Monday, May 04, 2009

Money Monday: May 4, 2009

We have now been without a traditional paycheck around here for seven months. It’s going…um…welllllll…

In some ways, it’s going absolutely no-question most excellently well. Most new businesses struggle for the first year or three to break even, with their owners relying on things like partners and savings to get them through the awkward periods…we jumped in head-first with no savings and no financial partners and have managed to keep the lights on, food on the table and our creditors fed.

Can’t call that a failure.

But, at the same time, we haven’t been able to put a dime aside for future problems and in fact have had more net negative months than net positive ones – in other words, we’re consistently adding tads and touches and the occasional dollop to our outstanding debts.

Still, we’re blessed. I don’t generally like to step back and compare myself against other people, because that way lies madness…but comparatively speaking, we’re doing awfully well. We’re keeping the bills paid, we’re not fielding irritated calls from creditors, we’re not trying to figure out how to cheat Peter to pay Paul, we’re not in terrible peril.

Just moderate peril and mightily annoyed because dog-dang-it, we worked hard to avoid precisely this kind of situation and yet here we are!

My theme for this week has got to be stay the course. I’ll admit I’ve been feeling the burn a bit lately, suffering from what I call frugal fatigue. It’s easy for me to be frugal when the results are clear and obvious – when I’m watching our net worth go up or a savings goal fill up.

It’s a lot harder when my absolute best efforts result in…losing money slower. It gives me that “what’s the point?!” feeling. Why am I working so hard, if all I get is more debt and more disaster and more GAH!?

Why not just…do like “everybody else” and, say, replace my stupid old half-busted Dyson with a brand new one? What the hell, it’s only another $400 on the funeral pyre! Why not just take the kids on a cruise this summer, or get myself a new laptop, or whatever other fool thing just flitted into my brain?

Might as well use the credit while I’ve got it, what with the issuers slashing rates all the damned time whether you’re a “good” customer or not…can’t win anyway, might as well make myself a winner at losing…

It’s a weird place for me to be. I’m generally one of those hopeless optimist types, which makes this kind of fatalistic, negative attitude really odd for me. Feels a lot like wearing somebody else’s glasses, you know?

I’ve just got to remember that sometimes, losing money slower actually is winning. It is better to keep the losses to $800 rather than just let go and who cares and run that deficit up to $8,000.

Eventually, this storm is going to end. They always do. When this one runs its course, our choices now will determine where we start the next leg of the race…buried to our necks in bad choices and trying to figure out how to dig out when our hands are underground, or merely up to our knees (or hips…I think we’re about at the hips right now…), able to yank ourselves out and start sprinting ahead quickly.

Speaking of keeping the old chin up and positive attitude thing, during the all-too-many moments when I’m between programming projects, I’m having a blast playing with yarn working diligently toward having a more robust Etsy presence.

Sure, it’s not going to replace a day job income anytime soon…but every little bit helps. And it makes me feel like I’m doing something, when all my usual courses of doing something have come to a flat-out stall thanks to phrases like, “We’ve decided to go a different direction,” or “We feel that you are overqualified for our present needs” or “Is there any way you could lower your rate to, say, $6.75 an hour?”

(Or better yet, pay us something to allow you to do the work? k-thx…!) (Swear, sometimes it feels exactly like that…the client wants you to cut your rate further and further and further until you damn near are paying them to do the work, and STILL they want to fritch and fratch about every nickel and dime…)

Also, it is fun. Playing with fiber and color beats sulking on the couch watching daytime television {shudder} any day…wait’ll you see some of the ones I did today (hint: wear sunglasses)…but I’ll have to tell you the story too AND show you, so after they’ve finished setting, soaking, rinsing and drying I totally owe you a post about them…


Science PhD Mom said...

You know, keeping from sinking up to your nose in the quicksand is winning, my friend. You just hang in there spreading out your weight until a lifeline (read: lifeblood job) gets tossed your way or your hubby's way. The small things make a hell of a big difference. Chin up and keep chipping!

Steph B said...

Keep fighting! Seriously, you really motivate *me* to be a better money manager. It helps a lot.

As for your Etsy store...well, I sure hope it helps you, but I can tell you right now that it isn't going to help me any! LOL That orange skein is going to get petted to death before it ever sees the needles. You do good work!

SuperM said...

Wanted to de-lurk to say thanks for today's post (and so many others). I jumped off the deep end into the self-employed waters almost a month ago and somehow thought it would be easy. It's not, so thanks for helping remind me that it's not and not to be so hard on myself.

Jeanne said...

Kudos on the good choices. My daughter just made me very proud (more proud than usual) by choosing the more affordable college over the dream college because she couldn't deal with the debt she would end up with at the dream school. Yes, the educational level is the same, just one or two lifestyle differences that she decided were not worth the extra $9500 per year. Maybe that's the light at the end of your particular tunnel, that your kids are watching and will make responsible decisions as they grow up.

Yarnhog said...

My husband got laid off a year and a half ago. We've been able to keep our heads above water, and I'm grateful every day that we've never missed a mortgage payment or failed to make a minimum on anything. Although business may not be growing by leaps and bounds, lack of utter failure is indeed success. (And in any case, as I tell my kids, you haven't really failed until you've quit trying.)

PipneyJane said...

As everyone else says - you're doing a stirling job, lighting the way for the rest of us to follow. Remember sometimes just surviving is winning too.

What's wrong with the Dyson? Is it something duct-tape can fix? Or maybe a spare part?

- Pam