Outside of food and sex, the other topic most seen in LJ deal with money. Usually it's the lack of it that leads to the post. I want to throw my $0.02 out there. I am speaking as a papabear and a greymuzzle who has a few more years of experience in the world. I am not an accountant nor economist. I am just a bear who is very careful with his money and who now lives very comfortably in my den. I'm not rich, just firmly middle class. I have had a lot of good breaks and have avoided a lot of pitfalls. I am just hoping that a few words can help some folks see the light.
I had the luxury of having my education paid for by my parents. They were firmly middle-class and put away for my sister's and my education. My sister didn't go, and I just went to a state school. I got my degree and was accepted to a state grad school. It was at that point when I started my break from dependence and struck out on my own. I was probably making $500/mo at that point. I rented a single-wide trailer. I budgeted my money and could afford luxury items like cable t.v. I always had food and beer. I even managed to save some. I became very fiscally conservative. I bristled at people on welfare and food stamps especially when they were buying better quality products than me. If I could scrimp and save and make it on my own, so could they. I laughed when a state senator made a point about food stamps and bought a huge quantity of wholesome food based on a typical food stamp allocation to prove the point that a lot money was being squandered. He was chastised for being insensitive to the poor.
Rule 1. Keep your credit history like gold! I always paid my credit card bill in full every month. I used it like a debit card. If I didn't have the money in the bank, I didn't buy it. LEARN THIS LESSON! Stop buying stuff on credit if you can survive without it! If you hit a rough patch, then use the card as a crutch to get you through the bad times. If you have outstanding debt on the card then don't be using it to buy the latest video game, cd, dvd, or computer component. Pay the card off as soon as possible! You are getting raped by the interest rate. You might find something that is a real bargain, but by the time you add in the interest, you lost the benefit of the sale.
Sabot trick: If you want to buy a big-ticket item on your card, but it the day after your billing cycle ends. If March 22 is the end of your cycle, go buy your toy on the 23rd. You won't have to pay for the item until the beginning of May. This is only a true benefit if you are not carrying a balance.
It should be a no-brainer to avoid payday loans or car title loans. They are just legal examples of loansharking. I saw a story of a man who was barely surviving paycheck to paycheck. He took out a payday loan around Christmas so that he could buy $1000 worth of FRIGGING TOYS for his kids. Now he is not even living paycheck to paycheck. His next check is already spent, and soon his next 2 thanks to high interest rates. He sacrificed his family's financial future so his kids could have toys. In a sense, that's what a lot of people are doing.
Another funny story. I found a pawn shop receipt on the mesa. Someone had pawned their DVD player. If they wanted it back, the calculated annual interest rate was 400%!!! I couldn't believe it!
One way I got big ticket items when I was getting started was to use "90 days same as cash." It was essentially a 90-day interest-free loan. Of course if you couldn't pay in 3 months, there would be interest. Also, you usually had to have pretty decent credit to be approved. I did, so there was never a problem. The other benefit to this was that it went to build up a credit history. If you paid it off in 90 days, you became a better credit risk. For those of you that have been to the den during a furmeet, you might have had the (dis)pleasure of using the sleeper sofa in the den. I think it cost $400 in 1990. I couldn't afford $400 back then. I paid it off over 3 months. So yeah, I know what it's like to not be able to afford stuff right away. I paid off my bed, bedroom set, and kitchen set that way over the course of the next 5 years. But once again, it took a good credit history and discipline.
One thing that disturbs me in LJ is when someone makes a plea to their friends for money so they could afford a toy or to go to a con. That's just wrong! If you need crash space, fine. If you need food, there's the con suite or, heck, come to my room party for munchies. If you need a ride, look to share the ride. It just bugs me to no end when I see someone at a con who schlepped their way there and is in the dealer's room buying comics, plushies, art commissions, etc. Take care of your real life first! There are a lot of furs out there who can't afford it and simply don't go. That's the reality of life! If you don't have the funds, then you just can't get it! I would love to take off 6 months and travel around to see my furiends. I CAN'T! I have a responsibility to work and earn money. Sorry folks. That's what life is all about. It's a friggin' ball and chain. I know a few furs that work from job to job just to get by. They are happy because they have a lot of freedom to do what they want, where they want, when they want. I can't do that. I need the security of a paycheck. And like everything, you trade freedom for security. One just has to look at our country today to realize that.
And speaking about our country, I have a paranoid fear about our economy. I see a lot of Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover in George W. I also see a U.S. economy that is teetering on the brink. Like I said earlier, a lot of people are living paycheck to paycheck. There are a bunch of really smart people out there out of work. There are people with 2 or 3 temporary jobs because there is no full time work. If our economy tanks, there will be a lot of poverty out there. If you can, start building a safety net for yourself. Save as much as you can.