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The Illusion of Having One's Act Together

August 20th, 2013 at 09:43 pm

Yesterday I was tooling around on LinkedIn when I saw an old article on the new way women curse. This article discussed a January Glamour magazine cover in which one of the featured titles was "12 Ways to Get Your Sh*t Together." The LinkedIn article was about the decreasing shock value of expletives. I was more interested in finding out what the article said. Unfortunately Glamour didn't put the content online, however from my Google search, I found many other websites concerning one getting one's "sh*t" together, including an actual website called http://getyourshittogether.org/ which provides guidance on life and death planning that most people neglect when they are healthy but can leave a huge mess for their descendants.

There were a number of other sites that discussed ways in which one can get his or her act together. It was very amusing and somewhat affirming that according to many of these sites, I actually have my act together as I am not on drugs, have a planner and a work bag (!).

As I reflected upon that, I realize that having one's act together is entirely perception. I know many people here may not feel that I have my act together because I buy lunch out. Yet when I chop my fruit in the morning and put it together my brought from home items of whole grain cereal and cottage cheese, many of my colleagues comment on how healthy my breakfast looks.

Also keeping with the "illusion" of having my act together is my planner. I don't have a formal budget but I spend the same on a weekly basis for transportation, food and gym. My expenses decrease when I am not working. In my planner I record all my outstanding debt, when my payments are due and my weekly take home pay. As I make my payments, I subtract the money accordingly from my available money and keep a running tally of what I have left to live on until the next paycheck. I also keep a running tally of my total outstanding debt as well. Since these are all in writing, I can see my progress or lack of progress. Some credit cards have increased while other have decreased. Overall I am $4,000 less in debt than I was the previous year.

In my case, the mere act of writing down my debts and looking at them makes them less scary and manageable. I've been a temp for over five years. Many of my colleagues have put their student loans in forbearance and have watched their loan balances swell. Mine are decreasing and it comforts me that I have been able to make payments on the student loans, and all my other bills, in spite of working as an independent contractor.

Hit the wall

August 18th, 2013 at 05:24 pm

I've been thinking about money long before I've chosen to blog about my money issues. Working as a temp changes the way a person thinks about money. At least it did for me. Back in the day when I had a permanent job, I could count on a certain amount of compensation on an annual basis and was compensated for vacation and sick time. Even though my income is arguably steady, I've never thought of it as something that could be relied upon. It changes so much from project to project. However my fixed costs are such that they require steady compensation. It's difficult looking at a minimum of $1500 a month in expenses, including $900 for my student loan.

Recently I had surgery and I was fortunate that my project wrapped up two days before my scheduled surgery. I'm in recovery and the doctor recommended that I take 2 weeks off, but I can't see myself having no income for 2 weeks. Since I am in between projects, I have some time to recover, yet I am looking for work as well.

Many times I feel as if I "hit a wall." I start out with the best intentions that I will save money and not use my credit cards and then life gets in the way. The combination of unsteady income and high fixed expenses and life circumstances can derail the best of intentions. Sometimes the only thing a person can do is stay positive and ride it the lean times and try to make up for it when times are flush.

Unlike many of my colleagues, I have not put my student loans in forbearance or defaulted on my credit cards. I have been able to keep up with my expenses in spite of short times.

I do get frustrated at the thought of limitations. Worrying about small things like lunches, transportation or little indulgences is frustrating to me because I do make good money even though it disappears quickly.

Trying to stay positive for now. I just finished paying my monthly bills and I am happy that I have paid everything for August and the beginning of September.

Back where I began...

August 1st, 2013 at 06:40 pm

When I was in my 20s and starting out, it was pretty common to exist with $10 in my bank account and wait for pay day. After years of having credit card access and having developed the habit of making purchases on credit cards if I didn't have the cash, I have forgotten what it was like to have to wait for pay day.

So I'm in that position now. I am not making as much money on this project as I had for other projects and I only have $5 left in my checking account until this week's check gets deposited. This week I had $70 to live on. Sounds like a princely sum until you factor in a lunch with my colleague at a place that was deceptively pricey. Maybe I should have requested a cheaper place to eat, but I hadn't seen him in a while.

I made a vow not to charge groceries and transportation on my credit cards so I live on the money I allot for my weekly budget and not a penny more. It has been frustrating though because I worked on lucrative projects in the past and it feels wonderful to have enough money left over after paying bills and daily living expenses to put away and not feel deprived.

My colleagues and I were commiserating about our financial situations. Many are relying on their credit cards to see them through the lean times. I am happy that I am not using my credit cards as a crutch, but it is very difficult at this time.



$394 Acne cream!

July 27th, 2013 at 11:43 pm

One of the "benefits" of giving up my apartment is that I am finally able to afford health insurance. I don't believe that a person should have to make this kind of choice. Unfortunately, NY is the most expensive state to retain coverage and there are thousands of temporary workers who forgo coverage.

I had gone for years without coverage. Occasionally I went to doctors for check ups and paid hundreds of dollars for diagnostic tests and exam fees. My health care has gotten much better with coverage that it was without. For one thing, before, doctors would not order follow ups, since they knew most likely I would not be able to afford it. Now they order follow ups and the standard of care is much better. There may be skeptics out there who think that the doctors are just ordering more exams because of insurance coverage, however I can attest that I have a condition that necessitates follow up, and this follow up did not happen when I was not covered.

I had been plagued by acne for a while now, and tried every over the counter remedy to no avail. My internist recommended that I see a dermatologist for my acne. Years ago, my general physician wrote out my acne prescriptions, now it seems that doctors want you to see another doctor.

So I went to the dermatologist and she gave me a few samples of Ziana. Ziana is a combination clindamycin phosphate 1.2% and tretinoin 0.025% gel. She told me to try it out and if it worked to ask the office for a prescription. I used it for a month and saw improvement in acne reduction and skin tone and subsequently requested a prescription. After the request, I received a call from the pharmacy asking if I wanted to fill the prescription, because the total would be $394 and I did not have Rx coverage. I told them not to fill it and contacted the office for a generic prescription. They changed my prescription to two creams: one tretinoin and the other clindamycin. These two creams totaled about $90 at my pharmacy.

$90 is a lot, but it is a lot better than $394. However I would like to know what insurance company would even cover a $394 acne cream? This drug is not some new breakthrough; it's a combination of two products that have been on the market for years. It just irks me when I think about how expensive insurance coverage is, and how many of these topical creams are found overseas for $10 a tube...

I still have an unopened sample tube of Ziana, which should last a week and a half. If any of you know of a decent online pharmacy, let me know. I've never purchased drugs online except through my insurance company.

Introduction

July 24th, 2013 at 08:18 pm

I am new to blogging and am still playing around with the format. I ran numerous searches online and was unable to find positive financial resources for temporary employees. There are many of us out there who have huge student loans and face a job market that offers very little in way of stability. I hope to provide and elicit support and suggestions from those in similar situations on how to save for retirement and deal with medical expenses without the support of a permanent employer.

There are many blogs that depict the horrors of document review and burdens of student loans. I prefer to take a positive view of my situation and try to better myself within the constraints of my circumstances. Complaining will not make life easier or lighten my load.

My law loans came out to a little over $127,000 when I graduated 7 years ago. They are currently at $101,000. Medical bills for my pets and myself, and periods of unemployment have swelled my credit cards to $22,000.

Last year I made a decision to give up my apartment and make a serious attempt to get my finances in order. My goal is to pay off my credit cards and to start putting money away for retirement. Eventually I would like to pay off the private portion of my student loans so I can have more options in my career. Document review is lucrative enough that it pays my bills however there is very little career growth.