Sunday, April 7, 2013

My Budget Starts Tomorrow

The ominous sequester is still in full swing, but news updates about it are dimming. Why? Because most of the cuts have been to high-profile items (like the Army's annual birthday ball) that only have a microscopic effect on the overall budget. This is a good political move if you want to authorize more spending (make it look like all the fun is being cut out of life without actually fixing the problem).
Muffin topping. Belt tightening.
The problem is that most Americans haven't felt it at all—which indicates that we could do a lot more belt-tightening before things really started to pinch.

Admittedly, I'm an anomaly on the delayed-gratification concept. Living on the fat of student loans routinely gives me panic attacks, because 1) my pile of money just gets continually smaller and 2) the amount of money I owe gets continually bigger. I'm one of those old-fashioned, uptight types. You know—I'm the kind of girl who writes a fashion and economics blog, who likes to have a large savings account, and who puts her money in the bank
Obviously, my perfect life. 
because she's suspicious that thieves would find it under the mattress.

But it's more than just money—I'm always worried about "running out." For example, I like Greek yogurt, but I don't buy it all the time because it's expensive. I currently have a tub of Greek yogurt in the fridge. It has about half a serving left in it. It will take me a long time to finish that Greek yogurt. Why? Because WHAT IF, someday, I had a really intense craving for Greek yogurt, and I didn't have any, because I ate it in a moment of foolish self-indulgence? The horrors.

Setting aside my Depression-era mindset, I kind of think I have a point about both money and food. Budgeting is like dieting—it's not generally anyone's idea of fun, but it's necessary if you want to see changes.

^ America personified. Even down
to the red and white stripes. 
I've been hearing about how "Americans are saddled with debt that their children and grandchildren will have to pay," since I was in middle school. But this is like the diet that's going to start tomorrow—or the government who cried wolf.

Politicians refuse to cut spending because they know that it will make some constituent, somewhere, very unhappy. And in the age of YouTube, one upset constituent can really make a fuss, which can really derail a reelection campaign. So instead, we continue to overspend, pushing our debt off on some unseen future generation.

The problem, of course, is that many of us will still be around when our children and grandchildren are paying off the debt. And unless austerity-era Greece sounds like fun, I'd really rather start dealing with it now.

He's going to grow up to have round
glasses and excessive facial hair and
No one seems to realize that choices have consequences, and schlepping those consequences off on your kids never helped anyone. And don't start with the whole "I think kids are gross and I'm not having any" shtick, because everyone is somebody's kid. A world in which other people's children are adversely affected is a world in which all persons (from cashiers to CEOs) are adversely affected, because we all live around other people's children.

This blindness to cause-and-effect in choices is evident on a small and large scale. Western nations spend beyond their means; women* have children out of wedlock, and turn a blind eye to the tumultuous effect being raised by a single parent (with any cocktail of boyfriends and step-parents you'd care to throw in) can have on a kid. It's like an obese person insisting that there are no calories in cake because calories won't start counting until next month.

In fact, there seems to be a breakdown in communication between Mr. and Mrs. Obama's approaches to
Whee. Veggies. 
budgeting and dieting. Mrs. Obama is advocating diet and exercise; her pet project is reminding America of the old-fashioned solution to obesity. Mr. Obama's government, on the other hand, is obese, and his small-ticket, big-stink budget cuts are more like cutting out the broccoli ("Times are so desperate, we can't even eat our veggies!"), than stopping the Supersize mentality.**

This is my "I'm playing an invisible trumpet
because budget cuts hurt" face. 
The only reasonable thing to do is step on the scale and take a hard look in the mirror and start to change. Enough of this "eat/spend today, diet/save tomorrow"blather. America is using all of its student loan money to buy tubs of Greek yogurt to make "healthy" desserts that are only adding to our budgetary waistline (or bottom line, as it were). We can man up today, or we can man up tomorrow, when it's just a little bit worse. But quit saying "Yes We Can!" to passing this problem off to future politicians ... er, generations.

I saved my money and didn't finish the Greek yogurt in:
Teal skinny pants, black cami, gray wool blazer, silver hoops, silver chain necklace with purple glass beads,  silver ring, and black over-the-knee boots.

*Obviously it takes a man and a woman to make a baby, and guys aren't off the hook. But the normalization of women choosing to have children outside marriage (either through traditional intercourse or through sperm donation) is a post-Sexual-Revolution phenomenon, while male promiscuity levels have historically remained more steady.

**As someone alive before 2004, I remember when Supersize was more than a documentary title.