Tag Archives: minimum wage

On Being Really Busy

24 Aug

On Monday, I wrote about being busy, and how I wanted to learn how to let myself relax and let some things go.  Having worked five part-time jobs for over a year, this is easier said than done.  However, I think I have taken a huge step in the right direction.

You see, it is a crazy world in which we live.  People do things that we don’t always understand.  They make poor choices (like watching Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo) or they waste their money (like buying knock-off Nutella.  Trust me on this people- stick to the original).  Sometimes they even do very strange things, like offering to hire a 25-year-old blogger to a full-time position that perfectly fits with her masters’ degree.

I mean, really?  Who does this kind of stuff?

Oh wait.  As it turns out, I know someone who does that last thing.  (I know someone who does the first two things as well, but this blog isn’t about me…. wait…)

That’s right.  Someone in a position of authority has extended to me the offer of full-time employment, complete with benefits (yay health insurance!) and a salary that doesn’t have to come from five combined sources!  It also uses my Master’s Degree, which honestly is something I was beginning to think would never happen.  The best part is, this is the same company for which I currently work 35 hours a week.  My job title changes, and my pay structure, but the work itself will largely be an extension of what I currently do, which I enjoy.

As of yesterday, I have accepted this offer.  Starting September 10th, I will be employed full-time.

Yep, that’s about right.

Now, what that means for my other four part-time jobs is a bit unclear.  I’ll still keep three of my part-time jobs for sure- one as a weekly babysitter, one as the Children’s Ministry Director at my church, and one as a freelance writer/ producer of web series (provided we can ever launch said web series).  None of these pay particularly well (and one doesn’t pay at all…), but they are jobs that I can easily do with a full-time job.  Most importantly, they are things that I truly enjoy.

What is most uncertain is my retail sales job.  This is a job that, while insanely frustrating at time, is one that I do enjoy.  It’s also the best paying of my remaining jobs.  What I am hoping is that I can keep this job for a little while longer and just reduce my hours to weekends and maybe one closing shift here and there as needed.

What I expect will happen, however, is that the store will hire or promote someone into my position to cover the hours I can’t work and there won’t be any hours left for me.  I haven’t talked to my manager yet, so I don’t know which way the hammer is going to fall, but I have coworkers who would love more hours and they deserve to have them.  I may very well have to say good-bye to this job, and that terrifies me.

You see, my full-time contract includes a six-month probationary period and as soon as I saw that paragraph, my anxiety-captive mind started racing.   What if I hate this job?  What if they decide they hate me?  What if I can’t do the work?  What if the company gets taken over by Skynet and my position isn’t needed after six months?  I mean, these are legitimate concerns.  I have contingency plans for just about everything, but there is no plan for downsizing due to hostile sentient computer takeover.

We regret to inform you that your services are no longer needed. Please stand by for…… TERMINATION.

But I think the thing that scares me the most is the idea that I won’t be so busy.  I’ve been so busy for so long that I don’t think I know how to not be busy.  I don’t know any reply other than “let me check my schedule and get back to you.”  I don’t know how to make plans more than a week in advance because my schedule has never been steady before.  I don’t know how to prepare for a day that doesn’t have at least four calendar notes.  Essentially, I am Scott in the video below.

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It’s so true.  It’s so sad, but it’s so true.

So there are a lot of things still up in the air right now.  All I know for sure is that come September 10th, things are going to be different.  With luck, they’ll be good different.  In any case, I’m off to develop my Skynet contingency plan.  I’ll see you all on Monday.

Benchmark

2 Jul cookies logo

Today is the six-month anniversary of the blog, which means I’m now at the halfway point in this year-long quest to pay off my undergraduate student loans.

The thing is, it doesn’t feel like halfway.  Partially it feels like I’ve been at this for far longer, and partially it feels like it’s been much shorter.  It all depends on the day (or what shiny object that I can’t afford is in front of me at the moment).

Today is one of the days when it feels much shorter.  That’s probably because I’ve been doing some math, and I haven’t quite made it to the halfway-gone point in my loans.  I’m $487 off my ideal balance of $5,765, or half of the $11,530 balance I started with.

In any case, a midpoint is a cause for both looking back and looking forward.  So, let’s do some review and some forecasting.  The first section is a lot of number stuff.  The second section is a lot of non-number stuff.  Feel free to skip one or the other, depending on your personal opinions on number stuff.

By The Numbers:

  • LOAN
    • Starting balance: $11,530.12.
    • Amount paid, by month
      • January: $250
      • February: $961
      • March: $948
      • April: $1,296
      • May: $1,329
      • June: $1,334
      • Total: $6,118
    • Interest paid, by month
      • January: $307.41 (partially accrued from previous months)
      • February: $110.03 (partially accrued from previous months)
      • March: $42.83
      • April: $46.83
      • May: $48.64
      • June: $28.84
      • Total: $584.58
    • Principal paid, total: $5,533.42
    • Current loan balance: $6,249.03
  • BLOG
    • 26 weeks
    • 56 posts (including this one)
    • 431 followers
    • 6,704 total views
      • 1,230 views on busiest day (posted: Discarded)
      • Average 37 views/day
      • 258 views/week
      • 1,117 views/month
    • 0 Blog Awards or Freshly Pressed mentions, but some of the best and most supportive comments that I’ve ever seen.  The best of these sit in a document on my desktop, just for rereading when times get tough.

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By The Non-Numbers:

It hasn’t always been a easy road this year.  There have been times when I’ve been worried about future employment, stressed out over current employment, freaking out over late paychecks, ranting against the economy, angry with myself, frustrated with internet trolls, beleaguered by writer’s block, paralyzed by fear, consumed by anxiety, physically sick to the point I could not stand, bereft without a computer, slapped with unexpected expenses, and left wondering just for what it’s all been worth.

But there have been good times, too.  I’m learning how to let go of anxiety, plan for contingencies, but live in the moment, make a change in my world view, enjoy social situations more, know when to engage and when to disengage, find inspiration in odd places, be brave, heal, adapt, grow, express my dreams, and how to do all of that while keeping the parts of me that I like.

I know that there may be harder times ahead.  That’s just the nature of part-time employment and variable income (and life with OCD).  I’m still searching for that elusive full-time job, but even that would come with huge life changes.  I’m a big fan of routine, and unpredictability and change scares me.  I’ve come to realize that most people feel that way, however, and the best way around the fear is to talk about it and find support with others.  This blog has helped me do that, and I hope that it continues to be that way over the next six months.

It turns out this blog has been worth $6,118, and a lifetime of self-realization crammed into six months.

Thanks for being here this far.  Let’s see what the rest of the year holds.  It should be interesting.

Contingency Plans

25 Jun

I might be one of the most OCD people you’ll meet.  You won’t see it on the outside.  My office looks like a tornado just blew through it at any given moment.  In fact, I’m writing this from my similarly-decorated bedroom, since my home office currently smells strongly of wood stain (hey, thanks, younger-brother-home-from-college. One word: ventilation).

So no, you may not see the OCD on the surface.  But once you take a peek at my alphabetized and cross-referenced DVD collection, my perfectly alphabetized and lined-up book collection, or how I follow the same steps every morning to get breakfast and start work, you’ll start to see the crazy.  If you know me in real life, perhaps you’ve even seen my attention wander during a conversation.  I’m not ignoring you- there’s just a really interesting sign behind you and I have to mentally rearrange the words and letters so it’s right.  Just give me a sec.  I’m still listening, I swear.

So yes, there’s a certain level of oddity about me.  I’ve come to accept that, and even embrace it at times.  For example, I am prepared for every contingency.  You name it, I’ve got a plan.  I can even prove it.

Contingencies For Which I Have A Viable Plan

Unemployment: No big deal.  I’ve got a diversified portfolio in the job market (I can’t claim credit for that gem of a description.  That comes from one of my church’s elders.  It’s my new favorite phrase.  You may be seeing it a lot).  Working five part-time jobs means I can lose a few and still have money coming in.  Status: prepared.

Financial Emergency: I’m set for two full months of expenses if I’m rendered totally unable to work, four months of expenses if I’m only able to work half my usual hours, and six months of expenses if I stop paying on my student loans (which I can do without penalty until 2015.  That’s an unexpected bonus of paying off loans early).  Emergency Funds are your friend, people.  You should seriously have one.  Status: prepared.

Medical Emergency:  If it’s someone else’s emergency, I’m trained in CPR, first aid, and basic water rescue techniques.  I’ve been working with kids for over a decade, including a stint at a skating rink, so I’ve pretty much seen it all: broken bones, allergic reactions, the odd impalement or two, even a few gnarly head wounds.  If someone else is bleeding, I’ve got it covered.  Now, if it’s my medical emergency, I’ve got health insurance and an emergency fund.  Both kept me from going completely broke after a car accident in 2010, and both kept me from losing a lot of money when I was sick a few months ago.  I’m also pretty cool with the sight of my own blood.  I’ve seen it enough, to which my co-workers can probably attest. (Related- sorry about that, co-workers).  Status: prepared.

Sugar Emergency: My blood sugar can go up and down faster than a Six Flags roller coaster (the really fast kind, not the kiddie coasters, just to be clear).  When it’s down, I’m not always a pleasant person.  As such, I’ve developed a contingency plan: Operation SUGAR (Sweets Under Guise As Required, which kind of makes sense if you don’t think about grammar or syntax too much).  There is a candy store within 100 feet of one of my jobs.  For the others, both offices have hidden candy reserves.  No, I won’t tell you where they are.  Yes, I will probably share.  Status: prepared.

Snuggle Emergency: No, I haven’t been gnawed on by a zombie.  I mean a real snuggle- the kind that doesn’t involve any brain-chewing.  Sometimes, you just need a snuggle.  For those times, I have this:

codename: floppykitty

Status: prepared.

Zombie Emergency: Speaking of zombies, you’ll be relieved to hear that I have a plan for this contingency too.  First, track down my roommate’s two brothers, codenames: Mountain Man and Thanatos (There’s not really any significance behind Thanatos- I just think it’s an awesome code name).  Second, stay behind Mountain Man and Thanatos at all times.  End plan.  Seriously- those two are like every History Channel & Discovery Channel reality show combined.  If the zombies are coming for you, come find me and the boys.  Oh, and bring candy.  Status: prepared beyond belief.

Undead Emergency:  I’ve been watching a lot of training films on this topic, and I believe I’ve developed a fool-proof vampire repellent for each species.  For the brooding Brad Pitt type, you throw a starving yet adorable orphan in their path.  They will become so focused on saving the poor child that you’ll be able to make your escape.  The same principal works for the glittery type, as long as you substitute a brooding teenage girl for the orphan.  As for the maniacal Tom Cruise type, well, you’re pretty much out of luck on that one.  There’s no escape from the maniacal Tom Cruise type of vampire.  Status: prepared, except in the case of Tom Cruise.

Like I said, I have a plan for everything.  Except for Tom Cruise.  But to that I do have to ask: can anyone really have a good contingency plan for Tom Cruise?

Think on that til Thursday, folks.

Letting Go

18 Jun

A strange thing has happened to me.  I realized late last night (or extremely early this morning, to be perfectly correct) that for once in my life, I’m not worried about the future of my employment.

The funny thing is, this is probably a time when I should be most worried about the future of my employment.  I’ve got one job with a contract set to expire soon with no definite word on what will happen next, another job where I’m always just one “I forgot to close the safe last night” mistake away from fired, a third that is also time-limited because the kids insist on continuing to grow up, and a fourth that pays almost literally nothing but brings me a lot of happiness.

Basically, I’ve got one job out of five that promises a steady paycheck indefinitely as long as I don’t majorly screw anything up.  Yet I’m not worried.  And no, I’m not on medication, nor should I be.  (Odd how that mental health pendulum swings both ways, isn’t it?)

I wish I could tell you that I had this great epiphany, or that I got a great piece of advice, or I won the lottery, but honestly, I don’t know what changed.  It just finally clicked that maybe it’s not such a big deal after all, and that I’d be a lot better off not worrying about how things will turn out.

I do have an emergency fund in place that will cover two full months’ of expenses if I were to lose all sources of income at once.  It used to have enough to cover three months, but this year has had some unexpected financial situations (human illnesses, pet illnesses, computer illnesses, I-can’t-properly-balance-my-checkbook illnesses, etc).  It will last longer if I only lose one job, and am able to pick up some of the slack with more hours at another job.  It’s a valuable safety net, and I think that it has a lot to do with my new-found piece of mind.

Note- If you don’t have an emergency fund in place, you really need to get on that.  I’ve had one for three years, and have only needed to live off it once.  I emptied the account out just trying to pay all the unexpected bills over three months following a car accident, but simply knowing that the money was there during that time far exceeded the actual balance of the account.  I’m still trying to rebuild the account up to the recommended full six months of expenses, but that’s going to take a while.  For now, it’s enough to know that I wouldn’t drown in bills immediately.

I don’t have any idea what my employment status will be come the beginning of July.  I’m hoping that it all stays the same, but I may have five jobs, I may have three, or I may even have none.  For right now though, worrying about their life expectancies only makes it harder to focus on the tasks at hand.  If I spend too much time worrying, my performance will slip, and then my concern over losing a job will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So I’m focusing on the tasks at hand right now, not the ones in the future.  I’ve got quite a bit of data to organize today, a couple of kids to remember to pick up from summer camp tomorrow, two freelance articles to write by the end of the week, four lessons to plan by the end of the month, and a script or two to edit at some point in the near future.

I’ve also got to find inspiration for Thursday’s Penny Story blog.

Oh, and I have to remember to pack.  I’m going to New Orleans this week.  Hello Vacation Fund?  I’d like to make a withdrawal please.  Gumbo, bookstores and the French Quarter await!

Counter-Pressure

11 Jun Not sure if the message here is "be ridiculously happy in everything you do," or "take joy in smacking others around," but in any case- I want to be the ball on the far right.

Not sure if the message here is “be ridiculously happy in everything you do,” or “take joy in smacking others around,” but in any case- I want to be the ball on the far right.

I’m a big fan of Newton’s Third Law of Motion.  It’s the one that states that for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.  Newton used it to describe motion and kinetic transfer, but I think he may have missed the broader applications of his law.  Sometimes I feel like it should be called Newton’s Third Law of Life, and I think anyone who has ever felt the universe pushing back on them can agree with that statement.

This month, I finally hit my ideal monthly student loan payment of $1,334.  I was so happy, you guys.  It took me six months and a lot of recalculations to do it, but I had finally hit my goal.  It was the largest single payment I’ve ever made on my loans, and I’m telling you- it felt awesome to click YES on that “are you sure this is the right amount?” prompt the loan website flashes before allowing me to submit a payment.

Two days after that payment posted to my bank account, my computer crashed hard.  I talked about this on Friday, as I tried to write a coherent blog post via my phone.  (It turns out, that’s really hard to do.)  When I finally got my computer back, the total was $85 and a grim warning that my hard drive might be in the beginning stages of systematic failure.

*sigh*

It was all right, though.  I have an external hard drive and I back everything up regularly anyway.  I have an emergency fund, and it had $85 in it to cover the repair.  I am out the  roughly $210 paycheck from Thursday and Friday, but I’ll figure out how that affects the budget next month when the check comes in.

What is not all right is that the next day, another unexpected financial cost came up.  I twisted my knee at work while helping a customer search the bottom rack of Wii games for a copy of Mario Power Tennis (and no, the irony of a knee injury while searching for a tennis game is not lost on me.  Neither are the Skyrim-related jokes, such as “I used to be a video game sales person, but then I took a Wii game to the knee.”  Ha.   Ha.   Ha.)

It’s two days later now, and my knee is still a painful mass of useless flesh.  It’s not swollen, but it hurts every time I move it, hurts even more every time I move it in any direction except for straight ahead, and my ankle and foot are in a constant pins-and-needles state.  This makes me think I’ve got a pinched nerve in my knee.

That kind of injury isn’t cheap, people.  I’ve got an appointment with a orthopedist tomorrow, which means specialist rates, and I’m not entirely sure this doc is in my insurance network.  (There’s so much wrong with the US health insurance system, but that’s another post.)  Besides the cost of the doctor, I’m not sure what it will mean for my ability to work.  Two of my jobs allow me to sit at a desk or on a couch, but the other three require a fair amount of physical activity.  I’m already down $210, which is just shy of 10% of my monthly budget.  Missing more days of work means losing a bigger cut.

But there is good news.  As a Newton’s Cradle (i.e.- the thing in the picture above) will demonstrate, the equal action-reaction concept swings both ways (pun totally intended, by the way.)  Just as the universe seems to be pushing against me right now, I can push back.  I’ve got two freelance writing tasks on my plate right now, and I have the rest of the week to try to make up some hours at the consulting job.  Since I’m plainly not going frolicking through the flowers anytime soon, I should have plenty of time to spend typing away at the keyboard in the next few days.

Provided my hard drive doesn’t fail again.

Please, hard drive, don’t fail me now.

The Value Of A Day*

8 Jun

My computer died yesterday (you may have noticed there was no post yesterday.  The two things are not unrelated).

Here’s what happens when my computer breaks down:

1) I stare at it blankly.

2) I cross my fingers/ wish I was a wizard and that yelling “reparo” would actually work.

3) I press and hold the power button.

4) I wait anxiously for the restart, praying it works.

At this point, one of two things happens.

5a) Everything works fine, and I feverishly back-up the hard drive before the computer breaks again.

or

5b) I slump in my chair, defeated once again by a machine.

5b happened this time.

I hate it when 5b happens.

Monday through Friday, from 10 am to 5 pm, I work as a data consultant.  This means I pull data off one website, download more data from another website, and combine all of it into a single document.  It sounds straightforward, but when you’re dealing with two websites and a lot of people with their hands on the data, a lot can go wrong pretty fast.  Overall, it’s interesting work, if sometimes a bit tedious.  The biggest benefit is that I can work from home (ie- pajama pants and fuzzy slippers are totally acceptable).

It’s also an hourly position. As in, I get paid for the hours I work. As in, I don’t get paid for the hours I don’t work.

My computer is dead.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

It’s 1 pm on Friday, and I still haven’t heard from the computer repair shop.  It looks like I’ll be missing another day of work.  I thought I would take the time to explain why missing a day or two of work can be so bad for me.

There’s the obvious financial factor: I miss out on the money.  This is my best-paying job with the most hours, so it makes up the majority of my income.  That means that when I miss hours here, it’s a much bigger impact on my income than at any other job.

Then there’s the work-flow factor.  I’ve been compiling these reports for a year now and I know the process very well- which parts are tricky, which words need to be changed, how to address a website that is being weird, where to find missing data, etc.  When I can’t work, the reports either have to wait, or they get compiled by someone who may not know all the little tricks and solutions.  It slows down the process, and it’s unfair to my coworkers to have to pick up my work on top of their own duties.

But mostly there’s the useless factor.  I spend a lot of time on my computer.  As in, at least 8 hours a day.  I work, I write, I creep through Facebook and Twitter, I read, I watch, I play, I organize, I plan, you get the idea.  When the computer goes down, it not only takes my ability to work the consulting job, it takes my ability to work two other paying jobs, my freelance writing tasks, and my main source of entertainment.  (It also throws off my carefully constructed daily routine, but you all have heard enough about my OCD).

I went to bed last night feeling like the day was wasted.  I didn’t work, and I didn’t do anything I enjoyed.  After dropping my computer off at the repair shop yesterday, I came home and tried to take advantage of the unexpected vacation.  I finished the last few chapters of three books (I don’t usually read multiple books at the same time, but this time the library due dates caught up to me), I returned those books to the library, and I got a new book.  While I love to read, doing so in the middle of the day just felt wrong, and I couldn’t relax into the stories I was reading.  I kept waiting for the repair shop to call, telling me that I could have my computer back.  The call never came, and I never found a new rhythm to the day.  Frustrated, I gave up on the attempt and went to bed early.

So today I’m going to find a way to enjoy this unintentional time off.  I’m going to play a video game, or chase the dog around with my Sphero robotic ball, or teach the rabbit a new trick, or even start reading that new book.  Maybe I’ll go crazy and paint my toenails.  Maybe I’ll go really crazy and paint the dog’s toenails.  Who knows?  Maybe the computer repair shop will call and I’ll get my computer back.

Until then, let me know some ways that you enjoy unexpected time off?  Do you read?  Catch up on a favorite show?  Torment a beloved pet?  Or does it, like me, just totally throw off the rhythm of the day and leave you feeling slightly resentful towards the universe?  Leave me a comment and let me know.  I’ll talk to you all on Monday (provided I have a working computer by then).

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*posted via smartphone after an extremely frustrating hour and a half.

The Worst Things to Say To Someone In Debt, Part II

17 May

Since I started this blog back in January, I’ve gotten a lot of penny advice about my student loan debt.  (Actually, I got a lot of it before I started this blog, but I didn’t bother to write it down.)  Penny advice, for the uninitiated, is any piece of advice that is obvious, unhelpful, or just downright rude.  It comes from people trying to offer their two cents, but what actually comes out of their mouths isn’t worth half of that.

In March, I wrote a post called The Top 10 Worst Things to Say to Someone in Debt.  A lot of people liked it.  Some of them wondered if it was all true (sadly, yes).  Others wondered if it made people stop saying things like that to me (sadly, no).  Still others wondered if I’d ever considered carrying a taser to silence the stupid people (Ok, there may have only been one person wondering that, but part of me felt like they may have been on to something).

The good news is that since people are still offering me terrible advice, I’m still writing it down to share with you.  You’re welcome.  So sit back and enjoy, or sit back and cringe inwardly like I do.  Either one works.

The Worst Things to Say to Someone in Debt, Part II

5. Why don’t you sell some of this stuff?  This is a hold-over from Part I.  It’s still on the list because it is still so commonly asked.  The short answer is, keep your hands off my books.  More diplomatically, I have sold (or tried to sell) the things I don’t use.  The problem is, no one wants to buy CDs from the 90s, and even fewer people want to buy a sibling.  The things that I still own are things that have a higher value to me than their prices.  They are books that I can get lost in over and over, movies that can still cast their spell, CDs with autographs and memories attached, and siblings that for whatever reason just don’t sell.  I’ve got a dozen or so DVDs listed on half.com right now, but the point remains the same.  If I buy something, I plan to use it until it breaks.  I’m not interested in its resale value.

4. Have you tried clipping coupons?  The short answer: yes.  Yes I have.  Coupons are very nice, when I can find them for the products that I use.  I have food allergies, and it’s rare to find sales or discounts on gluten-free foods.  Also, I have an extremely picky rabbit who has demonstrated several times that she would rather be hungry than eat any other type of food than her normal brand.  Naturally, that is the brand that never goes on sale.  So yes, I do hunt for deals and I do take advantage of sales, but I won’t sacrifice my health (or my pet’s health) in order to save 30 cents.

3. What do you want to do with your degree/ what are your goals?  This one isn’t actually unhelpful, but it still bugs me.  Mainly, I want to get out of debt.  Beyond that, I have no idea what I want to do.  Ok, that’s not true.  I do know what I want to do, it’s just hard to admit to it because it has little to nothing to do with my Master’s degree.  I want to write, I want to create things, and I want to be able to use my imagination every day.  When you say things like that to people, they smile politely and say, “Well, that’s nice.  But what do you want to do for a job?”  Convincing people that what I just said IS what I want to do for a job takes a lot of effort, and I usually just cave to the social pressure and say that I’m still trying to figure that out.  Lack of direction seems to be a more acceptable answer than the desire to work in creativity.  Go figure.

2. Isn’t there a better job out there?  Oh, I do love this one, especially when it’s said to me while I’m at work.  Actually, that’s really the only time I do hear this line.  I’m not sure why people feel the need to ask me if I’m looking for other employment when I’m obviously already employed somewhere, but I do wish they’d stop asking me that in front of my boss.  It makes for an awkward conversation later on.  While I’d love a full-time job, the simple answer is that there just aren’t many of those to be had, and even fewer of those in my field of study (or my field of choice).  Besides, I like my jobs.  They let me be silly, nerdy, and/or stay in my pajamas all day.  So no, there really aren’t better jobs out there.

1. Why don’t you go back to school?  The simple answer is because that’s how I got into this mess in the first place.  While being in school does defer my loans, I’m pretty sure that the loan companies would eventually catch on if I just went from degree program to degree program.  And before the inevitable follow-up can be asked, no, there actually aren’t grants out there that I can apply for.  I’m a middle-class white girl with a Master’s degree.  No one wants to give me money so I can go earn another degree.  Those grants are for first-time college attendees and single moms and those with more variety in their genetic backgrounds.  My Scottish/Irish self just does not qualify.  Believe me, I’ve checked.

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So there you have it.  Five more unhelpful things that people say to me regarding my student loan debt.  The good news is that for every bad thing someone has said to me, there are at least a dozen good things that I’ve heard.  Also, I checked my student loan balance this morning, and it’s $7,533.  That’s exactly $4,000 lower than my starting balance of $11,533.  4K paid off in five months- not quite where I had hoped to be, but much further than I would be without the blog.  I’ve found a lot of support through this blog in just five months, and I could not have gotten this far in my quest without each and every one of you.  Thank you.

And look- a pretty graph!  (You all know you wanted to see it.  I know exactly how many of you clicked on the picture of my budget last week.  73).

The colors are nice, but that blue line needs to get its act together pronto.

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