Terrible Financial Decisions That I Have Made or Am Considering Making

waiting for guffman

The other day I was singing to myself in my microapartment—everyone who lives alone continually sings to themselves like life was their own badly-written musical, right?—and the lyrics went something like “Why do they let me write about personal finance when I break all of the personal finance rules?”

So let’s look at some of the terrible financial decisions I’ve made, say, in the past month.

1. Bought a $923.15 round-trip ticket to fly and visit my parents in Iowa for Christmas

I feel like there’s nobody in the entire country who is paying more for a single ticket to a location within the contiguous United States than I am. And $923 is a bargain compared to last year, when the ticket cost $1,179.

The heartless and prudent thing to do would have been to say “Sorry, parents, Christmas is cancelled. Let’s all sit in our respective homes and spend the holiday staring at the wall.” You see all the advice columnists handing around this “get out of plane free” card this time of year: If you can’t afford to travel on the holidays, don’t do it.

But what is the definition of can’t afford? I had enough in my checking account to buy the ticket, so I could afford it. That’s what “afford” means, right? The rest will all sort itself out eventually. You spend some, you earn some, you get to see your folks on Christmas, your “emergency fund” gets a little smaller, you save more money a few months down the line, everything works out. (All together now: “Why do they let me write about personal finance…”)

2. Put a $2,524 cruise payment on my Ann Taylor Loft Mastercard

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha look at my emotions getting in the way of good common sense.

I’ll tell you honestly that I didn’t make this decision lightly. I wasn’t going to go on this cruise at all; I was going to focus on paying off my debt in 2015. I was going to do the Right Thing. And then I had one of those Life Circumstance Changes that meant I needed to get my butt on that boat, and then it was all “okay, I have to book my cabin tonight or I won’t be able to go at all.”

So I put it on my high-interest Ann Taylor Loft Mastercard oh why why why do they let me write about personal finance (this is the part of the song where it goes into the super-emotional bridge).

I have every reason to believe that I can pay this off in three months. I did the math. I’m going to be making more money in 2015 than I am in 2014, because I had the Rates Conversation with most of my clients, and my rates are going up without me having to find new gigs. (This is the optimal way to freelance.)

But I know, deep in my heart, that I could also accidentally get hit by a car (again). Something could happen to prevent me from paying the credit card off, and then the interest could spiral up like an ever-ascending Escher staircase.

3. Procrastinated on taking action on a credit card offer from my bank that gives me 0% APR for a year

I have been telling myself that 2015 will be the year I pay off all my debt, even though I ended 2014 by adding more debt to my debt, which I then justified by comparing myself to Pomplamoose.

And then, a week ago, I got this credit card offer—I mean, good gracious, I get gobs of these, like everyone else—but this one was different. It was from my bank (Capital One) and it wants to give me 12 months of 0% APR with a 3% balance transfer fee and a 12.9-22.9% variable APR after the year is out. (Also, 1.5% cash back.)

Look, I know that 12.9-22.9% APR is terrible. That’s higher interest than I’m paying on any of my debt except, of course, the high-interest Ann Taylor Loft Mastercard. But I feel the challenge beckoning. I could pay it all off IN A YEAR with 0% interest.

Why am I procrastinating on this? Ideally, I’d want to apply and get approved before that cruise payment shows up on the Mastercard I was working on paying off. I think I’m procrastinating for two reasons: first, because I tried to get an 0% APR credit card about 18 months ago and they were all “sorry, you have too much debt and you now also have a credit card Application Denied on your credit history,” and second because it’s the devil you know vs. the devil you don’t know.

But I should do it. And then I should pay everything off. That should be a thing that I should be doing, that I am not doing.

4. Considered (and am still considering) dropping some of my clients now that I have renegotiated rates

Let’s say that Clients A, B, and C raised your rates so that you will be earning an extra $800 every month starting January 2015.

The smart thing to do would be to drop Clients D and E, who, together, earn you about $600 every month.

You still come out $200 ahead!

This is the worst decision ever, right? THE WORST DECISION. Which is why I’m not making it… yet. But oh my goodness I want to. Emotionally (and strategically) I tell myself “If you let a few clients go, you’ll have space in your life to take on new opportunities.” And then the other part of me says “Bird, hand, bush, MONEY.”

And the rest of me sings “Why do they let me write about personal finance, when I’m making so many decisions that could turn out badly?”

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