Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A little workout

A little workout fills my soul. Tennis lessons started this evening. I feel so much better for having batted around a ball for an hour. This is about as good as meditation gets. No need to focus on breathing, or calming the "monkey mind". Oh, hell no. Concentrate on getting that fuzzy yellow speeding ball back over the net.

For clarity and focus, there is no zen master that can clear one's mind as fast as a speeding yellow ball coming right at you. There is no mantra that would dare to compete with the focus necessary to smack that speeding ball back over the net. Everything else in the day falls away without willing it away. I should have been a professional athlete so I can live on the spiritual plane of non-thought. If I could just get the ball over the net I may just reconsider that.

Holding rope

On May 18th I posted my definition of financial security. I was in the throws of pulling my financial ass out of the well. I'm still hoisting up the rope. It's tough, holding on to the rope that I've already pulled up and then grabbing the fistfuls of line above that. You know, there's never really anytime to let go. One must hold the rope. That's just to stay even. I'm a bit of a heavy weight to be holding, financially (I think). My arms are feeling the strain. I wonder if muscles will come of this that make holding onto the rope less strenuous.

Since May 18th - almost two weeks now - I think I have written every list, repeatedly, of what is to be paid, when does it want to be paid, how much does it think it wants to be paid. I have culled out the bills that suck out the money automatically. I have a separate list of bills that I get to pay at my discretion. Every one of these lists is headed up with income information, as if that changes. I'm still making lists.

I did open a secondary bank account. I set it up to have a sweep done every payday. Antonio was lovely, had it done in minutes. With a name like Antonio I can say really pouffe things like, "My banker, Antonio says...." Anyway, the sweep is for half my rent plus a couple bucks more. Okay, it's the amount of what I want my rent to be for the next perfect rental property. I figure it's practise paying for a place with a water view. The "plan" is to pay rent from this new account, and the extra stays in this account as savings for things like deposits on new dwellings, car repair or down payment, and dental care (as I am scheduled for a root canal - though I think I only need a cap).

I have soooo many things on my "To Save For" list. It's longer than my "To be Paid" list. The working account will take care of the rest of living and bills as it always has. I'm hoping this way - sweeping the money aside - that I lose the stress of rent coming from one pay check, and I gain a healthy aspect on savings.

I do like my lists.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Use your resources

I used to work with dentists and dental lab technicians, and well, the whole department. I paid them a visit this morning. I described the "supposed" wrong done to me in cracking a tooth, the cost of root canals, etc. I learned some really smart things.
Number one, if the tooth does not hurt, it does not necessarily need a root canal. Number two, capping the tooth is a good idea to keep it from further damage.
Number three, I should get ahold of the original x-rays prior to any work being done as they will give the true nature of any caries or decay.
Number four, if the tooth was decaying, then the crack was inevitable.

It's who you know that can help with the what you know. Knowledge is power. And knowing things has always allowed me to feel better in control of those things that affect me. Especially when it has to do with my smile.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Figuring it out as the chips continue to fall

I'm getting it figured out. Of course, the rules will change the minute I think I've got it nailed down. This feeling of semi-accomplishment is a fleeting moment. I'm reveling in it anyway. The truck has been repaired, the emergency fund has been set up, I've been toying with the Mint.com site and I'm getting comfortable. The Mint.com site for budgeting and personal money management is extremely flexible. I'm just sayin' ... don't give it information you don't want it to compute. As in, and I find this funny, within the Mint.com software my bank account says 'money out' to pay a credit card, and the credit card statement says 'money in' because I paid them. Mint.com decided those two transactions cancelled each other out and basically computed that I had several hundred dollars more in my account (at my disposal) than I actually did. I deleted the credit card information completely as extraneous to my overall program. Money out, that's what I want a handle on first.

Oh yeah, I made it to a fresh dentist yesterday. I feel this office is trustworthy. The first dentist cracked my tooth while working on another tooth. He was pretty brutal with the care I received, I went home to lick my wounds, and felt the jagged edge of a tooth that had not had a jagged edge before.

Picture to the right is a pretty reliable depiction of Ancient Dentistry. Dr Liu is living in the past.

It's when the piece fell out (three weeks later) that I realized what had occured. I'm being completely sarcastic when I say I've never had the pleasure to pay over $800 in dental care in order to have a root canal (for an additional $1,600 including crown) when it's all finished. Just my favorite stuff.

Yesterday's dentist took the time to show me options in tooth restorations, he gave me time lines, pain expectancy...just everything. I'll have the root canal there. The Assistant was pretty smart too. The front desk gave me three options to pay, two of them are no interest options. I do find it interesting when the front desk is uppity about payment. The first dentist, that did the damage, was uppity. Yesterday's dentist just laid out the info and said get back to them when I'm ready. This is not the first time in my life that the way an office handles the money at the front desk is in direct reverse proportion to the quality of service. I'll be calling them tonight, as another chip of tooth came out yet today...it's not fixing itself (shoot, I was hoping it would). I'll be putting my review of the dental offices on Yelp.com while I'm at it.

So, the chips are still falling where they may. The figures are still in motion, this part reminds me of stellar and planetary movements, I'm not sure the budgeting, adjusting, rebudgeting thing will ever stop. I don't mind paying attention for now, but is this something I'm going to have to keep my thumb on all the time? I'd like to walk away and enjoy the sunshine once in a while...but hey, too early to worry about that yet. So, here's to keeping my thumb on the pulse. For as long as it takes.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The money came

I think what bothers me most is that I'm not a kid. I'm no longer in my twenties. Somewhere near the end of my twenties I figured a person ought to have the financial wherewithall to move ahead without assistance.

The money arrived. The phones are back on. The car is getting new parts as I type this. I've enough for an emergency fund. Now, paying this back is important to me.

(An aside here - my son got the sous chef position, regardless of the phones. My daughter picked up another shift at work, regardless of the phones. And my other daughter heard greatt news from Afghanistan without the phones. Facebook, e-mail and face to face work wonders...)

There are a ton of extremely unhelpful budgeting sites on the internet. What a mash-up of misguided muck. There's the big names like Suze Orman and Ramsey: out for a buck. The Ramsey's approach makes more sense - but a rather difficult site. One of my friends at work suggested Mint.com. That's what I've been putzing on here at work between phone calls and projects. I've been setting up my financial tracking on-line. I understand they have a touch screen version for my iPad. When I get home tonight I will download that app (please may they offer it free) and get some of the particulars put in it right. I like the way Mint.com is set up. It appears to allow me to tweak individual categories and tags and stuff so that all this makes sense to me. I don't care if it makes sense to anyone else. I don't appreciate that loans off the grid, such as the one I have, are not enterable into this program. Everything at Mint.com is "attached" to a retail account, attached to a "real bank". I will need to find a way to account for a loan from a private lender. With all the bells and whistles of Mint.com I can see how a program like this can keep me interested enough to track my expenses and maybe even reach some goals.

It's been a nice diversion, that may not be a diversion after all.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Defining Peace of Mind

The goal is financial peace of mind. That's it. Peace of mind. That in itself is priceless. I don't know if that means a million dollars, or five million dollars, or what. It definitely means a change of attitude.

For me, financially, Peace of Mind means -

1. I will have savings set aside to fly across the country in case of emergency. I want to know I can get to my loved ones should anything happen. With family in New York, Wisconsin, Colorado and California...well, it matters.

2. I can go months without bank charges on my free account. And then I go months when nothing goes through the bank on time and I am floating in red until payday. Peace of mind would be having a free checking account, in the black, at all times.

3. I want to open bills on payday, write a check or go online, file it and it's all done. That's it. Two weeks of peace of mind. A couple years ago I was paid once a month. I loved it. I paid all my bills in full on payday. I always felt the weight of the world lift from me. I saved up all the bills until payday - brought them all out at once - and all at once they disappeared. This is the kind of peace of mind I am working for.

4. I want to be able to see a doctor or a dentist and have the ability to pay upon receipt. Right now I can't do that. These bills are hefty. Thing Two went to a doc for regular checkup type stuff and 20 minutes later I have a bill for $238. Which reminds me I need to incorporate that one into my budget.

5. I want savings for emergencies. Two months income would be a nice start, considering I have nothing right now. I would need to come up with a recommended list of appropriate times to access the money. If the situation does not fall into one of those appropriate times then it must not be an emergency. It just seems that when I have savings everything is an emergency and nothing stays in savings.

That's it. That's my definition. I need to know where I'm going. I still don't know how I'll get there. Today I am defining the destination, not the path to get there.

I'm still tracking my spending. Once everything blew up in front of me tracking my spending just seems like a total waste of time. Except...okay, it has a grounding aspect to it. It is proof that I have not thrown my hands up in disgust. No, my hands are poised and at the ready to record that sixty-nine cents I spent last Friday for a bag of microwave popcorn for lunch. Truly, it hasn't even been a week yet. I started on Friday the 13th. Today is only Wednesday.

Yesterday I did three things to bring my finances into shape:
~I reviewed my bank statement online and hard-copy. I see that I paid overdraft fees. Too many (even one is too many).
~I wrote out in long-hand on several pieces of paper all the things I pay and all the money that comes in. It took several drafts to make sure I got everything. Even as I type this I remember two things that did not get included last night. I will be re-writing this income/outgo page again.
~I opened all the bills and statements that are waiting for a "good" payday and read them. I didn't put them in any order. I just read them and put them back.

The thing I did that puts another wrench in the works is that I called family for financial assistance and it's in the mail. I have no idea how I'm going to pay this back. I don't know what else to do, but here I've taken on another debt.

Today I've done three things toward changing this money karma.
~I emailed my debt reduction service asking where the additional $110 that was freed up from paying off creditors is going. I don't see any of this "snowball" money going toward any of the remaining accounts.
~I called the debt reduction service to update the dollar amount showing on my statements. They are kind of a defensive bunch there on the phone. I want to stay in touch with these people. They need to know I'm watching now.
~I've put some thought into what I am trying to acheive here. I want to achieve some peace of mind this year. I think it's an extremely do-able goal. I just don't know what I'm doing.

Before the money arrives from family, I need to write down where it's going to go. I need to consider where it's going to do the most good. I need a plan or it will - poof - be gone before I can be smart.

I need to allow Thing One to take care of some issues for herself to make sure the bail is returned. I paid the first round of clearing her ticket back in August and it didn't work. She needs to do some karma clearing for herself. (God, grant me strength to back off for her to do it, but the vision and voice to guide her, gently or not, to get it done.) What a mess.

PS: Phones are still turned off. It no longer bothers me.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Truth Hurts

Truth is the phones are turned off. I can't pay the bill. Truth is my truck is sitting at the curb still broken. I didn't pay the bill to have it towed. I owe my mom for that. The part comes tomorrow and a friend has offered to fix it. Truth is I am unable to leave my children in trouble even at the expense of myself. That truth cost me $500 in bail money for a "simple" bench warrant and the loss of all our family phone service. Truth is my tooth cracked last week and now my jaw hurts. I have insurance, but if I read the policy correctly this has minimal coverage which makes me wonder what I pay a premium for. Truth is I live paycheck to paycheck and a little over every payday. Truth is I've hit a low point of knowledge that roars like a lion that I never ever want to be here again. I am at a point that I see how long I've been fooling myself.

Sitting down tonight with paper, pencil, bank statement, pay stubs it looks like I can do this. On paper my financial life looks solid. it looks good. It looks like I can pay my way and put $50 a month in savings too. But it's not been happening. This can't continue. I cannot live this way any longer. I look at the numbers and I don't know what to do. I don't understand where the disconnect between paper and living occurs. I've been writing down every penny that goes out this last week. And then it all exploded in my face. I feel like life came at me in fists. The money boogeyman came at me with a rage at being found out. Yeah, I'm bruised. I sit licking my wounds wondering how to connect what I see on paper to how I actually live. The dots have to connect. There is no other choice.

Isn't it telling that the week I felt I had made a determination to truly get a handle on my financial life it just imploded. The house of cards fell. My determination is rising. I'm mad. I'm mad at myself. I did nothing wrong. I did everything wrong. There has to got be a connect. I have got to find the connection between what I see on paper and how I live my life. Truth hurts. Tracking only goes so far. Changes have to happen.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Where I work I get a lot of questions, "Are you single?" "Are your married?" and these guys really want to know. I'm pretty good at side stepping the question at this point. None of their business. It's not a dating club, believe me. Yet it surprises me that men ask that question with no compunction, with no embarrassment, just part of their genetic make up. It's amazing to me. I could never ask a man I find interesting, or just plain handsome if he were in a relationship. It's just not in my genetic make up.

So, this last weekend when I came across a gentlemen that looked as though he had hooked his sleeve on a fence near the Farmer's Market. He appeared to be trying to get loose. I asked, "Are you attached?" Wouldn't you know it he answered, "Yes, my wife is just around the corner."


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Down to one car

What an eventful week...not all good, not all bad. Yes, as the title says we three drivers with three jobs are down to one car. Mine bit the dust on Monday. It was only $124 to tow it home. I was expecting the $300 range, so I'm allowed to say "only". My mother was visiting this week. Yes, she was in the truck when it decided to spew oil onto the windshield. I do remember remarking on how I didn't see anyone toss a cup of coffee out the window on the freeway just then. Mom remarked back that she didn't see anyone do that either. That's when I noticed my oil gauge peg lounging, resting, napping at the bottom of the dial. Big sigh here. Like I said, I picked the truck up, got it home, and I'm dusting it off to ride again.

Thank god for friends. Have I mentioned lately how much I have come to truly appreciate my friends? And not just times like now. I mean to tell you we have watched plenty of football games together and eaten our share of nachos for the year together along with that. What surprises me is how friends rally around when the going gets tough. It's this friend that talked me through possible scenarios for my truck drama, who then stopped over that Monday night after work to look under the hood. He popped back in yesterday to watch under the hood while I cranked the car up to see which hose is spewing oil. His wife borrowed me a car to get my mother back to the airport on Friday morning before work. I am blessed.

So now we are down to one car. Thing One is working a second job. Thing Two is picking up extra shifts as fast as they become available and I am riding my beloved bus with new and different connections to get where I'm going. Grocery shopping is difficult. It is a timed event to shop and get the car home in time for someone to go to work.

Yesterday I started the "Log". What I mean to say is I started a small notebook to record every nickel, dime and penny I spend. I'm going to need a vehicle sooner rather than later. I had hoped to change my homestead, find a house with some sunshine. It seems I should make a vehicle my priority. Either way, to dispel the Money Boogeyman I will be watching him to see where he hides, where he rears his ugly face, what treasures he drags away kicking and screaming this time - rather than just letting him have the shadows I'm installing an halogen light fixture to see what needs to be rearranged so he has less access to my money. We'll see what comes of this. Hopefully a car, or a home, or both.

Other stuff happened this week that were awkward, uncomfortable and some downright frightening. Deja Vu moments left me worried about future scenarios. It's an uncomfortable time. It's life. I'm surrounded by love, and that helps. That helps a lot.

Oh, Thing Two will only be here for another three weeks or so....big sigh...Life happens. What an adventure.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

House of Sunshine

Life has overtaken me. There's nothing to report, but I'll write anyway.

Bus rides have been interesting. Seattle Sound Transit or Community Transit or one of those has purchased a small fleet of double decker buses. They look kind of scary to me. I don't like that they are so tall and imposing. I find myself wondering if they will tip over in high winds or if everyone sits on one side on the top deck. I ended up riding one this last week. Great windows. Very quiet upstairs too. They still make me nervous. Double decker buses and the back end of the articulted buses make me nervous.

Monday someone let spill a can of beer on the bus. That was intresting. Of course, no open containers are allowed on the bus in the first place, covered coffee excepted (this is Seattle). The bus reeked of beer. The small rivers of brew flowed along the floor to a woman's grocery sacks. I called out for her to pick them up before the beer got that far. The fella behind me got off the bus in a hurry at the next stop. When I left the bus several stops later I saw the seat was wet as well.

I dunno...the neighbor just finished mowing the yard here at my little palace. I've been looking for a new home. Something that might have a little light. My apartment faces north and I get no direct sun at any time of year here. Rent is heading back up in the burg so no telling what I can really afford. Now that I own this job I actually make less take home pay than I did as a contractor. The kids have been upping my phone bill, and my electric bill, and my car insurance and well, I'm not sure I can really afford where I'm at right now even. I used to stress over this stuff. It would really pull me down into the dumps. On a lark, I applied for part-time work at a retail shop nearby. It'd be a good stop-gap for a bit. I just don't want to get suckered in to holding two jobs for more than a four months or so. Seasonal is how I think on it today. We'll see if they call. Next year I can change some deductions and in two and a half years or so all my debts will be paid in full. That's kind of exciting for me. Money is a very fluid comodity. Sometimes the pool is full, sometimes it aint. I'm glad I have the things I have. I'm glad I've done the things I've done. It's all good. That house with sunshine isn't that far away.