Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Too much fun and excitement

And then we take a moment to look at 2007! Just how bad a year was 2007? Well, let’s see. We have lost $157,594.29 in net worth since this time last year, how does that sound?

Eh, it’s not actually as bad as it sounds. I mean, it is – but yet, it isn’t. We didn’t add $157,594.29 in new debt, for example. That would be bad. It’s actually a combination of using saved cash for the remodeling project, the minivan loan, a new loan to pay for the “SURPRISE!” $9,000 in the kids bathroom (which looks fabulous) (as it damn well should, for nine thousand unexpected dollars!)…and the single biggest line item, the real estate “sag” out here, which has shaved a solid $70,000 off the average home price in our neighborhood.

I feel so very, very sorry for our neighbors who bought just last year. Those of us who have been here five years or more, we’re still in the black. The newer folks? Not so much. A few are in a real pickle, like the folks who bought into the McMansions a couple miles up the road. Paid $1.2M, can’t sell it for $850,000 even with the furniture thrown in for good measure. Ouch.

I’m trying very hard not to think too much about All This right now. I have lots and lots of other fish to fry, right smack in the middle of the holiday season.

Naturally, because I am trying to just leave it alone, I can think of almost nothing else.

I’ve got so many thoughts and ideas and notions and ponderings going on inside my head that it’s a wonder I get any sleep at all.

Every time I start fussing with the budget, I find myself torn between two opposite ways of handling the whole mess.

I can take the easy (lazy) way, the way I’ve been handling things for the last few years. When something jumps up in front of me, I do what I have to do to deal with it…and then I go back to the autopilot. Autopilot saving, autopilot spending. As long as I’m not spending more than I’ve transferred into the checking account, full speed ahead!!

Or, I can try to sharpen my focus and stay the course and all those other gung-ho phrases, really knuckle down and stick with it and work to position ourselves for an early and active retirement. That path involves a lot of deferred gratification, which can be annoying. It involves thinking things through, even small things like new sheets for the bed or whether I can make do with my old tennis shoes for another month – after all, it isn’t raining right now, so holes in the soles aren’t THAT big a deal, right?

Or, I could even try a combination of the two; make it a challenge each year like the knitting from our stashes last year. From January through September, take the living below your means challenge and see how far I can get; then lighten up through the holidays, relax and be merry knowing that I’ve paid down $X on the mortgage, and added $Y to our portfolio.

To be honest, I’m rather charmed by that idea. It adds a layer of fun to what is, come right down to it, not fun at all.

Telling yourself, “No, you don’t need that” repeatedly gets old in a hurry, and when there is no End Date stamped on the whole deal it is downright onerous.

But to say, “OK, maybe we’ll get that…in October, when we’re off the Challenge…” is easier. It isn’t no, it’s not right now.

And isn’t it ironic that something like a cute t-shirt can seem more important than your financial independence? Or that you’d rather have a latte right now than retire ten years sooner?

If you held up two envelopes and said, “This one has a $25 gift certificate to Sears, and this one has three months worth of your salary! Which one do you want?”, most people would choose the salary, right?

But time and again, we will pass that envelope over for the purchase at Sears – because it isn’t that easy, or that direct, or that…right in front of us.

I honestly have no idea what I could accomplish in nine months. If I took from January 1 through September 30 and really challenged myself, what could I get done? Could I pay off that entire $9,000? Or even more?

I really don’t know.

Right now, I don’t even know if I’m going to find out.

Because I’m trying not to think about it until after the holidays.

Except for the part where I make sure at least some of the holiday spending includes stocking up the freezer and the pantry against nine months worth of full-body-contact-sport style living below your means…


PipneyJane said...

I love your LBYM stories, Tama. Just when I'm flagging, you come up with another boost in the arm. If you do decide to take the challenge, I'd be fascinated to read your budget (not the whole thing, just the "living" part) and the tactics you will be using.

- Pam (needs to work on the LBYM thing myself)

Rena said...

Ouch! I know it's imaginary money, but still, that's a lot of imaginary dollars not to be able to imagine about any more. My imaginary till has dropped quite a bit as well, so I guess I won't be taking that imaginary trip to Paris this year. Oh well.