February 17, 2009

Blog Share post

The following post was written as part of Blog Share, created by -R-. Blog Share gives everyone a chance to publish something they want to get off their chest, but might not want their public to know. My anonymous guest blogger wrote something that struck a chord with me, because I was once in a similar position. I hope you enjoy it, and please leave my anonymous friend some supportive comment love.

I have been racking my brain for a Blog Share post all day. When I signed up to participate, I had an idea in mind. My story was elegant and interesting and something that I didn’t want my blog readers who know me in real life to know. And then I forgot it. In truth, another potential Blog Share-worthy story popped up, but now I’ve decided I’m not ready to tell that one because I’m still working out how I feel about it and I am not ready to open myself up to comments and criticisms on that particular issue. And so….I’ve been stumped.

I’ve decided on something that isn’t glamorous or exciting or even all that scandalous, but it’s something about which I am embarrassed. Actually, I’m beyond embarrassed. I think it’s fair to say I’m even ashamed. This shame, however, is what makes me want to talk about it – because if anyone else has done the same thing, well, I want that person to read this and know that she or he is not alone. That there are other people who have done this or do this or will do this.

With that grand of an intro, I’m quite certain you will be disappointed to know that I’ve been gearing up to talk about money management. I can hear the crowds booing now. Still, I promise you: anyone who has trouble managing his or her money probably feels a deep sense of mortification whenever money is mentioned. I know I did.

When I was in college, I bounced so many checks that I actually had a charge filed against me by…I think the city?…and I had to attend a money management class to get it removed from my record. I’d love to tell you that this happened because I was trying to put together tuition money and finance my own books, room, and board, but that would be a lie. My parents gave me a generous allowance every months, and if I ever needed extra money, all I had to do was call them. I had absolutely no excuse except my own refusal to keep track of what I had and didn’t have, and then my refusal to abstain from going out when I “didn’t have”.

I wish I could tell you that I outgrew this by the time I graduated, but I didn’t. I continued this behavior even through graduate school. I didn’t just bounce checks – I was also a big fan of not paying my bills. I just wouldn’t pay them. I paid rent, sure, but electricity and cable and phone? Nah. I had all three cut off so many times I can’t even count. I would sheepishly drive down to the electric company office in the shiny little sportscar my parents bought me and stand in line with people who were clearly struggling to make ends meet, pay all my overdue bills, and then go home and wait in the dark for my electricity to come back on. Sometimes, when I didn’t have money to pay my overdue bills, I borrowed from friends. Have you ever experienced the embarrassment of having to borrow money from your friends? It sucks. It really, really sucks.

No, I did not have a drug problem. No, I was not involved in anything sketchy. Hell, I wasn’t even fashionable or flashy. To this day, I have no idea where my money went. Oh, how it went. I cannot explain it. I cannot explain why I put off paying my bills or why I wouldn’t just check my bank balance on a regular basis so I could know what was or was not in it. I wish I could.

I CAN, however, explain to you how I overcame this. With the help of a brilliant and wonderful psychologist, I learned a lesson that I repeat to myself even to this day, even in different contexts. It sounds simple, but it works. I learned to remind myself that no matter how much I dread something, the consequences of putting it off are usually more dreadful.

For example: if I dread checking my bank balance because I am afraid that it will show I have $3.62 in my account, I have two choices. I can choose not to check the bank balance and go write a check for $162 in whatever at a store (well, okay, nowadays I can’t even do that since everything is automated, but BACK THEN, I could). The result is even worse: it creates a new thing to dread, which is seeing a bank balance with a minus sign in front of it.

It is better to know than not to know.

I know what most of you are thinking. I can hear it, all the way over here. Duh. What a stupid bitch. EVERYONE knows that. This chick is a brat. And you would be right. The thing is, though, I think one or two of you will read this and think, She is right, that is the most embarrassing thing in the world and I always felt like everyone else had their act together but at least I know now that someone else went through this, too.

You’re not alone. And if you’re really, truly struggling this, ask -R- if you can find out who I really am, and we’ll talk privately about it. (If you ask sincerely, and R asks me if it’s okay for her to give my real information out). I promise, you can fix this. You can break this horrible cycle and you can stop calling the bank to beg them to take off another $37.50 charge for overdrawing your account. I promise.

17 people have roominated about “Blog Share post”

  • Alison says:

    I used to live in France, where the overdraft is a part of life. There were months when our paychecks would fill the hole in our bank account, and we’d start digging again. So on some levels I get this.

    Now I’m debt-free, thanks to my divorce (believe it or not) and the sale of our house. I’ll tell you what, though. Sometimes I long for the days where it didn’t matter what I spent, because we had the overdraft. Sure, I lived through the bank charges because of bounced checks (on top of the overdraft!) but at one point we changed banks, got a loan to cover our debt, and started paying it off and paying more attention to what we were doing. (I must say, however, that most of our debt came from trying to self-finance home improvement; we borrowed just enough to buy the house, not to improve it, and it was a shit hole).

    So yeah, I get this. You’ll get no judgment from me. And I hope your story helps someone.

  • Allie says:

    I had a really hard time figuring out finances in college and when I dropped out of college. I wasn’t ever taught how to handle money. Now, I think my solution is more to just spend as little as possible no matter what our balance is, which is good in some ways, and bad in others.

    No judgment from me either. We all have things we have to overcome as we grow up.

  • lizgwiz says:

    I never bounced any checks, but I have known the humiliation of standing in line to get utilities turned back on. I wasn’t making a lot of money at the time, to be sure, but there was also an element of “financial managing” that I just wasn’t, well…managing. I’m much better now, too. Yay, us! 🙂

  • Erin says:

    I wasn’t a check bouncer, but that’s because I put it all on my credit cards. (I know!)

    Now, a couple years out of grad school and facing lay off, I haven’t made much of a dent in that credit card debt and I am hitting full on panic as to what I’m going to do with that big number.

  • Noelle says:

    I have certainly had some bills that I’ve ignored for no good reason. I think a lot of people have. I’m actually counting on that as I delve into a new career in financial planning. Sometimes it just takes someone to show you the way and get you back on track. Feel free to contact me if you want any help.

  • courtney says:

    No judgment here. We’ve all done things we’re not proud of, and good for you for getting help for it and turning your habits around for the better.

  • abbersnail says:

    I have absolutely done similar things. I’ve been diligently digging myself out of a hole for over two years, and it took a LOT of personal exploration before I finally figured out how to do so. It sounds like you’ve overcome some pretty amazing personal challenges, and I have to give you major points for that!

  • becky says:

    yeah, i’m so there. even this post made me uncomfortable.

  • NGS says:

    My best friend is a super smart, wonderful woman who can not keep her bank account above zero to save her life. Who has declared bankruptcy. Who no longer is eligible to even HAVE a checking account. I never got her money issues. She makes twice as much as I do at her job, but still lives paycheck to paycheck.

    I’m going to email her this link just so she knows that while I don’t get what her deal is, there may be people out there who do!

  • Sra says:

    I already suggested this resource on another blogshare post, but I recommend to anyone struggling with finances to check out In spite of the stupid blog name, the author, Ramit Sethi, gives excellent, simple, and practical advice for managing your finances. The key thing he emphasizes is taking action instead of just planning to make things better some day, and then he advises you on specific steps to take. My favorite thing he’s done recently is show you how to completely automate your banking and investment accounts. It’s really great advice. Spending an hour or two once to set this up will make banking much more palatable from then on.

  • Courtney says:

    Oh my gosh…this post was absolutely inspiring to me. I currently have a negative balance in my bank account, and yet am ready to go to the mall and max out my recently paid off Express and Ann Taylor credit cards. I am so thankful for BlogShare and your post, it makes me realize that I’m not stuck in this never-ending cycle, and I can take control of my finances. I suppose it’s not money that’s really my problem, but my outlook and perception of things. If only I knew your blog so I could add it to my feed…

  • been there says:

    So, when I was in high school it was normal in my house to maybe have electricity, or maybe not. And maybe there would be food, or there might not be. My dad never answered the phone, instead relying on the answering machine to weed out the bill collectors.

    When I finally got around to having my own money, I thought poor money management was NORMAL. Didn’t EVERYONE have people chasing them for money? I spent my late teens and early twenties creating debt I could not keep up with. I would ask my mom for help and she would send me some money to cover some dire circumstance, and then we’d do it all over again next month. ‘Twas a lovely dance.

    I’m always amazed when I meet people who have NEVER experienced any sort of financial irresponsibility. I always think that they’re lying, or had amazing role models.

    I’ve been there. I still dread opening bills. Setting up automatic withdrawals to pay bills has helped a LOT. For some reason I don’t get as overwhelmed by knowing I need $X in the bank to cover the bill as I do about writing the actual check. Weird isn’t it?

  • Anonymous Poster says:

    You know, this is what I love about Blog Share – you guys are always so damn supportive. I’m really happy to have helped some people and to find that I’m not alone in this – and to think, this was just something I wrote because I wasn’t ready to share another secret I have going on right now!

  • Oh man, I hear you on this one. I’ve always been a fan of avoidance, and college provided a great opportunity for that. Unfortunately it was because I really did not have any money, but still. It took a long time to figure it out.

  • My parents were extremely good role models when it came to handling money properly, but even so when I got to college I definitely bounced a couple of checks. My problem was that I wouldn’t keep track of what I was spending. I had plenty of money to cover the things I needed, but I wouldn’t know when I needed to transfer money from savings to checking. Now that I’ve been out of college for awhile and been getting a steady paycheck for a couple of years I still don’t keep track of the deposits or what I’m spending. I just make sure to have quite a bit in my checking account so that there is a big enough pad that I’m pretty sure I won’t overdraw. But this irritates me too because I’m sure that I’m spending way too much on things I don’t need, yet I never force myself to really look at it and track it and do something about it!

  • A New Duck says:

    This is so true! I’m usually good with my money, but sometimes I slide into a dark place (it’s the best way I can describe the money dropout zone) and simply put my head in the sand. This is ALWAYS worse than just facing up to it. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Amanda says:

    THANK YOU! I practice avoidance for no reason I can identify. I am currently cleaning up a big mess. I KNOW all the obvious things you need to know about balancing your bank account, I just… don’t.

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