April 7th, 2006

a Mini improvement

I ended up overdrawing my checking account for the first time, ever, last month. Four of my checks were cashed the same day, which would've been fine if I'd anticipated that happening and not also bought a few groceries that day. The checks didn't actually bounce, but I did pay a bank fee as a result, and I had to transfer yet more money out of my meager savings account to cover the last couple days of the month.

So, that prompted me to go back to Quicken again, get caught up on adding data to my accounts, and then look over the numbers yet again to see if I'm actually slowly losing money every month, and thus doomed, or if I'm just screwing around and not being careful enough. Annoyingly, the results are inconclusive. It seems that the general trend over the past six months, since buying my condo, has been a slight increase in my funds; certainly the comparison of my total income against total expenses for that time shows a net income. On the other hand, that income does include the insurance money from my car accident, without which I'd definitely be screwed. On yet another hand, I did get a raise in February, so now I'm earning an extra $400 a month (in actual take-home pay) that I wasn't before. But again, if I factor my current monthly salary as my only income and budget expenses based off my averages for the past six months (using fixed amounts instead of averages for the regular bills), it looks like I'm cutting it really close, maybe too close. I have to play with the numbers a bit more, but no matter what, things are going to be tight.

I do have the option of getting a part-time job, either retail (which would be my last resort for a few reasons) or some kind of freelance work (which may be a conflict of interest with my current job). However, I'm still hopeful I can swing another raise at work sooner rather than later - granted, by "sooner" I'm thinking "within six months," not "in a couple weeks." I know it can happen, it's a matter of a few different factors coming together, one important one being more improvement of my own productivity.

Along those lines, I want to make note of two different articles I was pointed to, recently. My sister Andrea (I don't know why I haven't been linking to her site when I mention her) pointed me to "The Courage to Live Consciously", an article by self-help guy Steve Pavlina. It's an interesting article, nothing really new to me, but still a good reminder of the ways in which people (such as me) can be self-defeating and also ways to combat that. And speaking of self-defeating, parkbenchzine posted a link to an article at Cal Poly State U about "Procrastination", which was my major in college (and you all thought it was Literature). This article describes me all too well, and I read it with a big rueful smile on my face. I'd like to think I'm much better about the problems detailed in both these articles than I used to be, and that's probably true, but I know I still struggle mightily with these problems all the time.

Finally, I had been thinking I'd be making a rather mopey post about my finances - well, even mopier than this one may sound - but a surprise today changed my mood for the better. You see, earlier this week Apple Computer announced the open beta testing of Boot Camp, an application that allows you to install Windows XP on the new Intel-based Macs. As a joke, I emailed the partners of the company the Boot Camp description and link, with a subject line "NOW can I get a Mac? :-)" My preference for Macs is well-known, but we really don't do any work that applies to Macs or the Mac OS, so there's no actual reason for us to have Macs in the office.

Today, one of the partners emailed me a thank-you note for taking on the office manager role, and told me to expect a package that would be a "small token of their appreciation" that I "didn't have to share with others". I was expecting a box of cookies. I received a new Intel Core Duo Mac Mini. !!!

I feel I should point out, as a sort of footnote, that yes with money being so tight, arguably a cash bonus would have been better for me. However, the cash would soon be spent one way or another; meanwhile, with my funds being so tight, I'd be faced with a tough choice if my now five-year-old PowerMac G4 were to fail. Now, I have a new Mac that should last me for at least another five years, and I can repurpose my old Mac to be a dedicated file server and media machine, as I've been wanting to do for a couple years now. I'd still like to have a laptop too, but now I won't feel so bad about having to wait another year or two (at least) before that becomes a realistic option.