Doing okay in a very not-okay way
Happy Halfway through the Holidays and Almost Through 2020! What have we learned?
- Hobbies are for amateurs. Like a lot of middle-class officer workers who hadn’t seen their families during daylight in a long time, my immediate response to the pandemic was to take up baking. None of us really know why this seemed like a good idea in March. We thought it’d be nice.
2. We forgot how to cook. Look, if it was just the bread, I’d be okay with that. But I rediscovered how very little I remember about making a meal from scratch. This was made more challenging by the fact that we were shopping for five weeks’ worth of meals at a time. I learned a thing or two about Tetrising a fridge and about food safety, I can tell you that.
3. It’s beastly hard to write a comic money blog in the middle of a worldwide plague while your country is being run by pathological liars who are abetted by a pack of boot-licking toadies willing to literally sell their own grammas for a shot at the paydirt.
Luckily they still can’t predict the future.
4. Nature is not so much healing itself as heaving a well-earned sigh of short-lived relief. But we never saw a good trend we couldn’t fuck up.
Coronavirus Slashed Global Air Pollution. This Interactive Map Shows How
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NSC Estimates: U.S. Saw 20% Jump in Motor Vehicle Death Rates in First Six Months of 2020
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Guess what, though? I love you.
I may have been silent over here on Medium, but meanwhile on Twitter I was busy completely blowing my brand with political rants and mouthy threads on the state of the world. My buddies in #RealPF hung tight with me for the most part, narrating our lives and opinions and struggles with honesty and thoughtfulness, even if some of us are still talking from the sock puppet accounts or smooth, professional personas we’d all built so optimistically months or years before. Thanks for the bitter honesty and freaking healing humor, friends. You are keeping me sane.
A wise and level observation from K. Wright of Money the Wright Way on some recent asshatted misogynoir on #MedTwitter, nbd:
Attorney and PF Blogger Matt Lane of Optimize Your Life unqualifies himself from the ranks of the unqualified.
My favorite co-complainer The 76K Project opens her heart so wide. Honest, I felt like I knew her the minute we “met” two+ years ago. She’s the best.
I could go on. There are too many of you to mention. We’ve celebrated victories and shared our anxieties and setbacks this year. We’ve laughed when we didn’t think it possible. We’ve worried for those of us who were infected or had family members who suffered, some of them who died. We’ve called out the constant assumptions and serious selfishness we see in the personal finance community and tried to use our platforms to acknowledge the truth about the utter shambles our nation is in now, economically, racially, and socially. We’ve noticed one another and widened the tent when new bloggers come along. We have confronted debt, saved for the future, and educated one another and ourselves with (mostly) compassion and respect.
But I’ve saved the best for almost last, y’all.
Who among my many beloved compatriots actually saved this column from despair this week? Who looked right into my trembling soul and uttered the words that transformed this very blog post from the usual under-edited rant of a depressive into the sparkling tour-de-force of other people’s tweets and some GIFs? I will tell you who.
Mr. Burrito Bowl, THAT’S WHO.
What a firestorm of self-awareness this Tweet unleashed:
If you are still with me, here are my three things, muffled just a little bit so you don’t discover who I actually am, because who I actually am is really predictable. But anyway, here’s my list of blog obsessions:
- Money and specifically dealing with real-life debt and socioeconomic externalities that are NOT YOUR GODDAMN FAULT.
- Entertaining and enjoying your life, like how to throw a kick-ass party on a budget, even if you can’t bake and can’t really cook.
Or how to self-care LIKE A BOSS even if it could kill you.
So, Mr. Burrito Bowl. I owe you a debt of gratitude. You should have seen the first draft of this post. It wasn’t funny at all.*
*What? Sorry, it still …what?…I can’t hear what you just said, I think you’re breaking up.
Where we are at now: Not okay, basically okay
The best I can reckon right now, something seems really, really off. My numbers look terrible, yet we feel like we are okay. I think I have been counting my money in too many different ways, tracking it for far too long in too much detail (10 years). My spreadsheets have had spreadsheets, my formulas are sprouting formulas, and I frankly no longer know what I am doing.
I did start using YNAB in September (no, I won’t link it, I’m too fucking tired and not in the mood to perform affillatio on my blog right now). I like it. I think it’s mostly because it is satisfyingly gamified, not because it’s useful, but I will get back to you.
We paid for our car and wrapped up our no-interest loan for the roof. We’re feeling more liquidity in the day to day, and I feel like we are pushing forward in a lot of ways. Yet, in contrast to what I reported last month, we seem to be $78,000 deeper in debt than when I started this blog in 2018. Considering that this is precisely what we borrowed from 2018 to 2020, this is a pyrrhic victory, indicating that we have been able to avoid any meaningful accrual of interest on our debt. We are holding our own.
In real terms, it means we have spent the last two years standing in place, unless of course you count the value of the opportunities we’ve been exchanging our shirts for: the literal roof over our heads, the ability to pay for a college education, and the all-too-fleeting feeling of being free of credit card debt last spring (it didn’t last, and that is a huge regret).
Not counting my husband’s student loan, we’re about $5,000 less in debt than 10 years ago. I’ll take it.
Total debt is $512,000 compared with $504,287 in October and $497,650 in January.
Credit card & consumer debt is $21,252, compared with $20,719 in October and $18,265 in January. I’m just going to leave that info there.
Net worth: Our net worth seems to have decreased by $2,000 since only last month, even though almost every balance we have increased. I feel like this is likely because I have sometimes left my husband’s student loan out of our equations these past years, and I have started to factor it in again as we prepare to start repaying it. At the beginning of this work, I just couldn’t bear to look at it all at once; it was enough just to get myself a budget. I am getting braver and more capable now, so the time has come to say: This mountain won’t move much anytime soon.
Our net worth this year has grown, though, by about 30% from our starting point of $94,074 in January. So that’s amazing, and we still have an encouraging curve, even if we backslid a little this month.
Goals: These Two Seemed Simple in January.
- We are increasing our net worth. At what cost, though, and to whom?
- Are we having fun? We have been watching a lot of TV and taking a few walks. Our fall holidays have been nice so far. And I am still reading a lot (that would be an interest I’d blog about a lot more, if it wouldn’t totally ruin my cover since the legally named me is always going on and on about her reading on social media). We are relieved that our government is soon to be in more qualified hands. Does any of this count as fun?
I think my motto for 2020 will have to be, if it might even remotely be fun, I’ll try it.
Except if it requires you to grow your own yeast.