January 24, 2013
I am happy to report that, because I have been getting organized, I was able to spend last night being cozy and warm, rather than freezing my toes off.
When my feet were freezing, even with the heat coming up, I was able to find both the electric blanket and it’s cord. I had gotten the blanket cleaned and shaken out earlier in the program, so it was ready to get put on my bed. Even at 5 am, it only took five minutes to set it back up (it would have taken even less time, but I needed to pull up the users’ manual online), and I happily crawled back into a nice, warm bed.
In other organizing news, my friend J turned me on to a website that her friend A uses. It’s called Bookmooch. Their deal is that you post books you want to give away, and get points for each book you post. You also get points for each book someone takes. If a book is on someone’s wish list when you post it, that person gets an email that a copy is available. You then send the book to that person, paying the postage. When you take a book, either by browsing or being notified that a copy is available, the book gets sent to you with the sender paying the postage. I’ve gotten rid of at least 30 books through it in the last week. I need to put my wishlist on there and see if any of the books I want is there for free, but so far I am very satisfied, and have even gotten several nice emails from recipients of books I sent.
I have now emptied the top shelf of the barrister’s bookcase, and gotten about half the yarn from it photographed and entered into my Ravelry database. Once all the yarn is in, I will decide what I want to keep and what I want to sell or trade.
My next project is to empty out whatever has been sitting in the top of the two-drawer file cabinet I inherited from my roommate. Once that is done, I can start to create a better filing system than that I am currently using (two file cases on my desk with currently used and occasionally used but needed for reference files, and one box jammed full under my desk). I plan to tackle the cleaning out of the drawer this evening, so we can put out whatever garbage it generate with the trash tonight. I will also find out if I need a frame for hanging folders that way.
Once that is done, I have some paying work to do — a scarf commissioned by a friend’s co-worker.
I have to say that I am really pleased with the progress I am making on this front. And the more I get done, the better I feel in general, which is a lovely side benefit. Also, I have noticed that by taking this huge task a small bite at time, I am getting to savor each success instead of bemoaning the enormity of the job! All in all, a great positive feedback loop!
Have you noticed any changes in your outlook as you continue to get organized? Are you trying to do it all at once, or allowing yourself to take things a bit at a time? Hw does that feel? Are you allowing yourself to savor each accomplishment?
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 20, 2012
Disclaimer: Okay, I’m Jewish. That said, I am also an American and a New Yorker. Also, my grandma worked for Macy’s for most of her adult life, as a salesperson. End Disclaimer
When I was growing up (in the 1950s and 1960s), the Christmas season began the moment that Santa and his sleigh appeared onscreen at the end of the New York Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and not one second sooner. It was the way things were in my entire neighborhood (Richmond Hill, Queens, NY), and we were fine with it. The day after Thanksgiving was, of course, Black Friday (originally named because this was the biggest shopping day of the year; the day that could flip a store into the black, and not for the behavior of the shoppers). Heck, the whole weekend was when most people did their Christmas/Chanukah/whatever (there was no Kwaanza then, and most folks in my neighborhood didn’t celebrate Yule) shopping.
Now, as online retailers started taking away some share of the brick and mortar retailers’ profits (not to mention competition among the brick and mortar retailers themselves), the brick and mortar retailers started pushing back. First came early bird specials, which could start at any time after, say, 4 am. These were followed by Midnight specials: stores opening at the stroke of Midnight between Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday.
Now, some of the larger brick and mortar retailers are pushing to have stores open on Thanksgiving Night or Day, in a blatant attempt to create bigger sales. In order to do so, they are spending vast sums to stock up, hire security, and entice employees to work on Thanksgiving (in some cases coercing employees to work on that day). Now, I know that for some folks, the economy being what it is, a workday at time and a half is a wonderful thing, and I have no bone to pick with them. I wish them well, and I am certain they are thankful for the chance to add to their budget.
However, I do have an issue with the retailers, particularly the big box retailers. Thanksgiving is the one uniquely American holiday in that it can be celebrated by people of any background or religion, and in that, rather than as a holiday in which people are pushed to give gifts, it is about reflecting on all that we do have — food, a roof over our heads, friends, intelligence, whatever — the things that make our lives good.
Erica, of the blog Northwest Edible Life, did an excellent post on the subject, and I am willing to spread her conclusion:
“This, therefore, is my conclusion and my message: all y’all Grey Thursday and Black Friday deal-hunters need to just calm the hell down for a second (or, ideally, twelve hours). Have some turkey, play a board game, watch a football game. Call your friends, hug your family, put on some music. Go around your house and count how many TVs you already have. Hint: if (number of TVs x 200)>(your credit score) do not buy any more TVs!
Go shopping on Friday. Have a blast – get up early, buy a Mrs. Field’s cookie and make a day out of it. Go with friends, keep the economy moving, hunt for parking, be part of the Black Friday tradition. If everyone did this, within two years stores would take Thursday sales off the table, hundreds of thousands of employees would not be pressured to work Thanksgiving, and the discounts would be just as good on Friday.
I cannot emphasize this enough: there is no reason - at all - why a steep discount has to be offered on Thursday instead of Friday. The stores would all adapt if we refused to offer up Thanksgiving to commercialism.”
Of course, like Erica, I feel I am preaching to the choir here. Most of the people I know would sooner eat soap than go near a mall on Black Friday.
However, like Erica, I want to spread the word that if enough people avoid taking part in this crazy rush to acquire things, and the retailers lose enough money, they will be forced by their own bottom lines to not repeat the folly.
Therefore, I am taking a stand. And I am putting that stand out in the world, so that others so inclined might also take one. I will not, other than maybe a last-minute run to the local bodega for more milk, go near a store on Thanksgiving. I will dine with my relatives, relax with them, enjoy their company, and then go home, where I will either read, chat with online friends, or knit until bedtime.
I note that the roomie just placed a full-page ad from one of my favorite local chain appliance/electronics stores, P.C. Richards, into my hand. They are not only not going to open on Thanksgiving Day or Night, but are blasting retailers who do so.
Since the text of the ad is not clear, here is the text:
Our 2,968 Employees Wish You a Very Healthy, Happy Thanksgiving… A Day for the Celebration of Families, Friends, and Loved Ones.
It is our opinion that retailers who choose to open on Thanksgiving Day or Night show no respect to their employees and families, and are in total disrespect of family values in the United States of America.
Honor Thanksgiving Day… A True American Holiday!
And on this day… our thoughts and prayers are with our employees, customers, friends and neighbors who have been impacted by Hurricane Sandy.
We appreciate those who provide us essential services today.
A special thank to all emergency response teams, working tirelessly in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, and to the service men and women who protect our freedom each and every day!
P.C. RICHARD & SON
Family Owned & Operated for 103 Year…Est. 1909
And because of that, I think you folks can predict what retailer will continue to get my share of patronage when I want to purchase an appliance or small electronics item.
So, I am, as I said, taking a stand. And I ask if you will, too. Will you avoid the attempt to turn Thanksgiving Day into an extension of Black Friday? Will you avoid becoming part of the madding crowd at the malls?
Note: I do welcome dissenting opinions, so long as they are voiced civilly. If they are not, I will borrow Teresa Neilsen-Hayden’s disemvowelling tools, and John Scalzi’s Mallet of Gentle Correction, and use them liberally.
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.
October 18, 2012
Okay, before I begin, I know there are people who are suddenly thrust into debt due to circumstances totally beyond their control. This column is not about those people.
The truth is, as much as most of us do not want to face it, we chose our debt burdens. We did so by making less than optimal choices repeatedly. That retail therapy when we broke up with a partner, or lost a job; the need to have the latest shiny, new technology object the moment it’s offered for sale; those are choices.
For me, this slide into debt was a result of a number of choices:
- Choosing to buy my sister and myself digital cameras, when I could not really afford to do so,
- Choosing to spend money on indulgences such as Starbucks, rather than saving it
- Choosing to buy things instead of paying off my credit cards in total every month
- Choosing to retire before I had sufficient funds to do so
- Choosing to eat out once a week, even when it meant borrowing the money to do so
- Choosing to let payments slide
- Choosing to bail out my roommate from her various financial missteps
- Choosing to help friends in worse financial condition than I was
Those are the main choices that led to my situation. There are other reasons, to be sure, but if I had made better decisions when I could have, the impact of those things I could not control would not have been nearly as rough as they have been.
I am trying to do the internal work that will help me make better decisions and choices going forward, even as I am struggling to pay off the debts I have incurred — after swearing that I would never get into debt again (sigh).
It is a long process, and it is not fun, but it does need to be done. I pride myself on not running away from problems, especially if I have created them, so facing them squarely is the only way I know of to get myself out of this mess and not create another one.
The last time I dug myself out of most of my debt, I was able to keep from falling back in for over two years, so the history is that I am capable of making the choices to keep myself clear of problems. The trick is to remember the consequences of choices I have made in the past BEFORE I make the less optimal choices.
The final truth is that whether you chose your way into debt, or have landed there from some catastrophic occurrence, being in debt stinks. It’s uncomfortable, time-consuming, stress-inducing, and generally sucks the joy out of living. Choosing better, so that you can get out, and stay out, of debt may be hard, but being in debt is harder.
So, in my usual spirit of inquiry: Is your debt really the result of things beyond your control? If not, what are the choices you have made that put you into debt? What choices can you make going forward to ensure that you don’t incur greater debt while you are trying to climb out of the hole? What choices can you make that will keep you out of the hole once you get there?
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)?
September 6, 2012
I have slowly and painfully been evaluating where I stand…not much fun, but if I want to figure out where I am going in the future, it needs to be done. One thing I have decided is that I need to be doing my own writing, both in terms of blogs and income generation. The jobs I have been finding online are not generating the kind of income I want, and I really hate shilling for products I don’t believe in. I currently have one writing for hire project in the pipeline, and I am learning some of the skills I will need in the future, so I am doing my best to fulfill this one last job. I have made arrangements for hosting one of my three blogs, and once that is going the way I want, this blog and my knitting blog will get transferred there, too. Right now, the one recurring expense I have added is rejoining Weight Watchers. The roommate and I have discussed this, and decided that my getting healthy again was a priority, and that we could afford to spend the money for the one program that I know for sure works. It’s not a cheap program — the current price is $42.95/month for their monthly pass. This allows me to attend as many meetings as I want, and allows full use of their online and mobile tools, which is very useful. I have been making sporadic attempts to do the program in Throw Out Fifty Things.” So far, I have ten things (things being defined loosely as groups of things):
- Plastic Bags
- Eyeglass cases
- Medicine Bottles
- Watch Cases
- Paper Bags
- Ink Cartridges
It”s a start. And a pretty good one. I’m not tossing clothing just yet, however; That will have to wait until I lose enough weight to get into the next smaller size, since I do need to cover my carcass before walking out the front door.
A friend and I were just discussing being caught in-between. She never had trouble getting a job until she got her teaching certification. When I went back to school, I had no idea I was setting myself up as unfit for corporate world: too qualified to be an administrative assistant; not qualified enough to be a manager. And, at ages 40 (my friend) and 60 (me), we are aging out of a market that increasingly ignores older workers in favor of younger ones — favoring those who they can pay less, regardless of the longer learning curve.
I remember trying to get my first jobs — everyone wanted experience, and I couldn’t understand how I was supposed to get that experience if I couldn’t get a job. Now I have the experience and the credentials, and I can’t get hired because I am over-qualified (and older). As my friend said, “on the one hand, its great that we in theory have all these career choices… on the other hand, there aren’t a lot of careers out there anymore.” Theory, however, doesn’t pay the groceries or the electric bill, let alone the phone, internet, rent, etc.
For me, I have opted out of that race, and am now trying to carve out my own little piece of the universe. It’s challenging, and long-term. And I keep refining the ideas of where I want to go and what I want to do so that I am actually beginning to get a real sense of focus. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t still days when I want to hide under the covers. And overcoming that, I suspect, is the biggest challenge.
So, although this is short, there is a lot to think about. Here are my questions for the moment: What do you do to reinvent your life when you are caught “in-between”? What piece of the universe can you carve out, succeed at, and call your own?
July 5, 2008
Seems like a reasonable subject for this blog, too, so let’s see what I can reason out.
For one thing, I am not poor. Pete from Bible Money Matters recently posted a link to Global Rich List. I put my annual salary into their calculator and found that I am, if this is correct, the 674,568,733rd richest person in the world. Now that may not seem like a lot, but that puts me into the top 11.24% of earners in the world. (The site notes that if you make over $47,000/ann., you are in the top 1%.) Yeah, I know, that and $2.00 will get me on the bus, at least until the MTA raises the fare again. Still, it’s kind of humbling to realize how well-off I am in comparison to much of the world.
To me, financial independence would be to not be in debt to anyone. Not to Marc, not to a credit card company, not to my Landlord, not to Nelnet (my student loans). It means that the money I earn would go into supporting me both on a daily basis and for the long haul, and constantly and consistently making choices that support those goals. It means not having to feel I can’t afford to pursue something important to me. It means having the money to not have to use a dental clinic provided by my union where I am poorly treated because what I need is more than what the clinic’s practitioners who are mostly just out of dental school, are capable of handling. It means being able to follow the career paths I want to (writing and other creative pursuits) rather than having to take a low-level job that is exceedingly stressful. It means not having to put up with a roommate who has no desire to manage her finances.
The steps I am taking toward financial independence are not sacrifices. I’ve noted elsewhere that I don’t believe I am making sacrifices, but choices that will give me opportunities to make a wider variety of choices in the future.
In short, while financial independence is a goal, it is primarily a stepping stone to achieving other goals, and to me that is the thing to keep in mind along this road.
What does financial independence mean to you?