Friday, March 4, 2011
That's the Way the Money Goes
The financial front lately has been a mix of good and bad news. We got our tax return and did many responsible things with it, adding to our IRAs, adding to Robert's school fund, paying down some debt, and refilling the emergency fund. That was good. M got a grant for next year so he can work on his dissertation without having to teach. That is good! The grant is for fifteen thousand dollars before taxes, so it's a pay cut. That's bad! He is prohibited by the terms of the grant from doing anything else for money for that entire year. That's also bad! But I've crunched the numbers till they started cracking around the edges, and if we have no unexpected expenses and make no frivolous purchases all next year, and gas doesn't climb too high, and all our costs remain about the same, we should be able to live on that. That's... well, it's hopeful, I guess. It's better to be inevitably sunk by the unexpected than to start out in the hole.
My problem is what do I do right now to prepare for the financial burden I know is coming? Look for a job, obviously, but that's not without plenty of problems. Robert is still young enough to be on the high end of daycare costs, for one thing, so a job has to be pretty good to even be worth my while. And those aren't easy to come by around here. They're _really_ not easy to come by for someone who has been out of law school as long as she was in, and has never had a real paying law job. I'm going to be taking training this spring that will hopefully let me become a Court Appointed Special Advocate, which is both really important volunteer work and legal work that will hopefully help polish me up for jobs, but that's down the road a little ways. I can't count on finding a job that's going to bring in more than it would cost in terms of daycare, gas, and loss of couponing time.
I have money set aside, for things that I wanted to do. I wanted to do sessions with a professional organizer to help me get the house in order. I think it's really important, and I'm not making progress on my own. I got a great deal on two months of Jazzercise classes, and I've been doing that and was sort of hoping to continue. I have plans to put some money in our Roth IRAs, now that we're going to be looking down the barrel of 30. I could scrap all those plans and sock all that money into the emergency fund. That's what my squirrel-brain wants me to do. I know a financial winter is coming, and I must save all I possibly can. On the other hand, all these plans are good things to do, things that will improve our quality of life for a long time, and hopefully our health as well. It's not like a new TV set or something. I just don't know what to do.
I tell myself that at least we know now. It's not like a sudden layoff where the decrease comes with no warning. Sure, this summer was already going to be tight, but at least we know that things aren't going to get better when we hit the school year like usual. We can plan! And in the spring, M will still be getting paid like usual, so I can do things with that money. I'm going to toss everything we can spare into paying down the one remaining credit card debt, that's for sure. The more I pay of that before September, the fewer months that it will be a line-item in the budget. Man, will I be happy to see the end of that! And we have an emergency fund that's in decent shape, given our income. Dipping into it just to get through the year is not a sustainable plan, obviously, but it's good to know that when the inevitable small disasters happen, we aren't totally sunk. So it's not all misery and woe. I just have to keep reminding myself of that. We've got a lot of things going for us, even now! Things are going to be okay.