That Thing That Thing That 1 Thing

Thursday is a great day to do that 1 thing you don’t want to do but also don’t want to continue thinking about doing. Friday is also an acceptable day. What is your 1 thing?

My 1 thing yesterday was to avoid my 1 thing. My 1 thing today is to avoid my avoidance of my 1 thing.

My 1 thing is to figure out how to make some money out of no money. I overdrew my account, and it is two weeks before I get another check.

I am 1 genius. 

The last time I did this was just two months ago, though I would have guessed six.

It happened like it always happens, from a combination of unchecked spending and wistful thinking.

I spent two weeks in Minnesota with family in the beginning of the month, and thanks to their generosity, I spent approximately nothing. So when I got back to the city, I decided I could be a little laissez faire and it would all even out. Sooo that’s what I did. I winged it. It would all work out! And maybe it would have except I overlooked a few key things:

My old rent was $700. My new rent is $875.

My old monthly payments to the IRS for my 2011 taxes were $0. My new monthly payments to the IRS for my 2011 taxes are $100.

Thanksgiving. I bought some wine and some cider and some potatoes and some vermouth and some flowers ($50). I also bought a Breaking Dawn ticket ($13.50) and movie snacks ($19.50, which was probably 1 bag of M&Ms) to share in a small attempt to make up for all the fancy food bought and made by people not me.

I had a bad day and spent $40 on jeans at Marshall’s.

I woke up one morning and decided I would change my life and that doing that would require some things so I spent $183 at Target. I bought a mattress pad. A fake face washer thing. A hairdryer. A brush. Some makeup. Some face wash. A bath brush. A lightbulb. A light timer. Some twinkle lights. A timer for the twinkle lights so they would turn on the morning and encourage me to get out of bed. A new trashcan. Walking out that day I thought, I should turn around and return most of this. I kept walking.

I went to the bar a lot of times.

I ran into a friend out in the world and went to dinner with her and had a really good meal and two glasses of wine and it was worth it and I don’t regret it at all and it was $42, with tip.

And so on. You know, just normal life spending for a normal life that I can’t actually afford. The Usual.

The last time I checked my bank account was before I wrote my rent check and it all seemed fine and good and like it might work out!

This morning it’s at -$2.

WHAT TO DO? What we scrappy, living on the edge of our seats and our income folks always do: FIGURE IT OUT.


1. Ask parents for money. I have decided I’m not doing this anymore and I’m sticking to this. So: Nope.

2. Ask friends for money. Usually I don’t even have to ask because my friends are like, oh bb, you dumb thing, can I lend you $20? This is not ideal and I do not enjoy being this person, but: A Lannister always pays her debts … and to friends, I pay them immediately.

3. Get emergency credit card from Mike Dang. Way back in the dark ages I gave all my credit cards to Mike Dang for safekeeping. I considered asking him for them. Okay actually I considered inviting myself to his house and then snooping around and finding them and taking them. But I’m not going to do that. No more credit cards. Having those things in my hands is real dangerous. Not happening.

4. Use emergency credit card overdraft fund. So I have overdraft protection that goes to my credit card associated with my bank. Bills and direct debits to my checking account are covered by a transfer from my credit card. This costs $3 each time it happens. This also works with ATMs sometimes, but then charges: the $3 transfer free plus the $2 ATM fee plus whatever the ATM fee is from the ATM, which of course is NOT IDEAL and actually KIND OF TERRIBLE but that’s the thing about desperation: You take what you can get, and if that means paying $5 to get $20, well, that makes you stupid, but it also puts $20 in your hand.

5. Return Target things. A few things are still in their boxes (you know, because I needed them all SO BAD), so I can return them and get that money back on my card.

It’s going to work out and it’s going to be okay and I’m never ever going to do this again even though I probably will.


57 Comments / Post A Comment

sorry about the $42. We should have gotten a bottle of wine

@Emily Gould@facebook no regretz

Mike Dang (#2)

Good on you for not asking for your credit cards back. Perhaps the only thing I can say is that, yes, you’ve experienced this before post-getting rid of your credit cards (see here), and you made it out okay. Your very own words: “The most/only effective way I’ve found to control my spending is having zero dollars to spend. I anticipate success.”

LDW@twitter (#1,216)

@Mike Dang Maybe Logan needs to hide money from herself. Like give you $100 that she’s not allowed to have until a week before she gets paid or something so she never finds herself staring at an empty or overdrawn bank account.

CubeRootOfPi (#1,098)

Sounds like the best option is to return the Target items, IMO.

My ONE THING is to decide whether or not to join a gym so I can do weights during lunch. It’s actually not that bad, cost-wise, but I’m hesitant to take on a new monthly fixed cost, esp. if taxes may go up.

(Liked “Thursday is a great day to do that 1 thing you don’t want to do but also don’t want to continue thinking about doing. Friday is also an acceptable day.” btw)

TheDilettantista (#1,255)

Logan a lot of times I read your posts and I think “Logan stresses me out,” but I don’t usually comment on it in a post because I don’t want to be a troll. But I am going to say it now: Logan, girl, you stress me out.

Also, return those Target items.

Also, if you have a smartphone, install your bank’s app on the phone so you can check your bank account whenever you make a purchase to make sure that you have the money to make that purchase. I do this now and it is good.

questingbeast (#2,409)

‘I woke up one morning and decided I would change my life and that doing that would require some things’. I do this a lot. Like deciding that to clean the house requires ALL-NEW cleaning products, and after spending a load of money I think I’ve done my chore for the day and instead of cleaning watch Cash In The Attic.
(Another thing I do a lot is not looking at my money until there’s none left. So, good luck! Don’t go for the credit cards!)

sara (#2,771)

@questingbeast Usually I read the posts and wonder if I’m actually Logan and somehow writing this blog in my sleep (not that I think I could write in my sleep- only that I must be writing this without realizing). But today I also feel like I wrote this comment already.
Target is always where I go with great plans of changing my life by buying lightbulbs, or bins to organize things, or special-all-natural-mud-masks.

This is about the point in the month where I panic and then dig through my closet to sell clothes, books, dvds, etc.

Good luck!

readyornot (#816)

Can you return the jeans? Donate plasma? Find a focus group to go to and get paid for? I hope the extensive, fun comment thread on hair care products was not entirely responsible for the Target trip. Too many guilty feelings. (consensus seems to be to definitely return the Target things.)

On the upside, this will probably cut into to any tendency to go to a bar!

My one thing is to call the NYTimes and get my subscription sorted out. Autobilling stopped working. My hundred billion other things are the things I normally have to do for my job.

My 1 thing is to call up J. Crew and confirm that the dress I want that isn’t available yet will be way, way more than I could afford, so I can stop fantasizing about getting married in it.

@cuminafterall PS Logan, return whatever you can to Target! Also, hustle a little bit. Maybe answer a Craigslist ad for some quick cash? (One of the non-adult-section ones, I mean.)

Stephanie (#2,702)

Return things to Target! I was just telling my stepmom that “I have a lot of equity tied up in Target right now.” Basically I buy 10 things knowing full well I will return 6 and keep the few I really like/need. But it’s kind of great to know that when monies get scarce, oh, I have $20 stashed in the form of those pajamas I don’t really love and can return, no problem! I don’t know if this is outright lame, or typical shopping behavior, or actually a great way to trick myself into having more of a cushion than I think between paychecks. I personally thing it’s a combination of 2 and 3, but…

Blondsak (#2,299)

My advice (besides returning those Target items) is to start drinking in! I started doing this post-college and I estimate it has saved me at least $1000 in the past two years, maybe more since I moved to DC.

Invite your friend(s)over POST-dinner time, tell them to BYOB, and keep a large stock of chips in a cupboard/closet that you open only for party times (I usually wait until my grocery store has a chips sale, then buy like 6-8 bags for around $25).

Stephanie (#2,702)

Also, Logan, I tend to fill my cart with fun things and then mentally tally things and get a little disgusted right as I’m heading to the register. Then I play a mental round of “Do I actually NEED this (as in food/water/shelter/no other substitute) right now or else, or is there some way I can possibly get creative and find a different solution?” And generally I save myself $40 by playing that game. And then I create job security for some poor Target employee by stashing all those things on an end cap and walking away all purposefully. My mom would summarize my game as “Need vs. Greed?”

Blondsak (#2,299)

@Stephanie This. I guilt myself out of buying things all the time. I do this at the grocery store too, and probably save around $10 a week.

kellyography (#250)

@LO I just did this today, and instead of spending $3 on a chocolate bar at Duane Reade, I just didn’t! And of course now I want chocolate, but I have to go to the dentist so I probably shouldn’t anyway!

My one thing I have to do tomorrow because I don’t have it at work – mail back a bunch of jeans I ordered from Eddie Bauer because they are all way more high waisted than I can handle.

Genghis Khat (#584)

@Stephanie Late on this, but please just hand the shit you don’t want to the cashier.

I work at Target and we have pleeeeeeenty of work to do, and all you do when you leave shit around the store for us to mystery find is keep us long past the purported end of our shift.

Just give it to the cashier! We have a bin for it.

EvanDeSimone (#2,101)

I don’t usually do one thing because it gives me anxiety and also because it gets that One Direction song stuck in my head ALL DAY. However today I’m going to overcome all that. The one thing I need to do is pay my mechanic. I had some car service done before SANDY and then everything was bonkers and I forgot to pay them. To be fair I have to actually go there IN PERSON with a check which is weird and I work all day so it’s not convenient. I hate owing people money  but I am also really bad at keeping track of obligations like this. If my debit to you does not appear on a computer screen I am definitely going to forget about it. I like to have all my outstanding obligations cleared up (aside from major loan debt of course) so I can start the year off clean.

Ps Logan, I really admire how candid you are about your victories AND your setbacks. It’s brave and really cool.

Blondsak (#2,299)

@EvanDeSimone Agreed with the PS. As someone who has to work every day to temper her own addiction behaviors, I admire your bravery at putting it all out there.

wearitcounts (#772)

@EvanDeSimone i’m going to +1 you and ignore the part where you mentioned a one direction song.

sockhop (#546)

@EvanDeSimone “If my debit to you does not appear on a computer screen I am definitely going to forget about it.” I totally had this thought yesterday when I was looking at my bank account online. It’s a little scary to think that if I don’t see the charge on online banking, I will totally forget that it happened, because I always forget to take my receipt.

My mom still stands by manually writing her charges in her checkbook register; I think it’s a pretty good tactic, actually. Seems like writing out & tabulating expenditures would help commit them to memory.

EvanDeSimone (#2,101)

@wearitcounts Thanks for being merciful. Some elements of our culture are unavoidable.

EvanDeSimone (#2,101)

@sockhop I also manually write all of my checks in a check book. Unfortunately I rarely check to see what has cleared. My major problem is with paper bills. They get lost/go to my parents house/sit in my desk for weeks before I get around to writing said checks. This issue is compounded by the fact that I need to physically go to the repair shop while it is open I order to hand this check to a real live human. Exhausting

EvanDeSimone (#2,101)

@sockhop I also manually write all of my checks in a check book. Unfortunately I rarely check to see what has cleared. My major problem is with paper bills. They get lost/go to my parents house/sit in my desk for weeks before I get around to writing said checks. This issue is compounded by the fact that I need to physically go to the repair shop while it is open I order to hand this check to a real live human. Exhausting

Megs (#644)

If it helps, I was in the exact same position (ok, it was -$14) for the last 5 days until my paycheck went through today. Very, very similar reasons, too. You aren’t the only one!

And hey, at least it’s only $2. When is the next time money will hit your account? Can you hunt around your new clearly awesomely-lit room and find 8 laundry quarters or look in old wallets to see if there’s a few bills in them?

I was able to squeeze out of my jam by finding a $10 in my coat pocket and cashing in my little change pot that sits on my dresser.

Also, yes, return something to Target if you can!

how many weeks ago did I say I would get my final hpv shot?


aetataureate (#1,310)

@redheaded&crazy Girl, get it done!

Stina (#686)

@redheaded&crazy As someone who had to have part of her lady parts removed to deal with cervical cancer, take advantage of this awesome thing that I am so glad that young women have as an option today. Go! It’s good for you and you’ll feel all accomplished after!

Dancercise (#94)

I registered a domain name last night for getting into the graphic design business. It’s a blank WordPress account still, but the domain is mine!

honey cowl (#1,510)

As much as I like to think that I am Mike Dang, with my Roth IRA and my 403(b) and my cushy savings account, really, I am truly in my heart a Logan.

Can we talk about the time in college I didn’t check my bank balance for a while and then one day I looked and it was -$450??? Yes. THAT HAPPENED. And I had the money to cover it in my savings account, I just didn’t even bother to look, Jesus Christ.

YOU CAN DO IT LOGAN. Do it for all of us crazy people who buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have (or that we do have but shouldn’t spend). BE STRONG. And thank you so much for sharing, because this is one seriously brave post.

There’s definitely some errant spending here (your One Thing is to take ALL THE THINGS back to Target) but I mostly think that you just don’t make enough money, Logan. I mean, I know freelance writing is yay and you’re having success and all but it pays like crap doesn’t it? Maybe you need a more well-paying job in addition to it? Work all the times? I think sometimes people’s spending problems aren’t really the problem, it’s that they have an earnings problem. I don’t remember if this has even come up here, but I think it would be interesting to pursue (though I also know that “GET A JOB!” isn’t an immediate or easy solution either).

aetataureate (#1,310)

@Mary-Lynn Bragg@twitter This is a super good thought, and I also wonder if the stress of living this way is more detrimental than the benefits of being flexibly kind of self-employed.

Mike Dang (#2)

@Mary-Lynn Bragg@twitter Yes! Precisely. (I’ve written about that here.). The only reason I can really work on this website is because I have other things going on.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@Mary-Lynn Bragg@twitter Although (not to say I know Logan’s heart and mind), she would have to be careful not to full adjust her spending up to a new income level.

But yes — the spending she describes here would be not be a problem for me (many years into a stable career).

@Lily Rowan Being careful not to adjust her spending to the new income level was exactly the challenge I faced when I went from broke-as-a-joke out of college to now some mumblemumble years later and make significantly more. I’m just now learning to save (I was never really in much debt because I was just so damn good at making money). It’s definitely possible to live paycheck to paycheck even if that paycheck has a lot of zeros on it.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@Mary-Lynn Bragg@twitter Oh yeah — it’s definitely my issue, too.

charmcity (#1,091)

Walk to the mailbox and mail the only bill I have to pay on paper!

megsy (#1,565)

I have totally returned stuff before to clear up room on the card. Do it, Logan!

My one thing was to post my sewing machine and related bits on Kijiji. I haven’t used it in years because I just haven’t had time. I’ve had three e-mails about it in just over 24 hours.

megsy (#1,565)

@megsy I’m replying to myself but someone has moved beyond inquiring about the sewing machine to setting up a meeting with me! Here’s hoping I have $150 in my pocket soon.

la_di_da (#1,425)

Return stuff to Target! Also, as suggested on this site, MINT.COM, which will send you little alerts on your phone when you’re over budget. Yay for budgets!

Also, after not doing that one thing last month, I totally did it yesterday (i.e. called phone and cable company and was like, yo, refund me. Bonus! Extra discount for the next year because I told them I’d be cancelling stuff, and they were like No! Don’t do that! Have money!”). I totally thought of you, Logan–yay one thing!

My one thing this month is to schedule my 2 doctors appointments. Overdue by 3 months. Happening at lunch. Fo realz this time.

ThatJenn (#916)

I’m with everyone else, you can probably still return stuff and it’s worth it. I always feel a little weird returning things once opened or used or whatever but people do it all the time.

My one thing? I’m finishing up a LOT of little annoying tasks at work that have been hanging over my head today, do I really have to pick something else? (None of them easily qualify for this.) OK, fine. This weekend I will do the furniture moving I’ve been dreading. It’s a big deal.

ThatJenn (#916)

@ThatJenn I didn’t do my stuff over the weekend, but today I did two things (a trip to the tax collector’s office and talking to my internet service provider) that were annoying and took too long and, all told, saved me up to $420 over the next year. I think that is kind of awesome and makes up for the fact that I didn’t move furniture over the weekend. (The reason I didn’t is because my dude asked for space/time to just chill out this weekend, so I didn’t want to ask him to help me.)

Megano! (#124)

I am avoiding like 20 things right now, because I’m moving, and THERE ARE SO MANY LITTLE THINGS YOU HAVE TO DO AND IT IS SO ANNOYING AHHHH.
The good news is, I went to my new apartment to drop off a cheque, and the entire neighbourhood smelled like lemon pie.

thatgirl (#1,965)

Talked to the HR director about moving from temp to fulltime employee!

Of course, I now have to talk to my harpy of a supervisor because she is the one who works with the agency, which will probably be next week’s Thing, because she has been in an extra-foul mood for the past two weeks and maybe it will pass by then?

But I have also figured out the salary that I will ask for when that becomes a thing to talk about, and it would be a nice raise but also not tempt me to change my lifestyle.

BillfoldMonkey (#1,754)

Seriously: your bank is likely to have a service where they will call, email, or text you (or all 3) when your account drops below an amount set by you as the danger zone. Set that shit up and set it up now. THAT is your 1 thing. (Returning the stuff to Target is the other 1 thing.)

BATS! (#2,770)

My 1 thing: making my first student loan payments. Which will probably be late because of online banking processing times, but that won’t keep me from feeling like an adult and having a drink at lunch to celebrate.

aetataureate (#1,310)

I have something to eBay! I will do that later.

wearitcounts (#772)

@aetataureate something about this made me LOL

aetataureate (#1,310)

@wearitcounts Well, I did it after all, so I’ll laugh all the way to the BANK how about.

wearitcounts (#772)

@aetataureate hahahaha well done you!

The Wub (#2,739)

I bet you can return every single thing you got from Target, not just the ones still in the boxes. You can return used/open make-up because you didn’t like how it looked!! I once returned unopened soda water to Meijer because I bought too much of it for drinks at a party. They were going to throw it out (which I didn’t realize, and which made it a little silly for me to return them), but I still got the money back. GET YOUR MONEY BACK, GIRL!

SnarlFurillo (#2,538)

Logan, I will say two things. One is that you should return the things to Target and also that I bet you have some things you can sell real quick on Craigslist for $100 total and that would get you through!

The other is that you sound a LOT like me before I took medicine for anxiety. I spent money for a whole butt-ton of emotional reasons that I didn’t understand or even recognize were happening but boy they were. After medicine I still sometimes buy stuff I can’t really strictly afford but I have money in the bank and no debt. It really helped me.

Take this with a grain of salt though because I’m the kind of person who has a hammer and thinks everything is a nail.

Sloane (#675)

Logan, I had to start keeping a check register (I use an online spreadsheet so I don’t have to do math) so that I wouldn’t run out of cash in the checking account. But what’s really saved me is rounding my entries. I round my debits up to the nearest $5, and deposits down. My goal was to build a buffer in my checking account that I wouldn’t even notice, and in about 6 months, I’ve built a buffer of about $300 – boom, just like that.

Blondsak (#2,299)

@Sloane This is really clever and I think a good solution for Logan too!

Payday loans!

readyornot (#816)

@stuffisthings omg, i know this is sarcastic but it sounds dangerously close to advice!

selenana (#673)

I have responded to so many craigslist ads/focus groups and made random $80 and $100 many times. Usually these things just take a couple of hours and then you don’t have to think about it ever again!

My one thing was talking to people to write me recommendation letters. I had already brought it up to two of them in the past, but had to set the wheels in more definite motion since they’re due in a month. I dreaded those mails and conversations. I hate asking for favors.

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