A Story About Paying Off Debt and the Obstacles Along the Way

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I Don't Actually Know, But Here's The March Budget

Now that it's almost the end of March, I figure it's a good time to share our March budget. I didn't post it earlier because a) I forgot (this happens regularly, which is why I post our monthly budget approximately 5 times a year) and b) I didn't know what was going on with my job and therefore couldn't set the budget in stone. 

So speaking of my job...

First, an update

I haven't quit my job.

Yup. It's practically a miracle. I've been on the verge of walking out about four times in the past week, but here I am, still hanging on by my pinky.

After writing that post, I was engulfed in a giant fuzzy blanket of virtual support and love. Who knew the Internet could be such a kind place? Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of you who posted a comment, sent me a DM, or Tweeted at me to offer encouragement and/or commiseration. Thanks for sharing your own stories with me; I felt honored to read them. (Clearly, there are a lot of people in similar situations. I'm sorry we're going through this.) And thank you to those of you who were probably thinking STOP BEING SUCH A MESS AND PULL IT TOGETHER LADY but who wisely chose to keep it to yourselves. 

Anyway, fortified by your encouragement, I set aside the idea of quitting for a moment and did some other things instead: I contacted HR, explained my health condition, and asked if we could discuss accommodations. I took three days off from work with HR's blessing. I caught up on sleep. I found a therapist and attended my first session with him. I read a book about anxiety. I went to the library and the park. And I finally met with my boss, who agreed to let me train at a slightly slower pace. 

All of the things I did were good, practical, proactive steps - things you're supposed to do when you're on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I was so proud of myself that I was tempted turn around and pen a jazzy, rah-rah article entitled How To Kick Your Mental Issues Out the Door in Seven Easy Steps. After all, it's always empowering to take control of a tough situation, and I did that. I also learned some key lessons - for example, if you want your employer to help you, sometimes you have to be a giant pain in the ass. Huzzah!

In reality, though, I'm nowhere close to being able to write a self-congratulatory post about my brain or my career. I'm still having trouble sleeping, I'm still struggling to keep up at work, I'm still questioning whether the job is sustainable, and I'm still worried about my health. I still feel like I need a break, and I'm still really nervous about ditching standard employment and leaping into who knows what.

It's just that now I have a little breathing room to figure out my next move. 

My current goal, however pitiful it might seem, is to make it to the end of next week - payday. That's all I can commit to right now. After that? Maybe I'll vow to stay for another two weeks. Or maybe I won't. I'm taking it paycheck by paycheck.

Speaking of paychecks, that brings me full circle back to the March budget. I'm glad I haven't quit because this month... wow. It's been the month of a thousand expenses. 

The March budget (ouch)

We were hit with four major expenses in March, and they did a number on our budget. Here's the rundown:

1. Southwest card annual fee ($149): Every year, I tell myself I'm going to cancel my Southwest card because the annual fee just isn't worth it. Every year, I don't. And this year, I got reeled in by the new Priority card, so I upgraded... thereby saddling myself with an even steeper annual fee (I don't think I'm doing this right). It may be an okay move if I actually travel a couple of times this year. If not, I have until next February to cancel or downgrade.

2. Car registration renewal ($131): We always seem to forget about this until the bill shows up in the mail.

3. Campground membership fee ($545): A few months ago, I divulged that we purchased a campground membership while we were living in an RV. Campground memberships are great if you're an RVer but pointless if you're not. Ours comes with an annual fee. I don't want to talk about it. (We do still use the campgrounds, but it's not like we're there every week - more like a few times a year.)

4. Rent increase ($100): Our rent will go up this month. I'm not happy about it, but when the management company made the big announcement, we weren't in the mood to pack up and move again. We'll make do for another year and then decide whether to stay in this place or leave. Rent where we live is high, to say the least, and finding something less expensive but still liveable isn't as easy as it sounds. 

Total additional money flying out the door in March: $925

Other items of note:

Electric bill: Our electric bill this month is ridiculous ($320). Until last week, it was damp and cold, and we experienced a major snowstorm. The heater was working overtime. I suspect that the numerous baths I took to try to de-stress myself also contributed to our energy costs. From here on out, I'll stick to short showers.

Savings: Our bank account seems to be bleeding right now, but I'm still determined to shuffle $300 into the emergency fund (which is quickly becoming an FU fund, given the job situation).

Student loan: Admittedly, we're still in a holding pattern here, and at best, that's probably not going to change until later in the year. Our slow progress is a bit dispiriting after so many months of rapid progress, but sometimes it's not possible to go all-out.

Retirement and HSA: What the budget doesn't show is the money going straight into our retirement funds and our HSA. Including employer matches, that total comes out to something like $1600/month. I'm thrilled with that. 

The nitty-gritty budget breakdown for March:

What about you? How's your March budget looking? Have you had any major or unexpected expenses recently? 


  1. That sounds like a rough employer situation. Glad you're being proactive and trying to manage it as best you can. My last job with a horrid boss and assignment led to me working with him and HR to get to a better place and when that didn't work, I started looking for a different company. That's not always practical for everyone, but maybe an idea if it doesn't get better for you. It's good HR is working with you.
    Looks like your March budget was as predictable as March weather. �� Ours had a hiccup or 2 also. Something about a new truck put me in the doghouse, even though I know we discussed it at length and with multiple details and scenarios. I'm supposed to write a "penance post" about it, so look for that, lol. Hope April gets better for you!

    1. Can't wait to read the penance post! Ha! Yeah, it was a rough month for expenses.

      I've started looking around for a new job, but I don't see anything that interests me. Ideally, I'd work *this*job - just fewer hours.

  2. OMG, I love the idea of the "just make it to payday" goal. I hope it gets better for you, but if not, I'm glad you're not going to hang on to a miserable situation for a paycheck.

    Car registration fees always sneak up on me, too.

    Our March budget has been pretty calm, though I did cough up $275 (out of my already tight 'miscellaneous expenses' category) for behind the wheel training for my kid so she could officially get her driver's permit.

    1. Oooooh! I bet your kid is thrilled! That was very generous of you (and it means that you don't have to teach her... Someone else can!)

      Yup, just going to take the payday approach for now. It's hard because we really are making good financial progress, and I don't want to derail that. But I also don't want to be miserable.

  3. ANOTHER $1000 at the vet this month and that's after the $1000 last month. /headdesk

    How am I supposed to build up a buffer if we keep blowing through cash like this? *shakes fist*

    I'm really glad that your work has settled down at least a little bit even if it's not enough yet. I hope this is going to give you at least enough breathing room to get your feet under you or to make a decision about where to go next if they can't get their act together. You deserve a job that respects you and your time, and the work you put in!

    1. PETS! *shakes fist at your pet but then gives them a treat* The things we do for them... including throwing our money at them.

      Thank you for the kind words. Taking it day by day.

  4. “Additional money flying out the door.” Oh man, there are some months where I DO NOT want to tally up that number.

    Hang in there! Or, well, hang in there unless you really need out. And hey, that FU fund may come very much in handy at some point.

    1. I am hoarding FU money at this point. I can't tell you how many times I've run the numbers. I think we'd be fine for at least six months. My biggest worry is that six months would fly by, and... I'd still have no idea what to do next. I wish I had a better plan.

  5. Good on you for being proactive about your needs at work. I'm glad that HR was supportive. One day at a time, or one paypacket at a time is good approach!

    1. Thank you! I keep feeling like I can't do it, but then I ask myself if I can do it *today*... and the answer is still yes. So here I am!