Tag Archives: personal finance

A bread and butter kind of day

You’ve had them, I know.


Calling Dr. Bread and Nurse Butter!

The kind of day where only carbs with a liberal slathering of fats will do.

I’ve had my share of them in the past ten weeks. Some good days and some good job interviews. And some that were not merely forgettable, they were worth walking out on. I mean both the days and the interviews.

But plugging along, working out and planning for what’s next, even if I don’t know exactly what it is, is keeping the brain sane and steady. I’m volunteering this weekend, at the triathlon that started it all for me. It’s a local super sprint, and it’s the one I did last year. The one that scared me the most because it was my first, and lured me into thinking I could keep doing them, because I finished that one. In less than two weeks, triathlon number five takes place, at a venue I know well but never used for competition.

I let myself have some sourdough bread and butter today (OK, “some” is a four-letter word for overdoing it) because I now have to cut back and behave until my own event. I forced myself away from the computer to go outside and kill weeds. I’ve stayed far, far away from the TV pundits and political websites and the outshout-the-other candidate soundbites, though I did go and vote in the state primary.

No TV or newspaper tomorrow. Lots of job searching, prepping for a career fair later this week, freelance work and chores around the house. Oh, and no more bread and butter, at

I let myself have some sourdough bread and butter today (OK, “some” is a four-letter word for overdoing it) because I now have to cut back and behave until my own event. I forced myself away from the computer to go outside and kill weeds. I’ve stayed far, far away from the TV pundits and political websites and the outshout-the-other candidate soundbites, though I did go and vote in the state primary.

No TV or newspaper tomorrow. Lots of job searching, prepping for a career fair later this week, freelance work and chores around the house. Oh, and no more bread and butter, at least for now.


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Filed under athletic competition, employment, Exercise, food, freelancing, mental health, Triathlons, unemployment

The Pension Is Coming! The Pension Is Coming!

Personal Finance

Personal Finance (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)

I’ve known it for years: the first day my very first pension starts. It’s almost here.

The day my first job pays me money for all the time I sat in a smoky cubicle (yes, I just dated myself to the days when smoking was allowed indoors) and slaved away, wondering what else I could do with my life, and how soon I could do it.

Life has certainly taken some odd turns since those days. And the oddest of them will occur this weekend, when I get together with some of those people from the other smoky cubicles.

It will be a strange day, seeing former colleagues whose names I easily recall from thirty years ago, but whose faces have surely changed. I have spotted a few on Facebook and LinkedIn, and I have to tell you, I’m a tad suspicious that they look that good online. I’m wondering if I should bring a camera and take pictures, or if I should allow them their vanity (as they will hopefully allow me mine) and simply take home some memories. I’m leaning towards the memories at the moment.

But about that pension: it isn’t much, given that the job was from the late 1970s and early 1980s. It represents bucks for the budget, which always helps, even though the amount will only buy cat food and shampoo every month. But it’s nice to have it coming in. What it really represents is a milestone, the passage of time and the reaching of an age that seemed as unthinkable as iPad Minis and Androids back then. The money is going straight into savings; I don’t feel like a pensioner, so I don’t feel I should be spending a pension right now. I do feel like working and doing and finding out what’s next, and what’s next is a very interesting job interview this week. I’ll let you know how it goes.


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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.


Filed under Uncategorized

How To Bake A Business Plan


Cupcake City, here I (want) to come!

I could eat 'em all, but I'd rather everyone else did.

I’m finding it’s a lot of fun to sit in front of my computer and work on my business plan. It’s the first step to my next step in life.

I’ve heard the stories about people who suddenly decide to change gears without a plan. They seamlessly move from a life doing one thing to something totally different, and claim to do so without any previous experience or plan of action. I often wonder if there’s not something else at work there, besides a lack of coherent thought. Like maybe a big hidden wad of Benjamins to tide them over if things don’t work out. Or perhaps a forty-hour spouse with a “real” job who provides such niceties as health insurance, mortgage payments and groceries, so they can live the dream.

Don’t get me wrong. I love a good overnight success story. Thing is, “overnight” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. Overnight can mean anything from a standard day of twenty-four hours to a decade or more. What you don’t always hear about are the sleepless nights, difficult decisions, financial losses and personal hardships that come with that success. I’ve been fortunate enough to interview a number of restaurant owners, bakers, chefs and food entrepreneurs who have shared their stories for my food column. I try to ask every one of them the same question:

“Why do you do this? It’s a tough life in a good economy. So why this and why now?”

The answers are almost always the same:

“Because I knew it was time to move up, not just move on.”

“Because it was time to work for myself first, then for other people, not the other way around.”

“Because it is a challenge. Disciplining yourself for a twelve to eighteen-hour day is a lot harder than working the standard nine-to-five for someone else.”

It’s been an education listening to what others have said. I’m taking it in, making notes and moving ahead.

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Filed under food, Uncategorized

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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Filed under budget, family, frugality, mental health

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.


Filed under automobiles, budget, frugality, Relationships, thought, Uncategorized

Money fights: is it about dollars, or a lack of sense?

I recently watched a couple I know have a complete meltdown over money.

Except it wasn’t about money. It was about job satisfaction, household chores, kids, their new house, their new neighborhood, her degree, his lack of help at home. The fight started out discussing the pros and cons of giving a small amount of money to a relative, but actually circled around all these other topics. The exchange started out civilly, and ended in threats of mental breakdown, divorce, suicidal thoughts, slaving in menial jobs while the kids were neglected, etc.

Oh, but it gets more interesting. The entire exchange took place on a social media site. The couple involved were in two completely different places, hashing out their private pains, with an audience divided between offering helpful advice and slinging line after line of stand-up comedy. Eventually, the duo took themselves offline from this site, quite possibly for good. 

Aside from the obvious issue (no, no, no, and heck no, don’t give/lend relatives money unless you’re OK with never seeing it again), there is the problem of discussing money in an intelligent manner. What’s your method?

  • Do you just sail along, until problems start to build a backlog, then get mad and have a knock-down-drag-out?
  • Do you fly off the handle over every single blip on the financial radar? If the spreadsheets don’t total up to the penny, does it mean war?
  • Is one person the adult and the other the child; one of you doing all the bills and handling all the accounts, and giving the other an allowance (and a hard time about how and where it’s spent)?
  • Do you avoid the topic of money, and instead pick a fight on something else, so you can eventually say things like, “Well, we would be able to take a vacation to Hawaii if you didn’t waste money on fishing and poker! Oh, and I guess your two feet really do need twenty pairs of shoes, right?”

In the case of The (un)Social Media Marrieds, their problems go deeper than a donation to a relative. Many aspects of their current life are making them unhappy, but few actually have a dollar sign in front of them.  They’ve had the same discussions for a long time. Both claim they want to make changes, but they also like the comfort level of their current situation. So they take it out on money: not having enough to be totally comfortable, blaming each other for not having the cash for the latest emergency, the wife not having a job to pay off her student loans, or both of them spending on “blow” items, like lunches out activities with the kids.

If you’re going to have at it about money, then address it calmly and directly, equal partner to equal partner, regardless of who brings home more bacon. If the issue isn’t money, then resolve to have the conversation with cash removed from the table and common sense laid out. Schedule time regularly to look over your budget and other life issues, so they don’t get out of hand. If all is well, fine. If you need to fine-tune or rework completely, now you’ve budgeted the time to do it, before stress sets in.

I don’t know how The Marrieds are doing since they left the site. I hope they are OK. They have kids who are watching and learning from them.

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Filed under budget, family, frugality, Relationships, Uncategorized