Dealing with and worrying about money is the pits

July 13, 2000

Dealing with and worrying about money is the pits

Summer has the reputation of being the "chill-out" time of year. A time when the frantic pace of rushing like mindless, fine-tuned robots turns to sipping fresh lemonade and daydreaming on a porch swing.

It's July. Do you know how many times I have been able to relax for a few minutes and sip lemonade, PowerAde or even Kool-Aid? None. The best I've been able to manage is a gulp of water from a sports bottle.

Ordinarily I like to be busy; but that's when I'm doing something I actually enjoy doing.

So what's taking up all of my time? The stuff I do not enjoy doing, of course. And at the top of that list is dealing with and worrying about MONEY.

I never forget just how much I despise having to deal with money. I hate that I have to work for it, and I can't get the things I need to live unless I have it.


The effect money has on people is often annoying, too. And, most of all, I detest the competitive and resentful emotions that money makes people feel.

But mostly, I loathe the vast amounts of time I have to spend every hour, every day and every year thinking about money. All of this money stuff has a direct impact on my life.

The instant I'm hungry, some little accountant pops up in the back of my mind and begins compiling a spreadsheet, telling me whether I can afford a Happy Meal today.

If the analysis gives me the green light to head to McDonald's for my Happy Meal - it's a must to acquire more of those Teeny Beenie Babies, you know! - a miniature inventory clerk enters and reports on where the money actually is. Is it in my purse? Do I need to run to the ATM? Can I write a check? May I use my debit card? Does McDonald's accept credit cards? Will I need to take out a loan? Or should I crawl around on the floor of my car looking for loose change under the seats and in the ashtray?

And those are just the little purchases. Making big choices, like whether or not to buy a car, consumes mega energy and time. What kind of car do I need? Where can I get the best loan rate? And how much haggling from a mysterious sales manager can I afford?

Don't forget that reticent assessor who decides how little my car is worth.

And now, I must factor in the recent alien overthrow of our precious petroleum industry, which forces me to realign my budget by doing story problem after story problem, trying to get a handle on the monthly arithmetic.

I'm desperately seeking a way to escape this alien overthrow because I'm giving them at least $325 dollars a month in gas money. That's way, WAY more than I can afford. Now my vacation budget, clothing allowance, back-to-school supplies, house repairs and magazine subscriptions will have to be reprioritized so I can pump more into my fuel intake and watch it come out my tailpipe.

I'd like to boycott gas, but I can't. I'm just too busy driving around figuring out how to make and spend money.

I'm not a math genius, but I know one thing: The fewer money worries I have, the more chances I may get to enjoy a sip of freshly made lemonade while sitting on my front porch daydreaming about driving a flashy, new car.

JoEllen Barnhart is assistant to the director for Frostburg State University's Hagerstown Center. She has three sons.

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