April 4, 2013
Last week, my good Internet friend Annie posted a challenge in her blog, The In-Debt Net.
She started by noting that the current financial situation does not seem to be getting any better, and that, whether we like it or not, this seems to be the new financial normal for many people.
She then noted that it had impacted her plans toward getting out of debt, as it has done to many of us, and challenges us to make every day count in reducing our debt before it swallows us whole.
I am going to try to take her up on her challenge, and I seriously invite you to go read her challenge, and do the same.
February 14, 2013
The good news is that I actually have some work coming in. The bad news is that I’m too damned tired to do much of anything. However, we need the money, therefore, I will do the work.
We got more books out and on the shelf yesterday. Got a bunch of magazines tossed out.
Mostly, I’ve been up to doing jigsaw puzzles, both online, and the excellent ones that Delia Sherman gave me a while ago. They are about as good as it gets when I wake up with my brain fuzzed.
Today’s project was going to the doctor for a follow-up appointment from my hospital stay. I was able to walk there just fine (it’s four and a half blocks away), but I decided to walk home the long way – for the exercise – and that was a bit problematic; my neuropathy acted up, and my leg was asleep for almost the whole walk from Avenue X to Avenue Y. Fortunately, I’m not diabetic; unfortunately, when I gained back the weight I killed the nerves in one leg, and once you kill nerves they are not gonna recover. So I am told that I will have to put up with this in varying degrees for the rest of my life.
Anyway, the doctor liked my blood pressure (120/70), and was happy that the Furosemide had eliminated my ankle swelling. He took some blood (well, his nurse did) so that he could make sure the Furosemide was not damaging my kidneys. But, overall, he was pleased with my progress.
Anyway, organizing my life and my home continues, albeit slowly. The roomie’s sister and her husband dropped off their mom’s old tv, which is – at least – newer than the one Sue had. Cablevision can’t get here to put a box and wires in for it until next Thursday, sadly. So the old tv is sitting in our living room until I can get my Landlord to drag it out to the curb for us.
Anyway, that’s where things lie at the moment.
December 13, 2012
In November, I filed for the SNAP Program (food stamps). It’s not something I’m proud of — I have never taken handouts before this round of unemployment. But getting on Medicaid in June made me realize that these were benefits I have been having deducted from my salary all of my working life, so why should I not take the hand, now that I do need it.
I was approved, with a partial award for November, and a set amount beginning in December. The thing is, I know that many people struggle with that amount to make ends meet. To me, that amount seems like a fortune.
My food budget has been between $75-125 a month for so long. And I have managed to make more-than-do with that — mostly because my diet has been changing. Mind, thi bounty doe not mean that I will be having filet mignon every night, by any means. But it means that I can have a more balanced diet, which is one of my goals. It also means that more of the house money can go to paying down my debts, which is a good thing.
It might also mean that I can get that root canal/post/crown procedure sometime before the end of 2013, which would be a very good thing.
I also got a lovely email from one of my credit cards. I am on a payment plan with them, and they realize that I also am in an area nominally affected by Hurricane Sandy. Therefore, I have the option of not making a payment until March of 2013, with no hit to my credit report.
This is especially good news because, while my overdraft privilege has been covering the shortfalls in the budget, we are still feeling the fallout from when the creditor broke its agreement with the roomie. This will give me a better chance to start cutting down on the overdraft payment fees, and get my bank account back on track.
So, even though it has been a rough year financially, I am getting some hope for the future this month. We shall see if the good things really work out, but hope is a heck of a lot better place to stand than “I’m in over my head with no way out.”
Are you afraid to ask for help (be it from friends, family, or the various agencies that are there to help people? What is the block, if any, to asking for help? Are you even aware of what help may be available in your area? Are you entitled to help because of your age or economic status? Some other factor? Where can you turn to find out? What hopes do you have that keep you going when things get rough?
November 29, 2012
This month and last month have been extremely tight, as the roomie and I are battling to reduce the fees I am getting charged for using my overdraft privilege to cover the money she shorted the household account in October. Checks that didn’t get paid then caused bounce fees, and then — when they cleared in November — caused November payments to either be paid by overdraft or to bounce, incurring fees either way. I am going to be paying very little other than rent this month, in an attempt to hold down fees.
I also visited the dentist today. The news there was mixed. I need one extraction (the fragment of a fractured tooth that the union dental clinic left there after refusing to treat me), and a different tooth needs a root canal/post/crown or to be extracted. The dental insurance I have covers extraction, but considers the root canal/post/crown treatment to be cosmetic and will not pay for that. The dentist and I would prefer to save the tooth, but it will cost $525. Not unreasonable, but not doable at the moment – partly because of the hole from the bounce fees. The other thing that makes it maybe doable is that the dentist won’t do the root canal until the extraction is healed in order to prevent the infection that is there from spreading and to prevent any infection in he tooth that needs the root canal from spreading into an open area. So it will be at least four weeks after the extraction before he can do the root canal. If anyone out there can toss a few bucks toward the root canal my way, or if, instead, you want a pair of handknit socks, a hat, or fingerless mitts, I would be happy to make them for $25. Your custom would be greatly appreciated, and remember — handknits make great winter holiday gifts! Please contact me at otherdeb (at) gmail (dot) com for details.
I am feeling more than a bit depressed over the whole fees/dentistry thing, to put it mildly. I do know the depression will pass — it’s not really my nature to be depressed, thank the Goddess.
Between the reduction in my income, and the mounting problems caused by the roomie’s inability to deal with collection agencies, I decided to apply for food stamps. Spent part of the day after Thanksgiving going to the Food Stamp office in Coney Island to deliver the documentation they wanted after the phone interview. I’m waiting to hear back from them. I really hate having to do this, but it’s either this or succumb to the roomie’s way of eating — mostly carbs, mostly stuff you can nuke out of boxes, or lots of pasta with tasteless sauces. Since that would send my weight skyrocketing, I bit the bullet and applied for assistance. It was unpleasant, not because of anything the folks at the office or on the phone did or said, but because all of my adult life I have never needed to ask for this kind of assistance. To say it’s humbling does not do the feelings I’m experiencing justice.
However, I am a survivor, and I shall get through this. I know this because I have survived everything else that has come my way.
November 15, 2012
I am poor. I make no bones about it. I will ask people to help if they want me to go out to dinner with them. I will shop sales. I will cut coupons. I will use thrift shops. I will do almost anything to save money, because I have very little of it.
However, something came to my attention recently, through two separate sources, that I want to address.
On Facebook, I ran across the following meme/photo to share (and I did):
Of course, being a writer myself, I clicked and shared this. But I then read a blog post from a professional writer I know. This writer has a new book coming out next year. One of said writer’s fans asked said writer for a pre-publication copy, on the grounds that he (or she) couldn’t wait until the book came out. While said writer was trying to decide how to answer said fan, a third party noted in comment that he (or she) would be happy to provide said fan with a copy for $XX.XX. Needless to say, the writer was appalled. This writer makes a living from writing, and what the third person was offering the fan was clearly a pirated copy of the book.
Now, as I said before, I will do almost anything to save money. But, what I will not do is buy pirated work.
Unless you have already bought the work, and just want a copy for your Kindle or iPod, or whatever, or – in music – are downloading something that a group put out for the public,, what a pirated work amounts to is theft.
By buying a pirated work, you are depriving the creator of that work of the royalties due them for your purchase. It’s that simple.
If you want to read something and cannot afford it, go to your library (most libraries even do e-loans of many of their books). If you download music, you are best to do it from a site where the artist will get his or her royalty.
And, if you have waited two years for the sequel for something to come out, you can wait another month or two for it to come out, rather than buying a pirated version. After all, it is not a matter of life and death to get hold of it early; just impatience — of which there is far too much these days.
Oh, and yes, if someone DOES send me a preview of a song or a book, I make sure to buy the real thing when it does come to market. Remember, I make my living by writing, too, and I would hate to find my work pirated.
November 1, 2012
We are still okay here in Brooklyn, although one of the neighboring communities that was also in a Zone B, Gerritson Beach, got hammered pretty badly. If any of you are near Gerritson Beach, the folks there need pretty much everything, including clothing. A lot of the apartments there are basement apartments, so folks there lost pretty much everything. The bad news is that since they were located in Zone B, it’s only today that they are first beginning to be noticed.
We had a small power outtage on Tuesday evening, when Con Edison took down the power in Sheepshead Bay, Homecrest, Midwood, and a fairly large chunk of Flatbush. Since it was already dark, I just went to be, and when I opened my eyes shortly after midnight, the power was back. The reason Con Edison took it down was that there had been a transformer explosion somewhere in the area, and they wanted to get it fixed without other parts of the grid overloading. I’m just glad we got it back, since so many are still without power.
We have oil heat, and vehicles cannot get down our street, thanks to the tree, so the Landlord has been rationing the heat a bit more than usual. Understandable, but between that and all the mold and crap in the air, I think I’m developing a cold. Thank God I knit. I have tons of clean, warm socks, scarves and shawls to add to the sweats I’ve been wearing.
I heard from my sister yesterday. Her house is still standing, but she got eight feet of water in her garage, and three feet in her house. Fortunately she and her fiance were able to move a lot of their stuff to the second floor. She also noted that most of her neighbors had their front yards torn up by boats breaking loose from the marina nearby, but that they didn’t. Still, her oil burner (and those of her neighbors) got flipped and the lines were broken, so there is oil over a ton of stuff. On the other hand, she, her fiance and their dogs did not get hurt, so she is lucky.
My cousin’s cousin, Debi, in New Jersey, had a tree come through her roof, and had no power until today.
In terms of money, I am very glad I told the Landlord that we would be a bit late this month. My pension check dropped, but there is a problem with the electronic deposits at my roommate’s credit union, so while yesterday it said she had money, today her balance is showing negative by the amount she withdrew for us to live on, plus a bank charge. She went to the Brooklyn branch of the credit union, and they told her that they were waiting for repairs to the system. I told her that once things are sorted out, she should call them and dispute the charge, since if the bank had not said her check had dropped, she would not have withdrawn the money to begin with. Meanwhile, at least we have some cash on hand to survive until her bank gets sorted out.
So, that’s the news from Sheepshead Bay. Wherever you are, dear readers, I hope you are warm, dry, and safe, and that no natural disasters come your way.
October 25, 2012
First, an apology…been down all day with a stomach bug, so have not been up to writing until now.
Erica, at Northwest Edible Life, has an excellent article on handiness around the home today. In it, she talks about a friend who does a lot of heavy work around the house so that she can save the money for something she wants.
Now I live in an apartment, so there’s not a lot of handiwork around the house I can do. My landlady prefers it if we have her call her son’s friends to do the work. The thing is, they are generally not certified, and the quality of the repairs is highly variable. Because of this, I have been thinking about learning more about home repair.
For one thing, my shower drain has been clogged for a while. I’ve tried hot water, and I’ve tried Drano, and neither of them have worked. We also have a toilet whose handle leaks whenever we flush it. I’ve told the Landlady about it before, and her guy came, and did something to it, but it still leaks, and is getting worse. I’m pretty sure I could fix it, given that I am a construction worker’s kid. Well, being his kid isn’t enough, but my sister and I did spend a large part of our child- and teen-hoods helping him remodel houses.
It occurs to me that if I could learn to do remodeling stuff then, I can probably relearn it now — at least enough for small repairs. (In fact, I just stopped writing long enough to actually get the shower drain unclogged!)
Saving money is a good thing, whether it’s for your emergency fund, for paying down your old debt, or for saving up for that new shiny tech toy you really, really want. And learning to fix things around your house or apartment is a great way to enhance your confidence. I don’t mean you need to start fixing your car if you don’t have the knowledge, but you can start by doing small things — gluing together a drawer, rehanging a wobbly cabinet door — stuff like that.
So, how handy are you? What level of competence do you have to fix things around your home/apartment? Where do you think you can start to improve your skills? If you aren’t handy at something, can you create a barter for it with someone who is? Further, what uses can you put the money you save this way to?
October 11, 2012
Erica, of Northwest Edible Life, has an excellent post on “The Latte Factor” up. In it, she addresses all the little leaks that money disappears through when we aren’t being cognizant .
While I have not been participating in her “No Spend Month – October” project, I have been attempting to spend less, and I have mostly been successful. I have eaten out twice this month, instead of four times, and will likely cut out at least one restaurant meal a week for the rest of the month. I went to a used bookshop with friends on Saturday, and kept my purchases to what a friend had offered to subsidize me for.
In fact, pretty much the only thing I have spent money on was groceries, and a keyboard shelf/drawer for my computer because the laptop keyboard is dying and if I have the keyboard shelf/drawer, I will be able to use the external keyboard without it falling off the one-inch wide piece of desk that it is currently being used on. And a friend and I looked around to find it on sale.
The groceries I got have largely been turned into meals — a batch of crockpot buffalo chicken, a huge pot of beef stew, and a huge pot of chili. These have all been portioned out, with half in the freezer and half in the fridge, so that I won’t be tempted to order take-away every night when the roommate is out of town next week. My next cooking projects will be tonight and Friday evening, and will entail side dishes. Steamed broccoli, with half set aside to make a broccoli/cauliflower mash), spiced cauliflower, and baked pumpkin. This works both in terms of saving money, and in terms of supporting my weight loss project.
The biggest leak I need to work on next is fees. Because of the roomie’s financial screw-up this month, I was hit with a barrage of bank fees, late fees, etc. It’s really scary how fast they add up, too.
Anyway, the upshot is that watching the little money leaks and using that money, instead, to pay down the debt and lessen the hole I am in is an ongoing process. Some months are better than others; some are worse. I am human. It’s not easy, but it’s a process that will ultimately work to my favor.
Where are your little money leaks? Which of them are you willing to stop to get out of your hole (however deep or shallow it is)? Which ones are you not willing to give up just yet (if ever)?
July 8, 2008
I was answering a comment from fivecentnickel here, and it got me thinking. I noted that until I saw what needed to be done in terms of making better choices, rather than making sacrifices, I was overwhelmed and paralyzed.
Thing is, I had climbed out of debt twice before, when I was coming from what I call punishment thinking. By that, I mean that the steps out of debt were my punishment for being stupid enough to have gotten in there in the first place. So instead of the changes becoming permanent, sooner or later I felt my punishment was over and reverted to my old ways, only i managed to dig a slightly deeper hole each time around.
This time, when I got the wakeup call two years ago, I figured it was my last opportunity, and I was gonna do it right this time. So I did something different. While I was dealing with the collection agencies, I started reading (what the heck – I had no money to go out with…). I read books and blogs on getting out of debt. I read books and blogs on personal development. I started putting together an idea of how to reframe things to the positive. My dear fiance, Dee and I had long discussions about the financial decisions we had made (both jointly and separately), and about where we wanted to go (again both as a couple and separately).
Somewhere along the way, I ran into the one piece of advice that had kind of stuck with me from when i did est back in the day. One of Werner Erhard used to say was, “It lives in your language.” Both as a word lover and as someone familiar with the concepts of Rational-Emotive Therapy, this was a concept that rang true for me. It put the control and power over my life squarely into my own little hands.
Dee and I made conscious attempts to reframe our thinking (an ongoing process, which we are still very much in the middle of), and found that it made a big difference. We stopped blaming ourselves for the mess we were in. This gave us time and space to look at where we wanted to go, and how we could get there. We made lists of our goals and values (again, both jointly and separately). We made lists of what we blamed ourselves and each other for. Then we had one huge blow-out discussion about the past, after which we have done our best to let it go. We made a conscious decision that the past was just that, and that holding on to it would just keep us mired in it.
We are not perfect, by any means. Each of us has a complicated life (and I bet you do, too), with our own baggage. However, we are facing forward finally, and it’s all good, even the rough patches.
You hear all over that those who don’t learn from their mistakes repeat them. This is true as far as it goes. What is less known is that, having learned from them, you must let them go, instead of clinging to them like Linus van Pelt to his blankie.
July 7, 2008
In this post, Five Cent Nickel challenges us to admit to our biggest financial vice.
Mine is using car services to get to and from work. Each September, I vow not to do that except in emergencies. And I usually manage to stick to that for the first half of the school year.
Then comes the first major snowfall. Between the sciatica and a weak left ankle, navigating a two-hour, three-bus (or two-hour -and-fifteen-minute, one-bus-and-two-train) commute becomes, to put it politely, hellish in the extreme, especially since my area of Brooklyn is so far down the City’s list of places to dig out that the snow is often gone by the time they get to us. So I call the local thieves. Unlike the other car services in the area, they don’t offer discounts, or deals for regular customers, but they do offer one thing the others don’t: reliability. They show up, and usually within a minute or two of when they say they will. On a well-below freezing morning at between 5:00 and 5:30 am, this is important.
So, I give in and call them. I tell myself that it’s just for the duration of the mess on the ground. then I notice that I can sleep an hour later if I use them. I’m hooked, and have to pretty much force myself to not use them sometimes. So from January until the end of June, I’m lazy and it costs me $33 (including tip) each time.
As if that wasn’t enough of a hole in my pocket, at about the same time each term, commuting home becomes an issue for the same reason. There, however, I was able to cut a deal. I call the drier directly, and he gives me $5 off what the company charges, because he’s taking me off the books. If he’s not available, I call the company, but most days he is. So that’s an additional $20 a ride. (He’s good to me, though. If I need him and don’t have the money, he will take me and I can pay him the next time.) Still, this kind of thing adds up.
I was better about it this year than the year before, and, as I loose weight so I have less joint problems, I intend to get even better about it. Still it was a significant chunk of cash that could have gone to debts or savings.
Having admitted it, the question becomes what am I gonna do about it. My bike has been retrieved from the corner of the living room. It’s in okay conditions for local riding, and I will shortly have it checked out and tuned up. Once my bike legs are back, I plan to increase the distance I can ride over the course of the summer, hopefully to a full thirty miles. (Thirty miles is double a one-way commute to work by local streets). For travelling into the city this summer, I am planning to use the express bus as much as possible.
I’m not kidding myself. This is not going to be an easy habit to kick, since it hits me right in my laziness. But I keep telling myself that when I have lost weight from the exercise, and have a fatter bank account to show for it, it will be well-worth the battle.
<i> What’s your biggest financial vice?