31 May 2014

Just a morning rant

This working poor stuff has long since worn thin; earning enough to cover bills and naught else is really not enjoyable, and this morning I just need to vent.

Earlier this year after I'd bought the house and settled in things were looking good: my job paid well enough for me to actually eat out from time to time, go have beers with friends like once a week, that sort of thing, and I had put together a savings plan and some financial goals for the year, and it really looked like it was going to work.  I wanted three months' expenses set aside in one account, and in two other savings accounts I was putting money so I could travel (two exotic trips, to Virginia and Ohio), buy a sound bar (I'm tired of listening to music through my television speakers, so I don't listen to music any more; my ex-wife sold my old speaker set at a garage sale and I can't for the life of me imagine why I let her), pay for a personal trainer certification course, and other small things.

And the thing is I just about got all three accounts filled up.  The two-months-expenses one is good.  The savings for travel and other things are basically where I want them; I overestimated travel expenses and other costs so that, even though I'm about 10% shy in both accounts, I think I'll be good.  And I've got some cash stashed away for the travel expenses that probably more than makes up the shortfall.

Of course, I could just turn all the money out of all three accounts and finally pay off the goddamn credit card (I finally made the last payment on the second one earlier this year, hooray), but what is the point of this life if I can't get out of town once in a while?  Well, that's the nature of low income.  You don't get to do the stuff you want.  Piss.

And of course, I went and bought a new mattress a couple months ago.  Wasn't planning to do that, either, but it became obvious that my old mattress was the cause (or at least a cause) of my back and neck pain.  And it was expensive, and I'm still paying for it, and it was sooooo worth it.  The new mattress is fantastic.  I love it.  It hasn't helped with the anxiety and stress that keep me from sleeping well most nights, but I don't wake up in pain any more, and it's hard to put a price on that.  But there was a price on it, and I'm still paying it.

Nonetheless, with a new roommate helping me pay for the mortgage and bills, my savings accounts look good enough that I've been seriously shopping for a new bike.  My current bike is a ten-year-old mountain bike, but I don't trail ride any more and don't care to.  I'm going to use the bike as a daily commuter to campus, and have been thinking it would be nice to have a more efficient one, something designed for roads where the high gears are actually, you know, high gears, and where the top speed is better than 20 mph at full tilt.

Road bikes are expensive.  You can find some really cheap ones on line for as little as $300 from Bikes Direct.  And they are worth $300.  According to most of the reviews they'll get you about 1000 miles.  They are intended as "intro" bikes for new riders who will either ride for a while and decide they don't like it, or will quickly want to upgrade to a better machine.  I'm not the target consumer there; 1000 miles is somewhat less than one year's commuting (assuming I bike in 4 days a week), which means sometime next spring I must either buy another $300 bike or replace all the components on the old one.  That just doesn't make sense.

And I thought to myself, you know, I just spent $350 I didn't have on a brake job on my car.  My whole goal here is to put more miles on the bike around town in the next year than on the car.  Shouldn't I at least consider spending more than $300 on my daily commuter?  That doesn't seem unreasonable, right?  I plan to ride this thing almost every day and use it as my primary transportation.  My car cost me 16 times as much and I have to put $40 worth of dead dinosaurs in it every week (which is over $2,000 a year) and pay hundreds more in additional maintenance a few times a year, just to keep it running.  Cars are terrible investments.  By comparison it would be crazy not to buy a good bike.

I can get a very good road bike that will last me for many years and be an efficient and useful daily commuter from the bike shop on my delivery route, for about a grand (or half the cost of gas for a year). If I hadn't had to replace the car's brakes I'd have a third of that price in savings right now.  But I don't.  And if I hadn't replaced the mattress I'd have the rest of that money in savings right now, too.  But I don't.  And again, while I don't regret either of those purchases (it's hard to regret replacing your car's brakes, you know?) it does make it tough to justify spending any money at all on a new bicycle when I have an old bicycle.  It doesn't really meet my needs, but it exists.  If I'd paid off my divorce debt entirely already and not gone to Mexico in the spring on last fall's savings, I wouldn't be worrying about this, I suppose.  It's not that I've spent money on things I wish I hadn't; it's that I wish I hadn't NEEDED to spend money on some of those things.

It's been seven years now since I earned enough money that I wasn't constantly doing this simple calculus.  This is why I'm going back to school.  My job prospects seem limited to the exact sort of dead-endery I've been doing the last several years.  Oh sure, I could have stayed at the factory and after five years been earning more than enough, but the intervening time would still be fraught with this constant cost-benefit analysis and the necessary choices to give up things I want to do for things I have to do.  And I don't want to work in a factory on the night shift for the rest of my life.  Or drive a FedEx truck.

And I'm rich by the standards of my neighborhood!  Hell, many of my neighbors make 2/3 of what I make, or less.  I know how they manage it; I know I could manage it.  I've done it.  I don't want to anymore.

But what really got me pissed this morning... I mean, these things are all true, and that's what life is, and I live with that every day because honestly it's way better than the alternative, so it's really not something I normally feel the need to rant about.  It's frustrating, finances are frustrating when you don't make much, but it's hardly impossible.  There's lots of stuff I'd like to do and lots of it simply will not get done, probably ever.  Living with that reality is shite, but it's shite I'm used to and it's what most people deal with on one level or another.  What's interesting after a few years of this is how different the things I want to do but can't are than they used to be; when I was comfortable (back in my USAF days) I wanted to rip out my kitchen and take a rally-driving school in New Hampshire, things with five and two thousand dollar price tags, respectively.  Now I want to finish putting ornamental grasses in the front yard and take a trip to Cedar Point, things with $100 and $450 price tags.

No, what pissed me off this morning is piss.  Specifically cat piss.  On my nice couch.

It's not enough that he pissed on the guest mattress some months ago.  He got himself locked in the guest room while I was on an overnight trip, and obviously at some point he had to pee.  Okay.  He peed directly on the large pile of clothes (including a suit and several old flight suits) and also peed in nine other discreet locations around the bed.  The entire mattress is trashed.  I haven't replaced it yet because I can't justify spending hundreds of dollars on a mattress that's going to get slept on at most ten nights out of the year.  I need to find a $100 mattress somewhere, maybe Sears Outlet or Big Lots, but with those places I also have to get the damn thing home.

But the couch?  Why my fucking couch?  What is the bastard's problem?  He's done this once before, after we moved into the apartment in Greenville.  I chalked it up to his being scared in a new home and went out and bought this current couch, which is frankly better in every way anyway (but wasn't too expensive).

It's not a medical issue.  He goes outside most of the time, and is perfectly capable of using his litter box; he also doesn't habitually pee on furniture.  But all three couch cushions right now smell like cat piss.  I don't know when he did it or why, but suffice to say he had no reason to.  He gets fed more than enough and any time he wants it; has a clean litter box; gets to spend most of his day outside if he wants or stay in if he'd prefer; he even has a new human around to give him extra scritches and cuddles.  The thanks I get is a comfortable and essentially brand new couch that now smell like fucking cat piss.

I can't afford a new couch.  But I can't even sit on my nice comfy couch any more because of the smell.  Where the fuck is that money supposed to come from?  Seriously.  If I was really poor I'd just have to live with it, but thankfully I can at least fathom the idea of taking all the money out of savings to replace something that was brand new two years ago and should have been able to last twenty more.  And of course that's put the kibosh on the new bike idea, if not on Cedar Point as well.  So it goes.

Money is always spent before it's earned.  Maybe earning more isn't the answer.  Maybe I shouldn't go back to school at all, but just sell everything I own and backpack around the world on tramp steamers and stay in hostels until all the money runs out and I mooch off of relatives and friends for the rest of my life.  That sounds pretty nice, actually.

So who has a couch I can crash on?