Wednesday, May 29, 2013

It May Help

I feel like for the last year or so, I've signed a petition every day.  Maybe I'm geting cranky in my old age, but when it comes to stuff that matters to me and there's a petition, I like to add my name to it.  So even if it makes a small difference, I encourage everyone to sign the petition asking the Senate to support Elizabeth Warren's Student Loan Fairness Act.  This is obviously very personal for me, and I know it is for many of my readers as well.  I don't want a handout-- these loans are my responsibility, but I just want to be able to actually pay them back!

Currently, three of my biggest loans have an interest rate of 6.5%, which means that even paying far more than the minimum every month, they barely reduce in amount.  My savings account has an interest rate of .75%.  It's a hamster wheel!!

Anyway, the petitition is here, and it explains more about what the bill would do, but here's the crux of it:

The underlying message of Senator Warren's legislation is powerful and to the point. We bailed out the big banks. Why then deny students who weren't responsible for wrecking our economy the same deal we give the banks? Students shouldn't be forced to pay interest rates almost nine times higher than the biggest banks get at the discount window at the Federal Reserve.3

Since 1999, the average student loan debt has increased by 511%.4 That's a five-fold increase in just 13 years! Student loans have now become "the 21st century version of indentured servitude."5 With unemployment still unacceptably high and millions of recent college graduates out of work or underemployed, the last thing we should be doing is making matters worse by letting their interest rate double, adding further financial stress on students and their families.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Blogathon Round Three!

I just got an email the other day telling me that June is Blogathon month!  Ack!  But that's actually a bit awesome as well.  June will be my first month in the "Year of Living Singly", which is also the year that I finally want to knuckle down and do a lot of writing.  Yes, it sounds cliche, but it's time to finish that novel!  Maybe this will even be the year that I finally do NANOWRIMO, so the best way to kick it off is clearly by doing the blogathon again.

Last year, I didn't quite make it, I missed it by like two days, but in 2011 I was successful!  We shall see what happens this year.

Anyone else who would like to participate can register here:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Which Costs More!?

My rent is increasing.

Of course it is, I'm living alone for the first time in four years.  Thankfully, I now have a grownup job, which means that I can afford to pay a little more.  I'm also not as picky about climate control, I eat cheaper, and I plan to take this year of living singly as a great way to get back on track with my writing, which is the cheapest hobby there is.

To take a bit of the sting and sticker shock out of knowing that I'm paying a whole apartment's worth of rent myself, I've devised a game called: Which costs more!?  I will use this as a tool to remind myself, that really, honestly and truly, I'm not going to wake up broke in six months.

Yes, my rent will cost more because it will be paid for entirely by me rather than split by the two of us, that's a given.  But, rent for my new apartment is cheaper than the place we're currently in, cheaper than lots of places I looked at, cheaper than cheap property in Turkey and cheaper than buying a house.

Internet will cost me more because currently BF pays for it.  I'm hoping that my new downstairs neighbors and I might be able to share wireless, but I have to meet them first.

My new place has gas heat and new, well-sealed windows, and I am not getting an air conditioner (which I may regret).  I don't mind being a little cool in the winter and a little warm in the summer, so hopefully I can keep the climate control costs down.  Plus, I'm on the third floor, which should mean I get a piece of the heat action from the floors below me, and when the summer becomes unbearable, I'll go to the movies and/or take a cold bath for hours and hours.

I eat significantly less than BF, and I eat a lot cheaper (lentils are awesome!).  I'm keeping the deep freeze, so I can continue to do batch cooking and hopefully keep food costs down.  Presently, we're spending almost $400/month on groceries; I want to get that down to $200 or lower, and do more 'shop the pantry' months.

I need to cut back on drinking anyway, and we tend to drink more when we're together.  Plus, I have low standards when it comes to quality, and low standards are cheap!

Household Misc:
This should be a bit cheaper for me as well.  I'm out of the house already 40 hours a week or more, and I'll just do what I always do: Use up every last little bit of everything, use more rags vs paper towels, occasionally take the ends of the toilet paper at work.  It's a lot easier to be crazy fastidious when you live alone, because it seems less crazy.

One thing I am looking forward to is an experiment in minimalism.  The plan is to just not have any more than I need, and to not spend on a bunch of new things to fill my space.  I may need to acquire some small furniture pieces, or a rug, but for the most part, I have everything I need, and that's a nice, solid feeling.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I Hate Moving

I moved around a lot when I was a kid.  If I'm remembering correctly, We moved when I was 1, 3, 5, 6, 12, 13--and then when I moved out to go to college, I hopped around a couple more times eventually moving to Rhode Island and moving twice within Providence.  Now I'm fixing to move into Providence apartment number three, and all I can do is think that I hate everything I own and can't bear the thought of packing and carrying it--even though I've had tons of offers of help from friends!

As much as I like to say I'm a minimalist (or have minimalist leanings), I have to accept the fact that I just have a lot of stuff and I don't even know where to begin.  I've done the thing where I boxed up all of my books and felt a tremendous feeling of satisfaction--for about a day, and now I don't know what else to do.

I've been going through my things, giving away DVDs, selling things, piling stuff in my trunk for dropoff at the thrift store, but my apartment is still mostly unpacked.  I reserved a truck for the large furniture items (, I changed over my gas and electric, I'm eating up the food in the house, and freecycling things that are useful but that I don't use. But how do I actually pack the things that I use frequently?

I'm still living in my current place until the end of the month, and the moving day for the big items is the 2nd--though hopefully I can start bringing over carloads on the 1st.

Is anyone out there a super packer/mover who can give me some tips?  I have a tendency to just shut down mentally when faced with such an overwhelming and arduous task.  I just stare at the mess and tell myself that I'll deal with it later, then I complain to a co-worker who moved recently and she says "I started packing six months before I moved."  Cue the panic.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A More Zen Approach

I'm a pretty mellow person, at least, that's how I present myself to other people.  While I don't get caught up in a lot of time and energy consuming nonsense or personal drama, I do tend to get fixated on certain things--especially money things.  I've worked since I was 15, and I've worried about money since I was, I don't know, 8?  I think the first time I touched money I became acutely aware of the fact that all I could really do with it was spend it and then have none.

Since starting the job that I've now been at for about a year and a half, I've been lucky enough (after figuring out my budget) to sock away a decent amount of money--at least I've rebuilt my emergency fund from when I was unemployed.  I've also been able to pay a decent amount on my student loans and make a little bit of progress.  Certainly it's not as much progress as I'd like, but that's where my new zen approach comes in.

I've been obsessing--about money, work, everything to the point where it was really starting to make everything shitty.  I've had a lot of work drama in the last few months, none of it my fault, but despite my best efforts, I really let it get to me.  Add to that the regular stress of money, and the fact that money seemed like something more under my control, and I became quite unpleasant.

The problem is, even though you have a plan on paper, real life doesn't always work out exactly as you plan, and then that adds yet another layer of stress because failing to meet a goal is stressful.

So I've decided I'm all done with that.

I will no longer:
  • Mentally take my work home with me, because they don't pay me enough to do that, and I'm not important enough to have that level of stress.
  • Take responsibility for things that are not my responsibility.
  • Try to pay as much as possible on my student loans and obsessively check my balance five times a day.  I'm paying a set amount each month, and no more.
  • Say no to fun things because I need to max out my Roth IRA.
  • Obsessively schedule workouts so I'm too tired to do anything but run and recover.
I will continue to:
  • Pick up extra work shifts
  • Use coupons occasionally
  • Seek out free things
  •  Put money into savings and IRA and watch my balances grow, but not freak out when it happens gradually
  • Ride my bike to work, the store and the farmer's market
I will finally:
  • Spend more time writing
  • Hem that stupid dress that's been sitting on my desk for months
  • Keep a neat and organized house
  • Stop accumulating STUFF
It's actually pretty relaxing to just stop trying to control everything.  I wasn't being successful at it anyway, so really, just saying hands off is kind of nice.  I'm much happier when I'm not making myself miserable, which I really should have figured out a while ago.  It seems so simple.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Buy Local!

Remember a while back when I posted about how buying local is better?  Well, because of that, I was sent this really cool infographic (LOVE infographics) that further drives the point home.  Check it out!

Click to Enlarge Image

CustomMade Buying Local Infographic

Why Buying Local is Worth Every Cent Infographic by CustomMade

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Television Question

Free tv!
It's a strange source of pride for me that I've never actually bought a tv.  I've also found, that when you tell people you don't have a tv and aren't willing to buy one, everyone offers you one to the point of being a bit aggressive.

The first time I needed a tv was the first time I lived alone--sophomore year of college.  My grandmother died that year, and I inherited her very nice television, which I then used for the next five years until I moved to Rhode Island.

When I told people I was moving to Rhode Island with only what fit in my car, and I was selling Grandma's tv, people were appalled.  I got at least two offers of tvs "so small it won't even take up that much room", and finally my new landlady in Rhode Island, whom I hadn't even met at the time, gave me a rather nice tv to use for the duration of my tenancy.  After that, I moved in with BF, who had a tv, and a couple years ago, he upgraded to a nice flatscreen.

Now, I'm in the situation where I'm going to be living by myself for a year, and I'd like a tv, but the nature of my tv watching has changed.  Presently, I can watch tv on my laptop.  That works fine when I'm just half watching something, or for the treadmill, but then I can't really also use my computer.  I could certainly get a nice tube tv off of freecycle for no money at all, but more than half of the tv/movies I watch are streaming from netflix or Virgin Media TV, so I would need a tv that plugs into my laptop, or some kind of streaming device like a Roku.  Plus, there's watching movies with friends, which I wouldn't want to do on my puny laptop.  What's the point of living alone if you can't have slumber parties!?!

So I really don't know what the best solution is.  I don't want to spend a lot of money since this is temporary, but I also don't want to have a lot of hassle associated with a leisure activity.  Anyone have any suggestions for me?  Is there something I missed?