I’m planning money and its really frustrating. I’ve already spent my entire year’s salary. Imaginatively. Luckily I like the planning and the window-shopping and the waffling indecisively over what type of thing or color of thing I want to buy almost more than the actual buying, so when I made up a big list of all the stuff I would like to replace with new things, I slapped in some estimates and toted them up and decided I should probably save some of it at least for food and rent.
So I started making a budget and looking at apartments on the web. That’s really frustrating too. I should stop and note that I have always been very good at entering all my expenses in to quicken and keeping track of my money and avoiding overdrafts or other fees or spending to zero balance, but being strapped and unemployed is so hard. I wouldn’t check what I spent against my budget, since the budget was essentially “zero,” and I would often treat myself or let myself get a little something just because I get so depressed and feel so strapped, you know? So I kept records but didn’t really look at my spending patterns. Just now I used these last couple years of expense tracking to make a retroactive budget in all the important categories.
When I totaled up everything to make a typical budget month I was pleased to see it almost exactly match my soon-to-be take-home pay. Wait. I haven’t added rent in there. How can that be? How can I be moving to a (slightly) bigger salary than what I had here in GradSchoolLand and not be able to fit in rent? How have I been surviving with these levels of expenses --- these are actual expenses recorded from my receipts --- with an exorbitant rent rate? I am so confused. And pissed off. How can I buy some new stuff like a couch that doesn’t need propping up or a working vacuum cleaner if my budget doesn’t even cover rent?
Not only that, but this is not a permanent position ---- I will need to budget moving expenses (more likely mooch them off of my dad) and pay for another job market run this year. Know how much I spent on job-related expenses last year? 2000 dollars! I spent 1600 the year before that! I will have to put aside over a hundred bucks a month to pay for that again! And if I am lucky and land a permanent job I will need to pay to move again, so I’d like to have money saved for that eventuality. And I’d like a savings cushion in general. And to start saving actual retirement-type stuff. At least to not add any more debt while I’m there.
Sigh. Clearly I need to see this not as My First Job but as an extension of grad school living. A year of field research, as it were. Scratch tv from the list and movie outings. Back to no alcohol. Continue holding as close to zero as possible on the clothing expenses. (My shoe expenses have been a totally-uncalled-for pick-me-up and I need to go back to just admiring them in pictures.) And I had really wanted to move on up to a bigger apartment, have an office separate from my living room and bedroom, and I think I should stay at a one bedroom. Double sigh. (Yeah, rent is much cheaper in Somewhere Else, but I’m not going to go all the way down into the lowest rent rates for someplace skeevy and potentially unsafe. Or unairconditioned.) I even looked into asking for a spot in grad student housing, if you can believe that, but I’d have to drop to a studio there to go cheaper than the off-campus one bedrooms I’m looking at.
My cats are a large fixed expense that I can’t exactly skimp on --- what, should I not feed them? Not take them to the vet when they are sick or licking themselves raw?
I’m even more waffly on the food expenses, since I know from experience that writing at home and not having tv or being able to go out for fun means that those expensive coffee drinks are so important just to get me out of the house and not go stir crazy. But yeah, they really do add up. But then, sanity and being able to force myself to grade for two hours is also vital.
(much like beagles, Academic Cog is lazy, stubborn, and highly food-motivated. She's not as cute as actual beagles, but more housebroken.)
And a major major part of my budget expense would be those damn student loans. Yeah, I totally appreciated them when I was a student. And if I had gone straight from being a student to a decently-paying tenure track job, they would be a big but manageable and slightly annoying payment to make every month, like a car payment or something. But instead I’ve had one job to pay them, another to (not really cover) the rent, and a third little job to kinda pretend to cover my actual living expenses but really need my dad to step in and help a lot. They really suck. I don’t want to not pay them back right now because I have been paying for a year or two now and that was just on the interest! I haven’t even started chipping away at the principal. So I’ve just been pretending that my rent is 250 dollars higher than it is and assuming that it’s non-negotiable. This makes the super-cheap rental rates in Somewhere Else much less so, as well.
Meh. But, you make your choices and you live with the consequences. This would be why I rant and fume at grad students about not taking out loans if at all possible. If you think this is tough, ask some of my friends who have 70k and 100k loan balances ---- they have tt jobs but are still living like students --- living more like students now than when they were students! *(and as long as we’re on my friends as object lessons, they haven’t really started paying down the loans yet because they had to get their credit card balances under control first. Racking up the student loans is bad, but the credit cards can be even worse news so be careful and try to stick to loans with the subsidized interest rates.)* Ok, this ends my latest installment of ranty advice.
Maybe I will have to make a note to myself about “being a grad student on field research” and post it somewhere I can see it to keep my spending in line. But I am buying that new couch, dammit. There’s no point in paying to ship a broken couch cross-country.