Category Archives: Contemplation

Marking the Cost of Going Gray

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All 50 shades of it…. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

As I get older, the question of hair color becomes more relevant than I ever thought it would.  I used to play with hair coloring all the time as a teen and in my early twenties.  Blonde, purple, red, you name it, it was a form of accessory.  It was something I did because I wanted to, not because I felt I had to.  I expected gray hair to present itself when it did for my grandmother and mother.  My grandmother was white headed by 35 years old, nearly completely.  My mother headed for salt and pepper by then and started coloring her hair in earnest a few years later.  As she likes to say, “We don’t go gray; we go blonde.”  LOL.  Except I sort of hate that color on me.  So, I’m a little surprised that at 35 years old I’m not in the same situation.  I don’t know why, except that maybe genetics doesn’t have anything to do with it.  Who knows?

When it came to the question of having to, I was mostly against the idea.  I felt like there were not enough role models for young women about how to age with grace and power.  We’re taught to fight aging as though it were public enemy #1 (and possible in the first place).  From all the ads fighting wrinkles and “signs of aging” and everything else, I really hated the notion of treating a normal part of life as though it were a combat zone.

Of course that was before I was really starting to drift into that combat zone.

Now my hair stylist says I’m about 20% gray.  And I have a decision to make.

I’ve realized that the “vanity” option is really more than just that.  It’s not that I want to look “old.”  I just don’t want to look like I’m so much older than I feel (or am).  I don’t want to be treated differently because people perceive I’m older than I am (for example for job hiring purposes).  This is ironic, because for years people thought I was much younger than I really was.  Even still people make comments, which I’ve learned to accept graciously and just fork over my i.d. so they’ll shut up and move on.  Maybe in the dim lights they can’t see the gray.

I think that for two reasons I’m not going to start coloring my hair and just see what sort of silverback gorilla I become.

First, getting your hair colored is expensive.  My hair falls to the bottom of my shoulder blades and I have a lot of it.  To hide those gray roots, you’re looking at upkeep of every 6 – 8 weeks.  Sure, you could do it out of a kit yourself at home.  But I’ve never been a fan of many of those looks on older women.  It looks so obviously fake in many cases (and I find this to be just as true of many professional coloring jobs).  If I didn’t like it, that’s a heck of a lot of hair to grow out for a while and probably a very weird color scheme to deal with in the meantime as it grows out.  It’s not very budget friendly.

Second, there is more of a “cost,” in my opinion, associated with buying into the notion that we must all be fearful of gray hair and run from it at first sight.  It costs more in personal worry and fear than if you just accept this is a normal part of life and figure out how to rock your gray hair.  And, if I may be a bit preachy, it costs society when we as women promote that fear of looking our real age.  Now this is not to come down at ALL on women who choose to color their hair.  I’m a big fan of personal choice, and I would want no one to tell me what color my hair should or shouldn’t be any more than as a grown woman I want someone to tell me what I can and cannot wear.  I do wish, though, more women would talk about coloring their hair with a sense of pride as a fashion statement.  My mother, for example, and a close friend of mine discuss coloring their roots as though it’s a desperate secret they must maintain.  Newsflash, we all know that your hair isn’t naturally that color.

Maybe if younger women saw more models of women with beautiful hair in various shades of gray, they would get over the thought that they had to “fight” aging and turn around and fight something else that was far more important.  Like stagnant wages, or hunger and homelessness or something.

 

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All or Nothing? A Compromise

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I find myself getting locked into unholy combat with the dilemma over saving money or saving time.  As I read many of my favorite PF blogs, they seem to struggle with the same issue from time to time.  I tend to drive myself nuts with it, and it is because of my all or nothing outlook toward saving in some category or other.  This ultimately stresses me out, doesn’t work or save money.  Sometimes, as I just discovered, a compromise is just as good.  At least for people like me.

I don’t have a lot of wiggle room in my budget, but even a glamorous little shoestring budget like mine has SOME places it can be, nay MUST be, cut back.

Case in point:  parking fees.   Parking costs vary for me, but they average around $135 a month.  Just to park in the garage for work five times a week.  I’ve often come down very hard on myself for not riding the bus to and from work.  Not only would it save gas, but with my I.D. it’s FREE to me.  That’s right, f-r-e-e-e-e-e.  So every week that I chose not to take the bus, I’d get busy being mean to myself over it.  I’m not that bad with a budget; but I’m not nearly as frugal as some people on the internet seem to be.  I don’t wear all black clothing and then dye it when it starts to fade just so I have a few extra bucks.  I don’t brown bag constantly or eat rice and beans constantly.  So sometimes I feel like I have no right to bitch about saving money or needing it.  After all, I’m not doing EVERYTHING I possibly could to save a dime.

The trouble is, will power is a finite resource.  You do not have an endless supply of it to draw down on whenever you want.  This is why so many people’s New Year’s resolutions don’t even make it to the end of the month.  If you pick one thing, you’re drawing down on that supply.  Pick three more things, and you won’t find you have the energy for everything.  You have less to work with, so less determination can be spared to get the job done.  I’m a single mama, I work full time and I have a house to run and a teenage boy to understand and guide.  Oh, and savings goals.  Nothing ever gets done 100% perfectly all the time.  Most times it’s a compromise:  80% work efficiency, housework has dropped to 40% lol, teenager took 115% this week…etc.  And so my compromise might be an extra cup of coffee at work or a sandwich out for lunch.  I just can’t do it all.

Further, I don’t *want* to do it all.  I get tired or demoralized sometimes and I need a pick-me-up.  Or it’s just too much effort.  This is not a big city, so the bus routes are on fixed times.  They don’t go everywhere I need, and it costs me an extra hour minimum to take the bus to and from my house, just in waiting on it, routes taken, etc.  If I have an extra errand to run, switching buses to get it done sometimes means I’d wait quite a while to get back home.  So, I just took the car and bitched about the cost to park in the garage.  Then, I had a minor brainwave.  If the parking garage offered student passes, maybe they offered us working stiffs a pass as well.  Turns out, they sure do!

So, $45 a month later, I’m the proud owner of a new parking pass.  Am I saving $135 a month?  No.  But I am saving $90 a month.  And my time is not constricted by the available bus services.  Sure, I still want that extra $45.  But that is apparently the value of my driving time per month.  There is also the added sweetness of just waving a card in front of a scanner instead of digging for change and misplacing garage tickets, which I like quite a bit.

I can settle for that.  Now I just have to remember to move that same amount of money straight to savings instead of spending it on something stupid!

Disoriented Savings Strategy

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Gah.

Where I have had a few lean months over the summer, I’m looking at a bit of a credit card bill again in addition to having depleted my emergency savings substantially.  On the plus side, I’ve figured out three new ways to bring money into the house, even if it is sometimes at a trickle.  I find that my savings goals are absolutely overwhelming me.  There is simply too much to save up for and now I’m confused as to my priorities.  Halp!

Money needs:

Emergency fund.  Goes without saying why you need one.  While I’m so aggravated to have bled mine down, boy am I glad that I had one to bleed down!  It did its job.  But now I need to put it back.  I’m just always so confused on what constitutes a good amount of money for me.  Personal finance gurus all have a different number.  Dave Ramsey advocates $1000 while you’re digging out of debt.  People like Suze Orman say 6 – 8 months of emergency money.  That is nearly a year’s pay for me, as I work on a 9 month contract.  No idea what to do here.  My emergencies in general have been under $1000.  Should I consider that my lean emergency fund operating margins and once that is hit move on to the next money goal?  I have about $650 left in the fund.  Is this a number one priority?  I don’t know anymore.  My job contract is good for the next three years, but even that is no ironclad guarantee.  That’s as good as it gets in academia, though, for a non tenure-track person.

Summer money.  This is a critical thing for me to accumulate every year.  I only get paid for 9 months.  I have to live 12 months.  I need around $7500 to cover the amount of time I’m off work, as my operating budget is around $2500 a month, give or take.  I’m not sure if this is a #1 priority or further down the list, but it’s something I have to deal with every year.  Last summer, I was able to get some supplemental work with the college developing a course.  But between that and some copywork, I still had to hit the credit card and dig into the emergency fund a few times.  This is the main reason why it’s bled down to where it is now.  It just wasn’t enough.  I’m sure some of this is budgeting skills and money management related, but I also cannot always guarantee I can find 3 months of supplemental work every year to help me pay my mortgage.  Some years I might need more or less than $7500, but I know that’s what it takes to see me through to my next fall paycheck.

Random crap that keeps nickle and diming me to death.  This is eating me up alive.  It’s some school supplies here, a medical bill there.  I have no way to predict these things, and any extra cash I might be able to save dies a death by a thousand nicklings.  I don’t even know how to track this problem appropriately.  I feel like I’m fighting a thousand tiny foes and don’t know where to turn first!  Do I need a “mad money” fund or a “miscellany” fund or something??

New-to-me car.  This is the big x-factor in my future.  My trusty little 1998 car goes to the shop about four times a year.  She never needs anything huge, but she always costs me a couple hundred in random repairs.  I don’t think I’m going to stay this lucky for the next four years.  She has an oil problem and is basically blowing oil out of the exhaust.  I’d still rather pay a few bucks in oil every two weeks than a new car payment.  But the writing is on the wall — her final days are here.  I don’t want to be surprised with the need for a down payment and now a new bill to pay every month.  I’d like to prepare for this in some way.  I have no idea how much money to divert per month, etc.  I just know I’d like to pay cash.

Credit card balance.  Not very high, only a few hundred dollars.  But I end up having more month than money, it seems, so I’m dipping into the credit card more than what I want.  I do have a slight threshold for a credit card balance, mainly because I cannot seem to avoid it.  My rate is 7.5%.  I understand that a continuing balance is costing me money.  I’m just freaked out as to whether it’s better for my situation to have $200 in the bank cash on hand, or throw it on the credit card bill and have no cash on hand and have to use the credit card.  Ugh.  I’m feeling very demented chicken and egg on this one.

Roof.  When I bought my house 2 1/2 years ago, the inspector said I’d need new shingles within about 3 years.  That time is upon us.  I have the labor organized for it, I think, but I’m still looking at materials costs.  This will be around $1500 – 2000 I think.  The roof doesn’t leak, so I might could push it another year, but I feel like doing so potentially opens you up to bigger problems.  Ugh.  Not sure.

Divorce debt coming due in 4 years.  My biggest outflow is that in four years, my divorce settlement debt comes due.  I bought out my ex-husband’s down payment into the house.  So, $30,000 is what he has coming to him.  I *might* have enough equity in my home to cover that amount.  But probably not.  I will need to come up with the money somehow.  I’m trying to avoid a HELOC loan.  I’d like to pay for this in cash.  There is a very good possibility that I’ll have to pay at least some of it in cash and take the rest out in equity on the house.

Total Needed:  ~ no idea.  lol.  I was going to put around $55,000, but I realized that is hard to determine.  How much do I want to spend on a car?  How much emergency should I have?  That could push that figure to $70,000 in the next 4 years.  That makes me want to pass out.

Things that Compound or Help the Problem?

The money coming in is erratic.  My regular money, my paycheck, is usually mostly spoken for.  I can most times eke out about $200 a month to throw into savings.  But I only get paid for about 9 months of work.  Even if I faithfully saved that money, it’s a far cry from what I need to live on in the summer time.  Hence why I went looking for other income streams.  I took in an international exchange student, and I get about $2200 a semester for that.  It’s not guaranteed, however.  I go one semester at a time.  I cannot bank on this regularly, though it has been regular so far.  Additionally, I’d like to NOT do that over the summer, for example, and have some alone time.  But it pays my mortgage.  So I think I have to resign myself to doing this as long as I can and count myself lucky that I get on well with people and this opportunity is available to me.  If I did it year round, I could make $6600 on it.  My copywork is very erratic.  Some weeks I’ll make a couple hundred dollars.  Other weeks there will be no work.  I used to use it for my fun money.  Now I think I’m going to have to shove it all into savings regardless.  I also finally filed for child support, something I should’ve done a long time ago.  I don’t know what that will amount to, and that’s still an ongoing process.

Strange thinking about payments vs. paying in cash.  I really, really don’t want or need more payments.  I don’t want a HELOC or a car loan.  I’d like to figure out how to start paying for things in cash.  Maybe I need to get over this and just take the damn payment.  I can figure out how to come up with a payment.  I have a harder time figuring out how to come up with savings.  But this is a big skill I’d like to develop over the next few years.  Seems worth figuring out instead of taking the “easier” (and costlier) payment.

Not sure how to save the money for all these things.  I’m not sure if I add it all up and say I’m trying to save $X for everything.  I’m not sure if I rank order them and check the box each time I hit a new target.  The problem is, some of these are recurring costs.  I’ll always need $7500 for the summer — so even if I save it, it’s gone and needs replenished every year, while a car would be a one time purchase (and then hopefully it lasts as long as my old gal has so far!).  The divorce debt is also a one time gig.  Not sure how to even think about or process these things.

Hard to save.  I suppose I could try to save the summer money by living on reduced pay and saving what it would take to cover the summer.  Living on 12 months with 9 months of pay, basically.  But that means saving $350 a pay — I can barely seem to manage $200 a month.  I can try for a while, I guess.  Even if I am not 100% successful, it would be more saved than what I normally did.  This, of course, works only if there is no emergency (like car repair).  And with my first paycheck for the fall coming this Friday, I already have car repair scheduled.  Sigh.  I have, as someone else put it to me, “very thin operating margins.”  It doesn’t take much to shove me in the red.  If I hadn’t developed other income streams, erratic though they might be, I would be able to save very little.

Motivation.  I’m overwhelmed, not galvanized to do something about it.  On the one hand, I’m very proud of my little home, with its comforts and cheap mortgage.  I’m proud that I’m supporting my teenage son and myself on what money is coming in, and that our lives are comfortable — not fancy by any means, but comfortable.  But most times I feel like I’m treading water and that is the only victory I get.  I fear that I am one push away from a disaster — a skipped mortgage payment, a big, new bill that I can’t figure out how to pay, or taking on another part time job and being exhausted to make ends meet.  Granted, having divorce debt is a very temporary problem.  Getting a car is a temporary problem.  So it could be that this is just one of those tight, hard times that one has to live through.  But that is depressing as hell, and I need energy to meet such big goals.  I feel like I’m barely treading water and surviving, not thriving.  😦

A Life Well Lived…

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When I was Teenage Budget Glamorish (for I have always been budget and in various stages of glamorosity), I started developing my own ideas of that age-old concept known as “the good life.”  Really, I’ve turned over this notion in my little noggin since I was Little Budget Glamorous.  When I was five, I decided the best life possible would have to be lived as a spy.  As a spy, I would have apartments in Paris and in New York, and both would be full of truly fantastic clothes.  I would travel everywhere doing whatever spies did and it would be awesome.  Then I turned six.

My teenage self modified this concept to include having lots of ca$h, lots of travel, serious job prestige and still a closet full of awesome clothes.  That self settled on a stockbroker as the ideal vehicle to such ends.  Then I went to college and took some finance classes…

College Budget Glamorous by then was a young single mother.  Her version of the good life included financial security (whatever that was), a strong future for the kidlet, and “living the life of the mind.”  Then this version of the self graduated and tried to do just that.

It was frustrating.

For one thing, the stress of being a starving artist with a kidlet sort of takes away from the lofty amounts of time I figured I spend Thinking Deep Thoughts while being creative and fulfilled.  Whatever that was about.  I had all these notions of how to live ethically and with value other than moneydollars.  I pondered the breakdown of community and why we were all so isolated.  I wanted to do something meaningful.  I knew that I had to work to live and I wanted a certain measure of “stuff.”  But my Parisian apartment vision had been replaced by something tidy that I could call my own (though I went through various stages of wanting to build a “dream home” as well).

Now, I realize that my idea of the good life really should be more properly defined as “a life well lived.”  It’s not so much about the stuff, but about the activity that stuff stood for.  My tiny self wanted a Parisian apartment because I thought the view would be beautiful and somehow the inside would be delightful to come home to.  I have achieved the same effect with my tiny little mid-1950s house here in Appalachia.  I put some time and effort into making it that place that promotes creativity, supports the life I want as well as the life I have to lead, and generally speaking is just as dang glamorous as the apartment in my head (tho far more budget and still not completely finished).

Travel is the one consistent theme I’ve kept from little girl to now.  The only thing that has changed is my idea of what I can afford.  I may have gone to Mexico City instead of Paris, but for all purposes, the effect on my worldview was the same.  Each place offers its own take on life and how one lives it.  Just getting out of the country was good enough, even if it’s on a shoestring to the developing world.  It’s a valuable part of my life experience and one I hope to continue to do.

Ultimately, it’s just about figuring out what all that “stuff” was supposed to mean.  I don’t really want the floor to ceiling cavernous library with the leather chairs for reading.  I want intellectual curiosity, escape and fantasy that books can offer.  A Kindle will do.  Or the used book store or the library.  I didn’t really want a chef.  I wanted access to neat foods.  (So I learned to cook, and what I can’t cook, the occasional sushi binge fixes!)  I didn’t really want high end dinner parties (OK, maybe once).  I want the feeling of eating with friends and talking about interesting things.  I can do that with potluck and it feels great.  I don’t really want all the acreage and the massive gardens I used to want.  I want to make my little vegetable and cottage garden on my own soil and visit other public parks and gardens instead.  It’s the same thing without all the upkeep.

I’m still working on the closet.  I cannot get past the clothes.  For me, they’re forms of art.  I’m just too budget limited to get what I truly want.  So perhaps in that way I’m very materialistic!

How do you define a life well lived?

Toxic Environment = Toxic Finances

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Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve posted.  In part, that’s because I was dealing with a highly toxic environment and it’s taken a while to get my head above the noxious cloud that seems to have been my permanent weather state for the past very long time.  Once I did get (mostly) clear of the nasty weather, I can see how choosing to stay in a toxic environment also poisoned my finances.

It’s easy to spot a literal toxic environment.  We all know what bad water looks and smells like.  But sometimes it’s not so easy to recognize metaphorical toxic environments.  Doesn’t make them any less poisonous, though!  Consider the places in life where your environment is less than uplifting.  Do you feel a heaviness fall on your shoulders when you get close to your job site every day?  What about when you are headed home?  There are some people and situations that can just suck the life energy out of you and I’ve found it’s important to recognize them as soon as possible.

Example number one from several years ago:  I used to help run a couple of nonprofits in the area that had to do with literacy issues.  This is work I loved to do, even though it was drastically underpaid.  I loved most every aspect of the job and I had my hands in pretty much everything.  It was a great learning experience.  The environment, however, was highly toxic.  We had a mostly unsupportive board of directors — and anyone who has worked nonprofit can tell you that basically makes you dead in the water.  They were full of suggestions for how we do our work and not forthcoming with money or help to get those things done.  They actively worked against us on some occasions.  Our partner organizations were sometimes just as bad.  One particularly bad Americorps hire led to all kinds of human resources issues that went unsupported.  Needless to say, there was stress.  Lots and lots of stress.  And I don’t mean the productive, deadline making kind.  Underneath it all, the director and I were angry.  And that’s how we came to work no matter what was actually going on.  We’d start out OK, but inside, we were prepped for battle.  That’s no way to live.  The majority of people and experiences in that work were toxic — and they slowly poisoned us into bitter people.

I don’t think it’s much of a coincidence that when I got a job outside of nonprofit, I made at least 50% more money and certainly far better benefits than I had there.  Not because nonprofit is spectacularly underpaid — there are plenty of positions in this area in nonprofit that make a lot more than I do now.  I think it was because as the toxicity of that place washed out of me, I got better at seeing opportunities for better money and circumstances.  The director of that nonprofit left it several years later — and the same thing happened.  After she left, it took a few months, but then suddenly she started seeing more money where there was none before.  I think this is because cloudy judgment from toxic atmospheres keeps you from being able to see opportunities that might be right in front of your nose.   When your vision isn’t obscured by a poisonous fog, money happens.

Example number two from these past months:  toxic relationships.  I got tangled up in what turned out to be a highly manipulative and dishonest relationship with someone I thought I knew well.  Blech, whatever.  In that process, though, I found myself doing a bunch of toxic things I never really would’ve done much of otherwise.  Things like spending money to make myself feel better.  Or buying dinner out because I was too upset to cook.  During the relationship, I was watching money go through my fingers like water because we weren’t on the same page about finances and I couldn’t seem to communicate without him starting a fight (yes, he started the vast majority of the fights.  I hate fights.).  So instead of arguing the point or putting my foot down, I’d take all those unnecessary items in the grocery cart and just pay for them.  It got to the point where I dreaded coming home, so toxic was the home environment.  He did me a favor by running away.  But even afterward,  it still took me some time to come to grips with what happened, how I’d gotten myself into that mess in the first place, and to get over it.  In the meantime,  a few trips to the salon, a few nights on the town with a bad case of the aw-fuck-its, and you’ve got yourself  a small credit card mess.

This also applied to me when I was sick and going through treatment for the beginnings of cervical cancer.  Or going through divorce.  Or a house refinance.  Or whatever it is that causes you to have a giant case of the aw-fuck-its.  My budget is the first casualty to that disease.  Being filled with negative emotions from that toxic situation also helps you miss important connections from other people.  Maybe if you’re in a haze you’ll get lucky and someone will reach out to you with an opportunity.  Too often, though, what happens is other people either think you’re in over your head anyway and don’t want to bother you, or they  have no idea you actually want or need new opportunities and you have been too busy in a fog to notice the things right in front of your face.

After I came to terms with my last disaster relationship, got through the sickness scare, got everything lined out budgetwise and knew where I stood, some of the fog started to clear.  As it dissipated, I noticed that I had a spare bedroom and that the international exchange student program was looking for host families on a per semester basis.  This pays basically my mortgage.  So I signed up.  Then I noticed that I could do enough copywriting quickly enough to make the per hour cost somewhat OK for a second job.  It’s not huge money, but it’s paid a few bills in a pinch.  And it let me go to the salon once completely guilt free and paid for in cash.  I also filed for child support for the first time in 15 years.  Why?  I was too busy with my head down being toxic to notice that we were suffering when we shouldn’t be.  Also not coincidentally, I landed a three year contract at my job to develop a new course for my college.  I think it had everything to do with attitude and of course previous work history.

When I cleaned up my environment, things really started to bloom.  I won’t and can’t say I’m flush with cash, because I still have to work hard for my money and I enjoy working.  But I went from drowning in worry on my tiny budget to popping back up to the surface and floating along, with three additional income streams coming down the pike, giving me anywhere from $700 to $1000 extra a month, depending on what is going on.  Three.  Not one, not two, but three!  And that, my friends, is making all the difference.

Looking Up From The Bottom Line

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Apologies for any extended internet absences as I pull my jaw off the ground and my heart back into its proper place.  Weirdly, blogging gives me a sense of routine, so I really should do it more often.  That being said:

I’m amazed at those of my friends who have no interest in their personal finances.  They, in turn, are amazed at my obsessive interest in such things.  I didn’t realize I was obsessed with such things until somewhat recently.  I thought all people were as concerned as I was.  When money topics arise, things sometimes get a pinch uncomfortable.  Not overly so, but palpably so.  I think these friends consider me a money grubbing freak, while I regard them as cash libertines living one small disaster away from ruin (graphic imagery usually goes along with this notion in my own head).  It usually happens when they start talking about charging their trip to Europe on a credit card or completely renovating parts of an already overpriced house (when I know their mortgage payment is already way too high).  Or when I demurred about buying a bike later because I want to be sure of my summer funding first.  We usually just eyeball each other warily and change the subject LOL.

One thing I think they might learn from me is how to avoid those sorts of financial pitfalls that they end up bitching about later.  It’s hard to bite one’s tongue when six months after bragging about their renovations, new furniture and expensive trip taken over a university break (charged) they’re complaining about their salaries and the amount they need to live on and pay off their debt.  Sure, go ahead and look at me like i’m a conspiracy freak just because I happen to mention a pantry.  Just don’t kvetch to me later that you shouldn’t have eaten out so many times last month.

But on the other hand, one thing I could learn from them is how to define life in ways other than the bottom line.  The fiscal sunglasses are one of the first lenses I pick up and put on when I want to think about my life.  And in many ways that’s not a bad thing.  There are things I’d like to do and those things either require money or they require me to not have too many life costs.  Having control of the one leads to freedom to do other things.  But there are other ways of having a sustainable life that have nothing to do with funds.

And that is what those of my friends who don’t necessarily obsess with finances are teaching me right now.  Interestingly, when my bottom line improved a little, I looked up and it was as if that part of the world was OK for once.  That led to seeing all these other interests that had been neglected for a long time — health, personal relationships, etc.  It’s like a brave new world out there!  It also causes me to re-evaluate my choices.  Instead of taking some Craigslist gigs that would take me out of the house many nights and weekends just to make an extra buck to meet my goals, I held my breath and crossed my fingers that something more life appropriate would show up later.  I have a young teenage son.  The last thing I need is to cut my time with him by 20 – 30 hours per week, especially in the evenings and during the weekend!  Such a thought would be automatic to my non-money-sunglasses wearing friends.  It was a veritable revelation to me.

Currently, while my little heart is broken and I’d like it mended, I think the new thing on the horizon should be my health.  Since I’m not traveling anywhere glamorous this summer, and my biggest plans include vrooming around on the Honda and doing some fishing, I’ll have lots of time to devote to healthy practices.  I FEEL GUILTY ABOUT THIS!  What on earth for?!  I feel like it’s taking time away from money I could be making.  That I could be figuring out how to scrounge up more dollars for debt pay offs, for retirement and for entertainment.  Talk about an unbalanced perspective!

I’m trying to come to terms with putting on the HealthyPants Sunglasses this summer, but my Money Sunglasses are clinging to my face like they’re stuck on with superglue!  Clearly, there is more to life than the bottom line.  But giving oneself permission to go there…well, that’s another matter.

Glamorously Resisting Temptation!

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As I’ve gotten my financial priorities lined up, I’ve noticed…ye gods, but it’s hard to find a hobby that doesn’t involve spending money, and boy is it hard to resist the urge to go into a shop!  I like looking at pretty things, whether that’s dresses or furniture, home decor (lord, especially home decor!) candles, art, seeds, you name it, I like looking at it.  The problem is, the more I look, the more I want to buy something, and even if it’s dirt cheap, it’s not a bargain if I don’t need it.  Further, I’ve also got a terrible hankering for eating out, whether that’s a couple of beers and some chicken wings at the local pub, a quick pizza when I’m tired at night, or a few pieces of sushi.  If i’m not careful, I nickle and dime the hell out of myself on food out.  There are few things I like better than places to eat.

I need other activities that don’t involve spending or at the least don’t involve spending too much money.  I’d also like to not be bored, so there is only so much of curling up with a laptop and some netflix movies that I can stand.  Community events sometimes help.  I recently went to a Chocolate Lover’s Day downtown, and for a mere $5 each, my friend and I walked around the downtown area to the various shops listed on the choco-map sampling all the chocolatey goodies.  We ate well over $5 worth of chocolate, much of it homemade nomnoms.  The chocolate cheesecake in the yarn and sewing shop was particularly delicious.  I’m hoping to figure out how to get into more events like that.

The gym should factor into my daily life more, but it just doesn’t.  This is appalling, as I’m paying for the membership every month straight out of my paycheck.  It’s cheap, because I’m faculty, but still, it’s money wasted.  There always seems to be something in the way of going, when in reality it’s just because I don’t prioritize taking care of myself.  I also don’t look at the gym as fun.  I see it as sweaty work.  Maybe if I followed a session with a round in the pool and hot tub I would think differently.  I’m already paying for it.  It’s stupid not to get my money’s worth.  And then I’d be too tired to think about nickle and diming myself for food out.

The bike, once I get into a higher gear than first, seems like it could be some nice and cheap amusement.  With gas at $4 a gallon, the bike gets 70 miles to that gallon.  My only fear is that I’ll try to stop in places along the way for a pit stop…involving beer and chicken wings.  My solution to this is to try to orchestrate some fishing expeditions for the warmer days.  I can put my collapsible pole and tackle in the saddlebags and zoom off for the afternoon.  A fishing license even with a trout stamp is pretty cheap.  And I have a couple of buddies ready to show me some great spots for fishing.  Hopefully a day of being lazy in the sun with a pole will get me past the urge to pop myself into the corner shop and just see what’s in there.

If I am going to spend money on events, I’d rather it end up having some lasting effect.  I’m headed to the Kentucky Derby soon — my annual pilgrimage to the state of my birth.  Every Derby we try to do different activities.  Sometimes we’ll go to concerts.  Last year we went to the Kentucky Horse Park and saw some of the retired great horses, like Cigar.  This year we’re doing something called “Sips and Strokes.”  We’ll be walked through creating a painting appropriately called “Derby Girl” while we sip on wine.  It’s for complete beginners and I’m very excited about it.  It’s $40, but unless it becomes “Slips and Slurs” it’ll give me something to put on the wall back home.

One of the things I’m still kicking around is a monthly potluck.  My sister has weekly dinners with her girlfriends, but I’m just not that coordinated.  I could manage to do it once a month, though.  I’ll have to see about getting this done.  That would be lovely fun.  Oooh, and there would be food too!

What are your suggestions for cheap amusements?  Besides heckling passersby from my porch with a beer?