Saturday, July 05, 2008

Chipotle or Peru?

When I finally made the decision to try and tackle my finances, after my roaring 20s of pure excess, the concept behind financial freedom sounded incredibly simplistic:

Just don't spend money.

That's it. I didn't have to *do* anything. I didn't have to go to the gym, or set up a writing schedule, or try and find a good kickboxing class. No, all I had to do was just stop spending money.

I live in a big apartment complex, which means we're always getting these random takeout menus tacked to our doors. I spent tonight perusing a very tasty-looking Chinese menu before throwing it away.

What I hate about control over finances is the same thing that I hate about control over my diet. It's that you have to make the right choice time after time after time, multiple times every day.

I went out to write at Caribou Coffee tonight, and had to force myself to bypass Chipotle on the way home. I had to remind myself of all the groceries I just bought today. As I passed The Cheesecake Factory I reminded myself that I'd already gotten a piece of their low carb cheesecake last week to bring home, and July's budget does not have wiggle room for *more* cheesecake. Then I had to come home and peruse the Chinese takeout menu, and then remind myself of how awful I feel after trying to inhale Papa John's pizza.

In fact, diet choices and financial choices are linked pretty heavily for me. If I'm not splurging on lunch or dinner out, then I'm getting a book, or a magazine, or out at a movie, or the comedy club, or trying to find clothes that don't make me look like Raggedy Anne.

I was raised by very impulsive parents; it's gotten them into a lot of trouble too. But it means that budgeting and delayed gratification are really foreign to me. When I come into cash, I feel I "deserve" to spend it. I need to "treat" myself. Well, you know, sure, one "treat" is great, but four or six weeks of treats and you've blown all the money and you're right back where you started with not much to show for it.

I sat down and put together my post-raise budget today, and in big, bold letters across the top it reads, "Budgetry, or how Kameron is going to get a house and go to Peru."

And that's the mantra I'm trying to bring to every one of my decisions now. I need something to keep me on track. I need constant motivation, because it's just not going to happen on its own. Like anything else, I have to retrain myself, and just like training yourself to workout regularly, there's this awful, painful adjustment period where you feel utterly deprived.

I hate it.

I want to go out, and have fun, and live, because dammit, life is fucking short.

But I'm really fucking tired of being in credit card debt. I'm done with it.

So which one wins out?

That's the battle I fight with every one of my stupid daily decisions. I now have $750 a month budgeted toward paying off that fucking credit card (starting in August). That's more than my current rent and utilities combined.


Imagine what I can do when I free that $750 back up? Think about it.

That's what I'm thinking about.

And it's what I'll be thinking about when I'm eating my hot dogs and leftovers from last night's BBQ tonight.

Terrified Waitresses & Chicks Who Kick Ass

"Come on. Do I look like the mother of the future? I mean, am I tough, organized? I CAN'T EVEN BALANCE MY CHECKBOOK."
- Sarah Conner, The Terminator

I have a love/hate relationship with the Sarah Conner of the first Terminator movie. Part of me wants her to be the same tough, kick ass heroine you see in the 2nd one, and so I'm always slightly annoyed when I start re-watching the first one again. Blah blah yeah, she's the holy womb of antioch, whatever. Seriously, is her only worth in the world as the womb that carried John Conner?

Then I sit down and really think about it, and I remember that even though she's the "mother of the future" she's no passive fucking vessel. What I love about the first movie is knowing who she becomes by the second one. Because how many of us are terrified waitresses who can't balance their checkbook and whose biggest heartbreak on a Friday night is getting blown off by some random date? Living that kind of life, how would you really react when you found out you were the one who taught the leader of the human resistance how to fight? That you taught him honor, how to make bombs, shoot straight, and bind a wound? Would you change your life, after that? Would you have the strength to do that? Or run away from it?

What I like seeing in this first movie is a timid nobody finding her strength, and knowing she's got the guts to get there.

The utter tragedy of T3 (I don't even consider it canon, especially after watching the new Sarah Conner Chronicles) was dumping Sarah Conner. These movies are far more about Sarah Conner than they are Arnold Swartzenegger (hence the success of the Chronicles).

It's a much gutsier, gritter version of Titanic (also a James Cameron movie, for those keeping track; he made tough female heroines awesome long before Joss came along). Wallflower with the heart of a fighter tells the world to go fuck itself and finds her voice and her strength and her self-esteem. She finds out what she's really made of.

It's a woman's coming of age story that doesn't involve marriage or being "saved" from her life by a man who does all the work for her followed by a pan-to-the-lamp happily ever after. It's a coming of age that takes work, courage, brute strength. Sure, this realization is kicked off by a hot guy who doesn't generally stick around for the end (just as in The Wanted and other boy coming of age stories have their bland boy's superpowers awakened by the arrival of a mysterious hot chick - who also doesn't generally stick around for the end). He holds out his hand, but she has to take it. And when he steps away, she needs to be able to stand on her own.

I'm always looking at why these particular movies work so well for me (Titanic, the Terminator movies, the first two Alien movies), and you know, it's because they're traditionally masculine coming of age stories. A formerly obscure nobody woman finds out she's the chosen one. She gets to battle evil in its many forms; she gets to slay the monsters. She picks herself up and builds her own life.

At the end of the day, she realizes that nobody is going to save her but herself.

And she becomes the hero of her own life.

That's good shit right there.

Quote of the Day

"All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become."
- Buddha