Debt as Art
...and art as a tool for getting out of hock. One spender's work in pen and red ink
By Jean Chatzky

(MONEY Magazine) – To get a grip on your spending, planners often advise, keep a diary of your purchases. Kate Bingaman, 27, an assistant professor of graphic design at Mississippi State University, has raised that counsel to an art form.

As a grad student, Bingaman posted a photo of everything she bought over the course of two years (sofas, coffee, sandwiches, lip gloss, everything) on a website that she calls Bingaman was aiming at art and social comment, not frugality. These days, however, she has $20,000 in debt, mostly from credit cards. So she's making an art project out of her bills, painstakingly copying each one by hand, like a kid at the blackboard writing I will not talk in class. "I feel I should have some punishment in a way," she says. "And I'll copy them all until they're completely paid off." She's changed her spending habits too: "I'm shopping less, and I'm really aware of what I buy. I just don't want to be involved with credit-card companies anymore." —JEAN CHATZKY