Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Where Does the Money Go

I awoke again having overslept. But in all fairness, I did sleep a full eight hours. Having finally fallen asleep at three o'clock in the morning, waking up at 11 is not terribly late. Waking up at 11:05 would have been overdoing it. I let myself read last night. I did not, as is my usual pattern, read a chapter and then turn off the light. I read, and then kept reading until the words starting running into each other. I decided I would finish Proust's Swann's Way, a rambling odyssey that has been described as a book best read by those suffering a long and protracted convalescence. I think that this time in my life qualifies. I feel like I am beginning a convalescence, that I am starting a period of healing. Like a dog sulking off into the corner to lick his wounds, I, too, am beginning to discover my wounds. The numbness is starting to fall away and the pain is rising to the surface. The protective layer of foggy sedation is wearing off. I would now have to start dealing with the realities. The realities of this is my life now, in this moment, this is my life.

I had to take stock. Where was I financially? I had recently taken a two week vacation -- a wonderful two week vacation to Kauai and Zion National Park. Would I have taken that same vacation had I known I would be losing my job? Who knows? Maybe I would have taken a longer vacation. I knew that I would soon be looking for another position, but how soon? That was the question. Could I afford to take some time off and take a breather, take another vacation, spend some time visiting family, and not rush into anything? I wanted the time -- I wanted the luxury of time. But could I afford it?

One of the conveniences of modern day life, something that would have inconceivable in Proust's day, is the advent of the modern banking system. As my work life got busier and busier, and work hours longer and longer, I turned to the ease of on-line banking for all my bill paying. And I found it to be remarkably freeing and in many cases life saving as I would let the automatic bill paying minions do their behind the scenes work. I would do my monthly reconciling and everything was going along smoothly. Until now, I would now have to sit down and really see where my money was going, more importantly where my money would not be going. Where could I save money? I got out all my bills and made a list. I updated my on-line bill-paying schedule. Sitting down and writing out a budget is a sobering experience. I always had a running budget in my head, but never a written budget. From now on I would be working from a stated and defined budget. I now knew how much I could spend at the grocery store a month, how much I spent on electricity, gas, cable and phone a month, and how much I could spend on pet supplies.

As I entered each individual bill, each individual number from each individual bill, I kept thinking to myself, how am I going to do this? I hoped each bill, after it made it onto the budget worksheet, was the last, but there was always one more. Finally, I got to the end. And it was anti-climatic. I wanted to feel a sense of accomplishment, but I did not. I had the hope that in this knowledge I would suddenly have the power to know what to do, to make all the hurt go away, to take the sting out of the wounds, to make the reality not so harsh. But all I had done was gather information, and as Einstein said, Information is not knowledge. I had expected a magic wand to sweep over me, telling me what to do and how I was going to survive the next few months. The magic wand did not appear, and I could not hide my disappointment.

Perhaps coming to terms with money and this new budget will also be a new challenge for me. Maybe this will also be a period of growth or change, or even convalescence for me and how I interact with money. I put my budget in the day planner that I carry with me so I can keep track of my spending. I also set it next to the computer so I can check it when I go on-line to do my banking. Ay, there's the rub, I have more free time to take care of my money, now that I have less of it coming in.

© pranaknits


  1. They say that time is money. Too bad it is not true, for then you would be very rich now. Monetarily rich at least. You are time rich.

    Thanks again for a great post. We are richer for it.

  2. Thank you, Scott. I am finding that I am savoring my time, savoring each moment--and learning not to waste time. That is a true luxury and a valuable lesson.