Hi, my name is C, and I’m a coffeeshopper

I’m not sure the twelve-step analogy is even a good one, because showing up at a meeting suggests you want to be cured…and it’s not clear that I do.

I’ve been needing for a while to crack down on my slush budget; I’ve been consistently $40 or $50 over basically every month for over a year. I can reroute the money from other places, of course — sinking funds, mostly, and sometimes minor extra income like a payment from Ebates or whatever — so it’s not like I’m taking on debt. But it bugs me. I typically allocate $150-180 to slush every month, and that feels like it ought to be enough!

So, what’s going on? Right now I only have data going back to August 2017. I didn’t pull the numbers together completely, but at a glance, I’d say that about 1/3 of my slush spending has been for subscriptions (hulu, amazon prime, the Washington Post), the occasional book or CD, and the occasional movie/theater/music ticket. A bit more has been to catch-all household-supplies purchases (a target trip or amazon order once every few months).

The rest is all on food.

I know partly what’s up with that. I am perfectly capable of cooking all my own vegetarian meals from scratch and living on under $300/month for food, but do I always? Heck no. I go in bursts on cooking, and other times default to buying meals out or more expensive but doesn’t-need-cooking food from the grocery store (I’m partial to cheese and crackers, and I mean expensive cheese.) The cross-country move has exacerbated that; I’m not living in my own house here, which makes cooking more of a pain, and also it’s a much bigger city than my previous one, with way more places to eat and substantially higher prices.

But wait, didn’t the subject line of this post say it was about coffeeshops?

Yes! The problem here is that I don’t have much willpower when it comes to food. That’s true for regular meals, as above, and it’s also true for coffeeshops.

I love, love, love a good coffeeshop. I especially love them when I need to do a stack of grading, because grading is the worst and most tedious part of my job, and it just helps to do it in a place with a nice latte. I will know that it’s nearly the end of the month, and I’ve already overspent, and still…. I feel about them the way some people feel about dating men that are clearly, obviously bad for them. I met a coffeeshop this weekend with the most beguiling pastry counter, the loveliest wooden tables, the nicest staff, the greatest windows, and what I’m saying is if I was in a bar and this coffeeshop walked up to me and said “How about handing over all your money” I would’ve said “HEY, handsome.” This morning I wasn’t teaching (but I did have my usual grading pile) and I drove over there and spent $19 for a totally delicious breakfast plus two uninterrupted hours of student papers and I’d do it again. In fact I definitely will do it again, because there’s no use pretending I’m suddenly going to be a different person than I am.

The only shred of hope here is that this infatuation might inspire me to eat more of my other meals at home, rather than paying for cheaper, but subpar, sandwiches and pizza. Maybe in March I can rebalance so I’m spending roughly as much on slush, but focused on things I’m more excited about?




Net worth update: January 2018

It’s that time of the month again, and it’s up up up (mostly). I’ve been frittering away too much money on random things, so I decided I needed to get back to basics on tracking. At the beginning of January I dug out the spreadsheets I’d last used in 2016 and updated them with a budget and the amounts in various accounts, and decided I’d have a go at saving 50% of my income again.

Continue reading “Net worth update: January 2018”

The Latte Factor and the Estate Tax

So, as if you are a person on the internet you have probably seen, Senator Chuck Grassley had this to say when asked why Congress plans to reduce (the Senate bill) or eliminate (the House bill) the estate tax:

“I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing, as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”

For a hippie communist, I have some surprisingly mixed feelings about this point.

Continue reading “The Latte Factor and the Estate Tax”

Rethinking the rethinking

I know how my own brain works pretty well, so I also should’ve known that posting about my plans to let the blog go would, instead, make me think about how much it’s meant to me and how I’m still pretty interested in documenting my journey and thinking about my financial life. So….congrats Godaddy, you’re getting another year out of me at least! I don’t get a whole lot of clicks on ads, but I do have an adsense payment scheduled for January that will nearly cover the cost of 2018. I might like at that point to move back to the free site, but I don’t want to lose 3 years of archives and I can’t figure out a way to get my backup to upload to blogger. Maybe by December 2018 I can get that worked out.

So, what am I going to write about with my (at least) extra year? Especially, what I am going to write about that might generate enough income to cover the costs of the blog 🙂 I actually feel optimistic about coming up with new topics, besides monthly reports on my own finances. 2017 has been a hard year to write in. Financially, it’s been all over the map, including a regular low income in a low COL place; a six-week period with zero income; and a fairly decent income in a much higher COL place, but paid out in a totally weird way that, combined with the higher rent and general expenses, has been causing me to make slower monthly progress than I’d like, given that my annual salary on paper doubled when I moved. The lack of predictability (even on the micro-level; I’ve been at the new job since mid-August and I have yet to have two paychecks that are exactly the same amount!) is a little maddening.

But beyond that, it’s been a hard year to write in because I’m scared about the future of the country and about my own responsibilities as a citizen. I’ve always been slightly more politically active than the average person, but I tried to kick it up a notch in 2017, and I have. But I’m not sure making the move for this job was the right thing to do. I left a red-leaning, but potentially flippable, district that I loved, to take a job in a totally blue area that I don’t really enjoy living in. I had a lot of doubts about that decision and I still do. And I feel like, even if you are much more conservative than I am, you still should be freaked out by this tax bill that they’re trying to pass. The thing is, I think the basic job of representatives should be to protect their constituents. I can understand how conservatives might see “protection” differently than me. I see it as ensuring a generous social safety net. But I can see how conservatives might see it as “deal with the national debt and the deficit even if that means not having a generous social safety net.” But this tax bill is not that — it balloons the deficit and steals from our future in order to give tax cuts to the people who absolutely do not need them. There’s no world in which it can be conceived of as protecting constituents.

Anyway. Thinking about citizenship has taken up a lot more time in my brain in 2017 than thinking about budgeting and retirement. But now I’m thinking that it might be good to write more about that — from a financial angle, in a sense. I’ve done a bit of that, like with a couple of posts I wrote on communal housing, or with one of my all-time favorite posts here, The Phantom Tollbooth Operator, or, Your E-ZPass and the Mincome. But I think I’m interested in doing more. At least, I’m interested in giving myself another blogging year to see what happens.


I’m having a pretty minimal Thanksgiving this year due to work craziness, but I am going to the place where I volunteer for their big dinner, and I promised to make two giant pans of stuffing to bring, so I’ve got to get to that in a minute.

But I was just thinking how grateful I am for the financial stability I’ve achieved over the last few years. Starting at 35 wasn’t ideal, but hey, better than never, and it feels amazing to pretty much never worry about money, even though the larger political and economic situation is so uncertain. So I’m thankful for that, and for the blog community that’s motivated and cheered me on.

I hope you’re all having a lovely day, especially if you celebrate American Thanksgiving!

Moving to blogger (probably)

Hi all,

Thanks for your comments on my last post! I thought about it and realized that I still had my old site, http://thesingledollar.blogspot.com/ — where I posted for six months or so before moving here.

I’ll probably keep posting there, once a month or so. The only issue is that I’m not sure whether I can import the archives from this site or not. I’ve exported them to an xml file so I have that backup, but it seems like you can’t import that kind of file into blogger. Googling indicates that there used to be a conversion tool but it’s not around anymore.

However, even if I can’t import the last few years of content, at least I’ll have a place to be (that is free!) going forward. It’ll be good not to let the blogging go entirely, even if at my current rate of posting I couldn’t justify continuing to pay for the site.