Archive | February, 2012

Life Gets In The Way (End of February)

27 Feb

We’ve all had the same experience.  We’ve spent countless hours daydreaming, planning, improvising, and generally preparing to achieve something big.  Maybe it’s been a wedding, a career, a car, a house, a vacation, a college degree, a piece of artwork, or becoming debt-free.  The object itself doesn’t really matter.  What we share is the approach to the goal.  The day-by-day closing in on our heart’s desire, and the struggles that come with it.

There’s an old adage that goes something like, “nothing worth having comes easily.”  And isn’t that the truth?  Nothing hurts worse than falling short on something you’ve spent hours, weeks, or years trying to achieve.  Just ask Tom Brady.

The only thing worse than losing is having your grief turned into an internet meme.

Yep, we’ve all been there. Ok, maybe not exactly there (i.e. 1 yard line despondent), but close enough to relate.  We’ve all lost sight of a dream, even if it was only temporary, and we’ve all hit those potholes at 80 mph on the highway of life.

While I have not figuratively hit a pothole at 80 mph in my loan pay-off quest, I have hit a few speed bumps at more than the advisable speed.  February is the month of hearts and love, yet for me it was more the month of “oh please, nothing else break.”  Here’s a quick breakdown of the unexpected expenses.

1) I got sick.  Now, I have medical insurance (until the end of August, but that’s another story), so the visit to the doctor didn’t break the bank.  At least, I don’t think it did.  I haven’t seen a bill yet.  I did get free antibiotics from Publix, so there was that.  More importantly, being sick means missing work.  Since I get paid hourly and have ZERO sick days, missing work means missing money.  I was sick for a week and a half.  You don’t have to be as awesome at math as I am to figure out how much that’s going to hurt me next month. COST: $400 in productivity.

2) I failed at math.  Again.  Remember that blog post last month in which I talked about my car insurance bill going up by $16 a month?  Yep.  I forgot about that when I made the new month’s budget.  Here’s a helpful budgeting tip- don’t do that.  Banks don’t like it when your account comes up $16 short.  You’ll spend a hour talking them down and convincing them that if you didn’t have the $16 in the first place, it is highly unlikely that you’ll have an extra $30 now. COST: $16, plus 1 lost hour & 1 literal headache.

3) I am a klutz.  Worse yet, I forgot this detail as well, and didn’t invest in proper safety gear for my electronics.  Anyone wanna see a sad picture?

There's not an app for hand-eye coordination.

I use my phone for EVERYTHING.  I tweet, I text, I schedule, I research, I email, I take pictures, I bank, I read, I play games, I listen to music, I navigate, I write/ jot notes,  and occasionally I even call people.  If I don’t have my phone, I need a much bigger bag to hold all the replacements.  My phone lets me consolidate my life.  It’s also vitally important to several of my jobs.  Ergo, a smashed touch screen, especially one that leaves slivers of glass in my thumb (true story) is not a viable option for me. COST: $180, and another two years to AT&T.

TOTAL: $596.

Life really does get in the way, doesn’t it?  I’ve been telling myself that getting out from under this mountain of debt is worth it, and that’s what’s kept me plodding along so far.  But it’s becoming a tired refrain, so I’m going to need for nothing else to break in the next few months. (And yes, I bought a protective case for my new phone… and the monthly insurance.)

Now to the fun part.  I triple-checked my math on this section.  Twice.

February End Tally

$11,587.54 (beginning of February balance)

- $660 (February payment: $602.59 principal, $57.41 interest)

+ $52.62 (February accrued interest)

—————–

$10,980.16

At the beginning of the month, I set a goal for myself to be under $11,000 at the end of February.  It may be only $19.84 under, but hey- under is under.  So Yay! for small victories.  Let’s see if I can’t get it under $10,100 by the end of March.

As always, hit Like, Share, +1, or whatever other buttons you want if you enjoyed this post.  Let me know that you hear me.

The Sidewalk Penny Personality Test

23 Feb

There are three types of people in the world: those who can count and those who can’t.

I’ve always liked that joke.  I know that it’s tired and a bit cliched, as are most of its relatives, but it still makes me smile.  I think that has a lot to do with my college education.  You see, Psychology is full of those kinds of jokes.

  • There are two types of people in the world: those with Disassociative Identity Disorder and hang on, let me count again.
  • There are two types of people in the world: the Freudians and those still in denial.
  • My personal favorite: There are two types of people in the world: ones who can extrapolate from incomplete data sets and

These sorts of dichotomous jokes imply that the world can be neatly sorted into two (or three) categories.  I think those jokes appeal to the psychological-minded because at its heart, Psychology is all about the classifications.  We want to understand the human condition, so we make note of all the different forms that can take.  The basic act of diagnosis is collecting a group of symptoms under one label.  In fact, every ten years the APA puts out a new book to make such labeling easier.  (We could spend years arguing about if it’s right or wrong to try to sort people and stick labels on them, but for the sake of this post, let’s overlook that minefield.)

Anyway, those four years of Psych lectures probably has a lot to do with how I came up with The Sidewalk Penny Personality Test (SPPT).  It’s a simple test to conduct, and can tell you a lot about people.  Here’s how it works.

1) Find a mildly busy sidewalk.  One that gets too much or too little traffic will make this test difficult. Sidewalks alongside an outdoor cafe work well.  (For fun with your coworkers, a hallway works as well.)

2) Drop a penny.  It has to be a penny.  There are all kinds of other motives that come into play when you use the larger coins.  Also, try to make sure it’s heads-up.  (This avoids the bad luck bias.  That’s a real thing. I swear.)

3) Take a seat nearby and watch what happens. (Reason 2 why a sidewalk along a cafe works well.)

You see, there are two types of people in the world: those who will pick up a penny on the ground, and those who won’t.  Disclaimer- this isn’t an exact personality test, and there are all kinds of things that could influence a person’s behavior on any given day.  But essentially, you will see two groups emerge: those who notice their surroundings and/or the small details (the penny picker-upper group). and those who are more focused on the big picture and/or distracted (the “what penny?” group).

Go ahead and give it a try.  The results may surprise you.  Plus it will get you outside, or for the hallway testers, at least among other people.  That’s always a bonus.

If you see anything really surprising, let me know.  And as always, if you have a penny story you would like to share, drop me a line.  My email is in the About Me section up top.

I Am Financially Responsible & Other Lies I Tell Myself

20 Feb

Last week I wrote about how volunteering turned out to be a much more valuable use of my time than I had previously thought.  A lot of you seemed to agree, and I had my largest number of hits that day.  So, thank you all for that.

This week, I’m dealing with temptation.  Allow me to use a popular internet meme to clarify.

This is my brain right now:

This is how my brain should be right now:

Everyone on the same page now?  Excellent.  Let’s continue.

Here’s where that temptation is coming from.

  1. My free-spirited budgets-are-for-nerds/ it’s-only-fifteen-dollars-plus-tax/ please-please-please psyche has been living on a strict budget for four months.  It recruited my heart to its way of thinking.  They joined forces to conquer my brain.  All three are now demanding a break from pinching pennies.
  2. My best friend is home from deployment (11 months overseas!).  She wants to see everything while she can, and wants me to come along.
  3. Anachrocon is this coming weekend.  For those who didn’t just moan in sympathetic understanding, cons (short for conventions, a gathering of nerds/ geeks/ similar thinkers) are expensive.  Food, hotel rooms, costumes, and spending money.  Mostly that last one.  Anachron is a smaller con, but that doesn’t make the vendor rooms any less cool.

Basically, I’ve got a friend that I haven’t seen in a year (because she’s been at WAR for us), a brain and heart desperate for a vacation, and a Con, all at the same time.  My sensible financial side is vastly outclassed here.

Here’s the plan.  I already spent my entertainment money this month on my membership to the Con.  So, I’m robbing my vacation fund.  After all,  I am getting in a car, driving down the interstate, and checking into a hotel.  Seems like a vacation to me.

$180 to cover an Atlanta hotel and food for two days, and whatever awesome anachronistic things I can find in the vendor’s room.  Sounds like a challenge to me.  Especially since I usually spend around $400 at Dragon*Con every September, and that’s four days.

Someone remind me to freeze my credit and debit cards in a block of ice between now and Friday, ok?

Keep The Change

16 Feb

“Keep the change.”

That’s what the girl in front of me at the gas station told the attendant.  From where I stood, I could see the green numbers on the register display.  She was leaving behind 53 cents.

53 cents!

I could do a lot with 53 cents.

I could buy two York Peppermint patties, or 5 Andes mints, from the candy display at the register.

Or I could combine it with the three dimes in my car’s center console and buy a taco at Taco Bell.

Or I could get a rocking new sticker for my trapper-keeper from one of the coin machines.

Or I could get a super bouncy ball from the other coin machine.

Or I could add it to my coin jar at home, the one I put all my spare change into at the end of each day, the one that is slowly accumulating my vacation fund money.

I could be 53 cents closer to Harry Potter World.

I wondered about that girl for a while.  Was she so financially secure that she didn’t need to care about measly fractions of a dollar?  Was she germophobic and worried that those coins had been in a small child’s mouth, or maybe more than one small child’s mouth?  Was she trying to tip the gas station attendant?  Or was it simply that she didn’t care about coins (she was quick enough to grab that $10 bill though), having been raised in a world dominated by plastic and automatic bank drafts.

In any case, she left her change sitting on the counter.  The attendant tossed the two quarters back into his drawer and put the three pennies into the tiny take-a-penny tray.  I realized I felt sad for that girl.  She obviously didn’t have a dream or a financial goal to work towards.  I stepped up to the counter and paid for my $37.92 in gas.  When I got home, I put those eight cents into the jar.

8 cents closer to Harry Potter World.

Penny Stories are published every Thursday.  If you have a story you want to share, drop me a line at kawrites0 at gmail dot com. (That’s a zero, not an o.  Just so we’re clear.)

Also, every time someone clicks Like or Share, an orphaned penny finds a home in someone’s pocket.  Just saying.

The Bureaucracy Strikes Back

14 Feb

Ok, this doesn’t have much to do with the issues at hand, but I had to share this.  One of my part-time jobs is in retail.  The company in question is a huge worldwide chain.  Ok, story time.

Yesterday at work, I closed my thumb in a drawer.  I’ve done this at least a dozen times in the 7 months that I’ve worked at the store.  Unfortunately for me, our District Manager was there yesterday.  He made me fill out a FOUR-PAGE accident report.  That’s right- four pages for a blood blister that I later drained myself.  At work.  The form was absurd, so I decided to match its absurdity with my answers.  After all, no one really reads these things.

An example:

Question 4. Describe in your own words 1) what happened, 2) how it happened, 3) what you think was the cause of the accident.

    1) I closed my thumb in a drawer,  2) I didn’t move my thumb fast enough before I closed the drawer, 3) Inability to properly process spatial concepts.

My manager dutifully sent off this report in every way possible (call, email, fax, carrier pigeon, etc.)  and we thought nothing more of it.

This morning I got a follow-up call from corporate risk management.  It turns out someone really does read those reports.

Me: Hello?

Risk Management Specialist 007: Hello. Is (super long pause) Miss Anderson there?

Me: Yes, this is she.

RMS 007: Yes, I was calling to follow-up on your accident yesterday.  I have just a few questions. First, did you seek medical attention for your…. thumb?

Me: Um, no.  (because the doctor doesn’t give me lollipops for my boo-boos anymore.)

RMS 007: Ok. Next, do you plan to seek medical attention or workman’s compensation for your injury?

Me: (well, the three occupational therapists that I called laughed at me, so…) No, I do not.

RMS 007: Ok. One last question.  We aim to make the workplace as safe as possible for all our employees.  How do you think we could improve your…. ‘inability to properly process spatial concepts’?

 

 

And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is American bureaucracy in the flesh.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Things Look Different On Paper

13 Feb

I’m feeling a bit run-down today.  It might be that it’s Monday.  It might be the cold that I’ve been fighting since Wednesday.  It might be the freezing temperatures outside.  It might be the soulful Green River Ordinance/ SafetySuit/ Bon Iver playlist on Spotify.

Or it might be that I’m working on my taxes.

As I’m wading through a sea of potential deductions (does a couch in the sunroom count as a home office?  Can I count my rabbit as office equipment if I use her as shredder?), I’m realizing the true value of my time.

I was encouraged to give back and volunteer from a young age.  As a kid, I agreed to it because it made my parents proud.  As a teen, I agreed to it because it looked good on a college application.  As a college student, it was required so it didn’t really matter if I agreed to it or not.  As a university student, it wasn’t strictly required… but yeah, it kind of was.  (Emory people know what I’m talking about here.)

Now I’m an adult.  There’s no more outward incentive to volunteer.  No parents to impress, no teacher to fill out a recommendation, no graduation requirement to fulfill, it’s just me and my calendar.  And you know what?  It turns out that volunteer behavior wasn’t so ingrained after all.

I haven’t volunteered my time with anything new since last May.  In fact, I’ve dropped the two places at which I was volunteering regularly.  I could try to justify that to you through all kinds of reasons, but it all comes down to the same thing- I felt that my time could be more profitable elsewhere.

Turns out my math was wrong.  I left out some variables.

Big surprise, right?

Recently, I ran into someone with whom I used to volunteer.  They asked what I had been up to lately.  The enormity of that question hit me all at once.  I had left for personal reasons, including an increasingly complicated work schedule, but as this person told me about the new changes to the facility and gave updates on the regulars, I realized just how much I had left behind.  I had freed up a large chunk of time, but I had lost the weekly social interaction and healthy dose of perspective.

I tend to get overwhelmed by money, and I get caught up in the chase for that one more dollar that will make it all better.  Volunteering was what kept bringing me back down to Earth.  I didn’t realize it at the time.  But I get it now.

I’m going to start making more time to volunteer, even if it’s just one day every few weeks at first.  I’d like to challenge you all to do the same.  Find something small and local, and get out of the house every once in a while.  The warm fuzzy feelings and fresh air are worth more than a day’s paycheck.  You can trust my math on this one.

Plus, the mileage is often tax deductible.  Just throwing that out there.

Penny Stories

9 Feb

I’ve been noticing pennies a lot more lately.  Maybe it’s because I’m pinching them more, or maybe because I work in retail and a startling amount of people pay large amounts in pennies, or maybe I’m just feeling sympathetic for the loner of the coin world.  In any case, I’m seeing pennies in a whole new light.

To that end, I’ve decided to start a new subsection of this blog.  Rather than listen to me go on week after week about my finances, I thought it would be nice to throw in some cheaper entertainment.  And what’s cheaper than a penny story?  Nothing, that’s what.

Here’s what a penny story is.  It’s a short story that has something to do with a penny, but often a larger meaning.  Dear Abby (yes, I read Dear Abby. Don’t judge me) occasionally runs Pennies From Heaven stories  that tell of people finding pennies from the year a dearly departed loved one was born, and finding hope and peace in that small sign.  Since the writers of these letters get 200 words or less to tell their story, the reader gets to feel all warm and fuzzy in less time than it takes for their coffee machine to heat up.

Every Thursday, I’ll post a new penny story.  Sometimes it will be my experiences, but I’m hoping to share other people’s stories too.  After all, other people are interesting, and you all already hear from me far too much anyway.  If you have a penny story that you’d like to share, let me know.  I’d love to hear it.

Til then, I’m off to count a few pennies.  Talk to you all on Monday.

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