Sunday, June 01, 2008

Ah, Down-Time

So, today I did... well, nothing. I did make a quick trip to the Grocery Store that Sells Cheap Cheese and Crystal Light and Coffee (which is slightly farther from my house than my closest grocery store, but the savings on these items alone do make the trip worth it - coffee that's decent for $3 less than name-brand coffee, Crystal Light always on sale, the store-brand cheese a good 2-3 bucks less per package), and then, well, I did nothing. Except go to the pool (ah, the pool!) and begin reading a Grocery Store Book (The Emperor's Children - this was a splurge because I've really cut back on my disposable book buying).

This has pretty much been The Weekend of Reviewing Operation Financial Freedom (for I got my first installment of summer teaching money) and in reviewing the State of Affairs, it looks as if I will surely be out of credit card debt by May/June of 2009 (barring any unforeseen motivation on my part to be even more frugal to get there more quickly. And then if I teach summer school both next summer and the summer after, it then means that I will have a 20% down-payment for a decent (moderately-priced) condo/house saved by Summer 2010. I know. Isn't that crazy? I mean, awesome, and exciting, but totally crazy. So sure, I'm still in a state where I need to get a lot of real-life everyday things done (the spring cleaning that is looking like it's going to be more like summer cleaning, finishing up the research stuff, teaching, blah) but in terms of the big picture, it turns out that with a little bit of forethought, I don't need to be a financial fool. Who knew?

You may be wondering how I've gotten to the non-financial fool place. Well, as BFF thinks is hilarious about me, any such major plans take lots of forethought on my part - like years of it. So the reality is that I spent 2007 tracking my expenses. Not budgeting, but just making sure I wrote down where my money was going in a systematic way. That then made me realize that if I just put my mind to it that I had the actual power to make a dent in the credit card debt that lingered from grad school and that increased with all of the traveling and splurging I've done over the past five years. It's not that I live like this totally extravagant person, but starting on the tenure track in the hole meant that if I wanted to live like a person who actually made a real salary and who didn't worry about money that I would ultimately have to stay in debt. So I made the choice to gather my rosebuds because you can't take it with you (or some sort of mixed metaphor) and so I stayed in stasis for about 4 years. Now, I'm actually seeing that there are things that I want and that I can have if I just exercise a little focus. I wouldn't give up those four years of buying any magazine that I wanted or of splurging every single time I went to the drugstore on new soap or nailpolish or whatever (these are my vices - so no, I don't have much to show for this time of "not worrying about what I spent"), but it's nice to give those things up now in the service of a larger goal.

I still feel like buying a house would be a huge step, and so it's going to take two years of watching lame shows on HGTV to really make me feel ok about doing such a thing, so I suppose it's good that I don't have the money to do it :)

In other news, I'm going to be visiting the KITTENS next weekend (as well as having some social time with the Kitten Dealer and her husband, which will be awesome) at which time I will MAKE MY KITTEN SELECTION (although I'm fairly certain it's Mr. Stripy (although I feel like "stripy" should really be spelled "stripey" even though that is, apparently, wrong), as he already has a pseudonym and he was my original love and I've gotten some reports about Six-Toe that make it seem that he is, well, insane, but I will only know once I've hung out with the crew. So that is some major excitement coming up. He won't come home with me next weekend - he's got a date with the vet for being neutered before he can come to me - but then, he shall be mine!

Yep, so that's everything that's going on with me. Oh, and I am tan, if I do say so myself (which really, only I would say, because compared to actually tan people, I just look normal, since I really believe in sun screen and hanging out at the pool is actually sort of boring and hot, so I don't have much stamina). Oh, and my hair is really great. Positively shoulder-length. As long as I think it's been since high school, actually. This whole growing my hair out thing has been strangely gratifying. And I think the project will continue, at least through summer's send. I'm finding it - like Operation Financial Freedom - weirdly parallel experiences, in that there is no instant gratification with either but both are producing a strange sense of centeredness and control. Huh.


Dr. Bad Ass said...

Here's to you on getting out of credit card debt. I have TWO months to go before I, too, will be free!

Artichoke Heart said...

There must be something in the air. After way, way, way too many years of insouciant Financial Fuckwittery I have finally declared myself ready and able to seriously address the ongoing Financial Fuckwittery. The last month? I've been plotting and strategizing how best to stop being a Financial Fuckwit. My getting-out-of-credit-card-hell goal is September 2009 and I spent today researching info on Roth IRAs and supplemental retirement savings plans. Cheers to Financial Fuckwittery No More!

Susan said...

Congratulation on financial fitness! It's actually hard work -- though paradoxically, I think it's a bit easier now because there's less of a "buy everything on credit" ethos now than there was even a year ago.

And enjoy The Emperor's Children. I thought it was pretty good.

hypatia said...

Re: Unforseen motivation to pay things off quickly....

I found that when I got close to a goal it was EXTREMELY motivating to pay things off. So at the beginning of my car loan, I dutifully wrote $25 over. About 2.5 years in (on a 5 year loan) was sometimes doubling my payment because I could see the end so clearly (and because those early $25 really did make a difference in later interest). I have a spreadsheet that lets you track the impact of extra payments and that really helped.

Doctor Pion said...

I'll pass on some advice that was given to me, and that really works. After you pay off that car, hypatia, keep making those car payments to yourself! You can build up a cushion that can be used for bigger things (like cash for the next car or a down payment) and serve as a safety net if something goes wrong.

Similarly, if you want to buy a house, start living like you were making that huge mortgage plus taxes and insurance payment each month. Deposit the diffrence between your rent and that payment in the bank to go towards your downpayement, plus the reserve you need for the junk you buy to fill up the house!

Jonathan said...

We just bought a house and got in the habit of watching HGTV. I think it's particularly insidious in an envy-inducing, consumerist way. There's one program where they show you what various price points will buy in various locations, and there seems to be an implication that spending, say 750K on a house (in a market where the median is something 250K, that is) is not only a justifiable choice--but that your life in a 250K median house will always need to be changed. Not in a Rilkean way. With pergraniteel . Your furnishings, design, belongings, life, and thoughts are hopelessly dated and tasteless. The chirpy and cheeky design-elect make ritual example of some helots, while we Calibans rage at seeing ourselves in the glass-teat'd mirror.

Or at least that's how it seems to me.