You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2009.

I’ve been far too much of a buzzkill these days what with worrying about money and school all the time (while spending money I can’t afford to, and doing no homework at all).  It’s time to focus on the positive, and think of all the stuff that I already have/enjoy.

  • My chair. This is a pleather wingback chair  in the same pukey shade of brown as the discontinued M&Ms, decorated with cat clawmarks.  When I moved into my apartment and had no furniture, my landlady had left this in the middle of the livingroom.  “If you don’t want it, you can set it out on the boulevard and someone will take it.” she told me.  I elected to keep it, as it is one of the most comfortable chairs I’ve ever had except in the summer when my skin sticks to the pleather).  For the first two months of my life in Providence, this was my only chair.  Sometimes I would move it into the front room in front of the tv; sometimes (if I wanted an “office” feel), I would move it into the living room near the kitchen counter.  Every evening when I get home from work or school, I sit in my chair for a while internetting or reading, usually with Wee Watson on my legs.
  • Sundresses! It’s that magic time of year again when the stores start filling up with sundresses, and I systematically try on every single one.  It’s like hunting that elusive animal– like that guy in Jurassic Park: The Lost World who wanted to hunt a T-Rex.  I don’ t want to kill the dresses, I just want as many as I can get my hands on.  Then I want to wear them all summer long.  I seriously can’t wait, I’m so very excited.  I never feel this way about buying pants.
  • Making Little Women jokes. Last week, I was feeling under the weather, and left my internship early.  A couple days later, I got an email from Sassy Redhead with the subject line Scarlet fever killed Beth March, slowly. We then proceeded to make jokes back and forth about Marmee coming home, and selling our hair.  It was great fun.
  • Making Superfunadventure plans. Speaking of Little Women, did you know that you can visit Louisa May Alcott’s girlhood home??  Well, you can, and I will, and I’m excited.  Also, one of these days, I’m determined to visit the National Plastics Museum. Unfortunately, they don’t have regular hours on their website, so you have to call.  Gentleman Caller and I were going to go there for valentine’s, but they didn’t pick up the phone.  I just hope that during this time of economic downturn, they aren’t forced to close their doors forever!  And I hope that they allow flash photography.
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Despite the fact that I’ve fallen completely off the wagon (and been told not to get back on it by a number of people), I actually did okay this week.  Perhaps it only seems that I did okay because I felt really bad about my performance last week, and less bad about this one since my goal is already shot to hell.  Whatever, I’m over it.

Tuesday: Went to Spike’s Junkyard Dogs- brought own water, so spent $3 on veggie dog, then went to movie (bargain Tuesday!) $6, split snacks with three other lovely ladies– $4.  Total: $13

Wednesday: Went to Union Station Pub Quiz, but instead of buying one drink, I bought one pitcher– and one for Gentleman Caller (plus truffle fries). Total: $35

After that– I only bought gas and spent money on bills, which is just not as sexy as truffle fries.  So yes, I’m failing spectacularly, but still reining in my spending quite a bit.  By the end of last month, for instance, I had spent approximately $171 eating out.  This month– $38 on food+ $47 on beer =$85.  Those number still seem way too high to me making me think that all of the friends who want to me to go out with them need to start keeping track too… hint hint.

Also, my big plan to celebrate the end of No-Buy Month by buying things guilt-free, has kind of been foiled.

I like to overpay my store credit cards, for two reasons:

1. If I have a set dollar amount in my head when I go into the store, it helps me put things in perspective.

2. If I have a credit balance before buying something, it’s like I’ve already paid for it. It’s clearly much more fun than bringing home that new classy skirt and then wondering where the money is going to come from.

So what I did, was I overpaid both my Old Navy and Banana Republic cards last time I had a balance for use just in time for the new spring clothes, or deeply discounted winter clothes.  I also have coupons for both stores that I haven’t used.  I was going to celebrate a successful No-Buy month by indulging in what would actually be guilt-free shopping.

The credit card companies mailed me paper checks for the amount overpaid. Since I still use my bank in Fargo, I then had to pay postage to mail them there, and I now have a zero balance on both cards and have subsequently spent the overage on a rather exorbitant heating bill.

That is probably exactly what I deserve.

…The week in which I fail.  I’ve broken my no-buy month three times in the past week.

Wednesday: I forgot to bring food with me to work, and after work, immediately had to go to class.  Not buying something would have meant that I wouldn’t eat that day until about 7:30pm.  I went to DunkinDonuts and got a bagel and iced coffee.

Friday: Jewish Friend and I had to deal with Olneyville traffic at rush hour after both of us had stressful weeks– me with new job on top of feeling unwell, her with roommate bullshit.  We went and got margaritas.

Saturday: Gentleman Caller and I went to Target. I knew that would be a problem because I really, really love Target.  I actually did quite well, only bought groceries, except for a pair of shoes.

So there it is; it only took me 1.5 weeks to fail at my goal.  Wise Lawyer Friend is still succedding handily at her no-buy month, but as she out it “My life is better equipped to not spend money since I rarely go out.”

Naturally, I’m going to try to get back on task, but I just can’t be so restrictive.  I think from now on, I’m going to allot myself a certain amount of “fun money” for each month, and when that’s gone, that’s gone.  If I hadn’t gotten a new job this week, I’d feel really bad, but technically, I’m still living within my (new) means, which is the real goal.

I got a bill from my gym for $570 a few weeks ago.  Even though that pays for a full year, it’s still so much money that I actually laughed out loud while standing alone in my dining room, then promptly dropped it onto the recycle bin.  I do like my gym quite a bit, but $570 to run on the treadmill a few times a week is entirely too much money.

I found a decent used treadmill on Craigslist for $75, and am now one of those people who has a prominent piece of exercise equipment in her living room, but the good far outweighs the bad in this situation.

Good:

  • My work/class hours are erratic at best.  Even though the gym opens at 5am, I will not be going there until far later in the day.  When I was working in tv, I found that running at 8pm was actually a good time for me as if was early enough that I wasn’t unable to sleep, but late enough that I had eaten and digested enough to feel peppy.
  • I really dislike paying for heat, and usually close off the living room on the coldest days because there are a lot of windows and it gets very drafty, which means that I can’t comfortably watch tv.  Watching tv while walking or running isn’t as comfortable as lying there, but it keeps me warmer, and makes me feel less guilty.
  • I ate mac and cheese while watching Center Stage: Turn it up while walking on the treadmill the other day and it was pretty rad.
  • I’m trying to convince myself that perhaps I’ll wake up a little early and do a couple quick miles before going to work in the morning– probably won’t happen, but I’m so proud of myself for thinking it.

Bad:

  • Because I’m not leaving my house to run, there’s nothing to stop me getting off the treadmill when I remember that I need to do x, y, z thing around the house.
  • Wee Watson is terrified of the noisy beast near the windows so the “cat on a treadmill” fun I could be having doesn’t look like it’s going to happen any time soon.
  • Since it is right next to the windows that look out on a busy street/sidewalk, I’m hyperaware of my neighbors walking by.  I’m not really sure if they notice me, since I’m far above eye-level, but I see them.

The best thing so far with this treadmill happened today when I was jogging along merrily and watching Don.  It was about 3:45pm, but wasn’t even starting to get dark.  The light outside looked like it was going to stick around for a while, and I got a fluttery feeling like spring is actually, maybe, possibly coming soon.  As Gentleman Caller put it when he noticed the same thing, “today was the first time in a while when I looked outside in the afternoon and didn’t want to kill myself.”

If I had been at the gym, I would have not been facing the window, and would probably be standing next to a man who uses the treadmill and all other excercise equipment as a place to rest and relax.  Of course, if I had been at the gym, I wouldn’t have taken short breaks in running to fold laundry– it’s a tradeoff.

It only took a few hours into the month of February before I really, really regretted not allowing myself some iced coffee on my list of rules.  Though I keep reminding myself that every dollar adds up, and I could be no better off at the end of the month if I allowed myself to buy all the iced coffee I really want– that only helps so much.

I’m freaking out a bit.  So what I will be doing to combat this is the same thing that I did this summer when I was topping out at about 2.5 large iced coffees per day.  That’s almost 96 ounces of liquid, and almost ten dollars per day.  I bought a plastic pitcher at the Ocean State Job Lot, and started making iced coffee at home.

The only problem with this is that part of the joy of getting the iced coffee is breaking up my day a little when I’m away from home.  I can really only enjoy homemade iced coffee either at home, or immediately after leaving it.

Also, as I suspected, I keep thinking of things I’ve been meaning to buy for a while that I haven’t gotten around to, but now will have to wait until March, if I am to follow my owns rules and be a success.  Then I tell myself that this experiment is my own, and I can amend things if I need to; then I remind myself that I would feel filthy failing and that that feeling is filthy is simply not worth it; finally, I assure myself that it’s hardest right now because this is a new way of doing things, and I’m very aware of it.

I never thought it would be easy.

So far I’ve done well with free adventures:

  • I got to go to the theatre for free because I know the right people, and I got free delicious food and drink while there.
  • I’ve tried to trick my friends into “sponsoring” me for an event I’d like to attend, but apparently they don’t like me enough to pony up the cash– which is fine, cause that would make me feel a bit filthy anyway.
  • I had a water at Trinity Brewhouse (where the beer is so very good), and excused myself early to avoid temptation.

So far I’m also alienating my friends:

  • Jewish Friend is trying to be supportive of this whole adventure even though when I first announced it, she said: “I don’t even want to talk to you about that.”
  • Joe Roch added after I declined an invitation to see He’s Just Not That Into You: “You can’t even buy a movie ticket? I don’t understand this no buy thing. It seems utterly un-American and, more importantly, un-me.  For instance, Andria: if you suddenly got a really bad sinus infection and NEEDED antibiotics, you wouldn’t buy them? LUNACY! Also, if you saw a really cute pair of shoes and wanted them, you wouldn’t?! MORE LUNACY!”
  • And after paying for both movie rental and beer, Gentleman Caller expressed disdain with having to finance all our fun by himself instead of our usual, fairer, halfsies.

This is all kind of reminding me of the time right before I moved from Fargo, when I was hoarding as much cash as possible and working ridiculous hours among three different jobs.  Because I was saving, I didn’t go out much– also, I was tired, and friends (mostly Heidi), freaked out on me for never being available.

I should be, and am, glad that people want to spend time with me, but that makes this frugality thing awfully challenging.  Perhaps, friends, we could spend time making crafts out of found items, or sitting down with a nice glass of water?

Imposter Syndrome is the fear that you’ve achieved everything you have achieved by accident, luck, or timing rather than merit.  According to a 1978 Georgia State University study, it mostly plagues high-achieving woman, and leaves the most affected sufferers constantly waiting to be caught out.  Some of my high-achieving female friends went to a lecture about this last year at Brown.

While I don’t believe that any of my friends suffers from this as severely as the women mentioned in this study, I feel like everyone who achieves some modicum of success inevitably feels a sense of doubt somewhere along the way: Was I really the best? What made them pick me? Do I really deserve this grade? etc.  Certainly I’ve felt this way over and over the years, but deep down, I feel confident in my abilities, and in my intelligence despite the fact that I’m genuinely stupid when it comes to a lot of things.

Whenever I talk about my parents’ goals for me, it inevitably falls to me talking about my mother and how she wanted me to go to tech school and be a plumber.  Clearly, I’m still annoyed by this, and will probably be forever, or until she admits that that was a really stupid idea. With all of my energies focused toward being annoyed with my mother, I seem to have completely forgotten my father.  He came to mind yesterday.

This semester, I’m doing a Professional Field Experience (fancy phrase that means internship) at the Community College where Sassy Redhead Friend works.  I started last week, and am genuinely enjoying myself (and not just because Sassy Redhead reads this blog).  Because I’ve never attended a Community College, I wasn’t really sure what to expect.  I didn’t know how different the curriculum or students would be.  Really, the biggest difference I’ve seen so far is that it lacks a lot of the annoying pretension that comes with most academia.  And even though Sassy Redhead pointed out that I will only see the best students in the library because the bad students do not go there, everyone I’ve met seems diligent, hard-working, and capable, perhaps in contrast with any preconceived notions that I had in my head.

I’m enjoying it so much that yesterday I found myself wishing that I had gone to Community College where everyone is friendly and helpful, rather than my cranky University, until I remembered a conversation I had with my father when I was twelve. We were driving home late at night from somewhere.  It was a long drive, one of those where you get onto a circuitous conversation route and end up discussing things never before brought up.  He asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I told him psychologist.

“For that, you’ll need to get a PhD.” He told me, “I think you’ll start at a community college because I don’t think you’ll be ready for a 4-year University, then you’ll transfer, after which you’ll go to grad school.”

I just ate it up, and for years that was my plan.  But then I got to thinking about his word choice, “…I don’t think you’ll be ready for a 4-year University…”  What was that based on?

I can excuse my mother trying to force me to go to Vo-Tech because she is one who needs to have a clear-cut goal in mind– there’s no obvious career path for English majors– and I’m sure she wanted to save money.  With my father, he must have sincerely believed, based on something, that I was a little bit behind the curve academically, and would need to start slower.

Granted, I never got excellent grades, but for the amount of work I put into things, I did quite well.  As far as my parents have told me, the biggest complaint that teachers had about me during conferences was that I worked far too quickly so I could sit and read.

I don’t know how to feel about this revelation because on one hand I can just scoff and say that this reinforces my long-held opinion that my parents do not understand me, or I could believe that perhaps I’ve not as smart as I think, and they got it right all along.  My parents can both be a bit obtuse,  but my father is a former educator, so his pronouncement weighs on me a bit.

A while ago, I was talking to my mother about a class that I was supposed to be teaching at the same Community College where I’m doing my PFE.  “You can do that?” she asked, “but you’re still in school.”

“That’s why I have all of these degrees” I reminded her, “it’s not just because I love grad school so much.”

Maybe I am smart, maybe I’m not, and maybe my parents will not be content until I have a full-time job and they can stop writing “Annie is in Grad School” in the Christmas letter.  My mother’s reaction when I told her that I was going back to grad school was, “At first I was really upset, but then I told myself, at least she’s not addicted to crack, or in jail or something.”  Maybe my parents are just not good judges of accomplishment.

I am genuinely terrified that I will not be able to find a job after I graduate.  Most of the libraries around here are in a hiring freeze, and judging from the size of my Research and Evaluation class (one of the last classes you are required to take, but cannot take without having earned a certain number of credits), a whole slew of people are graduating in May as well.  However, I always try to look to the positive, and I have to say that despite the climate of fear that surrounds me on a daily basis, I have managed to find a few lovely things to focus on.

  • It seems everyone in the world is now concerned with budgeting, whereas before, I felt like I was all alone.  I’m getting more and more tips for saving money from all sources, and feel like asking for discounts and negotiating will no longer make me look like a cheapskate, but regular.
  • Since gas prices hit $4/gallon, there have been far fewer people driving by my house with their bass thumping at a window-shattering decibel level.  I realize that gas has gone back down, but these people either no longer have cars, or have found other hobbies– either way, it’s much more pleasant in my house.
  • I went to the mall a couple weeks ago, and man were there deals!  Everything was at least 50% off, most of it 75%  I didn’t really need much, but got decent stuff for not a lot of money
  • I also feel like the desperation and fear in the air will make service employees much more pleasant and willing to actually help me, the customer, as they will want to keep their jobs.
  • I feel like by patronizing businesses I’m being patriotic and doing my part to help Obama’s new AMERICA, and that gives me warm fuzzies, which I love

All that said, I’m still not buying anything for the month of February, so I’m going to have to get these good feeling from somewhere else.  I remember, growing up, my mother would occasionally make outrageous statements like “we used to have hours of fun with just a cardboard box.” This caused my brother and I to mock her mercilessly and call her boring, but maybe she was on to something.