Monday, January 25, 2010

and now...

I just read that last post and I realized that I don't feel so guilty for buying the couch because of bills or savings.

I realized now I feel guilty because that money was pretty close to half what it would cost to take Maggie to Disney World.

I bought a new couch, tell me to stop feeling guilty.

I've been trying really hard to budget. Really hard. And I've discovered some of my problems. But overall it's been very stressful for me. I have come to realize that maybe, although my husband's income sounds fantastic, it is simply NOT enough to support our lifestyle the way it is.

It seems like it should be. Our mortgage is the proper 30% of our income (actually a bit less). We have no car payments. My husband's insurance premium is exorbitant, but my mom still pays for mine, so that should even out. We have a cell phone for a home phone that costs less than $10 a month, and we each have a personal cell phone that costs about $20 per month. We only have ultra-basic cable--$10. Our internet isn't pricy; $25. We have "good" health insurance (whatever that is) and while we do pay some copays and deductibles and prescriptions, overall it's not THAT much.

Gas prices are still high, but I fill my car up every two weeks and Mr. fills his up every week, sometimes a little less. Our grocery bills went down DRASTICALLY when Miss Baby was potty trained (thank you, Goddess!) and we've moved to a quasi-vegetarian diet that has cut our remaining grocery bill nearly in half. We use generic shampoo, bath gel, toilet paper, and paper towels. I buy almost all generic medicines, vitamins, foods, etc. I buy wine on RARE occassion. I buy makeup once a year, and spend a grand total of $30 on it (yep, high maintenance me).

Almost all Maggie's clothes come from gifts. Almost all her toys are gifts. We Netflix the vast, vast majority of her movies (and ours too). We have a YMCA membership but that's only $70 for all THREE of us. We don't get the newspaper (I read it at work) and we buy books strictly at the used bookstore (and then usually with a credit).

And yet the money doesn't seem to stretch. There's always some big stupid bill that comes at a time when I'm like "Okay, we have $40 extra dollars, as long as we eat in and don't buy stuff, we're okay".

I'm sick of these BIG expenses being shit like horrendously expensive car insurance or medical bills or un-fun things like that. I keep having to dip into my savings account when I'd rather not. When I'd rather be saving that money to take Maggie to Disney World or to put a big down payment on our next car. (Maxxine is worrying me, I thought she had a few more years but something is telling me to ready myself for a modest car payment).

So I decided to buy a new couch. A red leather couch that matches my red leather chair. I had the money in my savings account--I didn't have to put it on credit or anything. And yet I feel insanely guilty. I feel guilty in part because I just told Mr. Knitty that morning that we could not afford to go to Dallas for three days to get John Carpenter's autograph. I feel guilty in part because my mother says "You've had more new couches than I've had in my entire life!". I feel guilty because my family usually keeps ugly, outdated, worn furniture until the day it breaks through and you sit on the floor, and even then they act surprised and sad because it didn't last another 10 years. I feel guilty because I feel that furniture is supposed to be enjoyed, if I think "ugh this camelback couch with ugly rolled arms" every morning, it's not worth it, especially if I have the money.

I just needed some fun because I'm sick of acting like we're poor in some vain attempt to live frugally. It's not like we can't buy groceries. I'm sick of passing up a $8 brick of delicious cheese because I feel like I should save the money for generic toilet paper. I'm sick of calculating the cents on tomatoes and making myself feel like I can't afford an avocado when at least 15% of our income is being "saved" for something. Saving should not make you feel like you can't afford to feed your family.

So I bought a couch. Tell me to stop feeling guilty.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Stupid Ethical Dilemma

Feel free to weigh in with your opinion. This is largely theoretical.

Say a neighbor has a large number of cats/children/dogs and lets them all roam the neighborhood freely.

Say one of those cats frequently comes by my house for food. While I'm fairly sure they are feeding their animals, I am guessing they put down a big bowl and this guy just doesn't get there in time. He will eat anything I give him. He will sit and eat even as my daughter and her little friends pet him, talk loudly around him--general toddler stuff. He is super gentle and friendly and will jump in your lap if you just sit down.

This cat very very badly wants to get inside. So much that he has managed to more than once. I feel sorry for the little guy.

I know it's a bad idea to let random animals in your house, so we'll set aside the issues of the cat potentially carrying disease and/or other nastiness to my current cat and child.

However, I'm curious as to my ethical responsibility in this situation. I don't believe allowing animals to roam the neighborhood at will is responsible pet ownership. Having one or two cats that go in and out is not my choice but I believe that's different than allowing a whole litter of animals (and subsequent litters) roam in packs. These cats are open to free breeding, disease carrying, etc.

This cat would probably have a better life with me; steady food supply, vet care, etc. Although I don't think they actively abuse their animals, I am judging from the environment and the sheer number of charges that the people are not capable of providing top-notch care for all of these creatures. Especially as it's DAMN cold in the Chicago area right now, and although I have not SEEN him in a while, I have seen his little cat prints in the snow.

But if I *know* the cat belongs to this neighbor, am I behaving in an unethical manner to essentially abduct him (even though the "abduction" would only involve opening a door)? Is it my place to judge the care of an animal?

This is just one of the stupid questions that rolls around in my brain.

Monday, January 04, 2010


This is probably my favorite (cold) time of year. Meaning I'd sure like it to be warm, that's really my favorite, but if I had to pick a cold time of the year, this is it.

I'm always a little surprised by folks who can consider the New Year "just another day". Even before we celebrated it, it's always been magical to me! One minute it is the old year; stale, full of baggage, covered in mistakes, and in an instant the slate is wiped clean and everyone is granted a fresh start!

The New Year always gets me energized to make decisions. To throw away things I've been "hanging on to". To try new recipes or ideas. To move furniture. To bring color and spirit into my life. To make good on new habits.

This year I moved furniture, among other things. I got new curtains from Ikea, new light fixtures, moved my entertainment center behind the couch to make a "wall", and put low bookcases where the entertainment center was. I put a big paper "ball" lamp in the corner and with my new royal blue curtains it looks so awesome. I am still deciding whether or not I should paint the wall bright green!

I believe a new rug is next up, and maybe a new couch. I need to decide where my pictures should go. I was going to hang them all in the "empty" space around the TV (which is mounted on the wall now) but now I'm kind of digging the "emptiness".

Right now I'm settling into the new arrangement and fine tuning it. I got a whole new look for only $230. Hooray Ikea!