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Two steps back or h3ll in a handbasket?

January 12th, 2008 at 07:13 pm

I mentioned before that over the holiday, I really overextended myself. I didn't use credit, so I don't owe anything, but travel expenses and gifts took a healthy bite out of my savings.

I knew I'd need to buckle down: I've got Guild fees that are due, and I'll still need to purchase materials. And I have a going-away present that I promised to get . I had a little cushion for these things.

But I got a call recently, from a relative, and he'd blown the bank: a few checks overdrawn. He owed me a check for some work I'd done for him, and called to say he wouldn't have it. This isn't the first time he's been short on cash. And it's not the first time I've given a hand. I'm also not really ready to not help him.

I know I should be angry: he's mismanaged the money so much he's not able to pay for even the basics right now. And I'm looking at tapping out my funds (not to mention my time) with the Guild, so I can't easily pick up hours at the Souk to bring in more cash.

But I realize how sloppy I've been in the last few months, and how easy it is to get so far off kilter that you can barely right yourself again. And I'm worried, for myself, and for this person.

I mentioned in an earlier post about my friend Rufus, and his friend Chris: Chris was going through some chronic unemployment, and is really struggling. Part of the struggle is that there was nothing saved for a rainy day. It's a total train wreck, and it makes me ill just thinking about his situation...maybe because it's a possible conclusion of my own actions?

I will, by the end of next week, have zipped down to zero in my emergency stash. And while I'm working now, I have been warned by the Guild that I won't be able to work full-time if I want to become a Senior Apprentice, which will be mandatory for my career. They'd prefer I don't work at all, but may concede me working part time.

So I'm looking at taking a huge financial shortfall, probably within the next year. And, this relative is very likely also looking at a reduction in income within that same time frame.

I am uneasy. I know the right answer: tighten the belt, boost the capital and the earning power...but I feel very anxious right now.

Playing with fire

July 23rd, 2007 at 03:47 pm

Lately, I haven't been on top of anything.

I'd like to blame it on the Guild, and that's partly true: the added workload is a lot for me to handle. But it's a necessity, and so I can't really use being busy as an excuse. Still, I feel like I've got a clean pair of socks in the morning, I'm a hero.

So all the little householdy things like packing lunches and catching the cheap transport rather than the expensive have really fallen by the wayside. Plus, I haven't been keeping track of anything: not the money coming in, and definitely not the money going out.

Last year at this time, I was working like someone just invented the concept of "jobs" and I was really trying to reduce my debt load. I did that, which freed up additional $$ that I planned to use to either 1) stop working at the Souk or 2) pay off more debt.

But I didn't really plan for, or anticipate what my spending issues were: what behaviors got me into debt in the first place. As they say: those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

This month, I've gotten nasty-grams from three different debt-holders. One of them was fixed with a simple telephone call, one with a quick check in the mail, but the third one is already looking really thorny. But the stupidest thing is, in both cases, I had the $$ to send them. I just didn't do it. And not only did I not do it, I spent the money I was supposed to send them. I earned it back, and I have it now, but I could have sent it straight away. I didn't, and that scared me.

I've had a rocky relationship with money, from the very start. No one in my immeidate family is what I'd call responsible with $$. I'd sworn I didn't want to live that life, and I remember the sick-gut feeling of knowing that there's not enough money, and that people aren't going to care why that's so. I've been working to fix this issue, but not enough: a lifetime of sloppy habits take effort and care to break.

I'm taking another look at my "system": checking for leaks and pitfalls. I know now that my biggest money drain comes from a few isolated issues that I have to address, and that the fact I'm making more $$ means I have to be more careful, not less. The reality is, even though I'm not in the same debt area I was last summer, I'm still very much in the red. Im hoping that I've got a little bit of grace to fix the current screwups, but I really don't want to be making the same mistakes over and over in my life. If nothing else, I want to be assured that when I go on auto-pilot (because if things go well, my life will be even busier than it is now), I've got a straight course set.

Your Money or Your Life?

June 1st, 2007 at 09:08 am

I almost quit the Souk last night. I've been on an abbreviated schedule with them for the past few months, so I feel culture-shock each time I walk in the door.

I guess I'm just not there long enough to keep that mental barrier between myself and the customers. Typically, it's not too much of an issue: I'm a "pleaser" in terms of my temperment -- I really want people to be happy with what they're buying. Plus, the customers at the Souk tend to be well-behaved, so it's generally easy to stay friendly and upbeat,

But there is a real barrier between their role and mine, and we are both aware of it in very different ways. My job is to sell as much product as I can. Part of that is by actually getting you what you want. So if a person comes in looking for a dromedary, she needs to leave with the dromedary. And if I'm doing the other part of my job, she'll also leave with a new bridle, some feed and a new riding habit to complete the ensemble.

That direct relationsip between the customer and the employee help create the initial sales. But the ability to generate future sales comes from the buyer's desire to return to the store. Customer loyalty is a key aspect of a business's success, and both the store and the customer know it.

Most customers intuitively know this, but they tend to just want an easy shopping experience. They want to know that llamas are in Aisle 3, but phosphorus-doped semiconductors are sold in Aisle 4, right next to jumper cables. They want clean shopping carts and 40% off coupons, and extra TP in the men's room. This, I can handle.

But some people see a socio-economic chasm between themselves and the employees. Understandably, wenching isn't exactly a great career choice: it's low pay, no part-time benefits and high turnover. But it's a steady paycheck and it's not going to haunt me if I ever run for president. And there are quite a few wenches that have paid for college working at the Souk, so I get a little annoyed when people treat me like I'm stealing televisons for crack money when I'm only mucking camel stalls.

Generally, they show this attitude in small ways, but these little discourtesies, those minute displays of bad manners are wearing me down. It's the petty things, typically from customers with control issues that feel they need something to prove. So when I say, "llamas are in Aisle 3, but you'll have to go to Aisle 4 for wombats," they look straight at me and say, "Don't tell me I have to go anywhere!"

But yesterday I had a customer really treat me like a wench. I got the blow-off, the curt tone, a little stonewalling and the thing I hate most in life: sending me off to get the item for him instead of coming with me to get the item himself. The Souk is laid out like a souk: all the merchandise out for people to see. I like to escort the customer to the stall, so he can see all of our wares, not just the item he came for. But it's not in the job description, so when he sent me off like some 17th century scullerymaid, I had to really stop myself from walking right out of the door.

And it made me realize: I just don't want to have to work this hard. I really don't. I don't want a lifestyle that requires me to earn a second income to keep it up. I know: every job has a required amount of kowtowing, but I want to feel like I'm doing it for a real purpose, not because I want a new bright shiny toy.

I have to reflect: how can my consumption better reflect my values and goals? I had a crap shift, and thought about quitting all night. But I'd gone out to eat several times last week, and bought a few presents for myself and I needed the cash. So I swallowed some choice words, and I stayed.

But it's a funny thing: I don't even remember what I ate last week. But don't think I'll soon forget that feeling of being embarrassed, and frustrated and really -- just trapped. Plus the negativity I had for the rest of the evening because of it.

The job at the Souk has been a real blessing. But I have to remind myself to be aware of why I'm doing it. What is the money really for, and what am I sacrificing to get it? Is it worth it? For last night, no. I could have eaten sandwiches instead of pizza and tacos and then I could have stayed home last night instead of working.

I don't want to keep making those mistakes. The next shift at the Souk should be for debt-busting, or business capital, or for more quills and scrolls for my next appointment with the Guild. Not for thoughtless activities that don't bring me any satisfaction.