The money-conscious Mr. Deasy brags to Stephen and challenges him: "I paid my way. I never borrowed a shilling in my life. Can you feel that? I owe nothing. Can you?" Mentally ticking through a list of debts, Stephen acknowledges that he cannot say the same. But the problem is far worse than Deasy knows: Stephen's debts are compounded by mad, self-destructive prodigality. He recognizes the problem, but he cannot help himself.
Stephen is being paid "three twelve" (£3 12s.) for a month's labor (a good salary), but he owes about £25: "Mulligan, nine pounds, three pairs of socks, one pair brogues, ties. Curran, ten guineas. McCann, one guinea. Fred Ryan, two shillings. Temple, two lunches. Russell, one guinea, Cousins, ten shillings, Bob Reynolds, half a guinea, Koehler, three guineas, Mrs MacKernan, five weeks' board." (Most of the people on his list—Constantine Curran, Fred Ryan, George Russell, James Cousins, T. G. Keller, Mrs. MacKernan, and possibly Bob Reynolds—are actual Dubliners whom Joyce knew. McCann and Temple are fictional characters from the last chapter of A Portrait of the Artist.) Given this dismal balance sheet, Stephen may well conclude that "The lump I have is useless." From the Protestant accountant's perspective, the best that can be said of him is that he does keep careful mental records of his self-ruination.
For a very young man (22) Stephen has accumulated a fairly staggering sum of debts, and rather than making plans to pay it down, he takes its unpayability as an excuse for blowing what now burns a hole in his pocket on a daylong binge of treating casual acquaintances to drinks. In Proteus, immediately after recalling his appointment to meet Mulligan at "The Ship, half twelve"—where Mulligan plans to spend some of his "Four shining sovereigns" on "a glorious drunk to astonish the druidy druids" (Telemachus)—Stephen thinks, "go easy with that money like a good young imbecile." He does dodge the appointment with Mulligan, but only to spend his money treating the men in the newspaper office to drinks. And he apparently spends much of the rest of his day in the same way. By the end of the day, when Leopold Bloom takes him under his wing, he has spent maybe a third of his monthly wages.