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Getting religion

July 30th, 2017 at 01:33 pm

July has not been a pretty month for me. My expenses exceeded income by the largest amount ever since my layoff a year ago. I guess it was bound to happen, but I admit to being fairly lazy about reining in my expenses.

I've done such a good job of that during previous unemployment periods but perhaps I've been lulled into a sense of complacency being so close to retirement. Not smart! There are so many expenses between now and then!

My total expenses for the month of July came to $2,305, an amount I'd consider quite manageable were I working f/t at even the lowest paying job.

But now it's wiped out much of the $3,000 or so in savings I managed to accumulate YTD, mainly due to the 1 month I worked for that high-paying marketing agency job in May-June.

My income in July was a paltry $229, earned from my first focus group of the year, some credit card rewards and the sale of a few items on Facebook Marketplace.

But let's take a deeper dive into my July expenses, shall we? This always helps motivate me.

Property taxes: I pay twice a year but it comes out to $492 a month.

COBRA: $520. This hurts and it will get much worse in January if I don't find a job.

Car tax ($271) and registration ($90) = $361. Ouch. All required to keep my car legal on the road. The registration is good for 3 years I think. The tax is an annual thing but slowly gets smaller as the car depreciates. This is one disincentive to buying a new car in Connecticut.

Internet/phone: $70.

Electric: $84. This is higher than my pre-central air summer bills that usually came in around $65 or so, but is so worth it when I ran the AC about a week or so during high humidity days here. I think these higher summer electric bills are just going to be a new fact of life.

"Household" This is a catch-all category for expenses that don't seem to fit elsewhere, and it came to $94 this month, including $52 for the used day bed frame and new slats for it and $20 to renew my computer anti-virus protection another year. (So glad I shopped this price instead of accepting the $55 auto renew from McAfee!!!)

Clothing: $3 for a cami top at Walmart.

Dining out: $55. Should be $0 when I'm not working, but $33 of this was splitting meal costs during my recent visit with a friend in Jersey.

Entertainment: $26. Again, by rights, this should be $0 but most is coffees i bought my dad after our weekly dinners; just doesn't seem right to let him pay for it when he routinely pays for very pricey dinners out every week. Also included $10 for Amazon books, totally not needed, and $11 on food at that vegan festival I went to recently. That $8 vegan hot dog was way overpriced and I should have resisted.

Gardening: $149, which includes 3 bi-weekly lawn mowings. Usually not that high.

Cat: $93 for food and litter. Now that we're down to one cat, I hope to see these bills come down a bit more.

Food: $322. A big disappointment. Seems way high for one person. I shop Aldi's as much as possible but this does include $16 on 1 cucumber and 1 cake at the organic farmers market...too much.

Gas: $36.

I need to get religion on my expenses again.

I used to be so strict with myself. Because once again, I wonder if I will ever find another f/t job.

Overall, my net worth, including the house, stands at $1,222,215. It's still up since June 1, and it's up $7,800 this month alone. Still, that's all due to the stock market and I feel uneasy relying on that to boost my bottom line since it can change at any time.

I am truly loath to return to the higher education freelance job again. I put her off the week the tree came down on my property. Shortly after that they suspended assignments to catch up on backlog, but they've again sent us new detailed instructions and critiques and I just don't feel the energy to jump through their hoops for a $15/hr job where I get so little in return. It was a ton of work for little payback.

It's just that if I basically quit that job, I'll need to remove it from my resume becus while I consider it a relatively unimportant job, prospective employers will want to call them for references since it is the most recent thing I've done. And I wouldn't want my contact there telling someone I quit; that would open a can of worms.

But without that job, I would need to account for my time since my layoff. Aside from the 1 mth contract job in May/June, I suppose I could say I've just been doing random freelancing without specifying with whom and not spelling that out on my resume.

Anyway, I do hereby pledge that I, PatientSaver, will revert to my uber-penny pinching ways for the month of August.

4 Responses to “Getting religion”

  1. snafu Says:

    Are you beating yourself up un necessarily? The high cost spends like Cobra, property tax, auto registration/tax/operations, electric, phone service, garden and cat expenses are unavoidable. Some are one tick items like day bed and shelving. Having dinner regularly with dad has so many benefits, the coffee is like a smile...a gesture of appreciation

    Would you feel better operating from a typical budget, assigning an anticipated sum to each category including a 'set aside' for anticipated, irregular expenses like auto maintenance, insurance, repairs, vet etc?

    You wouldn't want to be in my circumstances, twirling round on the medicos carousel, surgery, only 3 charges on my CC, $ 41. in medical supplies and automatic billing for cable and $ 37. for cell phone. The other side was having DH at the grocery [nearly daily] choosing foods he could manage and that he liked to eat. I haven't seen the bill....yet

  2. AnotherReader Says:

    You have done a great job stabilizing your housing and car costs and in controlling discretionary spending. As a result, there is not much more fat to cut. With your level of assets, you face a large "sequence of returns" risk with early retirement. If the markets decline at the beginning of your retirement, your standard of living may be permanently reduced and you may have to take Social Security early to make up the difference in income. If your total portfolio of $919,000 drops to $600,000, your 4 percent withdrawal rate gives you $24,000 a year, not the $36,750 you project. Your health care costs up to Medicare age, which are high and unpredictable, create another problem for you.

    A lot of people that retire early find that some employment, even part time and/or low wage employment, reduces their need to withdraw from their assets in the early years and allows them to delay taking Social Security. They may not completely mitigate the effects of a bad sequence of returns, but they have a cushion. Generating even $15,000 in net income reduces your dependence on portfolio withdrawals substantially.

    In your shoes, I would not count on a full time permanent position as a writer paying $50,000 a year or more with benefits. Too few jobs and too much competition to rely on that hope. Corporations look at their writing needs and conclude that it is silly to pay a full time employee $25 plus in hourly wages plus benefits when what they need is 300 hours they can procure through a contractor for $15-$20 an hour with no benefits and no employment hassles. I would actively seek those contracts that pay $15 an hour along with those that pay more. I would look for other opportunities that may not be directly related to writing for the same or more pay. In short, I would take the jobs that are available, make the best of them you can, and keep looking for that needle in a haystack. It's too risky in my opinion not to take that path.

  3. patientsaver Says:

    Yes, of course, I am pursing all employment avenues, with this order of preference:

    1. Full time job with benefits
    2. Temporary but full-time contract job with possible health insurance benefits if it's a longer term assignment. Many employment agencies now offer such health plans of you work 6 months or more.
    3. Part-time area job: If I was a W-2 employee i would at least be accruing credits toward future unemployment benefits.
    4. Freelance: This is the worst option IMO. It's straight pay and nothing else.

    Snafu, agreed. I'm not really beating myself up,just pushing the "re-set" button and reminding myself I need to tightly control expenses. Time spent with dad is priceless and I don't regret any of that spending. But perhaps we don't need the post-dinner Starbucks visit. It's just a nice way to extend the evening, that's all.

    I've never used that kind of budget you describe and I do enough micro managing of my finances (and my life) as it is. I feel my current system of closely tracking all spending achieves essentially the same thing as budgeting.

    AnotherReader, I'm very aware of the sequence of return risk and it does make me nervous. This bull market has had a long run. I completely agree that any kind of partial or full employment income is extremely beneficial and I am pursuing that. I am not counting on another f/t job...that's why I threw out that I may never find one again....but i am most definitely continuing to look for one. Here's an interesting article on the subject of today's new realities in the workplace: https://aeon.co/essays/how-work-changed-to-make-us-all-passionate-quitters

  4. patientsaver Says:

    Also, if there was a huge market correction near the time of my hoped-for "retirement," I would most certainly revisit those plans. When I say "retirement," I fully intend to be doing some kind of p/t work at least into my early 60s, regardless of market conditions. I want some structure in my life, just not 40 hours worth. So there will be enough income coming in to cover current bills and allow me to defer tapping Social Security early.

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