Friday, November 5, 2010

on finances.

I haven't posted about my financial situation in a while. I guess because it sucks. I mean, it doesn't suck, technically. I got a raise this year for becoming head teacher, and I now make DOUBLE what I made as an assistant! Yes, that's awesome! Then how is it that I'm still living paycheck to paycheck and paying for checking account overdrafts each month?

I don't buy new clothes or gadgets and yes maybe my food budget is just a weeeee bit out of control, but seriously. My money is spent on day one of getting paid. The problem, of course, is that for the third year now, I have spent my first three paychecks (and soon to be four!) on catching up from an entire summer of not being paid at all. Yes, I was on a 10-month paycheck plan. Luckily, this year I'm on a 12-month plan, so I don't have to worry about missed payments and late fees and paying double rent (living here in Louisville AND in St. Louis, where my training was).

But I haven't felt the raise yet due to this sitchy. And I'm sick to death of not ever having any money. I feel like a complete loser at the age of 30. No one ever taught me how to specifically manage money.

If you're not a new reader, you know that I've taken many, many steps over the last two and a half years of blogging to simplify my life in terms of material things, in terms of going out to eat (which I was horrible at when I first began this blog in 2008, almost never cooking it seemed), etc.

My mindset now is TOTALLy different than when I was on the mainstream consumer acquire-acquire-acquire treadmill. And, in so many ways, I've translated this to practical actions.

Yet I still have no savings, my credit cards are still maxed out at about $6,000 (due to classroom expenses, yes setting up a classroom from scratch with a $500 budget for the year from my school gets very expensive because of course you're going to need more than that, a Montessori moveable alphabet alone is $300, not to mention all the weekly/monthly things that add up, like flowers, cheese, soap, cleaning supplies, etc. I also have some of last year's traveling-home-for-christmas money still on there), and I'm behind on my health insurance payments (yikes).

And to top it all off, I just received my very first graduate student loan bill in the mail! $499/month for the next 10 years! yippee!! ;-)

I have taken out payday loans (I know, bad, I did just pay one off in full though) and check advances from my own bank to keep my head above the water.

But I'm not paying myself first, and every month I get paid it seems the earlier I'm broke again.

So this month, I'm going to only pay what I absolutely need to to get by. Rent, student loan bill (never want to get behind on those!), cell phone, car insurance. Et cetera.

I've decided to look for an extra job to pay my credit cards off (which I'm cutting up, at least the lower balance ones, I'll probably freeze the $5,000 limit one in a block of ice until I have a decent emergency fund built up), which is likely going to be babysitting work. I only need about $80/week to do the snowball thing. I like Dave Ramsey's advice on paying off credit cards.

It's been challenging, but I've come up with some solutions, for example as soon as I'm paid I give myself $100 cash "end of month" money that I can't start spending until 10 days before I'm paid again.

It's been interesting, as well going DAYS and DAYS (as in, a week or more) without spending a dime. I think in a way, it's a good lesson that there is a good life to be had without constantly running to the shops for this and that little (and usually unecessary) little thing. Today, for instance, I spent 2 hours after school deep cleaning my classroom. I've been hiking a lot on weekends, and bringing a picnic lunch with me. Last night, I spent an hour and a half at a local yarn shop, knitting a scarf that will be a christmas gift. I got a lot done! Tonight, I'm going to really relax: blogging, doing laundry. Tomorrow night is "ladies' night" at a friend's (not something out). You are getting the point.

This is something I want to continue when I actually see my finances creep into the black again. I think it's a mindset we as consumer-brainwashed Americans (and we are, much as I hate to admit it, it's a lifetime of advertising, cultural rituals stamped onto my brain unconsciously and not-so) really struggle with. I know I do, and you know how I strive to live! It actually feels like a struggle to go days and days without spending money on something, even a something as trivial as a coffee or a beer! I'm trying to worm my way through that tiny hole to the light, as it were.

I know that I will catch up. I'm not doing any more short-term loans, and I'm going to start advancing less and less with each paycheck, the better I get at this "no spending" game.

Of course, we all need to treat ourselves sometimes. I considered giving up my reservations to a very high-class hotel in Chicago the weekend before I head home on the train for Christmas in New England. but you know what? i'll have gone so long without any real "treat" that it's worth it to me. Windfalls are coming, Christmas cash and tax refunds and one more student loan installment (I have one more short semester of school to attain my master's, and I'll need the money for travel, food, and other expenses) will come soon after, and will be well distributed.

I guess I'm mostly writing this to encourage myself, to see long-term goals (house, travel, family)as the things I really want to save for .... but mainly, in the short-term, so I don't give up on seeing "no spending" as an okay thing.

I'd like to start paying for nearly everything outside of bills with cash, too, including food (I've already started that) and gas. I used to think that was worse for someone who has money burning a consistent hole in her pocket, but I think I can handle it better now.

If you have some positive words or advice to share, please do so in the comments. I'd appreciate the support.

cheers and happy weekending to you (I get another three-day one!),



  1. pains me to do it, but i'm going to cancel the chicago hotel, too, figuring with food/public transit/etc AND the hotel room, i'd be responsible for another at least $700 i don't have to spend. on the other hand, i AM keeping my $70/month yoga studio membership. it's less than $20/week, and I consider it the health insurance i've stopped paying for.

  2. I have always been dreadful at saving , karen. I find the thing that helps me is on pay day , working out every payment I need to pay and pay it out there and then before I spend it accidently, it seems to take the stress out of things too. I have just discovered buying in bulk really helps too in all over savings with groceries and it also stops impulse buying because you are not in the shops as much.
    Don't give up, you are doing an amazing job.
    How about putting ads on your blog to make extra money that way too and growing as much of your own food as you can (even small places can grow salad).
    Love your posts and the blogs you recommmend.Stay positive , you will get there.

  3. oh how i know how you feel... with one income and a family of five we live paycheck to paycheck. i'm currently a month behind on marley and I's health insurance and we can barely pay over the minimum amts on our credit cards. we have a small amount in savings in case something with one of the cars comes up and I actually figured out a way to pay for christmas. we have cash back rewards on our debit cards so I cashed in our points and got $400 back. sounds like a lot but when paying for a christmas of 3 kids and 5 nieces/nephews and parents it won't go far... This week I've stayed home with marley and haven't gone anywhere except to the grocery store on monday. willard gets paid weekly and the pay is always different. there were weeks he made $1800 and then the next week his pay was $180. it's incredibly hard to budget on an income like that. we'll probably have to get willard a new (used) car next year after our tax return and i have no idea how we'll handle 2 car payments. i wish we could take that tax return money and pay off our credit cards but his car is slowly dying. we paid cash for it last year ($5000) and have already put $2000 into when it broke down earlier this year... ugh its a never ending cycle and now my thoughts are becoming jumbled since i'm being beckoned by the kiddos. miss you and i miss blogging.... maybe i can get back into it when marley isn't needing me constantly :)