Chloe & Frances Badalamenti discuss $ issues. CC: Did anyone ever teach you how to budget money? My friend goes to finance classes with her husband.
FB: Nobody taught me shit. My mother was awful with money, like the kind of person that has the whole paycheck spent before it even reaches the cashier at the bank. She grew up in a single mother household in the Bronx and I think she reverted back there after she left my father. My dad always made a good wage in the graphic arts and as a jazz musician on the side, but he was the opposite of my mother, spending money was hard for him, so he only spent on way bare necessities. These were people who were raised in the depression, so their relationship with money was fucked up and dysfunctional. Long story short, I had to figure it out on my own, when I was finally out on my own. I made tons of mistakes in those days, like not even having ten bucks to go out for a beer with friends and so I came to the realization that I hated being broke. It reminded me too much of my crappy-ass Jersey childhood. I got jobs that make me a lot of money so I didn’t have to feel awful all of the time and then I married two guys who made decent loot. I have to say, those were not good ways to form a healthy relationship with money, because I couldn’t stand those well-paid jobs and I have been through one failed marriage. A friend of mine is one of those financial advisor slash therapist types. She tried to work with me on my money shit and to learn how to properly budget, but I was resistant in the end. I told her that I didn’t like the computer program that she wanted me to use to track spending. What a dick. If I went to a finance class with my husband we would probably end up just making fun of the people in the class or mock the teacher. The subtle art of resistance.
CC: A few months ago I told you that I had $75 in my checking and no new $ that would be coming in. The next day you told me you’d been thinking about it and that $75 wasn’t SO bad, and you told me about times you overdrafted. I don’t think I’ve overdrafted since my NYC days.
FB: When you said you had $75 in your account, I was reminded of the time that I didn’t even have enough to pull twenty bucks out of an ATM in the city. I had a super stressful job in advertising and I worked at a music venue on the weekends, but I was still always broke around payday. I don’t know what my fucking problem was – I guess that I hadn’t figured it out yet and was working out shit from my mother. So for me back then, $75 would have been a lot of money. It would at least have been enough to get a couple of bags of groceries, a PATH card to get to work and a pack of smokes. But I did have that constant stream of paychecks every two weeks and you don’t have that. Your shit is way more stressful I am sure.
CC: Yeah sometimes I have no work and then I have a lot of work at once. It’s not the best way to live, but also I am making more now that I do live off my writing/teaching/catering/retailing. I email places like Salon every day like, hello? Still waiting on my $150! You know how they say that however you pay your rent is who you are? Or maybe it’s you are what pays your rent? Well my rent comes from all over. For example, I took this photo the other day, because it was 3 checks I was going to pay my $600 rent with. One from catering, one from a workshop I did with teens at the library, and one for the workshop I am hosting at my apartment in a few weeks. I am never not trying to collect one of my checks since they come from all over. Right now I am waiting on my book advance check. There is always something, and like the work itself, all the checks often come at once, and like my mom worries, “Then you think you’re rich.”
On Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, Louis CK talks about how he was once locked out of his apartment so he checked into The Ritz in NYC on his credit card. Another time Marc Maron had to rent out a video for Louis cause he (Louis) didn’t have a credit card. That was me in Portland. No credit OR debit cards. I cashed my checks at the grocery store and kept my cash in my underwear drawer. What was your worst point financially?
FB: I love when Louie talks about how fucked he was with money. It’s really refreshing and validating in so many ways. It’s like that must have been his rock bottom. Maybe your rock bottom was when you were here in Portland not even coming close to making ends meet. It’s like you have to go to that place to know that you never want to be there ever again. It becomes the motivation. Maybe that’s part of why Louie is so successful, he drove himself out of poverty. I had many worst points financially, but the one memory that comes into my head was when I was still in college and living in this garden apartment in Bloomfield, New Jersey. My former roommate had been killed in an awful car accident and I was traumatized because we were not on speaking terms when she died, so I decided that I needed to live alone for a while. I think the rent was $400 a month plus utilities which doesn’t sound like a lot, but besides a hectic school schedule, I worked stupid ass waitressing shifts at Chili’s and who the fuck knows how much loot I walked with back then. Some days, you made decent money but then there were days that you didn’t make jack shit. So the awful memory is my brother coming over with a turkey sandwich from the deli and some cash to pay bills, so my phone and electric didn’t get turned off. He later told me that I wolfed down that turkey sandwich like I hadn’t eaten in days. I think I was actually starving, like I literally hadn’t eaten in days. I wanted so bad to be able to take care of myself by that point, but I simply couldn’t. What do you think your worst point was financially? Was it when you had to cash checks at the grocery store? Do you think that was your bottom?
CC: I have had so many bottoms. I’m sure I still have more to come. You know that co-op by your house? Sometimes I’d go there, having no money, and take a string cheese off the shelf, and slowly walk around the store eating it, hoping I wouldn’t be caught. Portland was bad. I had to charge coffees and bagels on my mom’s credit card she let me use for $20 groceries each month, at World Cup in Powell’s. Then send her shameful emails about it. During my Portland life, my friend invited me to go to Chicago with her if she bought the flight. I went, and had like no other money. This came up, because you know we were going to lunch and stuff. I had to SHAMEfully ask her to lend me some money. Luckily, she is cool about $, and has a bunch, and she discreetly handed me like $100. Back in NYC, my friend and I sometimes had to steal twenties out of the petty cash drawer at the jewelry shop we worked in, and replace it when we got paid. My friend thinks my bottom was eating condensed cooking soup for dinner. She came home and saw me doing that. I think I wrote about it in LGLA. After living and babysitting my cousins in Seattle for a year, my cousin Bella who was eight at the time, gave me a drawing she did of us in various situations. One of them was us in a shop she loved called GIFTED. She drew a photo of me with a thought bubble saying, I told you, I don’t have any money. One day you said to me, “I am so sorry you are struggling” and it was really nice. I could take it in. I didn’t feel pitied or condescended or anything, I just felt like…you were/are truly sorry I struggle from being so broke. It’s terrible. “It makes me tired just thinking about it,” Jonathan Ames wrote in one of his essays, of his struggling days. That said, you still tell me it’s okay to splurge sometimes. Like now we both have (along with having the same deodorant) the same orgasmic smelling Cedar Rose parfum. I spent some extra paypal $ on it. Also when we were at the park in San Fran, I said to you, “I’ll have more money in my forties, right?” And you said, “Yes. Thirties.” How do you know when to splurge and when to save?
FB: I can totally relate when you say that you are having a hard time around money, because I have been there firsthand. I know it fucking sucks to struggle and I also know that you will not struggle forever, but I never want to say that because that’s not being in the moment and it’s not really empathetic. I feel that when people say things like, This too shall pass, I want to clock them in the jaw because it hasn’t fucking passed yet. You are living in it and wallowing in it and it is really hard to be having a hard time and sometimes just being validated for that takes some of the sting out. Plus, I know how hard you work and I want you to make good money. The urge to splurge comes in waves for me. It’s hard right now because I am not generating an income and even though I work my ass off taking care of household shit and the kid and trying to make a go of writing, sometimes I feel like I don’t deserve to throw down for a stupidly expensive smoothie or a killer pair of Swedish clogs. This all goes back to my faulty neurological wiring that I have been trying to get repaired for many years. What generally happens is that I crave something nice, like that beautiful amazing fragrance (Olo Cedar Rose parfume) – I see it at a store and I don’t buy it on the spot. I obsess and I torture myself with the idea of it for a few days, let’s say, and then I eventually go there in a fugue state to buy it. When I walk out with the bag, I feel this combination of being high and sad and also feeling guilty but also elated. So I sit in the car or don’t get on the bike until I sit with those feelings for a while, until they soften and pass on. This is, I truly believe, how you repair the broken shit in your life. You sit in it. In other words, it’s a lifelong process and a continual one. I will say that I don’t spend a lot of money on things (mostly food and travel) and I definitely don’t buy a lot of shit, but when I do buy shit, I try my very best to be intentional and to buy good quality beautiful things that will make me happy in the end and not make me feel like an awful consumer freak. Let me say, this all comes with being privileged. I was not always this privileged so it can still be really triggering, like I am still a broke ass Chili’s waitress with only a couple of bucks sticking out of my apron ‘til the next slow shift. I’m so glad you dropped in on that fragrance. There are times that I am like, Chloe would love this! Like the time we walked into the No.6 store and you walked out with a pair of $300 clog boot. Hahahahaha, I wonder what’s next! If you had an extra grand sitting in your account right now, rent paid up for the next six months, plenty of stash for bills and stuff, what would you do with the money?
CC: I’d buy a few items of clothing. Then I’d get a flight either to Mexico where my friend Diana is renting a house for six weeks on a lake and invited me. Or I’d book a flight to Paris for my thirtieth birthday. Haha, doing these convos is annoying me because I want to talk in person, maybe we can continue this $$$ convo when I’m in Portland and record it? What did you spend money on so far today? Or yesterday?
FB: Yesterday I didn’t spend a dime because I was at the beach most of the day and we didn’t stop in town or anything. Today my husband, kid and I were still out at the coast and the kid was being ornery because he burned himself with a fucking glue gun. He had collected all these bird bones and crab claws from the beach and brought them back to the house and glued them into something of a monster with the feral neighbor kid. Anyhow, he got burned and was upset and so I said, Let’s go to town and get a steamer and a cinnamon bun! I knew that we needed to flip the script. So the three of us went into Manzanita and I dropped $11.50 plus buck tip at a bakery there (one vanilla steamer, two house coffees, one apricot bar, unfortunately they were out of cinnamon buns). And I just now spent $4.50 plus buck tip on a Mate Latte (it was an extra fifty cents for coconut milk) at Tea Bar near my house in Portland. This time, it was me who needed to flip the script. When we get back from a weekend at the coast, I generally need a short reprieve from the two people who I live with and so I end up spending stupid money on a hot bev to make myself feel better. I’m like a cranky baby who needs a warm bottle. When you come to Portland next month, we can film a conversation about money.