Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

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

Pocket Full of Change

with 12 comments

Total Black: $16.79
Total Red: $269,947.64

Ever since I was a lad, I kept my loose change in a container or piggy bank of some sort.  Not sure why.  Perhaps because males don’t get purses and wallets don’t typically have space for coins.  It’s come in handy many times.  Once, for example, when I was a boy, I counted and rolled all my spare change and came up with nearly fifty dollars worth.  I turned it all over to my mother and father because they had been going through some tough times.  Maybe one had been in the hospital.  I don’t recall now.  But I do remember how grown-up I felt to be able to give such a large amount to them.  Fifty dollars is no small beer even now and in the 1980s it was certainly worth more.  That habit has helped get me out of quite a few jams. 

I’m feeling the growing pains of budgeting.  I’ve still got my training wheels on but the app discussed in What a Mint! is helping.  It will take some getting used to.  Today I paid the auto loan.  It’s $478.83 a month.  I paid $480.00.  And just as in Paying Ahead, Falling Behind, that dollar and change will get rolled over into next month’s payment, reducing it accordingly.  I was tempted to quibble about that point, to inquire whether my dollar extra could go on the principal.  Or even to ask for my change back—though the clerk didn’t look like she wanted to make change.  But I figured to let it go.  I may need that cushion in the future if I keep paying a bit more each month.  I might even free up one entire payment enabling me to double-up on another debt.

What also crossed my mind was that I could have used that dollar for something else.  But I resisted.  That’s a mindset of poverty and lack and not one of wealth and abundance.  If one dollar really would break me, I’m not doing well.  On the drive back to the court, I stopped at the gas station to add five dollars worth of gasoline to the Jeep.  That left me with nothing in the wallet.  I’ve got about twenty dollars available in the local bank account, I thought.  I could stop at the bank on the way home and make a withdrawal.  But, frankly, I was embarrassed.  Who stops at the bank to withdraw twenty dollars?  ATM card hasn’t arrived yet.  I kept driving.  I had that jar of coins at home.  And maybe there was something I could make at home.

Of course, once I got home, I remembered that there really wasn’t anything in those ol’ cupboards.  Dinner could have been a can of corn.  Or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Or both (yuck!).  I had made spaghetti sauce over the weekend but didn’t have pasta.  So I turned to that jar of coins and opened it on the bed and set to counting it.  Reminded me of days back in New York, like in Change to Spare?, counting my pocket change to scrounge up enough for a meal.  And voila, I came up with twenty dollars just in quarters alone.

So into my pocket all those quarters went.  And into the car I hopped.  And down the road to the restaurant that also has a small market I went.  But I also took a fifty dollar bill out of the envelope that held rent money.  Lord & Lady haven’t been around in about a week so I still haven’t paid them the rent yet though the money’s been off to the side for days.

Hunger is very motivating.  Just ask ol’ Jean Valjean.  I was debating getting an order of the delicious fried chicken that restaurant makes so well—probably at a cost of $12.00 before tip and drink.  Or just picking up a box of pasta.  Angel and Devil were battling it out on my shoulders.  Or maybe gluttony and frugality.  What also factored in though was the pocket full of change I had.  I find it embarrassing to have to pay with spare change.  I guess it reminds me of the poor people who used to come to buy some random item at the supermarket where I worked during high school.  Dimes and nickels and pennies to buy a pack of the cheapest, most generic cigarettes available, for example.  And so I profusely apologized when I put my box of pasta on the counter and handed over $3.50 in quarters.  And I got too excited when the cashier appreciated the quarters, noting that I had a lot more.  Got to swap five dollars worth of quarters for five dollar bills.  Still got ten more in quarters in my pocket.

This is temporary.  And it’s always about food.  I wonder why that is?  Nearly all of my excessive spending occurs on meals.  At least today I successfully resisted the urge to spend a lot just one meal.  Instead, the pasta will now provide at least three.  I’ll need to stretch those five dollar bills for a while though.  Ten dollars in quarters will get me enough gasoline to last at least until Thursday when the next paycheck arrives.  I learned my lesson way back in A Cold Blustery Walk Home—and I ain’t backpedaling down that path again.  I can go a few days without food, but I’m not about to call off work because I don’t have money for gasoline.  Walking really is not an option.

Next week will be the first paycheck of this first month on a quasi-budget.  I say quasi as a few kinks exists; gotta still work out the details.  I don’t know yet, for example, how much I should allocate for fuel for the month, for example, or for groceries.  Budgets, I’m seeing, are really a work-in-progress.  Budget too much and you’ll have extra unallocated income that could be better allocated to increase a credit card payment.  Budget too less and . . .  well, today is an example of that result.  I wasn’t too smart last month with a portion of the extra funds I had.  At least I sent good portion to the canceled Visa credit card.

Slowly but surely I’m getting there.  If ever so slowly.  Only took a year to get me on a budget.

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

August 4, 2010 at 21:24

12 Responses

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  1. Glad you were able to resist the restaurant! I try to always keep several boxes of pasta, tuna, cans of chick peas, etc. on hand so I’m not tempted to overspend on eating out because there’s nothing at home. When I do go out, its because its planned and is much more enjoyable than because I have no food.

    One way to jump start your groceries budget might be when the paycheck comes in, buy a lot of groceries, whatever you want, but no eating out for the week. Since you buy whatever you want, you shouldn’t feel deprived and end up running out, and it will give you a sense of what it costs to eat for a week.


    August 4, 2010 at 22:10

  2. So you have $16.79 until next Friday?

    And congrats on gettin a budget .


    August 4, 2010 at 23:30

  3. I just read your “A Cold Blustery Walk Home” entry. Great post. What led you to leave Manhattan?


    August 5, 2010 at 00:09

  4. @Anon: yup, pretty much. I got hit with a $24 fee for checks I didn’t order. I called and they agreed something went awry, so I’ll get that amount back. But no time soon, of course. Plus there’s the $10 donation I received. Total black is only at $15.00 because of the $88 student loan and the $35 insufficient funds fee. Totaled together that’s like $140 in the red. So I have more on hand to bring that back up to black, but that only leaves me with about $15 or so.

    @Anonymous: I left New York for a job, a one-year (so far) clerkship.

    @govtlawyer: I did bulk shopping back in June and in July, but all that food’s been eaten since. Time for more. That’s what I need to avoid. Running out of money is fine if you have food. And running out of food is fine if you have money. Just pretty much ran out of food and money at the same time, this time. But it won’t occur again now with a budget in place.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    August 5, 2010 at 07:45

  5. Keep dried beans – white navy, lentils and black beans in your cupboard. Also rice! All are cheap and filling. I try to keep a couple cans of anchovies too and olive oil around.
    Here’s a cheap, and good reciept:
    Boil white beans with a chopped onion until beans are soft. Then add a tin of anchovies and 1/4 cup of olive oil, a couple cloves of fienly diced garlic, salt, pepper and mash fine. It makes a great sandwich spread and lasts a week. its also good on grilled italian bread.

    Sam Adams

    August 5, 2010 at 08:38

  6. @Sam Adams: Dried and canned products are what I’ll need to stock up on. Frozen foods aren’t the best option because the power can go out fairly frequently—and if we have a bad storm, that’s just wasted food. Receipe sounds interesting—not so sure about the anchovies though. Might have to swap ’em with tuna

    Laid-off Lawyer

    August 5, 2010 at 09:14

  7. I suggest “splurging” and ordering a couple tubs of good protein-powder and also a powdered fiber supplement.

    When you’re eating on the cheap, protein and fiber are the two areas where you will suffer the most. I feel the need to use skim milk with protein shakes, but I know milk is pretty expensive down there. Maybe you can do the water mix, but I can’t!

    As for the fiber, if the local KMart doesn’t have a store brand, I’d recommend you just have your mom pick you up a few bottles at WalMart and use a flat rate USPS box to ship it to you.

    In fact, crazy at it sounds, for certain types of items you will be able to obtain a significant savings if you have your mom buy it stateside and flat-rate it to you through USPS.

    If I were hungry and walked into a fried-chicken joint, I don’t think I’d be able to resist…so congrats on that!

    Mmmmm, fried chicken…


    August 5, 2010 at 09:18

  8. @T-Bag: luckily I couldn’t smell food a’cookin’ and the “shame” of having to pay in quarters overrode any urge to stay and eat. That, and the fear that I’d go over my quarter-allotment and have to pull out the $50 bill and then go home and run into the landlord and have my first month’s rent, at least in person, be short. I just didn’t want to do that. As for food shipments, my mother has sent two packages with random stuff and she tossed in a few goodies. I’ve heard people mention food being shipped. I guess I just don’t want to give in to that though. When I was in the Peace Corps, I got care packages. The USVI isn’t the same. Or it’s not supposed to be. 😐

    @Anonymous: I just reread that post got kinda sad, flashing back to that walk, at Christmas time, in the cold. It was so cold. I forgot I had stopped at Barnes & Noble just to warm up.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    August 5, 2010 at 09:29

  9. Rice & beans contain all the amino acids for a complete protein and loads of fiber. The small tin of anchovies are for a pound of beans. Not alot, but it adds the ‘Umami’ taste to ‘salty’ …

    Protein powder and fiber products are the most espensive ways to obtain nourishment — just buying into the corporatist marketing; think peasant, not high tech.

    Sam Adams

    August 5, 2010 at 11:56

  10. Really? For some variety I don’t think a protein powder is a bad deal at all, depending on where you get it.

    It’s hard to beat 80 servings of 25g Protein for $25.

    114 servings of fiber @ WalMart is about $7…also not bad if you’re grown tired of stuffing beans down on a daily basis!

    Whatever…just a suggestion.


    August 5, 2010 at 13:53

  11. Its Soylent green! Damn it, damn them to hell, Soylent green is made of people …
    An average male needs minimally 56mg complete protein and unless you want to sh*t rabbit pellets, alot more than the amount of fiber in a Wallyworld serving.

    Sam Adams

    August 5, 2010 at 15:15

  12. I loved Soylent Green. And his indignation!

    Laid-off Lawyer

    August 5, 2010 at 15:24

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