O Woe

I haven’t been  in a good blogging mood lately.  Things are changing, shifting, and like any good introverted Type-A, I feel the need to process things alone and quietly (fuss about, worry, make new plan, repeat) before I venture out into the outside world and make my declarations.

So.  We’ve got a bit of a mess on our hands lately in the USA.  And while my partner-in-crime C has moved on to her merry new job and such, I find myself in the process she just finished: looking for employment.  I am currently employed, of course, but due to circumstances that would immediately reveal where I work should I explain them, my job security is completely non-existant.  Less than a year from now, I will not have a job here.

Currently, I’m in the last stage of interviewing for a position that, to be honest, I’m very “meh” about.  There are several good points to the position . . . and several bad.  Biggest item in its favor?  It is a job that is not going away.  Sigh.  I hate interviewing, I hate the exhausting process of thinking and rethinking if I want a position, and I hate the nerves that go along with all of it because deep down I still, at 27 years old with two Master’s degrees, don’t really believe that I’m grown-up enough to have a real job yet.

It is times like these that make me wish we were back in the good old feudalist Medieval age.  Once established in a profession, it was yours for life.  Should you muck things up royally, you could move and start over (with no one being the wiser, sans Internet and other pesky devices), but for the most part, once you hung your shingle, you were good to go.**  Nowadays, one has to “climb the ladder” or deal with companies changing (and job titles changing), actually prove stated credentials, and network within an inch of one’s life.  It’s all very exhausting. 

Maybe things will collapse so much that we go back to feudalism.  I’d make a very good Lady of the Manor.  Should that not pan out, I’m good at several other things that would provide an excellent livelihood: I make a mean loaf of bread (people do need to eat), I cook very well, and I’m really good at cleaning.  I’m also good at fussing over people.  My proclivities for food and anxiety make me especially qualified to be a Jewish or Italian matriarch, despite not being technically Jewish, Italian, or a mother.  I think I could definitely give it the old college try.  Need someone to feed you and fuss over you?  Just let me know where to send my application.

**Of course I’m drastically over-simplifying a very long and complicated part of history, but just go with it.

Cost of Living

I’ve always prided myself on being one of those die-hard Michigan residents who says I’ll stick it out through tough times – thick and thin.  I don’t care if tons of home are in foreclosure!  I don’t care if I am living paycheck to paycheck!  It will get better!  I will stay when others go!

But I got a job offer in another state a couple weeks ago.  Now some of the main reasons I’m taking the job?  It’s near my boyfriend and it’s a unique job opportunity.  But the fact that I can rent a bigger place for $200 less a month, the price of gas is about 30 cents cheaper per gallon, and groceries are more affordable certainly doesn’t hurt.  I’ve calculated an annual savings of $3000-4000 a year just in savings from rent and life expenses alone.

I want to come back to my home state as soon as possible.  But wow…being able to start saving for retirement is such a nice thought.  I don’t think I can pass up long term financial stability just because of my sense of state pride.  It doesn’t make much sense (cents).

A tribute, of sorts

WWII Poster for Victory Gardens

WWII Poster for Victory Gardens

My great-great-Uncle passed away this last weekend. He was my great-grandmother’s brother, and a charming man. I had not seen him since I was a young child, but we all heard updates about the former World War II pilot still flying his plane into his 90s. He was quite a character, and he will be missed very much by his family.

Uncle Dick’s death provides a good segue into something I’ve been thinking about for a while now. The World War II veterans are, sadly, leaving us. Along with their generation goes an entire generation of people who know what it means to sacrifice for one’s country while it is at war. I look around, as our country’s troups fight what seems to be an impossibly long war, to see an economy collapsing because of greed, to see Hummers and SUVs barreling down the road, to see restaurants full and credit cards used to the max.

I realize this is an unpopular war. I realize that feelings toward the admnistration are not, shall we say, all warm and fuzzy. But irregardless of that, we have our young men and women fighting for their lives, for our lives, and for what they feel is the best course of action. We should be supporting them better than what we have been doing. Ignoring the far-away war and not changing our own behaviors as the country goes bankrupt fighting it is abhorent.

I realize I’m oversimplifying a bit. But I’m ok with that. Point is, back in the day, when Uncle Dick was flying over the battlefields of World War II, people back at home were scrimping and saving and reusing everything so that our country would be stronger in the end. Women knitted clothing for themselves and the soldiers. Home-grown food was canned–at home. Metal was scrupulously reused and rationed. People didn’t consume, consume, consume. That was not their way of life. And, partly due to their efforts, our country was strong after the war.

What are our soldiers coming home to now? A country that prefers to pretend they don’t exist. Households that wouldn’t know what to do with a mason jar and purchase everything that is shiny and new. Households that have consumed their way into the collapse of our economy (and yes, I know it’s largely a part of Wall Street policies, but Wall Street had to have people willing to buy its policies). It makes me very sad.

I’m a pacifist; I hate war. But I still think we need to start doing our part to support the people that are out there fighting it and support our country. Clearly our government is not going to strengthen us, we have to do it from the ground up. And that means adopting some of the behaviors that our grandmothers and great-grandmothers perfected: using less, going without, and being grateful for the small pleasures in life that such sacrifices do allow. Let’s get back to a more frugal, balanced way of life. Let’s get back to the things that once made this country stronger and respected.

In honor of Uncle Dick and his generation, I plan on canning some food this weekend, and I’m making all of my Christmas gifts this year. Small changes, but hopefully that will make some difference, not the least to my checking account. What can you do?

For richer or for poorer

I admit to being completely baffled by the number of divorces that occur due to couples not communicating well regarding money.  The way I see it, from date number one you both are entering a dialogue about money.  If you’re out to dinner, you communicate about who pays for what.  If the first date is a walk in the local park, you’re communicating about a low-cost lifestyle.  Even if you’re not having an explicit conversation about your views on money and everything that goes along with that, by your very actions you are communicating about finances.

Obviously, as time goes on in a relationship the need to have specific conversations about finances deepens.  This is so very important.  If you are not doing so in your relationship, and you think you have a future together, sit down with your partner immediately and start a dialogue.  What are their financial priorities?  Do they line up with yours?  If they do not, what is a valid compromise that satisfies both parties?

Having open communication about money, and keeping that line of communication open over the years, will solve many a problem before it even starts.  Take Spouse and I, for example.  We’ve been together seven years, married over three, and we’ve never once had an argument about money.  Read that again: not once.  We’ve purchased cars, a home, home improvements, student loans, and retirement accounts together–and never had a problem.

Is this to say we will never fight about money?  Of course not.  But–and this is the key–when we first started combining finances we agreed on our priorities, the basic structure of our finances, and we keep each other updated on a weekly basis (or more frequently, as needed).  Communication is key–and BOTH parties need to be involved, no matter who is in charge of managing the money.

Do it for yourself.  Do it for your relationship.  Tonight after dinner, grab your bank statements, a bottle of wine (if you so desire), and your partner.  Start out with some basics:

  • I’d like to take a look at our finances together and talk about our plans for the future.
  • Where is our money now?  What patterns do we see in our spending?  What would we like to change?
  • What are our goals for the next month?  The next year?  The next ten years?
  • What is our biggest financial priority?  How can we make that a reality?

And remember, this is an open discussion!  No blaming, no anger–just start from where you are now.  Don’t worry about the past; it’s in the past.  Focus on where you want to go, and how you both can make that happen.  And don’t be afraid.  Even the darkest nights have a dawn.

If your discussion causes alarm, there is help.  I recommend:
“Knee Deep in Debt:” A Guide from the Federal Trade Commission
Dave Ramsey’s Website I am not officially endorsing his products or services, but I do know he is very popular among the debt blogging community and a lot of people really value his advice.

The No-Credit-Needed Blog, one of the Money Network blogs, has some great ideas–as do all the blogs in the network.

Add your favorite financial management/debt blogs in the comments!

~K

WHAT? WE DO WHAT?

I will tell you what K did.  Because she is going above and beyond librarian duty.  A law student came from Africa with no home, no checking account, nothing but her stuff and a will to get a law degree.  The law school messed up, this lovely woman has no housing, K is taking her in.  Hmmm, if that isn’t a big heart, I don’t know what is.

Me, I’m working two library jobs.  It is my attempt to make more money.  I love my night job (ahem…not stripping…that’s what it sounds like, I know), but 13 hours on desk makes you pretty freaking squirrly.

So, K and I are a tad busy saving the world and making extra money.  We have not forgotten the blog, but we are busting butt right now.  Regularly scheduled programming will be back in just a bit.  Promise.

Peace out…   C

When to spend or save

I found this interesting article on MSN Money this morning…it talks about what purchases you should splurge on or not….

Fashionably Green

In my recent attempts to increase my savings, I’ve inadvertently become a part of the reduce, reuse, recycle campaign. Of course, I think it’s becoming fashionable to be “green”, but when you’re doing it out of a need and not just a trend, well, then it’s truly a lifestyle…one that you can’t help but stick with.

So I’ve been signing up for different listservs and groups and well, I have a problem – I’m not a hippie.

I know! I know! How awful of me. How incredibly insensitive – I’m labeling, demonstrating pre-conceived notions. Blah blah blah. But let me explain…

I recently signed up for a well known online listserv that focuses on anti-consumerism and the three Rs. Soon, my email box was awash with irrelevant conversation about smoking pot and why the 60s were the very best. It was too difficult to sift through the dozens of emails from people trying to out-hippie each other to get to the really good, helpful emails, so I stopped my membership.

Where’s the middle ground?

For instance, I like the general concept behind EcoStiletto and what used to be the GreenGirlGuide and stores like Gaiam – but I am not that trendy or that wealthy. (I find if I really like their ideas, I can find a lower cost, but very similar product). On the other hand, I still like to shave my legs and appreciate a nice Ann Taylor suit (purchased from Salvation Army). So I feel like I’m teetering on an odd edge in the world of green. I have a feeling that amongst all these trends, those of us of modest income who want to be eco / budget conscience will get a voice that represents us. In the meantime, I guess K and I will keep leaning on one another in a quest for being ‘fashionably green’ in a way that is realistic and sustainable.

-C