I’ll Have My Cake And Eat It, Too

It’s time – well past – that I started digging myself out of this hole. You know the one, it starts with a “D” and ends with an “Eht”. The “B” is silent for everyone’s favorite word: DEBT. Silent much like the ATM when I go to take money out.

I am in the midst of a mountain of debt. A large pile, a ginormous hill, an overly large track of land. If I were to throw a stone, I’d hit a Balrog. Smaug is just down the corridor a bit, heating up some tea.

Things are a bit …overwhelming.

You know what’s sucky? Let’s say you sign up for a product that is there for your protection and assistance. A product that’s overdraft protection, but essentially a line of credit. It’s maybe a thousand bucks because you got in early and got grandfathered into the larger account. Why you weren’t grandmothered in is uncertain, but you have what appears to your early-20’s-self to be AN EXTRA THOUSAND BUCKS. Hey! Hey that’s awesome!! The best part is when you get let go from your equally-awesome job and have to LIVE off that money. Life is great!

So you drag your unemployed butt into the bank after a month or two and tell your very understanding financial advisor what’s happened, and they’re like “Well, maybe you should take out a personal loan. You’ve got lots of little bills everywhere, why not just consolidate and then you’ll only owe a million dollars TOTAL instead of six bucks here and thirty bucks there but it will end up being cheaper for you, and you’ll just make ONE MONTHLY PAYMENT.” You don’t hear the part where A) that monthly payment will go on for the next eternity, and the part about where as soon as you start getting regular paychecks again – bonus round if your bimonthly paychecks are less than $1000 each – that $30 will be taken from each check. That’s sixty bucks a month that could be going towards another bill, which you can’t pay because you have to fill up the Overdraft Protection/Checking Plus account that you drained. Fast forward to being 30 years old, and you owe your bank about a grand for that little helpful “protection”, on top of the personal consolidation loan, on top of the interest, on top of the car loan (about $8300), on top of the wedding credit card, on top of the mortgage. Spin it all out and you get about $400 per paycheck for food AND gas. Good thing gas is so cheap, right?

Good thing I never really wanted to go on a honeymoon. Or back to school. Or out to dinner. Ever.

Check this out. So you think – hey! I’ll get some cash to pay off the wedding, and the excess can go to pay down some bills, and THEN I’ll be able to start climbing down from my mountain! Maybe things will really go well and I can live a little… put some cash into retirement savings finally, maybe hit the bar when then second beer is FULL PRICE. Clearly the only thing that must be done is to have your car’s radiator blow, your cat gets worms, oh… and you get really REALLY sick. Three hours in the dentist chair (overpriced dentists only, please!), Urgent Care visit, the whole deal. LOL 401K Y U SO ELUSIVE.

Finally, finally, I’ve begun to see that there is a light somewhere. It starts with actually looking at your account. I’m not going to specify an account (checking/savings/etc), because that means there is enough income to actually put into some OTHER account, hahahahahhahahaAHHAHAAHHAHAaaaa….ahhhh.

So once you get the fear-vomiting out of the way, you look at your checking account. Not for a summary, but just to see how much money you have. Then you look at all your emails and determine when your bills are due.

That’s where I’m at right now. All my September bills were paid early, which is probably good because remember that part where the dentist was overpriced? So… that charge drained all my money away, meaning it screwed up my car payment, meaning that was the first time I’ve ever been late on that. NSF charge and all on the auto-debit. Anyway, Wachovia was nice enough to go “That’s cool, we won’t take your car, you just owe us double next month. Plus some fees; have a great day.”

I’ve been actually looking – kind of – at my balance, and all my emails. I know when things are due, and my next plan is to figure out how fast I can pay off the smallest debt. That way the payment for that then-non-existent bill will get applied to the next smallest, and you pay it all down. Good thing nothing cool is coming up, like Halloween or holidays or my birthday or more dental treatments.

So there is a light at the end of the tunnel. A flickering Christmas bulb, but it’s there. For a long time my way of dealing with debt was to have another beverage and pretend it would all just be fine. FYI – that doesn’t work, unless all your drinks are free.

One of the ways I’ve been saving money is by packing a lunch, buying groceries instead of something off a Dollar Menu (nothing I want is a dollar), making Starbucks a weekly treat instead of a morning ritual. Things like that. Did you guys know that $50 spent at a grocery store can (usually) last way longer than $50 spent in a drive-through? It’s kind of like that riddle: “What’s lighter: a pound of feathers or a pound of bricks”, except this involves spending $12 on a sandwich filled with sodium and sugar versus buying fresh spinach and tomatoes. You see where I’m going with this.

REALLY what I wanted to talk to you all about today was how I spent ten dollars last week and made this amazing cake which will last us several nights and …..CAKE!!!!!!!! YOU GUYS!!!!!!!

Most importantly, all food items made in my kitchen taste far better if I’ve been wearing my Epic Chef’s Apron. Shoutout to the Red Marlin and their delicious crab cakes. Call me Chef du Ausum.

Here we have the oven-fresh marble cake, which had risen to a scary height because I forgot to poke it with a fork. If that’s even proper baking protocol.

And here, finally, we have the most delicious cake I’ve ever made, seriously. Icing it only increased its awesomeness. You know how cakes are supposed to come out all fluffy and warm and accompanied by a cold glass of milk? THAT IS TOTALLY HOW IT WAS. I was alarmed at the goodness.

I asked J what he thought about the cake, and apparently it has broken him. He can now only say the word “cake” in response to anything. Last I checked, he was rolling around on the floor, icing smeared around his mouth. That’s a good thing, right?

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