Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A reminder that this is only artificial scarcity

Last summer I realized that allowing myself to feel rich can be a dangerous thing. Thanks to an unexpected summer job that paid me for the work I needed to do for my thesis anyway and the interest from a mature cd, I had more money that I could envision needing any time soon. When my checking account balance was that high, it was much easier to go out to eat or to movies with friends and to buy things without worrying as much about the costs. Essentially all of my living expenses were covered by the research program and my parents, but I still managed to spend a sizable chunk of change. Over the course of ten weeks, I spent a total of $581.66. That got me another year of prepaid cell service and prescriptions when I got sick, but I also averaged around $40 a week on food I didn't really need, incidentals, and recreation.

If I had it to do over again, I probably would, but I know I can't afford to sustain that lifestyle year-round. As a result, I funneled the vast majority of my money into a cd and an HSBC account so that it stays out sight when I balance my checkbook. It's a silly psychological trick, but it helps curb my spending as well as maximize interest earned.

The goal of the system is for money that enters my savings account to remain there unless I'm moving it to another form of savings, at least until I graduate. It is starting to look like I may not be able to achieve that. During the school year, my income comes primarily from scholarships, plus tutoring last semester and a research grant this term. It's fabulous, but it also leaves me with highly irregular income.

At the beginning of the semester, I got my $1,000 stipend and submitted requisitions for living expenses including rent, food, utilities, and internet access plus requisitions for reimbursement for $594 lab equipment I bought and the $130 fee for taking the Praxis I. These are all things my scholarship should pay, and eventually it will, but my finances are getting tight in the meantime. I had to pay January's rent in late December, and it looks like I won't get my housing allowance before I mail February's rent check tomorrow. I should be getting January's portion of my research stipend soon, but the secretarial staff lost my paperwork so I have to reprint it, track down the appropriate people for signatures, and get it to the research and sponsored programs office. So I have no idea when I'll receive my next infusion of cash.

I feel stressed about not having enough money. It feels like failure to take money out of savings, but that's what savings are for, right? Covering a short-term shortfall shouldn't be a problem, and if I can just bring myself to transfer some money, I can quit worrying so much about when I'll get paid.


Mrs. Micah said...

It's frightening sometimes to be using short-term savings. But if that's how your plan is supposed to go...that's what those savings are for. :)

Blue said...

I hate when that happens - I had to transfer money out of my savings account several times to pay for physics tutoring (don't laugh :D)

I vaguely remember that you've been tutoring, correct? I forgot to weigh in my $.02 - my tutor (who was awesome) charged $25/hour. ($20/hr if you paid for five hours in advance.) He also has several years of tutoring under his belt, I think, which probably inflated the prices a bit.

E.C. said...

I did tutoring last semester. I charged $10/hour, which was far less than the going rate. In retrospect, I might have charged a bit more, but I really enjoyed working with my student so I didn't care that much about the money. Unfortunately, this semester I just don't have the time. My honors thesis research is taking over my life.

A said...

If you can get your Praxis II tests reimbursed, go ahead and do that now. I had to take 4 different ones for my certification and that was one big bill.

You should be able to get 25 - 30 an hour as an uncertified teacher. Certified with masters and most parents won't bat an eye at paying 50 / hour for one on one and 75 / hour for a 2 person session.

Now if you're tutoring college students, the rates drop.