Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Life Without Credit

Russ over at Scholars and Rogues, has an excellent article about credit cards being equivalent to usury and used George Washington as an example as to some of the other reasons why our Founding Fathers started the Revolutionary War. One of my college professors had told us stories about ol' George's spending habits so it wasn't a total surprise but if the Founding Fathers thought that 5% interest was robbery, I wonder what they would think of us putting up with 30-36%?

I no longer carry credit cards, they won't let me have one. They don't even send me offers. Which is okay by me because when I run out of money to pay my bills and unlike my government and huge corporations, I stop spending. I just wish there weren't so many bills left over. The last few years of taking care of mom has taken a severe financial and emotional toll as it has for many in my generation. Every month I run out of money about two weeks before I run out of month. And just like a lot of other people we are falling through the cracks.

I don't own video games, I don't go on vacation to exotic places, I don't go out to eat very often and unlike some women, I only own two pair of shoes and one purse. I hate clothes shopping which is unfortunate since mom has magically disappeared almost everything I own several times. So, where did my money go? Rent, food, cell and gas. At the end of the month rent is not going to be an issue because unless a miracle happens we'll be homeless and that bill will go the way of the dodo. Thank goodness my two year contract is up with DiSH on the 17th and I can cancel the cable without penalty. Which I can also do with mom's phone as of yesterday since no one calls her and even though I have it set to answer when she flips it open, she misses most of my calls and uses it mainly to see the time. I can't justify the expense so there's another $10 a month saved.

Last year when gas was getting close to $5 a gallon here in San Jose I put myself on a gas budget. I bought a $100 gift card at Costco at the beginning of the month and when it ran out, I walked or stayed home. And even though I am not within walking distance of anything important such as food, I cut my driving by over 70%, a practice that continues to this day though now the requirement is one tank per month.

Could I use a credit at this moment? You betcha. When I bought the used 1994 Infiniti I checked Carfax for everything except how much it cost to tune it up. It never occurred to me that it would be more than $100. Boy was I naive. Depending on the place it is anywhere from $942 to $1200. Mainly for labor. You have to take half the engine off just to get to the spark plugs! Which can only be platinum. As tight as things are I would need to spread that amount over twelve months and hope that nothing else goes wrong. If I'm not willing to take that chance why would a creditor? So, I'm cleaning it and selling it this weekend.

Fortunately I do have an iPod and it will help entertain me while riding the bus. Since public transportation was one of the things that the Governator decided wasn't important enough to be funded and he had to give corporations a $1B tax break, I will walk a mile or two to get to a bus stop where I can pay higher fares and go fewer places. It's tough losing one's autonomy in California, the state isn't designed for it. On the bright side, there is the added benefit of increasing my cardiovascular health and helping me to lose weight.

Like a lot of people I've cut back everywhere I can, I even live in a crime ridden area because the rent is cheaper. Mom and I would like to move out of the state but we can't for three reasons. One, we don't know anything or anyone in the places mom wants to go so we would have no idea about the quality of the neighborhood. Two, she loses her Medicaid until residency is established and the drugs the doctor just put her on are as much as her Social Security each month so that presents a huge problem but three is the kicker. It seems we need a credit card to rent a truck. Not pay since they are only to happy to accept cash, just as security to rent.

It's sad that our nation has become the laughingstock of the world. Our news exports scenes of beautiful people doing nothing but attending parties or adopting babies while the poor and the middle class are blamed for not being one of the beautiful people. Hospitals are content to let people die in the waiting room, food banks are teeming with more people than they can healthfully feed while restaurants are throwing out unused food by the tons as the dinner rush becomes the dinner trickle. Meanwhile, those that have not only blame those that have not, they seem to spend every waking moment trying to get the last penny from those that don't have it to spare and then call them deadbeats because the have nots can't afford all the new rates and penalties on what they already don't have.

How many tent cities will it take before the populace can drag themselves away from American Idol Idle and see that the flood waters of debt are at their doorstep and still rising? How much longer will the people tolerate bailing out the banks when they can't bail themselves out of the mess they're in? Especially without a job. Telling people not to live above their means when everywhere they turn all they see is stuff that they are brainwashed into needing is like telling an eight month pregnant teenager that sex is even better after you have the baby but abstinence is the way to make your parents happy. Some other advice needs to be given.

There's a reason why Clara Cannucciari is becoming so popular that she is getting ready to release her first DVD at the age of 92. She knows a Depression when she sees one. Cooking from scratch is an art, cooking with cheaply available ingredients is magic in the land of Mickey Ds, Whole Foods and tight budgets. I remember many of those meals from when I was growing up and you know what? They still taste good. Comfort food rocks. I may like caviar and champagne but fried potatoes and club soda taste just as good when you're hungry. Plus, you don't need credit to enjoy them.


1 comment:

  1. I came across your blog via another blog and just had to tell you -- I understand where you are coming from! While not quite in the same position as you, I have, in the past been homeless and ineligible for any kind of help from anyone.

    It's a sad state that our country has become.

    Oh, and BTW, I don't have any credit cards, either. My husband and I decided several years ago that if we couldn't pay cash for something, we didn't need it. As a result, we now have very little debt and are able to live within our means, even through job losses and cutbacks.

    Good luck to you and your mother.