Photo by Eric Daoust on Unsplash
By Billie Best
Originally published August 12th, 2020 on billiebest.com
Where is my money? Have you seen it? I used to have a bank account with money in it, and now I see it’s like a leaky bucket with money dripping out the bottom, one automatic payment at a time.
Remember when you had to lay down some paper to buy something? You had to pull out some cash or write a check — back in the day, when checks were a thing. Back when we paid our bills by writing words on paper and putting the paper in an envelope with a stamp and mailing it. Those were the horse-and-buggy days of money.
Today, money is written in the invisible ink of digital commerce. To find my money, I made a list of all the automatic payments that are charged to my credit card. The list is longer than I thought it would be, and it’s embarrassing. I feel a little naked sharing it with you, like a chicken without feathers. There’s an old saying, “Pluck a chicken one feather at a time, and no one notices.”
Here’s my list: Amazon Prime, Audible, iBooks, Apple Music, Verizon, NY Times, Bridgeliner, Wikipedia, Netflix, Ezpass, GoodToGo, PayPal, Godaddy, Pandora, Microsoft, Geico, Akismet, iCloud, Dropbox, and Jetpack, plus all those stops at the coffee shop and restaurants and the grocery store, where I dip some plastic in a machine and I’m painlessly drained of my money. I’ve been plucked!
Shopping channels on TV show you some cool merch and chat you up about how good it’ll feel to buy it, and how you can definitely afford it because you only have to pay $19.99 a month for three months or six months or a year, and who can’t afford $19.99 a month? Automatically charged to your credit card, your new stuff arrives at your front door and you feel like it belongs to you because you have it in your hand. It’s already in your house, and you haven’t even paid for it yet. The dopamine rush of new stuff plugs your ears to the giant sucking sound of financial resilience being siphoned out of your life. You just wake up one day and you are in debt up to your eyeballs. You are being plucked.
I got my first bank account when I was a child; it was a passbook savings account where I deposited the dollar bills I got each year in my birthday cards and my Christmas stocking, and then later my babysitting money. My mom taught me how interest worked, and when the teller stamped my passbook with my balance, I could see the money I earned on my savings. When was the last time you earned money on your savings? Savings account interest today is near zero. Banks don’t use interest to encourage us to save money anymore because they would prefer that we sign up for their credit card instead. Banks want us to be in debt because there’s a lot more money to be made from our debt than our savings.
Do you know what interest rate you’re paying on your credit card debt? It’s probably 15-20%. Have you added that to the $19.99 to see what you’re really paying for that as-seen-on-TV item? Probably not. This is how we get plucked.
Born in 1954, Billie Best draws from her life experience as a Baby Boomer to impart her hard-earned wisdom on life’s uncertainty, menopause, fearless aging, and coping with ageism as a speaker and writer. She has reinvented herself numerous times, from working in the music business to marketing and technology to small-scale farming and becoming an author. She currently resides in Oregon.
Her 2020 memoir from Widowspeak Publishing is titled How I Made a Huge Mess of My Life (or Couples Therapy with a Dead Man). Visit her blog “Beyond 60 — Loving Life, Staying Relevant” at billebest.com to learn more about her feminist activism and entertainment career.