Monthly Archives: March 2012

Budget Glamorous Shopping Challenge: Jeans

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I love shopping as much as the next girl.  I like the hunt of finding the perfect thing rather than the accumulation of stuff itself, but that hasn’t stopped me from cluttering up my home on occasion.  I’ve done a great job of decluttering the house so far, including my closet, my makeup bag, my utility room and my bookshelves.  (The rest of the house, strangely, seems right on target!  Hmm…)  Because I have certain debt and emergency fund goals, not to mention an upcoming chance to go back to India two years from now, I am trying very hard not to spend more money on things than I absolutely have to.  It helps me to envision things like a fat emergency fund or a paid off home or a plane ticket when I’m tempted to spend.  Still, there are times when spending must happen, and now is one of those times.

I need another pair of jeans.  I blew the butt out of one pair and so they’ve been given over to property chores status, such as when I paint things.  My other choices are wearing out rapidly.  I need a pair that I can scoot around town (and on the bike) in, which means there are certain construction requirements.  I stopped in my favorite boutique the other day to try on their delicious brands of jeans, and they fit like a dream — but they’re about $200.  I like a pair of well-fitting jeans and I was tempted to just part with the money and be done with it.  But then I visualized my fat emergency fund (obviously still in my dreams, since it’s not a “remembered” emergency fund, lol) and decided that, sigh, it just wasn’t worth it.  On the other hand, I don’t want to buy a pair of cheap jeans that don’t really fit well and I won’t wear.

Then I remembered something my seamstress had mentioned when I dropped off a Juicy Couture swimsuit to her for slight alteration.  I found the swimsuit at huge discount brand new and it’s perfect except for one small problem.  I nearly put it back on the shelf until I remembered her.  I like to say I visit her atelier, because that seems so much more glamorous, and indeed she could make me a custom dress for the low, low starting price of $450.  When I’m less budget and more glamorous, I’ll probably take her up on it.  In the meantime, she nips, sews, hems and otherwise makes magic on clothing finds I bring in but cannot quite wear.  She’s a bargain unto herself and her work is flawless.  She’ll probably be her own post soon enough.  Anyhoo, she noticed the brand and mentioned that she’d found many upscale pairs of designer jeans for under $10 ...at the Goodwill store in town.

I hesitated.  I do not have the kind of luck that other women do in finding awesome clothes at used stores.  I go in and find things many times my size in very poor condition.  Other women seem to walk out with designer suits and mink coats.  I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong, but it has to be something!  So, this seems like as good a challenge as any to sharpen up this skill.  Truthfully, I don’t need much.  Because of careful closet editing, I’ve gotten rid of the things I do not wear or have not worn so that it is easy to see what I have left to work with.  And I actually have enough nice things to work with and have been able to create a bunch of surprisingly well put together outfits so far.  The jeans, however, are a staple and they have to be replaced, especially since with the bike, I have to have a certain leg style (very straight, no flare) in order to ride safely.

The only problem I foresee is getting overwhelmed, which happens to me on any shopping trip but especially seems to happen to me with consignment shopping.  I hit Goodwill and there’s eleventy-million pants to choose from and eventually it all starts to blend together.  Any tips on how to make my best effort at this?  Do I case the place first and then rehaunt it periodically?  That seems most logical.  How often do I haunt a place?  What am I even looking for?  Halp!

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Paying Yourself First

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As a concept, this is done to death, but SO worth repeating!  It’s so easy to get caught up in paying everyone else that we don’t pay ourselves first.  But really, no one can get ahead without doing that unless some financial windfall happens.  Even then, if you aren’t in the habit of paying yourself first it’s easy to spend “found money” on unhelpful things (like upgraded sushi!).  I found it particularly hard to pay myself first when I felt my income was small.  (Small in this instance means when I was working for around $13,000 – 15,000 gross — and believe me, that was indeed gross!)  I have, though, picked up some simple habits that would apply even to meager incomes.

Know Why You’re Doing It:  I cannot overstate how valuable figuring this out was for me personally.  I wish I’d figured this out in my twenties, which were filled with nebulous notions of needing various piles of money so that things could happen for me later in life.  Retirement seems like a far away place when you’re 23 and home ownership seems like something older people do, lol.  I had no real savings targets or strategies other than “don’t bounce a check” and “try to put some away” without ever really thinking about what it was being put away for.  Consequently, I made some money mistakes.  For example, I let one of my first jobs after college cash out and mail me my little 401k investment once I’d left instead of rolling it over into an IRA.  It seemed so small and unimportant then.  Now, it’d be worth way more, even with no continuing contributions made to it.

Now in my mid-thirties, I have a much clearer sense of what I want out of life, and consequently how money is supposed to get me where I want to go.  I know, for example, there are certain financial moves I need to focus on to get rid of my divorce debt and student loan debt.  I know I need to come back to balance in my personal relationships and health practices.  I know what needs to happen now with my home maintenance so that a much bigger repair bill doesn’t hit me later.  Looking ahead into my 40s, I know that my primary goals financially will be to get rid of the mortgage for my 50th birthday as well as strengthening my retirement funds.  I also want to take a stronger community role by then, so that tells me what moves I need to make with my employment in order to have that kind of time available.  I love travel.  But thinking about what I want out of the second half of my thirties, I’ll probably only be able to afford one or two trips, and one will be to see my lovely Indian friend, Sreya, get married in her home country.  In my 40s, I want to go some place every year or at least every other.  That requires certain financial moves.  All this is to say that when overspending or underfunding tempts me, it’s good to remember what the overall goals are for this time in my life.  If nothing else, it distracts me and lets me think about those goals for a while, instead of getting dazzled by something sparkly or tempted by another piece of sushi.

Retirement:  This is not worth putting off until later.  I foolishly held the belief that it was sort of OK to wait until later to fully deal with retirement because “later” I’d have more money to put into a plan.  This is wrong thinking, because that $20 you find today at a younger age actually makes more money for you over the long term than that $50 I can pony up later.  The simplest way is to have that money debited straight out of your account regularly or taken out of your paycheck.  Even if it’s only a few dollars, starting it now and getting used to living without it is critical.  Pay yourself first for this now so a more vintage version of you can receive these payouts later.

Health Insurance:  Even if you only have an el-cheapo option, it’s worth keeping some kind of basic health insurance, as well as dental if it’s offered.  Medical costs can easily destroy an emergency fund, and an investment in this sort of thing can be a financial lifesaver.  I’ve never understood why people didn’t accept the coverage, even if it’s crappy and expensive.  Oh, wait, having been that person when I was making $13,000, yes I do.  It’s because it seemed to make my budget too tight.  Looking back on it, I took some awful risks with my health, and when I did have to pay for my own costs, I might as well have just amortized that cost over the year in the form of health care contributions.  I ended up paying for it just the same, only my way cost me more upfront and pinched the budget far harder.  Because of course a medical payment is going to come at the same time as, say, the car insurance bill.  Something for health coverage is far better and cheaper than nothing, or a four digit trip to the emergency room!  Don’t take the gamble.  It only works if you never get sick or go to the hospital, and you have limited control over that.  Pay yourself now so you don’t pay out big bucks later.  Since this money often gets taken out of a paycheck, you can learn to live without it.

Emergency Savings:  This is the hardest one for me because it requires the most self discipline and I cannot make use of the best tool to accomplish it:  direct deposit.  I am only paid for nine months out of twelve and my bills are such that taking the twelve month paycheck option sort of screws me at certain times of the year.  I’m better off budgeting my own money.  Unfortunately, that means I cannot just direct deposit money into savings and forget about it.  I have to do it myself.  Now, I take a weird pleasure in coming up with this money, but I’ve had to figure out where it’s coming from.  I do this by snowballing money into savings where I can.  When I refinanced, I was saving about $65 on the monthly note.  I snowballed that onto the credit card, and now that it’s gone, I shove that $200 into savings.  It ain’t much.  But it’s something.  Other “found” money goes into savings as well.  If I have leftover money at the end of a pay period (not often), I shove it in the account as well.  Once that account reaches a certain size, I’ll put it in a CD probably, if only to put another lock on the money before I reach for it.  Having to wait to take the money out helps me determine what is a true emergency and what is not.  If you can just direct deposit this savings out of your paycheck, by all means do so.  People like Dave Ramsey have noted that 90% of the time that we claim we’re going to make deposits manually (or pay extra principle or whatever), we don’t do it.  Automated is much better, if you can manage it.

Paying off loans faster:  There is a simple trick to doing that and it doesn’t involve refinancing.  Pay a bit more on the principle.  This can be surprisingly easy to afford.  For example, I didn’t think I could pay off my mortgage a full fifteen years earlier than its due date.  But it turns out by paying only $40 more on the note each month, I’ll cut that time in half, not to mention all the interest I’m not paying over the long haul.  So I really can give myself that 50th birthday present!  I wish I had done this with my student loan all along as well.  I do pay around an extra $40 on that note and have for the past few years.  But if I had been doing that since I left college, I would probably be extremely close to being finished with it now, instead of having another 8 – 11 years left on it.  The key is to pay more on principle at the same time you’re making the actual payment.  If you wait until the next day, they take a day’s accrued interest out of your extra payment.  Any little bit helps, but it seems the most bang for your buck is putting extra money towards principle as you’re making the actual payment.

At first I didn’t really think I could dig out an extra $40.  But there are several ways to look at that.  One is to break it into weekly thoughts.  I think I can figure out how to spare $10/week, for example.  Or to put it in terms of what it will buy that you are giving up.  If I’m giving up, say, coffee out for the month so I can be closer to owning my own home, that’s a powerful image in my head that helps motivate me.  Or, I can say I’m not going out to dinner and a movie twice this month so I can afford to have the house paid off faster.  Really, it’s about finding the little ways you’re nickel and diming yourself and start nickle and diming your loan instead.

These days I run my household on about $25,000 net.  That’s still not considered a lot of money by today’s standards, but it’s the most money I’ve ever made in my life.  I even own a cheap gym membership and I have cultural event tickets taken out of my paycheck!  Whoo hoo!  Even though I’ve made a few money mistakes, I have done a few things right.  I got a small but very comfortable home with a small and very comfortable mortgage.  I continued looking for ways to improve my education and marketability at the workplace, and thus landed a job that gives me benefits, meets my needs in terms of time off, etc., and offers a small but liveable salary.   I prioritized getting out of credit card debt and I figured out how to pay myself first.  My insurance and retirement come out of my paycheck automatically.  I have figured out a small amount to put towards principles on the two loans I have left to help pay those down faster.  I put aside money that’s gone back into my budget from paying off debt as well as “found” money.  I pay myself first.  Then I pay everyone else.

Barring some sort of unforeseen disaster, if I continue down this path, I’ll own my own home for my 50th birthday (instead of at 65 years of age), my divorce debt and student loan debt will be gone in about 5 – 7 years, and I will be on my way to a small but comfortable retirement.  In between, I will have seen something of the world on a glamorous shoestring budget, I hope to have made strong connections with my community, and enjoyed many hobbies besides.  What more could a little budget glamorous life want for?

Craigslist Gigs

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Holy Crap, where was I when these things came out?!

Apparently Craigslist now has “Gigs,” which are, I guess, temporary/seasonal types of work where you can do a one off event like help someone move something, staff an event, etc. or more involved work like helping someone edit an online magazine or being a field researcher for some study group.  There are loads of entries for writing and surprisingly some jobs I might be pretty good at, including a community coordinator position for visiting exchange students and a contract field research position.  How exciting!

For someone looking to make some part time cheddar, this is definitely worth a look!

Of course it comes with the usual caveat — job seeker, beware!  There are ads on there for housekeeping that includes things like “must be beautiful..”.  Uh, yeah…because toilet scrubbing is all about the looks.  Hello, scam!  But otherwise, what a great opportunity to pick up some tutoring, part time work or otherwise use these “gigs” to fill in and beef up a resume, an emergency fund, or to save for a big trip!

I’ve applied for two positions already.  It’ll make for a busy fall, especially with this new work from her Deanliness coming up.  But busy people get things done, and hopefully busy means less spending money on sushi and more stashing pennies away for debt reduction and emergency savings!  Whoo hoo!

Nice Try But No Cigar

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A former student who is now a resident assistant in her dormitory invited me to come and speak to some of the students about end of semester portfolio tips during one of their social events a little bit ago.  Though the event was at 7:30 in the evening on one of my longest work days, I agreed to it.  I was really pleased to see my student again, as she was one of my first generation college students a few years ago.  And it’s a good thing to do, not to mention I can put it down in my portfolio narrative as “service.”  Whoo-hoo!  While this activity is a “good thing to do,” it’s a shame the university committees aren’t so recognizing of plenty of other volunteer work done in the community.  I can help run parents’ meetings for the Boys and Girls Club, help out in food banks, tutor people, you name it; but it doesn’t count if it’s not somehow explicitly tied to my university and my job.  They define “service,” usually, as “university committee meetings.”

So anyhoo, I show up just before start time walking through campus and I notice how warm it is that night.  Unseasonably warm weather usually means very poor student turn out, and such was unfortunately the case for this event.  Not a single soul showed up, all preferring to go out elsewhere in skimpy duds, I suppose.  I left my student a copy of what I was going to present as a handout and headed home.  Outside the frat houses were absolutely blaring their music.  One group even had a megaphone and some sort of siren going.  The noise was practically deafening.  I can’t imagine trying to sleep through it, though I suppose I’m old enough now to worry about such things.

I never realized just how much of a party school we were until I tried to get back to my car. I was right in the middle of campus, and the frat houses ringing the campus were incredibly loud.  I think they pretty much get a nuisance party citation, pay it out of their dues, and do it all again the next day.  Everywhere people were headed out, some clearly already drunk.  I’ve never really been on campus during these times.  I’ve either been in class or already at home.  Watching some of the girls wobbling down the sidewalk at about 8:00 was kind of…scary.  And sad.  And apparently preferable to popping into your carefully planned activity at your resident faculty leader’s little pad.  They were supposed to have a game of some sort and my little presentation.  Given this was just past midterm, many of them probably should’ve been sitting through my fun and short presentation … THEN going out to wobble down the sidewalk on a Wednesday evening.

Sigh.  It’s getting harder and harder to pull students into any event like this, no matter how well designed and fun it seems, even if you offer free food.  They’re just not interested.  If you don’t compel them to come by dinging them with loss of points or something, they don’t show up.  It would be one thing if they didn’t later on in the semester complain and whine about how there just isn’t any help here on campus, and somehow that is responsible for the sad state of their final grades.  The worst are the seniors who complain they aren’t prepared to enter the job market while simultaneously ignoring every single presentation and service the Career Center offers over the course of their time here.  They even do mock interview sessions and they bring all kinds of companies to campus.  But good luck getting the majority of students who need such help or contacts to take advantage of them.

I walked to my car thinking “Sigh, Nice try BG, but no cigar.”  And then I realized that’s exactly what life is going to say to the kiddos who don’t take advantage of these services now but feel entitled to better grades or jobs later.  Nice try, honey.  But no cigar.

Wearing Money Sunglasses

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A friend and I recently got into a very interesting conversation recently about the way we look at the world or at least the perspective we bring to it.  I suggested that everyone sees the world through certain “lenses” and that shades how they read human behavior among other things.  She and I, for instance, always put on the money sunglasses.  It’s the primary lens I use to make decisions.  Now, it’s not the only pair of sunglasses I put on, to be sure.  But it’s the pair I reach for first.

I gave my sister as an example.  Sister wears caretaker sunglasses, I guess you could call them.  Every year when we go see her for the Kentucky Derby, we end up in the same argument, and it goes the same way every time.  She declares that next year she wants to buy box seats for us to watch the Derby from.  She also usually throws in a limo ride as well.  I always say that if we are going to pony up that kind of money for a horse race (hee hee), I’d rather spend it on betting, eating and drinking.  The seats themselves aren’t that valuable in terms of the overall experience.  But it wasn’t until I was talking to my friend about the money sunglasses that I realized why Sister’s feelings get hurt every time I say that.  She’s trying to comfort or please us in some way.  I’m reading it in terms of value.  I don’t want to waste her money and I also want her to make the most of it, if she’s going to spend that kind of Cheddar on seating.  But Sister sees it as a rejection of her attempt to please us or take care of us in some way.  So, next time, I’m going to say “Hm, that might be fun,” and just change the subject.

It also explains why my friend and I don’t follow through on our desires to have better health and exercise practices in our lives.  That is like the really glitzy pair of sunglasses you couldn’t resist picking up at the store, thinking you’ll wear them, but you always go to your”old faithful” pair of sunglasses instead.  They sit there with all the other pairs of sunglasses, but they never get used.  We’re busy chasing a buck instead, or working the spreadsheets or designing workshops or writing grants to get the fledgling consulting business off the ground.  It doesn’t occur to us to go walk for thirty minutes.  We’re not wearing those sunglasses.

I think realizing this is valuable.  We can always switch sunglasses from time to time, but we have to realize we already have a pair on before we can switch.  Being aware makes the switching process faster.  It is useful to think consciously about whether or not one should be looking through money sunglasses or health sunglasses or human kindness lenses or what have you.  Each situation calls for a combination of perspectives.  At the very least, realizing that one pair of sunglasses dominates my viewing is beneficial to me.  I like seeing the world through money sunglasses, because for me that doesn’t just mean keeping track of my bottom line.  I attach so many more goals besides money to life, but for me money is usually the primary vehicle to get to those goals.  Or at the very least, lack of debt.  That’s the vehicle to many more personal freedoms.  So at times it’s not about thinking how much money I’m making or owing — it’s about looking at a situation and saying can I really afford this experience or will it keep me from bigger and better things down the road.  Or, should I loosen the purse strings a little because looking through some other pair of sunglasses is more important right now?

What pair of sunglasses is your “go to” lens?

Hmm..Could This Really Be True?

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As I go through my money planning goals periodically, I try to reevaluate any strategies I’ve been using that might need tweaking or have become outdated.  The one I’ve been fixated on recently is paying off the mortgage early.  I would like to “give” this to myself on my 50th birthday, though I plan on working as long as I possibly can, if for no other reason than I get a lot of personal value out of my work.  Since I’m turning 35 this year, that means shaving my 30 year mortgage by 15 years.

There are lots of reasons to do this and lots of reasons not to.  Reasons to do it should be the interest involved.  I’m shocked at the amount of interest I pay over the life of the loan, and I have an excellent interest rate.  My little house is worth $120,000 (and about $96,000 of that is the mortgage on it) — but I’ll pay nearly an additional $70,000 in interest over the life of the loan.  Egads!  $70k is a lot of sushi.  Inflation alone makes me want to pay it off as quickly as possible.  Even though my payment will probably be peanuts compared to costs 20 years from now, I’d like to have as many little peanuts staying in my pocket rather than someone else’s.  Ultimately, owning outright one’s own home is security.  Having shelter costs covered and my student loan paid for, my required outflow drops by 30%.  Add to that the fact that the boy will be well and truly in adulthood by then, and my grocery bill and expenses probably reduce my outflow by another 10 – 20% hehehe.  Of course, this assumes nothing changes, and I know that.  If I have health complications or I cannot maintain insurance, it’s quite possible that budget then stays the same.  And I’m sure there will be instances where I help the boy as he’s in adulthood, as my mother sometimes helped me, and I would do it happily.  Of course, the counterargument is those things are likely to happen anyway, and better they happen with other loans paid off so that your budget doesn’t increase.  Additionally, my home is holding its value quite well, even increasing a bit in value.  I live in a college town, and homes (and jobs) have never really taken a turn for the worse here.  Some McMansions in hastily thrown up “suburbs” have, but not the stuff inside the town, which is where I live.  My home actually grew in value by about $6000 from the time I’d first purchased it at the beginning of 2010.

Ultimately, home security for me means I have more choices than I did before.  I can do more and different things with my money.  I can weather poor health or unfortunate circumstances with less discomfort.  I can do work I want to do that is important, not that meets some bottom line I have to maintain.  Home security, no student loan, truly no debt at all, means freedom to me.

Reasons not to pay it off early include first and foremost, knowing you’re going to move within 5 – 10 years of the mortgage being finished.  It might make more sense to save that money instead.  It also doesn’t make much sense to me if the home isn’t holding its value or it is underwater.  In that sort of situation, I think I’d rather save the cash and try to figure out how to get my money back reasonably and start with another, better valued place.  Another reason would be the tax benefits you get from claiming your home stuff every year.  I suppose if you think you can do better investing elsewhere with money you’d use to pay off a mortgage, there is that, too.  But in this sort of market and economy, I don’t know who can really know that for certain.  If there is other debt, such as credit card debt, any extra money should really be devoted to getting away from that injurious card relationship. If there is no emergency fund, ditto.  I would also have to justify paying more on the mortgage instead of using that money to dump into retirement savings.  This one, however, I think I can find a happy medium for.  Part of my retirement plan is owning my home outright, so that all I really have to deal with are property taxes, insurance, and the occasional upkeep/repair.

Paying off the mortgage does not come before the very real divorce debt I have to cough up in five years.  That comes first, or back to court we go!  It also does not come before student loan debt, which by the time the divorce debt is paid will be down to about $25,000.  I prioritize student loan debt because it’s the only debt you cannot bankrupt out of.  It goes with you to the grave!  I will also have to find a way to dig out money for a replacement car sooner rather than later, as well as a few known home repairs (I don’t like to think about the unknown ones!).  Part of the reason my budget isn’t regularly shot more to hell than it sometimes is has to do with the fact that my car is in good running order and I try to do the same for my home, so big repairs don’t bite me hard because they rarely ever happen.  But after those things are covered, the mortgage is in the crosshairs.

There are several strategies I’m reading about, and I’m trying to configure online if what I’m reading can possibly be true.  From what I’m gathering, just paying your regular mortgage payment in two segments monthly rather than once a month shaves about four years off of my loan and $9000 worth of interest, and this without putting a penny extra toward the mortgage.  REALLY?  This would actually work out really well for me, as most of my bills come due within the first ten days of the month.  Spreading out the cost of the mortgage payment over the the month would truly be a budgetary help for me, given how tight those first two weeks of the month really are.  This would also allow me to do something productive towards paying the mortgage early while saving pennies towards finishing the emergency fund, dealing with upcoming debt payoffs, and car savings/home repair.  Unfortunately, the bank says I cannot just make these payments on my own without paying $300 to enroll in their program to do so (and a $5 charge per month).  Otherwise, they’ll just apply anything else I pay to principle and not count it toward my mortgage payment.

The second big strategy is to add more money to the payment each month and specifying that it’s going to the principle.  Mortgage calculators indicate that at this point I’d have to add somewhere between $150 – 200 per month to the principle in order to have it paid off in 15 years (but I could be using the calculators wrong).  Or, I could take the tax return and use that to try to lump sum pay it down year by year.  When I start doing that in year six of the mortgage (as then I’m past the divorce debt), doing that for five years in a row drops me another four years off my mortgage.  What I cannot get it to calculate is the net effect of doing payments twice a month as well as a lump sum payment in year six and onward for a few years.  However, it seems that making extra payments to the tune of about $650 every month in the years after the student loan is paid off and the divorce debt is gone will produce the same result.  That’s a big pinch, though.  😦

Ultimately, I do plan to stay in this home as long as possible.  I’d only like to move if a) some fantastically marvelous opportunity presents itself (and at this point that would have to truly be wonderful) or b) Old Budget Glamorous loses the ability to go into the basement living area, which is becoming a wonderful addition to Budget Glamorous’ life, and has to seek shelter that is all on one floor.  So I guess my issue at this point is whether to cough up the $300 enrollment fee and get the bimonthly thing going, or to try to mimic the result with one extra payment at the end of the year…who knows.  If my calculations are correct, and that is a very big IF, I might be able to get away with just adding $40 now to the actual mortgage payment as extra principle and achieve the same effect!  Sigh.  But, I hope this works!  Whatever combination of financial finagling works out, there is a way to get it in line for my 50th birthday present right on time!

http://www.ultimatecalculators.com/mortgage_calculator.html

**  Update (just because I don’t feel like rewriting several paragraphs :p):  As a way of saying “Ha, ha, screw your fees” as well as solving my problem about the first ten days being tight for budgetary purposes, I managed to get my student loan, which is my second biggest bill, moved to the middle of the month to even things out.  🙂  Now, I can go ahead and add $40 to the principle of my regular mortgage payment without really feeling the squeak as well as continuing to put money dollars away for other purposes!  Happy future 50th birthday, me!!

57 Channels and Nothing’s On…

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I canceled the cable about two weeks ago.  The only thing I have at the moment from them is internet service.  The reasons I canceled were many, though it really boils down to utility — we don’t watch the thing.  If I watch shows, they’re online through something like Hulu.  The last time I really went through cable TV searching for something to watch, I found Grimm on Friday nights.  It’s about a descendant of the Grimm family who works as a detective who solves crime usually perpetuated by mythical beast/humans.  Pretty intriguing.  Also on Hulu.  Otherwise, I don’t seem to do well with TV surfing anymore, though I used to.

With Hulu and Netflix, I’m pretty much covered.  It probably helps that I have delayed gratification when it comes to programming.  I don’t have to watch it that instant.  My life doesn’t really allow for regular watching of shows anyway.  With these two services, I can watch whatever I’m in the mood for.  Both let me search by genre, so I’m “surfing” in a smarter way now that actually appeals to my interests.  I’m not stuck watching a movie that has been shown a zillion times before.  I’m not mindlessly sitting through some canned laughter show.  I’ve gotten into Merlin from the Sci-Fi channel and the Dresden Files.  But I don’t have to have a subscription to the Sci-Fi channel to watch them.  The ads, while still annoying, are MUCH shorter and fewer than on cable TV.  Oh, and Hulu is free.  Even Hulu Plus is cheaper than a cable subscription.  Netflix runs me about $15.00 per month.  Why on earth, given my usage habits and what I can have access to, would I keep cable?  Even the boy rarely watches TV shows anymore.  He plays on YouTube and has his X-box.  The only thing I really miss is Suze Orman’s show and Til Debt Do Us Part.  I haven’t figured out how to yet keep up with them.  But I’m working on it!  When some construction in the basement knocked the cable out of commission for a while, no one complained.  That’s when I realized it was silly to keep paying for the possibility of having it.

When I went to cancel the service, the guy who “helped” me with it was most unhelpful.  Frankly, he was pretty rude.  He acted flabbergasted that someone would want to get rid of the cable package, since I was part of a promotional special where it only cost a few dollars more than the internet service.  Now, that special was about to run out, as I reminded him.  But he kept insisting it was still a “deal.”  It’s not a deal if I don’t watch cable TV anymore, I responded.  He seemed to feel as though I should simply figure out how to start watching it again instead of enjoying the pursuits I do now.  TV is not required to be my hobby!  At the end of the call, he said “Good luck.”  ???!!!  What for?  Does he really think life without his cable package is that daunting?!

Yesterday I got a call from Comcast while I was out on my porch trying to figure out how to operate the hanging strawberry planter I’d purchased a little while back.  Planting stuff, whether it lives or dies, IS one of my interests.  The lady was trying to confirm what services I had planned to stop.  So she asked me to confirm that my internet was supposed to be turned off the next day.  WHAT??!!?  No!  The CABLE is supposed to be finished.  Not the internet.  And incidentally, it was supposed to be finished the day I freaking called about it, that was the start date I told him I wanted.  She starts the spiel about their great packages.  While I try desperately to figure out if she can actually see my account and determine what has actually been ordered to happen, she is trying to get me back into cable.  When she asked me why I left, I said “I.  Don’t.  Watch.  Cable.  Anymore.”  I was polite, but firm.  She told me the number of channels they offered.  I pointed out it didn’t matter if they had thirty million channels, I was not a TV watcher anymore.  That’s just not how I see programming.  She kept insisting they have things like HBO and Showtime.  Why would I pay as much for those channels per month, when my Netflix subscription will give me nearly everything HBO and Showtime offer?!  After making her promise me they weren’t shutting the internet off, I got off the phone with her.

And I’m calling today, just to be sure I know what is going on with my account!  Sheesh, is the concept of no cable really that shocking?  I thought alternative programming was all “the rage” these days…