Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What's My Credit Score?

This little image shows up on more than one occasion as I flit from here to yon on the Internet. I've never paid any real attention to it, just delete in the same way I wish I could delete flies that annoyng me. Or, I didn't pay much attention to it until today when it hit me with all the partisan bickering going on in Washington that I wonder if this shows up on some master computer at the Fed. But I do imagine my credit score, at least as it's tabulated by government-sanctioned loan sharks, probably isn't very good.

On the other hand, the way I tabulate it, I'm sitting pretty. Well, maybe not pretty, but not too shabby.

I live frugally. Mighty frugally. I do it out of necessity because I'm pretty broke for any number of reasons from being in grad school for the past year to being in my fifties and trying to get work in an economy and a society that values people half my age. And I live frugally by choice. I wouldn't have it any other way.  The typical American lifestyle gives me, as Mark Twain would have said, the fantods. (Yes, it's a word; look it up.)

The thought of a big house filled with all the latest stuff, from a wide screen TV to a bed the size of a aircraft carrier actually makes me feel nervous. I don't even own a TV. I don't want to own one. The programming, I believe, is mostly crap that just wastes my valuable time and attention. And it's expensive. I gave up my television years ago more out of a necessity to cut costs, and when I got rid of it I suddenly realized how much better I felt. I guess it's sort of like how some people feel when they cut out red meat or caffeine. 

I have a pretty basic phone, and I just recently had to replace my phone and opted not to get a smart phone for a couple of reasons, including the cost of the service, but also because I don't want to be that connected. Because I think the more connected we are, the less connected we actually are, if you understand my drift.

It came to my realization a few years back that what makes this life so expensive is the upkeep. Marketers figured out that the real money is in add-ons and service. Once you buy the phone or the TV they gotcha. You got to spend more and more to utilize what amounts to commodity items. I saw that in the computer industry. The initial cost of a enterprise computer system is one thing, but where people make their long-term money is in the service contracts and upgrades. On a smaller level, it's one thing to own an iPhone, but then you're dealing with that additional monthly payment just so you can look up a restaurant while you're walking around Boston.

When I drive, which isn't very often since the $59 a month T pass is the greatest deal in the world since I usually have taken $60 in rides by the middle of the month, I jump in my 1997 Ford pickup with 180K miles on it. It's rusting out and the springs and brakes are a little mushy, but if I'm careful I get to where I'm going.

What little debt I have is in my upcoming school loans. But I did get a scholarship to Boston University, and then a teaching fellowship that defrayed even more costs. I'm not sure I could have swung the cost without the scholarship. But I think me borrowing money to go to school is a good example of how you have to spend to get out of trouble. I think for the Republicans and the Tea Party to think otherwise shows how little they know.

Credit cards? Nope. I carry two out of necessity, but the American Express gets paid every month and I keep it for the points. The points are Sue's and my ticket out of here someday, on a plane going to the other side of the world. The other one I only use if someone doesn't take American Express. Otherwise, it's cash all the way for me. If I run out of cash, oh well, that's what's called a balanced budget.

I have to say I'd like to ask all the people who say they live within their means and expect the U.S. government to do likewise to open their books. I think a lot of people who say they live within their means actually don't. I'm not saying they're liars. That would be kind of harsh. I'm just saying it's human nature for people to see reality whatever way is best for their own interests. (Okay, true disclosure: I'm steeped in Tennessee Williams' work right now, and that's pretty much standard operating procedure for his characters.) I don't even think it's a crime to borrow money, just as long as you can pay it back, which is really what all this debt ceiling nonsense was about, wasn't it?

I've said it a few times here: I'm not holding out a lot of hope for this country. It seems to be run right now on one hand by a lot of mean-spirited ignorant people, and on the other by a bunch of spineless politicians feeding out of the hog-trough of the political lobbies.

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