Recently I came home from work, grabbed the mail, and received a slap in the face. I’ve been doing really well lately about not letting accounts meander on me, checking my balances, paying off my card every month, everything nice and tidy. But just goes to show that even if you think you’re on top of your finances, you would do well to keep an emergency fund around. Turns out that in 2005 (I believe this was the first full year I lived in Multnomah County) I didn’t pay my ITAX, a tax which I only have a vague inkling of existing. But, as it transpires, it was never withheld from any paychecks, and was instead just paid (or not paid, in my case) in bulk at the end. $360 tax, plus late fees and interest = $494. This was three days before my week long vacation, where I imagined going out to eat at Biwa or finally trying Toro Bravo and generally frolicking with my decent fiscal buffer and my newly minted $200-and-growing emergency fund. This ate my emergency fund and the little bit of mad money I was going to use on the vacation, and made it into a week of getting things done around the house (not a bad thing at all but it was still pretty stressful).
Well enough bitching, heres what I’m doing about it. Mostly, trying to simplify and reduce some costs. Cancelled my Eve account (I spent an entire week at home in front of the computer and wasn’t tempted to log in once) and the TV portion of the cable (Spent a week at home, periodically turning the TV on, scanning for entertainment, and it was pitiable – Being bored at work is better than daytime TV). This will give me approximately $80 a month to help build my emergency fund. There are more steps to this process that aren’t money related. Here are some additional (and possibly restated, but I can’t find the post) goals.
- Ride my bike to work at least 3 times a week. Doing pretty good on this one. On track for 4 times this week, and aside from oncall weeks and my vacation, I’ve done it all summer.
- Bring my lunch to work at least 3 times a week. Doing OK on this. Fargo keeps tempting me away from my packed lunch with promises of Joy Teriyaki or Burgers, and I keep letting him, because Joy Teriyaki is delicious. My real problem is failure to prepare meals the night before, leaving me with morning snap decisions and somewhat lame lunches like PB&J or Ramen. I am doing good on bringing healthy snacks to work instead of buying candy.
- Reduce my caffeine intake. I was doing OK on this for a while, but now I’m back to a presspot of coffee in the morning, and a soda at lunch, and soda when I get home. I’ve been trying to trim it out from the end of the day first, since it was negatively impacting the quality of sleep, which has been pretty successful (nothing after dinner).
- Reduce my wardrobe. I don’t buy many clothes, but I do keep clothes far beyond their useful life for sentimental reasons. I also tend to wear clothes that are too small or uncomfortable instead of getting rid of them. I managed to man up about it and get rid of about half of my clothes, donating the uncomfortable or too small to charity and throwing away the shirts with holes in them and jeans with no knees. Now I just need to learn to do this with my holey New Balance sneakers.
- Reduce the crap in my house. I have a house that is by all measurements too large for me and one roommate and two dogs, but every single nook and cranny has crap in it. I don’t have an effective tool storage solution, I don’t really have an effective food storage solution. Groceries that don’t have a home get piled on the dishwasher, or on the countertops. There is a layer of tools, in progress project parts, and debris from completed projects that covers the entire dining room table, two chairs, and a portion of the floor. There is still a room full of boxed items from the move, and every time we want to do something in the garage, it involves moving stuff either into the traffic corridors of the living room or out onto the carport. And a lot of it is just crap. Stuff I can’t bring myself to throw away. Legos (fuck your retarded corporate fake etymology Lego), car parts for things that don’t even exist, broken tools, useless bric-a-brak. I don’t have the patience to sell it at a garage sale, and for the most part, I can’t imagine anybody wanting to buy a half-set of brazing goggles or an almost-full box of nails that are larger than any project I could ever imagine doing would call for.
- And as always, pay off my car, then drive it payment free until it explodes. Save up so next time I can buy a sensible used car in cash. This will be difficult and significantly longer term than the rest. I have a plan that mostly involves rolling any year end bonuses and tax refunds into the principal of my car loan. Once I’ve finally gotten my emergency fund up to the three month level (which will probably be about $8-10k), I will start making additional monthly payments to get this loan done with. This loan was not a mistake, as it allowed me to rapidly build my credit, which ultimately let me purchase my house, but now that I am in the house, I have no interest in continuing to pay through the nose on the car loan (which I believe is somewhere in the 9% apr range – Will check later).
- Start socializing. I’ve never been a very sociable person, I tend to lock up around other real people. I get embarrassed easily and have a nasty habit of replaying conversations for days afterward critiquing the dumb things I said. So I simply avoid social situations. This has led to the expected level of romance in my life, and as I am getting older, I am realizing that without drastic changes, I will miss out on a significant portion of the human experience. Without risk, there is little reward, without others, there is little point.
Join me later today or tomorrow for a big weepy post about my current huff with my parents!