Tuesday, May 3, 2011

All Work and No Play....

I'm now in my fourth week of working two jobs. Every Monday and Thursday afternoon, I head to one of my agency's satellite offices, where I'm paid by the billable hour to provide individual therapy. The other three days, I work 10 hours at my "real" job to make up the time I miss (even though I'm salaried, which is a whole other rant post). I have to say, I'm kind of over the whole thing. Not that I'm quitting, because I'm not, but I didn't know it would be this hard when I decided to take on a second job.

The good points:
  • Doing therapy (in small doses) after a 6-month hiatus has been good for me. After almost three years of dealing exclusively with kids, it's nice to work with adults again.
  • I'm making extra money!
  • Doing this has inspired me to find other ways to increase my paycheck, like keeping up with mileage again. I don't know why I stopped tracking it; I guess I just got lazy. In four days last week, I racked up $56 just for my normal on-the-clock driving!
  • I'm more productive in my full-time job because I have less time to get things done during business hours.
  • I spend very little because I don't have time to go anywhere.
The bad points:
  • The constant rain and flooding in my area have resulted in a lot of rescheduled appointments at the second job. If people don't show up, I don't get paid.
  • My son is stressed out because I get home so late. I don't have much time with him during the week. :( He's old enough to understand why we need more money but it doesn't make it any easier for him.
  • I'm utterly exhausted. Fifty hours of work each week + ten hours of driving = destroyed house. I promise myself I'll catch up on the weekends, but I'm too darn tired!
  • I have a hard time winding down when I finally get home, so I end up staying up way too late.
  • I don't have as much time to read and comment on other blogs during the week. Or do anything else.
Overall, I don't regret my decision, though I'm not sure how long I can keep this up. I also wonder at times whether it's worth it. The first two weeks, I only billed 5 hours, and I should have 8-9 this time depending on how Thursday goes. Kind of crappy out of a potential 16 hours per pay period. But I know it takes time to build a caseload, and before long I'll be overrun with appointments, so I'm not too stressed.

So anyway, I'm on the fence about the whole two jobs thing. Maybe it will seem more real this weekend when I get the first paycheck with extra money on it. Or maybe I'll end up in therapy myself (as if I have time for that!) to deal with the stress! Actually, that would be like a mini vacation at this point...

Monday, May 2, 2011

Love Drop for May: The Stalnaker Family

I recently joined the Love Drop team, which is an amazing group reaching out to help others. Every month, Love Drop chooses a family in need of assistance and works to gather donations, services, etc. to present to the family. I would encourage all of you to check out the May video, which describes the story of the Stalnaker family. If you're able to donate even $1 to help the Love Drop team with our mission to help the Stalnakers, please do so using the links below.

Hey guys!  The Love Drop team is at it again! Last month they gave over $6,000 worth of cash and goods to their recipient, the Kahlen family, who had been going through a financially hard time due to the economy (and whose daughter is currently battling Tuberous Sclerosis). They focused on their love of spending time together, and brought them over 8 pairs of tickets to a whole bunch of local events. It was awesome, and you can watch how it all went down here.

This month they rally behind the Stalnakers - a family who, along with thousands of others along the gulf coast, are still reeling from the effects of the BP oil spill.  Our goal is to get them a reliable used car this month as their previous two have died, and it's getting harder and harder for them to manage w/ the one they're currently borrowing. They've been giving back to their community since they moved in, and now it's time for US to help them!

Want to help?  Here are three ways you can participate:
  1. Help them get a car! - Our #1 goal is to give them a reliable used car in decent working order. If you have any leads, discounts, or connections in this area, please email Love Drop and let them know.
  2. Give $1.00 - This money will help get them back on their feet, and relieve some financial burden. Every dollar counts!
  3. Give a gift or service - Gift cards are always helpful. Places like Target, Wal-mart, restaurants, etc would definitely help them out. Services too - especially those you can offer yourselves, or from your company.
Thanks everyone! We'll let you know how it goes!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I Suck at Quitting Smoking

Any personal finance blog will tell you to separate needs from wants if you want to improve your finances. Too often, we spend a ton of money on junk we could live without, then complain that we're broke. (Obviously not everyone does this, but we all know that many Americans are obsessed with stuff.) When I decided I was over my debt, I identified several areas where I was spending on wants instead of needs - restaurants, entertainment, and smoking.

I've cut down my restaurant expenses from $400 a month to $136 this past month. I saved $80 on my cable and phone bills by downgrading or removing features I didn't need. That's over $300 a month going toward savings and debt instead of worthless crap. Hooray! Celebration! Watch out for the confetti falling from the sky!

But guess how much I've reduced my $100 a month smoking habit. Zero. In fact, I actually overspent in April because I smoked more than usual. Yep, time to sweep up all that confetti.

If you've never smoked, you have no idea how hard it is to stop. It's like trying to stop breathing. You can do it for a little while, but pretty soon you're freaking out and can't think about anything else and before you know it you're doing it again to keep from having a nervous breakdown. People say that a cigarette craving will go away if you can just wait 5-10 minutes, but that's a total lie. I've made it 4 hours before (not by choice) and the cravings just intensify until I'm shaking like a crack fiend.

Over the years, I've tried several methods to quit smoking. I tried cold turkey, which lasted less than a day. I tried gradually cutting down, and that worked for a couple weeks until I had a stressful day at work. I tried Chantix, which is a super expensive prescription drug that is supposed to make you sick if you smoke. It didn't make me sick; it just made the cigarettes taste bad. But I smoked them anyway.

Smoking is so ingrained into my daily routine I truly don't know how to live without it. Every morning, I sit outside and smoke at least 2 cigarettes (don't smoke in the house) before I get in the shower. I actually get up 10 minutes early so I have plenty of time for those crucial first 2 of the day. Then I smoke 3 on the hour-long commute to work. I smoke about every hour and a half during the workday. I smoke immediately after every meal. 3 more cigarettes for the drive home. Several more before I go to bed. Sometimes I even wake up in the middle of the night with a craving. I realize how ridiculous this sounds.

The fact is, I need to quit. Both of my grandmothers died of lung cancer. My son lectures me constantly. My clothes smell disgusting at the end of the day. I'm spending $100 a month (or more) that could be used toward debt.

But I don't want to quit. And that's where my needs vs. wants are all screwed up. Just like when I was furiously spending, I know I need to stop this but I'm making the choice to keep going. I ask myself all the time, What will it take for me to get over smoking? Do I wait until I start having health problems? Will the ever-increasing prices convince me to quit? (Probably not, since they were $1.25 a pack when I started and now the "cheap" ones I smoke are $4.) I really don't know what it will take.

I know anyone reading has had some kind of habit, whether smoking or something else, that you've managed to break. How did you do it? I'm not asking specifically how you stopped, but how did you get to the point where you WANTED to?