Tag Archives: money happens

Small Victories: Mortgage Shenanigans

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Today I paid my mortgage payment with the start of my new mortgage payment book.  Yes, I know I can do it online.  I get a certain charge out of ripping the payment out of a book and mailing it in.  Anyway, I noticed that my payment was now about $20 cheaper per month than last year.  I think this is the result of two things, and I think it’s a small money victory!

First, my escrow was set too high.  I got a small check back for that last month.  Second, I always pay a tad bit extra on the mortgage payment.  Now, it’s only a tiny bit at this point because I cannot afford to do more, what with my other bills and savings goals.  But it’s something.  And between the two things, I suddenly find myself with an extra $20 in the mortgage to put towards it.  Whoo hoo!

I passed on a program to have my mortgage put into bimonthly payments, even though that meant it shaved about 5 years off the mortgage.  I discovered that I could essentially do the same thing by paying an extra mortgage payment each year and avoid the “one time” fee they charge to get it set up and the “small” monthly fee to debit it out of my account automatically.  When other debt is gone, I can easily ramp up this payment and meet my goal eventually of paying off the mortgage for my 50th birthday.

In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy my small victory where money just “happened” and continue to try to apply that measly $20 toward the mortgage instead of trusting myself to move it into some other account for debt.  For one thing, I’m used to the payment.  It’s a good payment, much cheaper than my first one (even more with an extra $20 thrown on top of it lol).  For another, I’m not sure I’d remember to add an extra $20 every four weeks or so.  I’m kind of money-daft.  Better for me to let the money compound on the payment, even if it’s a little bit at a time.

But hey, even if that $20 is like throwing a little snowball in the face of debt, it’s one extra snowball I have to lob!  I’ll drink my cup of tea to that!

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Working in the Trenches Pays Off (Or At Least A Little More…)

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I’m apparently in feast-or-famine mode when it comes to blogging.  I’ll have ideas for half a dozen posts and then just stare at the site for a couple of weeks.  Anyhoo…

It can be hard to do smaller jobs that seem “beneath” us.  But sometimes when we are in debt or (and?) trying to build up a professional reputation, we get in our own way if we don’t make these small and tedious efforts.

I try to impress this on my students.  They are annoyingly optimistic millennials, so they assume they’ll graduate college and walk into a job automatically making about $75,000.  The reality is often much lower.  I try to tell them one of the biggest mistakes they can make is being “too good” for that get-your-foot-in-the-door job.  Sometimes we are victims of an unfortunate series of events that keep us broke and in debt; but in many cases, hard work does pay off for those willing to put in what it takes to get there.

As a small example, back in the summer I started taking on some copywork to make ends meet.  It wasn’t a lot of money.  My first job was actually probably a negative wage, given how badly I screwed it up and the time it took to redo it.  But once I figured out how the work best got done, my writing-time-to-compensation value started to rise.  After all, if someone gives you, say, $7 for 400 words and it takes you an hour to bang them out — yuck.  But if you can do it effectively in 30  minutes, your wage is essentially $14/hour.  It’s a matter of getting fast at it.  This work paid a few bills for me, bought a few groceries and a few treats.  It was not reliable income and it still isn’t.  But it was something I could do when I had time off anyway.  I can sit on my ass for nothing, or I can sit on my ass for 30 minutes and make a little cash.

I took jobs that did not pay well and that were not very interesting.  I wrote about industrial sunscreen and window tinting in Arizona or personal injury lawyers for bicycling accidents in California or even bed bug exterminators in Missouri.  I wrote articles about a prominent diet product.  I did these things because I wanted to establish a work ethic with my copywriting bosses.  And it worked.

I just found out that one of this firm’s big clients wants me as their exclusive copywriter for their ‘net content.  This is especially fortunate since other boring and lesser paid work has all but dried up over the past six weeks.  In exchange, this client will pay me nearly 90% more than what I normally make to bang out a blog post or article.  It’s not yet money with which you can plan your Bermuda retirement.  And it probably will never be.  But it’s definitely money you can stick in the bank and watch it grow 90% faster than your previous wage!

Sometimes money just happens and you get an unexpected windfall.  Many times, though, money happens because you make it happen through diligence and elbow grease.

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.

Money Happens

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As the blogger Funny About Money (a blog I love to read) notes from time to time, sometimes money just happens.  I never really thought about it until I’d read several of her posts on the subject, but money does in fact happen all the time.  Sometimes we get tax returns or rebates.  This past Spring, for example, I won “teaching funds” from a donor to the university who wanted to support instructors specifically doing first year composition.  I bought a lap top with the money.  This money was even more special to me, considering that most donations and awards seem to go to tenure track/tenured people, who make up a minority of my department folks.  I was proud and pleased!

This year, money is getting ready to happen because I just closed on the refinance of my home.  I realized as I was going over the paperwork I’m going to get to skip a month of mortgage payments because of the paperwork.  That’s $615 back into my budget for January.

What to do with it?

I have a bit of emergency money/summer money (I don’t get paid during the summer, so it has to stretch).  But not enough to actually get me through the summer until I start making paychecks again.  This is all in theory, of course, because I won’t know until late March whether I have the chance to make paychecks at the university for another year.  I have about $4700 in credit card debt (gross).  $600 is a lot of sushi…

My inclination is to pay down the credit card.  While I am a tad worried about the summer, there are other opportunities, so I’m not terribly worried about it.  I need a 6 – 8 month emergency fund as well, but for whatever reason the card debt bugs me more.  I guess because the percentage I would be making on savings is laughable, while the percentage on my credit card isn’t bad, but it’s more cash out of my pocket.  I think I’d rather run a little lean in the savings department knowing the chances of picking up summer work are pretty high and get rid of the credit card as quickly as I can.  It’s by no means my only debt, given that I have divorce debt, a student loan and a mortgage.  But it’s the worst percentage payback, that’s for sure. And it would put about $120 back into my budget a month.

Decisions, decisions!  But hey, it’s good to at least have a decision to make!  Suggestions?

Further noted:  with the refinance, $65 goes back into my budget every month, since I was a good girl and did a fantastic job on the terms of the refinance.  What to do with that?!  Regular debt repayment?  Savings?  Retirement?  Gah!