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Doing Finances on Paper

About half the time, I do my finances on paper. I’m not talking about the spending of it, I’m talking about the planning to spend it. I’m talking about the budgeting portion of it. If I can visualize my money, whether it’s in a couple of boring hand-written columns or whether it’s saving the world in a crudely drawn space armada, then I feel I can be more effective as a money manager.

Numbers on the screen don’t really do it for me. Maybe it’s because I’m of a certain age where I remember that we didn’t have to have a computer attached to our hands at all time. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer who has reams and reams and reams of paper that I’ve scrawled on in my own closet, but seeing it on the screen does nothing because it lacks a certain tangibility.

I like being a freelancer because there are two worlds at work.

The first is the ‘regular people’ world, where everything is steady and on keel. This is made of my regular customers: customers who I’ve had for more than 3 months and don’t expect to go away any time soon. This doesn’t mean that they won’t, but they’ve been with me for a few minutes and we’ve developed a good rapport. With them, I can currently count on about $2,000 a month.

The second is the ‘X’ factor. This is the world that’s off the chain. This one represents side hustles, new clients that are auditioning, any passive income I might have achieved, and the unpredictable world of freelancing in general. Currently, I can count on between $250-$500 a month in this category. I don’t necessarily know where the money is coming from, but I can tell you that the money is most likely going to happen.

For salesmen, this would be base + salary. For hourly workers, this is regular time + overtime. What it truly means is that budgeting can’t be super accurate for any given month because even though you know when some of it’s coming in, you can’t give those dollars that you don’t know about a name and a purpose. As a result, any super accurate anal budget fails at the first encounter with the ‘enemy’ — that is, the X factor.

At one point, I kept a paper budget and spending journal. It was in this notebook, and I’d budgeted out what I was going to do for the entirety of a year based on what I was making at the time. I was salary at the time, and my check was the same from paycheck to paycheck. I dug down and established this grand plan of spending and saving… one which (in retrospect) did not plan for certain regular events like grocery shopping and the possibility of ever enjoying myself.

The notebook for that foray was scrapped, but the idea wasn’t.

The Money Conversation

There was a point that I was debt free and at absolute zero.

I had no mortgage because I was renting.
I had no car payment because it was paid off.
I had no credit cards.

The only bills that I had were rent and the revolving bills. I happily lived from paycheck to paycheck with not a care in the world.

Rent got raised for the umpteenth time. I wanted to break out. The car was still good, but I knew that it would fail. Buying a house, taxes, and simple life led me to where I am now.

I owe $77,000 in a mortgage.
I owe $22,000 in a credit card.
I owe $13,000 for a car.

And being in this much debt drives me nuts.

Here are our monthly expenses (rounded):

$60 Internet
$150 Power
$200 My Health Insurance
$200 His Health Insurance
$25 His dental insurance
$200 Car Insurance
$250 Car Payment
$650 Mortgage (fixed interest)
$100 Gas
$500 Food and Miscellaneous (average)
$50 Phone

$2385 Total

Here is our estimated monthly income. The numbers are rounded because I hate to deal with pennies.

$900 Regular Client A
$900 Regular Client B
$70 Regular Client C
$100 Regular Client D
$100 Regular Client E
$250 Future Regular Clients

$2320 Total

As you can see, we’re slightly underwater when it comes to expenses vs. income. You can only imagine how much this situation chafes the hell out of me. I’m not content to run blindly ahead because while it’s slow, I’m still digging a hole like those dwarves.

There it is. I’m not the know-it-all financial guru.

I’m just like my friends and neighbors.

But I can change. I’m restarting the money conversation. The good ol’ fashioned money conversation. And I want to show you how I’m doing this, every step of the way.

The Winning Roommate Experience

On Tuesday night, the youngest of the guys living in our household bailed to go live off on his own. This was a delightful moment, as it represented the fact that he had finally made it out on his own. He was free, and could officially put the crap that he’d been through behind him. He also represented a successful roommate experience.

I consider a successul roommate experience to be one where the roommate:

    Pays on time
    Keeps to themselves
    Cleans their area
    Doesn’t Break Stuff
    Causes No Drama

There are plenty of other qualifications for an awesome roomie experience, but I figure that if you’re living in my house that you shouldn’t put me through drama or make me have to jump through hoops to keep my life quiet. It’s one of those important things – like making sure that you eat your own food and such.

A roomie experience that has no casualties is one where we don’t have to do major cleanup, there’s no money owed at the end, and they’re not leaving us in a yelling or screaming fit. Preferably, they’re leaving because they’ve found love or that they can just move on with their lives.

    No money owed
    No serious cleanup
    No great secrets learned

This one was pretty good, and we’re thankful for the experience. We’ve all had roommates from hell, and there’s a likelihood that we’ve been a roomie from hell in the past, but ending on good notes where bridges are created is the best type of roomie situation.

Having a roommate saves money. You can easily split the rent that you’ve got to pay into halves or thirds, and that makes it a lot easier in the long run as well as making it easier to save some money for future things. We’ve had roommates here for a while just for that reason. We’ve both saved our asses from time to time, and it’s a delightful experience.

I’d love to hear about your roomie experiences. 🙂