Category Archives: Money bullsh*t

The financial idiot

Standard

Remember the good old blogging days? When we all posted frequently, and could easily comment on one another’s posts? Those were some good times. But now, with all the elaborate word verification captchas, incompatabilities between WordPress and Blogger and everyone getting busy with life (what? Real life? What’s that?!), the blogging activity is falling by the wayside.

I still like it, though. I still check blogs that have not been updated in a year, just in case. I blog on my other blog. I blog here. Sure, it’s not as big a part of my life as it once was, but that’s fine. Things shift around and change. It’s OK.

So, I came here today to share my weird shame regarding my bank accounts. It’s just maddening to me that a grown woman with lots of responsibilities and a decent sized paycheck still manages to struggle each month to make ends meet. Especially months with holidays or trips. Dear GOD. I am without an effective budget right now, because I can’t seem to get ahead to the point where things are able to BE budgeted.

Right now, I am down to $44 in my checking account. And $21 in my savings.

That’s IT. That’s what I have to work with until I get paid on Friday.

The only reason I have $44 in checking is because I transferred a whopping $15 over this morning so I could buy some gas for the car this week. I want to get $10 worth.

This is so stupid and shameful. I don’t know how things got so out of control, but ALL of my money goes to paying bills and buying food/gas. The three basics. Every time I spend money on something fun, I wind up short. October it was Halloween and the trip to LA that did me in. November, it was the trip to NJ and then some money I threw in for Thanksgiving dinner stuff. Now this month, it’s friggin’ Christmas. Great. Well, this year they are all getting ‘creative’ gifts (AKA cheap/handmade) and a big pull-back from the years past where I went overboard on my family since I love buying for them. All those holidays added up, it turned out, and gave me a decent chunk of credit card debt. Who’da thunk it?

Well, something has to change soon. I’m considering a couple of options. One– refinancing my mortgage to a 30yr. fixed if I can qualify for it. That could potentially lower my payment. Or, turn the car in for a more affordable car. I thought I could handle jumping from a $128 car payment to a $286 one, but it turns out it’s really not working. I make the payment, yes, but because I am never one to skip a payment or pay less than the amount due. That means all my money that I’d use for other stuff just isn’t there. Maybe I should just do what so many people I know do: just pay what you can and leave it at that. I don’t know, though… I am proud of my credit score and don’t want to take any hits on it. I don’t know why it matters so much to me, but it does.

I’m starting to consider debt consolidation, too. Get all the stupid credit card bills together and make it into one payment. Maybe a lower payment overall. We’ll have to see on that one. I don’t want to close all of my cards out, or have trouble with my credit score down the road.

I hate being an adult sometimes. I really do.

I really have been feeling that hamster wheel thing these days… I keep running to keep up, and yet I never get anywhere.

hamsterwheel

I’m-in-a-FUNKytown

Standard

I’ve had a weird couple of weeks, in that I’m just not interested in very much. It’s most likely just because it’s summer, and I have to wait awhile before I can begin seriously planning my move back to NJ (even though I wish I could do it now)… or, it’s a little dash of the ol’ depression sprinkled into the mix once more. Either way, I feel kind of disappointed in myself for not forcing myself to snap out of it and change things.

I had a week of vacation last week. I had to use it or lose it, basically. My boss insisted I take my vacation in July, even though I technically have all of August to use it too (we go by fiscal year). So I didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter regarding the timing, sadly. If I could have had my way, I’d be taking that time this month instead. ANYWAY, I had my 5 days off and what did I do? Pretty much nothing at all. That’s what.

I slept in. I watched movies and TV. I read a lot. I napped. It was incredibly, terribly lame and I’m ashamed of all the time I simply wasted.

I really would have preferred going someplace, believe me. I would have liked to go up north for even just one day to go hiking and hang out around trees and/or water. But I had no one to go with me– one of the biggest drawbacks of being antisocial and single, honestly– and my family wasn’t too excited about the idea of me going hiking up there all by myself. Second, I had no money at all to spend on gas, food, entertainment, etc.

Stupid Carmax Finance. Once more, they took my monthly car payment from my checking account TWICE. This, after it happened in June and I called and thought I got it corrected… and was told my ‘extra’ June payment would be applied for July. So, technically, I wouldn’t owe a payment until August.

Yeah, that didn’t happen. I had yet another $575 pulled from my account. And like last month, it seriously handicapped me as it dropped my checking balance down to about $33 last week. I had other bills to pay. And I couldn’t pay those bills if I didn’t get reimbursed, and fast.

It was a whole fucked-up ordeal. Every time I called Carmax Finance, I talked to someone different and everyone made different promises to me. That my money would be automatically redeposited into my checking account, after I faxed over my bank statements and everything. Then when that didn’t happen, I was told they would overnight the checks to me. That didn’t happen, either. I finally managed to get my money back–by regular mail– on Thursday afternoon last week. Thursday. Too late for me to do anything really fun/good with my vacation time. I was, and am, pissed off. But hey, at least I finally got reimbursed.

Now to just see if the same thing repeats itself in August…

I don’t believe it will. This time I got a confirmation email that they deleted the second monthly payment, rather than just a verbal “OK, it’s fixed” like last time. So we’ll just see. But really, if this fuckery DOES happen again, I’m bringing the car down to Carmax and demanding that they let me turn it in. I’m so disappointed in the company regarding this whole mess. This is a company I have raved about in the past, and I love their business model. But when true incompetance happens like this, it kind of casts a pall over the overall relationship, sadly.

My life’s felt incredibly non-eventful and boring these days. I hate when people ask me what I’ve been doing lately or what’s new, because I feel like I draw a giant blank every time. I’m like, “Well, I cleaned. I did some yardwork. I basically stared into space before dozing off for a couple of naps every day.” I used to do theater, and in some ways I find myself missing it because it was a PROJECT that had a beginning, middle and a final product of all the work. Every play required about 8-12 weeks at a time, but that’s kind of the perfect amount of time to do something and wrap it up. Then, move on to the next show/project. It was never boring and routine because it changed up every few months, by nature.

I’ve thought about taking a class in something at a community college, and/or getting some kind of part-time job. My biggest issue is this guilt about leaving the dogs alone for so much time. Seriously, I worry that they are bored and I don’t give them enough of what all dogs want– time and attention from me. I’m at work for 9-10 hours every weekday. So, I feel awful when I come home to let them out and spend just a few minutes with them before going out again to do something fun. I don’t know why I worry about letting them down/boring them so much, but I do. I already think about how dull their lives are with me, because I work all day and come home and just basically either sit and use my computer and watch TV or do chores that keep me busy up until bedtime. I do make efforts to play with them and give them affection and talk to them and everything. When it’s not too disgusting outside, we take a walk, but this time of year our walks always drop off until it cools down. (The pavement doesn’t get all that cool until about 9:00, 9:30 at night, which can be too late to walk around in the dark neighborhood and feel safe.)

I’m feeling the strain of trying to be enough for four pets. I know I’m lucky since my pets are pretty good and don’t demand too much, really, but my own guilt and sadness really gets to me when I try to put myself in their situations and realize I don’t do enough with them every day. If I had a husband, a family, etc, it wouldn’t all be on me, just me, to provide everything each pet needs. I don’t know. It kind of sucks that I’m on my own with this. But hell, it’s my own doing. I did this knowingly and consciously.

I think I’m projecting stuff onto these pets, for sure. I’m bored, so I assume they are bored as well. I wish I could be more. Not just for them, but for myself.

So, yeah, I’m just in a general funk. I had two pretty decent days in a row, though. Yesterday I was in a goofy, sing-songy mood and felt like I had things under control fairly well. I was productive at work. I hung out with my Mom and sister for dinner and we watched Despicable Me, which is an adorable movie. I brought the two dogs with me to my sister’s house so there was no guilt about leaving them home alone all night… b/c they were with me. Today, I was productive again and I ended up writing a lot of my book. I had to go to the obgyn for my annual exam, but it went super fast and wasn’t painful this time. I always feel great when I leave from that horrible appointment, knowing that I’m good to go for one more year. That was the case today too, of course.

After I got home for the day, I opened up my book file again and was all set to write some more stuff because I as doing so well today with it. I only got a few sentences in when I saw Moose run down the hall to my bedroom, stay in there a couple minutes and then come running out again, and I had a terrible suspicion that he had just peed on my bed again.

This is the worst thing, you guys… He has now peed on my bed three times. Always right where I sleep, near the pillows. The first time I was just shocked and horrified that he did such a thing. The second time, I noticed it just as I was getting into bed and freaked out that it happened again. Each time he does this, I pull the sheets off and immediately wash them. I know it’s kind of pointless, but I have yelled at him and put his nose in the spot where he peed. I just get so angry…! Then I ignore him for several hour after that, and he acts sooooo mopey and pathetic.

Anyway, yeah. Tonight he DID pee on my bed again. I know he had just done it right then and there, because I checked the house thoroughly when I got home, searching for any sign he had peed on anything while I was at work. Nothing. And then when I ran to my room after he left it, the spot was still warm. That son of a bitch…!

I went online after throwing the sheets in the wash and shutting the bedroom door so no one could go in there unsupervised and looked up “dog urinating on my bed.” And it absolutely seems that he is doing this to assert some dominance over me. He’s challenging me. He has begun to claim the bed as His Own Bed, and not My Bed. I’ve created this beast, because I encouraged him to sleep with me every night since I love how we cuddle. But I shouldn’t have done it, obviously. It sent him a message that we are more like equals because I am allowing him to sleep where he wants, and in MY spot. This ends now.

So, instead of writing, I ended up over at Petsmart, buying a crate. I got him a soft, collapsible crate that will be good for moving/travelling, too. It’s like the one Malcolm had. I still have Malcolm’s crate, actually, but I let a stray cat stay in there once and that cat fucked the crate up. Made a giant mess of his litter, excrement and food, and shredded the floor. I have cleaned it out a couple of times now, but it still looks and seems completely beat up and used. I know animals have a better sense of smell so I imagined Moose would smell the ghosts of animals past inside the crate and act up because of it. So, I decided to get a new crate.

I set it up at home with a new bathmat in the bottom (way cheaper than a crate liner in Petsmart; the bathmat cost $7 where the crate pad was $20+.) and enticed him to check it out. Moose was hesitant to go inside, and I didn’t push it. The two cats went in right away and settled in, of course. Hurley explored it and once he did that, Moose finally decided to check it out, too. He copies Hurley so much.

Moose knows he is in trouble. He isn’t trying to get my attention tonight, and he’s just sleeping in his old dog bed under my end table, all forlorn-looking. Good.

I’m not looking forward to tonight, when I crate him for the first time since his first week here in my house. He will whine and carry on quite a bit. But he’ll eventually tire out, I’m sure.

It sucks I can’t have him up on my bed anymore, but I know I have to do this and set this boundary, hard and fast. I cannot have him challenging me/pissing on my BED of all places.

At the same time, I have to put boundaries in place with Gremlin. He’s begun a few behaviors that annoy the hell out of me, and as it turns out, are also likely him trying to assert dominance over me. One is he tries to dig under my sheets and claw around under there and keep me from staying asleep at night. The other thing is he jumps on my lap and kneads my belly and thighs while purring really loud. He never did this until about a month or so ago. He never did it to me as an actual kitten. It’s weird.

But NOW it’s escalated. He straddles my right arm, and stands still and twitches all over as he stands there. It’s confused me so much. I hate it though because he extends his claws in and out as he twitches, and he’s putting little holes in my clothes and his back claws are scratching my arm. On Monday, he finally did what I had been praying he wouldn’ t do: He humped my arm. It was suddenly obvious that his twitching was much more pronounced, his pupils were dilated and he was purring a strange, new purr. I read up about it and sure enough, people report this happening with neutered cats when the cats are reacting to something new in their environment, or trying to assert dominance over the owner.

So now, Gremlin’s banished from my lap when I’m sitting down. And tonight, he too will be banned from my bed. I’ll miss him even more than Moose, because he is so affectionate and sweet. He’s been sleeping on my other pillow for over a year now. We hold hands/paws as I fall asleep. But yeah, I will apply the same rule to ALL the pets. No one is allowed on the bed anymore. Not even sweet baby Hurley. Fortunately, he’s so adaptable and he doesn’t like to sleep up there, anyway–he only visits me. And Simon… he’s just off sleeping in a corner someplace, doing his own thing, so he won’t notice the difference.

It’s time to go to bed. I have to put the just-finished-drying sheets back on my bed now and do this thing. I’m glad I have earplugs and an eyemask to help me sleep through any whining, crying, pacing in the crate, cats clawing underneath my door to try to get in…

Anyway, hopefully everything will get better with these guys and they get the message, loud and clear. I do plan on being consistent and keeping his up, of course… I absolutely MUST be the leader around here. That’s final.

And I hope that I have more good days than blahhh days, and find something to make me feel like I’m participating in something, doing something new. I can’t take this lethargic boredom much longer.

A crucial point– time to make cutbacks

Standard

I am in desperate need of a revamp of my monthly budget. And it’s mostly due to the new car payment on the Prius.

I worry all the time if I got a car that’s outside my means. Is it extravagant? I think that it is. Here’s why: I went from a $128 a month car payment on the HHR to a $286 payment on the Prius. YIKES, right?! I knew it was going to be higher than what I had before, yes, since it was a more expensive car than the HHR. I also bought the extended warranty, so that got tacked onto the loan amount. I figured that the savings I’d see at the gas pump would even things out a bit.

And yeah, that’s true to a point. I am spending less on gas, but it’s not $158 less a month. More like $40 a month.

So I’ve decided to take some action to cut my expenses everywhere else. First thing: I’d like to refinance my mortgage if it makes sense to do that and would save me money on my monthly payment. The last time I did a refi, it saved me around $120 a month. It added a couple thousand to my loan once closing costs were wrapped in, but in the long run it still worked out. I’ll be selling it well before I am in there 30 years or something, and I don’t plan to put it on the market until I know for a fact I can recoup my mortgage amount in full. I don’t expect a profit anymore, because hell, NO ONE is seeing a profit when they sell these days. I just want to at least break even.

Anyway, the point is I am hoping to refinance and save some money there. I should hear back from the bank tomorrow.

Second, I thought I’d switch car insurance. I have Progressive at the moment, but have State Farm for my home insurance. I approached SF asking for a premium quote today, and not only would it not save me any money to switch to SF, it would COST ME $73 more a month! Wow. Even with a discount for having home insurance with them. I’m very disappointed.

The third thing is I’m finally cutting the cable TV and DVR cord. It’s hard, because I do love me some TV that’s only available on basic cable. (The Walking Dead, Falling Skies, American Horror Story mostly.) But times are tough, and I have to be realistic about what’s a luxury and what is a necessity. Clearly, cable TV is not a necessity. I should be able to save about $100 a month if all goes well. (Wish me luck– the cable company is relentless in trying to talk you out of cancelling service!)

After this, there isn’t too much more I can do other than stop all extra shopping completely. I mean, no more clothes, music, books, shoes, household stuff beyond essentials… none of that. I can do it. I simply need to discipline myself and remember that most of the time, when I buy stuff that’s not necessary, I’m doing it for psychological reasons. Boredom, depression, frustration, etc…

And finally, the last thing is trying to find another way to make more money on the side. Ideally, if I could find some freelance work that I could trust I would actually get paid for doing, that would be best. Problem is, in this market a lot of people are expecting writers to do their work for very little money or FOR FREE. The ads I’ve seen say they will “offer college credit” and talk about the value of “adding to your writing portfolio” like they are doing YOU a favor by having you do all this work… and yet they want you to do copy for an entire website, write a script for some commercial or do some other monsterous job. I don’t get it. Does this work? Do they really get desperate writers to actually do this for them for free? It’s terrible. It cheapens the freelance environment for ALL writers when this happens. (And I know this is true in art and graphic design, too. It’s a real shame.)

Either way, I’m looking into it anyway. I hope to find something out there that fits. I also wonder if I should take a course in other kinds of writing, like grant writing and technical writing. Those are the jobs that do offer payment, usually.

The other idea is to find a part time second job. I have no clue where or what I could do, though… and I sincerely hate the idea of never being home, and the stress of trying to rush home, take care of the pets and get back out the door to another job several times a week.

My overall conclusion in all of this? I am living outside my means.

I have too much debt. Too many bills and too much to take care of all by myself. I’m trying to do it all on just my salary and it’s been coming together somehow up until now, but I am never comfortable. I am always skating way too close to the line by the end of each pay period, and I often need to pull money from savings to get through to the next check.

I’m not happy with myself for living this way; for having all these expenses and for the way I feel trapped by all of it. I wish I’d never complicated my life as much as I have with STUFF. Do I need all of it? No, I definitely do not. I could be quite happy with a hell of a lot less STUFF.

It will be three years this July that I have owned my house as my primary residence. After that point, if I were to rent it out or sell it, I no longer would be obligated to pay back the $8K tax credit I got back when I bought it. I can hardly believe that ALL of that $8K went right back into my house, too. I got the yard landscaped, put in the new gate, had some painting done, had baseboards installed and the back porch added on. So I wouldn’t have been able to pay that money back if I wanted to. Technically, I should remember to add that $8K to the selling price when I eventually sell my place…

At this point, I’m realizing how exhausted and sad all of this has me feeling these days. I love my house… it’s very nice now and I’m happy living there and I love that I haven’t had to move for almost 3 years now, making this the longest I have lived anywhere since I’ve lived in AZ… but I see the other costs now that come with it, and it’s not worth it.

I should have rented instead of purchasing a house. And if I purchased something, I should have been more prepared for the closing so I could have gotten a better company to do the remodeling that was wrapped into the mortgage amount. (As it was, the company I did use ripped me off and did crappy work for the money.)

I could get rid of half of everything I own (except my pets!) and still have a lot of things. Half of my books, half of my furniture, half of my clothes/shoes, half of my computer-stuff, half of my holiday and yard stuff… and maybe I should. It might be a good exercise in not feeling so top-heavy right now.

Depending on how this refinance thing goes, I just might start considering a drastic move. Like renting my house out (the market rate in that neighborhood is at least $200 more than my mortgage payment) or putting it on the market in the fall. I do worry about one aspect of renting: can I find a place that will allow me to have my 2 dogs and 2 cats? Because I absolutely refuse to part with any of them, ever. If they were human kids, I wouldn’t turn a couple of them over to family members or give them up for adoption! So, it might take awhile to find the right place, but I’d do whatever it takes.

Maybe I am getting ahead of myself. Or, maybe I am finally getting wise to my options. In the long run, am I going to be so glad I hung on to a house I had trouble paying for, a car I struggled to pay for each month, and all the material things I own? Or would I be happier living simpler and with less stress? Maybe even having money to do things to enrich my life, like take vacations to real destinations and travel the world…?

I think it’s obvious which is the better long-term choice. Is it a pipe dream, though? Can I feasibly cut myself out of this money cocoon I’ve tightly knit myself into?

I guess we’ll see.

I often say, jokingly, how I want to just run away and live in the woods someplace. But really, that IS what I want. When I daydream about winning the lottery, it’s all about paying off all my debts as well as my family’s debts (especially my sister and mom). And after that, I buy a small, 3 bedroom cottage someplace. Not a mansion. Not a place with granite countertops and double vanities in the bathroom or something… just something LOVELY and small. I love small, older houses, always have. I love the coziness and simplicity of a small home. I love the idea of having “only what you need and nothing more.”

So that’s my goal, I guess. To pare it all down, strip it down to essentials and appreciate, once more, the things I DO have and make the most of my time on this earth rather than be a slave to my belongings and debts. It’s silly.

I don’t know what happens next, but anything I do has to be an improvement to the way my bank account is functioning right now, so… here I go!

The junk drawer of blog posts

Standard

A bunch of little things, rather than going into detail on one big thing:

* I completely cleaned up my home office over the past week; I got rid of all the boxes and junk that I’d let pile up forEVER and even broke open the big bin of arts and crafts stuff and sorted it all into neat, clearly-labeled boxes and smaller bins. Now, if I have the urge to paint something, or embroider a shirt, it’ll be so easy to just do it without digging through a huge mess, all jumbled together. I also hung curtains in my closet (I had the doors removed when I bought the house) and it looks totally cute now, because there are shelves and all the labeled boxes in there. I took “before” photos of the mess that room used to be, and just need to snap a few “after” photos. I did that for myself, my own motivation, so I would keep on working and get the whole room finished once and for all.

* I had my car windows tinted yesterday. It’s incredible what a difference it really does make. I already noticed my A/C doesn’t work as hard to get the car cooled down when I first get in, since it cools off so much faster now. Plus, a black car with sleek, dark windows? So freakin’ slick. I have one of those cars now. All sophisticated an’ shit.

* Tonight I am going to a party. I will only know a few people there, really, but this is all part of my plan to get out of my comfort zone and start venturing out into the world a bit more again. It’s way too easy to stay home alone or do my own thing, alone. I’m ready to give this a real, honest attempt.

* Tomorrow, my sister and I are going up north to hike our favorite trail in the world, the West Fork Trail in Oak Creek Canyon! It’s going to be so cool up there, so beautiful and peaceful. I cannot wait to get out of the city and be in the middle of nature again, even if it is only for a few hours. It has been much too long since I have done this.

* I have the best work friends ever. This morning, R decorated my cubicle in a specific theme and M made some cupcakes to celebrate my birthday. I took some photos on my phone, but this work computer doesn’t have the latest Adobe Flash updates so I can’t download them from the T-Mobile site here. I definitely think that explaining the theme without photos won’t really work. So I’ll do another post on it. I loved it so much, though. I love that my friends know me and play into my sense of humor. Even better is the whole thing perplexed a couple of older, humorless women in the office so far today. Heh.

* Moose now has three tricks down. He can sit, spin, and stand on his hind legs on command. It’s adorable as hell. Good god. That dog is cute. Every night he sleeps with me, curled up right against me. In the morning I have a hard time getting out of bed b/c he somehow moves into my arms overnight, so I have him up against my chest like a teddy bear when I wake up. Then Gremlin is there, too, either curled up against my head or plopped down right up against Moose, purring and rubbing his face on the blankets, my hands, Moose’s head, etc. all in an attempt to increase his adorableness-quotient exponentially until my heart explodes. AND then, Hurley usually hops up once he knows I am awake and proceeds to lick my face almost violently, tail wagging and face smiling. You might wonder where Simon usually is in all of this… well, he’s around. He’s just not big on “group hugs.” He prefers one on one time with me, on his own, where he can talk and get me to brush his back. 🙂

* I’m so gunshy when it comes to pulling the money trigger to get major house work done. I mean, I definitely need to get the exterior painted… it’s a matter of preservation and not just aesthetics and style; the wood is exposed and drying out the longer it bakes like that in the sun… but damn, I totally don’t want to lay the money out to do it. It could be almost $1,000 to do that. Yeeesh. I also need to get blinds in two of my west-facing windows (yes– west-facing windows in Mesa, AZ, where the sun beats directly on that side of the house all afternoon long) and I keep putting it off. Each blind will cost about $150 or so, and I would like to get them installed rather than me trying to do it myself. (I did that on the last two windows and it was a disaster, since the windowframes are brick, sheetrock AND metal, and it was impossible to find anchors that would not only go in but stay in… and on the second window, I ended up giving up and securing one corner of the blinds with Gorilla Glue. It worked, but it’s hardly the right way to do a job like that!) But, UGH. I want to keep my savings account for the little things that pop up year-round… have cushion if I might be close to overdrawing my checking account… rather than spend it in, like, two big chunks.

* I think I want to get some freelance work on the side. I’m worried about paying all my bills now that my car payment has more than doubled. My car insurance went up, too, with the Prius. Once more, I am really worried I’m living outside my means. It’s definitely, definitely time to finally cancel cable.

* That’s it! Time to finish up some work so I am not stuck staying late today. Have a good weekend, everyone. 🙂

I leave you with this total non-sequitar. Because this always makes me laugh really hard every time I see it on my hard drive:

Focus on the good stuff

Standard

I’ve had some wonderful things going on lately. Sure, my car was acting up yesterday, but it led me to read the majority of my owner’s manual, so I now know so much more about my car. I was able to check the coolant level myself, and determine that yes, it was very low. I took it to Jiffy Lube after work, where I got a much-needed oil change and they topped off the coolant. After that, the temperature gauge was working again and today, after a few turn on/off cycles with my engine, the engine light went off. I’m so relieved! I think the low coolant was the problem. Of course, my Dad did warn me to keep an eye out and check that level every so often to make sure the level wasn’t going down again…because if it is, that could mean I have much bigger problems on my hands… but for now, I am hopeful it will be OK. Whew.

I didn’t write about it yet, but I got a very nice letter from Bank of America the other day. They wrote to tell me that my closing costs on my mortgage were determined to be too high, and even though I closed on the refinanced loan in July of 2010, they were sending me a check with the difference. And that difference is approximately $1,550!

Well, that was a great surprise. I got the check yesterday. It’s in my savings account for now, but I’m hoping to get the plumbing done now that I have a little cash available again. I just hope it won’t eat up ALL of that money. But it does need to be done. I turned the irrigation main off the other day, and since then there has been no leaking. Otherwise, the thing drips all day and night, and the bricks at the foundation are getting soaked.

Jason (who from hereon will be known as J, just to keep it simple) has been so great. We’ve been talking, emailing and texting since Saturday night and it’s fun as hell. I gave him the ultimate test, which is to watch some clips of “Tim and Eric” and laugh. Not go “yeaaaah, OK…that was weird,” but really get it. He has a fantastic sense of humor, so my hopes were high going in, but it went even better than I expected: He’s HOOKED. He has since watched dozens of clips on his own, and he has been quoting them in his emails and texts, making me crack up. He passed the big test! He’s in! Now I know I can really, truly, unleash my sense of humor in all regards. In fact, he was all incredulous that he’d never seen the show until now, because he says it is his sense of humor. I think he’s already shared a few clips with his brother. Awesome show, indeed!

You wouldn’t think such a silly thing like a bizarre TV show would matter so much, but honestly, it does! I feel really happy now. I mean, laughing is my favorite thing… and I want whomever I date to be someone I can laugh really hard with. If I can’t laugh with a date or boyfriend, it’s not worth my time. I have never dated someone who didn’t make me laugh longer than a month or so. Hell, even X once made me laugh a lot. But unlike J, he was never really a fan of Tim & Eric’s brand of comedy. So there you have it.

Today he sent me a text asking if I wanted to go to the Las Noches de las Luminarias at Desert Botanical Garden on Saturday night. Um, yes, please! It’s supposed to be gorgeous, and a very fun event. I have wanted to go for the past 10 years or so, but I’ve always heard tickets are expensive and/or hard to come by since they are limited. Now, J is saying he is getting us tickets and he’s excited to take me. Yay! I’m feeling all special and shit.

(Sidenote: I can’t avoid the fact that part of my brain is STILL wary and cynical when it comes to having guys do really nice things for me, early on in a relationship. It’s because of dumb X, and how he did that, and totally roped me in and then once he had me, he let his true colors show. I’m on alert. And I am totally counting on my gut instincts now, as well as the instincts of my sister and BIL. If all three of us feel that he’s legit and there is nothing to worry about, THEN I will drop my cynicism. I hate that I have to think this way, but I do think it’s to be expected after what happened.)

Other than all of this, I do still need to do my Christmas decorating and work some more on my book. I should also straighten up my pigsty of a bedroom, because it’s a mess in there. I don’t get how I can keep the rest of the house clean, but not my room. It’s like I never grew up.

Ah, whatever. Let’s not picture messy, sloppy bedrooms! Let’s look at this, instead:

Trouble under da hood

Standard

When the engine light comes on, it’s scary stuff. It came on in my beloved little car this morning, and around that same time I realized that the engine coolant temperature gauge had not budged off of zero during my entire commute to work… and blam, just like that, my car’s health and well-being was pushed to the front of my mind.

I called my Dad and it could potentially be serious. It could also be as simple as being low on coolant. Either way, I have got to get it to a mechanic today. As soon as possible.

I read my car’s manual, almost cover to cover, and couldn’t figure out how to do anything beyond checking the fluid level, which I just went out to the parking lot and did. Sure enough, it is kind of low. Because it could just be low coolant, I’m going to risk taking my car to Jiffy Lube after work for an oil change and to have them top off the fluids. Maybe once the computer is reset after all of that, the car will be fine.

And if not… if it needs bigger work… I’ll cave and take it to a Chevy dealership. I’d go to a local mechanic but I don’t have one at the moment. I’m so not looking forward to spending tons of money on car repairs right now. Not when I still have to pay off the MRI bill and it’s Christmas. But, whatever I have to do is what I’ll do, I guess. I can’t do without a working car. Anyway, I’ve got my fingers tightly crossed that this is all happening because I’m low on coolant.

Car rant over!!

Please to give me more dollars, please?

Standard

I was just thinking that I have quite a list of things that I would like to get with any potential Christmas bonus check we might get at work this year. Well, OK, the list isn’t really that long, but I don’t know how to pick and choose when in reality a bonus won’t be more than a couple hundred bucks. Right now, by priority, the things I need are:

1) Plumbing fixed out front. The irrigation main is constantly leaking, even after the landscaper has returned a few times to fix it. Time to call in a professional and get it fixed once and for all.

2) New cell phone. I still have about 8 months or so on my 2-year contract and don’t qualify for a new phone yet, but I do really, really need one. I’m still using my sister’s old backup phone– and I have been using it since August. I have to stop procrastinating and get a phone. And I’m considering getting a slightly more advanced phone than my usual MO. A Smart phone? Me? I don’t know about that. But at least one with a slide out keyboard could be cool, making it easier to text and stuff.

3) A new bike. I’ve pretty much decided that rather than fix my old bike and spend at least $100, I might want to spend just a bit more and get a newer bike. Especially since I want to do more riding on roads in the coming year; it would be cool to get something with thinner tires and a lighter frame. Biking is going to be my main exercise now that I can’t do the jogging/running.

4) Pay the handyman to come out and do the electric work I need done, and also install a new mailbox. Technically, I could do this stuff myself once I read up on it and take all the precautions, but I’m still terrified of getting electrocuted while up on a ladder. Or screwing up and blowing fuses all over the place. And as for the mailbox, the whole thing is rusted and warped, and the pole seems brittle and like it will snap if I slam the door of the box. I really need a new post put into the ground, and that involves digging and setting in cement, both of which I really should NOT do. I have to be smarter about what I do and don’t do for my back.

5) Finally get wood or faux wood blinds in the kitchen and master bedroom. I’m so tired of the cats jumping up into the kitchen window that I’m thinking shutters might be the better option out there, in fact. I have these cheap red curtains on the window now and nothing else, and in the summer it’s too hot and the material attracts cat hair like it’s scotch tape. It sucks to have a totally clean kitchen–counter, the sink, etc.– and have all this horrible cat hair on the curtains above all of it. It makes everything else cancel out, and I look like I have an unsanitary kitchen. Grrr. I’m done with it. Sorry, guys. I love you both, but cats just don’t belong in kitchen windows.

I’m all grouchy today for some reason. I didn’t sleep well last night, again, and then I have an ear ache and headache that’s growing as the day goes on. I have plans to hang out with my sister tonight; then Sam tomorrow night; and go to a concert on Friday night… I can’t be getting sick right now. I want to do FUN things! Damn it!

The End of the Nike Women’s Marathon Road?

Standard

[UPDATE! Ijust found out I can apply the funds I have already raised to a different marathon: The PF Chang Marathon in January. It has a much lower $$ minimum, and since it’s local, I don’t have to get a hotel and everything. And best of all, I only need to raise about $500 more to make it! I’m so happy, I feel like dancing. But I won’t, because that’s how people like me get hurt!]

 Right now, it appears that I will need to drop out of the Team in Training efforts to participate in the Nike Women’s Marathon in October.

The reason is not because I am lazy, or decided it’s not worth the effort, or anything like that: It’s because I don’t have room on my credit card right now (and won’t, by the end of September, when it’s the deadline for me to finish raising funds to meet my $3,200 goal) to make up the difference between what I have raised and what I still owe.

I thought I had more time to do this, and didn’t realize that the Recommitment stage requires this kind of commitment. For most people, making a credit card commitment like this wouldn’t be a problem. After all, there is always the very real possibility that the money can be raised by the deadline, and they will never end up charging the card. Or, they have wiggle room on the card and don’t mind paying for the whole thing if they have to. (That was me, a year ago, before money got out of control and my bills skyrocketed, forcing me to use my credit cards for things I didn’t want to use them for. Including my initial registration fee for Team in Training, actually!)

I’m trying to be realistic here, and as much as I want to believe I can do it– I can rally the troops and get the money raised that I need– I also know that I have reached out to everyone I know and people have given what they are able to give. I don’t know rich people. No one has money to donate to a cause like this, really… it’s asking a lot of people in a tough economy. I’m amazed at what I HAVE raised, to be honest! It’s so cool. So humbling.

I can’t help but feel like a failure on some levels. I feel like a financially irresponsible moron. All this hard work, all the time and effort I have spent to get to this point can’t be in vain. No way! I had a chance to quit or phase this thing out when the SI ligament sprain happened, and I didn’t do it. That’s one of the greatest things I have ever done. I’m so glad I didn’t give up.

And I am not giving up now!

So, maybe I can’t run this particular race. I most certainly can run OTHER races, races that don’t require this kind of intense fundraising. Case in point: The PF Chang’s Rock and Roll Marathon here in Phoenix this coming January. I plan to do the half marathon, probably alongside some local friends!! It will be awesome.

I’m going to run a half marathon. And then another. And then maybe a full marathon. And more… and more…

I want to be a runner.

And I will be one. This shit ain’t over yet.

Read about it here: My Fundraising Page.

Outside my means

Standard

The time has come for me to make some tough decisions regarding my spending habits. For the thousandth month in a row, I’ve had to dip into savings to keep from overdrawing my checking account, and I’ve had enough of it.

I finally realized I had been paying my bills off like a moron. By that, I mean I would get paid and then start writing out checks or paying online with amounts that were well over the minimum amount due. (I have four active credit cards, including the Care Credit card I use for vet payments, and the everlasting balance on the Sears card I hate and no longer use, ever.) I’ve gotten really stupid when it comes to budgeting out my dollars. I get excited by seeing my check appear in my account, and there I go: overpaying on everything.

I’ve finally stopped doing this. I still can’t bring myself to pay just the minimum payment, though, but now I pay anywhere from $10 to $40 more, and that’s it. (For instance: the Care Credit card’s last minimum payment was $20; I paid $150. Then I was wondering why I was so short on cash later on.)

Paying off your credit cards faster is great, yeah. But when it means you don’t have money for groceries or gas, then you have to re-evaluate what you’re doing. Clearly.

And then, I had moved around due dates so more bills were due on or after the 15th, because for awhile they were all on or before the 10th of the month and I was getting wiped out. I moved my mortgage pay date to the 15th back then… and I haven’t move it back yet. And now that all those bills are also due on the same paycheck as the one I pay my mortgage with, BLAM. No money. From the 15th to the 30th, I am counting out change to eat one hamburger and a $1 drink at McDonalds for lunch because it costs $2.12. So stupid.

Well, my next big goal is to get my shit together and create a working, realistic budget for everything. I’m doing fine with working out frequently and eating better, so that’s great. Now I need to move on to the rest of my life and make positive changes….and being financially responsible is a big one.

I think I’m going to get rid of cable and the DVR, too. It’s something I do love having, but honestly, it would be very good for me to not watch as much TV anymore. It’s a time-sucker at night, when I could be reading or writing my books. I’m going to keep the internet, of course. I plan to get either a Blu-Ray player or one of those Roku boxes so I can watch things like Hulu Plus on my TV. I’ll be fine.

And I’ll save about $100 a month, right there. Sweet.

I know that my expenses are especially tight right now because of two short-term things:

1) Summer. (Much higher electric bills, and water for the plants. And technically, running the treadmill more often since it’s too hot to walk outside right now; and using the electric stove/oven more because I’m trying to save money by eating at home a lot more often.)

2) Physical Therapy. (It’s a $35 copay every time I go, and that crap adds up! At least I am not going 3 times a week anymore. Just twice. Still, “just twice” equals $70 I really do not have, every week. By the time July is over, I will have spent $350 on copays for the month. And tomorrow, I have an appointment with my psychiatrist for a med check, which will be another $50 copay since he is a “specialist.” YAY. It’s sure great to have stuff wrong with you.)

When I go to my next physical therapy appointment, I am going to request dropping back to one time a week. I have to. It’s ridiculous how poor I am right now, thanks to all that extra money going out every week. I’d like to stop going altogether. Maybe I can, I don’t know. I am doing better; each time I go, now, they are giving me new, harder exercises and commenting on how my range of motion has improved and all of that.

Paying all of your bills by yourself, with absolutely no outside help, is definitely tricky. I’m surprised I have done this, for this long, without missing any payments on things or asking for extensions. The only thing I have done is stacking copays, like two or three at a time, instead of paying each and every visit all the time. It can help when payday is right around the corner.

But beginning August 1, things change. I’m just going to start paying my mortgage on the 1st again. And cancel cable (and the house phone line I don’t even use, but Cox insists I need if I am going to pay the ‘bundle’ amount– believe it or not, my bill would be about $14 higher without the phone line). It should really help.

Too bad I scheduled the trip to NJ when I did. I have zero spending money. I’m checking out credit card balances today, to see how much wiggle room I have. I’ll need to charge things like restaurants, fees for anything we do for fun while I am there, and possibly gas– which I HATE doing. Not to mention the car rental I’m gonna have to do… I didn’t plan on that, since my Dad has always had two cars for as long as I can remember, but he recently sold both of his old cars to get one, good one. I can’t blame him for doing that, of course, but it sure does change things when we go back for a visit. We’ve gotten used to borrowing one of his cars to get around. I was surprised when he told me that this time, there was nothing to borrow.

Then again, since I am not planning on doing a whole lot of socializing and running-around on this particular trip, maybe there’s a way I can avoid renting a car. If my Dad and Kristen will drive me around, that is. Too bad Kristen is almost an hour from my Dad’s house. (I’m just thinking/typing aloud, here. Don’t mind me.)

This is the sucky part of being a grown-up, isn’t it? I mean, I know you all have financial troubles of your own right now, too, because this shit never seems to end.

HOWEVER…

When I think about the bright side of all of this…wow.  At least I have a job and I have been able to make my payments, even if it meant robbing my savings account to do it. I have my health, because the copays are helping me get back to/ stay in a healthy state. Thank God I have health insurance at all. Imagine paying the entire amount myself?! No way!

And my most expensive expense, the house, is wonderful. It has A/C, and I’m able to take warm showers, cook and store my food, and take care of my pets. I have somewhere safe to sleep every night. I will get to fly to NJ to see my Dad and oldest friend soon. I have lots of clothes and STUFF like computers, music, books, movies, home decorations… I’m fortunate.

You know what helps? I’ve been thinking in terms of the apocalypse lately. (Cue ominous music!!)

Hee hee! What I mean is, I think: “what are the things I would truly miss if something happened tomorrow and we no longer had electricity, or working farms and drug manufacturing facilities, or health care…” and it helps me to keep everything in perspective. I feel guilty whining over the cost of all my luxuries and “necessities” when I imagine what it would be like to not be able to have them, at all. It helps me appreciate the big container of fresh strawberries I just bought, with cash (OK, debit). Or that I can fill my gas tank up and drive around in a working car. It’s pretty cool all the stuff we have in our country, and pretty sad how many people lose sight of it every day.

I had to laugh/feel upset last week during one of my cheap-ass McDonald’s lunches. I was sitting there enjoying my burger, and I overheard a man at the counter getting pissed off because it was taking the McDonald’s staff a long time to prepare something for him. He was pacing around, loudly sighing and rapping his knuckles on the counter top. When a worker came over and told him his special-order-whatever-it-was was going to be out in just one more minute, he yelled, “You should tell people when they order that it’s going to take TEN MINUTES to get your food!”

Really, dude? You’re bitching about having to wait a mere ten minutes to get some food?

How’d you like to be in a third-world country, without a McDonalds? Without fresh food, or clean water? How’d you handle THAT?

Has he ever stopped to think about how incredible it is that we have reached a point in our societal evolution that we can get mass-produced, fresh, uncontaminated food and water from providers all over our country, on almost every corner? (I won’t get into the horrors and problems WITH mass-produced food, because that’s a whole post for another day!) But you know what I mean? It’s relatively miraculous how we have access to so much STUFF in this country. And yet, people like that ‘tard are bitching and moaning about having to wait a little longer than usual to get their food.

I wish people like that dude could get a glimpse of a possible, apocalyptic future… just so they’d realize how lucky they are. I think people need to be hit over the head in a lot of cases to get the message.

So, in closing, I guess all I can do is just do my best. And remain humble.

Keeping working and doing the right things, the honorable and fair things, and hold up my end of financial transactions. And keep being grateful for what I do have instead of fixating on what I do not.

And the biggest one of all, keep on talking about the apocalypse and bringing people down. Because people loooooove hearing about that. 😉

Have a good day!

The harrowing stresses of modern life…siiiigh…!

Standard

Even though life is pretty good, there are still a few stressors going on:

1) My fundraising efforts have stalled. I’m trying to find out where the letters I put together to send to people and some businesses I’ve worked with this year ended up. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society pays the postage for your first 100 letters, as long as you get them ready to go and delivered to their offices. Well, we got an email from the team captain who told us to bring our letters to the 6/11 practice. I did this, even though I didn’t stay at that practice because of the ligament sprain/sciatic issues. I handed them to the lead coach, and was pretty sure they’d get where they needed to go. However, as of yesterday, no one seems to have received any letters from me. I don’t know if they got sent out! I have an email in to the fundraising coordinator to find out what’s going on. I hope they didn’t lose my letters or something, because I personalized each letter and hand-wrote the address on each envelope. It took me awhile, and I’d hate to have to do it all over again. Boo.

2) My Mom has decided to collect social security at age 62. If she’d wait until she’s 65, she could get more money, but that’s not what she wants to do. Now, she needs to find a part-time job to supplement that income so she can pay all of her bills each month. I’ve been doing what I can to help find some jobs she can apply for online, told her about the job fair two weeks ago, and I have even applied for her on several occassions. Now, she needs to step up to the plate and do this stuff herself, seriously. But she doesn’t seem motivated. I’m not trying to bash my Mom here or anything, of course. I’m just concerned and I’m not sure how to approach this. I don’t want to come off as “mean” or anything, but how do my sister and I get her to do what has to be done? It’s a tough one.

3) I want to also help my sister find a new job, since hers is slowly killing her from the stress. She hasn’t had any luck with all the resumes she’s sending out, for some reason. I think it’s just the most flooded job market in recent history, and that’s the main problem. But still, it’s not helping that a job she *thought* she had because the woman at this other place was stringing her along, turned out to be a bust and they didn’t hire her, in the end. I think it’s damn shitty to keep on telling someone “we’re just trying to work out the timing on when you can start” and then suddenly stop returning emails and phone calls… and then just go with someone else. I’m pissed. Something has got to turn around for T soon. I mean, she has totally paid her dues and NEEDS to get out of the toxic environment she’s stuck working in now. (She had tried to quit back in February or something and gave her written notice and everything, but her boss convinced her to give them a second chance. Things were better for a little while, but, as predicted, it’s now back to shit again.)

4) Money is tight again. And it will remain this way until the summer is over. My electric bill’s back with a vengeance. No surprise there; it happens every summer. But still. It always sucks. And don’t tell me I need to budget my utilities spend and balance it throughout the year… because I won’t do it. I’ve tried and failed. Life doesn’t always let you do the reasonable thing. There is always someplace that requires piles of money, throughout the year, that you didn’t expect. Plumbing issues; medical bills and new, larger co-pays; animals get sick; windshields need to be replaced. It doesn’t end. I’m just venting about this. I know I will make it through. It’s just a little damper on my hap-hap-happy outlook on life, is all. 😉

5) Pain! Still! Still having pain in my sciatic nerve! At the chiropractor yesterday, my back was in bad shape again. Not sure why; I haven’t done anything bad. Just bike riding in the morning and stuff. It took about 8 adjustments to get things aligned again. He warned me that for today and tomorrow, I will probably be sorer than usual and that I need to ice my back a lot. Yay. I also restocked my Aleve supply, which had been depleted. (Aleve–well, the generic store brand version of it, naproxen sodium– is the best thing for my issues.) If you need me, I’ll be the one holding the big, blue icepack to my butt-region and downing pills like Judy Garland. Yay!

6) I’ve got crabs.

7) Just joking. I wanted to see if you were still reading this tedious list. (I mean, where am I gonna get crabs? Did you read my last post about not gettin’ any? Shyeah.)

8) The Saturday training workout starts at 5:00am sharp. At South Mountain. It’s going to be hot. And it’s going to be uphill. The chiropractor advised me not to do inclines at the moment, though, since it will put stress on the SI ligaments. So I have no clue what I’m gonna do. I’ll decide tomorrow, I guess. If I feel pretty good and I do go, I will have to just walk around the parking area or something, I guess, while everyone else runs up the mountain. Or, I can just go do my own 50 minute workout by walking in the park or riding my bike. I hate the stress of trying to figure out how to get maximum cardio in with minimal stress on that damn ligament. I’m doing it, of course, but it just sucks and puts a damper on my excitement. That’s what I hate about it.

I am now done with my bitching. You made it through this post! Congratulations. I’d give you all nice, shiny apples if I could. Well, maybe I could. How well do apples ship through the USPS? In big, padded envelopes?

Mmm, damaged and bruised warm apples in the mail. It’s what everyone wants!