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We will never have true civilization until we have learned to recognize the rights of others. — Will Rogers

The First Rule of Holes 2005.03.11.00:53

...is, when you find yourself in one, stop digging.

After tiring of always living paycheck-to-paycheck, I've spent some serious time on reviewing my finances, and trying to make a more realistic, effective budget. What I've found has been awfully depressing, though.

For the last several months, I've been trying to get by even though I have had a lot of unplanned expenses. To this end, I've really simply not noticed as one thing after another got added to the list of things I was dragging from month to month as either late-paid bills or borrowing forward (my bank allows me to get advances on my direct deposit). Now that I have a budget and a list of the outstanding expenses, I've come to the realization of just how dire my situation is.

Firstly, my outstanding debts (not to be confused with monthly credit card bills or anything, these are the the things I keep carrying-over from month to month). About $2400, I estimate. Depending on how well I juggle my next paycheck or two, I should be able to get a good part of this taken care of.

But in the longer-term, I have bigger problems. I've recently started a new therapy course in the form of a weekly group-session "skills class". While it may sound unusual, it has a lot of potential to help me, especially in light of a recent diagnosis (Asperger's Syndrome). But it isn't cheap, and I can't really get mental-health expenses covered by my health insurance. With this, added to my existing weekly sessions (and it is a requirement of the class that I maintain weekly one-on-one counseling), makes the therapy bills come to nearly 20% of my monthly take-home pay by themselves. In the rough budget I drew up last night, I realized that I was looking at having maybe $600 a month for food, gas, any unexpected expenses, and any effort to save anything. This isn't tenable.

The most obvious cut to make is the therapy. But it seems like such bad timing to be doing that: it took seven months to get my schedule to mesh with the skills group scheduling. With the newer diagnosis, and the skills group, I feel like I have the best chance yet and developing the coping and management skills I need to overcome the limitations I've set upon myself. One person suggested that I simply take six months or so off from therapy, then resume it and the skills group. But I fear that if I do so, I'll never actually return at all. That concern, with the very real potential for progress that is facing me right now, makes me very, very reticent to consider this option.

I've taken a few steps to cut costs in some areas. I've already been developing the habit of cooking more and eating out less. I just need to apply it more consistently. I've changed my cell phone plan so that the risk of overages is greatly reduced (they've been killing me some months). I may be able to reduce the impact of the therapy expenses with a medical savings account, but I have to talk to the HR person about that. Unfortunately for me, one thing I had counted on isn't going to happen: my company isn't giving bonuses this year. They're positioning themselves for IPO, so they decided to give people (meager) raises this year, in lieu of bonuses. I won't go into details here, but the raise I got is about 40% of the bonus I got last year, it amounts to about 1.09% (less than half of a "cost of living" increase), and best of all I'll have to stay here for the next 12 months to get it, which makes it a pretty poor substitute for a lump-sum bonus that supposedly rewards performance for the previous year. I know this trick– U S West Communications pulled it on us one year, during the time I was there. I'm pretty sure my boss sees through this as well, but he's doing the best he can. (I had some serious misgivings when he took me over in August, but I've come to respect him a great deal the last few months. Plus, he has mad skilz and wicked-long hacker cred.)

I don't think I can do enough, though. Not without moonlighting or ramping up the writing and trying to sell some articles and/or a new book. I may become the Amazing Invisible Randy for a few months.

# [/thoughts/money]

Who Am I:
Randy J. Ray
Software Engineer


Buy my book!

Programming Web Services with Perl

I've also contributed three chapters to:

Computer Science & Perl Programming

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Reading and Re-reading
· The Annotated Thursday: G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Would Be Thursday, G.K. Chesterton, Martin Gardner
· The Feeling Good Handbook, David D. Burns
· Organizing From the Inside Out, Julie Morgenstern
· XML Schema, Eric Van Der Vlist
· BEEP: The Definitive Guide, Marshall T. Rose

High in the queue
· Silk, Caitlin R. Kiernan
· Coldheart Canyon, Clive Barker
· Idoru, William Gibson
· Shared Source CLI Essentials, David Stutz, Ted Neward, Geoff Shilling

Recently finished
· Planetary Vol. 3: Leaving the 20th Century, Warren Ellis, et al

Recommended favorites
· The Cowboy Wally Show, Kyle Baker
· Lost Souls, Poppy Z. Brite
· The Alienist, Caleb Carr
· Quarantine, Greg Egan
· The Authority: Relentless, Warren Ellis et al.
· Planetary: All Over the World and Other..., Warren Ellis et al.
· American Gods, Neil Gaiman
· Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
· Neuromancer, William Gibson
· A Philosophical Investigation, Philip Kerr
· Say You Want a Revolution (The Invisibles, Book 1), Grant Morrison et al
· You Are Worthless: Depressing Nuggets of..., Oswald T. Pratt and Scott Dickers
· Cryptonomicon, Neil Stephenson
· Rising Stars : Born In Fire (Vol. 1), J. Michael Straczynski

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