Apr 24, 2023·edited Apr 24, 2023Liked by M Tamara Cutler

When I started out that Friday morning, Valentine's Day 2020, the truck registered under half a tank. The six-hour round trip to see my mother for lunch at the care facility took a full tank, and thus I needed to buy gas on the way there. Of course, I preferred to gas up in the afternoon so I could scope out prices in the morning. But that day I had to rely on past experience of which stations had the lowest prices within my under-half-a-tank range. Driving 29 south in Virginia toward North Carolina, I noted prices for regular gas, starting with a high of $2.39 per gallon dropping to $2.29, $2.25, $2.22 (better), $2.05 (much better), $2.02 and $1.99 in Chatham (much, much better). I could have pulled into that station but hoped even more pennies might stay in my pocket. Money, money, money. The previous week, the BP station in Danville had posted $1.95, and that station was still within range. Maybe I’d get lucky again. Problem was, BP Danville was the last gas station along my route south for a good while. If I didn’t fill up there, I’d have to exit, burning both gas and time, and accept whatever price. I rounded the corner and looked down the highway at the BP posted price. $2.26. I groaned. And that wasn’t the end of my comeuppance. On the way home, the BP posted price was $2.05! I laughed, thinking maybe I was “paying” for my greed. As it turned out, that Valentine's Day trip was the last time I saw my mother. She died early Sunday morning, February 16, 2020. I still play the gas price game wherever I go and don’t always win. But losing gives me a chance to laugh at my penny-wise, pound-foolishness. And for me, laugher is worth a lot of pennies, even a dollar fifty. My penny-wise mother would have agreed.

Expand full comment

The plan was set in motion. Pack up the Montreal apartment and drive 2,850 miles west to Los Angeles with a pitstop in Iowa. Two years of brutal Quebec winters and I had had enough. It was time to live in perfect weather, sunny southern California. With a backpack full of saved-up cash, I bought into a flooring franchise that specialized in decorative concrete coating for pools and patios. I was ready to make my fortune.

We arrived at the Best Western Hollywood on Vermont & Beverly. We’d stay at the hotel until permanent arrangements were found. No sooner had I walked into the lobby when I glanced down to find a crisp hundred-dollar bill under my shoe. “Money on the floor. A good luck sign of things to come,” I said.

From that day on, my original LA plans fell apart. The business failed before it started, the relationship ended, and I found myself alone in Silverlake. A personal reset. Then the good-luck-hundred kicked in. I’d be led to my current partner of 16 years. We’d build a life together 6,000 miles east of Los Angeles where the people work to live not live to work. An honest and simple life of luck.

Expand full comment
Apr 25, 2023Liked by M Tamara Cutler

Throughout my life I have been a spender and very cavalier about money and debt. Over time, when I considered how I spent money I realized how manipulated I was by “the cult of consumerism.” I had always had an income which increased as I changed my place of employment, however it never seemed to make a great difference. as I was always in debt to credit cards; I accepted this as a way of life.

When I decided to take early retirement, it took time to adjust to the loss of a monthly salary, so I continued to rely on credit cards. I had a nice nest egg which needed to be managed properly and I found an excellent financial advisor who made my transition to retirement possible.

It wasn’t until my daughter and son-in-law joined me Spain and inquired as to my finances and offered to review them with me - a very painful exercise- that I took stock and soon emerged debt free, released from the tyranny of interest rates and being chained to debt.

The freedom to think of money as a tool to shape a rich and fulfilling life was my goal and I believe I have achieved it.

Expand full comment
Apr 26, 2023Liked by M Tamara Cutler

‘Money can’t buy you happiness’ – what a joke.

The word ‘money’ makes me think of the word ‘poor’, which makes me think of the room I couldn’t afford in Bethnal Green – the closest I’ve ever lived to the centre of London. When my wages went in, I was still deep in my overdraft. Co-workers who lived with their parents would question me about my lunch. ‘Is that all you’re having? Are you on a diet?’ I ate vegetable soup every day because it cost about a quid to make a week’s worth. They’d buy burritos that cost £10.

My legs started to itch, all the time. Sometimes it would wake me up in the night. A man moved seats once on a train, I think he thought I had scabies. But there was never anything on my legs, not even red skin. It was worry.

After a year, I moved out of that flat, got a pay rise, and started cooking roast dinners on weekends. I was a lot happier.

Expand full comment
Apr 27, 2023Liked by M Tamara Cutler

As an artist, my struggle with money is personal and persistent. I started selling portraits in high school, each of which received accolades of, “That's so good,” or, “It looks just like him.” For my US History final, I was required to read and illustrate Jonathan Livingston Seagull for the teacher with a new summer home. When the student body outgrew the relatively new school and an unsightly classroom box was constructed, I was part of a team asked to paint literary murals. I graduated as a Maryland Distinguished Scholar after attending MICA a year early which also counted as my senior year. Despite never earning a degree, I've taught various art classes at two private schools and a community college, all the while creating and selling commissions and murals. My ambition waned as a young, single parent so I was grateful for the more reliable income of a teacher but I had reached a stage of only accepting commissions for a respectable sum. After relocating to the UK several years ago, I find myself in a serious identity crisis due to not making any money from artwork. I am actually surprised by how strongly this is affecting me and my confidence.

Expand full comment
Apr 28, 2023Liked by M Tamara Cutler

Reeling from the dramatic ending of an amour fou and breaking some hearts along the way, it was time to draw a line. I had saved a small bundle of money and decided to travel until it was gone.

My trip took me on trains and buses across Eastern Europe, China, and down to Hanoi, Vietnam, where I settled for two months extended to three – there was still some cash left. During that time, I spent time with old and new friends, fell in and out of love in multiple languages, and halfway learned to ride a motorcycle.

Then it was time to go.

Facing an extra weight charge at the airport, I used the last bit of emergency funds stashed on a shared savings account with an ex – now that was settled as well.

Mission accomplished! My pockets were empty, but I was full of new impressions, renewed confidence, and passion without the pain. Time for a fresh start. I found a job and began transforming my ideas into artworks that I was invited to exhibit. It was the high point of a very creative and adventurous period in my life.

Expand full comment
May 7, 2023Liked by M Tamara Cutler

My first inkling about money and disparity was that Greg had the biggest house and best toys among my ragtag, 1970's Provincetown, hippie kid friends. Also, his mom didn't work and was seemingly single. The next awakening was in 1979 when at 8, I moved from that little Cape town to Baltimore, MD and started attending an elite, private girl's school. The first day, I knew something was amiss while waiting on the carpool queue. The elevated view from my dad's 1978 Dodge Ram pick up truck was for as far as the eye could see gleaming sedans all of a particular breed I would soon learn--Mercedes, BMW's, Volvos. The house that Greg had would be dwarfed in comparison to those my classmates had. Like a quiet tide, fear and shame slowly seeped in. I never returned invitations for pals to come to my house- a tiny, unkempt row house. The summer of 1981, I stayed inside on a beautiful day to watch Princess Diana and Charles' wedding. Now, at 52, I can look back at my fraught relationship with money and men. I am no longer guided by fucking fairytales that we think will save us. Last night, I scrolled through some of coverage of King Charles' coronation. As the helicopter fly over emerged out of the fog while the "Royals" waved their lackluster waves with their silly, stupid crowns teetering on their anointed heads, all I could think of was the scene in Apocalypse Now and the rumbling of The Ride of The Valkyries played in my head. How dare they, their vast riches belong to the people. No one family or person should have so much wealth while others starve and children grow up in slow, choking shame over money. Over fucking money.

Expand full comment