fiscally idiotic, or, brains without borders.

This blog cost me $76 in the past thirty days. Wow, you think, that’s expensive hosting! Not so. I just charged the $4/month hosting fee to an empty bank account, thinking that a) it wasn’t empty and b) it had overdraft protection.

Apparently just as I authorized the overdraft protection, my hosting company made its monthly charge, bringing the account to a negative balance. The thirty bucks I thought was in the account had gone to pay the previous overdraft fee, something I knew but “forgot.”

About six weeks ago, the bank sent me an email in the site’s “secure message center,” notifiying me that they couldn’t set up overdraft protection. I never read the email. I’d like to think I didn’t receive any emails but chances are good I did and chose not to read them because I glibly thought it was confirmation of linking the account to the credit card.

Why didn’t I log in to check my balance in the past six weeks? Because it’s depressing looking at the account I used when properly employed, now full of dust bunnies. When it comes to money, I’d rather not think about it at all then just log on to the damn site. This is not the first time I’ve overdrawn my bank account or made a similarly stupid financial decision- or lack of one.

I get so angry with myself, and angry with money, and think, I’m going to wind up in jail one of these days just because I refused to think. Money is, after all, the basis of our economy and social system, right? Kinda important. Kinda concrete, easy to grasp: this is how much you have, this is how much you can spend. So why am I so clueless about it?

I wasn’t raised to be fiscally idiotic. My mom dressed us better than most of our classmates, fed us delicious, healthy meals, kept the house snug and attractive, and until I entered high school, she did it on about the same amount of money I earned in New York (not accounting for inflation, but hey, it was only ten years before). Think about that. My dad went years without the motorcycles, four-wheelers and scooters his industry peers considered a necessity. If, as a child, I wanted a special, expensive toy, it wasn’t just handed to me, I had to work for it (at least partially) like anyone else. But despite a happily frugal upbringing, I buy clothes without trying them on, collect vintage linens I have no place for, and order olives at restaurants instead of cheaper and more filling sandwiches.

When I pay attention, I can get by on less. I can pack lunches, walk out of the shop without buying that cute pair of gloves, and close my eyes when passing a bookstore full of shiny, alluring (brand new, full price) titles. I can do it. For three, maybe four days. Then, woosh! out the money pours, in a frenzy of small but accumulative purchases: paper, yarn, face wipes, a pound here and a pound there (or dollar here and there) gone until I shake my wallet and find only one band-aid and a twenty pence piece. Oops, I think, I’ll need a few pounds to get to the library on Friday… oh, well. The money will show up somehow.

I have a self-described sexaholic friend who believes she has to give up sex altogether for six months, at least, if she’s ever going to kick her “habit.” But this conviction doesn’t stop her from sleeping around. She knows she has to stop, but she doesn’t feel it.

I know I’m fiscally idiotic, but I don’t feel it. Emotionally, I believe money is flexible and bendy, like silly putty. I believe this because any element of life that is not flexible and bendy scares the bejeezus out of me. Taxes, time, laws and thirteen year olds have rigid operating systems that have little or no concern for motive, effort, or extenuating circumstance. A clock doesn’t care that your latest epiphany was so amazing, you had to rest on a park bench after it struck. A clock just says, you’re twenty minutes late. Worse, anyone who follows clocks, timetables and rule books agrees- you’re late. You’re broke. You have to pay for this.

My parents generously infused my account when I first arrived in the UK, and again a few weeks later. I received lovable ol’ Dubya’s IRS refund check a month later. Guess how long these hundreds of dollars will last? I’m guessing a matter of weeks.

I don’t wake up thinking, “How should I drop fifty bucks today?” but its presence subconsciously beckons me. To me, money is possibility. I have faith in money. Hope. I believe it can achieve great things. But only if I spend it. I have no concept of saving, of rainy days, nest eggs, and squirreling.

Believe me, I’m not excusing myself when I say that I spend most of my conscious time cultivating a brain without borders. I’m always trying to accommodate other people’s perspectives, new knowledge, insight into myself, solutions to seemingly impossible problems. I want to know more, see more, and understand more. Anyone who tells me I can know this much, but no more, own this many coats, but no more, paint this many landscapes, but no more, makes me want to scream.

I’m a dreamer. My head is in the clouds. Money burns a hole in my pocket. Need any more clichés? Didn’t think so.

Let me put it this way: I gave up not one, but two well-paying jobs, plus legal resident’s status, quilts, and access to loved ones, because I wanted to see castles.

I should give someone else power over my bank account.

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