Logan: I’ve been doing a lot of Thinking this week, Mike Dang. Last week was my birthday which promotes thinking about aging. And then I had some old and dear friends come into town, which promotes thinking about life changes, then versus now, etc. And then I also had very little money, which promotes thinking about What Have I Done to Myself. I also rewatched all of Girls this week, which promoted thinking also, but I took a survey, and I am absolutely the only person who wants to talk about that show anymore.
Mike: Thinking about things is good. I’m all about careful considerations about LIFE. Since I live alone, and my apartment is generally quiet, I think a lot about things I need to be doing. What things did Girls make you think about? I should tell you that I’ve only seen the first episode.
LS: You need to change that. The first is the worst one. For me, it’s the show and the whole conversation around the show that I think about. Whenever I watch it, I usually relate so hard to something going on, usually one of the dumb things, and then that makes me think of Lindsay’s essay she wrote for us, which is basically about the glorification of the hot mess. And then I wonder: Am I glorifying the hot mess? I don’t think I am, because I actually am a mess in a lot of ways, and when I talk about it, that is My Truth. Also: I don’t think I’m fronting that there’s anything delightful about it. If anything, it’s an invitation to see what a trainwreck I am so you can do the opposite of what I’m doing.
Oh, and then also: I phoned in a post this week about eating candy out of the mini-bar in my friend’s hotel room, and the commentariat ate me up for it. So I’ve been thinking about that, too. So much thought, so little action.
MD: Yeah, it was interesting to see what people had to say about that post. I mean the heart of it was, why are you eating and drinking stuff from a hotel room when you have no money? I sort of shook my head at that, too, but you were with your friend and his corporate credit cards, so I figured they were just paying for it all and he was allowed to do that.
LS: Well, it was not an A+ post, at all. I had the greenlight from my friend to eat stuff, is one thing. We’d eaten some candy from it the night before, acknowledged that it was ridiculous to be eating $7 M&Ms, and eaten them anyway. But it was still a dumb idea to eat expensive snacks. I was more bothered by people accusing me of hamming up my dumbness with money as something cute. Which goes back to the Girls thing. But people make bad decisions, and I’m a person, and I make bad decisions a lot. And I don’t think that acknowledging those things is terrible. I certainly don’t think every mention of the way my brain works vis a vis spending (want it now, worry about it later), needs to come with repentance or shame.
MD: And you’ve been thinking about it. What conclusions have you made?
LS: My debt basically comes from a long series of decisions not unlike my mini-bar candy decisions: “I know this is not a great idea, but I’m not going to care about that right now and I’m going to deal with it later.” I’ve taken a good step by getting rid of my cards so that I can’t make as many bad decisions, but bad decisions can still be made. I’ve found in these last weeks that if there is money in my pocket, I will spend it on things that make me happy without thinking about tomorrow, or the next day, etc.
I had a long talk with my dad yesterday in which he compared me to a drug addict. Which was really hard to hear. He said that was the only way he could frame what I’ve done to myself and not be incredibly mad at me.
MD: And how did you feel about him saying that? I mean, it’s sad to hear that from your dad, but do you agree with him? Did you frame it for him in a different way?
LS: I didn’t have a pithy comeback for that. I don’t really like the idea of thinking of myself as an addict, but I’ve had this problem (this problem being, total disregard for my finances or the future) for eight years. And I’ve been at least somewhat aware of the consequences of that behavior for seven of those years. That’s a long time to ignore reality.
MD: We all have these moments of real talk with our parents. My parents certainly don’t approve of me quitting my big salaried job with the cushy benefits to give a hand at starting my own thing. I’ve been struggling with that a little. But I think for me, and for you, it doesn’t help to dwell on the past—we’ve already made those decisions. What matters is what you’re going to do now. What are you doing now that you’ve realized that you’ve been ignoring reality, and want to stop being a hot mess?
LS: So that’s the hard part. Yes, I would like to stop being a hot mess, big picture, but in the moment it is so much easier to live like that! And more fun. It’s so much easier to sit in a hotel room and think: I want those $5 cookies, and they are there, and so I’m going to eat them. I’m not really sure how to change that about myself. So far, restricting myself from cards has helped. But I still do things like buy $6 pieces of cake, soooo.
Even if I gave myself a daily budget, of whatever it is, $5 even, I’d probably quite often spend it all on one lovely thing in the morning (croissant! coffee!) and then not eat the rest of the day. Is that messy or romantic? Fine line, I think.
MD: I don’t think we’ve talked about this on the site, but we considered that you would give me your money, and I would divide it into a weekly budget for you, and would give you a budgeted envelope of cash for you to use each week. And if you used all your cash before the week was up, you’d have to make do until the next week when I’d give you your next envelope. Is this something you’re still considering doing? This was the first month you’ve ever made a late payment on a bill because you ran out of money. I think this would help, but I’m not going to make you do it. You have to decide if you want to do it.
LS: I was talking to my dad about that, too, and kind of joking about it—it just seems so ridiculous to me. But he said, at this point, you just need to do what works. And if that is going to work, then you need to do it.
MD: I mean, at this point, I don’t think it’d hurt for you to try it, but it’ll only work if you decide to do it. The key is for you to make the decision to make a change. If someone forces you to do something, I think you’ll subconsciously resent the situation. So this is all up to you. Like you giving me your cards was your decision. And it’s helped so far. I think that’s good.
LS: IDEA. Let’s make an app to save me from myself and then sell it to Facebook for a billion dollars. We can call it “Mike Dang in Your Pocket (Working Title).”
MD: Yes, I know that you’re also secretly banking on striking gold and having all your problems instantly fixed, haha. I think it’ll be harder than that.
LS: Sick startups, dude. But yes, magical thinking does tempt me. It’s basically the main reason I read tech blogs. To keep the dream alive.
MD: The Billfold is a startup! Okay, so some positives first. You are fixing your banking situation, which was just awful before. You actually sat down and looked at all your credit card balances and interest rates. Your dad made you that spreadsheet to figure out your payoff rates, and in that process, we discovered that for two of your cards, your monthly interest exceeded your minimum payments, so you weren’t making any progress on those cards. These are small steps, but they are steps.
LS: My dad said that those two companies are totally evil and to pay off those first. Okay weekend goals: Figure out how many dollars I have to last me how many weeks, and this time remember that though I get paid on the 15th, I don’t actually get a check until the 20th, which is very good to know.
Next week goals: Call the NFCC and talk to a human to see What They Can Do For Me, if anything. I’ve always thought that stuff wasn’t for me because I keep up with payments, etc., but maybe we can just have a chat! I have about five million other things to do (find other income streams, etc. etc etc.) but I’ll just stick with those two things for now I think.
I want to give myself a month of trying to keep my cash on my own. And if I find I just can’t do it, then I’ll hand it over to you, if you’ll still do that.
MD: And for those who don’t know what the NFCC is, they are a non-profit credit counseling organization. I’ve worked with them for a few years at a previous job (and am currently figuring out a way to bring their expertise to this site), and they are really great with working with people one-on-one with their debt. And yes, of course I’ll still help you with that weekly budget approach, if you want. Just tell me when you want it. Hey, listen, you used to shop at J. Crew, I don’t know, every weekend? You stopped. That’s something. I’ve been seeing progress.
LS: Yes, I also used to pick up $75 bar tabs on the regular and treat myself to $40 dinners, so little things are happening. BEBE STEPS.
MD: And also, we’re not making a lot money running The Billfold yet, so we’ve been looking into side gigs for extra cash. For me, it’s working at Longreads. And you have some things in the works too, and once you start getting cash from those things, it’s going to make a huge difference.
LS: And maybe Zuck will buy our blog. Zucckkkkkkkkk.
MD: Zuck! We’re cool with a million dollars. We think that’s cool!
LS: Way cool. Totes cool.
MD: (How should we finish this chat?) (Or did we finish it?)
LS: (We decided Zuck was going to give us a million dollars. Now let’s go outside and play.)