surprise attack.

28 06 2011


a few months ago (at the big thaw actually), i had a heinous allergic reaction that caused my feet and legs to be covered in enormous, swollen, itchy hives (see inset). it was a pretty sexy look, but i figured i’d take  a brief jaunt to the emergency room, just in case.

unfortunately, my hives went away while i was sitting on the gurney in my very flattering hospital johnny. actually, one of the hot doctors (for some reason the maine med ER docs are always super sexy) actually uttered the phrase “wow, i’m watching the hives disappear in front of my eyes”. at which point like 3 more doctors came in, asked me all the same questions, and then they told me to go home and take a benadryl.

helpful.

about a month later, i was pleasantly surprised to get a bill from maine med for a mere $0 for my visit. way to go insurance!

FALSE ALARM.

friday, i got a replacement bill for $362.

fuck.

as you might remember, i was just scraping by last month. and i made it work. i ate dinner at home and had $3 beers! i didn’t have to dip into my saving’s account to pay my bills! but things are still tight. i just can’t afford a big chunk of change like that right now and have any chance of catching up with my finances.

i have a feeling that these kinds of bills (unexpected expenses!) are the kinds of bills that really get people in trouble.  i have certainly been more than guilty of putting off paying a medical bill for as long as i possibly can (usually until they send me the letter telling me it’s about to go into collections), even when it’s only like $8. but unlike that situation, this isn’t the kind of circumstance where i can pay it off indiana jones style at the last minute. i don’t have $362 extra dollars now, and i probably won’t anytime soon.

so what now? Read the rest of this entry »





the edge of extinction.

3 04 2011

ok folks, it’s time for us to have a serious sit down discussion about the ikea bus.

the first week of ticket sales was exciting. after the first few days, i had 13 people already and it seemed like things were all systems go.

and then, they stopped going.

i  was stuck at 13 tickets for almost an entire week. and the worst part was that people kept asking me how it was going…

i’m a firm believer that it’s never good for business to tell people that things aren’t going well. so i would say things like “it’s going, but i wanna sell that shit out!” or “it’s coming along, but there’s still room!”. it’s a little awkward. and i’ve been feeling a lot of shame about the fact that it’s not going better. both because i don’t like failing at things, and because i really really do want it to happen.

i sold a few more tickets last week, but just a few. and sadly, my attempts at getting some press coverage turned out to be completely balls. so here i am, stalled out at at 16 tickets (i made the boyfriend promise to buy one, so i could say  17 and not totally be lying).

i’m not sure what happened. 58 people liked my press release on facebook. the eventbrite page has almost 600 page views! and everyone and their grandma keeps telling me what an awesome idea it is. so what gives?

bad timing? no money? not the right time to buy a couch after all? i have no idea.

the truth is that i’m scared. if i can’t get up to at least 25 (preferably 30) by the 7th (that’s THIS THURSDAY), i’m gonna have to cancel. the problem is that the money is mine, and if i don’t get the bus filled , that money still disappears. and i have student loans and a mortgage that can’t let that happen.

i don’t want to beg you. begging isn’t classy. more than anything, i’d like to gently remind you to buy your ticket now if you’re planning on going- or at least send me an email telling me that you’re definitely coming. and i’d also like to warn all the fabulous folks that did buy tickets, that there is currently a high likelihood that the trip will be canceled. so, spread the world to your friends and neighbors if you want it to be on. and if anyone knows a media outlet that might give the ikea bus a little lovin… now is the time to call in some favors!





the chopping block.

19 11 2010

so after spending some time rolling around with tuesday’s therapy musings, i got to thinking about how i use shopping to ease my anxiety. any time i’m about to make a life change, or do something that is stressful to me, i make myself more comfortable by assuring that i am wearing an impeccable outfit. new job= new wardrobe every time, assuring that even if i do make more money at said job, i won’t actually ever get to see any of it.

as many of you know, i’m about to embark on yet another crazy performance opportunity in the form of the burlesque nutcracker.  generally, this would mean several hundred dollars in new lingerie and dancewear, but i’ve decided to try and fight the power. for the snowflake number, instead of getting this (which i really really want to the point where i’ve convinced myself that i NEED it), i will borrow something completely cute and serviceable from someone who was in the number last year. not mine, not perfect, but so far more painless than spending $68+ shipping on something that may or may not actually contain my boobs, and that i will likely never wear again.

well, as i’m thinking about the HUGE (and potentially) lingerie sacrifices that i’m about to make, it made me start thinking about what would happen if i lost my job or got sick and had to make some real sacrifices- what would  be the first to go?

1. as much as i hate to say it out loud, my $100 a month cell phone bill is LUDICROUS. goodbye iphone, hello virgin mobile pay as you go… could i get by with no phone at all?

2. goodybe dr. shrinkage. $300 a months for therapy is a lot. i find it hugely beneficial, but i could survive without it if it meant being able to make my mortgage payment.

3. my student loans are steadily shrinking, and i get to write off the interest every year on my taxes. but if i had to make some cuts, these guys speak the language of need based deferment, which is a blessing indeed.

4. those are the big ones (and we all know that i can’t stop paying my credit card bills- as much as i would like to), but then there’s all the little bits and pieces like neftlix ($17), my gym membership ($10), and non-specific spending money in general ($75). i don’t have cable, and i would have to be in pretty dire straits before i let anyone pry this internet connection out of my little clenched fists.

5. i can’t weed out things like medication, but i do think that if i was really proactive about it, i could axe my food budget down to $15 a week. although i might have to get over the ick factor of shopping at the save-a-lot or the dollar store. hey, at least i don’t eat meat.

still, as it turns out, i need at least $1,200 a month to get by. it’s a lot. it’s scary. it’s exactly why suze orman recommends 6 months worth of expenses in the bank for everyone.

is there anything you wouldn’t be willing to cut?





weekend pickthrough- red hot and boozy edition.

1 08 2010

so, i finally got my “i’m on a boat” badge on foursquare this weekend, and i definitely EARNED that shit. this past friday, red hot and ladylike was having a saucy benefit booze cruise, that involved me throwing on some hot pants and shakin it on a boat to top 40 til the wee hours (ok, like 10:30). sure, i got hit on by marginally creepy dudes old enough to be my dad. and sure, there was one drunk couple that i was pretty positive was actually doing the horizontal monster mash on the dance floor. but i forgot how much fun it is to get shitty on champagne and go dance with the lady friends. and dancing on a boat- TOTALLY AMAZING. the casablanca appears to have regular cruises with live music or djs all summer long (at very reasonable rates). and lemmie just tell you, there is nothing else like pulling into portland harbor while you’re crazy dancin’ in your underpants to “got your money”. ODB would be proud. (word)

the subtle intricacies of prison hooch (you just need to round up a little grape juice, a dirty sock, some moldy bread, and a toilet).

the portland press herald and i are having an argument. does this guinea pig look more stressed out, or more concerned?

25 free songs from urban outfitters (most of which don’t suck)! finally, some free downloads that aren’t christian audiobooks (now that’s a miracle).

there’s no crying in the break room. i need to hire my own joan holloway to make sure that i don’t embarrass myself.

the adorable and clever @aubinthomas has started a new blog to help preserve the memory of fine graffiti before some jackoff with a bucket of beige paint decides he wants to clean up the town.

$555,000 in student loan debt? sallie mae needs to back the fuck off.

for all you meat-a-vores out there, that fat guy from portland food coma takes you on a BBQ tour of maine. now somebody needs to generate me some passable faux pulled pork, or i am gonna LOSE IT.





Sorry kids, I’m not paying for college

18 05 2010

There was a great article in the NYT last week about the value of not getting a college education. Mostly, It dicked around with Bureau of Labor statistics about the fastest growing career fields, and how in the future we’re gonna need more nurse’s aides than nanosurgeons.  And while this is true, and while I completely agree that there is a great need to bring back the vo-tech and ditch the “college or career suicide” type propaganda that seems to be rampant in our high schools… I think that there are better reasons not to go to college than just the best odds for job security. That’s right. Sorry possible future kids, you guys can go screw, because i’m not paying for college. and here’s why:

1. 18 is way too young to know what you want to be when you grow up. Picture it- 1995. When i was 17,I graduated from high school telling everyone that I was going to be a genetic engineer. WTF?! Good at science, but with an obvious passion for art that was somehow completely overlooked by me, my family, and my educators, somehow I wound up at Smith College studying biochemistry. Needless to say, I spent the majority of my 2 semesters there smashed on cheap champagne and watching the Love Boat in the common room. But don’t worry mom and dad, it wasn’t a complete waste! I also learned how to build a gravity bong and got really good at cybersex before they kicked me out! And it only cost you $27,000. A giveaway!

My booze soaked cautionary tale is not unique. The typical American high school aims to trap you in the college machine, programming from day one that higher education is an absolute necessity in order to succeed at life (and that non-college goers are sentenced to permanent loserville, qualified only to work at gas stations and fast food chains). They then give you a brief 4-year overview of a few select subjects, boot your ass out of the nest, and expect you to make good decisions. Except that you’re 18, and you still need the approval of your parents, peers, and teachers, and it’s the worst possible time and place for you to make big giant expensive decisions about the “rest of your life.”

2. Shit’s expensive. A year of tuition at Smith College was $27,000 back in 1995, but it’s edging closer to $40,000 these days. Um, that’s $160,000 for 4 years- not counting all the other bullshit expenses like books and room and board. Sure, there’s financial aid and scholarships and grants… but it can’t be denied that still, SHIT IS EXPENSIVE. Even if you don’t have an honors track top 10 school kind of kid, state school is still not cheap. My eventual and reluctant alma mater, the University of Southern Maine, is still a good $15,000 (in-state) a year after room and board. Coupled with the above point about how ill-equipped teenagers are to make huge life decisions, I think it’s quite clear that college at 18 is a TERRIBLE INVESTMENT.

3. I never appreciated the value of learning more than when I was paying for it myself. After I got the boot from Smith, my parents foolishly STILL sent me back to school to try again. Admittedly, it was a much cheaper school much closer to home. But, how exactly does a summer of shame and repentance make me any more qualified to plan my future? I did manage not to get kicked out of USM, and may have even learned a few things (but not too many). I certainly had fun, but did I graduate in 4 years? Um…NO.

Despite the fact that I stopped attending school in 1999, I would actually be one class short of a diploma until December of 2005. When i was finally tired of being ambiguous about my education on resumes, I enrolled in a couple of classes and finally figured out why non-traditional students seemed so irritating to me back in the day. It’s because they were actually learning something. They showed up to class on time, did their homework, and generally participated in discussion regarding the material that they had actually read (instead of passed out on after one too many Brandy Alexanders). When I was the one paying $80 for a single book, I magically turned into this person, and it was kind of a revelation.

So when I say that I won’t be stashing my pennies away for baby Broke207 to go to Yale, it doesn’t mean that I don’t want him/her to go to college ever (or that I don’t think that a college education can be valuable and worthy). It just means that I want that choice to be free from the pressure that high school life so lovingly and liberally applies. I just want my imaginary future family to be aware of all the options (trade school, apprenticing, working up the ladder!), and experience the world a little before they start themselves out thousands of dollars in debt.





minty fresh.

20 04 2010

it’s freaky sometimes how the posting stars align. this weekend i was going through an old all you, and i ripped out an article about a free budgeting website called mint.com. then of course there was yesterday’s meltdown about how out of control my spending has been lately. then this morning, i read an article on mashable about how mint.com is now offering expanded services. perhaps the universe is trying to tell me that it’s time to go for a minty test drive?

i decided to screw the research portion of the evening, and go straight to the sign up phase. oh, did i mention that it’s free? it actually felt really bad at first, entering in all my account numbers and passwords. i am aware that mint is a highly respected and secure site, but it’s still a little scary to think how much damage someone could do with all that info just hangin out in one place. but again, i decided to give the anxiety phase the finger and try to get to the good stuff. i was able to plug in both my credit cards, my bank account, and one of my two student loans (bummer that the lender for the larger of the two wasn’t available). i still haven’t sorted out importing my mortgage, but that’s more the fault of me using a small local bank (i do think it’s possible in time though).

regardless of the 2 unimportable  accounts, and the vague uneasiness about dishing out my data, everything was quite simple and smooth. it initially took a little finagling to make sure that all my checking account transactions were appropriately classified so they fell into the right categories.  although there’s a really nice function that lets you apply a classification across a group of transactions, and i found the whole setup to be super-intuitive.

now that mint knew all my secrets, what mysteries would be revealed?  well, as it turns out (as evidenced by the above pie chart), i actually spent more money on eating out this month than i did on my mortgage. those 5 pairs of shoes certainly put an unfortunate dent in there as well. even when i’m balancing my checkbook, even when i’m paying attention, i’m never quite vigilant enough to catch everything that flies through my accounts. i’ve been keeping an excel budget for YEARS that to me seemed fair and reasonable. but when mint made me set up a budget for coffee and movies and restaurants and clothes… it made me realize how insufficient and quasi-delusional my budget really is.  no wonder i was always short at the end of the month (always borrowing from the next paycheck down the line). shame!

because mint looks at all incoming deposits and expenditures and throws them automatically into budget buckets over the course of the month, i no longer need to waste time trying corral my finances into a woefully ineffective excel spreadsheet. instead, i can spend my energy monitoring my spending and trying to keep it under control.  i’m pretty positive that if i keep up with it, mint will keep me honest. it will now be entirely impossible for me to be in denial about where my money is really going. $38 on coffee- check. $235 on shoes- double check. all laid out beautifully in cheerfully colored pie charts and bar graphs.

the only feature i wasn’t particularly impressed with was the “ways to save” tab. really, it’s just a place to get online quotes for loans and credit cards and so on… i’m assuming that’s how they make their money. i know that i can get better rates on pretty much all of their offered services via local banks and credit unions, and i also know that it will be pretty easy for me to avoid that tab all together.

all in all, mint is a lot cooler than i thought it was going to be, and if you’re having a hard time getting your hands around your finances (and don’t mind giving out some personal data), it’s a must try. and no, they didn’t pay me to say that. as always, nobody pays me shit to do shit (except of course my actual employer). although also as always, i would love to whore out my opinion for cash. mint.com of all people should know at this point how much i need it.