$99, 700

That’s how much we are now officially in debt to Harvard University. Shall we ask for $300 more to make it a nice number of zeros?

So what’s the plan? Do we cut all costs, tighten our belts, move out of our city apartment, and start an all-out fight to pay it off? Or do we sigh, and note that it’s annually tax deductible after all, jot down a fifteen year plan, and take that two week trip this fall? Loans give me sort of a sick feeling. They make things feel delusional: I look at my bank account, I look at my wallet, and see what I “have” but in reality, I don’t truly have a right to any of those numbers.

What does $1,000 mean to you? What do you imagine when you hear it? Do you ever plan to give away $1,000, in one clean check to one fine cause? Do you see it as a source of much, or sort of negligible amount that seems to scurry away? If someone asked you to pick between your plans for the weekend, and receiving $1000, which answer would spring to mind? Can you imagine surprising your best friend with a plane ticket, just so you can visit each other? Would not eating out at all for six months be worth the money you’d save?

Like most people, my spending efforts are a study in contrasts. $1000 does not cover one month’s rent for our apartment in Boston. It is 8 solid trips to the grocery store–the cheap one, where I stock up  for a two-week hit, but if I go to Whole Foods,which is much closer to my apartment, it seems to go much quicker.

Money can really be a rather delightfully powerful thing. As a small business owner I know what purchases can mean to the person behind the counter, so I really love to buy things from businesses I admire, or appreciate,or just find important. I love to call in to Emerson College Radio (which happens to be one of my Top Ten Favorite Things about Boston) and pledge during their pledge drive. I have several friends working for nonprofits who must raise their incomes every year, and it sort of shocks me that I personally can be part of paying their salaries.

When we are young and perhaps poorer than we think we might be in the future, it can seem easier to pretend that we don’t have any money at all, besides (and this part is mumbled) the money we spend everyday. I bet if we saw the total amount of money that has passed through our bank accounts so far in our lifetime, we would be stunned. All of that went somewhere.

Photo by The Sartoralist.


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