Generally, my biggest expense is food. This is because before I started cooking, I'd eat out all the time. But since I moved, I've been doing a lot more cooking, and I find I don't want to eat out at all.
I've been making a habit of making an extra serving of something, so I can have it for dinner the next night. Since it's summer, breakfast is cold cereal and fruit. I haven't done so well with lunch, and end up skipping it. But I used to go so far as to buy desserts, like bakery cookies and cake. Now, I'm doing more baking on my own, and might have cookies. Actually, since it's been so hot and muggy, I've just been eating a lot of fruit.
So I'm finding that my day to day expenses have really dropped. But, I'm spending a little more on groceries. Some of it's not a bad thing, because I let myself buy fresh fruit in season, even if it's a little high. So I've been eating tons of cherries and blueberries, even though apples and bananas are cheaper. But I can't get fresh cherries in December, so I'll save the apples for wintertime.
I think I could drop my meat consumption and save more money. Or at least change it. I just found out my fishmonger will clean/scale and behead a whole fish, and these tend to be less $/pound than buying the fillets. I hardly ever buy red meat, and when I do, it's hamburger, but I do buy a lot of chicken and then just boneless, skinless breast. I should switch to whole chickens, and joint them, but I'm squeamish. I eat a lot of egg (whites) which are cheap. But I should eat more beans instead. I don't really like them though, so I'm going to have to sneak them into food.
I can't handle a ton of dairy, so I have milk, soymilk and yogurt as my dairy servings. Soymilk is $$, which is aggravating. But I can make my own yogurt, which can really cut costs.
But I haven't really kept to the grocery budget, because I went on a carnivorous rampage over the 4th of July, and that just really got pricey.
I've decided to set aside the grocery money and put it into a holding account that I was using as a potential space to hold my pocket money. Currently, this account has about $50.00, just to keep it open, and I give myself the pocket money when I need it. But since I don't eat out, I only use a dollar or two, and I can just keep that in my wallet.
Since the holding account has a check card, I can put the grocery money there, and that way the month's allotment is isolated from the rest of my operating expenses. So I won't blindly go over (I'm good about checking my overall balance) and if I underspend, I'll just put in less the following month and pay extra on my debt.
Viewing the 'Goals' Category
Generally, my biggest expense is food. This is because before I started cooking, I'd eat out all the time. But since I moved, I've been doing a lot more cooking, and I find I don't want to eat out at all.
I figured that one reason why the money details seem so overwhelming is that I didn't have a clear picture of my spending. Especially for the past few months, when things got crazy everywhere.
So this morning, I made a cup of strong coffee and crunched the numbers for the next 14 months. I tried to be realistic with my budget and it looks like my previous guesses were a little optimistic: it will be about 30 months to clear it all.
However, I think I've come to some compromise with working extra hours: I'm going to try to do some side-gigging in a field that's related to my job at the Forum (I don't think I can freelance directly in my own educational field.)
The Forum asked me to take some new responsibilities, and in lieu of a higher salary, they've offered to pay for the relevant training. This training will teach me some marketable skills that I can use at the lemonade stand.
I was occupied with some of their other projects, and haven't really used the opportunity. But if I do, and can pick up an additional couple hundred $/month, then I can make a solid dent in the debt. This is less than what I made Wenching, but it has the added bonus of being more of a long term option. Plus, it's much less conspicuous than the Souk (the Forum found that work slightly distasteful.)
I'll spend the next two months really throwing myself into this training, and try to get at least one gig by September. If I can't, I won't have wasted my time (it will make me more useful in the Forum) but I'll reassess my relationship with the Souk. One day a week there would definitely help, if I could balance it (and if they'd even take me, as I've been gone so long.)
After considering, reconsidering and boring everyone rigid with the topic of my potential move, I've decided to stay put for a little while. I have too much stuff to make a quick or easy move, and there's nowhere so compelling that I need to bend over backwards to get, especially with theGuild starting up again soon.
One of the commenters in the previous post thought it might be better to move to the apartment that comes available when the Guild shuts down for the equinox. I agree: it would be handy timing. I'm going to keep purging my stuff, because that's the hardest part. It's easy to toss stuff in boxes, but it's a lot quicker when you already know what you plan to leave behind.
But staying put doesn't solve my original problems: quick/cheap to the Guild and food that's not hot-plate cuisine.
So I started calling in favors. I talked to one of the Scriveners in the Alchemist's ward, and he may allow me to use his Guild's transport permits for the next few months. It's really hard to get this: you pretty much have to wait a long time, AND know someone. But for me, it would be a big weight off my shoulders, because my parent Guild doesn't give transport, and the public caravans don't run as late my classes do.
Finally, I've started the new year's finances: I think it's going to be the year of giving my self an allowance, and leaving the debit card at home: it's too easy to replenish the $20 in my wallet when I can go to the ATM.
So the current goal is more manageable: staying within the budget and using the surplus to reduce debt. I allowed for trip money to visit relatives, and for a big trip I'd like to take in 2009. But I've allocated every dollar to a given category and I want to stick to that.
Whooboy. It's been crazy.
First off, the
Before the ink had dried on the reports, I went off to see my family. I had told everyone that my Christmas gifts to them were my presence (plane tickets), but that well-intentioned plan didn't stand up to the Giftmas onslaught.
I will never. ever. EVER! wait until the last minute to gift shopping. I felt like I'd been robbed by brigands. Not only did I end up buying more than I planned, but because I was away from home, I didn't use my discount at the Souk to drop the total cost. OUCH.
Never again. Even if it's little token gifts, I'll get them throughout the year, and avoid the sticker shock b!tch-slap I got from the Mall. Luckily, I used a debit card, so all the cost is paid at the time of sale.
Even so, I see a few bean&rice dinners this January.
The financial plans for this year are very much like that for the previous: I need to check and update my totals, and go from there.
I spent 2007 working hard, but not working smart. In 2008, I want to work hard and work smart, and really knock out those goals.
I haven't really talked about work much lately: theGuild consumes so much of my time, I barely have a moment to think. But I still have bills to pay, and to make that happen, I go to the Forum. Not so much at the Souk anymore - it just doesn't pay enough for full time, and the although the pay isn't high at the Forum, it does give dental, so it's an easy call.
My job there is of the low-level type, so I have very little status. I think that's a good thing: as a body, the Senate has an unforgiving eye, and staying low to the ground keeps me from their attention.
However, even the most lowly water carrier must show some evidence of work, inititative, and good execution of duties, and this must be submitted, in triplicate, to the Senate scribes.
And because of this requirement, I was summoned to their chambers and asked to give an account of myself: my strengths, weaknesses and plans to improve my failings.
I thought that an alarm clock, an IV drip of espresso and a bullet train could help...but I don't think the Senate is known for their humor in these cases. In fact, they strongly suggested that I do some cross-training: it's better for them to have a Jester with some skills besides juggling and joke telling.
So it has been decided that I will spend some time with the Forum Scribes, learning the arts of language, commerce and illuminaton. This is something I think may be very helpful for me: I know people that use these skills as their only employment.
I enjoy the Forum, and don't wish to leave, but it would be very nice to have some knowledge that I could do for pay in and out of the Forum. My hope was do switch my moonlighting efforts from the Souk to my own endeavors, but I didn't have the skills to do so. Perhaps I can change that, and switch my side title from "Wench" to "Freelancer". I'd never be able to do it full time (the hope being that I might one day work for the Guild,) but it might be more lucrative than mucking stalls.
It looks like with my total debt load (not including what theGuild has deferred) the original payoff dates for my debts will be as follows:
Debt A = April 2012 (which is INSANE)
Debt B = Jan 2008
Debt D = October 2009
Debt E =(Deferred)
Debt F = Feb 2009
This isnít going to work, because by 2009, the deferment will be over and Iíll have to start paying on another 6.7K. Also, Iím hoping that by this time next year, Iíll be in a new Guild, or on my way to one. So my income will probably drop signifigantly.
My two goals are to just have just debts D and E by August 2008, and to be disciplined enough that sticking to a budget is second nature to me.
Obviously, the second goal takes dedication and effort, but the first one can be achieved (hopefully) with snowflaking. By snowflaking for 12 months with no increase in income I can do the following damage:
Debt A = Jul 2011 (still unacceptable)
Debt B = Oct 2007
Debt D = no change
Debt F = Feb 2008
Thereís a possibility that I can get some $$ from the Guild (not a loan, but $$ outright). If I do, Iíll need some for robes and cauldrons, and then maybe the laptop. But Iíll be able to divert the other into debt. Optimistically, if I can do that for about 5 months, then I can pay off Debt A by 2009. Still not ideal, but workable. Iím thinking that ultimately, unless I want to work at the Souk, I might need to really tighten the grocery budget.
Another option is to work at the Souk just for holiday money. And then I wonít need to include that category into monthly savings. I can work
I feel a lot better by working this out. I donít know if I can stick to it, but the target date is to have enough paid off so if my income drops by this time next year (if I continue with the Guild, it may) then Iím hopefully in a workable position.
So Iíve reworked my budget (to December), and Iíve tried to be realistic with the amounts I have for each category. Iíll have to do it for at least a month to see if Iím on target, but I think that Iíve come close to what Iím likely to spend. I gave myself some cushion in groceries and also entertainment, but eliminated the amounts for the e-fund for now.
I also tried to anticipate the things Iíll probably need by the winter. Some I can get used, like a coat, and jeans. But others, like shoes and a comforter Iíll get new (my apartment is FREEZING at night in the winter, and used bedding just seems icky to me.)
It looks like if I follow this plan, it will free up some money to apply to my debts. If I decide to take additional shifts at the Souk, Iíll be able to earn more, but Iím not counting that as part of the total figure, because Iím still on the fence about working so much while in the Guild.
One major change was that I removed the savings for a new computer. Having one would greatly help (now, I just have access to one, but I donít own it) but unless I can get some $$ from the Guild, Iíd like to hold out for a little while longer. Iíd definitely consider getting a used one, if I could trust the source, but I donít know anyone personally whoís selling.
Christmas, groceries (eating out because I didnít pack food.)
Ok, so I've got a ton of things I'd like to accomplish, but the focus of a gnat. So I've decided to address my biggest short term goals (short term meaning less than 6 months.)
In regards to my finances, this is what I think I must do by December 31 (all debts listed in sidebar):
1. Plug the leaks in my budget.
2. Pay off Debt B entirely
3. Reduce Debt F by 1/2, bringing it to $500.
4. Increase E-fund by 50.00/month.
A careful assessment of my goals shows me that if I can do #1, the rest should fall into place. So that's the first step: really targeting those areas that result in overspending. One of those is eating out, so packing lunches consistently, and having healthy snacks in the house are key.
I know I should probably work more on paying off debt than building an e-fund. However, I only have $500 in the account, and I'm the sole breadwinner. I'm afraid that if something happens to me, I won't have any $$ to fall back on.
There are things that I want to have: a new coat, a laptop, some stuff for my place, but these aren't necessities. So I'm saving for them, but I'm focusing on the goals.
Lately, I haven't been on top of anything.
I'd like to blame it on the
So all the little householdy things like packing lunches and catching the cheap transport rather than the expensive have really fallen by the wayside. Plus, I haven't been keeping track of anything: not the money coming in, and definitely not the money going out.
Last year at this time, I was working like someone just invented the concept of "jobs" and I was really trying to reduce my debt load. I did that, which freed up additional $$ 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 $$ means I have to be more careful, not less. The reality is, even though I'm not in the same debt area I was last summer, I'm still very much in the red. Im hoping that I've got a little bit of grace to fix the current screwups, but I really don't want to be making the same mistakes over and over in my life. If nothing else, I want to be assured that when I go on auto-pilot (because if things go well, my life will be even busier than it is now), I've got a straight course set.
If the motto is "You are what you eat", then I am officially cheap, fast and easy.
But I'm not getting any younger (and my butt isn't getting any smaller), and I'm finding that I feel like lead. Sticky-fingered, powdered-sugar lead.
Also, a lot of my friends are vegetarians of the thrift/DIY movement/recycle movements. Although they never really talk about their food choices out polites towards my unapologetic carnivorousness, I'm starting to rethink my own food choices (something about being influenced by the company you keep.)
So I've been trying to shop more locally, and organically, and also in bulk to reduce packaging waste. But it occurs to me that maybe I could grow some stuff on my own? I live in a fertile area of the country: we don't have a long growing season (long winter), but we get a fair amount of rain and moderate summers.
But where to begin? I've started on lettuces in peat pellets and some herbs but that's it. I thought I was going to be moving (changed the mind) so I didn't start as early as maybe I should have?
In any case, I have a small sunny patch (maybe 3feet square) to work with. I know I need to buy some dirt (the dirt back there is pure clay), and I've priced that out in bulk as well. The dirt mix alone is about $30 for me. My mom says, make a raised bed.
Does anyone here garden, and is it worth the initial $$? I don't want to spend a lot of $$ and find that it was cheaper overall to just buy from the store. I was thinking I could do carrots, lettuce, beans, tomatoes (I have the plants for those already).
One of my long term goals is to be able to live off of no more than 60% of my income. Since I'm the sole breadwinner, I don't make a lot of $$, and I have a nice chunk of debt, it's a little challenging.
Currently, my debt expenses should run me about 45% of my take home income. One of these debts is a loan from the Guild and since it isn't due for about a year, so my total out of pocket debt is about 30%. My current living expenses are about 69%.
My short term goal is to eliminate enough of my current debt so when the Guild comes looking for their money, I won't go over the 30% debt load. This will make it far easier to pay off the debt and ideally, convert that 30% to savings.
I don't really want to have to work at the Souk to accomplish this: the time to payoff ratio is pretty low right now. But I'm going to need to stick very close to my budget to achieve my plans.
By my calculations, I should be able to put away for the following:
1. $500 emergency fund,
2 Freedom accounts:
a. car maintenance/service
c. family trip (my mom lives far away).
d clothes (mainly shoes and a coat)
There's only a narrow margin for clothes (I'm loving the thrift store) and really no space for a few householdy things that I'd like to buy.
So what I've done is make another line item in the budget called Objects of desire. which will be bought with extra $$ I earn at the Souk. Because they're not necessary, but just desired, it's ok if it takes a bit of time to raise the $$.
This is what I'm saving for this month (calculated by hours mucking stalls):
1. Helmet & protective gear = 5 hours
2. Table = 36 hours
I like this plan because it places the entire operating budget on my day job, which is really more appropriate than having to depend on 2 jobs to get the bills paid.
I just need to be really careful and not waste money.
So I'm looking at my New Year's resolutions and realizing that the year's nearly half-over. I'm still 20 lbs heavier than what I planned to be by this time, I still haven't won the Oscar, climbed the mountaintop or had a marathon kissing session with Jake Gyllenhaal. I gotta work on that last part, really.
In any case, it's time for me to recrunch the numbers and look at my financial goals.
At my current rate of spending, including saving for an emergency fund and also a freedom account, I'm coming in slightly under budget, with a nominal amount that I can use for snowflaking. This is entirely from my job at the Forum (the day gig.)
Although I have the opportunity (for which I am eternally grateful) to spend some extra hours at the Souk, I'm really trying to transition away from that -- apprenticing at the Guild really takes up a lot of my time. And since I don't want to be an apprentice forever, I need to really focus my attention on doing a good job now.
So the long-term plan is to replace the time I spend wenching with something more in line with my guildwork. Wenching, though fun, isn't exactly something I can put on my resume. Ideally, I would intern at the Guild, but I can't afford to quit the day job.
Also, the second income from the Souk was really helpful in paying down some of my debt. So the other long term plan is to find some way to use my knowledge from the Guild to make a little extra $$. This summer is supposed to be used to get that started. I don't need to make a lot of $$, and I don't expect any side gig to be self-supporting, but if it can help pay the Brass Knuckle Crew from a date with my kneecaps, then I'm doing all right.
However, in the short term, I need to raise some capital, fast. I've been asked to put in some extra hours at the Souk, and I've been reluctant to agree to this: once the time's committed, it can't easily be revoked. But I'll be moving, and I need money for that. So I'm looking at the perfect mathmatical balance between hours worked, money earned and progression on goals.
This is what I came up with:
Working for one more summer and a Christmas at the Souk will give me the money I'd need to do one of the following:
1. Pay off two bills early (by about 5 months)
2. Complete the Emergency Fund
The cons are that it'll be at the expense of using this summer to break ground for next summer's goal (freelance guild work).
I'm not quite sure how I feel about either situation, so June is earmarked for decisions and revisions, and a few late nights with the calculator and the mirror: what should I do, and what am I likely to actually do?
But so far, there's been a stepwise progression ahead, which is great.
This is just a quick post: I haven't been on the site in 10 million years it seems. And there have been a lot of changes since then. I've been able to repay off two old debts and part of a third, which tally to about 2000.00. I have another 500 of the the third debt left to go before that's finished, but it's uncertain yet if I'll be able to pay off the fourth debt this year. Mostly because I haven't been quite as good with the $$ as I could have been.
In any case, I have to update my goals for the remainder of 2007, and decide how my time will be spent between the Forum, the Souk and the Guild. So I'll be back to hash out the details (it seems a little easier to write than to think it in my mind.)