Sunday, September 21, 2014

Saving Like A Grown Up

I frequently bemoan being an adult, and all it entails. Not only do I have to do unfun things like pay bills and do laundry, being grownup means that any chance I have of being a child prodigy is now really officially over.

So. Lacking prodigy or millionaire status, my goals now are slightly more modest. My latest one is trying to afford to buy a place before I'm 90.  Of course, as soon as I decided to make that a priority I also started spending money like there was no tomorrow. I'm sure there's some sort of psychological reason, but there you go.

However, I have taken a few solid steps. I've spoken to a lender and a real estate agent. The lender is reassuring and positive. The real estate agent thinks I'm entirely too optimistic about what I can get for my money and that I should come down to earth, it begin a seller's market.  It's a somewhat irritating attitude to deal with when searching for a home, but probably helpful in the long run.

I do wonder how other freelancers managed to buy a home. It's harder to get a loan, harder to anticipate earnings, and harder still to know whether throwing all my savings into one investment is prudent or crazy.  Maybe I should just direct my energies toward inventing a time machine and going back to become a prodigy after all.

Anyway, here are some steps I'm taking to save money:

- Nurse my drinks like a broke college student.
- Pack lunch or eat cheap.
- Put off buying a new pair of shoes. Even though my old pair is fugly as hell at this point.
- Do my best to win my football fantasy league (this is a legit step, right?).

Aaaaand, here are the ways I'm sabotaging myself:

- weekend trips to visit friends in other states
- forgetting to pack lunch. Often.
- Being overly generous with my drink/shot buying.
- Buying summer clothing now that the weather is turning cold, just because they're on sale.  Though that equals future savings, so really, financially prudent.
- And the big one. Not actively canceling my old health insurance after getting a new one, therefore costing myself a shit load of extra money. UGH! Kicking myself for this one.

I need to put myself on an allowance.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Online Dating Shorthand

Ok. So I signed up for some online dating, since the only people I see regularly in my real life are coworkers and my cats. And occasionally friends, but they don't fit this particular narrative so whatever.  And there are some photos that just immediately raise red flags or at least, less alarmingly, kind of inform (cough:warn) me about the person they belong to.

Much like how homes described as "cozy" actually mean "tiny," or "charming" means "hasn't been updated in 20 years," I've come up with a little online dating pictorial cheat sheet below.  I'm sure I've missed some, but these are definitely a few of the repeat offenders.

Baseball caps = balding. It always means balding.

Selfies (exclusively or mainly) = No friends. Also creepy.

No pictures with a full face visible = married and cheating. Or a serial killer.

Multiple shirtless photos = Just wants sex.

Multiple shirtless selfies = Really just wants sex, and has a higher opinion of himself than he should.

Photos that look like head shots = They ARE head shots, and this person is a starving artist. Probably caters or bartends. (no judgment)

Brooding or scowling photos = Look how tough and serious I am. Hint: Super tough. Super serious. (BTW, will never ever agree to a date with someone who can't even manage to smile for one goddamned profile picture).

Black and White photos = Self diagnosed sensitive, artistic type. Probably works in an office doing accounting.   These are a good counterpoint to the in-color brooding photos.  Both types probably take themselves too seriously.

Florescent lit office selfies = REALLY has no friends. Socially awkward. I mean, are you even TRYING? This is why you're dating online.

All group shots or photos taken from very far away (i.e. standing on top of a mountain) = Low self esteem about his looks.  Or is just that fucking oblivious as to how online dating works. I AM SHALLOW! LET ME SEE YOUR FACE!

Friday, May 23, 2014

To Buy or Not To Buy

I am currently musing the relative responsibility level of buying a new pair of jeans while technically unemployed.

On one hand, my favorite pair just ripped and I'm a freelancer, so I am frequently "unemployed," since it just means I'm between projects. It is neither an unusual circumstance nor a dire one. And the jeans are currently on sale.   So really, I'm saving by buying them now.

On the other hand, until my next project starts I'm not actually bringing in money, so I should batten down the hatches.

Being a grown up is hard. I need to find myself a nice beau to buy me fripperies like jeans and oysters.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


The year I moved to New York, the first year I lived here, I made only about $16,000 the entire year.  That's pre-tax, since despite how little I made I did pay a bit of it back in taxes.  That figure includes some unemployment income, since for a stretch there I was unemployed.  It does not include any other kind of assistance. Yes somehow with that money I packed up all my belongings, rented a car, and drove from Florida to New York in an eventful few days. With it I paid first month and security at a new apartment. Obviously I had roommates, though they were strangers.  With it I settled into a new city. My brother, the lifesaver, drove up with me, though he was even broker than me so food and lodgings were still my responsibility.  With me were my two pissed off, caged up cats.

Within a couple weeks of moving here I'd gotten a job behind the bakery counter of a grocery store for $10 an hour. I didn't even make enough to pay my bills, but at least it came close, and I had a little bit - a very little bit - saved in the bank. About a month after that I was lucky (so, so, so lucky) enough to get an interview for a "real" job within my field and then was lucky enough to get the job. I also worked in the evenings, for free, at an internship in my industry just to try to make more connections and improve my skills. I signed up to work weekends at a catering company for those few extra dollars.  I commuted into the city every day from out of state (well, New Jersey), because living across the state line was cheaper than living anywhere in NYC, Manhattan aside.

And somehow, on only $16,000 I managed to pay my student loan bills, my rent, my phone bills and all my food and transportation. I also managed to start the slow process of paying off credit card debt I had carried since leaving college, sometimes by just $20 at a time.  I'm very proud of the fact that on a VERY tight budget I made ends meet and didn't ever have to turn to my parents for help. But, as anyone can imagine, it wasn't easy. It meant pasta just about every day and an incredibly strict food budget.  Ramen is not just for college students.  If I had had kids it would have been impossible. If I had gotten sick it would have been disastrous.

I'm proud of myself for managing on that small an amount for a year. Though money is still not abundant, I certainly make more now than I did then. But I only had to scrimp and scrounge to that degree for a short while. There are people, there are entire families, who have to survive on an income like that for their entire lives. And while I was lucky enough not to get sick while I was that broke (because despite my income I never considered myself actually poor, just broke), everyone gets sick eventually. And for families or even individuals making $16,000 a year, getting sick is just not something they can afford to do.

And yet we've got politicians calling the working poor lazy and entitled. Entitled why? Because they feel like, for their hard work, they're entitled to crazy luxuries like food and shelter and basic health care. I mean, really? I'm not talking about people who choose not to work or who deal drugs or steal for a living. I'm talking about people who get up and work (at least!) five days a week and still barely have enough to scrape by.  I'm talking about retirees. People who are working hard and doing the best they can. These people aren't lazy. They're not looking for handouts. And as for entitled, if they work full time they SHOULD feel entitled to food, shelter, and health care. People aren't "entitled" to fancy clothing or nice cars or luxury vacations. But god damn it, if you work hard all your life you should at least feel like you're entitled to the basics of survival. Otherwise what's the point?

I guess my point is that I'm grateful for my brief period of having to really pinch pennies. It gave me empathy. It gave me some understanding of just how precarious it can be living paycheck to paycheck, and how impossible it would have been if I hadn't been young, healthy and unencumbered. Some of our elected leaders and wannabe elected leaders could stand to maybe live a year or so on $16,000. Maybe they would learn something too.