Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Money and I aren't speaking at the moment

A dryer full of money would do me wonders right about now. (P.S.: You absolutely must watch Breaking Bad if you haven't yet. It's amazing.)

So I'm stressing about money right now. I know, I probably don't have the right to complain since I was the one who made the decision to walk away from a steady salary last year (a decision I still don't regret), but I knew back when I made it that times would eventually get hard and now those times have come.

I feel like I'm living in some alternate dimension of the life I'm supposed to be living. Kind of like there are different variations of my life playing out all at the same time, parallel to one another, and I just ended up getting caught in this computer-glitch of a variation, the one that snarls savage orders at me that I must comply with, like "You will eat that top ramen and you will LIKE IT!!!" In this current reality glitch I live across the street from a handful of dollar stores, "checks cashed" storefronts, a suspicious bowling alley, and my building reeks of general ghetto-ness ... the kind of ghetto-ness punctuated by neighbors who allow their dogs to use our elevators as toilets. In this life I get a puerile kick out of free samples in my mailbox, I share one washer and dryer with an entire high-rise floor (which takes strategic planning if you ever want clean clothes, people), and my "check engine" light is always on, warning me of some expensive repair looming on the horizon. Who am I?

Thankfully I'm not stuck alone in it all; J is also mucho stressed out, evidenced by my increasing reminders to "stop pulling out tufts of eyebrow" -- a bad nervous habit he has when things aren't so copacetic. (He's also got the added pressure of keeping up his grades to graduate top-third in his class next month, coupled with the general stress he's under on a daily basis to find a job post-graduation. Once he takes the Bar this summer I know he'll find the job he's been looking for -- and not have to settle -- but this still doesn't seem to raise his spirits. It also doesn't help that he's reminded of it all every afternoon as he chows down on his 99-cent turkey and cheese Lunchable at school like a fifth-grader.)

Not that we don't have padding -- we're selling some stocks this week to pad out our cash situation even more -- but it's disturbing how far money doesn't go in this country. (I guess it could be worse. I could be living in parts of Europe that, though beautiful, would result in me paying out the nose for everyday things like groceries while steeped in a land of 34% unemployment.) My part-time tutoring job pays well, but the hours are somewhat erratic and the semester ends in early May so those paychecks will taper soon enough. J is currently interning for free and taking no school credits for his legal gig at the SEC three days a week, so it's not as if he could pick up part-time work between the internship and his full load of classes.

Anyway it makes me really, really uneasy when our bank account starts to ebb, even though the cushion is still there. I'm a "buffer" kind of a girl and tend to get irritable when my finances tread close to my buffer. The bills are piling up and costs in the near-future are what are really getting us down. My private health insurance, his Bar class and test fees (about $5,000 total), our moving costs to get back to California ($1,500 for a Uhaul truck, not counting gas), and little costs are quietly adding up (i.e., his graduation invitations, cap and gown, Law Journal banquet tickets - $40 each, etc.).

It would be at this point in any sane marriage that a couple would crack under financial pressure and the relationship would fall apart. Luckily we aren't sane. Whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger, I suppose. Like I said earlier this week: "If, as newlyweds, we not only get through law school, but also our financial situation this last year, then we're bullet-proof, kid." He agreed. Right now all we can do is laugh at the current circumstances. It helps that we find the humor in these even dire situations and can make light of our misery. It really does. Because the alternative would probably end up looking like a Shakespearean tragedy.

Needless to say I've cut out most everything I enjoy doing for the sake of saving whatever funds we have. This means absolutely no more shopping (I can't remember the last article of clothing I bought), no going to the movies, no traveling, no eating out (unless it's Taco Bell), no more concerts, no more happy hours, and no more buying whatever I want at the grocery store if it isn't on sale. And yes, I've become one of those people who reads through all my weekly grocery inserts and travels to each store to get the best price for different things on my grocery list.

I guess these complaints all lead in to my 28th birthday, which is on Monday. My last couple birthdays haven't been all that amazing and for some inexplicable reason I want to try and make this one special. Obviously taking a trip is out of the question, and now I'm wondering if we should even go out to a decent dinner. (Clarification: Technically we can afford a dinner, but in the effort of saving cash would we want to drop $60-$100 for one meal? Would I even enjoy the meal as I mentally balance our checking account with each margarita?) It doesn't help that J and I are attending a Law Journal banquet of his tomorrow evening that we had to spend $80 worth of tickets on, but I totally get that networking and socializing is part of the "education" at his school, and that establishing lifelong professional relationships with classmates there is part of the whole package. Still, $80 is $80.

So, this is where I'm at. I hate worrying about finances to this degree but I'm starting to think that the only way I'll stop worrying about money is if (when?) I'm disgustingly wealthy. Until then no amount of money ever feels like enough. Anyway I feel better venting about it and I know most of my worries stem from the cost of moving slash J taking the Bar. Putting down between $5k to $10k in a one month span is never fun, especially when I'd much rather take that money and save it as a down payment on some property. Or travel. But such is the way of life. Right now nonessentials take a backseat to priorities, but my chin is up -- I know it won't be like this forever.

Now, what to plan for my birthday?...

23 comments:

Abigail said...

I think you do need to go out for your birthday.

You could always try and start with happy hours. Tim and I usually play up the birthday freebies and hit happy hours for cheap appetizers and such. If you like the drink specials, that helps too.

Also, random but: Uhauls are hard to drive and huge gas suckers. Have you considered just paying someone else to transport? We paid $1300 to get our stuff from WA to AZ. Obviously, your trip is longer but we just packed up the storage cube, they picked up and we just had to worry about getting ourselves there.

Tami said...

I'd bake you a cake but you're too far away! You'll both survive beautifully.

paisley penguin said...

Happy hour is a great idea and you could always have a meal of appetizers. Just call it Tappas in your mind.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!

Sending you virtual cake!

Sophia said...

PO FOLK! what what! hahahaha

Jonesie said...

My SIL moved from the midwest to DC and did the same thing as Abigail and Tim. She had them haul a car and some furniture for $500.

Sunflowers said...

What about a picnic at the park for your bday? Nice bottle of wine, cheese, grapes, ahi tuna salad... I bet you could keep it under $50 and still have a fun experience.

Crystal said...

Happy hour is a good idea, as is a picnic. Perhaps I'll do both.

Re: the Uhaul thing, I'm pretty wary of moving companies. I used two different ones when I moved to Boston from CA and back again a couple years later and ended up getting royally ripped off each time. The costs came out to $2k+ each way, and my things were delivered a month or two after they were scheduled to come. Pod pricing is essentially the same (about $2k), plus we need to get our car back to CA and were going to tow it behind the Uhaul (or Budget truck; Budget just lowered their price to $1,200 for 13 days cross-country, mileage included).

Thanks for the early bday wishes!

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Happy Birthday! And remember- this too shall pass. When you have lots of money you will appreciate it so much more :)

Suz said...

I feel ya on being broke. I would do something fun in for your b-day. Cook something nice together maybe? Or I like the picnic in the park idea too.

I'm broke too and whenever I spend money I think I could have saved it always makes me feel like crap. Or you could invite some friends to your b-day dinner and maybe they would pay for yours as your b-day present?

besswess said...

Happy Birthday.
I am with you. I am sick of thinking about money. I work 70 plus hours a week just so I can enjoy some frills. It is ridiculous. I don't know if you are religious, but Ill say a little prayer for you that money will not cross your mind during your bday festivities. :)

Carrie...On The Cheap said...

Happy Hour is the best solution to any money problem. I love coming out of a bar buzzed and satiated with just a $10-$15 tab. :) And then wine/cheese in the park afterwards!! :) Or just wine. Whatevs. :)

Carrie On The Cheap said...

Oh and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!

Scott Teel said...

Happy Hour? No, no, you want to go to CHUCK E. CHEEZ! The birthday capital of the multiverse!!!!

Then again, as an adult, you'll probably want to go to their new, more refined establishment, "Charles Edward Cheese."

Hang on, I think I made that up...yeah...yeah, I did. I suggest Happy Hour. And have a great time knowing that in a few years, nostalgia will kick in and you'll recall this as the best time of your life. It's kind of weird, really, how it does that. For me, anyway.

And have a Happy Birthday!

Chelsa Bea said...

Oh, honey bee, I cannot begin to explain how much I relate to everything you just wrote here. If we lived even somewhat close to one another I would take you out to lunch for your b-day and we could have a total vent fest about our situations to one another. Plus, I would order us not one but two bottles of wine for lunchm or mojitos, your choice, of course. In the mean time, good thing I found it was your birthday because that means I get to go shopping for little something for you tomorrow. Yipppee! Happy almost birthday, lady.

Mandy's Life After 30 said...

Crystal, I'm so sorry about all your worries! That is tough on any couple. You guys sound just like us though -- we laugh at our misery and we have that same buffer as well. Still, Kirk and I are so disgusted that we owe taxes this year. It's like we're damned if I work (extra income is nice but we end up in the higher tax bracket) and if I don't work, then we pinch pennies and have no fun. It royally sucks all around sometimes.

Happy Birthday for Monday! I'm having a scope stuck down my throat by a G.I. doctor in your honor! LOL! :-) I hope you have a wonderful, special occasion though. You deserve that. I was going to suggest a picnic as well. Or how about some kind of love scavenger hunt. Have J blindfold you and take you to special places around the city. Sometimes just being out and playing tourist can be fun. Keep it open and spontaneous.... if you feel like stopping in at the corner deli for fresh bread, do it. Or if you want a hotdog from the vendor on the street, do that instead. Just be together and get out and do something, anything! Being with you best friend and husband is all you'll really need to be happy. Plus with his lawyer skills, maybe he can negotiate prices on a meal, piece of chocolate cake or who knows what else! Have a great one girl!

colfin said...

I had the same thing happen with the moving companies when I moved to CA. They were 6 weeks late with my delivery. All I had was a suitcase full of about 1 weeks worth of clothes and an air mattress. They were 1 month late when I moved from CA to MI. Not fun. I'd rather do it myself as well!!!!

Hope you have a happy birthday! I'm sure whatever you end up doing will be great! :)

dors said...

oooh....yes, tricky. i am sort of the same. but have you sent your articles to magazines or newspaper? would like to read something as good as this sometimes in one of them.

Matt said...

It's tough waiting for the income to come in once he passes the bar. You're doing the right things by cutting back on expenses. Make sure you start with a new spending plan each month to tell your money what to do so you don't have any impulse buys or other surprises.

I have some free spending plan (budgeting) forms on my website that are a good place to start. Try them at http://www.financialexcellence.net/resources/free-resources.

Best wishes and happy b-day!

The Jazzy Olive said...

i say go out for your birthday and spend less than $60... either skip food or skip drinks but have fun!! or sneak a flask to the restaurant/bar... i'm in a money situation too and it REALLY sucks but you can still have fun, and SHOULD have fun on your birthday

and on a good note... j is going to be a lawyer and you're going to be a famous author so in a few years you'll be rolling in money!!

The Jazzy Olive said...

and as for the uhaul i say sell all your shit and buy new when you get there!

The Jazzy Olive said...

and my last thing to say... you need to make good friends with a bartender and then you can go out and spend like $7 a night for $500 worth of alcohol haha

Maritza said...

Crazy work week (week and weekends, actually) has left me a bit behind, so please excuse this late comment. Just hold on for a bit longer - you both are so hardworking that it will work out. I know cuz you'll make it work out the way you want it to. =) Moving back to CA and near family will help out too. ;)

If I could, I would take you out for your birthday, but since I can't, very many happy and worry-free (early) birthday wishes to you and many hugs too!

Amber said...

I have to say we are feeling similar pinches here too. On my to do list today is going through the grocery ads to make my list. Thank goodness I've been super frugal for the last 10 years of my life, no thanks to credit cards. That cleanup wasn't fun -- to say the least!

Things can only get better for you two, I know they will! It's just a dip in the road to living your dreams!

Blog Widget by LinkWithin