>Financial Fitness & Floggers

>I drank a Diet Coke at 11:00 tonight, and while lying in bed trying to come down off the caffeine high, I started having one of those late night stream-of-conciousness conversations in my head about a topic that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Then I decided that I needed to share it, and since C is fast asleep, here I am — posting at 2:00 a.m. while my whole neighborhood snoozes. 

Let’s talk about the ugliest of four-letter words: debt.

I’ve experienced my fair share of credit woes over the years because of a nasty compulsive shopping habit, coupled with a general lack of respect and responsibility for my finances. I’ve always been a member of the “buy now, pay-later, credit equals free money” set; beginning in college with a renegade Express store charge card and blossoming — more like festering — into several other revolving accounts and high interest “introductory” credit cards.

When I read Confessions of a Shopaholic, I felt like Becky Bloomwood was my kindred-spirit-soul-sister… I had to remind myself more than once that it was a fictional and satirical story, and the fact that I related to it was both humiliating and terrifying at the same time.

I really love consumerism, and I shop for a whole myriad of reasons. I shop when I’m bored, or stressed, or anxious (or happy and optimistic, for that matter). I love the high I get when I walk into my favorite stores, the smell and the visual overload, the seemingly endless possibilities, the {false} feeling of empowerment when purchasing what I want, and the thrill of imagining all the ways that the things I’m buying will make me feel better/prettier/more fulfilled/etc. And the high lasts just a little while, until the gut-wrenching buyers remorse kicks in and I reflect back… “I spent how much on clothes this month?! My minimum payment on my Macy’s card is what?!” Then the high turns to panic and anxiety, and the whole vicious cycle starts over again.

Before I started this blog, I was really out of control. Shopping was my hobby, and my only outlet in an over-stressed and over-worked lifestyle that was running me ragged. {Of course, I couldn’t see at the time that the financial stress I put on myself constituted the majority of that raggedness} On top of that, I was chronically bored and dissatisfied with my wardrobe. Even in a closet full of brand new, tags-still-attached items, I “never had a thing to wear.”

I knew that I needed to channel my love of fashion and style into something productive, while simultaneously overhauling my spending habits and making some intensive changes to my financial health. A.P.P. was born.

I recently read “Finance and the Fashion Blogger: Ignore-ance” and was relieved to hear that I’m not the only blogger who has found herself in this predicament. It’s a given that as style bloggers, we all love clothes/accessories/beauty. I think it’s also safe to say that many of us are working within limited budgets and resources, and handfuls of us are probably up to our eyeballs in out-of-control debt to try and keep up. But as Ashe Mischief  points out in this post, fashion bloggers aren’t really talking about it.

However, there are a few fearless floggers (as Merle, of one of my favorite reads, calls us) that are speaking out about the dirty d-word and focusing their blogs on style and financial fitness, like Grace at Money Smart Fashion. There are also tons of great personal finance blogs (my favorites of which, by title alone, are Punch Debt in the Face and Budgets are Sexy) that can help with tips and motivation for getting things back in order.

I’m happy to report that I recently had the kick-in-the-pants epiphany that I’ve needed for a long time, and I’m starting to understand the importance of eliminating debt altogether and ending my torrid affair with retail. While I’m not sure that I’m ready for something as radical as the Great American Apparel Diet {although it would do my skinny and malnourished wallet good} I do know that the raging shopaholic within me seems to have quieted for a bit.

I have a much greater appreciation for the things I have (including my home, my nice car, my secure and comfortable lifestyle, and all of the things in my closet) and how quickly getting in over your head with debt and poor money management can jeopardize all of those things. If you’re in a financial hole, or in the process of digging your way out, and need a buddy to help talk you through, email me. I’d love to try and be a support for someone else, because I think that’s one of the best ways we can help ourselves.

Finally, to my sweet sleeping husband who reads my blog every day… Thank you babe, for the beautiful life that you’ve given us, for being responsible enough for the both of us for all these years, for your endless patience with me when I come in the front door with shopping bags full of things I don’t need, for putting up with my flighty forgetfulness, and for all of the other things we both know about that don’t need to be said here. I love you.