February 11, 2005

But I NEED That

Is it pay day yet? Posted by Hello

Living from paycheck to paycheck. Boy, I remember those days. Right after graduation, I moved out of mom and dads. I was ready to be on my own! It was scary, but exhilarating at the same time. My first apartment was the attic of a house that had been divided into four sections. The ceilings were sloped and it was small, but I felt right at home. (My sister and I shared the attic in the house I grew up in). I was hot stuff. I had my own pad! I remember this creepy guy that lived downstairs...he was a big dude with a gut, looked like he had swallowed a bowling ball, one of those perfectly rounded bellys that stuck straight out from his body. I caught him staring at me several times. Really creeped me out. And it wouldn't just be the staring, it was the gradual sneaking up on me. I'd see him at a distance, staring at me, and then I would look up five minutes later and he was still staring at me, only the proximity changed. Ew. I learned not to hang out outside for long period of times.

One time, a friend of mine, Mike, came over. He was 6'1 and hefty, a big dude only in a good way. I pointed out the creepy guy to him and Mike stared the guy down. Just stood there with his arms crossed and stared at him until the guy slinked away. Funny, the creepy dude never looked at me again.

But I digress.

Money was tight. Every single penny went to something: rent, car payment, gas, food - in that order. I never had to live by candlelight because I couldn't afford the utilities (like someone in my family who shall remain nameless) but it got so bad that I had to ration my gas. I knew exactly how far it was to work and back, how many gallons that would burn and how much time I had until I could afford to put more gas in the tank. Needless to say, if I didn't bum rides from friends, I didn't go anywhere but work.

But that's the payoff of being on your own and it's a valuable lesson to learn - that you have to be responsible with your money, prioritize and budget. It's part of growing up. Young people start accumulating debt. Credit card companies feed off these baby birds leaving the nest because they are vulnerable and because they need the cash.

Adults have new eggs to crack. Marriage and children. Those two things drastically change financial needs. The challenge here is to distinguish between needs and wants. And herein lies the point of this entry.

What's wrong with this picture: A woman is in the checkout lane at Wal-Mart. She has a toddler and a crying baby. They both look malnourished, dirty and just plain miserable. The woman plops down dry cereal, powder for formula, candy bars, and beer. She then digs out the food stamps and promptly gets defensive and glares at the people around her.

Her cell phone rings.

She talks/boasts loudly to the other person on the line about how her man does this or doesn't do this and in the meantime, she's motioning for a pack of cigarettes. Do you think this woman has her needs and wants screwed up?

It infuriates me. I used to work at Wal-Mart and would see, first hand, the careless way people took advantage of us, the taxpayers. It's one thing to help a person who WANTS to be helped, it's another when they are obviously taking advantage of the system because of their own personal agenda.

It saddens me when I see children involved and obviously suffering. What's wrong with people?

I used to work with a gal who was on the verge of getting kicked out of her apartment. She had two kids and a car that worked half the time. She was so skinny, I seriously worried about her health - there wasn't enough money to feed herself after taking care of the kids.

Though she had cable TV, smoked, and owned a cell phone.

*Sigh* The difference between needs and wants. It's really as simple as that.

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