Thursday, August 21, 2008


When someone you love kills himself, blogging doesn't matter any more.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I want a frozen pizza.

I've been craving the warm cheese, zesty tomato sauce, and crisp crust for days, but my favorite kind, the kind we got almost every Friday night when I was a kid, the kind that brings back all sorts of warm, fuzzy memories of home and safety and love, costs $4.25, and I just can't justify spending that kind of money right now. It's time to quit trying to comfort myself with food anyway; this hasn't been a great summer for healthy eating habits and exercise, and that's now reflected in extra pounds and lethargy.

Classes start Monday, and I'm not ready. I'm not ready for a first period class in which none of my students are proficient in either reading or math, for ninth graders who already have two children, for the prospect that violent unrest in certain sections of town will spill over to school and make a dangerous situation worse, for administrators who've assured us it's ok that the schedule is screwed up since we shouldn't expect to teach anything meaningful until after Labor Day anyway. Monday morning I'll get up and try to do everything I can to help my students learn, but today I am scared and want a damn pizza.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Miscellaneous updates

Well, I finally have internet access at home, sort of. The modem arrived today, but my laptop won't connect to the network now that we've set up WEP encryption (maybe a linux issue?). Worse yet, my desktop chose today to go berserk. After a couple of system restores, it is somewhat functional, but whenever I attempt to enable the wireless, it reboots itself instead. Fortunately, my roommate is willing to let me make use of her ancient desktop until I get these issues ironed out. If there are any techies out there with brilliant suggestions, please do drop me a line.

On a more positive note, I'm officially employed now, which is really nice considering the students start school on Monday. My gross salary is $34,000 a year. Naturally, the first thing I did once I had internet was head to the IRS site to scope out the 1040EZ form and estimate how much I'm likely to pay in federal income tax. The number is far less than I'd imagined. I'm a bit too sleepy to deal with the more involved form for calculating my state tax liability tonight.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Really, I'm not broke, just frugal!

Never before have I felt this weird about having savings. There hasn't been much opportunity for it to cause social awkwardness since I don't talk about it in real life with anyone besides immediate family. Now, however, pretty much everyone around me is talking about money all the time.

That's largely because the many of the other first years are dealing with a serious financial crunch induced by being unable to work all summer, moving, and having to pay all sorts of costs to get certified, ranging from $900 for graduate tuition to $3 to have forms notarized. People who received transitional funding have all depleted it, and lots of people are scrambling to figure out how to make it until we get paid in September. There's lots of talk of living on popsicles, using credit cards to pay utility bills, and taking out loans from parents.

I'm keeping quiet and taking advantage of the opportunity to embrace the bare-bones lifestyle. It feels slightly disingenuous, but I am much broker than I was in May and I don't want to deplete my savings any more than I already have. Still, I'm not sure what to say when the second years ask me what I'm doing for lunch, I explain that I packed a sandwich, and they try to commiserate and launch into reminiscences about getting down to $4 in their checking accounts before they got their first paychecks.

Yes, I will probably ratchet up my lifestyle a wee bit in the next few months. I do want Netflix and a newspaper subscription, and I'll probably treat myself to an occasional chocolate shake at the fast food joint next to my school. If I'm feeling wild and crazy, I might even shell out $25 a month to join the gym. However, overall, I'm hoping not to abandon my frugal habits, and I find it a little annoying that people assume that the only reason I could possibly have for bringing a pb&j is a cash flow problem.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Technical difficulties: please stand by.

After over an hour on the phone with unhelpful tech support yesterday, a visit to the AT&T store this afternoon, a call to my roommate's old isp for clarification about her modem, a call to the AT&T store, a call to the number the AT&T store guy gave us, a trip to our friends' home so we could go online to find the number for AT&T that would allow us to talk to a human on a Saturday, a call to that number, and a call to yet another AT&T number that the person at the other number provided, we should have internet access within three to five days. (I'll believe it when I see it.)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Life amidst the boxes.

I've moved most of my worldly possessions to the Delta. It's been an expensive few days since I paid for half of a washer and dryer and value being able to eat and thus had to purchase some food to fill our empty fridge. With any luck, we'll get our internet access up and running tomorrow and won't have to drive to our friends' homes to steal their wireless anymore.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Is it time for more sophisticated software?

I vow to get back to tracking my spending in August. I have no formal budget since I have no baseline for what utilities will cost, and there will be plenty of added expenses this month like stocking the pantry in my new place. The goal isn't to reign in my spending so much as get a feeling for what my new life will cost, but I know the discipline of writing things down will help me avoid overspending. It's just easier to stay on track when every penny gets recorded every day since that makes it much easier to see when silly little expenditures begin to have a serious impact.

Up until now, I'd been perfectly happy recording my purchases in the original, free, spreadsheet-based version of PearBudget. It worked quite nicely for my purposes, and the price was right. However, I'm wondering whether it may be time to switch to something like Quicken or MS Money. If I start investing in taxable accounts, there are far more things I'll need to keep track of one way or another, be it with software or a big folder in a filing cabinet. I'm not eager to give up the simplicity of an Excel (or Open Office) approach, but it's possible learning to use a new program could make my life easier in the long run when I have to do things like figure basis in order to do taxes after selling a mutual fund.

Do you use some form of money management software? If so, do you find that the benefits outweigh the costs in both money and time?