Friday, May 16, 2008

how not to make a plan

Sorry! Its been awhile!
I haven't been excessively busy or anything, just giving in to springtime premenstrual malaise.
Oh, and also freaking out about money, but what else is new, right?
I had a minor car emergency: the 'ol dear decided to need a new exhaust system (among other things) in order to pass state inspection. So I had to fork over just over $2000.00 to make things right.
It was really painful for me. I had the money--I have been saving pretty aggressively-- toward the goal of purchasing a new-to-me vehicle sometime early next year--so I had about $5000.00 in an account called "the transportation fund". I did a big pro-con list and toyed with the idea of giving up on my car and trying to sell it for parts instead of fixing it and just getting by with a bike until weather gets bad again(I tried this last summer--gave my car to my youngest sister and took the bus / biked / walked everywhere until a car cut me off on my way home one day and I broke my wrist falling off my bike, so in theory this is doable, but it makes me slightly nervous given past events). My sister pushed for immediate car shopping and using the money I had as a down payment on something new-er, pointing out that the $600 + a month I had been putting aside would be less than a car payment on most things (also, she likes to go car shopping). And then I talked to the mechanic and voiced all of my concerns and he told me that the car looks to be in really good shape (other than the exhaust) and should make it to 300,000 miles with ease(it is currently at 220,000, so this is maybe two years away). So I took $2000.00 out of my transportation fund and had it fixed. And then when it came to $2300.00 I gritted my teeth and put the rest of it on a credit card.
This was an exercize in re-working goals. I have this tendency to get really driven toward a particular goal and to lose site of other stuff, and having to go in and evaluate where I was putting my money made me realize that my $500.oo emergency fund is inadequate, and that as much as I might want a newer car, putting nearly all of my savings into one goal / fund isn't the smartest way to make it happen. Because I do get really rigid about what the money is supposed to be for, and then have trouble with re-allocation and not thinking of it as a failure. So I've restructured my savings a bit: dropped contributions to the transportation fund back to 10% of my net income and increased contributions to my emergency fund to 10% as well. I'm also putting 10% into a "house" fund (that will be way more long-term: I don't even know what town I want to live in yet!) and 10% into a sort of "undeclared" (meaning I have not stated a specific purpose for it, not that I am hiding it from the government or something) playing-with-stocks fund (through Sharebuilder, divided among 5 different index funds) that, theoretically, I can to wherever I most need the money later on . Barring sudden crashes of the economy and my own ridiculousness regarding money.
I haven't changed my pre-tax savings at all; I am still contributing 15% (which still, sadly, does not get me close to the cap of $15,500/year) of my gross every paycheck to the company 403c (but they upped their match from 7% to 8%!! so there will be slightly more money going in there after June 1). This is money I never count, although when I get the biannual report it is always nice to see those numbers and think "someday this could be mine" Haha.
I feel better about it, though I am sad when looking at the considerably lower balance in my transportation fund especially when I think about how I only paid $500.00 for the car I just fixed for $2300.00!! My hope is that it will be money well spent though, and that I will have the car for another two years at least.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

They found a lot of things in the attic that day

Back from California!
It was really all in all a very good trip. I got a notice from my credit card company today that I had gone over my pre-set spending limit (bound to happen when they charged the hostel room surely). but that is okay since I actually have the money to cover that mostly in hand already (payday, handily enough, is also today). The wedding I went to attend was fantastic and beautiful and an all-around good time, there was dancing and alcoholic refreshment (though not too much, just enough for a bit of bubbly fellow feeling and exchanging hats with near strangers) and delicious food and lots and lots of sunshine (because it was Santa Barbara, heretofore know as the sunshine capital of the universe--man was it bright out!). I obtained a new set of grandparents --we're supposed to have lunch in mid-May and they have demanded that I call them "Meme and Pepe" (thats French for grandma and grandpa, by the by), met another knitter who lives in the same city I live in (how strange to meet on the opposite coast!) and some all around gorgeous humans (is it that California attracts them in droves, or is it just that they're more likely to be wearing very little clothing due to the heat, so you're more likely to notice?) who pronounced me and the other East-coast wedding attendees "so 'real', you know?" which never failed to crack me up (is 'real' California code for "out-of-shape" or "pale" or both?). And I ran somewhere in the vicinity of 14 miles beach side. I had a great time. And I'm not even quite broke yet! Woo!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

sofa king

So I took two days off from running this weekend, sort of accidentally--I just didn't have time! I went to a friend's impromptu birthday party, which was full of margaritas and whiffle ball(excellent combination, by the way, though it did end with getting the whiffle ball somehow stuck in a tree), and then the next day got talked into going to my sister's best friend from college's baby shower(no margaritas but there was that punch with the sherbet floating in it? and a tour of their new house, which was mega super cool--a really well kept 1880s farm house they've inherited). All of this would have been no problem if these people were not spread out over several hours of driving in different directions. But it was fun anyway! In between (on the way down to my friend's birthday party, and then on the way up to my sister's friend's baby shower) I picked up the last few things that I needed for my trip, so that now I should be all set (well, I still need new running shoes) to just pack and go on Wednesday.
The upshot of this was that yesterday's seven miler felt amazing. It was like my body was having a sort of revelation, saying "damn! I missed this!" and feeling really well rested --the end of last week I definitely felt like I was proceeding more slowly than usual, but I felt speedy as they come yesterday! Downside is I've sort of broken my streak, and I have this wish to keep my mileage above 20 for the week, which translates into a couple of long "insurance" runs before I leave--I have a tendency to run short (and slow) when I don't know an area well. I like to look at houses.
Financially, the next couple of weeks are going to be a bit of a stretch. I've been keeping the spending pretty tightly in check, most weeks getting by without spending too much more than $100 (pretty much gas+ food) and this week is going to be different, to say the least. I've got a "fun fund" to tap into for this, but you know how it goes--you have some money sitting in a fund and it becomes a sort of comforting cushion--I've been looking at that $500 as my sort of "pre-emergency emergency fund" and now I am really hesitant about spending it. This is of course ridiculous and entirely a psychological problem of my own, but that doesn't make it easier to get around.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Happy Tax Day Uncle Sam

Its gloriously sunny outside today, still chilly enough to need a jacket (and scarf...and mittens) but the sunshine makes it feel refreshing rather than frigid.
Yesterday afternoon I went running in my cardigan sweater after work. That was a little ridiculous, but it was cold enough to need a coat (and I hadn't brought one appropriate for running) so I figured that my sweater might work--and it did, though it is certainly as dirty as it is ever likely to get(when its cold out my nose runs harder than I do).
I've been running most days for the past three weeks or so--I'm trying to make a habit of it, and so far the easiest way to do that is to run before I leave work for the day (even if I do it after the actual work day, I don't go home and then go running, I go running and then go home). Something about coming home at the end of the day seems to prevent me from getting a run done--this hasn't always been the case, when I was living by myself I think I was sort of in a routine of running before I did anything else for the evening, but living with roommates (several of whom are about as inactive as you can get) there seems to be a certain amount of inertia contained within the building.
I've read a couple of things on your friends and acquaintances impact on your health and size
and I understand the idea, I think: a lot of it has to do with the social norms you create as a group--whether or not seconds or thirds or extra poundage are accepted creates a way of eating and living that either is or is not conducive to weight gain. Its all about being creatures of habit. Which certainly we all are at least to some extent.
So I am trying to create in myself a habit of daily running--I've never been successful at it before--in the past when I've been training for specific events I have hurt myself every time I've tried to make the sessions daily rather than having a "light" day in between, but right now I'm not actively training for anything--and so some of my running days are very "light", but they're still days I run. I'm liking it a lot so far. I'm generally pumped to go out and do it, even if "it" is only three miles, I love that my weekly mileage is creeping up and my hips are disappearing (the more mileage I log, the smaller my hips seem to get, everything certainly tightens as a matter of course, but my hips specifically seem to shrink away-- I have no idea of exactly why, other than it is perhaps where I carry excess weight). I have more energy and am sleeping better. Its great! I suppose we'll see how long it takes me to hurt myself this time--I always seem to find a way!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Someone stole all the earplugs!

Happy Friday!
Friday seems to be one of people's favorite days around here. In fact, my boss generally refers to Thursdays as "Friday eve" Which is kind of funny. But really only the first time you hear it. But anyway.
One Friday a month are staff meetings, which mean food and talking via video conference equipment with people we don't generally see but do talk to a lot via email, so it has a certain novel appeal.
As does moving office furniture. So thats what I'm going to go do now.
Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Now you're singing from your socks!

It has been amazingly spring-like here for the last week or so, and in celebration I've been running almost every day for the last week and a half. I'm not usually a daily runner--I think I have more of a tendency to injure myself when I run everyday, but last week when there were two sunny mid-40s days in a row (with a possibility of snow& sleet(that didn't ultimately happen) on the 3rd day) I thought "I can't pass this up! What if it snows again!" and I've been sort of playing it by ear ever since: so far no new aches or pains, and my hips (which have been my problem spot--bursitis is a horrible thing, let me tell you) have been awesome lately! Yeah!
In other news-that-isn't-but-is-to-me:
I hosted a clothing swap at my house on Saturday: If you are craving spring new clothes but dreading the price of such things, I would have to say this type of event comes highly recommended by me: it was awesome! It totally fulfilled my springtime urge for new clothing and was a good way to get together with friends I haven't seen in awhile. I told about 15 people about it and only about 7 showed up, but that was plenty. I made some food, people brought wine and it was all the fun of shopping with a group of friends ("oh my god you've got to try that on!" "oh that color! what were you thinking?!", enormous amounts of giggling, et cetera) without the price tag! I spent about $40 on food (which will also last me the rest of this week, I made more than people were willing to eat while also trying on clothing) and came away with several new-ish pairs of pants and spring-ier shirts and light sweaters. When I invited one particular friend she said "Oh! a "naked lady" party!" and I thought that sounded sort of strange (and lewd) but once boyfriends and other males left there was indeed a fair amount of pants-less-ness going on in my living room as people decided to just try things on where they lay :) so now it does make some sense.
Also in money saving modes: My days of paying for rentals may be about over! hulu might be all I need: Generally when I do the netflix thing it is for the old tv shows or new-er movies, a lot of which seem to be on hulu--and since I already have internet access and don't mind watching on a computer screen (actually right now we don't have a working dvd player anyway so thats the only option in the house). So with the addition of some red box codes I might be able to stretch the "entertainment" part of my budget further than ever before! I am pretty excited about this, any ways I can find to trim a little $ means I don't have to worry quite so much about gas prices going through the roof before it is warm enough to start riding my bike in to work again.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

the handbook of misinterpreted activities

Its very Gray here and hard to remember that it is officially spring.
They've boarded up the windows in my office so even the gray doesn't penetrate--my whole world is brick-and-beige. If it weren't for the doorway (and sobriety) it would feel like a Poe story.
Its for progress that they've gone and bricked up my view, but it doesn't make me very happy. My understanding is that this is a temporary situation, but that doesn't really make it suck less.
I've been thinking about that, the temporary: Mostly my time lines for things in a "Your money or your life" way: I want to be living it not working for it, you know?
Sometimes I could kick myself for going to graduate school the way I did. If I hadn't, I would still have had school debt, but on a much smaller scale. I would also, however not have had the work opportunities that I've had with the extra degree. But maybe that would have made me get off my ass and get writing, something I tell myself I would like to do more of but rarely manage to do more of.
And I really like my job. I do. When I first started it, I wondered several times the first month if I hadn't actually hallucinated it: its that good. But (as my father always has said) there is still a reason they pay you to go there: right now that reason is that I can't see the outside world or any natural light at all from my desk: I'm pretty much in a packing crate. This is really sad given that I used to have a great view of the river.
So: how long am I here for anyway? Is this what I want to do with my life? What could be next?
Always the questions, huh?
I know I would like to try my hand at self-sufficiancy. Living off the land as much as possible. I've read a lot on the topic and it is exciting and also scary to me: mostly in that big-bad-world/woman-alone way. So (don't laugh please) I've been doing some weight training and taking a karate class. damned if I will be a girl in distress if I can help it. There is a school of traditional building an hour or so north of here that does timber framing workshops a couple of times a year(and once you take a class they'll let you host a workshop on your property--i.e. lend their help to put up your house, which is quite appealing), or there are always Yurts--which as they are lightweight might actually be a better option for a girl to think about putting up on her own. These are not exactly low-cost things though, The timber framing course is around $800 and a Yurt can run close to $10,000 (that was for a used one with some sort of deluxe snow package, which this year might have come in handy here). So I've got a little ways to go. But I do think (well, obviously) that that is the direction I'm headed in: I'd like to pay down as much of my school loan as possible and build myself a fat little efund and also buy a little piece of the planet to call my own and live as close to it as possible. At the rate I'm going, I think I'm looking at 5-8 years. Is 5-8 years in a packing crate worth it? Hard to say, and who knows, maybe I will have changed my mind by then anyway.