Tag Archives: money

78. Credit limit

$6,500.

That’s how much I’m worth.

At least, that’s how much I’m worth to the credit card company. They’ve upgraded me. Doubled my retail value, actually. Without making any mention of it to me, they went ahead and lifted the spending cap of my credit card. This also happened to lower my monthly payment, which I can’t complain about. The fact remains, they’ve still got a cap on me. Only, it’s a little higher now than it was two weeks ago. What did I do differently? Why the special treatment? What is my bank beefing up my ego for?

I’m instantly suspicious.

I can’t honestly say that I’m not touched by the gesture. It feels good to be commended for one’s commitment and consistent payments. I appreciate having an “Oh Shit Cushion,” in case of emergencies. It saved my ass when I was abroad and I guess the credit company appreciated all those airline ticket charges. Was this some kind of Welcome Home gift?

Thanks for the confidence boost, but I can see through your schemes. You noticed that I hadn’t been using the card lately. You were getting jealous. But you can’t be mad at me because I treated you so well earlier this year. Remember Antalya? That trip to South Korea? So instead you go out and get your hair done, you buy some nicer clothes, you practice batting your eyelashes, and you come back to me at twice the limit, practically begging me to use you again.

No thanks, Visa.

I’ve got enough baggage leftover from my time with you. Thanks for the memories, but once I pay you off, we’re through.

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40. Buying happiness

I tried a debate with some middle-school students a while ago with this statement written on the board: You don’t need money to be happy. Mind you, these were students of a different country speaking in a language they were still learning, but they were able to convey thoughts and arguments well enough to fill a forty minute class. You don’t need money to be happy, I wrote on the board. Then I pitted two teams against each other: this half agrees and this half disagrees. Now, debate!

You have to wonder how it came to this.

This is actually something we need to debate. Can you be happy without money? Well, it’s a cultural thing, isn’t it? All that we’re aware of is poverty in our own countries, unless we’ve spent a good amount of time evaluating the societies of other nations. I’m not about to answer this question for the whole world because money is a different beast in every country. One man’s wealth might mean nothing to another. One man’s happiness does not equate to happiness around the globe.

The students prefer to think that money isn’t necessary to be happy. They think the totem pole of happiness is built with family, then friends, then health. However, the working-class logic asks how they expect to find a home, buy food, and afford clothing without money. If you can’t afford the cost of living, you will suffer, and can you be happy while you suffer?

The consumer-driven cultures of the world have no good response for that.

I don’t, either.

There are countries where people have no money but view poverty much differently. They don’t need money the way many countries do. They use alternatives to cash and coin, like bartering. They only use what the need. They’ve lived perfectly fine without a checkbook. They know nothing of credit limits and overdraft charges. Surely, without money in the way that I think of money, they are still capable of equal happiness.

In a self-sufficient, ideal situation, happiness should have nothing to do with the balance of your bank account. Yet because of the culture I was born into, I’m of a different mindset, one that seems difficult to break out of. While I like to think I don’t let money rule my life, I know that money presents a barrier before my idea of a comfortable lifestyle. Even the low spending, bike-and-bus riding, thrift shopping people come up against this currency barrier on the regular.

Everything needs money to operate. You have to work to make money. They take money from your paycheck to pay for your government.

So, do you need money to be happy? No, I guess you don’t. You need love. You need comfort. But in many countries, you need money to pay bills, to clothe yourself (or buy materials to make your own clothes), to possess a home, to travel far distances, and to visit doctors when your health is poor. Basically, you need money to stay afloat.

People get help from their governments. Food-stamps and the like. They can reach out for assistance. I say, if you’ve got that figured out and you’ve got love in your life, then you’re on track to be happier than the wealthiest lonely person. Money can’t buy happiness, but it makes it easier to prioritize happiness over other basic needs. And if you’ve got an alternative lifestyle that keeps money out of the picture, and you’re comfortable and happy, then I’m proud of you. I think the want/need for money is a poison we take too willingly.

Some of us are stuck in the financial whirlwind.

We’re all capable of reaching our happiness.

I just wish the path wasn’t paved in dollar signs.