Posted in differences, know better do better, mindset, thoughtfulness

Budgets and teaching and capitalism

So … this is likely to ruffle some feathers, but that’s how things go sometimes. (I’m always amazed at things that ruffle feathers—this one, at least, won’t catch me off guard.)

There’s been a lot of media attention to teachers’ salaries, and it’s rightly deserved. We’re not appropriately paid for the work we do.

Lots of teachers have multiple jobs. Right now, I do some personal training on the side and teach preschool music once a week. I’ve taught lessons, done health and wellness coaching, sold lip balm, done copy editing, played gigs, and whatever other bric-a-brac comes up.

I do it because those are things I enjoy and I’m happy to have some extra spending money. (Well, and a little slice of that I was hoping to make my full-time gig.)

But here’s the thing: I can pay my bills and contribute to retirement on my salary and have some left over for fun. The only times in my career that this has not been true was when I have been working only half time. No leftovers at that point.

When I graduated from college, I had a decent little apartment, a car with a small monthly payment, some credit card debt, some student loan debt, and I could pay my bills and have a bit left over.

I no longer carry credit card debt, and, except for a bit in grad school, haven’t since I paid that off the first time.

With few exceptions (inspired by poor judgement, not poor budgeting), I’ve always lived in the type of neighborhood I would prefer to live in, in an apartment or house that was well-kept and affordable. The apartment over the karaoke bar next to the drug dealers is a notable exception.

I don’t owe anything on my car.

We just paid off my most recent student loan debt.

No matter this has all ebbed and flowed, I don’t need another job. I just budget what I have.

We eat healthy food. We cook most of it at home. I was able to feed my son and I for six months on food stamps without compromising the quality of our diet. I budgeted for food a little differently then, and there were a few meals with more expensive ingredients that we just didn’t eat, but healthy doesn’t have to be expensive, even when none of the food you eat has coupons.*

I am not much of a shopper, but I also don’t buy cheap plastic crap. Not for the kitchen. Not for The Kid. Not because “it’s so cute!”

I’m generally healthy, which is part luck and part work. I had good insurance when I went through chemo, which was all luck.

My car hasn’t been hit, so I’ve not dealt with those expenses. I recognize all of this and understand that people have expenses that I don’t deal with.

But how people define “needs” baffles me sometimes.

If you don’t have enough money to pay your regular bills, then maybe Christmas cards at half off still aren’t in your budget. Or new clothes, even if they’re on sale. Or a trip to visit people, even if you miss them a lot.**

Scale back the need list. Live more simply. Cook at home. From ingredients. Use all the food you buy. Stop the endless stream of incoming.

If you’re in limbo with your place to live, choose wisely. (Moving just to save money needs to be a fairly drastic move to actually save money, but it might be an option.)

Someone on a teacher thread was complaining that they were making $60K (in my metro area) and couldn’t make ends meet; that makes me crazy.

On a larger scale, if you have less crap, you can live in a smaller space. Smaller spaces are cheaper to buy or rent, they’re cheaper to heat and cool, they’re easier to maintain.

The amount we spent on our house (just over a year ago) is substantially less than the amount we qualified for. Our spending would look quite a bit different if we spent up to what the bank deemed was our means.

Our culture is one that very highly values buying stuff. Occasionally it values actually owning the stuff, but mostly, we’re just encouraged to buy.

If, in this situation (like so many others…) we can just be a bit mindful, we can slow down the influx of stuff, we can have more money for things that are important to us (which might at first be getting rid of debt, which is not at all fun but so very important), and we can have more time to do things that are important, because we won’t have to work as much to sustain our lifestyles, and because we won’t have to spend as much time taking care of all the stuff we have.

*I had the advantage at that time still to live in the neighborhood that I lived in—there are many grocery stores within a couple of miles—and to have a car, and to have a kitchen and things to cook with and electricity. These are all hurdles of chronically impoverished people, and I don’t feel that my situation and theirs are at all comparable.

**There is an exception to this, but I’ll write about it another day.