Monday, November 29, 2010

The Workyear Begins

It's a Monday night, and I have it all to myself, as usual. B's out playing games and I'm practicing learning how to entertain myself. You'd think that by 25 a person would know him/herself well enough to do the things he/she likes. Nope, not here. For some reason, I have a hard time enjoying myself these days. I get discouraged easily, defeat plans with negative self-talk, and wonder at what I could be doing or be involved in that would be fulfilling. I am aware of all of this- the trick is to put an end to it. Chill out! Life is good.

Happily, last week I secured a part-time job that will allow me to keep my current one and have me working 40 hours a week. The company is a good deal further away (off 620), but traffic isn't so bad going that direction, and I am sort of excited about the work I'll be doing. 0 client contact, data and operations management, using Salesforce, Basecamp, and Excel to improve on processes and assist in the data entry and project creation aspect. I have some experience doing this, which is what helped me land the job, but in this position, I'll have a more autonomous and independent role. Is this my one true passion? Who knows. But I feel confident enough of my grasp of the software and their expectations that it will keep me pretty occupied. Plus, it gives me another chance to be more creative and reflective in my work, even if it not a "creative field." A good thing to practice in all aspects of life. This is so critical to personal happiness, imo. I start next Monday. In the meantime, I'm gonna bum around and savor my last sleep ins.
One thing that is always on my mind is finances. I can't help it- I worry over the large purchases (necessary or frivolous) and wonder how we could save more. Luckily, we have always been able to pay for emergency purchases, yet I know we could do so much better. Most financial experts say to aim for 6 months of expenses in your emergency fund; this year, due to lack of not much adjusting during my unemployment and kickstarting student loan payoffs, we've never had more than $1000. Naturally, this deeply bothers me. It's so difficult and time-consuming anticipating monthly bills, purchases, and setting aside the extra for savings. The main problem is that we think we have money in the bank (which we do), so we splurge on eating out or getting a new piece of furniture, when that money was saved for a future bill payment. So then we end up having to borrow from savings (really, ourselves), and that's how it stays low. This is hugely frustrating to me, because we don't spend loosely on small things, like most Americans might have used to. A latte here, a snack there, a soda later, a few dollars each day add up over time. We don't fall into that trap. While I am bordering on neurotic about money, B is the opposite. He takes it easy and finds it easy to forgive (himself and) us when we overspend. Psychologically, he is much better off. Yet I don't want to miss out on reaching big financial goals because we ate out too many times a week or kept buying stuff we didn't need our whole lives.
I've been flipping through my copy of Smart Couples Finish Rich. It's a pretty good primer for people (not just couples) interested in getting their finances off to a good start. Nothing in there that I don't already know, but it's good to remind myself to stay on track. One of the points was that as a couple, you need to get together and discuss your dreams and set common goals. I don't think we've really done this beyond occasionally talking about leaving Texas and moving to Sweden one day, which I've realized, will never happen unless we start doing something to make it happen. We also talk about shorter term goals, like visiting my cousin in New York, or taking a road trip out to West Texas, both of which are entirely doable. It takes money to travel and to fulfill some big dreams. I think we need to start putting aside money to make these trips, alongside building our emergency fund. This will take a great deal more discipline and a full-time job on my part to achieve. B, if you are reading this, let's get on it!! Part of the problem has been that I have the vague notion that we should be spending less money, but we have no specific alternate purpose for it.
One thing I have to watch out for is being too extreme. I have a tendency to be very black and white about things, taking frugality to the point of ignoring my wants. Likewise, B has the opposite tendency. I know this is common for many couples, and I really hope we can smooth out our philosophies out and one day make a shared one. Well I really started this post to write about a handful of updates, but I guess it took a turn to the moneysides. What else...
Snorri has been really lethargic these past 24 hours. He didn't move from the couch the entire 9 hours B spent there playing Fallout 3 (that's another topic). Usually he is pretty active in chasing Boyd around or playing with his toys. I decided to take him to the vet today and see what was up. I pushed him into the cat carrier and he yowled mournfully during transit, completely unresponsive to my reassurances. It was really disconcerting hearing him like that. Even though it wasn't walk-in hours, the clinic squeezed us in between appointments and after inspection, the vet declared that Snorri was physically fine. I wonder if something happened during the 3 days we were out of town for Thanksgiving. It's a mystery!

Here is a NYT article I read today about a 91 year old athlete who is super fit. Above is a photo of a similarly fit Japanese octagenarian, Mitsu Morita. The article investigates the link between rigorous exercise and a healthy, long life. All the more reason to take the time to develop a lifelong disciplined exercise regime.

Today I watched part of a debate (Youtube clip) between former British prime minister Tony Blair and author Christopher Hitchens on whether religion is a force of good or evil in the world. We watched a similar debate on the BBC last year, on the Catholic church in particular. In both cases, the audiences at the end voted that religion/Catholicism was not a force for good in the world. Very interesting turn of events from a generation that was largely brought up to be god-fearing. What is not debatable is that many crimes and stupidities have been committed in the name of religion. And that one does not have to be religious to love his neighbor. And it's easy to see politicians driven by their religious fanaticism ruining the landscape of American politics these days, which is truly unfortunate.


SuzyFormager said...

congrats on the new job! i've lately been pondering possibilities for creativity in roles that are not conventionally categorized as creative... i'm sure you will excel in your new post - hope it will be a pleasant challenge.

i think it can be a fine line between a healthy awareness of $ and being unhealthily worried about it. luckily, b and i usually see eye to eye on $ issues and i feel like we've struck a pretty good balance in terms of living within our means and spending/ saving responsibly. even so, i still have times when i cross that line in both directions. i used to go through our bank statements at the end of every month and analyze exactly where literally every penny was going and strategize how to do better the next month... but that takes a lot of time and i've figured out that there are some general strategies that do the most good and, for me, the other stuff is not worth worrying about. i think it's good advice to focus on dreams/ goals rather than just the amount of dough you've got socked away.

Fern said...

Thanks for the reassurance! I don't want to drive myself up a wall thinking about this stuff, and it's great to know that other couples we know manage it well.

erinhazel said...

interesting and relatable post