<< Back to all Blogs
Login or Create your own free blog
Home > Archive: August, 2006

Archive for August, 2006

keep your fingers crossed

August 30th, 2006 at 10:38 am

I go to plead my case to the Medici.

There is so much that depends on their decisions. If they consent to a patronage, so many doors may open. If they refuse, the doors stay shut. But the doors are already shut, so I lose nothing by my petition. Except the opportunity to pull out of this orbit -- to break out of the cycle I am in. No guarantees, just opportunities. I have sent along my letters of introductions, and wait for their counsel to speak to me.

I hope against hope: my mind soars while my stomach plummets.

What Happened Next

August 30th, 2006 at 08:01 am

So last night, before I went to bed, I made sure my checkbook (with the proper checks) was tucked away in my handbag. That was a good idea, because I slept poorly: I kept waking up with nightmares, and managed to turn off the alarm clock, which meant that I overslept and was late to the Forum. I'm running a little ragged today.

During a break, I went down to my creditors and tried to make a payment on my account. The lady in reception couldn't even see my balance, so she said that I need to see Bob, the late accounts guy in another office. I got scared and started to leave, but she pulled some lever by her desk and I fell straight through the trapdoor into Dungeon #256 and landed right next to Bob's secretary, who dragged me by the hair into his office.

Or maybe it just felt like that.

In any case, I found myself huddled in the entryway, afraid to leave and terrified to stay. But Bob told me to sit, and asked me what I wanted, and with all of the grace of a nerd's first date with the prom queen, I explained that I wanted to bring my accounts to a current status. This is actually a three-part task -- the first part being to pay off a portion, the second to have them accept the settlement offer, and the third to actually settle it. The third part is supposed to be fairly straightforward, but I just went cold all over after I typed the words "supposed to be".

Bob was nice, not too pushy, and said that ultimately the settlement would be handled by their offices, but if I would wait a minute, I could talk to someone there right then. So I did, and this is where I stand right now.

Firstly, they agreed with my settlement offer. So now I have to contact the collection agency and suss out a few details on their part -- some paperwork through them that will settle the account, which will hopefully be (cue lightning strike and spooky laughter) fairly straightforward.

Secondly, they told me the final balance that needs to be paid this week. I can do it, but they said it takes some time for the check to clear and cash or a cashier's check is a better option. I can see why they'd say it -- I haven't exactly been prompt in the past with getting them their money, which is how this whole problem got started. So I'll have to stop Jesting for a few hours to petition the Medici for the settlement, or it's 6 more months shoveling camel poop to raise the necessary cash.

Step by step. I can only go step by step.

What's it Worth to You?

August 29th, 2006 at 02:05 pm

I read an interesting post from Young and Broke about Psychological Income: basically, the emotional return you get from a given action. She applied the concept to purchases, and it's a valid consideration to make. I've been keeping track of my spending this month and there are too many areas in which I've nickle-and-dimed myself, not getting a good return on my investments.

There are some things I'd planned to get for the fall/winter season, and I'm finding little things that I wanted to purchase. But I need to be more careful with the "I wannas" -- those little nifty items that I can do without and that add little value to my life. These can really derail my budget, especially since I'll be working a little less at the Souk.

I need a more stringent assessment of the little, offhand purchases to be sure that they really mean something to me.

My Nerves are Shot

August 29th, 2006 at 10:33 am

I wanted to pay off the one big bill today, so I made sure to grab my checkbook as I raced off to the Forum. I was going to take some time off at lunch to take care of it. But I realized (too late) that although I brought my checkbook, I didn't put checks from the holding account in there. So basically, I'm shooting blanks.

In any case, I'm feeling stressed. I have a feeling that paying off this bill won't satisfy the debt enough to put plan A into action. It depends on what they think and what they let me do. I guess I always knew this deep down, because I haven't geared up plan A at all: nothing but the idea is in place.

I may try to go home early, get the checks and pay these guys but it'll probably have to wait until tomorrow. I feel queasy and sick just thinking about it all, so I want to pay out the cash before I totally lose my nerves.

Sometimes I wonder why I can't seem to get my act together. Frown

Boys and Bills

August 28th, 2006 at 12:29 pm

So I met again with the Game Gang last night. We switched off from Go and started Cribbage. Idris had me play Colin, his young nephew who learned the game from his Uncle. Lucky boy -- Idris is a good teacher and Colin totally kicked my behind.

I must be a glutton for punishment, because I eventually asked Idris if he'd like to play a hand or two. As he was repeating the example set by his nephew, we got to talking and I realized that Idris is not just a cute guy, but a nice one. An entertaining one with a sly wit and an easy smile. And now I'm sitting there, losing like it was a moral imperative, and grinning like a six year-old with a bag full of cupcakes.

As you know, I moonlight as a wench. What you may not realize is that the job requires a fair amount of social skills. We don't sell air or kidneys at the Souk: money spending happens out of desire, not necessity. So part of what we sell is customer service: the attitude and personality that makes shoppers want to buy, and to do it from us rather than next door at the Agora. A casually flirty attitude is part of the standard-issue uniform, and we learn fairly quickly how to chat up a customer and subtly lay down the charm.

So I can sell the latest bridles, or convince you to extend the warrantee on a GPS system for the last llama you bought, but I seem to falter when it comes to promoting my own agenda. I felt and probably acted like a middle-schooler, unsure if I should give the boy a smile or a kick in the shins to get his attention.

Unsure of what to do, I called in a ringer: Ash's brother Zack. And in a moment of true loyalty, he gave me some tips on the inner workings of the male mind. One of the suggestions he made was to revamp my wardrobe. Typically, my style runs to polyester leisure suits, but Zach tells me that guys don't dig that. He recommends girlyfying it up a bit: some belly shirts, maybe a little cleavage, some perfume.

I'll do anything once, so I snuck off to the Agora this morning and ran around wild for a bit, spraying myself with perfume and trying on new clothes. For a second, I felt like I was Paris Hilton, but I must really be Paris Motel 6 because the price tags brought the escapade to a screeching halt. I saw perfume that cost more than a month's worth of groceries, and some of the clothes looked like thrift-store deals at a 500% markup. My mom always told me to be myself, and at the prices I saw this morning, I'm thinking she gave excellent advice.

I can probably pick up a cute pair of pants at the Souk. The ones I have are worn, so it's a justifiable expense. As to the cleavage, I think I'll leave that to the imagination. I talk a big game, but I lack the follow-through, if you get my drift. But Zach insists the perfume is a must. I'm not sure how I feel about spending that kind of cash, though.

I wonder if Idris likes the smell of dryer sheets, toothpaste and soap? Smile

I Never Learn

August 25th, 2006 at 11:42 am

So after I made that last post, I just braced myself and made the call. The lady was really nice, which was reassuring, and gives me more confidence to contact them again in the future if I need to.

They are going to send a settlement offer to my creditor, and get back to me. The way it works is the agency sends in an offer for one amount and the creditor either accepts or sends a counter-offer. As per usual, I didn't even factor that into my plans, which means that I'm not likely to get an answer anytime soon.

Of course, I need my answer pretty soon. I never can learn a lesson the easy way.

This is only part one though -- I still need to pay of my one big debt pretty soon also. I transferred the money into my account, and I need to take some time off from the Forum to hand-deliver it. I don't know if that will put everything in place, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Scared to Make a Move

August 25th, 2006 at 11:24 am

I'm a total chicken. I don't know why that is, but I'm the kind of person that when faced with an unpleasant or intimidating task, will not just buckle down and do it.

As you can probably imagine, this causes loads of trouble, in nearly every aspect of my life. It doesn't help that I'm typically a very disorganized person, so when I actually get the courage to do something, it's hard to put my hand on all the relevant material needed to take action.

There are two big areas where this has caused me problems, and they are on the verge of intersecting. One is my finances: I have to contact one creditor to see if an account can be taken out of collections. I want to know if they will settle for the original amount. If they agree, there is some work that I need to do and people to contact to set another plan in motion.

But I'm really scared. I guess it can't get worse than what it is: if they say yes -- bonus. If they say no: nothing changes, and the plan might still be able to go forward anyway. The ridiculous thing is that the debt wouldn't be in collections if I had contacted them when my life took a tailspin. But I waited, like over a year before I contacted anyone. It was stupid, and it cost me, both in damaged credit, interest fees, sleepless nights and a near-ulcer.

So looking back on the mistakes I made before, I keep telling myself just to make the call, to take the chance, but I've always been the girl on the side of the water, afraid to dip a toe in because I might get yanked underneath.

A Surprising Victory

August 21st, 2006 at 11:13 am

At lunch today, I ran into Ron from the Game Gang. He was talking about different techniques of playing Go and about how long it would take my skill level to evolve out of the primordial slime.

I was dreading the answer, because some of the gang have been playing for years. I mean, years and years. My attention span for new hobbies is like, 6 months. Then I chuck it to stay home and play Barbies. So I was all ears when Ron told me that I could really improve my playing by keeping a few goals in mind while I learned. When he told me the basic gear I needed, I mentioned that I had recently bought a book.

I scored the book at a thrift store while I was looking for aprons to wear to the Souk. It was only a dollar, and it seemed like a lucky find, so I bought it. It's pretty old, but in good condtion, and I like the chatty writing style. I couldn't remember who wrote it, so Ron told me to bring it next week and he'd take a look to see if the info was any good.

I half-remembered the author, so after lunch I went on Amazon to see if I could find it and I got some surprising news: my book is really well respected book by a very good author. Other owners of the book say it's really informative and helpful. And, it's both difficult and expensive to get a copy of it, because it's been out of print for like 20 years.

So even though the Gang can mop the floor with me, I feel like a winner today!

Silly Mistake

August 21st, 2006 at 07:46 am

I hung out with some of the guys in the Souk on Saturday night so waking up for the early Sunday shift was a killer.

Usually, I try to pack a lunch the night before, but I dropped off to bed with barely enough time to find clean underwear, much less make a meal. I had gone grocery shopping on Saturday morning, and thrown the bag in the fridge without unpacking it (the joys of single life) so I grabbed the bag, shoved it into my backpack and went tearing off to work.

It was a crazy day. I mean, just flat-out nuts. One customer went ballistic after her llama set off the security gates (we forgot to take off the bridle tags) and another had a meltdown because we stopped giving discounts on tiger cubs (now it's dragon eggs). The wenches kept running out of change in their aprons, and the rain was interfering with our intercom systems. It was getting stupid, and I couldn't wait to get home to a plate of warm cookies and a good novel -- both waiting paitently for my return.

So I finally get home, and snuggle up cozily to my reading and treats, and have a relaxing evening until I fall asleep and wake up on Monday with barely enough time to find a clean pair of socks.

On my way out of the door, I see my backpack. It's open. And inside? A bag of groceries. I had forgotten to put them back in the fridge when I got home from the Souk, and a week's worth of cheese, lunchmeat, mayo and yogurt sat out all night long. Part of me wanted to make a sandwich out of sheer perversion, but I think it must be hard to be defiant when you've food-poisoned yourself.

So it's PB&J for lunch today!

Freedom and Responsibility

August 19th, 2006 at 11:31 am

So I met with the Game Gang again last night. It's fun, but I still feel pretty akward because they all know each other and I'm the new kid. And I feel like a total tag-along because they've all been playing forever and I just learned quite recently.

But I finally got a chance to play with Idris, the person who had originally invited me to play Go in the first place. He's a really good player and just an interesting person (not to mention kind of cute Smile ). So as I was getting my requisite butt-whupping on the gameboard, Idris and I got to talking.

Idris is a pretty active guy, and he told me that he volunteers on a regular basis and that he often stops by at the Souk to pick up lunch on his way out. He also mentioned that he often visits some of the restaurants and coffee shops nearby to meet with friends. Then he told me that he's gone back to college to make a career change and when he finishes, he's thinking of moving overseas to teach English if he can't find a job right away.

He has a lot of interests and time to pursue them and it got me to thinking about how money can greatly influence how you spend your time. Idris had mentioned that the Go group sometimes meets at the Agora in the afternoons and maybe I could go. But then he noted that I work "a lot" and so maybe wouldn't have the time. He's right. I don't. I've been so focussed on getting out of debt that work takes up a huge portion of my life, and it's hard to imagine it might ever change even though strictly speaking, I'm working less now than I was before.

I have to admit, for a minute I was resentful of Idris -- not of him, but of his freedom. I just wanted to ask him: do you not work? Don't you have bills? How do you afford to have the days off and still have money to eat out, or go visiting? How do you do this? It's none of my business, but I was wondering -- how could I explain to a stranger (one that I was trying to impress) why I work so much?

Some people at the Forum see me in the Souk, so they know I work there. But the majority of people who see me in the Souk don't realize that it's not my only job. The few times I told people that I work 60+ hour weeks, they wanted to know if I was funding a drug habit, or do I have a kid to support, or what am I doing?

So I quit telling people. But now I'm meeting more people and it's hard to decline invitations because I can't get off work. Or that going to a restaurant is supposed to be a once-a-month thing. The people I meet in the Souk are fairly well off. I need to not feel out-classed, but sometimes I do.

I'm still focused on getting rid of debt though. It's too important to let feelings of akwardness stand in the way of that goal.

Honesty Check: August

August 17th, 2006 at 10:38 am

This is a running tally of my daily spending. I think I fritter away $$, and delcaring it all will help me to be more conscious of my spending. It won't be on the main page, but I'll be adding to it daily.

August 30: 4.00 (parking whilst on errands)
August 29: 0.00
August 28: 0.00
August 27: 4.00 (groceries)
August 26: 45.00 (food, gas, supplies)
August 25: 2.25 (food)
August 24: 45.00 (took a trip out of town)
August 23: 0.00
August 22: 15.00 (groceries)
August 21: 2.25 (food)
August 20: 0.25 (food)
August 19: 15.00 (groceries)
August 18: 0.25 (food)
August 17: 5.48 (food)
August 16: 8.00 ($4 parking, $2 clothes, $2 junkfood)

Career Potential of a Jester and a Wench

August 17th, 2006 at 07:33 am

I was reading an interesting post by Dumb Little Man that talked about ways to improve one's performance to achieve job success.

Plainly speaking, Wenching doesn't earn enough to make a career out of it. Not unless you are earning commission at a high-priced stall. Or if you open up your own stall. But at the Souk, I'm not bringing home the megabucks. And they don't do internal hires, so I have little chance of advancing to a managerial position.

Working in the Forum presents its own occupational hazards and the biggest is that there's not a lot of job security. There have been and probably will be cutbacks and layoffs. Also, the job descriptions are pretty firmly entrenched and it's difficult to make the jump from one job track to another. Add job consolidation to that, and it becomes pretty easy to see a career stagnate.

For the most part, I like Jestering at the Forum, but I know and my bosses do too, that there is no real opportunity for advancement. Most days I let this information simmer in my brain, but I realize that I'm not capitalizing on ways in which I could advance myself.

These are some things that I can do at the Forum:

* Get to work before my boss
* Become proficient in webpage maintenance. I don't really work in ancient
* Create a better foundation in automating the little tasks
* Streamline data both in and out of the Forum
* Dress more professionally
* Take more initiative in planning meetings

In a later post, I'll talk about what I can do personally to advance my career options beyond the Forum and the Souk.

Less Annoyed, More Poor

August 15th, 2006 at 02:29 pm

So I threw myself at the mercy of the Brass-Knuckle division and responded to the letter. To prepare myself for the inevitable shin-kicking, I tallied all of my monthly income and expenses. It was pretty depressing to see that with my income from the Forum, I'm just hitting the income=expenses with a very narrow margin. The money from the Souk makes a bigger difference than I'd like to admit sometimes.

Anyway, I crunched the numbers, and made a little report to explain the futility of using stones as a primary method of blood acquisition.

To my surprise, I got a very nice, polite lady who had predrafted out a payment plan that was pretty close to what I was already paying. They did just want to formalize what I was already doing (sending in monthly payments on my own), and commented that my situation was actually fairly common. She was really nice during an akward situation, which really made my day a lot better. Hopefully I can learn from her example to be gracious to others when they're all at odds.

Later, I went to pay the parking ticket, and had to admit that I never even saw it on my car. So this is a lesson to me: keep an eye on the meter when I'm out clubbing. Although, I'll be doing less clubbing, now that I'm short the $$.

Tomorrow, I'm going to contact the health rep -- I really hope I can get the total balance of the reimbursement account. I was really depending on that money. I guess I can pick up a few extra shifts, but that's the last option.


August 14th, 2006 at 09:58 am

I get my health insurance from my job at the Forum. Through them, I participated in the Flexible Health Spending accounts (where a certain amount is deducted from my pretax pay, and I can use it to pay off my health expenses.) It's a "use it or lose it" expenditure for each tax year.

This past year (probably exacerbated by my crazy work schedule) I had quite a few doctor's bills. I wanted to save my reimbursement as long as possible, so I could use the $$ to pay off a bill, or for rent, whatever.

I will never do that again. I submitted all my paperwork near the deadline, and I got my check in the mail a few days ago, BUT I was only reimbursed for 1/4 of the amount I had deducted. So now, I'm not sure what happened - did my stuff get lost, or did I send the wrong stuff? I had actually talked to the health plan rep and sent in exactly what she said, but I don't have a record of who spoke to me so I can't prove anything. Now I have to appeal the reimbursement, and there's no guarantee it will work.

Plus, I got a letter in the mail yesterday: evidently I had gotten a parking ticket a few months ago. Probably it either fell off the windshield or was taken off, because I never saw it. So now, the $$ has been tripled, because it's late. So I have to go to City Hall to give them the $$$ before I get arrested or whatever happens to you when you haven't paid a parking ticket you didn't know you had.

AND, one of the bills that I had been paying sent me a nasty-gram: I was told (verbally, and I'm realizing that verbal=big mistake) to send in regular payments even though it wasn't for the full amount of the bill. But this letter is looking very legalese, and a few days after I got it, I got a phone call from their brass-knuckle division. I wasn't home, so I called them back and left a message on how and where to contact me. I'm hoping that this is an opportunity to formalize a repayment plan rather than a chance to kick me in the throat or something.

Did I ever mention that debt sucks? Because it does. Frown

Wasting Frugality for a Good Cause?

August 11th, 2006 at 07:21 am

Yesterday, as I was leaving the Forum, a co-worker gave me two tickets to a concert at a nearby club. She'd gotten the tickets for free, but after a long, stressful week at work, she wanted to stay home and relax.

I haven't been feeling too adventurous lately, and had my own plans of staying home, but the option of a free night's entertainment was too good to resist. So I started calling around to see if they were free.

I don't really have a lot of friends: work consumes a giant part of my life right now so I haven't made the time to be social. The few people that do hang out with me are also busy with school or family, so my social circle is depressingly miniscule. I made some perfunctory calls, not expecting (or getting) any takers.

So yesterday, I felt the first sun-streaked rays of an epiphany: I need to get out more.

So that night, I decided to take a leap into the oblivion, and act on a half-extended invitation to learn to play Go at a nearby Corporate Coffee House O'Doom near the Forum. I'd never really hung out with this crowd before, and I know nothing about the game so I was really nervous. The group was very gracious, teaching me to play and giving me pointers.

After I'd been there for about an hour, one of the players mentioned some books I should get and how I should get my own set. They're talking boards and gear and I'm thinking, will anyone notice if I get this stuff from eBay? Mentally, I'm tallying up the costs of my new hobby, not to mention the possible investment of time and I'm wondering: how do people have a social life on the cheap?

I'll see how game night goes. If it's still fun after a few more tries, I'll hit the thrift stores to see if I can find anything there.

The Mercenary's Advice

August 9th, 2006 at 11:31 am

During the summer, a few college kids return to the Souk to earn a couple of bucks while classes are out. One of these is a buddy of mine named Josh. He's one of those scary-smart people: the kind that will stop mid-way through a knock-knock joke to make a comment about postcolonialism's effects on tofu. He's taken about 1 bazillion shifts, so I see him a lot lately. He's a good student and a good worker.

Anyway, Josh was telling me about how two other wenches (Irene and Alexa) were playing a trick on our supervisor by making calls to each other and pretending to be a customer looking for llamas. This allowed one of the girls to leave her stall and goof off somewhere else in the Souk.

My response: high dudgeon.

Why? Because it's annoying, immature and more importantly, when they goof off, I end up pulling some of their weight. At the end of the day, we've got to clean up the Souk, so you can imagine how I feel after scooping up more than my fair share of llama poop after hours on my feet. Not to mention that the manager got mad at me when she couldn't find the two of them.

So we're mucking out stalls, I'm frothing at the mouth about slackers and Josh stops me in the middle of the rant to blow my mind with this statement: it's pointless for me to work as hard as I do.

So I pick up the tails of my rant and start frothing again about work ethics, responsibility and personal integrity and Josh stops me again with: you don't get rewarded here by working hard - in fact, you get punished.

So I'm getting totally offended here because of course it's important to work hard: if you're going to do a job, do it right. I'm lucky to have the job at the Souk, for all my complaints. It's helping me get out of debt, and I get a discount on camels, plus free martinis before 9 am.

But then Josh says: If you're going to work hard, you need to correlate your effort with your pay. That doesn't happen at the Souk. It doesn't matter if you sell 10 llamas or 10,000 -- you get the same paycheck. Not only that, everyone else around you gets the same pay as you. Think about it. The only people who benefit from your extra effort and sales are the investors. You don't get anything.

So while the mushroom cloud in my head was settling and as I was on the floor picking up the remaining pieces of my brain, Josh kicks me while I'm down and says:

If you worked more for yourself, and put even a little of the effort into that as you did here, you would probably do better. If your work is successful, -you- get the benefit.

And Josh points out that yes, while we are both scooping the poop; he's using the money to help defray school costs, which is helping him succeed in his career. We both point out the merits of using the Souk to achieve my financial goals, and the fact that as a job, it's not a bad one.

But Josh makes a knock-out punch and concludes his sermon: take a look at the long term goals and invest in yourself at least as much as someone else.

I've been mulling his words (and coddling my bruised ego) and today, I saw a post that reinforced his words.

So my homework? Think of the value I can provide and what it might be worth. Not to be afraid to put my skills on the open market. And to put my foot in Irene's behind the next time I see her on the telephone.

About Me: What is a Wench? And Who is Whom?

August 9th, 2006 at 10:27 am

relisted post


For my part, more of one and two. That's what it feels like, at least (all that fetch and carry, kwim?). Not so much of three. I like to keep it clean -- this is a family show.

More than this, I cannot say. There's some stuff I'll keep on the hush hush, and my employment is one of those things. So all names and identifying features have been altered in this blog. I especially like using ancient history words, so you'll see a lot of that.

Ive updated this post for some terminology (read: aliases) I use a lot. I'll make more additions as necessary. Many thanks to Dictionary.com and Wikipedia for the defs.

Agora noun. A Grecian marketplace, the employer of scullery maids and a competitor of the Souk.

Ash biographical name. Ash (Ashleigh) is a bodyguard at the Souk. Built like an Amazon, she is my accomplice in mischief and mayhem. She has a twin brother named Zach.

Bactrian noun. A two-humped camel, sold in the Souk.

Bee Hive noun. Where I live.

Corporate Coffee House O'Doom place name. Where I meet people.

Dromedary noun. A one-humped camel, sold in the Souk.

Forum Romanum place name. Where I work by day. Occupation? Jester.

Game Gang biographical name. The ladies and gents that meet to play games. Right now it's Cribbage. The members of the game gang I know best are Idris, Ron and Kalhil. Added: Colin, Aldo, Dov.

Guild place name. An association of craftsmen, and the place where I apprentice. Currently assisting in elementary Potions, will hopefully be learning Alchemy, Herbology.

Idris biographical name. Idris is a cute guy, part of the Game Gang.

Keiko biographical name. My neighbor.

Modernus Universitas place name. A center for higher learning, slightly analogous to the Guild, but has a better football team.

Scullery Maid noun. The scullery is a small room adjoining a kitchen, in which dishwashing and other kitchen chores are done, and the maid is the girl that does the work. Scullery Maids to Wenches are like apples to oranges. They work in the Agora.

Rufus biographical name. A friend of mine. He has a friend named Chris, who is having a lot of money problems.

Souk noun. An Arabic marketplace. I moonlight here.

Wench noun. Who I am. v. What I do. Kind of like being called a Potter because you are a potter. Definition explained above.

Zach biographical name. Zach (Zachary) is Ash's twin brother, and my consigliere in matters of romance.

Works for Me Wednesday: Old Socks

August 9th, 2006 at 06:05 am

I love socks. I can never seem to find a matching pair when I want them, but I love them so very much. I buy them in packs, and I always seem to have a stray hanging around somewhere. I use them for loads of random stuff, and sometimes I even wash them.

My favorite use for old socks is to keep fruit from being bruised. I despise bruised fruit: I won't eat it if it's bruised, but I want to pack it in my lunch. So I put the fruit in the sock, and it stays nice and perfect for me. I do this with pretty much all fruit except citrus (cause it has a protective rind) and berries (because they get smooshy too easily.) Bananas, pears and apples are perfect for this treatment. I don't want to find berries smooshed in my toes, so I don't use little fruits. YMMV.

Anyway, if the thought of this makes you queasy, then there are other uses for old socks. I also use them as potholders, and as dusters (just stick your hands in and voila!) I guess I feel like my feet aren't too gross, so my socks aren't contaminated by working double-duty.

So if you're a picky eater and/or kind of a slob (like me, in both cases) then don't throw out an old sock! Smile

Snowflaking, defined.

August 7th, 2006 at 01:04 pm

Snowflaking, as I define it, is a process where little bits of "whatever" can accumulate to make a great impact. Like how snowflakes (little) make a snowball (bigger), which can get even bigger still.

I've seen this term used in talking about debt reduction: little amounts of surplus money go towards paying a bill, which causes it to be repaid sooner.

For example:

Sears Card = 600 w/minimum payment = 50, payoff =12 months
Car note = 2,000 w/min payment = 200, payoff =12 months
Visa = 1600 w/minimum payment = 100, payoff =16 months

But if you could squeeze out an extra 25/month, you could repay the first one in 3 months and do this:

Sears = 500-75 for 8 months = 0
Car Note = 2000-200 for 8 months = 400
Visa = 1600-100 for 8 months = 800

and in month 9

Car note = 400-275 (the 75 from Sears)=175
Visa = 800-200=600

Month 10

Car Note =175-175
Visa = 600-200-100 (from the car note) = 300

and in month 11

Visa = 300-300 = 0. So you get done 5 months early.

In cases where the debt doesn't accumulate interest, the math is very straighforward: whittle away at the smallest first and when it's done use the freed up $$ from the first debt to take chunks from the next one.

But often, debts aren't that simple. In this case the interest and the principal has to be factored in, and it may not be the best strategy to go from smallest-biggest or even highest interest first. I guess an easy way to ballpark it is to not snowflake the low balance, no interest debts and attack the smaller of the interest-bearing ones first.

I actually use a calculator to figure this out, because the difference in payment order can add or delete several months to the repayment time. This is partially because of the interest, but also because my snowflake amount may vary each month.

Here's the link to the calculator:
snowball. I like the basic one. If it works for you, give the dude a tip -- his spreadsheet can really save a lot of headaches.

And I got the link from this amazing blog:

It's your money. He's got other cool stuff too.

If I were better at computer programming (which is to say, if I could do it at all) I would write a program that would just do it for you. Maybe someone out there with higher brain wattage can tackle this job?

Budget tweaking

August 7th, 2006 at 11:22 am

Ok, so after crunching the figures for bit, I've decided to do the following:

* Pad the grocery budget a bit more, upping it to about 120/mo
* Drop a shift at the Souk, freeing up one night
* Use part of the money from there to snowflake my car
* Use the rest of the money for a freedom account money and a "slush fund"
* Redo the budget in 6 months

I know that I should budget so that I don't need a slush fund, but that hasn't worked well for me. With this set up, $50/mo goes for discretionary spending. I'll consider it as "use it or lose it" so if the $50 doesn't get spent, it goes into the emergency fund.

The goal for the emergency fund is 6 month's operating expenses, which for me, can be rounded up to 4,500 or down to 3,600 depending on how close to the wire I can go. Looking at that makes me realize that if I lived in "gazelle mode" I could cut another $100-$150 from the budget a month. But I don't know how I can trick myself into doing that. Maybe I should. Frown Hopefully, I won't have to find out the hard way.

In any case, the new budget is more workable. The freedom account will take care of intermittent, but required expenses like holidays, car servicing and clothes purchases. The biggest chunk now is car servicing: I want to change my tires for winter.


August 7th, 2006 at 08:57 am

I'm looking at the figures for the rest of the year, and I've made a few revisions on my plans. Originally, I had planned to stay on at my second job (approx 20 hours/week = about $450 total) for about another year. The money from there would go entirely to snowflaking.

I think this might be pretty unrealistic of me. There are a few things that I really need to do if I ever want to achieve my long-term goals, and a consistent 60+ hour workweek is really making that incredibly difficult for me.

So instead of the $450 I have planned, I'm going to budget for 200/month for snowflaking. Extra money earned will go to extras or for holidays, etc. I don't want to depend on earning at the maximum hours, because it's given me little leeway room.

At a targeted $200/mo snowflake goal, I can pay off 3 additional debts by January. I'll still be in debt, but up to my nose instead of my eyeballs.


August 7th, 2006 at 06:33 am

Although I'm able to pay off my one big debt on time, I think that it won't have the effect I wanted: I may have to pay a good part of a second debt before I can proceed with the Plan A goals. So I'm looking at Plan B too.

Where does the money go?

August 7th, 2006 at 06:33 am

My budget is pretty tight. Before I get paid, I write out the checks for all of my debts and get them ready for mailing. I typically pay as many of these as I can from the first half of my full-time job's pay. Then the rest of my pay goes for the household budget. For the most part, the money from my second job goes towards this one big debt I owe.

Most of my household expenses are fixed, or within a narrow margin: utilities, auto fuel and rent are pretty much the same every month. So I do all right with paying the bills on time, and theoretically I should be able to anticipate exactly the remaining expenses.

But I realize that I don't keep an accurate enough track of what I really do spend. I consistently overspend on groceries, and even though I shouldn't, I do eat out. I've really cut back on entertainment -- I generally use the library, but there's still some spending that happens each month.

I know that people say it's not what you make, but what you do with it -- but I'm so impatient to be out of debt that I feel like my pay isn't really doing much of anything. I digress here.

Anyway, a ballpark overview of my spending and my attitude reveals that because I don't account for the things I do actually buy, my budget tends to go off the rails and I waste money when I don't need to. I think I get this "I'm never going to make it" mentality that makes it easier for me to be less disciplined.

So I think I need to go back to the budget, with a more realistic mindset.

Tidying house

August 4th, 2006 at 08:44 am

I stayed up super late last night, trying for the 10,000 time to organize my place. The motivation? I ran out of checks and I was looking through all my old checkbooks to see if I had any extras. I found a few, and spent what seemed like forever going through old statements, bills, etc. I'm usually a DIY'er, but I think I might have to break down and use a shredding service, because I ended up with a huge box of stuff that needs to be destroyed.

One of my goals for 2006 is to get rid of all the extraneous stuff in my home. I have so much random junk, which is really ridiculous, as most of it was given to me by my packrat relatives. At the time I thought they were being helpful, but I think they felt guilty about tossing their stuff so they passed it along.

I was going to have a garage sale, but the items aren't that great and I really don't see myself doing it alone. So I'm packing some bags for the thrift store, and I'm rethinking my purchases: if I'm not going to use it a lot, I'm not going to get it.

How to make a dollar out of 59 cents

August 3rd, 2006 at 03:28 pm

So I was reworking the numbers after a crazy week visiting my family and I realize that the rest of August is going to be very very tight. I didn't really budget for the visit, and I guess my inner Paris Hilton took the reins of my spending. I got gifts for people, food, and evidently a Ferrari, because I'm so close to the red it's just crazy.

So now I'm back on the money diet, with a vengance. I sussed out all the figures, paid off the debt for the month, and now I'm left with the operating expenses. I see a lot of beans and rice in my future, which is probably good because although I spent like Paris, I ate like a linebacker.

So now, I have to be suuuperr good. And really disciplined. I think that I'm going to go ahead and pay out everything very soon, so there's not even the temptation to spend. Luckily, there's a lot of free stuff happening lately, and I have a lot of books that were given to me that I can read in the next few weeks so there's less incentive to spend.