Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Money pothole

Argh! Ouch! Grrr!

So I have the situation of many academics and teachers where I am only on contract and paid for nine months of the year. When I learned this, I opted for the plan --- also, theoretically, common for academics --- of having smaller paychecks paid 12 times a year. I'd rather get regular checks than have to deal with making sure that my big rent amounts stay there in the account all summer. My mom, the conservative, has always railed against this "infantilizing" treatment of teachers which was in place when she first became a high school teacher back in the early 60s, saying that it was insulting for them to withhold your money as if they knew better how to steward it than you. Well, I am totally ok with that, and these days my savings accounts are getting about zero in interest, so it's not like I would be better at investing it than the school. Sign me up for a paycheck every month the rent is due, please.

Then I discovered that HR is basically closed during summer and they cut all the summer checks at the same time and you have to come to campus and pick them up and dump them in the bank yourself. Argh. So I am in the same place as where I started. Why is your 12-check method in any way useful, HR?

This left me in the position of having to budget and plan and generally not be an infant ---- and I swear! budgeting went on! there were columns and plans and lists and stuff! I swear!

But what has now come out to bite me are: 1) my desire to pay off these damn credit cards and 2) my inability to realize the the one-year anniversary in this place would mean that various introductory deals for things like the internet would be ending and the prices rising and the new higher rent rate would also kick in. Plus my dad, who has been getting ever more confused, told me it was time I took the cell phone bill back ---- he had been really nice and put us all on a family plan that he paid for back when I was adjuncting and then my brother and then my sister all lost their jobs. It was real nice of him, and I gladly agreed that I could go back to paying my cell phone bill now that I have salary. I just didn't know that I would be doing all the paperwork and calls in June and then not get a bill until the end of July and that the bill would include all of June, July and August. Crap. I guess that would be unknown number 3).

Problem number 1) of course is not actually an unknown ---- it is well documented that I am an impatient, impetuous, idiot. So when I had this big pile of money all in a lump sum and goal date of October for the credit cards and one of them being tantalizingly close to zero, of course, after totting up a couple budget scenarios, I decided to cut it as close to the line as possible and slam as much money at the credit cards as I could. Hahahahahaha! Stupid me. Sigh.

Anyway, super frustrating. With the higher bills and paying the minimum on my cards next month and one tiny savings account stockpile paying the cell phone and the other paying the electric bill (have I mentioned I live in The Hot Place?), I will be able to squeak through August to the next paycheck with literally pennies to spare over the required minimum balances I need to keep. Yes, that is including my student loan payment. Everything just barely covers. Sigh. I struggled so hard to build up those teeny silly savings balances!!! This whole adult responsibility thing blows sometimes doesn't it?

Ooh, and did I mention that another house came on the market in that historical neighborhood I like looking at? This one is a total all-American 50s style, flag on the porch and Harvest Gold carpet and everything. It's cute! ....Yes, I know .... another good word for me and my bad habits would be incorrigible.


Fie upon this quiet life! said...

If I were you, I'd resist the urge to buy a house for a little while. The advantage of having the same mortgage payment for 30+ years ends up not being that good of a deal when you constantly have things breaking. Especially in a historic neighborhood, like ours! We have old pipes, old appliances, and lots of other old stuff -- much of which we're paying through the nose for. I can't even tell you how many thousands of dollars we've had to fork over to replace/repair things since we bought this house two years ago. Yes, I love where we live, but I really regret giving up a rental until we were more financially stable. Resist! Resist with all your might!

Contingent Cassandra said...

Frustrating, yes, but if you're actually able to pay all the necessary bills, I'd say you came out all right. And you undoubtedly saved more in interest on the credit cards than you could have earned in any bank account.

Does your institution not have direct deposit? That's nuts. My institution now requires direct deposit, because it's cheaper for them. They're also now requiring 12-month pay schedules, but I'm grandfathered into 9. The difference is, indeed, negligible in the present interest environment for us, though probably less so for them. We also had the looming threat of a state government shutdown (budget wrangles) this summer, which made me glad to have already been paid.

Anonymous said...

Call up your contracts whose introductory offers are coming to an end and ask them if they can cut you any deals. Sometimes it works just by asking.

Anonymous said...

Also: Ditto to contingent cassandra. If you hadn't struggled to build up those savings balances you'd be in MUCH worse shape right now.

Bardiac said...

^^What they said!

And now you have less credit card debt, so you're digging out of the hole. You rock!

I bet by next year, things will feel better financially, too. But I sympathize with the frustration. It's hard to think you can see the edge of the hole you're digging out of, and then feel like you've slipped down a couple of feet.

Anonymous said...

Just one note on the introductory deals: you can almost always call up the cable/internet folks and get them to extend the deal. Tell them you want to cancel and see what they say.

Sisyphus said...

Ooh look, it's everybody!

First of all, yes, I have direct deposit ... but they don't direct deposit the "extra" summer checks for some reason. Also, they cut it as three separate checks and then issue them all on the same day. It is the height of foolishness. I didn't teach summer school, so I have no clue what they do for those paychecks.

but fie, the houses are cute and shiny! (whiiiine.) And it is so much fun to go looking at them all! :)

Hmm, I will think about calling those contracts ... wasn't there just that horrible phone call about comcast being evil to someone who wanted to quit going around? I might "spend" more in aggravation than the money I save. And the rent going up and having to pay 3 months on the phone all at once are the big problems.

I still hate budgets! And responsibility! Air conditioning, now that I like.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

Oh, I know the houses are awesomely cute and shiny. But they all have water heaters that are ready to die ($1000), appliances that need to be replaced ($5000, minimum), flooring issues ($2000), grounds to maintain ($150/month), etc. Not worth it right now...

Of course, I always got really grumpy when someone who had what I wanted told me it wasn't worth it. Doesn't matter if it was a house or a tenure-track job or a car or whatever. You want what you want. At this point I couldn't go back to renting because my house would sell for a loss, I'm guessing. And if I rented it out, I'm sure more shit would go wrong that I'd have to pay for. Rock? Meet hard place.

Janice said...

It hurts when you're being so responsible and so good, only to find unexpected expenses kicking you in the teeth.

I'll second/third? the idea to call your providers and see if there's a better deal. If there's a competitive market at all, say satellite versus cable, check what the other would offer and then ask your current company to give you a reason for staying.

Yes, that infamous Comcast call shows you how the poor saps working at customer service have to follow a script (or get canned!) but you can always ask to speak to retention or say you want to cancel.

If it helps, I think we've dished out $2300 so far this summer on maintenance costs (one new window and one big plumbing fix) with a further $1400 minimum before my partner's school-year pay kicks back in. Even a modern, well-maintained house is a money pit. *sigh*

Anonymous said...

Can you call your student loan holders and see if they can let you pay less than the full balance for a month or two? I found that sometimes (but only sometimes), lenders were willing to work with me when I couldn't make a full month's payment, as long as I agreed I could go back to full payments after a month or two. It may be a stretch, but the worst that can happen is they say 'no.' Can you do any more house/pet sitting? I know it's not always the best, but it would bring a little money and if you're housesitting, then you're not running up your utilities! I spent 8 out of the past 12 weeks housesitting, and while it wasn't always great, it saved me a little bit of money this summer.

undine said...

Chiming in to say what everyone else said, and do call Comcast or whoever. They expect you to call, though they're more than ready to overcharge you if you don't bother. The worst that happens (if you get cable) is that you get their new xfinity box that has no search feature to speak of and doesn't give you any useful information about the movies.

Anonymous said...

The thing is, these little money surprises are just a fact of life. It is rare that we don't get one each month even now (especially with homeownership).

That's why you're doing such a great job paying down your debt and having some savings buffer. That means you're climbing out of the hole rather than digging one so deep that it's nearly impossible to get out. It seems like a set-back, and it is, but it could have been a disaster, and it wasn't.

And no, do not buy a house now. Wait until you have no consumer debt and you have 20% down and you think you're going to be staying put for ~5 years or more.