Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Running Dry

My father once explained something to me about money. I'm not certain if his perspective on the gender division of these two philosophies is correct, but that actually isn't relevant to this conversation.

In his words men think of money as a river. You can take some out because more will come, and how much you can take out depends on how fast the river flows. Women think of money as a lake. It may have a lot more in it then the river, but taking any out is a risk because the lake will eventually go empty.

I tend to think about money with the same mindset as the metaphor of the river, and that's a problem because recently my actual finances are much more like a lake. Additional money comes yes, but it isn't flowing, it comes every few months in sudden deluges, and I find myself looking up the barren banks of a muddy creek that seemed like a roaring river only a few weeks ago.

What I think it comes down to is that I can find myself spending with the idea that it will be okay because more is coming. I can say that even without going through the proper process of thinking about how much more, when it's coming, and how sure we are that it's coming.

It's a problem because it makes me more vulnerable to impulse control problems. It also facilitates priority errors, and just generally mucks up the system.

Another thought occurs. If you assume that money is a stream it effects the way you think about purchases. I could spend $5 at any time because that isn't really much of the stream. My financial damage control tells the story well. Other then gym membership and gamefly I haven't spent more then $20 on nearly anything the last several months. I've just spent $5/$10 on a lot of things.

The one key exception to that is Gas. It is, in many ways, a new expense for me, and I've been using way too much of it. Especially because my car needs 92 octane to maintain peak condition.

So I know the problem. It's not all that hard to see what I've been doing recently that's foolish, especially because it can all be summarized with the phrase "Social Binge." I've gotten that under control, luckily, but the damage is done.


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