Tag Archives: Money

Doing It When You Don’t Want To

IRoads I was not exactly raring to go this morning. It was cold and drizzly, and it’s Day 1 being laid off from a job. I’ve never been laid off from a job. Not in over forty years of working. It is an odd feeling, to say the least.

The pool is closed today, so my schedule said I was running instead. My brain sort of said my schedule really should not matter. My heart dictated differently. So I got up at my normal time, layered up and headed to the track for sprints and bleacher work. After all, my first 10K of the new year is a week and a half away.

I got to the track and ran my laps. The bleachers were wet and slick and not looking all that safe. But something propels me to get up there and run them anyway. I am pushed on, not so much by my lack of a place to go today (though I do have work to do and resumes to send out and interviews to set up) as I am by a book I am reading, Find A Way, the autobiography of marathon swimmer Diana Nyad. It was not until she was 64 years old and on her fifth try that she achieved her dream of the Cuba-to-Florida swim. That means there were four failures before that. Failures that took a toll on her family, her friends, her health and her finances. And that’s on top of a childhood filled with sexual and physical abuse at the hands of both her father and swimming coach. The loss of her brother to schizophrenia and her mother to Alzheimer’s. How does anyone climb out of a place so dark  and not only survive, but keep focused and training and moving forward until they achieve exactly what they know they can do?

She did, and compared to her, my dark place is a just little ditch. The book was a Hanukkah gift, but the timing of its arrival was perfect. I’ll be fine.

 

 

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January 7, 2016 · 1:51 am

If Ever There Was A Reason (or Ten) To Run Away…

Marriage

Marriage (Photo credit: Lel4nd)

I know my friends and acquaintances are normal. In fact, I’m sure of it.

But there’s no question that they have some very bent branches on their family trees.

My friend “Sam” is a lovely gal with a one-year-old girl, a nice husband and a stable home life. It turns out that she became a sister-in-law last night – to a woman whose personality is a combination of jailer,  attention whore and beyotch-with-a-broomstick. Oh, and this new family member has a mother to match her in all terms of outlandish excesses, from telling people how they should entertain in their own houses to calling out other family members on their weight and manner of dress.

Just reading that paragraph, you’re likely wondering how “Sam’s” brother didn’t see what was coming, and didn’t Bolt like Usain when he had the chance. Family, friends and even church pastors apparently tried talking him out of this (un)holy matrimony. But love is sometimes not only blind; it’s deaf, and beyond dumb.

“Sam” and I, along with a few other friends, came up with a Top Ten-style list of why her brother needed to rethink his decision:

  • Number 10. Bat-shit crazy is an inherited condition: she’ll pass it on to the kids.
  • Number 9. Your marriage will give your family  something to vent about – forever.
  • Number 8. Dear brother, if everyone is telling you this isn’t a good idea, do you think we’re the ones who are wrong?
  • Number 7. She does not want to be just your wife, she wants to be your keeper and jailer. What part of her telling you “You cannot see your friends for six months so we have time to become a real couple” does not scream, ” Because I am so insecure about myself!!!“?
  • Number 6. Marriage to her means Holidays Spent in Hell for the rest of the family.
  • Number 5. When people who are paid to deal with your wedding stuff don’t want to be bothered, it’s bad. Really bad.
  • Number 4. This woman plans to get you, hook, line and sinker; for better and (mostly) for worse, in sickness and (probably not in good mental) health.
  • Number 3. Our family has already started a betting pool as to when she becomes pregnant. The odds are pretty good in favor of your wedding night, even if she has to tie you to the bedposts to get it done.
  • Number 2. Married life is going to be very lonely for you, when the only voice you end up hearing (aside from the one in your own head) is her nagging, whiny one.
  • And the Number one reason this marriage should not go forward: One of you is going to get a real screwing over. And guaranteed, it won’t be her. 

And despite all the warning signs, the marriage did indeed take place. Any other bad omens? Oh, yes; the bride and groom failed to budget properly, running out of money to pay for the post-wedding church cleanup and their honeymoon condo deposit.  I have a feeling that their relationship, like their wallets, will take a major bailout long before the first anniversary well-wishes arrive.

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Is Forty Hours A Week For The Birds?

Full Employment

Full Employment (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My friend and fellow blogger, Donna Freeman, has entered the Personal Finance Olympics with the provocative and twisty tale of her own working life, one that challenges the notion that you have to work a standard forty-hour-a-week job in order to make it, in order to be respected and loved and acknowledged as successful by your peers.

The Way We Work details Donna’s post-divorce life: after years with no full-time job or college degree, she decided to rectify both by living frugally (or “living creatively” as she calls it), doing whatever work she could do and going to classes, while still finding time to do what she loved on a budget: going to concerts, traveling to see family and friends, freelance writing.

She’s managed to get a lot done in the last five years: a college degree, travel from Alaska to Wales, witness her daughter’s marriage and obtain enough steady employment to fund all of what she needs and much of what she wants, including medical insurance and a Roth IRA. Here’s the employment kicker: her work hasn’t been in a cubicle, a corner office or even mostly in the comfort of her own home. The complex she’s lived in has provided her with employment as a jill-of-all-trades, doing repairs and other maintenance services. A journalist at heart and by trade, she’s stayed with the Fourth Estate as a freelancer, developing streams of income with new publishing sites, while staying true to her calling as a frugal lifestyler/financial blogger. (Or, if we could shorten that, a “fruglifefinblog.”)

The column she has written that I’ve mentioned here is a finalist in the Personal Finance Olympics, by the way. Take a look at it, and if you like what you see, you can vote for it by clicking on the “Vote” icon. Her story, if not her argument, is a persuasive one for considering a lifestyle off the forty-hour job leash. It’s nice to have the perks and security, though the current economy guarantees neither of those anymore. But what’s gained from more flexible work time is not just about the freedom. It’s about seeing the small moments we usually miss each day we’re holed up inside four walls for eight hours straight.

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Wedding Shower Survived. Now Dive Into The Deep End Of the Crazy Pool

English: Bride and groom at the ruins of Sutro...

English: Bride and groom at the ruins of Sutro baths. California, USA. Français : Deux jeunes mariés dans les ruines de Sutro Baths, en Californie (États-Unis). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My friend “T” made it to her nephew’s wedding shower over the weekend. She said the food was good and the restaurant was nice. All went well, considering their party had no reservations. Then again, it was a barbecue joint that didn’t “do” reservations, but that’s another story for another blogpost.

No word on how her highly sensible gift card was received. Since it wasn’t something on the BtB’s wish list, one can only assume she looked at it thought “Hmmmmm…” Hopefully, she at least said “Thank you so much!” out loud.

The ride to the shower was apparently quite instructive, “T” tells me. The nephew (groom-to-be, GtB) is the son of “T’s” sister, and sis held back nothing in terms of how stressful it all has been:

  • The choice of restaurant for the rehearsal dinner is out of the GtB’s parents’ price range. GtB has now accused his folks of trying to ruin his wedding.
  • MooG (Mother of the Groom) wants to have a talk with BtB to explain why relatives just cannot afford items on her registry. But she’s still too much in shock about the invites going out without stamps on the RSVP envelopes or maps to the venue, and the fact that this still-in-college couple “must have” only the best to start out their new lives.
  • The serving of alcohol issue: GtB’s dad is a recovering alcoholic and won’t put in a penny towards booze for anyone.
  • The BtB’s sister and her infant are here visiting from a former Soviet bloc country and don’t speak a word of English. They are staying in the BtB/GtB’s apartment for either the next two or next three months, depending on who you ask.

Needless to say, it’s getting pretty emotionally crowded in that family. The wedding is a month away. I’m considering sending my friend a case of name-brand pain relievers.

“T” is doing her best to stay out of it, and just be a sympathetic ear for her sister. She has elderly parents to worry about; they will soon have to move to a location that is safer and easier for family members to watch them, but will likely remove what little is left of their independence. Been there, faced this, and while my mother passed away before a resolution was reached, the process of getting one’s parent(s) into a new environment is monumentally difficult from both a legal/paperwork process and an emotional one. It makes the selfishness of this particular BtB and GtB seem especially petty. I mean, $60 for a single pillow sham? People still use pillow shams? I thought those were only featured in high-end furniture catalogs, just for show.

Still to come: the rehearsal dinner, the bachelor party (without the GtB, since he could not agree on the date with his best buds) and of course, the big day.

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Reality Stick Smackdown: What Does It Take?

I don’t understand some people’s ideas about money.

They think once they’ve accounted for all the things they know they have to pay for, they’re done worrying. No unexpected or unaccounted-for things could possibly happen to them that could mean the difference between having a balanced budget that month and suddenly scrambling to pay basics like rent and groceries.

I’ve written about a finance board I post on, and one poster in particular, who refuses to give up, change or compromise anything she wants or likes, in order to make living without debt a reality. I should add that she comes from a well-to-do background, and the Bank of Mom and Dad is still probably bailing out her more stupid moves. To make matters more compelling, she is raising children to live this way; buy whatever, spend whatever and don’t worry too much, so long as the income and outgo kinda sorta match up at the end of the month. After all %$!* doesn’t happen here, not to us.

Do tell.

I’ve lived long enough to lose track of the number of  “Oh %$!*” moments in my life. From feline bowel blockages to a husband who breaks a leg on vacation, to an overflowing commode that ruins a bathroom floor, to a sick parent, they never end. Sure, you can break out the plastic, or borrow from family, but isn’t it better to have some funds to fight back with when the reality stick hits you and knocks the wind out of you? Bad enough you have to think fast and react faster; having some money available to pay for extra food, medicine, a plumber, vet, a much-needed adult beverage  is vital to your sanity.

And yes, you can make room in your budget for an emergency fund. We’re talking about a few dollars set aside a week. Give up a treat or two, or put the money aside when you save money couponing and rebating. Try what I do: set aside a small sum every time you do laundry. It’s asking a lot in already lean times to do this. But the next time life wields the reality stick over your head, you’ll at least have a protective shield at the ready.

And an update: All the kind thoughts are appreciated. Mom isn’t doing well, but we are hoping for the best, whatever the outcome will be.

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I Found A Phone…And Nobody Cared?

A funny thing happened on my running way this morning.

 I found a cellphone. A very expensive cellphone, according to my Internet research. Unfortunately, by the time I figured out where the “On” button was, I found out it was an expensive, dead cellphone.

Before I set out to find out whose it was, I spoke to a few people about how and why cellphones get lost. I mean, this was not what I would call a lightweight item, given its small size. And then, it’s a possession someone paid for.

When I mentioned the idea of tracing the owner by taking it to the service carrier of record (shown on the outside of the phone), I was asked by several people why I would bother. “They’ve probably just gone ahead and bought a new one anyway.” I also heard, “Oh, I [the husband, the kids] lose phones regularly; I’ve had to replace it a few times.”

I don’t get it. Maybe I’m showing my age, but it’s about respecting your possessions. With all the news about the horrible economy and lack of jobs, you would think people would be more respectful of their stuff, know where it is and take care of the things they spend hard-earned money on. Especially these new phones that store your entire life: address book, photos, emails, texts, Internet games, and all the other things that keep people busy while they work or drive or eat in restaurants.

It’s also about trying to return a possession to a stranger who might want it. I still believe in doing the right thing and the “due diligence” of finding the owner of something lost.

Many will shrug and say that we have been a “throwaway” society for so long, that our discards no longer matter, whether they involve unloved children, poor elderly, unwanted pets; so why should a mere cellphone matter? I guess I’m tired of seeing the trash on the side of the road, whether the road is asphalt or life’s metaphysical highway, and figure it’s time for me to help clean it up.

Note: Many folks have asked about Kitty. She’s home and doing well. Eating a little more each day, still on meds for another week. Thanks for asking; it’s good to know you care.

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Rock Bottom Has Finally Hit You, My Friend

I wondered when this day would come.

I wish it hadn’t taken so long. You didn’t finally “fall” to the lowest possible level. It rose up to meet your lack of decent expectations.

Your life is a mess beyond reason.

The man you’re with is more of a kid than your two kids, and he’s using what few assets you have left to keep himself afloat. Whatever he wants, he whines until you make peace and give in to him. And you’ve done nothing to fix the chronic spending issues. You have to have a “good” cellphone, “trustworthy” car, “decent” house near your folks (so they can provide childcare), lunches out (when you “forget” to bring yours from home). You keep saying you watch what you spend, and it’s less than your friends.  But if it’s more money than you make, it does not matter how it stacks up compared to others. The fact is, you’re no longer merely sinking. Your ship is below the water line, and all the bailing you are doing is not saving the boat at all.

And friends have stepped in to help with concrete advice. They’ve offered money management software, spreadsheets, names of  bankruptcy attorneys (yes, declaring bankruptcy has become an option, much as you don’t want to believe it), and dozens of ways to cut your spending and pay your debt. None of it represents an easy or painless solution. And what do you do? Sit on your cotton candy cloud, claiming that people are picking on you, and make excuse after excuse as to why you cannot change. I don’t have time, the kids had nothing to wear, my seven-year-old needs a cellphone, my hsband hates the idea of (fill in the blank).

Then came the ultimate delusion: I am not getting rid of my car because I want to be buried with it. Really, you have reached the point where a car without seating for your kids is so important, you’d rather keep it for your someday funeral (as if state law would actually allow your side-by-side burial with that rustbucket) than deal with current reality.

I call this sunshine-out-the-ass thinking, sweetie; because  as bright as you try to make it look and sound, it’s still coming from a dark and ugly place.

I’m walking away from your situation, at least for now. I cannot imagine where your self-worth and self-esteem must be, if you still have any left. You can fix this, for yourself and your kids, but this is going to impact everything you do and every financial decision you make. Good luck, and stay away from cemeteries.

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