Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Chapter 1: Being Broke

Truly, if I ever wrote a book, there would be some reference to my (and my family's) rotten luck when it comes to money and how to live as cheap as possible. Before I do a recap of my weekend conference, I have to tell you this story. It involves my continual cycle of being poor and the excellent skills I have acquired to be prepared in any situation.

As most people know, money is tight. We are all incredibly aware of our bank accounts, costs of basic needs like electricity, gas, and food, and we often weight priorities in terms of wanting and needing. Money is tight for me as well and as I was preparing to attend a conference for work (one that we would be mostly reimbursed for later), I knew that I would have to save as much money as I could from every paycheck. I scrimped here and there but bills and life definitely surprise you at times. Factoring in costs of hotel and food, I knew that I would have about $100 for the weekend for "play money" and it seemed very doable and actually like a very generous amount. No problem.

Fast forward to last Saturday when I was having lunch with 10 people that I worked with in a previous internship. I was so, so excited to see these people! I looked forward to it for at least a month and even got myself a little margarita to go with the festivities. It was so much fun!

Until the waitress returned to the table and said "Oh, Ms. April" and then I knew...something wasn't good.

My card had been declined. Cue the bright red face and terrible feeling in my stomach.

I had no way of paying for the meal except for the 40 cents in my purse and about five years of experience in the food service industry.

Luckily, I am close with one of the girls at lunch and I discretely asked if she could cover me until I figured out what had happened. We both figured that since I had gone through three states, maybe my credit union held my card for fraudulent charges. No big deal, I thought, I'll just call the bank.

Funny thing about the credit union I am with, no one to talk to except for the fraudulent charges department and the automated person on the hotline. I call the fraud people and they don't see anything. I call the hotel to see about charges and holds. There was a mix-up and the hold wasn't used for the room as it should have been, I was just charged on top of the hold amount (confused yet?).

The hold will take five days to come off.
This means I have no money, at all, for five days. The conference, at this point, was three more days.


I get some tears going in the eyes, thinking what I absolutely need money for and then.....I just let it all go. At that point, there wasn't anything I could do at all so there was no point in worrying.

Lucky for me, I plan ahead. I brought many, many snacks along with me so I wouldn't be tempted to buy any overpriced granola bars, fruit, or crackers at the convenience stores. Also in my favor, tons of networking and presentation events that included free nibbles and even a few meals.

You bet that I ate the hell out of those crudites platters and cheese plates.
Oh yes! I got my vegetables, fruit, and protein in at every meal. 

I grabbed extra things during breakfast to eat throughout the day. They had delicious coffee during the whole conference so I never once went without my beloved coffee as I went through session after session.

Mostly, I wanted to share this story because I find it ridiculous, typical, and also a lesson in how tempted I was to just go buy something because I felt like it but given the situation I couldn't. It stopped me from late night M&M runs, and grabbing a "fancy" coffee every morning before the conference. It definitely showed me that growing up in a house that didn't always have a lot of money actually prepared me well for financial situations like this one. The one thing it did affect was my socialization because I was only able to go out to dinner one with co-workers and that was because a dear, dear friend forced me (literally jammed the bill into my hand) to take some assistance just in case anything came up. Her help not only allowed me to grab dinner but also allowed me to get lunch the next day, too!

I have to say, this conference was pretty wonderful. I will do a proper review to go more in detail about what the conference was about, the amazing people that I talked with and heard from, and the food...delicious!

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