about how many times we’ve had to negotiate a payment plan with a utility company because we couldn’t send them a check?


Never happened.

We’ve gotten rid of bills here, added other ones there. And we keep paying them. And 99% of them have been paid on time, every time. That doesn’t sound to me like two people at the brink of destitution. It doesn’t sound to me like people who are incapable of improving their lot in life. It doesn’t sound to me like people who must be content with the boxes they’ve been dropped into.

That sounds to me like two people who can get what they need, when they need it, because they’re capable, courageous, clever—and alliterative, an attribute you must never underestimate. All I have to do is buy the things I need when I need them, and create more income to cover them. It won’t be hard—especially if I plan well, take it in reasonable increments—and especially after the money is spent. Then there’s no going back. I’m great with the Point of No Return, man.

I am not crazy. These are not crazy ideas.

YOU can do this, too. All you need is to make the decision, be brave, and carry through. Almost ANYONE can do this. I’m not even sure I need to use the word “almost.” If you look deep enough inside yourself you’re going to see the same things I’ve seen. Tremendous will power, infinite creativity, true ability to put yourself wherever you want to be. I don’t doubt it for a second.

Anyway, after we pay April’s rent, I’m probably going to buy a freaking bookcase. Or something else on the long list of things I’ve been putting off.

Think about it.

PS. HEY! YOU! Yes, you. I hope you don’t think this is a good excuse to do something incredibly stupid with your budget. I’m talking increments here, people. I’m talking confidence and increments. Be reasonable. But be BRAVE.

PPS. Oh! No, no root canals. That was just an example. Incidentally, though, that exact brand of spur-of-the-moment root canal has happened to me in the past. It was scary; we got through it just fine. I don’t expect any more root canal escapades, honestly; I stopped eating sugar and started drinking just gallons of green juice. I’m probably in pretty good shape.

PPPS. Our scenario assumes, of course, that “eleventy billion” is less than $2500. Just pretend.


Viewing 8 Comments

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    Sometimes when you absolutely *need* something you'll find ways to make it possible. Though sometimes you get a block on *how* you can make that money.

    I'm in that block now. Need money, don't know how to get it, conventional methods not working!! Living of $20 at the moment...
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    ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!

    I'm v. late night commenting on your late night blog post. Cause it's hilarious to write 'eleven'.
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    I'm actually a little perplexed by some people's financial situation. I'll grant that I could have been lucky most of my life. Still, I suspect that most of the time it is a choice that people are making between different priorities in their life.

    For most of my adult life I have had enough money in my bank account for a couple of months of living. I do not come from a rich family and nor have I always had a high paying job. Outside of college expenditures(thankfully i got various types of financial support for that) I worked for my money and was very conscious of how it was spent. The biggest thing I notice about how I spend money is that I made huge trade-offs with regards to my lifestyle. Here are things I did(or didn't do):
    -Buy cheap food (there is a health trade off here)
    -Rarely went out to eat (most a social trade off here, sometimes just pure convenience)
    -Small amount of vacation or cheap vacations (I'm not sure if I got less r&r, but I do have less fantastic tales about other places)
    -Spent large amounts of time with cheap entertainment such as tv, movies, and video games. (I actually largely regret this choice because I didn't explore as many hobbies... still, there are plenty of cheap hobbies. plus the library has free books)
    -Shared apartment place (Less privacy, having to deal with other people)
    -Cheap car

    And I'm sure there is actually more. Perhaps the key in all of this to pay attention about those things we feel we need in life. Most people have actually converted their wants to needs. We don't need a lot. And if we are creative we can actually get many of our wants cheaply.

    I'll take one step back from saying all of this. I could have had some luck with my financial situation and it also very possible that the sacrifices i made to maintain my finances were not actually worth it.
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    This may actually be another post / conversation, but I think it's interesting -- I don't think this is even so much about what we have been taught to spend money on so much as it is about our mindset. I've spent most of my money-making life livin' on the edge just like this, but my spending schedule looks like yours -- no vacations, almost no eating out, generally cheap entertainment, shared living space, and until now, cheap cars. The only difference (and only for the last few years) is that I've decided to buy high quality food, but even that has come to mean very little, because the CSA makes up most of our food budget and compared to prepared or packaged foods, it's pretty inexpensive. In fact, I'd say the biggest factor for me is that most of the money I make goes right back into my business(es), being that my work is so much my life. If you take those things into consideration, it's not that my finances are so very different (pure speculation) but that my mindset is: Three week set point versus several month set point, maybe. Theoretically, it should be ridiculously easy for me to change the situation by tweaking the mindset (well, that's been a bit difficult) or the circumstances of the mindset (much easier).

    So it's wacky and interesting how similar we actually are in these respects. What do you think of all that? We should compare / contrast and make a chart. (I apparently have a thing about charts.) ^_^
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    yey charts!

    Yah that may actually be it. We may have drawn the line at different spots about how much money is 'needed' in a rainy day fun. These days I feel very uneasy if I don't have a few months. Ideally I'm working towards 6ish months these days. That is plenty of money to handle most disasters that come at me. I'm also very fortunate to be at a point in my life where i can bank away a lot of money. I'm grateful. It won't be long before I leave that comfort.
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    I have often speculated as to whether, like my abandonment of wheat and sugar, I might create a discomfort for myself with three week margins. It (mostly) worked when it comes to my eating habits (certainly I'm very pleased with how far I've come because of it) so I don't think it's crazy to consider that it might work for my financial habits too. A bigger question, maybe, is do I really want to continue to enact personal change based on creating negative associations?

    I'm honestly not sure how bad it is, if the change is good. Life long question?
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    MEM, couples that are alliterative are WAY ahead of the curve. Every time.

    I share that sense of wonder, perplexity, chagrin in knowing that I too manage to make square corners the round they need to be when necessity strikes (and wonder why I can't seem to do it at every day's dawn).

    By the way, I DID have one of those root canals lately—̵even worse, it FAILED! Now I have to get it pulled. And the insurance said for months, even though I was covered, that I wasn't. Bastards. Eleventy-billion is about right. But now the pulled tooth will become my lucky tooth, and good fortune and fame are soon to follow...
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    GAH! Sorry about the root canal, man. The worst part for me, when that happened a few years ago, was that I couldn't plan to make more money while I was on painkillers. I was so wacked out that I had to wait until the whole thing was over before running damage control. Unnerving! Thankfully I managed to convince the dentist's office in question to let me pay them in monthly installments, because they wouldn't start without cash and I didn't have insurance (or credit) to cover it.

    I think you have enough people wishing you good fortune and fame already that it shouldn't be hard to come by. Voom! ;}


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