I try to avoid whining, too much, about my financial woes. They are ever-present and super annoying. If I allowed myself to write freely on my blog about my financial issues, the title of every post would be "I Hate Money."
Up until recently, I'd always been sort of "Eh, no big deal. So we're broke." I've never had a lot of money, so I was pretty much used to the lifestyle. In fact, it's made this whole economic depression pretty easy to handle. Welcome to my world, America. Would you like to come over to our place for Cost Effective Margarita Game Night?
But something about being married is aggravating the brokeness now. In my head, the Mrs. title should have come with a mortgage and the ability to treat other couples to a fancy dinner. And heaven forbid we really wanted to have a kid right now. He'd have to earn his keep as a baby model (and let's face it, he'd be handsome enough).
At my friend's urging, I signed up for mint.com, to track our expenses and set a budget. I remained optimistic that the problem is merely a result of poor budgeting skills and that the situation is not entirely hopeless. So far, I just find the site a bit confusing and immensely discouraging. It's one thing to throw around the term "in the red" during conversation, it's a whole other feeling to actually see a screen full of red text in multiple categories.
Now, with all of that as a backdrop, allow me to tell you about the $20 ordeal on Saturday. Warning: you are about to get some disturbing insight into my unquiet mind.
On Saturday morning (or, er, noonish), I ran out to pick up bagels and orange juice. Knowing that the bagel place charges an ungodly $4 for a single serving bottle of OJ, I thought I'd be wise and buy a full size bottle from the grocery store in the same shopping plaza. Then for the same price, we could have juice for days! I was off to a good start.
However, as I approached the entrance to the grocery store, I saw two men with clipboards talking to shoppers. As I've mentioned before, I do not do well with petitioners and people promoting their causes.
When I finally got close enough to the entrance, one of the clipboard guys reached out to me. "Will you help us make gay marriage legal again in California?" Oh yes! And thank goodness this isn't some cause I don't understand. (Or one I don't care about. And I do have those too.)
"Oh yeah. Sure."
"Great. Let me tell you a little bit more about what we're doing." And then as he went on explaining himself, I took note of his sincere blue eyes, his youthful face. I resisted the urge to hug him. When I tuned back in, he was asking me for a donation. Damn it. Now I've gone and gotten myself trapped again.
"Well, I'm sorry but I just don't have any money to spare right now. I'm on a really tight budget."
"You don't have to give a lot--"
"But I would. I would give a lot, I want you to know."
"We're asking for a one time donation of $44. That's one dollar for every --" I should have let him finish. I'm sure that would have been an interesting fact.
"Yeah, that's too much. Maybe it shouldn't seem like a lot, but it is."
"Or $28. That's one dollar for every--"
"I just don't think I can spare anything. My husband and I really can't afford any additional expenses." Damn it. Now I'd gone and rubbed it in that I'm married.
"We're really fighting an up hill battle as a grass roots organization, getting by on donations from people like you. Last year the Morman Church spent $40 million on their campaign to ban gay marriage."
Well now he'd gone and done it. I was particularly sensitive to this matter after Devin and I discovered we'd inadvertently visited this Mormon racket in Hawaii that promoted itself as the Polynesian Cultural Center. It was sort of like Epcot Center with villages for Figi, New Zealand, Tonga, etc. But we became suspicious when we discovered tour buses leaving from the center and going to the Mormon temple up the road. I'll spare you the full rant and instead just conclude that in a roundabout way I'd donated money to the wrong side of this debate. It was the least I could do to give some cash to this poor guy standing in front of me.
I opened my wallet to find a $20 bill. I paused for a moment, thinking that this $20 would either go to this guy or to, most likely, booze and food. How selfish could I be?
Unfortunately, I'm prone to borderline delusional flights of fancy (cute when you're 12 years old, troubling when you're 27) and began envisioning myself as a champion for gay rights. I'd be at protests. I'd help raise money with this guy. (Really, I am WAY too lazy to do any of that.)
I handed over the $20 and felt quite pleased with myself. But by the time I'd finished the 5 minute drive home, I regretted my decision. That was 20 bucks! I needed that! What was I thinking? I decided not to tell Devin about my new political endeavors.
Then later that night, as Devin and I were walking up to the restaurant where we were meeting a friend, something reminded me of that morning's encounter. "This morning I gave $20 to a guy for gay marriage."
"Why would you do that? You can't even pay your bills."
"I know. I just felt bad."
"That money could have paid for your dinner that you're about to eat."
"Yeah, but I had to do something..."
"$20 is not going to make a big difference to them. You may as well have just hung onto it."
Sure enough, my portion of the dinner was about $35. That long lost $20 bill would have been handy.
Dwelling on this matter again yesterday while grocery shopping, I decided that the only way to make up for giving up that money was to spend as little as possible for my lunches during the work week. So I bought 5 packs of ramen noodles for $1, to avoid spending $20 - $25 on take out or expensive foods with nutritional value.
Lesson learned, I guess. Don't donate money you can't donate. It's not going to help your karma, it's not going to save the world, it's just going to ruin your lunch.