Can drawing what you buy help you avoid debt?

Barbara Bogaev Feb 8, 2013
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Can drawing what you buy help you avoid debt?

Barbara Bogaev Feb 8, 2013
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When Kate Bingaman-Burt was a college student, like many young people, she fell into credit card debt. But she came up with an innovative way to get control of her budget. She started meticulously drawing all of her credit card statements by hand, until they were paid off. Then in 2006, she started drawing something she purchased every day. Many of those drawings are collected in Burt’s most recent book, “Obsessive Consumption: What Did I Buy Today?”

“I had just spent the 28 months photo documenting everything that I had purchased and sharing it online. I was kind of this person who was very transparent with their purchases and very open with the things that she was purchasing,” says Burt. “But then the flip side of that was, I had $25,000 of credit card debt that I wasn’t telling anyone about and it was making me ill. So I found myself with another monthly round of these machine-generated credit card statements that looked like no human had looked at them, touched them. It was just kind of these statements of doom, essentially. I felt absolutely powerless.”

Burt continues, “In the process of trying to figure out what to do, I was also calling credit card companies trying to get my APR lowered because it was ridiculously high. I found that even though I was talking to a person, they were still reading from a script that had been automated and I couldn’t have a real, personal conversation that was specific to my needs. I felt like I also wanted to draw these credit card statements with black pen, my shaky hand. And the replications of these credit card statements I tried to humanize them a little bit more.”

Burt says her drawings were also a sort of punishment. “I feel like I made a lot of really stupid, child-like decisions by being so far in debt,” she says.

Eventually, she started drawing items she bought everyday.

“I really like elevating kind of mundane things,” says Burt. “I’m trying to infuse personality into these everyday items that we might take for granted.”

She says that process of drawing the things that she buys helps make her more mindful of the things she purchases. And now she has a huge archive of little snippets of her everyday life.

“It’s a really good indication that little things add up to a lot,” she says.

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