I'm slightly breaking the separation between work and blog to say that I may be back on the job market soon. Yeah. Let's just say that I work for the security of my future as well as present survival, and I'm not feeling too secure or surviving in comfort where I am. It's not me, it's not the people I work with, it's the situation. I can't be more specific than that.
So, on the eve of my 56th birthday, I'm once again wondering what comes next, and when the next shoe will drop, and coming up with a new game plan. Fun stuff! I could be boring and settled and looking at retirement in a few years, but nooo, that is not the hand I was dealt, so I have to figure out how to play the hand I have.
I'm suddenly very interested in all those books about "Reinventing your career after 50!" Very, very interested, in fact. And while I've always been drawn to the idea of minimalist living, though I may suck at the execution part, I'm now looking at the topic of "frugal living."
I've never lived on a really tight budget, mostly because I don't DO much. I don't run up credit card bills on vacations to the Bahamas. I've never been to the Bahamas. I had to go into debt to rebuild a bathroom recently. That's where my debt is; in the house and the condo. And I'm not sure how to cut expenses that are driven by practical needs, rather than whims and fancies. New glasses. New shoes. Clothes for the office. Home repairs. Maintenance for my 8 year old car that I bought used. That's where my money goes.
I absolutely lose my shit over those dimwitted, "How to cut your expenses!" articles that are everywhere, in every publication: "Skip that morning latte, make coffee at home! Bring your lunch instead of buying!" Gosh, thanks! My worries are over! You have enlightened me, Buffy the Magazine Feature Writer!
I walk into a Starbucks maybe twice a year, if someone else is paying. I eat out maybe twice a month, if that, and spend about $20 each time. I buy clothes that don't have to be dry cleaned. I haven't been on a vacation that involved a hotel stay in several years. And vacation in my world is a long weekend, not a week on a cruise ship.
I am NOT the Queen of Austerity. I spent money on eyeglass frames that don't make me depressed to wear glasses, instead of a pair from the $99 rack. If I couldn't afford to get both glasses and contacts and have to wear glasses full time again, dammit, they are going to be cute, quality glasses. I work in a world of People with Money; though I am not one of them, I have to create the illusion of substance in the small things to be taken seriously at all. They don't have to know that all my clothes are bought on clearance as long as I blend with the better-paid herd.
So ANYWAY, that brings me to the book I'm reading now: Radical Frugality: Living in America on $8,000 a Year. I was intrigued by the concept, and also by the fact that I could borrow it for free via Amazon Prime. (Yes, I know it's probably not "radically frugal" to pay for Amazon Prime, but I more than get my money's worth from it, and that's how I decide where I spend my money.)
I am just getting to the meat of the book, so I can't say yet whether it will have any big Ah-ha! moments for me, but I do like it very much. I'm generally bored to tears by personal finance as a topic. It's either preachy ("Just stop buying those damn lattes!") or dry, or aimed at people with so much more money than I have, it depresses the shit out of me. This book really is, um, radically different.
It takes the approach that frugal living is the path to doing what you want, rather than being a slave to paying the bills, and so far, has laid out a really cogent and entertaining case for this. I was very entertained (because I'm a nerd) by the way they dismantled the totally unrealistic Bureau of Labor Statistics data on "what an average family spends," and created their own, far more real world comparison.
Now, I'm waiting to see (it's like an adventure story for nerds!) whether it will actually have any ideas I can apply to my own life. But hey, for a $2.99 Kindle book I borrowed for free (look at me, being all frugal and shit!) it's actually holding my interest. I'm not bored or depressed, and I'm wondering what I can apply to my own situation. Even for three bucks it's a deal.