Budgeters Begin With Self-Denial

Carlesa A. Washington, 24, gave up her cellphone Internet service.
Carlesa A. Washington, 24, gave up her cellphone Internet service. (Carol Guzy - The Washington Post)
By Michelle Singletary
Sunday, January 14, 2007

There was a moment of silence when I told Carlesa A. Washington, a 24-year-old recent college graduate, to drop the Internet service she gets on her cellphone.

Her bill is about $75 a month. She pays an extra $20 to access the Internet.

"You don't need e-mail on your cellphone if you're in debt," I said. "What do you want more, a home or to e-mail your friends?"

"A home," she replied.

Washington is putting up with my demands because she has volunteered to take part in the Color of Money Challenge. This is the second in a series of columns in which I've promised for the next year to help four people -- two single women and one couple -- achieve their financial New Year resolutions.

Carl Chandler, another challenger, wasn't happy when I told him he couldn't buy the PlayStation 3 he's been coveting. It costs about $600.

Chandler works hard and no doubt deserves to have the electronic toy. But he and his wife, Tania, are on a mission to save money and get rid of their credit card debt.

"Until every penny of that debt is paid off, you can't afford the PlayStation," I said.

He stayed silent for more than a moment.

"You're right," he said.

Telling grown folks they can't have something when they work hard every day isn't easy. But these participants didn't want easy anymore. Easy credit and easily giving into desires have caused financial strain and stress in their lives. To recap, here are the participants:

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