Hope dangles on a string like slow spinning redemption
Winding in and winding out, the shine of it has caught my eye
And roped me in, so mesmerizing and so hypnotizing
I am captivated, I am
Vindicated, I am selfish, I am wrong, I am right
I swear I’m right, swear I knew it all along
And I am flawed but I am cleaning up so well
I am seeing in me now the things you swore, you saw yourself
– Dashboard Confessional
Living in California is expensive.
Living is expensive.
I took a $10,000+ pay cut when I moved out here. My living expenses have increased significantly because of the area in San Diego I chose to live in. I maxed out a credit card (one I had originally paid off with 401K monies) to furnish my tiny studio apartment. Not to mention, I have two cards with high balances from furnishing my house three years ago.
Money is tight right now. And honestly, it’s sort of the only thing that causes me anxiety these days.
I have made some poor decisions over the years. I guess I always just assumed that I would be able to “charge it and pay it off” – just like I had when I lived at Momma’s. What I failed to take into consideration was living expenses. For whatever reason, I never budgeted for those. Or when I bought my house, for example, the thought of living like a fraternity boy for a few months broke my heart.
I was so excited to have my own space… a whole house to decorate! I went batshit crazy ordering things, buying up bookshelves at IKEA, picking up little knick-knacks at TJ Maxx. And then, I never adjusted my spending anywhere else. I still went on all the trips, and ate out at all the restaurants, and bought all the clothes.
The amount of money I have thrown away over the last few years is disgusting. It’s not who I am. I am responsible. I was taught to live debt-free. I was brought up to save for the things I wanted. Hell, I negotiated my allowance for the first time at the age of 10 because there was this Spice Girls documentary VHS I desperately needed from the mall and my $5.oo per week dishwasher fee just wasn’t cuttin’ it. I am the type of person that would make three and four car payments at a time. I paid my student loan off in, like, four months.
Being in credit card debit up to my ears – most certainly not me.
It is shameful. It makes me feel gross and out of control. I know my over-spending can be directly correlated to the severe state of depression I was in these last few years; however, that’s no excuse. And it also doesn’t pay the bills each month.
So, I make it work.
I try to be more responsible with my money. I have a very extensive spreadsheet with colors, and formulas, and estimations. I don’t go out too often. I don’t shop like I used to. I pack my lunch during the week for work. I try to prioritize the things I actually need. And I have implemented a very strict budget.
When it’s all said and done, some months, I might only have three-hundred bucks to my name.
That may seem like a lot to some but to a person that would drop that much in just one store… in an hour… it gives me hives.
This has been a huge lifestyle change for me. One I desperately needed, but a lifestyle change, nonetheless. It’s such a struggle too. As silly, and stupid, and ridiculous as it sounds buying things has always been my outlet. If I was sad, mad, happy, or glad I bought something… stopped to grab take-out… or treated myself to a trip. Now, I eat a lot of frozen pizza and watch a lot of Gossip Girl.
Anyhow, yesterday I took an interesting call from Omaha, Nebraska, while on my eight minute commute to work. I don’t know anyone in Omaha. Normally, I would have just let the unknown number go to voicemail. But then, it occurred to me those sneaky bastards from DirecTV had managed to find a way around my blocked number trick, ignored my repeated requests to remove me from their call lists, had gotten through to harrass me again about why I disconnected service EIGHT months ago, and I was itching to lay a verbal smack down on someone. So, I answered via BluTooth, “Hello, this is Chelsea.”
It was my bank.
They wanted to verify some suspicious looking charges.
** Let me preface this story with the fact that: I have literally not done anything in the last two weeks. I have only went to the beach (which is free) and went to Kristen’s for the Super Bowl (again, free). My debit card has not been used in a long while (as far as daily spending is concerned). But this weekend Auntie Crystal and Tay came to town and we’ve been stuffing our faces all over Southern California ever since. **
Tay (she’s staying the week with me and working from her San D branch) helped me retrace our spending steps…
Fraud Lady: “How about $13.00 at a, umm, Karl Strauss?”
MC/Tay: “Yep, that was lunch.”
Fraud Lady: “Umm, $2.59 at a JJ San Diego?”
MC: “Uhhh, no?”
Tay: “That could be Taco Bell…”
MC: “[whispering] Oh. Yeah… [louder now] Wait. Yep. That was us.”
Fraud Lady: “How about In ‘n Out?”
Fraud Lady: “Eight-hundred and fifty dollars in Redondo Beach? Or $16.00 at a doughnut shop in L.A.?”
MC: “Absolutely not.”
I was robbed.
I dropped Tay off at her office. Defeated, I looked at my online banking app just to confirm that I did, in fact, only have 127 dollars in the Available To amount section of my checking account. I then spent 20 minutes in the parking garage at work on the phone with Customer Care canceling all of my cards and updating all of my account information. “Do you happen to know how long it might take to get the fraudulent transactions resolved? That was my bill money…” I asked. The nice Customer Care lady advised me they would work to have everything fixed as soon as possible; however, that it may take up to 10 business days, “Don’t worry about any fees incurred during this time, though. Those will all be waived.”
If you know me personally, or you are an avid Miss Clariss reader, you are probably expecting me to start ranting – ohhhh, three paragraphs ago. You are most likely bracing yourself for the tornado of curse words that are bound to hit your screen. You are maybe anticipating a huge tantrum…
But you aren’t going to get one.
I’m not mad.
I’m more disappointed.
My feelings are hurt. I’m upset. I’m upset that while I have made so many sacrifices financially – spending weekends in my pjs, eating only things that can be microwaved, wearing clothes that are two sizes too big – how could someone so boldly and easily steal my hard earned money? Money I have put away for bills. Money I have really tried hard to keep stashed away for the important things, like: lights, water, rent, car insurance, renter’s insurance, pulling myself out of credit card debit, dog food, etc. I know I will get that money back. That’s not the issue. I know it’s only a temporary hit to my account. I know that all the fees will be waived and I know that I won’t have to worry about how to pay all of those bills when the time comes. It’s just such an inconvenience.
I have to change all of my online accounts. I have to wait 7-10 business days before I have my primary source of funding back in working condition. Even if I wanted to write myself a check so I could have spending money, I would have to: take time off work, fight traffic, and drive 14 miles north (during business hours) to my nearest bank branch just to be able to cash said check. And 14 miles north in California might as well be 4,000, people.
When I was telling my co-worker Ma-10 about my situation, I said, “I keep thinking those people really needed that money, you know. Like, maybe they spent $850.00 on groceries because they have six starving kids at home who haven’t had a good meal in weeks. Or maybe, they needed some clean clothes for their family, just a few things to get by on. The only description on my statement for the largest transaction was for a shopping center outside of L.A.,” I explained, “I Googled it to see where all they could have went… there’s a Sprouts (specialty grocery store), a Ralph’s (regular grocery store), TJ Maxx, Macy’s… (trailing off now). Who know’s? Maybe they have a bunch of colicky babies that need loads of organic, expensive shit.”
His mouth dropped, “I like how you keep trying to make up excuses for the assholes who stole hundreds of dollars from you…”
There wasn’t much for me to say back to that. I just shrugged my shoulders and changed the topic. Maybe I was making light of a serious situation. Maybe Ma-10 was right. Maybe I was just making up excuses for a bunch of assholes. But then again, maybe I wasn’t…
I’m probably not the most selfless person on the planet. I hate sharing food. I hate letting people borrow my stuff and I’m super particular about my things. I don’t always think to pick up a card to accompany your birthday gift. And it never occurs to me to stop and grab a bottle a wine if you invite me over for dinner.
However, I would consider myself a giver.
I probably give more than I should actually.
When Christmas comes around – I splurge. I go over budget every year. For a long time, I would snatch an angel off our work Christmas tree and anonymously spend hundreds of dollars on a child I’d never met. I am the type of person who donates to any cause, any time a cashier asks me to help. Whether it’s for the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, starving puppies in Timbuktu, children in Uganda – you ask, you’ve got my dollar. I’m even on the “Round Up” plan at Rite Aid (my total is rounded up to the nearest dollar and the difference is donated). Granted, I’m not entirely sure what cause my change goes to exactly, but that’s neither here nor there. Once I bought a girl a bag of cat food outside the grocery store below my building because I never have cash and she said she had a kitty in need. I give leftovers, and clothes, and shoes, and food, and stuff all the time.
I am just not the type of person who can watch another human being or animal go without. It breaks my heart to drive by all of the tents, and sleeping bags, and tarps on the sidewalks downtown. I spend so much of my time considering how others who aren’t as lucky as I am manage to eat, or bathe, or even brush their teeth on a semi-regular basis. I remember walking to Jack in the Box for lunch one day – a usual occurrence for Pre-Savings me – and a woman asked if she could have the “Two Free Tacos” coupon off the bottom of my receipt. I didn’t even know that coupon existed. “How embarrassing,” I thought, “She actually needs this coupon and I had no idea it was even a thing. Get your head out of your ass, Chelsea.”
I know chances are I was making up excuses for an asshole or two. I know said assholes most likely do not have a set of malnourished sextuplets to feed and a litter of abandoned puppies to nurse back to health at home. I know these people probably didn’t get cash back at that doughnut shop just to put a few gallons of gas in their car so they could make it back and forth to work for the rest of the week. I also know that the probability my bill money was blown at Macy’s is most likely pretty high…
But what if it wasn’t.
I’m getting my $900.00 back. I might have to switch some things around and make a few calls. I might have to drive to La Jolla to cash a check. I might have to have Kristen and Tay pay for my dinner until my account unfreezes. I might even have to dig out another credit card. But at least I have options.
Clearly, these individuals don’t.
Maybe they don’t have anyone they can depend on. Maybe they don’t have wonderful friends or a supportive family. Maybe they have no income, no backup card, or no “accident” account. Maybe all they have is truly just that – all they have.
For whatever reason, this person felt their only option was to steal from a stranger.
This person does not know me, or my story, or my financial situation. They did not know how much money I had in the bank, or what I had planned to use that money for, or even if I had a steady income. Chances are, they don’t even know what I look like. They just took. Took what they needed, or wanted, or had to have to survive.
Sure, I might be making up excuses for an asshole. I know that better than anyone. But I’d like to think people are better than that…
I would like to think we as a human race are better than that.
So, I will continue to tell myself that the person causing me all this strife needed that money more than I do. I will continue to remind myself that there are people out in the universe with far worse luck than I have. I will continue to thank God every day for my blessings. I will continue to pray for those less fortunate than myself.
And I will continue to be thankful.
Always keep in mind that thankfulness is a double-edge sword.
You must be thankful for what you have, but also, for what you don’t…