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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The 4th

A lot of my friends like to tell me, "It's early in the month.  How can you be out of money?"  Well, it's actually pretty easy.   First off, yes, I do have subsidized housing.  Subsidized housing is basically where they calculate your share of the rent based on the most you could possibly pay for rent and still make your other bills. The idea isn't to give you "extra" money.  You get to hold out a little money for food and utilities, but not much.  They don't want you putting money aside for a rainy day.  They want you to remember it's raining now.

So I was joking on Facebook that I was proclaiming the 3rd as "Acquisition Day".  The third of every month goes something like this:  Get up at some ungodly hour (yesterday it was 3am) and do the banking... that means pay the rent, water, electric, credit card (yes, I have a credit repair card), car insurance, phone, and any bills from last month (things like doctors co-pays that I wasn't able to afford the previous month)  Then go out and fill the gas tank, pick up prescriptions, and head out to the stores.

I always shop with a list.  This month I was out of printer ink (OK, I've been out for a couple months, but now that school is in full swing, I really need my printer) and my vacuum burned out last month, so that was a MAJOR hit to my budget (almost $70 for both items total).  Recently a friend told one of her kids that they threw out in a week the equivalent to my grocery budget.  I disagreed (they said they probably toss about $30- $40 in food) and I said that my grocery budget was about $50/ week.  

Which just goes to show how quickly you can lose track of money, even when it's a little bit.  You see, that $50/ week at the grocery store?  It also goes to non-perscription medication, toilet paper, dish detergent, laundry detergent, garbage bags, pet food and cat litter, cleaning supplies... a whole lot of stuff that's (a) more expensive than groceries on average and (b) not edible.

Going into the month I was very excited about the money I'd saved by getting rid of my cable service.  And yes, I saved money... that was eaten up by printer ink, a vacuum cleaner, replacing the harness the dog chewed through, paying a friend back for a loan last month, and a doctor's visit co-pay.  Well, that was the money I saved from breaking up with Comcast, plus some I took out of my food budget...  and up until today (when I got my Century Link bill) I though I was going to make it to the end of the month.  Instead of holding money back, I'm holding back a stack of referrals to medical specialists and tests at the hospital.  Oh, and the rubber started peeling off the windshield wipers on the car... and I got new ones to put on.  Things just keep piling up.

Generally on the 3rd... at least in the morning... I feel optimistic:  the money is all there.  All the bills are being payed, and I have this list of things I need or want (this month I'd planned to go thrifting in Albuquerque and pick up a few clothes, plus go to Mora and pick  up some wool to spin for projects I'm making for the craft sale)  that I never really get through, because, for the most part, I can never risk cutting that deep into the "grocery" budget to get those things.  Then there are the things I put off forever because I didn't have the money, until they became an emergency (like the windshield wipers and some of my non-prescription meds) and then I pretty well HAVE to pony up for them.

So on the 4th, I often find myself finishing up doing some of the shopping and bill paying I'd hoped I wouldn't have to deal with:  Today I stopped off at Target to get more meds for my GERD, in the midst of a HUGELY painful daytime bout of esophageal agony,   and while I'd shopped for small dog collars at cheaper stores, ended up at PetSmart, where at least I was able to take advantage of a big sale.  Not to mention finally caving in and picking up a $27 vacuum at Walmart.

and that's it.  I've now got $8 in my checking account and about $12 remaining credit to see me through the end of the month.

Next month, I tell myself, it'll be better.

It never is.

And for those who read me posting on social media about going to Albuquerque to do some thrifting, I never got there. I just didn't have the money (or want to use the gas) because I couldn't prioritize clothing, even though most of my clothes are too big for me now.  I did, however, score a sweet little spring/ summer dress (my ONLY dress at this point!) at the Goodwill for $10 when I went in to see if they had any vacuum cleaners.

The money generally runs out long before the items on the shopping list.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Life Lessons From Farmville

This morning, while I was playing Farmville II, I recalled seeing this image on FB.  At the time I saw it, I thought it was hilariously funny.  Now that I've had time to ruminate on it, I find it less amusing.

There are life lessons in Farmville.

Within the game itself, it's all about making choices, budgeting, and business planning.  Do you expand your land first, or upgrade your barn?  Do you buy more wool animals or dairy?  And how do you decide which crops to grow?  Do you save your "favors" for something big, or spend them on smaller upgrades to your farm?  And do you belong to a co-op?

Anyone who can handle a virtual farm (or kingdom) can handle basic financial and budgeting choices in the home.  That's pretty darn important to me.  But what games like Farmville and Castleville have to offer as far as life lessons goes far beyond that.

On Zynga I have an unknown number of "friends"  Like FB, "friend" is a rather optimistic word, because it's simply someone you're connected to in some way.  When I run out of an ingredient for my crafting material, I can ask a "friend".  I get one, my friend gets one: mutually beneficial.  I know NOTHING about these people I have these distant interactions with.  Many of their profiles are in different languages.  We share one goal and work toward that:  to get to the next level.  I don't as them if they're American, if they're Democrats or Republican.  I don't ask what their religion is, or what their feeling about man's responsibility toward the environment is.  And yet we're working together, if somewhat loosely.

Then I have about 1000 "neighbors".   These are people whose farms I can visit and who can visit mine.  They do not complain if I don't get to their farm on any given day.  There are no billboards on farms condemning this group or that, and, to the best of my knowledge, there have been no virtual hate crimes carried out by one farmer on another within the game.

And inside of that, I have 25 co-op members.  I'm head of my co-op, so I have some decisions I make as to who's in my co-op.  Yes, I sent some invites to people I know personally offline; my daughter is in my co-op. But everyone else is there for one reason: they help each other out.   These are the people who support each other's goals while progressing as individuals.  We've been an effective co-op, and I think a lot of that is because we AREN'T an exclusive club like some co-ops have become.  We don't make membership dependent on RL relationships, intents, political or religious affiliations, or nationality.

And I think there's a lesson to be learned from that.

Our neighbors, our associates, our communities can be diverse and still function, if we separate our personal beliefs from our common goals.

So yes, I AM looking for someone who can run a virtual farm... someone who can put aside judgement of others to work together or side by side in harmony,  and who has the skills to handle basic financial and business decisions.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Goodbye, Comcast.

Last night I streamed The Amazing Race and The Big Bang Theory's latest episodes over my computer. Yesterday morning I disconnected my cable from my TV and returned my cable box and modem to Comcast (I now use Century Link for my internet)   I'm saving a little over $80 a month.

I couldn't IMAGING being without cable TV for a long time.  Heck, I'd miss Doctor Who.  I'd miss Game of Thrones.  But not really.  I'd just be watching them later than other people do.  Network TV?  well, for the most part it's online for free.  Then there are all sorts of free movie and anime sites, enough to keep me busy for a long time, then I could get a Hulu + or Amazon Prime if I'm really bored.

But over the last few weeks, during the time between the phone call that went something like "you're not giving me the price you promised" and the one that went something like "I can't believe you'll stick to our agreement anymore, we're OVER."  I started noticing how often the TV was just background noise... something I had on and wasn't watching, because I was on my computer, or playing with the dog, or trying to put together some art pieces.  Even shows I said I loved were only glanced at for a little while, and the few shows that actually DO have me transfixed by the screen tended to have short seasons, and were too few and far between to spend what is, to me, the rough equivalent of half my monthly grocery budget to watch.

What I can watch:

Any of the network streaming shows, and some of the shows I THOUGHT I had to pay for.  In the former category are The Amazing Race and Big Bang Theory, since CBS keeps the last couple episodes of any show free online.  Of the later category are a lot of the HGTV shows, like Property Brothers and Flea Market Flip, which are especially good news for me, because one of the reasons (besides BBCA) I had the cable package I did was so I could watch the HGTV shows.  The other channel I thought I had to spend a lot of money to get was TLC, which isn't in most basic cable packages, but I can watch full episodes of Love Lust or Run and My Big Fat Fabulous Life online at TLC as well.

I can watch Netflix streaming, because Tay pays for the family membership.

I can watch all sorts of free Hulu videos, anime on Crunchyroll, and some free YouTube and Daily Motion videos.

And, what is most encouraging, is that I can get to a point where I'm NOT watching, I'm doing.  When I'm streaming I have a pause button, so if I want to go do something and come back to it later, I don't have to worry if it's On Demand, or kick myself for not having a box with recording features.  That means that even as a totally geeky fangirl, I'm not tied to my TV set and making choices NOT to do something when my "stories" are on.

I don't know how long this little love affair with NOT having TV is going to last.  I worry that I'll go into some sort of withdrawal symptoms in a couple days, but other than not being able to turn on the TV news in the morning and having the weatherman drone in my ear while I'm cooking breakfast, I haven't really missed it at all.