Actually, the 'money transfer' thing is starting to have some light at the end of the tunnel. One of my '27 things' (see sidebar to the right) is to become debt-free in 5 years. Now, for some of you, that probably doesn't like much of an accomplishment. For others, like myself, it seems like a good goal...and a goal that has been long overdue. After taking on some debt from ill relatives and also having some medical bills myself which put me under for an extended period for a time, I am finally getting some paid off and this year, even. (Gotta keep praying for the US citizens that national health gets implemented sometime soon...I wouldn't wish my experience upon my worst enemy.) And, I have to admit, I fettered away a good number of years in my 20s just in denial about my debt before I got ill to begin with. The payday was always 'later'. Well, 'later' is now, but now at my own choosing and not someone else's, thank Lord.
So this year is the get off the treadmill year with the bills. If I don't need it (actually need it, not just want it...big difference), I don't buy it. I found out last year (before my most recent trip to Oz) that places like Target® and Wal-Mart® are actually harmful to my goals. Yes, they have my needs in stock, but they've also got like 15 million other wants...and my resistance only goes so far. So what should have been $20 trips to the store became $60 ones and I never could fully grasp what happened, why I couldn't go in and just buy the absolute necessities. Sadly, this 'a ha' realization about my debt didn't it hit me until I was in the returns line one night and a woman was in front of me, returning some new fishing items he husband had bought on impulse. She was crying and obviously upset. She said although she wanted her husband to have 'his' things, he had been spending too much lately and it had come down to keeping the new tackle or keeping the electricity on. Essentially, she was returning things because the family couldn't afford them to begin with. And somewhere...somewhere...in thinking about her situation on the way home that night, I realized I wasn't that far removed. And that actions needed to take place. Immediately.
If I needed any further backup on this, the trip to Oz cemented the deal. While I am sure they are slowly infiltrating the suburbs and even the much-hated Wal-Mart® has made it to their shores in the form of a "Big W®", the mammoth superstores we have here every 20 miles or so are not there...yet. [Edited 8/4/06: Actually Wal-Mart®'s whole advertising design, marketing plan, and store layout has just been copied ruthlessly by Big W®, which I have since found out is owned by Woolworth's®. Sorry for the error in fact checking, folks.] With any luck (and this is not meant to disparage our good Aussie friends), they won't be, either. Instead you go to the Woolies® or Coles® and you buy what you need from what they have available. Even in Sydney (arguably the commercial variety jewel of Oz), they do not offer entire aisles of nothing but cookies (biscuits) or crackers, but just a few shelves on one aisle instead. They have maybe 5 brands total of ranch salad dressing, not 20 and certainly not further divided into 10 more sub-categories. A lot of people go and 'do the European thing' in Sydney and go to several shops when buying their necessities, and there are still countless Mum and Pop stores everywhere there. (You can actually go to bustling areas of Sydney and not see a chain restaurant or store for several blocks...you occasionally have to search them out even. I can't even get that here in my hometown and we're less 1% of Sydney's population.) And, amazing as it may seem to us Yanks, they live quite blissfully in their shopping ways. Even when one checks out you can tell the difference: the Aussies are relatively clutter-free at their entrances and exits to aid in snappy shopping on the way to the beach or neighbourhood barbies; Yanks are instead bludgeoned upon entry with greeters and oversize everything doo-dads, all in the hopes of keeping us trapped inside...and spending money...longer.
So, quoting Steve Earle from his song "Copperhead Road" here..."I came back with a brand new plan." But while Earle's hero John Lee Pettimore came back from his second tour in 'Nam to grow illegal leaves, I just came back with a renewed desire to make it to Oz again and live there full-time by 2009. And, not being the criminal type, I've had to save my pennies and pounds the old-fashioned way: I've had to sacrifice. It was something I should have done (or kept doing, really) after college, but slipped and kept slipping. God bless any others who have to weekly schedule 'budget' time to do another assessment of bills vs goals, goals vs wants, wants vs needs, needs of sanity with calculator vs the slowdown of insanity with a computer budgeting 'tool'. I am finally seeing some progress, and not just in my 50+ ways to cook Spam® for meals.
To date, the advancements and the plan:
And, PLEASE...anyone get ideas how to do this better???...TELL ME HOW.
If anyone else is having the same problems or just wants to learn more about being honest with your money, I strongly suggest the following books/sites/media:
Gotta go now, got pennies to count...got dreams to dream.