In the past nine months, finances have come to dominate my thinking. I have always been leery of thinking too much about money. Money is seductive for me. The more I get, the more I seem to want. I start thinking of ways to make it or acquire it. I wonder what I can sell, or where I can put in a few more hours to get overtime. I start thinking about new careers where the pay is higher. I think about second jobs. I stare hard at the coupons and think about stopping along the side of the road and picking up beer cans.

And sometimes I do get a little bit of extra money. But I never seem to hold onto it very long. There is always something I wanted that I did not really think too hard about getting..until I got a little bit of extra cash. The cash seems to sit in my wallet, or in my bank account, flashing like neon lights on a dark night. Inevitably, I will spend it.

As the economy has sagged, I have started to really watch my finances like a hawk watches mice. I watch what I spend and where I spend. I budget, something I was never keen on. I pay attention to where almost all my pennies go. The result has been more pennies.

Since I am watching pennies, I also watch what happens to other peoples’ pennies. These are a few things that have bothered me.

We talk too much. Speculation caused gas prices to sky rocket to over four dollars earlier this summer. People in financial sectors started talking about rising gas prices and how they would continue climbing. People in the media listened and trumpeted the news. Investors responded, causing the price of gas to go up like fireworks. However, there was no real shortage of gas. Oil production throughout the world was up over the same time last year when gas was marching toward three dollars a gallon. That whole gas spike that started right before the housing slump was unnecessary because people talked too much about what could happen.

Which brings me to mortgages. Why do we buy things we cannot afford? I know a main reason why. The principle is simple. We think we will be happier if we have that thing, or do this, or go there. Which can lead us to do and buy things we cannot afford. We splurge because there is a sort of glitter affect to splurging. We buy that house because it is better than renting that crummy apartment. We rent that apartment because it is better than living with mom and dad for another year. We buy this ipod or that car because if we have it, we are cooler, more likeable, and people will notice us as we drive down the road.

We, as a nation are severely attracted to glitter, as though what we currently possess and are as beings is not quite enough. Yet, then we splurge and we have those brief moments when we are driving down the road and we are happy, but we are stressed the other twenty-three hours of the day because now we cannot afford to go to dinner with our friends or pay the electric bill or because the debt weighs like bars of iron hanging from our belts. Personally, I would rather drive a rust bucket and feel peace for twenty-three hours than care about what other people are thinking of me as I drive down the street.

I am not sure I like the fact that the government is taking over a significant portion of the mortgage market. We already give the government our taxes. Now they are going into business? Well, can the government go out of business? (I have always wondered about this.) Who bails out the government when it gets into financial trouble? Us. You. Me. Our neighbors. And that is bothersome. The government plans to fund this bailing out the lenders by injecting billions of dollars. Which will later be made up by money gathered around April 15. So in a way, cause and effect is this: the people that have been financially wise have to fund those who were…

Back to gas. I hear so many people say they are happy with what they are paying for gas now. I am too. In a general sense. But I have a sense of unease. I am happy paying a buck more than I paid last year? Did the oil companies raise the price to four, just so I would be happy paying three-fifty? Are they going to raise it to five so that I am happy paying four-fifty?

I am fascinated by those moms they have been showing on TV recently that can buy a hundred dollars worth of groceries for only twenty dollars. Our presidential candidates should pay attention. Any one of those moms would be a great financial advisor to add to their cabinet. I bet those moms like going grocery shopping. I bet they walk down the isles with a lot of confidence and joy.

The wise always have more pennies. And that is my encouragement. That you be wise with your pennies so that you have more of them. Not because that will make you happy, but so that you can walk down the isles with more confidence and joy because you do not have to think about prices.

© Seth Crossman