The Back Story

In 2009, I was making good money working at a very expensive private university in a major US city, while my now husband SB was making good money working at a public university nearby. We paid $1200/month in rent for a one bedroom condo in a cute suburban neighborhood, ate or drank out a few times a week, and did most of our travel on our employers’ dimes. We owned one car, a fair amount of furniture and household goods, and two cute but occasionally quite expensive cats.

Then came the move to a college town in the Upper Midwest, where SB took a dream job and I rapidly drained my savings while looking for a good job, then a job, then any job. About a year ago, I took a job that paid dramatically less than my previous position, but that offered benefits and a salary, which shouldn’t be sneezed at in this economy.

For the last year, I’ve struggled to embrace austerity and responsibility – at least in comparison with my previous moderately spendthrift ways. Gone are the days when I can drop $100 on clothes, $30 on happy hour drinks, $40 on a spontaneous perfect gift. I can’t fly home for a long weekend because I have neither the money for the plane ticket, nor the vacation time for the visit.

Inspired by South by Sacrifice, though, I’m going to give this austerity thing a try by posting how I want to spend my money – and how I’m going to make it happen by forgoing other things.

Tuesday this ‘n’ that

So at the beginning of the month, I had good intentions to post every day.  That very much didn’t happen.  Instead, I bring you the always classic bulleted list of stuff that’s going on.

Things I’m excited about right now:

  • Pimms & lemonade.
  • The good planning meeting I had today – one of the first good meetings I’ve had in a while.
  • Dinner, which is just waiting for SB to get home to eat it!
  • Finally achieving “regular” status somewhere.
  • New apartment!
  • Erin Fae’s impending visit.
  • Maybe volunteering for a farmers’ market event next weekend?
  • Cait had her baby!

Things that are going on but I’m not so excited about:

  • Crazy papercut on my index finger.
  • Finally running out of bath bombs after my January buying binge.
  • Having to pony up for various deposits almost 2 months before we recoup our old deposits.
  • Homework.  Augh.  I’m trying to be good about pacing myself, but I’m falling a little behind.
  • Cradle to Cradle is depressing me all to hell, but I’m reading it anyway.

What’s up with you?

Resolution Check-In

With 6 months down and 6 months to go in 2008, it’s time for a resolution check-in:

1. Read two books for pleasure each month.

14 books so far, including one adorable childrens’ book that bizarrely made it to our New Bookshelf at work, so I’m actually ahead of schedule.  And no, this doesn’t include any of my textbooks, finished or otherwise.

2. See 12 movies in the theatre.

So far we’ve seen There Will Be Blood, Atonement, Michael Clayton, Indiana Jones & the Crystal Skull, Iron Man, and WALL-E, so I guess I’m right on track here, too.  WALL-E and Michael Clayton were the best, in very different ways.

3. Take a trip west of the Mississippi (and also west of Iowa).

Not yet, but we’ve confirmed that we’ll be spending Christmas in Carlsbad.  Also, I’m presenting at conferences in Denver and Monterey.  This one will definitely happen.

4. Go to Bonnaroo or Coachella.


5. Put $5,000 in savings by the end of the year (sub item: and leave it there).

No comment.  Paying tuition has killed me this semester.

6. Finish Couch to 5K and run a 5K.

Check!  I ran the Kelley Cares 5K in early June, and plan to run more in the fall.  I’d like to do a 10K next year.

7. Continue weight training and do an unassisted pull up.

Less successful on this one.  I took a lot of time off from lifting this spring due to shoulder and knee problems.

8. Finish my CAS.

I’m on target to defend my thesis in the fall, however I’m going to be one credit hour short of finishing unless I take another class.  If that’s all that I have left at the end of the year, I’m fine with it.

9. Get published.

So far this year I have 3 accepted conference proposals (all co-written), 1 accepted (and award winning?) co-written virtual poster, and 3-4 conference and journal submissions outstanding.  Not bad!

10. Find a church.

We’ve been sporadically attending services at Del Ray United Methodist Church, which we both really like.  We found it when we went there with my family on Easter.

11. Reconsider therapy and/or medication.

I tried therapy with the GW staff counselor person, but I mainly found her annoying and “let’s fix it”-y.  I did go back on medication, though, and it seems to be doing a lot to even me out.  I go back this week for a six month evaluation.

12. Beat SB at Zooloretto or Alhambra.

I won at Zooloretto in January, but have been soundly defeated in almost every other game since then.  Between Shane and our friend Kevin, I just don’t stand a chance.

13. Finish 2007’s Bond-watching resolution.

We’ve watched two Bond movies this week, and have now made it to the ill-fated George Lazenby era.  15 to go!

new goals

New goal: no spending money on coffee and/or going out to eat for one week, beginning this morning and ending next Friday, 10 March. This will be challenging because (1) I have things going on every night between now and next Thursday, (2) I’m in the habit of buying coffee every day, and (3) I don’t have much food at my house. This will be addressed by (1) going grocery shopping on Sunday, (2) redeeming free coffee cards (I have at least three stockpiled), and (3) planning meals.

Today is Unofficial St Pat’s, and good god, the undergrads have a gorgeous day for it. I haven’t the first clue how this tradition got so entrenched into student life here, but there are hundreds of drunk kids out on Daniel and Green Streets, and I’m somewhat dreading the ride home – but glad I have my bike and so don’t have to wait for the bus at Sixth and Green, within projectile vomiting distance of Murphy’s, Brothers, and Legends.

It seems like there’s a lot of peripheral stress these days, and I’m not sure what to do about that. I’m mainly just stressed about my seeming state of inertia – I need to be moving forward on projects on which I’m just doing – nothing. Things will sort themselves out. They always do. In the meantime I have sunshine, fresh air, and Gjetost cheese to keep me happy.

How am I?

How am I?

Physically?  I’m kind of a mess.  I’m not really eating or sleeping much.  It’s not that I don’t want to – I’m tired all the time and I really do enjoy eating – but when I try to eat, I get full really quickly and nauseous if I continue to eat what I know is a normal portion.  Exception to the rule seems to be chips and salsa.  I try to go to bed at a decent hour – but then I either lay awake, or do this weird sleep thing where I wake up every 30-45 minutes convinced that I haven’t actually been asleep.  I got 8-10 solid hours of sleep at Shawn’s Friday night, which was some kind of miracle, but today I was awake early again (thanks, people picking up yard waste).

Emotionally?  Again, a mixed bag.  Some days are really good, some days are really low.  Some days are in between.  Things seem to be mellowing out a bit with work and relationships and such, but I’m still up and down – just a little more in control.  I think the biggest Agent Of Evil is boredom, really.  I long for summers off, but I know it wouldn’t be a good thing for me emotionally.  I’m not a workaholic, but I definitely deal better with the rest of life when I’m working.

Financially?  Good, actually.  Well, I spent $40 on underwear today which I probably should’ve saved, but things are pretty stable for me right now, money-wise.  It’s a good feeling.  I still have bills and such – but I’m on top of them, so that’s a good thing.  I still owe money to my lawyer, but that’ll be paid off in a couple of weeks when I get my deposit back.  Definitely still living paycheck-to-paycheck, but am hoping that’ll change a bit.

Professionally?  Job sucks, but what are you going to do?  There’s a couple of things on the horizon that I’m thinking about, but nothing really worth mentioning – just some changing around that might lead to opportunities worth considering.  Not sure what’s up with UIUC, but I’ve made it my goal to have my GSLIS application out by early August.  I’m dying to get into school, but am feeling strangely dispassionate about the whole thing right now, which means that I’ve continued to stall.

So it’s kind of a mixed bag, but I’m getting by.  I’ve been reading a lot, which is good, but challenging as well.  I rode my bike yesterday and today.  Tonight we went out for sushi with friends, which was fun.  Gambit has been quite bad lately, and his neediness is just getting to be too much.  It’s looking very likely that Nate will take him back, and I think that’s probably the best thing for all of us, though I will miss my boy cat.  This week I mainly work at the hospital, and it is my friends anniversary with Sarah on Sunday – ten years.  Shawn and I had a nice night together Friday, and I got to wake up with him the last two days.  Life is a curious thing, friends.

Need a new job need a new job need a new job

After a few weeks of gorgeous, the fall weather has returned. It’s chilly, and this morning I had to turn on my heat so I could even think about walking around in a bath towel. To think that I was wearing shorts on Friday! Ah well, spring will come ’round again soon enough. It’s been nice though – this weekend was a bit cooler than it has been, just the right temperature for snuggling down in bed with the blankets pulled up and a cup of coffee and reading – which Shawn and I did a lot of.

Last night started off kind of blah – they were bitchy about letting us go early, and I’m glad I didn’t have to take the bus cos I would’ve missed it. Somehow it doesn’t matter if they want to leave early, but if I’m running out the door cos I have somewhere to be, well, too bad. Need a new job need a new job need a new job. I’ve been looking and applying, but no bites yet.

Anyway, I was in a lousy mood when I got home, so Shawn met me at Kopi for a while. We were there about two hours, and somehow that was enough to really lift my spirits. One of Shawn’s fellow grads was there and teased us about just bringing our books as an excuse to sit at a table together – it sort of is, but we did sit there and read and do the crossword puzzle and write letters. Being together doesn’t always mean leaning on the table and staring into each other’s eyes. I got home around 10, did some dishes, and baked a blueberry crumb cake, the recipe for which I have been drooling over for a couple of weeks. It is light and airy and soo tasty. 🙂 Bummed around online for a while, talked to a few people, then took a bath and crashed with Gambit, who was v nice and slept on my side for a couple of hours.

I’m rereading The Broke Diaries and feeling a little bit better about my own brokedness. Sure, I only have $6-and-change to last me until I get paid on Thursday, but I do have a job that pays me enough to pay my bills, food in my kitchen, and gas in my car. I’m not up to my eyes in debt. I did have a fun broke moment last night – I cleaned out my fridge and rearranged it so it looked really empty. For some reason that really amused me. I’m broke, but I won’t always be. I was thinking back to past financial periods and wondering how in the world I was always broke when I was living with my ex – I was making almost twice as much as I make now – PLUS his income – and yet we were still broke every week. We were paying less in rent than I pay now – our utilities were comparable, with the exception of the phone (MUCH cheaper now). I go out more now – maybe the difference is that I’m only paying for me, or only paying half the time? Or maybe I’m just used to this income level and while it’s a struggle and I need help somewhat regularly, I’m not digging myself out of as much of a hole as before. That is a BIG consolation.

good news bad news

Good news: My tax returns are done, and I’m getting $86 back from the state.
Bad news: I really do owe $1052.
Solution: Talk to my parents. My dad promised they wouldn’t leave me destitute on the street. I emailed them when I first suspected I would owe in, and now I’ve emailed them to see if they will loan me the money, to be repaid to them. I have a feeling they’ll be nicer creditors than the IRS.

Good news: I have a printer.
Bad news: I don’t have the cable that attaches the printer to the computer.
Solution: Trip to Best Buy just as soon as I finish my soup.

Good news: I got the paperwork from Nate.
Bad news: That means I have to pay the legal bills soon.
Solution: Sell my wedding rings. I was going to do this anyway, I placed the ad in the paper a couple of weeks ago, and today I’m seeing at least one person about them.

Bad news: I have bills due that I don’t have the money for, and I need groceries.
Good news: Mom sent me some money for Valentine’s Day to help with some bills and my car insurance. Breathing easy.
Double good news: Two proofreading/editing jobs in one weekend means $80 or so that I didn’t have before.

So things seem to be balancing themselves out. Something will go wrong, and then a solution will present itself. My money situation gets really tight, and proofreading work comes my way. I start stressing my relationship, and all sorts of lovely assurances come along. I am so, so blessed.


I’m just exhausted. It’s 6am and I’m wide awake – and this never happens. I’m the one that can’t be dragged out of bed until 45 minutes before I have to be somewhere, if then. I guess I’m just stressing about the move.

Sarah came over and helped us pack last night – we made lots of progress! The kitchen is all but empty, as is the bathroom and the big big closet. Most of what remains in the attic is already packed – or large enough that it doesn’t need a box. Our landing is completely full of boxes. I have to make a box raid today – I still have many of the boxes from Nicole; however many of them are just too too large for heavy things like books and paper and pots and pans.

So if we’re in such good shape, why am I stressing? I think it’s the money thing more than anything else. I know we can afford this house – we thought long and hard and budgeted to make sure of it – but now that we’re actually down to it, my stomach is doing a few flips at the thought of a lifetime of debt. And I’m sure we’ll be fine once we make it through the first couple of months – but it’s the start up that’s freaking me right now. Paying for the truck, the fridge, the cable installation, the paint or wallpaper. Refilling our now nearly empty fridge and freezer (aftermath of the storm more than anything). Homeowners, how do you get over this? Do you just grit your teeth and know you’ll make it through?

Ah well. I should be using this time to get more packing done.

P.S. Yesterday was my 200th entry. Just thought I’d share.


One of these “vacation” days I hope to sleep in. Maybe tomorrow. In about 20 minutes I need to leave to go help Mary J with the garage sale. It’ll be nice to be outside – but I’m worried about bugs and sunburn. This time at least I’ll be prepared. 🙂 I hope my crap is selling – we’ve got SO much computer stuff at SUCH rock bottom prices – I mean, an entire Mac (granted it’s 6-7 years old) for $20. Who WOULDN’T buy a fully functioning maybe first computer for $20? I hope it all goes. The more that sells, the more spending money I have on my vacation. It sucks to be ghetto poor – it’s even worse when you’re on vacation. Oh well, I get paid on Friday, and I’ll just have to do free fun things until then.

Last night was a bust. We wanted to have a spontaneous solstice gala event – but Nate didn’t get home from Area 5 until almost 8 – and it would’ve been ridiculous to try to put something together at that point – it takes half an hour to get the pool ready, we’d get eaten alive, etc. So instead we scraped up a couple of bucks, I made an Uncle Nick’s run, Nate picked up Joe, and we sat around and watched a movie. Nate couldn’t figure out why I was in a mood – and how do I come right out and say “I wanted to go do something but we’re too damned broke!!!!”?

Ah well, this rant went a bit long and now I have like five minutes to take a shower and go. Enjoy the weather and HAPPY SUMMER!


We met with the mortgage lender yesterday and WE’RE PREAPPROVED! Since we want to keep the payments around $700-800/month, she approved us for $80,000-85,000 – but they’ll approve you for payments up to 31% of your monthly income and we’re at 17%, so I think we can go a bit higher if need be. I feel like I can breathe for the first time in a week.

So N and I went house hunting today. We went to 6 open houses in a neighborhood near ours and man, I can’t believe the difference in the houses! Two were pretty damned awful. Weird layouts, not a lot of space – lots of small rooms carved into spaces that would be better served with a few larger rooms. We each hit our heads at least once. The first house was cute – a nice basement, small kitchen but nice living room, good sized yard and bedrooms – and in our price range. The second house took our breath away. 3 bedrooms, 1 bath (with a great tub!!!!), lots of closets, hard wood floors and a marble entry way, a gorgeous fireplace, lots of light, a big basement, deck, and yard – and a garage that will fit 4 cars!!!! We are totally in love. The little old couple that owns the house has to sell right away – I guess they moved in, lived there a little while, went on vacation, and when they got back he had a heart attack and just couldn’t handle going up and down the stairs all day. They were just lovely to talk to – v. enthusiastic about the house. It’s a little out of our price range ($15,000 more) but if we can budge up and make an offer right away, it just might happen. We went to four houses after that and NONE came close. *sigh* I’m in love….

In other news, I’ve decided I’m going to stop apologizing for my feelings and justifying other people’s actions. It’s just too exhausting and not fair to me. I have to be honest to myself, even when it’s hard to say the things that are true.

Eva and I had a nice day yesterday. We went shopping – spent too much money on card stuff – and had lunch. She got a new teakettle that matches her dishes and found the dress she’s going to wear for the wedding. I won’t lie and say that wasn’t hard for me – but her dress is lovely and I think she’ll be beautiful. N, Joe, and I went to dinner, then Eva and I made cards til late. I’ll have to scan some of the things I made – they’re pretty incredible if I do say so myself. 🙂

And now, the Friday Five: 100% controversy free and terribly timely, if I do say so myself:
1. How many houses/apartments have you lived in throughout your life?
As far as I know… 5 houses, 3 apartments, and 2 dorm rooms.
2. Which was your favorite and why?
I really loved the house on Pepper Drive, but that’s just because I spent most of my childhood there. Each place has been meaningful in its own way. I suppose it would be easiest to pick my least favorite – which would be the house in Marshfield, only because I don’t remember it. I think I was barely a year old when we moved.
3. Do you find moving house more exciting or stressful? Why?
Both. It’s exciting to be in a new space – but moving is such a freaking pain!!!
4. What’s more important, location or price?
I really feel like you should be satisfied with both or the move isn’t worthwhile.
5. What features does your dream house have (pool, spa bath, big yard, etc.)?
Oh, this list is so timely. Nate and I were talking about this last night. My realistic dream house will have all of the following:
bathroom with a big tub
lots of windows
a room that can be mine alone
a well-appointed kitchen
built in bookshelves?
attached garage
nice backyard with room for a garden
Side note: the house has all of the above, except the attached garage. Well, there’s an attached garage, but it’s been converted.