Monday, April 25, 2011

Money Monday: April 25, 2011

Whoa. Hang on a second, I need a dust rag…phew! Only two weeks, and just look at this place…!!!

It’s been an interesting couple weeks around here; frankly, the next few weeks are probably going to be equally psychotic. I had two rapid-fire Big Projects at work, and had a few nights of impressively bad insomnia, which sucked every last drop of spare energy out of me. I tend to operate on a pretty tight margin, energy-wise; when something tangles up my energy-pattern…it’s ugly.

But, all things run their course in time. I’ve started almost catching my stride again; I’m still kind of tired and out-of-sorts, but overall I feel like I’m probably going to make it through the coming days without either dropping dead, or ripping someone’s head off for doing something like, I dunno, dropping their Starburst wrappers on the train floor like they just don’t care. (FLAMING DEATH!!!!)

I had a very interesting development at work, which is that my manager put in a request for a special extension on my contract. These aren’t exactly unheard of, but they are not exactly common, either; they can be devilishly tricky to get signed off. When she told me she was going for it for me, and expressed great confidence that it would go through…man, the optimist in me was all, “Oh, awesome!!” and started planning for another year of All This – the paychecks, the madness, the crazy schedule, how to keep food on the table more or less reliably, and what would we do about the summertime childcare…

It has taken a great deal of effort for me to maintain a certain sangfroid on the subject. But then, I got an email from my contract management folks last week saying that they had been informed that the contract had been extended for another year – through the end of March 2012.

Well, hot dog. Looks like I get to stick around and keep on irritating helping my team for another year!

It’s awesome news on a few fronts. I mean, obviously, duh, I still get my paychecks. I won’t have any gaps while I go find something else, or have to deal with that whole dating job-hunting scene again for a while…the endless phone calls, driving around for interviews, trying to decide from that thirty minute window of chatting with a bunch of strangers if this is the kind of place I’m going to want to hang out for forty plus hours a week, every week, for however-many months…

A team like the one I have is hard to find; I really enjoy the work, the people, the projects, and the overall atmosphere.

So I’m really happy to be sticking around there for another year.

But I’ve also got some adjusting to do. Last year, I just went hell bent for election toward a single-minded goal – I used my income like a club and just whacked away at the debts in a wild frenzy.

Crude, but effective: We paid off an awful lot last year.

But, well…it was also crude. A lot of things could have been better, if I’d been better focused and taken more thought and care with what-all I was doing.

Have you ever noticed that things just kind of go better for you when you start from an organized place? I mean, like, if you’re going to make cookies, and you can put your hands on everything from the butter to the cookie sheet without having to go on a treasure hunt for them, man…you can go from cookie-wanting to cookie-eating in less than half an hour.

…but if the butter has gotten dropped down behind the milk somewhere and the cookie sheet isn’t where it belongs and who put the mixer paddles in there, for carp’s sake…!, well.

It can take hours. And be so frustrating that you never want to do it again.

Finances are kind of the same way. If you don’t know where stuff is, or how much of it you have, or where it’s supposed to go, if you spend hours looking for That Thing you need only to end up having to give up in disgust…it can take forever to get where you want to go.

So for the coming week(s), I have a couple goals.

One is to get enough sleep. Because seriously…I am not a good person to be around when I get all sleep-deprived and some junk.

And another is to get some control over what-all I’m doing in this coming year – to batten down the hatches, so to speak. I want to take a hard look at our statements, make sure I’m not missing things I should be catching; not paying too much in interest, or for services we’re not using. I want to reevaluate things like our phone service, cable bill, and all those kinds of things. Do we need what we’re paying for, or are we just paying for it because we think we need it…or because we’re not thinking about it at all…?

I want to reset the game board, too; reevaluate what-all we’ve still got outstanding and decide as if the world were new again where our priorities are.

I want to take a hard look at where we’re spending money, and make sure it’s where we want it to be going. I’ve been relying an awful lot on habits to keep us on the straight and narrow, budgetarily speaking…but things change, and change abruptly. Asking myself if the way I do things still makes sense today is an exercise I don’t do as often as I should.

And then, I want to chart a course for this next year. I want to set some (at least mostly) realistic goals, and figure out what I need to do to make them happen, and then…well, get going. Make it so.

I think it’s time to switch to a more elegant tool; put down my club and trade up to a rapier.

Or, as my dad so frequently put it: To work smarter, not harder.

What about y’all? How long has it been since you last looked at, say, how many minutes you’re paying for, versus how many minutes you use on that cell phone we all seem to tote around anymore? Are you paying for 250 channels when you only watch five? Paying for a gym you never use? Paying $35 a month for some protection plan you forgot you signed up for in that moment of weakness?

Are you managing your life? Or just sort of managing?

I always find this to be an interesting exercise…and no matter how well I think I’m doing, I always seem to find things that make me go, “Uh…oops?”

And another thing I want to do this week…get some pictures of my cherry trees. Because they have actual cherries on them, and I’m so excited you would think I had invented cherry trees!

(They’re so awesome! And bright green! Really bright green! But they’re cherries! I might get, shoot, a whole cup of cherries off that Bing tree! Possibly two cups! I KNOW, RIGHT?!?!)

(Sadly, I’m not exaggerating all that much…I am really excited about those cherries…which is practically like hanging up a sign that says, “Dear Birds, please eat every last one of these immediately, k-thx!”)


PipneyJane said...

Congratulations on the extension - knowing you, you'll put the money to good use.

Around here, April is the start of the new tax year and, for most of my previous employers, it was also the start of their new fiscal year. Since I spent years working in accounting practice and tax back in the 1990's, in my mind April is the natural month to assess all things financial and tax related and see whether I can do better in the new tax year. I think I'm fairly unique in this, though (I do not understand why people leave it to the end of March before investing in their ISAs (a product similar to a Roth) but if you believe the "don't miss out" advertising, millions do).

- Pam

PS: My word verification was thysigh - apt, no?

cath said...

Love the post! I think I need to have me a little think about these very questions ...

Steph B said... can make PLANS for financial stuff? Really? Whoa....I think I need to sit down for a little. Wild concept, man. (Can you tell we're more of the "fly by the seat of your pants" type financial managers? Yeah, not good.)

Unknown said...

congratulations on the extension! that's fabulous news.

Must feel great to be able to move past the "must hack all bills with a great big club because they're too big to do anything else" into the "the debt has been beaten into submission. now I can trim them into something pretty." Well done.