Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I Learned Budgeting from Comic Books

So, if you follow me on Goodreads or Facebook, you might have seen that I've been reading a bunch of personal finance books recently. I've been in a manic mood the past couple of months, and when I'm so keyed up, it's very difficult for me to read fiction. I like a lot of non-fiction, but I have a couple of go-to genres when I'm lacking in material. One is personal finance. Because I never have any money, I'm able to put little of the advice about retirement and investments to use and so forget it, so the information seems fresh again in a couple of years.

One thing that's funny about my love of personal finance books is that I'm already really--ummm--frugal. Thrifty. Minimalist. Cheap. Really, really cheap. Since I've never had money, that's a good trait to have.

I think I come by it naturally for the most part (I'm not naming names), but I also received very good training in budgeting very young because of my obsession with comic books.

Children don't usually have monthly charges, which is how the adult world works. So kids can blow money as it comes, and the only reprocussion is having to wait to make the next purchase. But comic books simulate the real world, with its many titles that come out during different weeks. For a decade, I was an obsessive comic book collector. It's where all of my money went. I wanted to be a comic book artist, and honestly, I should have gone to school for illustration, because I was certainly good enough and I'd be better than ten years ahead of where I am now in an artistic career. Ahhh, regrets.

I didn't have a huge allowance, so I had to budget. I carefully listed all the titles I wanted and their prices, and worked to maximize my comic book dollars. Honestly, when you don't have that a huge entertainment fund, planning how the funds are spent can provide just as much or more entertainment. So whenever I come across "I know it makes you want to throw this book across the room" in reference to budgeting in personal finance books, I'm still always surprised.

But you can see how, along with that joy, came a lot of pain. Not every title I wanted made the list, and just like in real life, there were unexpected emergencies, though these took the form of new titles or big events. I usually left a little bit of room in my budget to try new titles, but if I wanted to take on a new permanent title, it meant an old one had to be bumped.  And if I bought too many unplanned issues, it meant I couldn't afford one of my standards. I didn't have credit, and I still don't think in terms of credit. I'd have to put off buying an issue until later, which would set me permanently back, or else I'd have to deal with a gap in a collection, which to my obsessive mind was unthinkable!

Not to say I didn't stumble. Just like in the adult world, the corporations did everything they could to wring the extra pennies from our pockets. I got fooled a couple of times into buying multiple issues just to leave one sealed, or spending extra for the die-cut, foil-embossed edition. But I learned, and before I was too far into my teens I was pretty much invulnerable to that sort of temptation unbacked by substance.

And then came Magic: The Gathering. Oh boy, that's a whole nother post.



On a related note, I just came to terms with the fact that I don't have to like the X-Men. It seems so obvious, but for more than two decades I've felt guilty for not enjoying Marvel's mutant titles, which everyone else fucking loves. No more. I'll try them and read the occasional good title (somehow, it's usually X-Factor), but the recent Avengers vs. X-Men crossover, which was so good, returning to the standard, one-note, anti-racist moralizing just a few issues later finally made me realize that I have never consistently liked the mutants. They've been telling the exact same story for 50 years. It was the Avengers that made that crossover so awesome, and the idea of Cyclops going bad made me stick with it for a few more issues, but blah. No more.

I feel so liberated!

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