Damn

January 31st, 2011 by Editor B

We’ve been having a bit of trouble making ends meet ever since Xy changed schools and took a $20K pay cut. Sometimes it’s that last week of the month, sometimes, just the last couple days. A number of times I’ve had to draw off our savings to make up the gap. It’s occasionally embarrassing and always worrisome.

We were just getting serious about looking for ways to save on our monthly budget, and then this bomb dropped: Yesterday morning I opened some mail and learned that our mortgage payment will be going up. Substantially. Insurance has gone up, and so have taxes, because our home assessment more than doubled. That’s a bummer, but I don’t see any error there; it seems the house was radically under-assessed last year. It sucks that the bank didn’t anticipate this correctly at the time of purchase, but that’s water under the bridge now. I talked it over with our Realtor and she confirmed that we don’t really have any options. We can mitigate a bit by making a lump payment now, which we’ll do, but the increase in our monthly payment will still be substantial. It’s going to make the monthly budget a lot tougher.

In recent years we’ve counted on a big tax refund, but with our reduced income we rethought our withholding, and so I don’t think we’ll be getting money back from Uncle Sam. We might even owe more. Shudder. Sure is a good thing Obama extended the Bush tax cuts for the middle class. Oops, I said something political. That will surely distract anyone who reads this from my actual point. Why react to my petty personal problems when you can pontificate on massive federal issues?

I have to confess that we haven’t really done any of the belt-tightening I mentioned last June. I wish there was some obvious substantial luxury expense we could forgo. Perhaps we can do enough small things to make a difference.

We always look for bargains at the grocery, but we rarely shy away from a food item because of the expense. We go to the nearest grocery rather than the cheapest. Recently I’ve cut back on the premium liquors and have been mostly drinking Bota Box. I’ve felt at liberty to buy books whenever I want them, which is at least once a month. I indulge in the occasional MP3 download from Amazon. We have our subscription to Netflix, which I still haven’t gotten around to canceling. There’s my yoga class. What else can we cut?

I guess that new fire pit is out of the question.

I may also need to rethink my attitude toward freelance work. I routinely reject queries for basic web development and consultation. Sometimes I do the work for free. But yesterday, motivated by a recent financial embarrassment, I changed my tune and said “yes” when a friend’s husband asked for my help. I quoted PJ’s old rate, $40 an hour, with a three-hour minimum. I’m sure he charges much more now, if he even does this sort of work. Jeez, I need to raise my rates already.

Financial matters have never been my strong suit, but I’m frankly worried how we’re gonna make it.

16 Responses to “Damn”

  1. liz Says:

    So sorry you’re having to deal with that kind of stress. It sucks. As a freelance web developer, you should be charging at least $75 an hour. I’d imagine you also have some other tech skills that are marketable, as much as I hate to term it that way, but considering your audio/visual skills. Good luck!

  2. chrissieroux Says:

    Ugh, that sucks. And now I feel bad for eating your food the other night.

    Just kidding. You’ll get through it, somehow, but money stress is just awful.

    Maybe it’s about time you put P. to work–she is almost 3, after all.

  3. judyb Says:

    Have you thought of changing insurance companies? I was with Allstate six months ago when they increased my mortgage inusurance with no prior notice. I shopped around and found more realistic homeowners insurance. If you want the number, let me know via email.

  4. Sophmom Says:

    It’s just the worst stress, and it doesn’t really help to know just how not alone you are. I do think that sometimes, making more money is the best answer, and it seems you’ve come to that conclusion. Sometimes, great things are born out of such necessity. Y’all’ll find a way.

  5. Garvey Says:

    Good grief, man! Cut back! Your list of unnecessary consumption shows you suffer from affluenza. The grocery bill alone can be cut immensely.

  6. Jaime Coffman Says:

    I agree on checking Insurance rates. I had been with USAA for years with no claims. I had one roof claim and my rates went up. They wanted something like $1200 annually. I changed companies and now pay around $400 for same level of coverage. I have very low property taxes..though I would think that Greenwood would eventually re-assess—they just recently changed the classification on my property from rural/agricultural…and I live on Old Meridian….

  7. Brooks Says:

    I feel your pain.

    I work freelance exclusively, and have always been hopeless when it comes to finances. When my rent goes up again, I’m not sure what what I’ll do.

    Currently, I’m living on rice and beans. No Bota Box, no restaurants, no travel, and my Depression-era pleasures consist of listening to the radio, reading, and taking walks.

    I’ve no health insurance, which freaks me out.

    I’ve never been able to demand the going rate for my own skills, but this I’ll tell you: yours are worth at least $75 an hour.

    Which of those beautiful fire pits do you covet?

    Hang in there.

  8. Lee Says:

    Money problems are the worst kind B. The wife and I are constantly trying to keep our consumerist minds in check so we can have something to rely on should a big expense happen.

    While sometimes when buying groceries, closest is best, but have you considered loading up that SUV on weekly or bi-weekly grocery trips? Sometimes, just that act can save you a ton.

    What many have said about insurance is absolutely true, and worth checking into. I know NOLA is different when it comes to insurance, but our original insurance company doubled our rate for NO REASON. We almost immediately switched, and found double the amount of coverage for our original rate.

    I’ve considered adding a “Hire Me” page on magic.rox for freelance work myself. Keep truckin’ B, I know you guys have been through a lot, and this situation will just be water under the bridge given some time.

    I like chrissieroux’s recommendation, child labor is the best! Maybe you can get rid of your maid, j/k. I used my eldest for many tasks when I remodeled my basement. She also had a hand in painting every room in the house!

  9. Lee Says:

    Oh I forgot to mention, if you haven’t read my latest blog post, Technology My Way, you should. It will show you what kind of creative thinking we use. I moved to a pre-paid cell phone plan, which is saving us about $30 a month.

  10. Robyn Says:

    $40/hr is too low, Bart. I agree with others who say $75 an hour at the least.
    And track your hours carefully. As a full-time freelancer (writing and editing) I find that I often forget to look at the clock and then I underestimate how long I’ve been working.

    Good luck sorting things out. Money concerns can be so frightening and overwhelming.

  11. Jasperfields Says:

    We had a very similar experience with our monthly mortgage rate unexpectedly increasing (a lot!). We ended up refinancing and not taking care of insurance through the mortgage company. Instead of paying escrow to the mortgage company, we stash a monthly amount for taxes and insurance in a savings account that we make interest on. It’s been a big help for us. Also our interest rate on the house loan went down.

    Good luck, we know how much it sucks! And I agree with everyone else about $40.00 being too low. No less than $75.00.

  12. candice Says:

    Regarding freelancing in general – always charge enough money that you will actually want to do the work. More than your salaried rate by some percentage, maybe?

    Taxes are also very annoying on small jobs – I tend to avoid them, personally, but I make half my income as a contractor. $650 is the requirement cutoff for 1099, fyi.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    Dave Ramsey.

  14. PJ Says:

    Since this article mentions my name and my rate I am compelled to respond. The three hour minimum is not too harsh, I believe that if I am doing something on site, one hour can turn to 3 really easily and it limits interaction if my client is thinking one hour.

    I have certainly charged much more than $40 Since this was maybe 7 years ago. Also it was a break because I really liked the person I am working with. All important factors in considering what one might charge.

  15. b.rox » Blog Archive » Austerity Program Says:

    [...] Also, we were overpaying by $100.00 per month on our car loan. This was an intentional decision on my part, in order to pay it down more quickly. Same with our house note. But in the interests of cash flow, we can just pay the minimum on both of these. Of course, our monthly home escrow payment is going up by approximately $250.00, which is what precipitated this sense of impending doom in the first place. [...]

  16. b.rox » Blog Archive » Some Good News Says:

    [...] I spent so much time bellyaching here about our cashflow problems, I thought I should at least report some recent tidbits of good [...]

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