Saturday, June 02, 2007

Dollars and Sense

I've got an addiction.

Damn, girl, another one?

Yeah, I know. Ridiculous isn't it?

I don't know if I was asking about it here or somewhere verbally but I wanted to find a way to practice Texas Hold 'Em against virtual players with fake money before I branch out in either the direction of real folk or real cash and I wanted it to cost $20 or less. Crash had a game on his iPod and I'd failed to ask for a recommendation. I found it on iTunes (but of course you did) and it fell into the price range ($4.99, actually) so finally after, honestly, like a month of waffling I decided I was allowed buy it.

Can't stop playing.

Was late leaving the house this morning because of it, had to force myself to eat then feed and medicate the pets before I started playing again tonight. I'm not a bad player but I'm probably a little inconsistent. I'm also quite the Wreckless Erica with fake cashola, it turns out. Which is ironic considering what a tightwad I am in real life. Truly, a month to justify a $5 pleasure purchase, I'm not even kidding.

I take home around $1600 every 2 weeks. My health insurance is paid for out of that and that's almost $800 a month so it's not as pretty as it looks but it's comfy. My full roster of monthly expenses runs, I think, around $2800 a month. So I'm not right on the edge, certainly. I have a savings account in the low 5 figures. I add $50 a month to that - $25 each pay period. I have some mutual funds and I automatically invest $100 in those once a month. My 2 IRAs are from employers and are entirely employer funded right now.

My financial goals are...murky. Mostly I'm motivated by never ever wanting to have to spread my bills out by due date and figure out which I can manage to pay and if I have time to put off others until the next pay check. I simply never want to have that much stress and planning going into mathly matters ever again in my life. I did it for a very long time and I hated every second of it and it made me a shitty customer to boot because I'd just not open my mail for a couple of months because I couldn't stand the process and the sense of panic and failure it gave me. Christmas 2006 was the first Christmas since I've had my savings account that I haven't transferred money out of savings to cover the expenses of the holiday. Chances are I could have fudged and strained and charged and come out even but I wanted to pay for shit outright and not have to worry every time I went to the ATM that I'd be out of cash. I was inordinately pleased with myself for getting through the holidays without the transfer this year.

I made it a whole 5 months until I had to transfer. I did it today. I might be able to make it the next 2 weeks but I'm not totally sure.

Oh, did I mention that I hide money in my apartment, too? I keep an emergency stash of between $200 and $1200 hidden around the place (Hello, Stalkers!) in case of low cash flow on a night when I want to order in or I don't have time to go to the cash machine or if I have to move or whatnot. Other than the take out food I don't know that I've ever splurged on an actual purchase from that stash. I have used it for trip cash. I increase it by putting $20-$40 in every time I go to the ATM. Oh my god, the more I tell you how I handle money the more I realize what an uncontrollable nutbag I am financially. I hide money people. If I were hiding liquor like this you'd be calling Bill W. on me right now.

I feel a little failury about having to transfer out of savings. It's really complicated. My financial advisor is my uncle and last time we checked in he said, "Why are you keeping so much money in savings?" I have a great savings account (ING Direct, I've done the research, it really is the best return on this kind of account) but even the greatest savings account isn't making the same kind of return that other types of investments should. But I was waiting until I felt like I had "enough" money in savings.

What's enough?

Erm...until I feel comfortable?

What would make you feel comfortable?

Uh.....I don't know. Is there an amount that would mean I could quit my day job and do the job I love full time?

I was feeling OK about the amount that was in there lately, though. I was seriously contemplating buying a nice camera. I was able to pay for the recording I did and the DVD and the computer upgrades and even the new iPod (contingent on the old one crapping out) out of my checking account and not dip into the savings (Huh, talking over all the shit I've purchased over the last year I'm starting to understand why I've had to dip into the savings now). I was doing the math and I was almost feeling confident about quitting my job or asking to reduce my hours or something. Then I started to look at the checking account last week and it was seeming tight. Then I realized that I'd automatically hand my debit card over at the vet on Monday and I wasn't sure if there'd be enough money in there to cover the procedure so I transferred and felt like, somehow, I'd failed. Even though that doesn't make sense as I type it. Each of the aforementioned projects were ones that I took on by telling myself, "If I have to dip into savings this is a good reason for it, so I'm going to go ahead and do this." I just happened to make it work without going in. So maybe I'm doing a lot better than I think.

I know that the starving children in Armenia/China/Schenectady would beg to differ but feline cardiac ultrasound is also a good enough reason to dip into the pot, and that's why I made the transfer today. Back in the days when I was making $300 on a good week and it was all temp so a day off was a day unpaid I had to hospitalize the pooch for days and on more than one occasion and medicate her for weeks. I broke her out of the emergency vet by handing over a credit card to charge $1500 and, while I broke out in a cold sweat, I didn't regret it even for a second.

Wow, OK, this post was supposed to go in an advice seeking direction but I think I've talked myself into a good place about the money movements. (All except for the part where I fear that anyone I've ever said, "I'm not sure I can afford it" to is going to be sitting at their computer reading this and going, "Bitch!" because I didn't buy, donate or travel while thinking I couldn't afford it because to them it seems like I should be able to afford it. My neuroses are varied and deep, enjoy! Also, please forgive me for whatever I didn't do. I'm working on it, I promise.)

If I were going to ask advice it'd be, "Would you raise on a Queen, Jack off suit?"

OK, while I would like to know your feelings on that it wouldn't be the first money advice I'd ask for. I'd ask for a little direction with the savings account. As I've said, my goals are smudgy. I am afraid to leave my job because I'm afraid of being in that poor place again, of losing my apartment (and thereby letting down the relatives that lent me the money blah blah blah emotional baggage) of failing in a lot of ways. But, ultimately, I don't want to be doing this job. I can do it but I shouldn't have to. Eh, everybody does shit they don't want to do, I'm the first person to remind people of that, but if there's a way for me to do something I love I really want to do that. I think I can do more good in the world doing that. What's the right amount of financial investment in that pursuit, though?

There's my question. How do I direct my money toward creating a "support job" that I love? How much money is too little to spend on that goal? How much is too much? How much should I make at this loved career before I should feel comfortable leaving the job I have now? (Keeping in mind that I'll probably get some far less costly and therefore less convenient health care when I'm paying for it out of my own career.)

Anyway, other random financial facts that I feel I should disclose: I'm paying at least $50 extra a month on my mortgage. Mortgage is $750 a month. There's also an amount paid to the co-op company for maintenance that's between $550 and $625 a month. It costs $76 a month to get an unlimited metrocard for public transport in the city right now. I usually bring all or part of my lunch to work. I'm buying a lot of fruits and vegetables with my new eating style, which is somewhat expensive. I buy ridiculously expensive food for my pets, there is no component of their diet that you can get at a supermarket. I usually put half of my tax return and half of my Christmas bonus money into savings. I don't think I did that with either one this year, though, I cannot remember at all. My mortgage and one last payment of $320 to my mom are my only debts right now. Though I'll probably continue to pay my mom a similar amount per month to pay for her storage space until she can get moved out of that or she and I can come to an agreement about it. I got this 30 year mortgage when I was 33, I think I'll have paid it off early but I don't think it's going to be significant. For instance, if I pay it off before I turn 60 I'll be surprised.

OK, I'm done and I'm off to a fake living room in fake Cupertino, CA to play a real card game with fake folks for fake dough, 'cause thinking about real money issues is freaking me out.


  1. Anonymous10:35 PM

    Oi, achei teu blog pelo google tá bem interessante gostei desse post. Quando der dá uma passada pelo meu blog, é sobre camisetas personalizadas, mostra passo a passo como criar uma camiseta personalizada bem maneira. Até mais.

  2. Anonymous7:46 AM

    Yeah, what Rodrigo said. WTF?!

    Sigh. Now *I'M* a little freaked out. I can't offer you ANY advice on the cards - you should ask Mr. Chili, he spent a couple of months practicing poker ahead of Dudley's Vegas wedding in March - and I'm not sure I can offer you a whole lot of advice about the money stuff, either? I pay the bills, Mr. Chili does the investing (and, to be honest, damned near all the earning, too).

    Haven't you already DONE most of this work already, though? Haven't you established goals - long and short term - through your weekly phone calls? Haven't you started working on the foundations for doing the job that you love enough to support yourself doing it? Help me understand what it is you're really asking for, because I kinda got lost right around the talk of the savings account...

    Oh, and I TOTALLY stash money, too! Not nearly as much as you do - the most I have is about $150 or so at a time - but it's for exactly the same reasons you do; take out, emergency ice cream money, that sort of thing. I also know for sure that a LOT of people I know do it, too. It's not as pathological as you may think...

  3. Anonymous5:13 PM

    I don't stash money, and I know I SHOULD - I mean when the next disaster hits NY, what if I have to evacuate and let's say all the ATMs go down for some reason ... lots of ifs, but...
    You need to earn enough from your dream job that you can pay your expenses, including decent healthcare. Must have healthcare! Or you can lose close to everything in this backward country of ours!

  4. There's a book you should read called Your Money Or Your Life. It was very helpful to me. I loaned it out already or I'd give you my copy.

    Look at you with mad poker skillz.

  5. Cowboy Tim, my fuck buddy is a gambler too.
    He has a gambling account.
    Playing live apparently is a the way to go.
    He has a regular game.
    Not to mention a regular habit at the Native American Casinos.

    Its all good. Its his thing.

    I must say... good on you for your savings and stash and all that.
    If I have quarters right now I get excited.
    Having a plan... and all that. Totally money green with envy.

    I really mean that.
    Raising two dogs and a Noodle leave me devestated every month.
    My plan for the future is to go to Italy after Noodle graduates and harvest grapes and lay Italians.
    And I really mean that too.