Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Hartwell Chronicles … learning to balance

Instead of simply reporting, I’m also learning.
I started attending budget meetings for two of the governmental agencies I cover around the end of April.
All those big numbers can be confusing. I haven’t understood math since I stopped piano lessons.
Looking at all the money they bring in made me realize a harsh reality: I am po’ and penniless.
I don’t have a penny or pinto bean to my name. Here’s a little mathematical equation for you; journalism degree + entry level reporting job = po’.
Why I’m so po’ I can’t even afford the o and r. OK maybe I’m not really THAT poor, but it does feel like it at times.
I did not go into journalism for the money, a point my mother loves to bring up. I did it for the love of writing (and by reason of insanity). But I never thought I would be in such dire straits.
I had a nice little salary to live on when I first started working. I thought I was Ms. Baller Supreme. Trips to the mall, out to eat and across state lines were a common occurrence.
Then reality kicked in.
Yes, the check was “big” until health insurance started coming out. Suddenly things were looking mighty slim.
Not to mention, my lack of budgeting skills eventually started catching up with me. Maybe I should have taken note at the first budget meeting I attended last year.
I usually know how much money I have, but after about the third purchase I stop paying attention. That definitely leads into trouble.
My biggest budgeting problem has been rent. I pay on the first and they don’t cash it until the 21 at the earliest.
That drives me crazy. I mean it looks like I have money when I don’t.
And what do I do? Spend it.
Then I have to call home asking for a loan. Well actually I only did that twice, and once was for rent.
I never really had to develop a budget before. My momma paid all my bills. But now I pay the majority.
And after nearly a year of no budgeting, I’m realizing its importance.
It’s time for me to keep better financial records. Every purchase I make, even if it’s a pack of gum, is written down now. And I’ve evaluated what are necessities compared to luxuries.
Case in point is television. The only time I really watched TV was when the Boondocks were on.
The season’s over, and it’s available online. The same goes for Everybody Hates Chris and House of Payne.
So long TV. They disconnected my cable last week (but at least I still have Internet service).
I am also guilty of semi-reckless spending.
Now I don’t go out and by the latest pairs of Jimmy Choos, but I have my share of frivolous expenses: namely food.
Hey, a working girl’s got to eat, right? Fair enough, but those $10 lunches start adding up over time.
I’ve taken up cooking more to combat that problem. Leftovers are just fine with me.
I think frugality is going to be the name of the game for the next few months. If it ain’t free, it ain’t for me.
And considering my current locale, it shouldn’t be too hard. There isn’t that much to do in Hartwell that is too expensive.
A college degree is supposed to help bring in the green. But it also depends on your own financial responsibilities.
I wouldn’t be in my current po’ state if I had properly handled my finances. Poor, not po’, would have been my title.
But sometimes you have to learn the hard way. I think I’m done learning now.

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