Trivial, little things that deafeningly scream “This is not who I am!”

By | August 25, 2008

Eleven days ago, I bounced a check.

Ten days ago, I bounced another check.

I didn’t even realize I’d done it until today, when I finally got around to plowing through the mound of paperwork I’d been allowing to accumulate for weeks in my inbox.

I. Do. Not. Bounce. Checks.

The guy who is so careless with his finances that he can bounce checks is not me.  The $59 moron tax I paid to the bank for bouncing the checks isn’t even the point.  The point is that, as warped and pitiful as it might seem, keeping control over all the important little things in my life, things like regular finances, is part of who I am.

It’s bad enough that I’ve been so overwhelmed this summer that the yard sale I promised to organize for my wife and the kids hasn’t happened yet and may not happen at all.  It’s bad enough that our gardens and yard have turned into overgrown patches of weeds, because I couldn’t find the time to make a few phone calls to find a landscaper to come clean them up.  No, I had to get so behind in the finances that I bounced two checks.  It’s extraordinarily demoralizing.

It’s clear that I have allowed Jews for Obama to take over too much of my life.  With school starting for the kids next week, and with the High Holidays rapidly approaching, things are only going to get busier, and yet the campaign is going to get much busier at the same time.

Clearly, I need to find a way to spend less time on J4O.  But I feel I am doing the things that I am best at to help a cause which is much larger than any other cause I have ever been involved in.  To convince myself to spend less time on it, I’ll probably have to convince myself that what I’m doing doesn’t really make all that much of a difference.  If I manage to convince myself, then I’ll be depressed about all the time I poured into something that “doesn’t really make all that much of a difference,” so it’s a no-win situation.

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8 thoughts on “Trivial, little things that deafeningly scream “This is not who I am!”

  1. miryam


    I have completely assigned all such headaches to the Man, who occasionally walks around clutching his hair (buzz cut, which makes it impressive) and groaning.

    The groaning might have something to do with the time elapsing between digging into the piles of paper brought by the nice mail man. Or not.

    (we have overdraft protection. But, as the Man will insist on pointing out, somehow we never use it. He calls that a budget. I call it dumb luck.)

  2. jik Post author

    I wasn’t embarrassed, because the checks didn’t actually bounce — the bank paid them and charged me an overdraft fee. It is to their advantage to do this, because (a) their overdraft fees are higher than their bounce fees and (b) if they bounce rather than pay, it’s less likely that they’ll get to charge more overdraft fees for later payments.

    Also, the potential embarrassment of a bounced check is a strong incentive not to let it happen. Overdraft protection removes that incentive.

    Home insurance and auto insurance protect against acts of God and incidents where other people are at fault. You could live a perfect life, never making a mistake, and still have hour house burn down, or a tree fall on it, or a burglar break into it, or have a careless sideswipe your new car in Newton Corner the day after you drive it off the lot.

    I have no one to blame but myself when my checking account goes negative. The right solution to the problem is not to let it happen in the first place, not to create an unnecessary safety net.

    If I make it easy to be sloppy about my finances without suffering (much) for it then I will get sloppy about my finances. That’s just human nature. It’s likely that over time the interest I pay on overdrafts will exceed the overdraft fees. I refuse to start down that slippery slope.

    Overdraft protection demolishes one of the strongest fences around sloppy financial management.

  3. jont

    Is a home insurance policy a concession that you can’t keep your home safe? Is auto insurance a concession that you’re a lousy driver? Everyone makes mistakes sometimes — even you (and you’re probably the most generally competent person I know).

    The interest payment is likely less than the cost of the bounced check fee that you wound up paying. And I repeat, if you never use the overdraft protection, it costs you absolutely nothing. If you had had it all along, you wouldn’t have paid anything at all until this recent event, you wouldn’t have been embarrassed in front of the recipients of those checks, and your so-called “idiot tax” would have been lower. What’s so bad about that?

  4. jik Post author

    Two reasons I won’t get overdraft protection:

    1. It would be a concession that I can’t properly manage my finances. That’s not a concession that I’m willing to make. This is the first time I’ve bounced checks in twenty years. I don’t intend to make a habit of it.
    2. With an overdraft line of credit, when the checking account balance goes positive again, the line of credit doesn’t get paid off automatically — the account holder has to pay it off by hand, and in the meantime, s/he gets charged interest. No thanks.
  5. jont

    Does your bank offer overdraft protection? It might be worthwhile to sign up. At the banks where I’ve had it, it doesn’t cost anything if you don’t use it.

  6. jik Post author

    And while I appreciate the fact that you appreciate the J4O work I’ve been doing, the fact of the matter is that if there were any chance of Obama losing Massachusetts, I might just as well pack up and get on with my life, because there would in that case be zero chance of Obama winning the election. So of more relevance is whether the work I’m doing is having any impact in states where it might actually matter.

  7. jik Post author

    No bank error. I let the balance on my checking account fall below zero.

    I keep enough in the checking account to cover the bills. The rest (when there is “rest” :-)) goes into higher yield accounts. When my paycheck direct deposit isn’t enough to cover current expenses, I either transfer from another account, or if there is currently no extra cash lying around in the other account, transfer from my home equity line.

    When I let the paperwork slip for too long, then checks, cash withdrawals, and electronic payments accumulate that I haven’t put in the ledger, and if it’s a time of year when we’re cash-flow negative (which this time of year is, because of all the school and activity payments coming due), that means bounced checks.

    Stupid, stupid, stupid. No excuse for it at all. Just stupid.

  8. Michael A. Burstein

    Did you really bounce the checks? I mean, it wasn’t an error on the bank’s part or anything like that? If so, I offer my condolences.

    And I, for one, appreciate all the work you’ve put into J4O. As much as anyone else, you’re convincing me to support him more strongly than I might have otherwise.


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