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Old enough

Saturday, October 8th, 2016

I only slept for five hours. When I woke, it was to a frigid house and a dull ache in my lower right abdomen.

Foxy was on the bed with me, curled up like a coyote, snout tucked beneath her tail. While she’s welcome on the bed, she usually doesn’t choose to be there. She’s independent and she needs her space. We’re a lot alike.

This morning, I was glad to find her on the bed. I wasn’t alone. I was freezing and weirdly in pain, but I wasn’t alone.

I picked up my phone and typed it in — abdominal pain lower right side — and it spit out the answer, the authoritative answer: Appendicitis. Go to the hospital immediately, it said. It will burst within 24 hours, it said. Once it bursts, it’s too late. You are dead, it said.

Appendectomy cost, I typed. I found a story about a Reddit post in which the bill for a 20-year old guy totaled $55,000. “I guess I’ll never afford that wallpaper,” I thought. Mentally subtracting my very high insurance deductible from my bank account, I decided that before driving myself to the hospital, I should try drinking some Metamucil, which I stock in my cupboard because at some point, I became old enough to stock Metamucil in my cupboard.

I got out of bed and put on a down jacket and wool socks. Why was the house so cold? I made my way down the stairs and into the kitchen. Two rounded teaspoons of orange powder in a tall glass of water, then down the hatch. Within 30 minutes, I felt fine.

Appendectomy averted.

But the furnace. The furnace wasn’t working. The thermostat read 50 degrees. I texted Dane next door and asked him if he knew anything about furnaces, and he said he didn’t, but came over to look anyway. We took the panels off the machine and looked inside with flashlights — for what, we didn’t know.

I found a big cricket dead beside the furnace, and then realized it wasn’t a big cricket but a tiny mouse. Not an insect. An actual mammal with bones. How long had it been there? Did whatever killed the mouse kill the furnace, too? I grabbed it in a dryer sheet and threw it in the dumpster.

I called an HVAC repairman, and he showed up in the afternoon. I left him in the basement. Later, he called me downstairs. “What I’m about to tell you will make you want to tell me to get the hell out of your house,” he said.

The furnace is shot. I need a new one. They recommend also replacing the AC unit at the same time, especially since my AC unit is already over 20 years old, on its last legs. I thought about telling him to get the hell out of my house. When he gave me the estimate, I stared at him, and then said, “I want to curl up in a ball on this basement floor.” He laughed. I didn’t. It’s more money than I’ve ever spent on anything, even a car, save this house itself.

But my house is so cold.

I almost did it. I almost signed on the dotted line, which would have guaranteed me a brand new HVAC system by Tuesday. But at the last minute, as the salesman was walking around my house counting and measuring the windows in order to file the permits, my defeated, slumped shoulders straightened up.

If I’m old enough to stock Metamucil in my cupboard, then God knows I’m old enough to have learned to seek a second opinion, and probably a third. I’m also old enough to know that money is just money, so even if it’s worst case scenario, well, oh well. I’m old enough not to panic at a financial gut punch. I’m old enough to look a man in the face and let him know that I will not be pressured into anything.

And if I’m that old, then I’m definitely old enough to sit at my dining room table at 8pm on a Saturday night just typing out the events of the day.

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My favorite words, via Emily McDowell

Tea party

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

For anyone who is a fan of the tea served at Aveda salons but doesn’t want to spend the the NINETEEN dollars for 20 tea bags, I have discovered an alternative:

Yogi Egyptian Licorice Mint Tea

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It tastes just the same, and you can get it on Amazon for $0.20/serving as opposed to the $0.95/serving Aveda brand. That is a 79% savings.

I am here for you. Namaste.

How to save money and still be fabulous

Friday, September 18th, 2015

Here in Minneapolis, my financial situation is slightly different than it was in Colorado. I’ve always kept a pretty strict budget, but because of a few decisions I’ve made (with eyes wide open – none of this is coming as a surprise), these days I’m needing to batten down the hatches. And you know what? It doesn’t feel constraining.

Because this is not deprivation – it’s purposeful planning. I designate a little bit of fun money like it’s an allowance, and enjoy spending it. But it’s absolutely freeing to know where every single one of my dollars is going. By creating and sticking to a budget each month, I don’t have to worry that I’m going to overspend and not have enough.

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Without my initiation, several people have recently asked about the logistics of how I manage my money. Some might find that question invasive, but I LOVE PERSONAL FINANCE. Ever since I got out of debt, I’ve discovered the empowerment that is fiscal intentionality, and I am more than happy to discuss what works for me (and what doesn’t) with the people in my life.

I could share about the ins-and-outs of how I stay on track (quick version: cash envelopes – actual paper money divvied out by category), but today I just want to tell you about some of the helpful ways I’ve been cutting costs.

Let’s get thrifty.

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HAIRCUT
This week, I skipped the salon and went to the local Aveda Institute to have my hair cut by a stylist-in-training. Given that a head massage, shoulder massage, hand massage, shampoo, cut, and style was $19 and I’m used to dropping at least $60, I figured that saving $41 was worth the risk of being a guinea pig.

The short story: I got a decent haircut, and would do it again.

The other part of the story: the 23-year old cutting my hair told me about all of her dramatic Tinder dates, ending with, “It’s fine – I’m not worried about it. As long as I’m not single in my 30s.” To which I responded:

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WORKOUT PANTS
So many gals in my life swear by lululemon. They claim that these pants make their butts look better – and for $100, I SHOULD HOPE SO.

I admit, I don’t own a single pair of these pants – and maybe if I did, I would join the throngs of believers. But while my friends DO look awesome, here’s my thinking: if you don’t like the way your butt looks, no pair of skintight yoga pants is going to change that. All workout leggings are going to slurp onto your body like a fish sucking on algae, lululemon or not, great booty or not.

With that in mind, I recently bought a pair of black yoga pants at Costco for $16, and they’re my favorite of any pair I’ve owned. Voila – there’s $84 back in my bank account!

[Word to the wise: when at Costco, avoid Snappers and Toasted Coconut Cashews. They are crack and you will never stop eating. This will not bode well for your new workout pants.]

HOMEMADE CHIPOTLE
Chipotle makes me happy when skies are grey. But each $7 starts to add up. Given that it’s the simplest meal of any fast food (actually, I believe they’re calling it “fast casual”), I’ve started making my own.

I cook several chicken breasts in the CrockPot – just chicken stock and fajita seasoning. When it’s finished, I throw the meat it in the food processor for a few quick pulses, and there’s my shredded chicken.

Then I sauté bell peppers and onions in one pan, and simmer black beans and corn in another. A bag of microwavable brown rice later, and I have everything I need for a delicious burrito bowl. I can usually get six meals out of this.

CURB THE DRINKING
I recently found myself drinking a little more than I felt good about – as in, not thinking twice about drinking wine with dinner more nights than not. Not a huge deal, I guess, and it wasn’t exactly interfering with my life or anything – but a couple of bottles of wine a week is basically tossing away $100/month.

So now I’m sticking to the “no drinking on weeknights” rule – which is probably how it should be anyway. Instead, I drink half a La Croix a night, and save the other half in the fridge for the next night. It’s flat by the time I get around to drinking the second half, but whatever. I have a Benjamin in my pocket.

BUNNY EARS
I don’t have cable. I have ABC, CBS, PBS, and FOX.

NO CREDIT CARD
I don’t spend money I don’t have. This one always seems to strike people as the most radical, because what about the points? – but points don’t pay the bills, folks. Money is finite, we can’t spend whatever we want, and to only use the money I have just makes a lot of sense.

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Being intentional about my spending is allowing me to pay all of my bills each month, save for retirement, set money aside in savings, and prepare for car repairs, Foxy emergencies, and that stretch of April/May/June when half my family has birthdays – all the while living in a little house that I adore. I even allow myself the occasional latté and pedicure – out of the “Personal Care” envelope, of course.

If you have any ways you’ve figured out to be thrifty, I’d love to hear them. Together, we can save the world money.

In which I drain my savings account

Monday, January 26th, 2015

Back in December, a natural gas leak was discovered in the crawl space beneath my house. The inspector from Xcel told me that it wasn’t urgent, and that I could have it repaired at my leisure (pronounced “lehh-zhure” in my mind). So this past Friday, I finally had someone come take a look. He shut off the gas, unplugged all of my appliances, and started testing.

Here is how a gas man “tests” for a natural gas leak: he uses a spray bottle of soapy water to mist the joints of your pipes (not an innuendo). If bubbles form, gas is leaking.

Well, bubbles were forming. Gas was leaking. It’s much worse than I was originally told: I need a full (multi-thousand dollar) replacement of all of my gas lines – that is, if I don’t fancy a dramatic death by explosion.

This worker would have started the job when he was here on Friday, except that my gas line actually runs from my cellar out beneath my neighbor’s house, and he will need to access their basement to complete the repair. My neighbors are out of town for the next week – and since the worker said that it would be dangerous to turn my gas back on, I have been gas-less for the past three days, and will be for at least four more.

But don’t cry for me Argentina – it’s basically like fancy camping. I have a comfy bed and electricity – at least, I did until my space heater blew the breaker (momentary setback). I have coffee in the mornings and a microwave to heat up the soup from my freezer. But I don’t have stovetop burners or an oven, a shower with hot water, or heat of any kind. Luckily, this week is off to an unseasonably warm start, so I don’t have to worry about my pipes freezing. I’m cooking in the CrockPot and wearing wool socks and counting my lucky stars not to be dead even though I haven’t taken a proper shower since Thursday.

On Saturday night, I crawled into bed and tucked the covers around myself like a burrito. It was 10:30 or so, because I am geriatric – and even though there was a party with a bonfire raging in the vacant lot across the alley behind my house, I put in earplugs and fell asleep.

When I awoke to shouting and laughter, I figured that I hadn’t been asleep long since the party was still going – but when I looked at the clock, it was 3:45am. “Seriously?” I thought. I walked to my kitchen window and looked outside – and yes indeed, the bonfire was in full force.

So I called 911. (See above: geriatric.)

I asked the operator for the non-emergency line, but she said she could help me. I told her that I needed a squad car (and yes, I called it that) dispatched to break up the party, and after taking down the information, she said she’d send someone as soon as possible.

An hour later, the drum circle started.

At 4:45 in the morning, my neighbors started a drum circle.

So I called back, this time to the non-emergency line like a decent human being (720-913-2000, FYI), and asked the status of my knight in shining cop uniform. They said that the night was busy, and assured me that they would send someone as soon as they could.

I hung up the phone and burst into tears because in that moment I so desperately wanted someone else to fight my battles for me. But then I pulled myself together and tugged on my boots and marched across the alley like a BAMF/high school chaperone, and informed them that they were at least 5 hours past their bedtime and could they PLEASE stop DRUMMING around their BONFIRE.

I didn’t stick around long enough to experience their reaction. I was too mortified at my old lady rage. I did a step-pivot and scurried back across the alley, blessing the darkness for shrouding my face, lest I see these hooligans in the daylight.

I slept from 6-8am, and then got up to go on a hike with Kristen. We made it a half mile before Foxy bounded up a hill and then started limping. After checking her paw for thorns and not finding any, I carried her back to the car, which is kind of like carrying a 4-year old without the benefit of legs that can wrap around your waist. As we drove home, I passed one of those traffic cameras that take your picture if you’re speeding – which I was (54 in a 45, which also happened to be a construction zone). The camera flashed, and I can now look forward to a hefty ticket in the mail.

Foxy’s limp worsened throughout the day and her paw swelled up, so I took her to the emergency vet. The x-rays revealed no breaks, but potential torn tendons. So I spent last night worrying that she would need surgery – but luckily the radiologist called with the report that she should heal up without it [cue the angel choir] and oh by the way, your bill will be $500.

So now it’s Monday and it’s back to work and I’m still without gas and my poor pup is on pain meds and all I want is some roasted vegetables and a bubble bath, and I guess that the moral of the story is that we don’t always get what we want.

Hope you had a better weekend than Foxy’s foot and my bank account.

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September

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Well, hello September.

I’ve made nary a murmur in this place for over a month. You want to know why? It’s a little thing called a J-O-B. I went back to work on August 4, and that was that. Because listen, I don’t care how much you love your job – going back after 5 weeks off is rough. August was rough. August was hot. August was a slog, retraining my brain to think in terms of “way too many details” and “never-ending emails” and “calendar deadlines.”

But here we are, August behind us, and September ahead. It’s my sincere intention to write more in September – and I think that maybe that starts tomorrow. For today, let’s play catch up.

In the month of August, I walked hundreds of miles. There are times in my life where my workouts are more than mere walks, but for August, I stuck to hoofing it. As you can see, my “bike to work” days were few and far between – that’s another thing that’s going to change in September.

August

Something else that I’m committed to for September: sticking to using cash envelopes. I need financial accountability, and cold hard Benjamins (okay, Jacksons) seem the best method for right now.

Here’s something we need to talk about: awful TV shows. In August, I watched True Detective and House of Cards. And then I felt so hopeless about the human race that this weekend I binged on season 4 of Friday Night Lights just to renew my faith in humanity (or at least the television version thereof).

I’m realizing that I do not want to consume stories in which I hate every single character. I do not want the good guys to be bad guys. I do not want to immerse myself in narratives with no element of redemption. I don’t care if “the character development is amazing.” I don’t care if “the acting is incredible.” I really, really don’t care if “these shows are a more accurate representation of real life” – because I have to believe that real life includes a lot of good, even if it’s intermingled with the hard.

This month, I’ll be spending time in Boston, Minneapolis, and Seattle – some pretty great places.

Since I last wrote, I had a birthday and so did Foxy Brains! My tiny puppy has turned into a full grown 1-year old dog, and I couldn’t love her more.

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Summer is winding down, fall is on its way, and thank goodness – because sheesh, I am in need of some newness. I hope today somehow feels new for you.

From the bottom

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

A few months ago, Fair Trade USA invited a few brands that source Fair Trade Certified ingredients, LÄRABAR being one of them, to tour some participating cocoa farms in the Dominican Republic. Naturally, I volunteered myself to go. Not being an incredibly experienced international traveler (prior to this trip, I’d been to Canada, Mexico, England, the Czech Republic, and Haiti), I got vaccinated, haphazardly threw together a carry-on suitcase, and this past Saturday, found myself in Santo Domingo.

The hotel had arranged for a driver to pick me up, and promised he would have my name typed on a sign (life dream come true). When I walked out of the airport, there were the men holding signs, but none of them said “Annie Parsons.” Instead, my eye was drawn toward a man who was wildly waving – waving at me. I walked toward him and he said my name: “Annie Parsons!” Yessssss? “I searched for your picture on Google Images!”

I am very Googleable.

His name was Victor, and his English was pretty good – which I was grateful for since my Spanish these days is very bad. He led me to his car, but before he lifted my suitcase into the trunk, I remembered that my hotel confirmation was buried somewhere in it. So I stopped him: “Un momento – I need to get something from the bottom.”

I wish you could have seen the look on his face. Confusion? Horror? Amusement? Yes to all. And it soon became clear that when I said “from the bottom” he thought I meant a DIFFERENT kind of bottom, which is one of the best misunderstandings of my entire life. Victor and I laughed the whole way to the hotel, because if there’s anything that crosses cultural barriers, it’s butt jokes.

I spent a very full 2 days learning how cocoa is grown and processed, and met some precious people whose livelihood is cocoa farming. I ate empanadas and fried plantains. I sweated – Lord, did I sweat. I issued a personal challenge to myself to translate the chorus of Katy Perry’s “Roar” into Spanish (“Tengo el ojo del tigre…”). And I came away with a deeper appreciation for the Fair Trade movement and what it means to farmers.

Plain and simple, Fair Trade is a model in which fair prices are paid to workers in developing countries. When a product is Fair Trade Certified, it means that it was produced in an ethical manner; environmentally sustainable farming methods are required, and forced child and slave labor are prohibited. In some cases, the product might cost a little more – but that premium is routed back to the community where, by a democratic system, the farmers decide how to invest the funds.

For the group of Dominican farmers we met, they’ve chosen over the years to use the money to help them build drying and processing facilities for their cocoa beans. While they used to have to outsource those steps, now they can bypass the middleman and sell their beans at a higher price. In a world of corrupt supply chains, the farmers are often the most easily cheated out of a fair wage – so the Fair Trade premiums help ensure a just income from the bottom (there it is again) up.

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Now listen, I’m a thrifty girl. What’s the least amount of money I can spend to get the most amount of stuff? Let me tell you, there’s an answer to this question, and it can be found within the walls of Wal-Mart (for shame). I’ve purchased things from Forever XXI (double for shame). When deciding between two products that serve basically the same purpose, I’ll generally choose the less expensive. I love a good deal, and historically, I’ve sought it out.

But my insistence to pay the cheapest price very well might be at the expense of someone else’s living wage, or even their freedom.

I live in America, which automatically makes me one of the richest people in the world. I, like most of you, have some level of expendable income, and I get to choose how to spend those dollars each month: do I want to go out to eat? Go shopping? Splurge on foundation at Sephora? I can blow through money faster than you can say “Mas cosas, por favor!”

Admittedly, global economics is a bit out of my wheelhouse, and I know that poverty is a humongous and complicated issue. But here’s what I think. We have money, and we’re likely going to spend it anyway – so why not choose to support responsible vendors? This seems like a no-brainer, and a really good place to start. Sometimes it might cost a little bit more. But trust me, you have that money. I have that money. And as such, we have an opportunity to choose products that don’t just make the rich richer. Let’s support companies with a conscience.

Fair Trade USA, I was so grateful to be included in this trip. Thank you… from the bottom… of my heart.

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Labor Day

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

I don’t feel much like getting up from this bed. My legs are stretched out in front of me and crossed at the ankles, left over right, giving me a good view of my newly pedicured toes. I broke one of them a few years ago – stubbed it on my couch, the one I bought brand new – and it still juts high above the other four, like an adobe hill out of the desert, the kind that gutsy kids use as a bike ramp.

It’s been years since I’ve ridden a bike, even though the Trek I got for my 14th birthday is currently crammed into the mudroom of my house, the front wheel turned perpendicular to the rest of the frame, blocking the doorway. I step over it whenever I go into the backyard, which is infrequent now that Toad is gone. I keep thinking I should put air in these tires. I should ride to work. Or I could try to sell it. Homeowners can always use extra cash.

It stresses me out, money. It always has. When I was a kid, I would pull the dollar bills out of my piggy bank and count them, splaying them across my bedspread, the ones together, the fives. Then I would walk across the hallway to the laundry room, set up the ironing board, and turn the iron to low. The literal smoothening of my money somehow translated, and when the stack of bills was crisp and orderly, so was my spirit – at least, so I thought.

Last night in a church pew, I wrote my September budget on a Post-It note. I had not been to church in – months? It must be. And already, the rhythm of the service felt unfamiliar. Do we really stand for this long? Funny, I went to church nearly every Sunday for 30 years, but take me out for just a few months and all of a sudden attending feels new.

I like it when things feel new and fresh. I also like it when things feel familiar and routine. This desire for both roots and wings is a tug-of-war, and I’m right in the middle of it, and I don’t know if I’ll be pulled to one side or the other or just torn in half.

They – three different friends now – say that they think I’m “on the verge.” Of what, they don’t really know, and it would be silly to speculate. But I feel it, too – the sense that something is almost. I wonder if it will feel like roots or like wings.

So I pray. I think that prayer is important – not so much because I think God will do what I ask, but because it reminds me that I’m not him. Not so much because God is a shelter from the storm, but because I hope he’ll stand out in the rain with me. Not so much because it leads to the absence of pain, but to the presence of love.

Ins-and-outs

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Lately, I’ve been using this space for a lot of personal processing, and just realized that I’ve neglected to update you on some of my actual goings-on. Yes, I am just that pompous to believe that the world is desperate to know about the ins-and-outs of my everyday life – so without further ado…

1) I cut off my hair: 10+ inches on the salon floor, leaving me feeling like a sassmuffin. My hair hasn’t been this short since 2008, and I’m ready to go even shorter next time.

2) It’s hard to tell what’s been the worst expenditure of the past week: head gasket repair, new clutch, 4 new tires, bill from the ER, or dental work. When it rains, it pours. And I cry.

3) If you want to believe in magic, watch “Searching for Sugar Man.” I haven’t been so captivated by a documentary in ages.

4) Today, I’m wearing a grandma shirt. No really, it used to be my grandma’s. It’s a red and black silk houndstooth print with a high neck and puffed long sleeves that cinch at the wrists. It’s the most old lady thing in the world, and I kind of love it.

5) Lissie’s cover of “You Can Go Your Own Way” is haunting and beautiful and completely transformative of the original. And I know what you’re thinking: you wonder if this means that I saw the movie “Safe Haven.” And the answer is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.

6) The things I am currently most looking forward to: eating here in March, volunteering with Habitat for Humanity next weekend, and Greta’s arrival tomorrow night. Praise be.

Wherever you are, I hope that it’s warmer than it is right now in Denver. Someone put me on a beach so fast.

Free

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

Yesterday was a momentous occasion, a freaking scream-from-the-rooftops miracle: after working toward it for years, I made the final payment on my student loans, and became 100% debt-free.

I still don’t quite believe it myself.

My debt was made up of common damages: credit cards, a car loan, and everyone’s favorite, student loans. I was 17-years old when I decided to go to a private university, therefore sealing my fate as an indentured servant from graduation on. Borrowing money for school led me to feel justified in borrowing money for other things (“What’s another thousand? At this point, it’s just a drop in the bucket”).

Thus, my entire adult life has been spent owing.

Just about two years ago, my 21-year old Honda Accord rolled to a final stop on the side of the highway just outside of Kansas City. I had no money in savings, and could only laugh when the salvage lot paid me $251 for parts. I had a $2,000 credit card balance, $17,000 remaining on my student loans, and found myself borrowing $8,500 to buy a used car. All of a sudden, after 6+ years of paying the minimum monthly amount on my student loans, I was basically back to owing the original sum I did in the beginning. In other words, in 6+ years, I had made no progress.

Maybe it’s tacky to give dollar amounts. Maybe you read those numbers and think, “Wow, that is a TON of money” – or maybe you read them and think, “Come on, Annie – that isn’t so bad.” The point is that the sum was much more than I was comfortable with, more than I was able to fathom settling – and I had no idea how to get myself out of the mess I had gotten myself into.

Around that time, I started listening to the Dave Ramsey Show. I’m sure there are other financial gurus out there with valid get-out-of-debt plans, but Dave is my guy, and I think he gives solid, common sense advice. I loved when people would call in to the radio show to tell Dave they were finally debt-free, and was sometimes moved to tears as they shared their stories. Some of these folks had more debt and a smaller salary than me. Some of them were single women like me. I started to realize that actually, mathematically, I could do it: I could get myself out of debt.

However, when it came to following the Dave Ramsey plan, I had a bit of a slow start. I spent about a year trying to pump myself up, listening to his show and reading his books but only kind of following the steps. I moved in with my mom for 3 months, built up a $1,000 emergency fund, and started the debt snowball. But I continued to overspend each month, making it so I could never quite pay off the credit card – because I NEEDED to fly to Nashville, or I NEEDED to have that dress from Anthropologie, or I NEEEEEEEDED to have whatever I wanted when I wanted it. I could write an entire book on how this “neediness” is nothing short of a disease. It’s a contentment killer, a sabotager of joy, and a dream stealer – because as long as money is owed, certain dreams have to be put on hold.

And this past February, I had finally had enough.

I knew that I had to “stop the bleeding,” and there was only one way how: I drank two glasses of white wine and took scissors the plastic. And when I realized that I had no backup plan – no way to buy something unless I had dollars for it right then – I stopped buying shit that I didn’t need. Simple as that.

That’s when my debt snowball really took off, first paying off the credit card, then my car. When my student loans were the only thing left, I upped the payment from $200 to $300, and a few months later, I said “I’m over it” and bumped it all the way to $1,000. One thousand dollars every single month on a single girl’s not-gigantic salary. This was the most fun, because I watched the digit drop every month, $10,000, $9,000, $8,000, just like the New Years’ countdown.

Speaking of New Years’, my 2013 will contain zero debt.

Again, maybe you think it’s tasteless to talk about money – and who knows, maybe it is. But I’ve become very passionate about being debt free, so I’m throwing caution to the wind and writing about it – because I want other people to know that YOU CAN DO IT. If you are up to your eyeballs in debt, and feel like there’s no end in sight, and that you will spend your entire life paying for decisions of the past, I’ve been there – and I’m here to say that THERE IS HOPE.

And the feeling I have today is worth everything that it took.

The fear of scarcity

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

I have recently come to the realization that I am a hoarder.

Now, please don’t confuse “hoarder” with “packrat.” I do not live in squalor. I don’t stack my living room floor with old newspapers and crocheted doilies and ashtrays. I regularly take sacks of clothing, shoes, and books to Goodwill. I shred and recycle unnecessary documents. I’m not overly sentimental; if it doesn’t serve a regular use in my daily life, I typically get rid of it. Let it be known far and wide that I don’t own a single Christmas decoration – NOT ONE. (Somewhere, a reindeer just died.)

But I live in a near constant fear of scarcity: that I will not have enough, that I am not safe enough, that I am not good enough. And this fear tempts me to hoard, to stockpile, whether it’s to my bank account or to my refrigerator or to my pride. If I can just secure everything that I’m sure I’ll ever need, then I will never be left vulnerable.

We live in a culture of such abundance, it’s odd that the fear of scarcity is so prevalent. But I see it everywhere I look – in global politics (“We’re out of oil”), in Black Friday shoppers (“I can’t miss a deal”), in economics (“FISCAL CLIFF”).

And don’t get me wrong – I’m just as concerned about this world as anyone else. I’m alarmed at the state of the environment, the way our government has hemorrhaged money, and the realities of the food system in America. This movie gave me nightmares. If I owned land, you’d find me preparing for the apocalypse with solar panels, a gigantic garden, and a bomb shelter.

But living in the fear of scarcity is a sign that I believe in the greedy lie that there is not enough, and its lonely stepsister, no one will take care of me. It focuses on the future, taking me out of the present moment – which is dangerous, since according to Eugene Peterson, “The only opportunity you will ever have to live by faith is in the circumstances you are provided this very day: this house you live in, this family you find yourself in, this job you have been given, the weather conditions that prevail at the moment.”

Living in the present does leave us vulnerable, because it takes the future out of our hands. It removes our sense of control.

But that sense of control was an illusion to begin with. And vulnerability is a chance to trust in something bigger than ourselves, which is the most beautiful of opportunities.

Now, this isn’t an excuse to be stupid. I’m going to continue attempting to make responsible decisions with my money, because I don’t want to end up destitute. I’m going to continue working hard toward my personal goals, because I don’t want to have unnecessary regrets. I’m going to continue carrying a snack in my purse, because I don’t want to wind up at a McDonald’s drive-thru (heaven forbid).

But when I try to hoard my money, my possessions, my achievements, they will rot like manna.

There is enough – for you, for me, for exactly what we’ll need, when we’ll need it. I want to live and give freely. Don’t you?