Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Spending Season

Money. It's something that you just don't discuss. As a child, my parents taught me that you don't talk about money, and you especially don't ask people how much money they earn.

I do my best to honor this lesson, but occasionally, I find myself talking about money. Or, even worse, writing about it online. 

It all started at the gym. I was on the treadmill, doing my little plodding jog, and the TV had one of those "Entertainment Hard Copy Inside Edition" shows on. They were talking about a company called The Platinum Tees. The company employs young girls who wear skimpy clothes and carry golf clubs for golfers. Serious golfers, I'm sure. They bend over slowly to pick things up and ask the golfers if "they need their balls shined up." They also use their vast knowledge of the game to suggest the appropriate type of club and the "proper stance".

The show reported that these girls make $35 dollars an hour. Thirty-five dollars an hour.

I have never made so much money per hour in my entire professional life. I have advanced degrees and experience. But, I lack certain...qualities....let's say, to make this my second career. The main qualities I lack include my right one and my left one.

But, I really would like the cash...

This morning, Paul was doing the bills. He finished up, and announced The Number that we have to live on for the next two weeks. My shoulders hunched up, knowing that we haven't bought most of the gifts on our paired-down list, and that we have run out of paychecks to spread out the shopping.

I know that people always recommend homemade gifts to reduce holiday expenses. That's good if you are talented or crafty. However, if I gave somebody a homemade gift, it would be like wrapping up one of my turds: "I hope you like it; I made it especially for you!" 

We're thrifty to a fault, always paying our bills on time, always paying the credit card in full, avoiding extravagant clothing or indulgences. Our Achilles heel has always been coffee and going out to eat. We've cut back considerably, but we certainly feel it. Every time I deny myself a coffee, it stings.
With the holidays, we're spending more money. There's no way around it. Trees, gifts, holiday gatherings, scrapbooks, cards---they all cost money. So, when Paul said The Number, I sighed and thought about the various ways I could cook lentils.

I called a friend of mine to cancel our plans for dinner. I thought about saying the words:  "We really can't afford it," and I felt defeated, constrained by  the consequences of all those wasted lattes and throwaway pumpkin muffins.

I know, this is such whiny drivel, because there are people who worry about their next meal, their jobs, keeping their homes. There are people who have overwhelming medical expenses or expensive treatments that would love to worry about excess coffee and canceled dinner plans.

And so, as I sit in my kitchen, feeling sorry for myself, I need to remember two things:

1) I need to start shopping in August next year to avoid this situation.
2) Maybe it's good to feel this way, at least temporarily, so I can be more empathetic and helpful for those who feel this way more often.


SamiJoe said...

Don't forget about baking that you could do:
rum balls, rice krispies, brownies, shortbread etc!

Wrap in some pretty cellophane or go to the dollar store for some nice boxes.

Don't need to be extra crafty to do that.

Definitely hearing you though, Xmas sucks us all dry.

erika said...

Isn't it nuts, that breast implants are a better financial investment than a Master's degree and handling a ball (as in kicking, hitting, or throwing it in a game :) is a much more lucrative skill than teaching or counseling or nursing or the majority of things that actually benefit society. Almost makes me wonder why college education is so expensive in the US.

As for the 'whining', yes, there are always people in worse situations and it's important to keep perspective, but knowing that children are starving in Africa doesn't help me or make me feel better about our medical bills. Plus I'm deeply empathetic when it comes to coffee. It should be a civil right :)

michelle said...

You must have been raised Protestant like me. Tight lipped (about money) and small boobed.

I think Christmas cookies are a great idea. You can even shape them like turds.

kys said...

I'm right there with you, friend. And there are some people you can't buy for in August. My kids change their wishes by the time Dec. rolls around. Another reason that I'm grumpy during the holidays.

mama-face said...

The golf girls are for real? We are going to heck in a handbasket. I am definitely using old people speak...but it is true!

Very wise observations. The only thing my parents ever said about money was the fact that we didn't have any.I though we were on the brink of financial collapse all the time. Which is the reason I have such issues with money. I don't overspend really, but I sure as heck hate dealing with it.

As far as Christmas goes though... I can't buy any earlier than December because I will either a. buy way too much or b. they will have changed their needs or minds.

I'll be waiting for my gift wrapped package from you...

Staci said...

At first I thought this idea was kind of cheesy, but now that they are finally almost finished, they look pretty good. Michael's craft store had calendars for $1.00 in such varieties as "scrapbook" or "color-your-own". I printed 9 cent pictures from Snapfish from each of the months of the calendar, and wrote captions, scrapbook style. There were 31 frame openings, so I was able to make this personalized gift for only about $4.00. The lucky recipients-grandparents, great-grandparents, and aunts. :) Just a thought.

Traci said...

All I can say is... "I understand"!

Corrie Howe said...

I wish I could remember to buy gifts earlier in the year. I also wish my kids would decide and not change their minds early in the year and my husband wouldn't buy what he wanted earlier in the year.

Cat said...

I know that feeling... I think in this economic climate, no one will fault you for skipping presents or just doing a card. The kids are the main thing...

won said...

Your message spoke clearly to me. I've been avoiding looking at "the number".