Seven-thirty in the morning and I’m beat. The pool has been backwashed, the unhappy pool cleaner set in motion (again!), the rug backing Cassie pee’d on in last night’s panic at the vacuum cleaner run through the washer and hung on the line, the regular laundry started, the ironing I haven’t done for the past three weeks set aside (to be ignored a while longer), the dog fed, me fed, the kitchen cleaned up, and the dog walked. Now to sit down to Quicken, figure out what to do with the $600 tax rebate that finally came dragging in, and decide how to handle the red ink in this month’s budget.
I’m beginning to think $1,500 just isn’t enough to cover my monthly costs above and beyond the utility, loan, and insurance payments. It seems like a generous amount: for heaven’s sake, it’s almost a whole paycheck! How can I not live on fifteen hundred bucks???This month, with two more days to go in the budget cycle, I’m $351.28 in the hole. Although I have that much in savings, it’s $1.28 more than I had budgeted to buy some much-needed clothes in this summer’s sales. So…guess I won’t be buying clothes. Again. My wardrobe is rags just now, with exactly no summer dresses or skirts. All I have to wear is Costco jeans, which make me look like a beer barrel on two legs, and I’m out of decent shirts to go with them.
I’ve thought the budget issue had to do with the heavy hits from Anna’s final illness, which added up to over $1,000. But that’s now in the past. This month’s cycle started anew, and I’ve had four unexpected dings:
Leslie’s, clean out pool filter: $87.54
- Veterinarian: examine Cassie for limp: $95.30
- Dry cleaner: clean dhurrie rug to remove ointments Anna rubbed into it: $15
- Vet: X-ray Cassie’s leg after I stepped on her sore foot: $17
- Apple: new operating system to deal with server migration: $69.82
That comes to $402.66 in extra hits. Though it sounds like a lot, it shouldn’t be enough to put me $350 in the hole. As a practical matter, the $1,500 budget normally has so much play I can buy as much as $300 in clothing or other indulgences without having to dip into savings. What that seems to suggest is instead of being “generous” by about $300 a month, my $1,500 living expenses budget now has only about $102 of play ($402 – $300). A year ago, if I’d had $402 in unplanned expenses, I’d be about a hundred bucks in the hole…not $350.
Evidently inflation in routine costs has increased my day-to-day expenses by somewhere around $300. Costco’s gas was down to $3.99/gallon last week. I paid almost $60 for a fill-up that used to cost about $35, and I’m already almost half-empty. Though I’ve been staying away from the university as much as possible, now that my dean is back in town, I really should show up to work more often. If I drove to campus every day, I would have to fill up at least once a week–possibly more than that. That’s $240 a month, up from $140. Grocery inflation? Doesn’t apply. In fact, my grocery bills have been falling because I’ve quit driving to stores whenever I need one or two things. In this budget cycle I spent $361 on groceries, a relatively modest amount for me, since that is the one area where I do indulge myself. During the same period in 2007, I spent $571 at grocery stores (though some of it went to making food for two large dogs). The hair stylist has jacked up his prices, so that this week’s haircut plus a ten-dollar tip came to $75…and he cut my hair so short I look like one of those eccentric old ladies who gets her hair shaved off so she doesn’t have to comb it.
Wait: there’s a $55 car maintenance bill; that would account for some of the overrun. So that brings extraordinary costs to $450.
Problem is, the extraordinary costs keep rolling in. Yesterday a bill for car registration showed up: $116.34. That comes off the top of next month’s billing cycle. Then Cassie pee’d on the other dhurrie rug last night, adding another spot to the place where she shat, which I never cleaned out adequately. So now that rug has to go to the cleaner. It’s old and was never a fancy, expensive number like the one I had to take to the specialty cleaner after Anna smeared antibiotic ointments all over it. So I’m unloading it on a cheaper dry-cleaning outfit, whose rep says they’ll do the job for $70. That’s $186 out of next month’s budget…before the budget cycle even begins.
This month’s $350 shortfall…where will it come from? I could use the tax rebate to cover it, but really, I wanted to put that into the Renovation Loan payoff fund. If it comes out of savings, then it seriously does mean no clothing purchases until the winter sales. Argh! I desperately need summer clothes. Since I look like a wacky old lady who gets her hair shaved off so she doesn’t have to comb it, I might as well go around in faded, worn-out rags anyway. Won’t make much difference
Uh oh. Waitminit here. Sometime back I entered a note in Quicken to the effect that there’s a surplus in the credit-card budget’s cookie jar. That’s the result of living under budget for several months and not transferring the surplus to pay down loan principal…it created a de facto emergency fund
Am I saved? Could this be true? Let us away to the credit union’s website…
* * *
There’s a surplus, all right. It’s nine hundred and seventy-six bucks! Lordie. I noted that at the beginning of the month and then forgot it, in the flurry over the website, the injured dog, hurting myself (when I fell on the pavement tripping over the dog), running late on a client’s job, and generally being too darn hot and too darn old.
Amazing grace! It’s a miracle. Maybe Lady Karma has decided to quit kicking me in the shins. Or at least, maybe this time She missed.