Forward, Finally.

I am sitting at my computer. Counting Crows are playing, a space heater is warming my feet and I smell a little like sweat because I mowed the yard earlier and haven’t showered. I am back in my pajamas. I am seemingly always in pajamas. I have Firefox tabbed to email, Facebook and TurboTax.

I am crying.
Let’s back up.

Work sends me a 1099. They don’t take out taxes, so I usually just have to set money aside and brace myself to write a HUGE check to Uncle Sam every March. There’s this ever-present fear, like maybe I haven’t saved enough. No optional large purchases are made before tax time. The fear sits on my shoulder like a cat perched on the passenger side pillow, laser eying me through the sheet, blanket, duvet and other blanket. Pet me. Pet me. Pet me. Who knows how much you’re going to owe.

Everything started to go to hell in 2009. By the time things started to get better at the end of 2010, I had no savings left and I had borrowed money from mom multiple times. I blew through everything I’d ever saved, all the while thinking, “if you were just better at your job, this wouldn’t be happening.”

I felt like I had nothing of value to offer. I felt like a non-adult. I had to close my savings account because I didn’t have enough money in it to avoid service charges. I went 6 months without buying produce, instead living on beans and pasta. I watched things around my house break and have to stay broken. I watched shoes fall apart and prayed that they would do so slowly enough that they’d wait until Christmas. By the time my office’s ceiling collapsed, I wasn’t even surprised. I just took pictures and started spooning bits of my house into trash bags with a dust pan. When I was done, I juts closed the office door and pretended nothing had happened as the room took on a parade of wasps. I did all of these things knowing that I had focused on work my entire adult life.

So this year I did my taxes with some trepidation. I stalled as long as I could, trying to wrap my head around another money-seeking call to mom. You get used to feeling like a half-adult after a while. I started my taxes just because I wanted to get them over with.

When the number at the top of the Turbo Tax window came up green (refund), I realized that whatever money I’d saved would stay with me. I could reopen my savings account. It would be like being an adult. It would be like being ME circa 2007. It was a sign screaming “the worst is over, and we survived it.”

I have been waiting for the worst to be over for almost two years. I have earned my tears of joy and I will keep them, along with what I’d saved up to give Uncle Sam. With my refund, I am purchasing a sandwich, a cream soda, a semester of school and the kitchen hardware I have waited two years to buy.

The Lottery (not about stoning people)

The Lottery

You all know the conversation. The age old “what would you do if you won the lottery?” question. Someone recently told me that my list was a bit odd, so I thought it might make a decent blog post. If nothing else, it’ll allow me to sit here and fantsize about what I’d do if I happened to hit the Powerball that I never attempt to hit.

1. Pay off student loans, house/condo, and car for the immediate family.
I know, it’s not very sexy, but first things first. I guess mom wouldn’t really need to have anything paid off, so I could just pay back the money I owe her (thanks, recession) and upgrade her BMW. Maybe also some sweaters for her Mini Schnauzer. I’d also invest a chunk of money so I could live off the interest later if I needed to.

2. Fun with lasers.
First, I’d get Lasik. Oh my GOD, would I get Lasik. I wear a -11. For those of you who don’t speak nearsightedness, that means that the lady at the eye doctor always thinks she’s pulled the wrong file when I come in. Then, I show her my glasses (over a quarter inch thick, despite being the thinnest lenses science can muster) and she understands. Mom and dad gave me teeth that didn’t need braces, but I got effed in the a on eyesight and, the older I get, the shorter the time I can wear my contacts. I’m tired of avoiding ceiling fans, for Pete’s sake.

Also, I’d get laser hair removal of everything that needs shaving on a lady. I’m sick of doing it and I’m German and pale. Translation: you can see the hair when it’s still in my leg. SEXY.

3. Material Stupidness
I like my house, but I’d like my house more if it had new siding and light fixtures. I’d like an old castley church or a custom built gingerbread-style art house even more. Besides, you can’t tell me that you don’t think a gingerbread house would be totally kick-ass. One with pink flamingos in the yard that look like lollipops, gutters that look like Twizzlers, and a tile path made of fake peppermints. Do not harsh my ornate fantasy buzz, man.

As for the dream car, that would be a sensible hybrid of some sort for everyday use and a baby pink hearse for “special.” Or maybe a pink Prowler. Or a 57 Chevy which I would name Christine.

Hair. Purple hair. Expensive, huge purple hair. And roughly 20 grand in delicious shoes and clothes that I’ve never been able to afford. I really don’t mind my Goodwill existence (if I had 300 bucks to blow on a coat, you know I’d just save it anyway) but every now and then I kind of wish I could just go to the Betsey Johnson store and buy some completely impractical dress, just to wear it to the grocery store.

Also, a 9-foot concert grand piano, a kick-ass computer, a 60-inch flat panel tv, a gang of big vintage picture frames, and a piece of woven hair mourning jewelry. And a pony! (OK, not really a pony.)

4. Tattoos.
My right arm isn’t anywhere close to being finished. Eventually, it’s going to be a charm bracelet that wraps all the way up and gets anchored to a bolt on my right shoulder, maybe with some girly flowers thrown in for color. Then, I’ll add charms to the bracelet as situations arise, eventually turning my arm into a timeliney scrapbook sort of thing. The left arm stays blank. Yin and yang, you know.

5. Travel
WHAT? Yes, bitches, I said I would travel. She who has not been on a plane in 16 years wants to see Europe at some point, though she can’t guarantee that she’d ever actually come BACK from Europe. A couple of friends who live in Sweden tell me that it’s dark and cold much of the year, so that sounds good. Then again, they also say that there aren’t any good Mexican restaurants there. Wait, where were we?

I want to go to London and have enough money to shop. I want to go on the goth cruise, if only to say I did. I want to go to Wave Gotik Treffen. Whitby Gothic Weekend. Scotland. Ireland. Germany. Toronto. Yes, I DID just list Toronto as though it’s some far away fairy land. Humor me.

Oh! And Oaxaca for the Day of the Dead festival. And Japan has sushi and the Metamorphose store. Maybe also India, because why not? I just won a bajillion dollars. Then maybe to some posh hotel where I could sit around drinking blue drinks and getting manicures and seaweed wraps all day before heading out to have an entire dinner of desserts. Those special rich people desserts that don’t have calories. You know they exist; I refuse to believe that Nicole Kidman lives a completely cakeless existence. She’s eating magic rich people cake.

I am now officially 26.

“You know, after you were born, dad and I had to sell our house and go back to apartments for a while.”

I think mom told me that in some attempt to say “hey, if you have to sell your house…it wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened to someone.” I don’t find that very comforting, but I appreciate her attempt. I remember some of what happened in those years where we apartment-hopped. I never felt safe. I never got comfortable. I was seven years old, checking the door locks before I went to bed. I promised myself that I wouldn’t let that happen to me once I was running things.

I have developed an unsettling pattern of behavior these days. I ignore the bills because I can’t look them in the eye. This only makes things worse, eventually because I end up having to pay late fees on a bill I already couldn’t pay by its due date. I decided that I’d stop that pattern of behavior. I’d make a serious effort to pay the bills the day after they arrive. At least then I’d know how much short I’m coming up and have time to try to do something about it before the bill was overdue.

Thus, I paid bills today. I started with the mortgage because, if nothing else, in big red letters, I am not going to lose this house. It was too hard for me to get here. I haven’t been able to put hardware on the kitchen cabinets yet, and that’s ok, but I’m not going to lose the house.

“You’d type this stuff for me? You wouldn’t be insulted by that?”
“Tony, I’d walk in front of you and throw rose petals on the ground if you’d pay me.”

I figured that I could work 30 or maybe 40 hours a week doing data entry somewhere while my real job figures out what its deal is. I could do both, as long as Colombia keeps making coffee. Thing is, I can’t even seem to get called for a job in data entry. Not even by people who haven’t seen me. I think it may be time to start lying. My name is Amy. I just got out of college. I took some time off after high school. I am 26. I type quickly, and I love to file things.

I’m supposed to be working on a logo today, but I can’t stop crying.
I secretly hate freelancing.
I do it because I have to.

I don’t want to spend my time wondering what evil-assed things I’m going to have to do to get someone to pay his or her invoice. I just want to do my work and get money for it. And maybe also full dental.

I’m tired of writing well thought-out cover letters, only to receive an auto-response from a robot with a human name, telling me to sign up to be a secret shopper or something. In the days before the internet, at least a job listing really WAS a job listing. Now there’s a 50/50 chance that it’s just some ploy to get you to sign up for some stupid service.

I have told Jen that she’ll know when it’s really bad when I sell my car for a scooter. As is, I’m cashing out my other 401k.

2008 Spending Stats

As I was doing my taxes on Sunday, going through my big Excel spreadsheet where I keep all of my checking and credit card transactions, I thought of a fun experiment. A couple bounced checks in my college years led to my current semi-obsessive record-keeping via Excel. I’m not as diligent about this as my dad would be, but I haven’t bounced a check in over a decade (unless you count that time that I forgot a decimal point online and accidentally tried to pay $23,462 on my student loans). By the way, if I HAD paid $23,462 on my student loans, they STILL wouldn’t be paid off, but that’s a whole other Oprah show.

I thought it might be fun to graph out everything just to see where the fuck my money is going. Like, do I really spend too much money at restaurants? Which did I spend more on? Gas or food? These are the burning questions posed by the Excel spreadsheet. I left off all of the one-time house expenses, like closing costs and down payment, because they were skewing the data and I don’t buy a house every year (thank god).

I was stoked to find that I only owed 58 bucks on my taxes, even after counting the freelance work. This is good, because the money in my savings account may be needed in the next few months. That’s my “omgwtf” money, and it’ll help me survive without having to cash out my other 401k, also known as my “omgwtfBBQ” money.

Conclusion: I spend a little more on mortgage than I ought to (Suze Orman or somebody says this should be 25% and mine is 28%), but I only spent about 300 bucks on clothes, and I spend much more at Kroger than I do at restaurants, so I guess that’s good. Also, the student loan and car payments can still bite me. (Click the small pic to see the big pic.)