Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less

Will and a Way

with 9 comments

Total Black: $208.35
Total Red: $227,348.99

Today at the theatre I was talking with a fellow Hawker.  Normally he acts like a sixty-five year-old bitter queen whom life has left drenched in its urinary excretion.  Well, at least at work.  And he rarely talks to me.  But today he chatted me up.  He wanted his hawking shift back.  I was scheduled for two hawking shifts next week whereas I typically only worked one shift in the early morning.  He had asked for more time off than he needed and now wanted me to willingly turn that shift back over to him.  For nothing in return.  Just shrug off that income and hand it over.  Luckily, as discussed in Stepping Up and Down, I decided to scale back my theatre shifts for the next few weeks.

So I told him he could have his shift back, but only if he took both shifts.  He agreed; and then started telling me of his desire to make more money to pay for various acting-related lessons.  But the catch would be putting his acting career on hold—at least for a bit—to make the money to pay for the lessons and classes to help improve his craft.  I noted the similarity with my situation.  The irony that you need money to position yourself to be able to make money.  Quite a little hamster wheel life is, no?  He wrapped up our little dialogue with that tired, old saying: “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”  But today it got me thinking.

I’ve become a bit complacent of late.  Slowed my pace on that hamster wheel.  I’ve not been trolling the depths of Craigslist for various gigs or other opportunities as I had been a few months back.  After all, Craigslist led me to the art seller gig, the theatre gig, and the medical experiment gig.  And I’ve simultaneously let myself slip a bit in my meal purchases.  I haven’t brought lunch to work in well over a week; instead I’ve bought it—hence the rise, at least in part, in total red.  The apartment is a disaster.  Working all these hours has been taking its toll and I’ve been getting sloppy.  I wonder why the slippage.

Partly it’s due to getting sick.  And it’s still stuck in my lungs a bit.  And partly it’s also due to nearly every cent last week and the week before going for rent.  Yet I can talk myself into charging ten dollars for lunch but can’t bring myself to charge a hundred dollars, for example, for groceries.  And, after ten days, I’ll have spent the same amount of money.  Odd how the mind let’s us justify one over the other.  So it’s time to remind myself that about that will and a way.

And to that end—gotta figure out what to spend this week’s paycheck on.  Send the lion’s share to the landlord and free myself up until May 1st?  Pay off a credit card?  I’ll probably get about $1,500 at least.  Not counting whatever might be coming from the theatre.  Gotta buy groceries, for sure.  I suppose I should take one commenter’s advice and pay off the Saks credit card.  I’ve already paid off the AmEx.  I’m not in the mood to pay it off again.  The IRS would say I should pay them first.  I can send a bit their way.  But something I noticed a week or so ago, as noted in Coming Back Around: I like paying a lot more in a lump some on my student loans!  That’s a debt that won’t climb back up so rapidly . . . and one I can’t charge back up either.  Perhaps I should use a large portion of this week’s paycheck to eliminate a student loan?  The smallest is only $2,998.74.

Hmm . . . I feel the urge stirring.  I might have this week’s target in my sights.

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

March 14, 2010 at 22:39

9 Responses

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  1. Unless you can pay off a loan and gain the psychological satisfaction/close out an account, etc. then common financial sense mandates that you pay down the loan that is the most expensive/has the highest interest rate.

    I’m telling you, again, keep track by actually writing down/getting receipts for EVERY SINGLE PURCHASE you make, no matter how small. Every month track those expenses by means of whatever categories you want to use for labeling them, and it will help you stop with these eating out expenses.

    It is just like counting calories, if you’ve ever done that. When you have to write down everything, that 600 calorie milkshake doesn’t seem worth it when you know you’re only allowed 1800 calories for the whole day, and you won’t buy it/drink it.

    Reigning in spending is your top priority now. You have income enough to manage your debt if you’re smart about spending. You CAN do this, but you need to get smarter about where your money goes.



    March 15, 2010 at 22:36

  2. I’m assuming you’re talking about what you will do with the money AFTER you pay your Mom back the $4,000?


    March 15, 2010 at 22:46

  3. Partly. I’ll be sending a portion back to my mother. But I can’t send my entire paycheck to her. Returning the $4,000 to her without paying anyone else in addition would mean entire paychecks for two weeks and half of the third. I need to buy food. I need to pay at least minimums on my credit cards. Utilities are knocking. Besides that, I’d end up going from paying rent, to paying my mother, and back to paying rent. That would be nearly six weeks all other debts went without. It’s impossible.

    Maybe I need to claim myself as exempt on my W-4. That way I’d get the entire paycheck for a few weeks.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    March 15, 2010 at 22:50

  4. You’re right. Part of the problem is time. My spending is only on food—because there’s nothing at home. I don’t have time to shop for groceries. I put in sixty-three hours this past week over seven days—and that’s not counting nine shifts at the theatre. It’s 11pm right now and I’m still at work. I arrived at 8:45am today. And I’m expected in early tomorrow to review the work we’re doing today. When can I buy groceries? I’ve been toying with hiring a cleaning lady because of the state of my apartment. I haven’t scrubbed anything in months.

    It’s a vicious cycle and the exact same I feel into when I was an associate. I racked up credit card debt and siphoned off cash because I had to buy lunch and dinner nearly everyday.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    March 15, 2010 at 22:58

  5. I know you’ll ignore comments suggesting you use a budget, so I won’t go there. I buy groceries at the supermarket once a week, and spend about $45. this is enough for me (just me, I live alone) to make coffee every morning (bring in commuter mug), stock my coffee maker and creamer at work, bring lunch to work, have ample food for dinner, and eat breakfast every day.

    You might be able to experience significant cash flow improvement if you went to the supermarket once a week and spend no other money on food. Even if you spend twice as much as I do, you’d at least know that there was food to eat when you got home.

    If you don’t have enough money to pay all the bills, think about paying the IRS first – they can grab your paycheck without the legal process that the credit cards would need to go through.


    March 15, 2010 at 23:05

  6. No, I don’t ignore it. It’s just damn near impossible to budget when you have no way of predicting what your income will be each week. Salaried employees get the same amount each week. Regularity leads to predictability. If one week’s check is under $1,000 because I was sick, and the next week’s check is over $1,500 because I yoyo-ed in the other direction, then how can I create a monthly budget to stick by. I can keep track of how much my bills are, but I can’t plan to spend XX amount of my check on groceries, and YY amount on a credit card, and ZZ amount on IRS if I’m unsure what I’m getting each week.

    You’re right though about the IRS. The problem is that for every dollar you send them, only 50% actually hits the amount owed. They snatch up the rest in interest and penalty fees. Very demoralizing. So dollar-for-dollar my cash would go farther when allocated to a credit card or a student loan—thus freeing me up to dump larger amounts on the IRS debt. They, of course, wouldn’t care and certainly wouldn’t see it that way though.

    As for groceries, I’m in complete agreement. I’ve felt low on energy all week. Partly, I’m sure, ’cause I’m still recovering. But also partly because prepared food, at least in New York, is just so calorie-laden. After like ten days of buying my meals I feel twenty pounds heavier. I’d rather bring my food. It’s not the money. It’s the time.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    March 15, 2010 at 23:31

  7. While fluctuating income can make “down to the penny” budgeting impossible, it is not an adequate reason to give up on making one based on an estimate.

    There is no reason that you have say you’re going to spend X on this, Y on that, and Z on the other, specifically.

    What you do need to do is lay out all of your monthly bills (there’s no reason to try to budget weekly, so no matter that your weekly income fluctuates more than your monthly), and you begin with the minimums required payments for each. Then, you look at what you’ve spent, on average, for groceries (remember…save EVERY receipt…this is why), and you plug that in.

    Ideally, the amount of these minimums is less than you earn in every month, and then you dictate where the extra goes. If there are, based on history, months where you have a shortfall, then you must allocate a portion from months of excess and keep it in reserve for months of shortage in order to make your minimums and avoid fees.

    Then, after doing this for a few months, you can get a picture of where your losing ground/gaining ground, and take appropriate action. It’s pretty black and white…no hiding a $4000 loan in the recesses of your mind because it makes you feel good, etc. You put the numbers in the spreadsheet and you get a detailed look at your financial situation. Then you tweak it, make cutbacks, consider (sometimes) drastic changes like a change of residence, a change of jobs, whatever you need to do.

    You must be accountable for EVERY PENNY or you will bleed your funds away. You have been doing this long enough to know that is the case.



    March 16, 2010 at 08:13

  8. I track my expenses using the expense tracker app on my iPhone. There’s a version that costs a couple of dollars and a free version that can hold up to 20 transactions. I use both – the full version to track every expense and my income, and the free version just to track my ‘left over’ money that I get to spend however I want (I give myself about $40 or $50 every 2 weeks). With the free version, I start over every paycheck to stay under the 20-transaction limit, and anything I don’t spend goes into a reserve fund for unexpected expenses. I can also run reports to see how much I’m spending on any of my spending categories. This system really helped me get a handle on where my money was going, know exactly where I was with my bank account so I didn’t overdraw, and keep me within my ‘free money to spend’ limit. You should try tracking your everyday spending, at least, using one of the many similar apps. Seeing it added up makes a big difference in your mindset.


    March 16, 2010 at 09:16

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