Sunday, September 28, 2008

Flashback to April

I just found a "plan" I'd jotted down in April, tallying my financial status and goals.  April was a bad time in general; I'd been dumped, was dealing with reactions to my decision to not go to grad school, and those were not the worst things afoot.  In addition to all this, the travel mess that was grad school interviews had included a last minute flight cancellation and re-booking, so I was also carrying a balance on my credit card and had zero savings.

I had been smart enough to save up for the flights and everything that I knew interviews would require.  But I hadn't planned for the mix ups and adjustments I was going to have to make, and by the end of it all, I was about $1200 in the red.  Not a huge amount, but when you're also making a pittance...yeah.

I hated it.  I hated knowing all my disposable income was spoken for, I hated having to figure out exactly how much I needed to throw onto my credit card, and most of all I hated paying Visa so much of my money in interest.  And in the midst of everything else that was terrible, I started to grasp for something, anything that I could do to make things better.  Could I get un-dumped?  No, and I think do-overs are generally a bad idea anyway.  Could I change people's views about my career choices?  Nope, not until they just dealt with it.  Could I fix the terrible things that had happened to my friends?  No, that would take time and healing I had no control over.  I realized that this, this money thing, was the one stressor in my life I could immediately work on fixing.  So I did.

I made a spreadsheet to track all of my expenses.  All of them.  If I spent a penny, it was on that sheet (and I did, once.  I needed a one-cent stamp).  I tracked the day I spent it, what I spent it on, and how I paid for it.  Just by paying attention, I started being motivated to Not Buy.  Did I want it enough to put it on the sheet?  If not, I didn't get it.  As a result of this, I started bringing my lunch to work more often.  I love food, but what I love most is the social aspect of food.  My ideal night out with friends involves a great meal over a few hours of conversation.  But sitting at work alone?  I may as well save that delicious sushi lunch for when I have the company to merit it.

This made me consider how I wanted to be using my money, in the greater scheme of things.  I wasn't willing to give up everything I spent money on, but I did want to learn to spend it in the ways that made me happiest.  I discovered that when it came down to it, I would rather spend my money on experiences than things.  Birthday dinners out?  Absolutely.  Attend an art show?  What night is it?  Go away on an international vacation?  Let me sign the dotted line PASS ME THE PAPER SO I CAN SIGN THE DOTTED LINE.  Latest model of cellphone?  Um, pass.  Figuring that out has saved me a lot of money, and also allowed me to go out and do more of what I truly love.

I also decided that I would do everything in my power to avoid getting into my situation again.  I started to replenish my emergency savings.  I started a savings account for traveling.  I thought of my long-term security, and made a plan to start saving for retirement (though this was put on the back-burner until the visa was paid off and the emergency account was funded).

So this was my position at the end of April, when I finally picked myself up and decided to do something:

Visa card: $644.01
Emergency Fund: $395.50
Retirement Goal: $5000.00 (balance $0.00)
Travel Goal: $1000.00 (balance $0.00)
And I would guess about $200.00 in my checking account.  All in all, I was down about $50.00 not exactly ideal.

Almost 6 months later, thank goodness things have changed!  (more about that next time)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Egg Goes BOOM!

So it turns out eggs explode in the microwave.  I know this from experience.

At this juncture, I'd like to mention that I didn't just stick an entire egg in the microwave; I even broke the yolk and everything.  It was a (too) soft-boiled egg, that had been opened (to ascertain its insufficient level of cookedness) and muddled about.  However, at about second 18 of the 20-second cycle, it, for lack of a better phrase, blew up.  Leaving a crater of shell and an inverted volcano of white and yolk on the ceiling of the microwave, as well as bits of egg all over the rest of the chamber.

It was easy enough to clean up that this was funny rather than irritating.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Learning Time!

Subject - Celiac Disease and Two Religions
Sufferers of celiac disease can't eat wheat.  This can cause problems during religious customs, such as the Christian Communion (wheat-based...cake thingys) and Jewish Passover (wheat is in matzo).
Most Christian churches have okayed substitute cake thingys for celiac sufferers, but the Catholic church hasn't.  In fact, in 1994 the Catholic church basically banned celiac sufferers from being ordained, because they were unable to take communion (and in a stunning act of relational brilliance, they included in this same proclamation the banning of alcoholics, b/c of the wine, thus a little bit implying that celiac sufferers should in fact be able to eat wheat and their celiac disease was a result of their SIN).  Later, in 2003, they downgraded this ban to a "great caution".  And then in 2004, proving that all those sinning celiacs have been pardoned by God, some nuns made a wheat based low-gluten cake thingy that was approved by the Vatican.
Now to the Jews.  Matzo is key to their passover dinner; you HAVE to eat it.  Made of a mixture of grains including wheat, this has caused problems for observers who have celiac disease, especially the Ashkenazi Jews, who also avoid rice (thus cutting one of the common substitutes).  So how do they deal with this?  Well, it turns out that way back when, someone very reasonable included a clause in Jewish law that no one should ever endanger their life to fulfill a commandment.  So it's fine, no one was or is banned from anything, the end.

(Disclaimer: The Author is not a follower of any religion.  She is, in fact, a Heathen.  She's sorry if this distresses anyone, but would like to add that she means sorry in the "condolences" sense of the word rather than the "apology" one.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Guidance, Please!

Would you look at this frequency of posting!  You ought to be proud as punch, this does not come easy.  It was a pretty quiet day; fall has arrived here in Vancouver, and the rain came in to officially open the season.  I don't mind the dreary weather at all when I'm at work.  Especially when work provides unlimited tea.

I need to start thinking about what I want out of a career.  This job has been great as far as gaining experience and seeing what the "9 to 5' (or 8:30 in this case) is like, and I've certainly learned a lot, but I'm not sure if the industry has enough complexity to keep me engaged, when it comes to the long-term.  It's definitely a viable career option as far as sustainability of lifestyle goes, and part of me wonders if that could be enough.  Assuming I'm working with people I like, doing a job that keeps me busy and can support myself to a level I'm happy with, is that enough?  And what is this "level I'm happy with"?

Truth be told, I'm not really sure.  I may be less sure than most people my age.  I don't know if I want kids (frankly, I lean toward not wanting kids).  And because of that, I feel like my likelihood of getting married is maybe a bit shaky, too.  Most people, male and female, picture themselves with kids down the road, in the same way I...don't.

I do know I love to travel.  Going down to two measly weeks of vacation a week would hurt (Oh! To live in Scandinavia!).  Financially, I want to be able to buy a home, live a reasonable lifestyle (I don't think I'm that extravagant, really), travel (see above), and save a lot for retirement.  I want to have time to hang out with my friends and family, and I hope to fall into love with someone.

That pretty much covers what I want outside of work, which unfortunately I wasn't that confused about in the first place.  I'll have to ponder more to figure out what I want to do with the other 40 hours of the typical waking week.

It's right about now that I wish I had just one blinding talent and passion.  Everything would be so much simpler.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

So, I'm boring.

There are a couple things I should be doing, but...I don't feel like it, and they aren't due right now, so I'll do them later (clearly a winning life philosophy, but everyone can have a break once in a while, right?).  I've been fairly boring lately; I made bread on Saturday, and in my opinion it turned out splendidly.  You can look at the picture on the sidebar (at least for now) and judge for yourself.  It was the first time I'd made real, has-to-rise-twice bread, and even though I had to add an entire extra cup of flour to the recipe to make it a dough rather than a batter, it tasted delicious and looked just like in the recipe.

And that was really the extent of my weekend.  I had plans to go out both Friday and Saturday nights, but instead passed out on my bed by 10 pm both evenings.  I am a rockstar.  The bright side: it was cheap, and what with the planned travels I'm definitely trying to save.  Every little bit counts, right?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

How'd We Get To September 20th Already?

Oops, sorry y'all.  It's been a while.  Let's recap, shall we?

I've impressed my bosses at temp job enough that they've asked that I stay on until the end of December (woo!)

I asked for a raise (go, ballsy me!) and got it (go raise!)

I went to on a weekend trip to the States and spent a lot of money (but it was totally worth it), but since it didn't touch my savings, and I'd just been given a raise, I figure it was my present to myself.  We went up the space needle, had a lovely seafood dinner served by an appalling waitress, and, as is apparent, shopped our faces off.  It was also the first time in a looong time that I'd gone away on a true holiday, and...I should probably do that more often.  It was lovely. 

And in that same vein, I also asked for 2 weeks off, and got it, so I'm going to EUROPE!  Most of my savings will be focused on my travel fund for the next little while; I'll still be adding a bit to the emergency and apartment funds, and hopefully gifts, but I have some big catching up to do so that I can pay for my trip rather than pay visa to pay for my trip (which is not an option).  I've set up a "count" of my savings on the sidebar there.  Hopefully I can have the travel section there be $2000 by the time I leave.  Here's to tangible goals!