Saturday, May 7, 2011

Gotta Update the Spending Diet

I haven't posted much lately about my efforts to save money because I am just alarmed at the number of bills that keep coming, even though I am not out charging, charging, charging, like I used to.

April was a very tough month, even though we did pay off several bills.  But, something always comes up.  Last month, it was the cat, who had a very bad dental infection and had to have five teeth pulled.  It wasn't something I could get around or budget.  The bill at the vet ended up being $452.  Ouch.  I'm still trying to figure out how we're going to get Ben's teeth fixed, yet I'm paying to have the cat anesthetized and his mouth worked on.  Go figure.

This month, I keep paying bills that come in and the very next day, more bills come in the mail.  Every year in May we get a quarterly life insurance bill for Justin and the first half of the personal property tax bill comes.  (The second half is due in December.)  You'd think I'd remember that those things have to be paid, but they always catch me off guard and come usually either the same day or one right after the other.  I know they're coming.  I should be planning for them.  But I don't and every year, or quarter, or whatever, it still comes as a surprise when I get these bills. 

I went in today and scheduled payments for every single thing I had in my little file folder I keep the bills in.  I paid the mortgage and even snuck in an extra $25 payment towards principal on our second trust.  I figured it was $25 we wouldn't even notice and maybe we can start working at paying that off just a bit at a time.

Then, the mail came.  And wouldn't you know it, another health care bill I wasn't expecting for $85!  What the hell?  Seriously?  Justin said it's because we haven't met the deductible yet this year.  I say we're paying way too much for health insurance if we're still going to get these damned bills because of the deductible still being unmet in May!  But, what are you going to do?  He has to have his CPAP machine.  I really wouldn't like it much if I had to take advantage of that life insurance policy I just made the quarterly payment on because my husband stopped breathing in the middle of the night.  Really.  Not.

Oh, and get this.  My car is due for inspection in May.  I know this and I was expecting to take it in to the shop next week.  It still needs the 60,000 mile service at 70,000 miles and there's a check engine light that I have had our usual mechanic attempt to turn off for about two years now.  It's going to have to go to the dealership, so I was just figuring on making an appointment to get the service done and the inspection.  And any other repair they tell me has to be made because what else am I going to do?  I don't know crap about how cars work and they could tell me the galumphus machinus is broken and I need to replace it for $1200 and what am I going to say?  If the galumphus machinus is broken and the car breaks down, then it's my fault for not letting them fix it.  Even if they did make it up and there is no such thing as a galumphus machinus (which I'm assuming there isn't, since I made it up myself).

So, I was already anticipating that expense when I got a call from Ben.  He was in the middle of final exams, but called in between tests to tell me his check engine light was on.  Shit.  Over to the mechanic we go and the 02 sensors are broken.  Can someone tell me what the hell 02 sensors are and why they cost $524?  So, now my car still needs to go to the shop and we've had to shell out $524 for Ben's car.  How do people afford to live?  Seriously.

I want so much to not spend money.  And I am making a great effort.  I did go shell out about $40 for dirt and plants, hoping to produce a little of the produce we do eat to save later at the grocery store.  I don't know if that will be successful, since I've never done any kind of gardening before, but it might or might not have been a worthwhile expense.

It's discouraging when you're trying so hard, but bills you didn't plan for get in the way of making any progress on the bills you want to pay off.  It's easy to feel like why bother, I'm never going to get out of debt.  But that's the kind of thinking that got us into the financial credit mess in the first place, so I can't stop now.

I also know that if I don't stop gaining weight, I'm going to be shopping for clothes again very soon.  Another expense I don't want.  I am trying valiantly to wear what I have and deal with it and looking for ways to get back down to a size that works with the clothing I already have.  I've even started weaning off of a medication that I believe is slowing down my metabolism to see if that won't stop the creeping up of the number on the scale.  And when I went for a snack around 3:00, I actually was checking the fat grams and comparing between popcorn, peanuts and pretzels.  Did you know that peanuts have 14 grams of fat per serving, popcorn has 10 grams, and pretzels have 1 gram?  I went for the pretzels.  And tried not to look at the cookies.

I so hope that one of the publishers I sent the Brave Bear manuscript to might decide they want to buy the book.  It surely wouldn't totally solve our debt, but it would be so satisfying if this writing thing actually paid.  I'm even willing to allocate every penny from a sale to debt reduction, no matter how badly I want a new camera and an iPad.  I've been doing okay with the equipment I have and don't need to justify the expenses by saying I can't get out of debt no matter what I do, so I'm just going to go ahead and buy them.  That's something I've never been able to do before, so I'm trying to be encouraged that I've been able to control the impulses to buy those things, even though the second edition of the iPad is now out.  It's like they can't stand it when people are looking for ways not to upgrade their technology and tempting me on purpose.

So that's where we stand right now.  I wonder what bill will arrive in tomorrow's mail.  And I'm hoping for not a bill, but a contract and a check.  It's a lot to hope for, I know, but it's still out there as a possibility.  And if I would just get off my butt and work at that manuscript I started, maybe I could get that out for consideration as well.  Just to pay the stuff that is coming in on a regular basis that I never plan for but have no choice but to pay.

And we did get the pool membership.  I finally decided that the $300 was worth it since the kids have no other activities planned for the summer and they enjoy the pool.  It will benefit me not only by giving my kids something to do, but also, if I could fit my fat self into the swimsuit I bought last summer, would be another way for me to exercise.  Maybe, just maybe, I'll try it on...maybe.  But I'm prepared to be doing some swimming in the two pairs of shorts I own that don't make me cry.

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