Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Preparacion para Espana (Preparations for Spain)

So, remember how in my first post I said I was gonna take some time off and travel, and Id write all about it here? Well, the time has finally come! My room mate and I have decided to embark on a 3 month trip with the first stop being Madrid, Spain. We just recently locked down our tickets. We have a hostel booked for the first 2 nights. We know we will be there together (and thank God for that, bc Im really tired of traveling solo). And beyond that, we know pretty much nothing. This will the the epitome of "Playing It By Ear"... and Im excited!

Im also exhausted. Its 5:15 a.m. and we are leaving in t- 4 days. I have been cleaning, purging, throwing away, giving away, organizing, packing, buying, running around & going crazy for almost 2 weeks now. The more things I cross off my to-do list, the longer it gets. I have no idea how this is possible; besides the fact that I keep adding things to the list, which is besides the point, Im sure. Ive had trouble sleeping lately (stress-related insomnia, not excitement-related insomnia) and so today I decided that, if I dont sleep at all, then waking up early to cross more things off my list wont be a problem. I have about 3 more hours to go before Ill actually be able to go out and run any errands. This may be the City that never sleeps, but at some point, the merchants and vendors who run it do have to catch some zzz's.

At least Im not waiting until a few hours before my flight leaves to pack, which is what I normally do. I must say, Im quite proud of myself this time; I am pleasantly surprised at my organization and lack of procrastination (something Im well-known for and always beat myself up about). But still, the task seems never-ending and very daunting.

Did I mention the list just keeps getting longer??

*sigh* its only 5:31 and Im fading fast. Im pretty sure Im not gonna make it til 8. Clearly it didnt take long to scrap that idea; I havent been able to have a successful "nuit blanche" in a long time, what the hell was I thinking? Im too old for that shit and all the physical distress that comes with it the next day. So, off I go to bed. 10 Euros says Im gonna dream of my To-Do List and how many items I still have to cross off...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The "B" Word

Ah, the *beauty* of living on a budget. For a long time, I didnt even know what the word "budget" meant. I mean, I knew the meaning of it. But I didnt know anything about budgeting, having a budget, living on a budget. You get the picture.

When I first moved to NYC I had financial help from some very generous friends with money. Their names were Citi, Chase and Discover. For a good 2 or 3 years, I managed to turn to them in times of need (furniture, groceries) and times of want (drinks with friends, dinners out) and pretty soon I had amassed a pretty penny of debt (something to the tune of $11-$13K, I can never quite remember). I became a whiz at the game of balance transfers to cards w/ 0% APR, which only meant I had to open new credit accounts, which meant that my excellent credit score was slowly being chipped away at. And then I finally got a job that came along w/ a decent salary, and at that point I made it my business to get myself out of debt. I started sending in payments $500 and even $1,000 at a time sometimes. Nothing was more important to me during that time than seeing the numbers on those statements get lower and lower. My debt was hanging over my head like a big, black cloud; I could literally see it when I looked up, I felt it hovering over me, and I was itching to get out from under it! About a year and a half later, I was able to declare myself completely debt-free. It was definitely one of my proudest moments of independent living.

I started faithfully depositing into *gasp* a savings account. I *gasp* bc those are almost impossible to have in NYC. When I decided to take some time off, I attempted to save more. When I heard my job was in peril, and I might lose it before I even had the chance to flip my boss off and walk out on her, I went into over-drive. I tried to put more away, but it never felt like it was enough. Those numbers weren't budging, it seemed.

And so we come to the "B" word, the lovely subject of my 3rd post.

I set myself up with this... budget. The word alone is so unsavory... it definitely leaves a bad taste in my mouth. In any case, I have this budget, and Ive been trying to stick to it for several months now. Ive had to tweak it here and there, and Im still trying to get it right. Its annoying as hell, since it requires me to write down pretty much every dollar I spend, but it does help me see where my money goes, and I know Id be a mess without it.

I wish I could say I stick to it every single week, but that would be a blatant lie. What I can say is that I try. Weeks I come in under-budget are always exciting, until the next time I add my expenses up and realize I have to borrow last week's surplus to cover this week's over-spending. Gone are the days of hopping in over-priced NYC cabs whenever I feel like it, going out to dinner several times a week, treating friends to whatever, not thinking twice about most of my purchases, and knowing there is enough in my account. Every dollar counts now, and its frustrating. I feel cheap, even tho I shouldnt, bc let's face it; its a recession and whoever is lucky enough to NOT have to change their spending habits is in the minority. I hope they know how fortunate they are.

On the flip-side, with this lack of paycheck also comes a lack of job-related stress, and Im hoping that the benefits of the latter will overshadow the drawbacks of the former. I believe its just a matter of retraining your mind to this new mentality of frugal living and I hope Ill get used to it soon enough. 'Til then, you can find me writing my expenses down in my notebook, calculating how much more I can or cannot spend this week, and wishing money grew on trees.... Ah, the *beauty* of living on a budget.