Monday, February 08, 2010

Money Monday: February 8, 2010

We hear a lot about consumer confidence these days, don’t we? Blah blah signs of recovery but consumer confidence remains etc. etc. etc.

Personally, I kind of feel we had a little too much consumer confidence these last few years. We were so confident that 1 + 1 = 10,000 that we were willing to spend money we didn’t have for things we didn’t need (but wanted oh-so-badly) on the theory that it would all come out in the wash, somehow.

Of course it’s perfectly OK to charge a $10,000 annual vacation, darling! Because Chase gave us a line increase, which is exactly the same as ACTUALLY HAVING MONEY, WHOOPIE!

I’ll be honest, I have trouble actually blaming people for that kind of stuff. Oh sure, we “should” have known better, yadda yadda yadda. But you know what? When “everybody” is doing something – you feel like a right jackass if you don’t do it, too.

Even if what they’re doing is leaping over cliffs to their deaths on jagged rocks below. C’mon, it’ll be GREAT! Uh…OK…don’t want to be the odd man out, here…wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee{SPLAT!}

Still, I like to think we can also learn from painful experience – thus I am rather pleasantly surprised to learn that we consumers are still lacking that overweening exuberance that led us to this place where we feel up to our eyebrows in debt is a natural way to exist; and that our question is not whether or not we can afford the item, but the payments on it; and that it is perfectly OK to be unable to save a dime of our current earnings, as long as we have an awesome! lifestyle right now.

Money is, push come to shove, a numbers game. It is math. Math has certain rules that don’t bend a whole lot, no matter how much you’d like them to do so. If you have $500, and spend $1,000, you’re going to have a problem.

Math is mean like that.

Now, the reason I have this particular bit between my teeth right now is that I have recently received a surge of consumer confidence.

Firstly, I have Three!Hundred!Seventy!Five!Dollars! projected to be left over at the end of the month.

You know, as long as some damned thing or other doesn’t break, come due, get sick or otherwise cost me money. {spit-spit, touch wood, do hoo-doo dance of evil averting}

It’s been a long time since I paid all the bills at the beginning of the month and wasn’t chewing my nails to the quick hoping everything worked out and I’d actually have the money in there when the creditors tried to collect it.

It’s heady stuff.

Furthermore, I’m starting to get the impression that I may be staying around my department a while. One of the major downsides of contracting is the uncertainty – I’m not an employee of the department, so if things go south for any reason I can be cut right out of the budget without a second thought, explanation or advanced notice.

I’ll be blunt: I’ve been awfully worried about how much time off I’ve had to take. Holidays, daycare closed, sick days, it seems like I’m always having to send out a ‘sorry, can’t come in today’ email. And because both of us are Mega Commuting, we both are coming in on the late side, and leaving on the early side. I’m frequently turning in only five or six hours actually physically in the office, with the remainder put in on the train or from home in the evenings after the kids are in bed.

Do I get my work done? Damn straight. I’m too prideful a woman not to – but, what about my face time? What do people perceive, when it comes to me? (Because it is, of course, all about me) (ahem…ya, not really but in my little version of reality, I am the Center Of It All)

So I’ve been nervous. I keep fearing that after this next big data push (this month, no less), they’re going to show me the door. Been swell, but we need somebody who, you know, SHOWS UP. Preferably with no kids. OKAY! So! There’s the door, here’s your hat, what’s your hurry, don’t let that sucker bang your backside on your way…

Last week, I got some indications that far from being shown the door, I’m being expected to remember how we did things now next November…and my building and network access was extended until February 2011.

Neither of which is exactly a promise, but it’s promising and thus I suddenly feel that perhaps I could just go ahead and buy that new microwave I’ve been lusting after, or we could do that little playroom update we had in mind, or, well, that’s a list that just never ends.

I’m starting to feel as though my paycheck is a sure thing – I’ve got eggs, and I’m absolutely convinced they will become chickens. A whole flock of them. BIG flock of them. Forty-two eggs, forty-two chickens, that’s right…

This is, of course, exactly the sort of thing that gets one in trouble.

Again…and again…and…sigh…again…

BUT! We are homo sapiens! With the unique ability to learn from past experience!

…and not do the same stupid thing more than one or two (dozen) times, even if it feels kinda good at the time…

Confidence is a wonderful thing. Over-confidence, on the other hand, is second only to pride in going before a fall.

Knowing this (ahem), I shall go forth and try to contain my newfound confidence, consumer and otherwise, and remember that I have been given a gift that is rare and precious right now. It can do wonderful things for us, and a wide variety of them, too.

It can give us the financial stability we say we want most; or, it can go toward an endless parade of nice new stuff, which will wear out and become just as shabby as the formerly-nice stuff it replaces; whereas in my humble experience, the feeling of being able to live comfortably below a single-paycheck means stays pretty fresh, the entire time you own it.

And I’m pretty darned confident about our chances to get that.

As long as I can resist getting too confident about microwaves and flat screens…


PipneyJane said...

This is your microwave speaking: on no account do you need to replace me. I have given you many years of loyal service and promise to continue to do so.

(A bit of a steam clean would be nice. How about zapping a dish of vinegar water in me for 5 minutes?)

Mother of Chaos said...

heh...welllllllll, the microwave is actually not working particularly well. It's gotten kind of hit-or-miss with heating. And the paint is chipping off the inside, which is now rusting. And I keep thinking the rust is food and scrubbing at it - which removes more PAINT, which leads to more RUST, which takes us back to the scrubbing thing. I suspect any second now, it is going to turn into a big old hunk of dead metal. Probably when least convenient. BUT, at least when it does, I'll finally get one big enough to put a casserole dish in. 8^D

Rena said...

stay smart and enjoy the lack of fear. I love knowing I can actually pay my bills EVERY month.

knitinsage said...

they're lucky to have you! i'm just sorry you have to work on the train instead of knit ;-)

JustGail said...

well done on the bills paid and (so far) a bit left over. It is a nice feeling.

As far as the job, yes - you are contract, and traditionally, you'd be one of the first to go. But tradition seems to have gone out the window. Look at it from the company's view - if you are getting all your work done in 5-6 hours a day (no benefits I assume), why would they let you go and keep someone who's getting paid for 8 hours a day and benefits. There are places that have let the full-time employees who are "not living up to potential" go, and keeping a lot of the contract people. Not saying either way is "right".

And now to take a tiny bit of housework off your schedule - stop scrubbing the microwave spot. PipneyJane has the key - although if it's rust, I might stick with plain water and dry really well. I wonder if the acid in the vinegar might accelerate the rusting?