Saturday, August 04, 2007

Personal Epiphany

My current lifestyle is unsustainable.

It's not an extravegant lifestyle, by any means.

I don't drink, I don't smoke, I don't do drugs, I don't go out partying, I don't take expensive trips, I don't have any expensive hobbies.

My jeep is paid for, I don't have any credit cards, no outstanding loans. I brown bag it to work everyday. I shop the sales at the supermarket and try to stay stocked up on staple items. I can't remember the last time I bought any new clothes (and it's beginning to show).

The girlfriend and I go out to dinner and a movie occasionally. But that's about it.

The unsustainability of my current situation is due to the following factors:

I'm paying too much for the house I am renting. The girlfriend has been telling me this for the past 2 years. It's more house than I need and it costs more than I can afford on what I am making. When I got divorced a few years back, I was paying almost twice what I'm paying now on a 1st and 2nd mortgage for a 115 year old monstrosity in Richmond. So this placed seemed like a real bargain at the time. Plus, my bank account was fat with a down-sizing severance package and a 401k from almost 20 years at the same company.

My income is half what it used to be. After almost 20 years with a major corp, I took about 6 months off to decompress, downsize, declare bankruptcy. I was also recently divorced so I had some accumulated wild oats to sow. When I finally decided it was time to get a job, I went back to doing what I love, but at about half the pay I was used to. No problem...I had that severance money and 401k to draw from to subsidise my life style. For a while.

All that "buffer cash" from the severance and 401k is gone. I have no savings, no buffer, no safety net and no credit. I am living strictly pay check to pay check. I am one mechanical breakdown or medical emergency away from total collapse. I know what you're saying. Wah, wah, wah. Welcome to the real world like most of the people in this country. Quitcherbitchin'. At least you have medical insurance and enough money to pay your bills with a little left over. Whiney bastard.

I have a teenage daughter. This is the real issue. Yes, I have a few dollars left over after paying all of my bills each payday. It might just barely be enough for me to eek by on my own, if I'm careful. But young Galadriel Tanqueray Onassis is getting more and more expensive with no end in sight. She starts 8th grade this year. I'm already paying $70-80 a month for her cell phone. She needs schools supplies. She needs school clothes. And her 8th grade class will be taking a field trip to Washington, DC next summer so my ex and I need to come up with $200 a month for the next 9 months to pay the tuition for that trip. In another 3 years, she's going to need a car. A couple of years after that, she'll be going to college. I'm not prepared for either of those.

So, I have reached the conclusion that I need to do two things that I really don't want to do. I have to find a new job that pays better, and I need to move into a smaller, cheaper place.

I need to drop my rent from $950 a month down to the $500-800 range. But I'd like a townhouse or patio home. Not sure I can really do an apartment. Want to stay in Missouri and as far north as possible. Need at least 2 bedrooms and an office area. Really want a fireplace and garage too. I'm going to start looking today, but if anyone knows of something I might like, let me know.

My current salary is in the $50k area. They got me on sale. I'd like to boost that up to at least $70k or more, but I don't know how realistic that is. I'm pretty damn good at what I do and I've been doing it a long time. Plus, I've spent the last two years working on a $15m project that is kind of on the cutting edge of the industry I am in. A lot of other companies in the industry will be folowing suit and they could benefit from what I've learned. If you are curious about what I do and think you might have some ideas for me, email me and I can send you my resume.

So, I have lots of change on the horizon. Which sucks because my philosophy is "Change Bad. Same Good."


travelingal said...

I'm sure you love your daughter, but sometimes you have to draw the line. That cell phone bill can be cut in half with cheaper plans. School clothes...that's another thing. I took my gdaughter school shopping yesterday and $250 later, she has a reasonable start, but she won't be a fashion queen. Insist on sales and designer clothing isn't necessary for an 8th grader even tho she may think so. The school trip is a tough one. Perhaps she could contribute through babysitting, etc. I hear they get pretty decent money these days.

Job..look outside your industry and look for the industries that pay the most to all their employees. Don't overlook drug companies, including animal drug companies. The pay is far above average and they need a wide variety of skills, including computer technology which I have a hunch you're into. There are several in the KC area, even several out here in dreaded Johnson County.

Don't know much about the northland and I'm sure it's a great place to live, but maybe you should consider the job first as it could be a long commute from the south end of the KC area.

Good luck, and I mean that. Hopefully didn't sound too much like preaching...and I definitely won't pray for

Tony said...

Awesome post!!!

Sorry I don't have any helpful suggestions for you but you seem to have things well in hand (no homo).

Only one question? Does your mom have a basement? I've found that's a finance question most people are too afraid to ask themselves!!!

Xavier Onassis said...

Thanks travel. Believe me, that cell phone bill is much better than the alternative that I have already encountered. This plan has unlimited voice, and text messaging o it is at least a constant price. No more surpising "spikes". The clothes will probably be manageble. She is very much a jeans and t-shirts girl. The booster club will be doing fundraisers to help defray the costs. But I think that will be doing more to defray her mother's cost than it will mine.

I will certainly look outside my industry. The industry I'm in now is different from the industry I was in for most of my career. But I think that the unique nature of my most recent experience will make me most valuable to the same industry. No one else in the region is doing what we have been doing...but they all want to very badly!

Xavier Onassis said...

Tony - no, my mom doesn't have a basement (you lucky bastard).

Actually, I was kinda hoping I could move into YOUR mom's basement. We could be roomies homie! I could help put a dent in the snack cakes budget!

crse said...

Oh buddy, Im so there with the change bad, same good problem. I need to scale down our lifestyle too. 1800 bucks for a trip to DC? THATS CRAP! Good luck and keep us posted.

Heather said...

I also wanted to stay in the Northland when I was house hunting. For what I was willing to spend, I got much more house in the Raytown area as opposed to what it could afford me north of the river AND I'm still in a decent school district.

I was dead set against moving south of the river initially, but now I am happy I did. The area just west of me is booming, and I'm already up $10K in equity of my house.

Don't limit yourself to the Northland. Lots of good places to be had if you want to stray south.

JustCara said...

Two words - Dave Ramsey. Yeah, he's got a radio show (710AM) and yeah he's a born-again Christian, but seriously - following his plan has gotten me and a about a million other folks out of financial crappiness. None of it is get-rich quick but I can sleep at night when I wasn't able to before.

You can find his steps here.
Start by creating a $1000 emergency fund - even if you can only spare $10 a paycheck, you can build up enough dough so that if you have that car breakdown or medical emergency, you're OK. (Seriously, 6 months ago I was so paycheck-to-paycheck that if I had a car accident I'd have to borrow the $250 deductible. And I don't live high on the hog either.)

You can also find budgeting forms on his website. Once I budgeted for everything - down to how much food the dog ate a month - I created a budget and stuck to it and now I put over 10% of my salary away each month in savings. That's after ALL the bills and whatnot are paid AND I give money to charity. Honest to god, I am more proud of myself for getting $1000 in the bank than ANYTHING I've done in the past 5 years. And really, I'm not eating grilled cheese sandwiches 6 nights a week either. I took his Financial Peace University course and it changed my life.

If you want, I'll meet you for coffee (scratch that - tequila shots) sometime and I'll go over this stuff with you and your girlfriend - or hell, anybody else who reads this. I'll teach you everything I've learned through FPU and save you the $100 it costs to take the class (though the class is really good.) This isn't an MLM or "mission" thing either - I just know how stressful money problems are and now know how to take the stress out of it and start having FUN with my money!

Spyder said...

XO- Come on down to Raytown! We would be glad to start looking for a place for you. Hubby says we'll support your candidacy for a run for city hall as an alderman. Raytown will never be the same.

Xavier Onassis said...

cara - well, I'm not one to snub advice or information. I'm printing off his steps now. Some of them don't apply to me because I don't have any debt and I don't own a home. But some of the other stuff makes sense.

spyder - um, no on the alderman thing. To quote LBJ, "if nominated I will not run, if elected I will not serve". I'm afraid the skeletons in my closet would rival Arlington Cemetary. Best for me to keep a low profile.

Spyder said...

XO - Do consider Raytown if relocating.

emawkc said...

XO- Don't even think about moving to JoCo. We don't allow your kind over here.