A little over a year ago, I got hit with some very bad financial news. Dealing with it has been a challenge, as the organization handling the issue has been slow to respond, with a customer-service approach that leaves a lot to desire. However, things have been settled, but now I’m spending more than I am making, and have been since I got this news.
Obviously things are more expensive now, despite record-breaking profits, and prices continue to get jacked up while salaries are stagnant. This is a political problem, and like with guns, action is not being taken to adequately address the issue because the Republican party is corrupt and has no interest in helping the citizens of their country and is obsessed with tax breaks and drag queens, and the Democratic party is corrupt, but it kind of wants to help, but is thoroughly obstructed by the other side. I just received a raise, and I gave myself another raise using benefits chicanery. It’s still not enough.
Here’s the problem: I earn an entry-level adjacent-salary because there’s a ten-year gap in my resume, but it’s a good salary. My rent is currently cheap, and now that I’ve lost interest in junk food, my grocery bills are cheaper. But I’m still more than broke.
This is because I spend irresponsibly. Winter of 2021-2022, I blew hundreds of dollars on toys, including the entire line of Doctors, including the War Doctor, a TARDIS, a twenty-foot scarf I’ve used once, and a single non-Doctor-Who figure from Japan that cost me $170. Prior to that, I spent a fortune on Legos, which are sitting in several storage cases, separated by model and taken apart after I put them together, along with wooden model kits that don’t work properly. Last year, I discovered model kit action figures, and I bought two of them before I decided they were too time-consuming to play with.
It’s not all toys. I’ve all but quit writing, and I’ve got a number of somewhat expensive fountain pens to show for it. When I go to street fairs, I tend to pick up handmade notebooks and wall art, even though I need neither. I don’t really read books anymore, but at AwesomeCon, I tend to buy all the books from self-published authors. Even here, in Romania, I bought a handmade notebook before I could stop myself.
Currently, it’s been art supplies. As a cheap example, I quit using Magic Rub erasers because they devastated my paper, so I switched to Art Gum. I had a brand new one in my art supplies that had been gathering dust until my renaissance, but I still went to the art store and bought two more, even though one will last me the better part of a year. I ordered stencil after stencil, even though I won’t be able to use half of them. I have bought two watercolor trays since I restarted, and I already have two that are going to last me a long time. I have enough Bristol boards to spend years making comics. If I was a professional, this would be an investment, but I never expect to make my money back. This, like writing, is a hobby, as much as I hate to admit it, and dropping a fortune on your hobby is irresponsible when you’re broke.
My job, which has more benefits than a government job, requires a visit with a financial wellness advisor. I explained that, when I’m manic, irresponsible spending is a symptom, and the ADHD makes it worse. What we’re going to do is track every cent I spend between April 1 through 30 and make a budget. Obviously, Romania is busting my bank (I saved for it somehow, and it wasn’t optional), but I’m recording it anyway. The first and last two weeks of the month will be the true test. Obviously, I’m paying bills for two, which adds up to quite a lot, so I’ll have to revise it when she returns in June.
But it’s a compulsion, as much of an addiction as cigarettes and junk food. I was cruising around Facebook this morning, and I saw an ad for a mini-statue that I had to have! I literally slapped my hand and said, “No!” Later, the cartridge of my brush pen ran out, and Nicole asked me if we should buy more, and I almost told her yes. I couldn’t wait to buy stuff at the art store. But I have enough cartridges at home, that—at my present rate—will last a little under two years, so with great effort, I told her no. Each no required a moment of clarity that I can’t count on all the time, so what can I do?
First thing’s first: I’m not going to AwesomeCon or Faeriecon this year. I only go to cons for Artist’s Alley, and that’s where you can buy anything useless (or piles of books). I’ll miss chatting with artists and writers, but there is an 80 percent chance I’ll buy something if I talk to the person at the table. Second, even though it’s a block from work, I cannot go to the art store anymore. I don’t need anything there, and if I do, I will go in for that thing, and that thing alone. Same thing with online retailers, though sites like Amazon, which owns most of the books I have, are going to be difficult to avoid. I dumped one streaming service already (I have no idea how I’m going to watch Good Omens this summer), and I’m weighing the pros and cons of getting rid of more. (That’s harder because I watch TV and movies while I draw, but any one site has a bazillion things to watch, so maybe not that hard.) Also, because every time I go to watch a movie, it’s a miserable experience, I’m going to stop going, even to Marvel movies, unless it’s a movie I’m dying to see, like John Wick 4: He Really Loved that Dog. More importantly, accountability. My advisor emailed me a spreadsheet that I promptly lost, which she will check regularly.
Is there an overspending anonymous? Because even as I take these steps to control myself, I feel like I have no power over it. On the other hand, I kicked drinking. I kicked smoking. I can do this. It’s harder because you have to spend money, but people do it all the time. I don’t have a car, I don’t have kids. People who make less than me get by with both of those, so I have no excuse.
I can do this.