Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Number Crunching 128

Quicken Cash Flow = 47.65
STEF Total = 113.83

September Budget Review

I usually like to wait a few days into the next month before starting to tally, to make sure all payments have gone through, etc. As I check the online account balances, I see that my Roth IRA dividends have posted yet. But I need the spending plan for October STAT, so I’m getting the bulk of this done now. By Friday and the weekly budget catch-up, September’s statements should be finalized and I can do the final check off.

The STEF total went down again because I had to buy a tank of gasoline, and I’m trying to avoid all bank charges from now on. It should be an easy category to bring down to $0.00.

Reconciling Quicken with bank statements:

Capital One checking account had sent the September bank statement and it is reconciled. I don’t have statements for my credit union accounts, but everything balances with my online balances.

Reconciling last month’s budget:

Why is it so hard to get my balances to match between the spreadsheet and Quicken every time I open them up? I just got it right last week! I’m only off by $2.39. The spreadsheet says I have spent that much, and I can’t find where to add it back in because Quicken says I didn’t spend it.

Thinking that it must be a discrepancy in cash spending, I just added up all my cash buys and I spent $102.71 in September. But I only took out $50.17 in cash, and August balanced. *Headdesk* By what I calculated, I should have spent $38.73 in September. So where did the extra come from? August is balanced and I’m not finding a reason to have to change all the previous months, again. *Headdesk again* This is not rocket science. This isn’t even the crisis on Wall Street.

:p I can’t find the discrepancy, so I just created two new lines on the spreadsheet: positive and negative adjustments. Spreadsheet balances now.

Okay, I have flagged where I had fluctuations between what I had projected to spend and what I actually spent. So now I’m ready to declare my problem areas and where I did good.

Problem categories:
  1. Bank charges (-382.00) – the bane of my existence. My goal for October is to actually have $0 spent in this category.
  2. Household, groceries, eating out, entertainment (-232.69) – the goal for October is to actually fund these categories so spending can happen without evil bank fees or the house falling apart.
  3. Electric bill (-137.93) – paid this month and past due amount, ouch. Paying October’s on time.
  4. Phone (-54.84) – overspent there but I already cut my rates at Verizon, so that should help.
  5. Taxes (-15.16) – I worked overtime and it was taxed, which was not worked into the prepared budget.
  6. Auto insurance premium, mortgage, Citifinancial – my negative balance isn’t worse because these didn’t get paid this month. Hopefully, I will squeak through October.
Did-good-in categories:
  1. Water
  2. Auto Service
  3. Gasoline – I think the savings was due to not driving for nearly a week.
  4. Short-term savings – managed to save $2.61 in change. It didn’t end up in a vending machine at work; that’s miraculous. Eventually, I think it will be added to the STEF unless I managed to fund it before I fill up the Tootsie Roll bank. Then I’ll snowflake it toward debt. Right now, I’m basking in the glow of having not spent it.
Verdict: One over-arcing goal for October: I will only allow myself a $2 bank charge for Demco’s money order. This is what I will concentrate all month on.

Creating next month’s budget: In simple English, October is going to suck.
  • Mortgage = 401.54
  • Auto insurance = 641.51
Damn, that’s over $1000 on those two bills. *Whimper* Okay, I filled out October estimates on the spreadsheet for a zero balance.

What doesn’t get paid:
  • Phone
  • Electric
  • Auto service
  • Gasoline
  • Savings
  • Only-spend-cash categories
and I have spent the last of the emergency food stamps.

What is the shortfall? Or in other words, how much money do I need to earn from another income source? Going back to my percentage exercises from last month, this is what I figured as best scenario:
Taxes and bills paid automatically = 63.39%
Debt payments = 19.69%
Savings = 1.92%
Cash-only categories = 15%

Now that’s what it should be if I was able to make ends meet on one paying job. Wouldn’t be in this mess if it was true, would I? Regroup my math because I don’t have a full paycheck this month to spend, thanks to the carried-over balance. My income for October should be $2545.57. Okay, now I get 100%.

October Projected Spending Percentages:
Taxes and bills = 65.44%
Debt payments = 34.56%
Savings = 0%
Cash-only = 0%

But I already know I don’t have enough income for this month.

October Projected Spending Paying Everything Percentages:
Taxes and bills = 84.51%
Debt payments = 34.56%
Savings = 1.97%
Cash-only = 15.35%

136.39% so I need to earn 36.39% of 2545.57, which equals $926.33. To double check if that’s right, I’m going to add back in all the estimates into the October spreadsheet. Off by a quarter, so let’s round up and say I need to earn $927 a month. I can bring that figure down by not spending as much in the cash-only categories, but I don’t want to screw with that strategy. If I decide not to spend the cash, I decide not to spend the cash. Right now, it’s hypothetical because I don’t have the cash.

What else I find scary is this isn’t a strategy to build up my STEF or pay off a note. This is comfortable survival mode. I can make things go to uncomfortable survival mode, but I’m depressed enough.

$927 is the max of what I need to earn extra (I hope if my math is right). Let’s find the bottom of the range. Copy October’s spreadsheet with all the categories filled out. Take out the carried over debt from last month. Plug in the twelve-month spending average for most categories, along with my normal mortgage and car insurance premium amounts, add in a few categories I spend sporadically and should save up for the payments, and the total is $534.99 rounded up to $535. So I can’t earn any less than $535 unless I want to go with the squeaky wheel theory of budgeting—don’t save money for annual or quarterly bills and apply the money to whoever is yelling the loudest. I’d love to get away from that level of accounting.

Part-time is defined by twenty-five a week or less. So I need to look for an hourly pay range of: $9.27 - $5.35. What is the median between the two extremes? There are times I love Excel. Those times are when I can find the right preset function for the question I am asking. I should ask for $7.31 an hour if that question is on an application.

Okay, it’s fairly obvious that I can’t put off job hunting any longer.

How much cash can I have: It really depends on if I get a second job. With no second job, I don’t have money for gasoline much less groceries. I took out the categories saving for computer purchases and next year’s taxes, as well as adjusted everything back to my October projections.

With a second job earning $927 a month, I can have $390.66 in cash with money to spare at the end of the month.

With a second job earning $731 a month, I can have $257.93 in cash.

With a second job earning $535 a month, I can have $61.93 in cash.

And the deficit resulting from no second job makes me wince badly, but we already covered that territory. Moving on.

Automatic payments:

I have to call in the whole mortgage payment on October 10th as well as what I can pay on the car insurance bill on the 9th. All other payments should go in as scheduled.

Reviewing short-term savings goals:

I ended up raid the STEF more than I should have. The first should have been avoided if I had planned instead of reacted to my I don’t see a way to have avoided the second dip without borrowing money.

I set up a separate spreadsheet for the STEF totals. I can’t track it with the monthly income and expenses spreadsheet, too great a temptation to spend it.

I have $2088.17 left to go before completing Baby Step 1.

I did start a new category that I have labeled “short-term savings.” In reality, it’s just the change in my Tootsie Roll bank but every Friday, I’m going to add what change I haven’t spent during the week to it. When the container is full, I will snowflake it into the STEF or whichever Baby Step I’m on. I don’t collect change very quickly.

Updating NetworthIQ statements:

Since I just updated less than two weeks ago, I’m letting those figures stand.

Update NCN Savings Chart:

Overview and Plans:
  • Avoid bank charges.
  • Avoid vending machine expenditures.
  • Brake check for car Saturday
  • Upgrade computer battery backup
  • Upload budget spreadsheet to Google Docs
  • Reduce bill spending to 63.39% of gross monthly income.
  • Apply to Best Buy
  • Apply to Winn-Dixie
  • Apply to Wal-Mart
  • Finish Your Money or Your Life
  • Restart weekly budget meetings
  • Finish Internet project so to go live
  • Use monthly Itemized Categories reports from Quicken to reconcile
  • Set up a small expandable binder/folder (like for coupons) for money envelopes
  • Unsubscribe from Big Fish Games
  • Contact Atmos about budget billing
  • Analyze the stubborn mule comment
  • Call phone number on letter for my deferment form
  • Organize financial binders and paperwork
  • File paperwork
  • Call Sonnier Chiropractic. for what Datapath needs
  • Need to add PayPal and Revolution Money Exchange accounts to Quicken and October spreadsheets
  • Rename Transfers between Quicken accounts to “Added to account name” instead
  • Give STEF balance its own worksheet in the spreadsheet file.

Read Free!
The BookWorm

Monday, September 29, 2008

Okay, I Should've Moved More

Really spending most of the weekend getting caught up on finances should not make my back kill me on Monday morning. But I guess it does when you forget to get up until your bladder or stomach need attention. I should use the timer to tell me when to stand up instead of when it's okay to look at the Internet. The multi-tasking habit is hard to break.

However, I did manage to bake bread. I'm trying to cut out as many HFCS as I can and bread is an easy place for them to sneak in. By the time I found the bread aisle in the newly remodeled Winn-Dixie, I had reached my I'm fed up with shopping limit and I didn't trust the ingredient list on any packaging. "Screw it, the only way to be sure is to make it yourself." So back to the baking aisle on the other end of the store, where I paid over $12 for organic whole wheat flour, yeast, oil, and soy milk. (I have one recipe I love that needs it plus I didn't have any problem with using it in the bread and it has a longer shelf life than the smallest bottles of milk I can find. What the hell happened to half-pints they used to give us in school?) I figure that is the ingredients for three loaves of bread before I'd have to get more yeast and flour. And since I bought the stuff on a whim, I wasn't trying to be cost effective. My goal was more bread so I could finish the pound of roast beef I already had in the fridge.

It came out perfect, which was a damn miracle for my kitchen skills. Maybe bread prefers a gas oven. My kitchen sink didn't care for the mess I made with all the dishes one loaf of bread dirtied. But then I started thinking about HFCS and my mother. Over Gustav, when she was complaining how she couldn't just give up bread, I looked at the ingredient list of the current loaf on the table. Then I had to tell her just what havoc HFCS plays with insulin and blood sugar. Eureka! A bread machine! Pour ingredients into one thing, one thing to clean, and I can take a bath without worrying that I'm going to burn the whole loaf with no HFCS or added preservatives.

I found this nice article on how to select a bread machine, which I'm going to have to go back over and discuss with Mom.

The mechanics told me nothing is wrong with my brakes, which doesn't make sense with how badly they were squeaking and how badly the parental units flinch when I'm driving. And then they have the nerve to wonder why it took me until I was 20 to get a driver's license? (Yes, this is their having-gotten-better flinching.) The mechanic assured me I had another 20,000 miles at least.

"I'll see you next month."

"Well, you probably don't need to come in that soon. After all, it's stop and go that puts the wear on brakes."

"Buddy, I commute 80 miles a day Monday through Friday during rush hour. It's nothing but stop and go on the Interstate to and out of Baton Rouge. I'll see you next month."

So I ended up with some time to get a few other things done at home, namely shelving the 30 plus books I got free from Mom's store. Which led to me shuffling the binders around the office again. I'm thinking that I should start measuring for a binder-only shelving unit and reorganize the space again. Or should I get a binder-only filing cabinet? Or just turn a window into a door and build the library I need for all the books. Or if we're talking building projects, build the garage with an office loft and turn my current office space into the library.

Okay, end of wishful thinking. I'm not in a position to do any of those right now. The weather is improving, so hopefully I can get back to working out again. And hopefully I can figure out how to concentrate on finances, exercise, diet, and writing all at the same time.

Read Free!
The BookWorm

Friday, September 26, 2008

Number Crunching 127

Weekly Budget Catch-Up

Quicken Cash Flow = 95.78
STEF Total = 129.96

No, I haven’t numbered wrong. I’m not finished with “Number Crunching 126.”

Back to doing weekly budget reviews. Only I think I’m going to be calling them Weekly Budget Catch-Up now. The goal is to keep the information updated and let me know what I did wrong or right on a weekly basis when it comes to spending. That way I should breeze through the more thorough monthly budget reviews. I just can’t keep the information in my head that long, or remember to look at anything I wrote it down on.

Seriously, sometimes, I wonder if I have a mild form of attention deficit disorder or if I’ve trained my brain that way with years of trying to multi-task.

All receipts have been entered into Quicken. Reconciled Quicken register with online account balances. Updated the September spreadsheet.

Wow, found another spreadsheet goof-up. Forgot to transfer the leftover balance from April to May. Fixing now.

ARGH! Why can’t I make it make sense?! I would think that the amount at the end of September should match my Quicken Cash Flow total minus the totals in the savings account. 95.78 - 17.53 = 78.25 – 149.96 = -71.71 as of right now, this is the total I should be worried about. I will go back and adjust the leftover amounts from last month until April. There is a 113.72 difference between the spreadsheet and Quicken totals, so I check Quicken for that amount. Nothing in September, so it must have happened in a previous month.

Having to wait on the computer, it freezes up while saving the spreadsheet. It shouldn’t, but *shrugs.

Fixed! Now to check if it is working. Took care of the $20, I have to pull out. Quicken and spreadsheet totals match!

Confession time: about the no taking any cash thing out, I declared that before remembering we had a birthday dinner at work. I don’t mind participating in those, and had I remembered, I wouldn’t have paid the October portion of the cell phone bill ahead of time. I took it out of the STEF fund, so I wouldn’t overdraw the checking account.

Next confession, I threw away $10 this month. Hollywood Casino send out free money based on how many points you have earned in the players’ club, usually broken into coupons good for a week or so.

Mom likes playing slots. Me, I like playing slots like computer games and when I’m winning. (I think I would do better if they actually figured out how to monetize some of the computer games I like to play.) I lack the guts to play blackjack for money, which is the only card game I know, so I usually end up blowing through my allotted money and wait around bored out of my skull every six months or so when Mom talks me into taking her to a casino. (Next time, I’m bringing my purse and a book.) Not to mention, drinking far too many diet soft drinks than can be good for me—no alcohol since I’m the driver. During the trip to Hollywood Casino around Mother’s Day, Mom talked me into joining the player’s club. We went again after that, so I put points on the card twice.

In August, I got a promotional flyer with four $5 coupons for the month of September. Now, they want you to stick into a slot machine but since gambling is so not my thing, there is no temptation. Coupon #1 expired in the week aftermath of Gustav. Coupon #2 expired because I kept telling myself I’d get it tomorrow and took my tired ass home. I have no excuse that week, and I could have probably argued to get the Coupon #1 amount if I had gone in September 8th. Plus Hollywood Casino is two blocks away from my paying job.

Today, I went in and cashed Coupon #3, enjoyed a free diet Coke while sitting outside on the deck overlooking the muddy Mississippi River and wrote these notes. Monday, I have to come get the other $5.

I don’t know if they’ll mail me any more coupons, but I just noticed the “open twenty-four hours” sign. I could get it in the morning before I am exhausted by the paying job.

Read Free!
The BookWorm

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Number Crunching 125

09/13/2008 – 9/25/2008

Quicken Cash Flow = -134.41

“No shame, no blame.” This is a mantra from Your Money or Your Life, which I’m currently working through to regain my grasp on my finances. I may have to repeat it a lot during this post because I dropped the ball badly. But I can’t afford to get caught in the self-beat-up game.

Though my honest question to myself (the one that currently makes me squirm as I answer “I don’t know”) is why do I think I will hold onto the large chunk of money by ignoring it? I can trace my fall down to when I cashed my last student loan check. There has to be a reason for it, but I’m waiting for the epiphany.

Also I’m apologizing in advance for the length of this post. It’s going to be a dozy.

May – August Budget Meetings

Reconciling Quicken with Bank Statements: I have received all bank statements for these months and everything reconciled.

Reconciling last month’s budget: Well, here’s where it gets interesting, folks. I made a budget for May, so that can be done. However, I never created a budget for June, July, or August. I will forward May’s budget to the other three months to figure out what happened.

September 20 Notes: As you may have guess, I didn’t finish writing on the 13th. Power got disrupted in a thunderstorm and I didn’t have the printouts I needed. I finally got back to it on the 20th. Thunderstorm knocked out power again, and my computer battery charge lasted five seconds. Yes, it has been bugging me with updates to buy a new one and I just figured it was a pathetic sales tactic.

  • Idea 1: upgrade computer backup battery.
  • Idea 2: upload budget spreadsheet to Google Docs when I have to balance at work. Easier than keeping multiple files on flash drives.
  • Idea 3: Edit category list in Quicken to list Late Fees for different loans.
So now I’m tryin to finish this by hand so all I have to do is type when I get electricity back or get annoyed and plug-in the generator.

I think I spent thirty minutes trying to reconcile by hand. What I have figured out is I need a Quicken report with spending broken into Categories and then listed by each payment. I’m fairly certain that payments I made to medical debts ended up under Medical in Quicken (which is fine) but that’s not how I was trying to track them on the monthly spreadsheet. *headdesk*

After two teases with electricity being restored, I went to plug in the generator. Then power was restored while I was trying to do that. I decided no tempting fate and watched a DVD and saved the math for tomorrow.

September 21 Notes: Today, I did a check through the window before starting Quicken and Excel. Nothing but blue skies, so I got started. Why was the sky completely overcast when I took a break and went to check on the laundry? I have taken to printing every fifteen minutes so I should be able to finish by hand if I need to.

Results for May: I had five unexpected sources of income in May: a sale of things at Mom’s store, selling cans for recycling, a return to a store, borrowed from Dad, and a school loan. So I was left with a positive balance at the end of May, but not due to me watching my money.

Good points: I did payoff some outstanding liabilities, so I don’t have to worry about them anymore. I am upset that I paid the mortgage and CitiFinancial late, and I earned $274 in bank charges.

Argh, and now it is raining just as hard as it did yesterday. Do I press on or try again tomorrow? I’m voting for trying again tomorrow. My brain hurts and I’d like to play a game now.

September 24 Notes: I’m certain I have dragged all necessary paperwork to the paying job to finish this in my free time. Let’s see how right I am. Another thing to remember from now on: monthly Itemized Categories reports from Quicken get the job done much faster.

Results for June: I’m good with not messing up what is deducted from the paycheck, but heath insurance went up in June. I really can’t say that I overspent anywhere else since I hadn’t budgeted anything since May. I did end up with money left over; too bad I didn’t do anything constructive with it. I added a new bill: waste disposal with a new company split with my parents.

Results for July: July’s tabulations came out a tad odd. Because of the way my credit union works, it ended up being my three paycheck month instead of August. So I had a bundle of leftover, but I’m afraid it all got spent in August. Added a new bill: newspaper subscription that my father should reimburse me for since I never get to read the paper before he does. Ever. :p

To double check in Quicken (i.e. why reconciliation is never done) big jump in Atmos in July, go back through the statements.

Results for August: And as expected, August is the mouth I ended in the red. How was that possible with a little extra thanks to the way the paychecks fell?

Crap, I need to recalculate the previous months. This is the issue I have with how transfers are totaled in Quicken reports; I forget that I already categorized that money if I knew where I spent it. Okay, got that recalculated and must remind myself for next month that the transfer balance only shows deposits and withdrawals between the Quicken accounts. Quick answer for what I pulled out of the ATM, bad answer for what I spent it on. Back to where I messed up August question.
  1. I blew through nearly $600 and have no idea where it went. At the end of August, I put a correction into the Quicken Cash in Pocket account, since I stopped using the spending notebook in February. I didn’t spend it all in August but I had to balance Quicken at some point.
  2. I made nearly $600 in bank charges because I wasn’t watching my money. I think I could have paid off a year in my mortgage with what I have given the banks in NSF and overdraft fees. It has to end.
I also renewed my subscription to Big Fish Games, which was probably a bad idea all around.

Creating next month’s budget: Yes, I know September is practically over, but I can’t skip it. Especially since this is a pay week and I have to get bills in line. One ray of sunshine, thanks to Gustav, I qualify for disaster food stamps and I got them. It’s a one-time thing, but at least I can put $0 in groceries and no be lying to myself.

1st Step: correct all my deductions since health insurance plan changes went into affect back in July.

2nd Step: adjust the amount of all other bills—especially the ones on automatic payments. Most advice recommends you estimate on a yearly basis. I’m going to use the average of what I have paid for the last eight months.

3rd Step: go ahead and cuss because the amounts you have to spend have ran into the negative on a zero balanced budget.

4th Step: copy everything to October, erase negative starting amount, and see the negative amount decrease, but still didn’t go away. Damn, I was really hoping it was all due to the carryover from August.

5th Step: realize this budget is already blown because I have spent money in categories with $0 already this month. *headdesk*

6th Step: see if the check stub for this week is ready to print out. It is so plug in the numbers for the deductions at least.

7th Step: cuss the powers that A) made me come to work when I didn’t have to and B) paid me overtime for it and increased all the taxes I had just gotten normal.

8th Step: take a break, copy over October to November and December spreadsheets, undo everything in September to print out a beginning budget sheet.

9th Step: realize I do have the paperwork for how much I borrowed from Dad and add it in before printing. While doing that, realize the formula is wrong and probably wrong on every sheet. Fix sheets, plan to double check at home. Still have the negative amount. Give up and print.

10th Step: move onto next step in monthly budget review after vowing to not spend any money. Also deal with September in the weekly budget review.

Home edits to spreadsheets: adjusted May—wait a minute. If my course correction was done in Quicken in August? To bring me into balance with the actual cash in I had in pocket? Argh! Is August amount on spreadsheet now wrong because of what I have in other months?

Add in May’s adjustment to Quicken and change August adjustment. Now add in the rest. Okay, so I have to adjust the August spreadsheet again but at least I don’t look as bad in one month. I was bad, but it took longer.

Before I do that, double check Atmos bills. Right amount, but they took me off budget billing. Wasn’t aware it had a time limit. So onto fixing August. If I have everything right now, the bills are paid and I have money to buy gasoline in September. Now I’m going to add in what I have already spent in September. Oh goody, I had already put in my fuel allowance, now for the bills.

Determining how much cash to withdraw for the pay periods in the next month: Recognizing that my spending is out of control in certain areas, I think I need the envelope system. I also need more income and fewer bills, but I’m tackling things as I reach them.

Plenty of people have praised the envelope system as the only way to curb irresponsible spending. I have never taken the full plunge—too afraid to actually control my impulses and cause a bigger backlash. But something has to give with my personal mess and the greater economy mess. There’s no more time to be chickenshit over finances.

First thing is to figure out what categories need to stay on the debit card or in the checking account. So I color-coded September’s spreadsheet. Categories for the envelope system:
  • Household yard = 99.41 (60 months) 35.26 (8 months)
  • Household: maintenance = 99.41 (60) 335.26 (8)
  • Clothing = 11.93 (60) 27.44 (8)
  • Grocery = 54.02 (60) 104.81 (8)
  • Eating Out = 72.09 (60) 163.96 (8)
  • Personal Care: Items = 7.25 (60) 44.10 (8)
  • Personal Care: Workout = 3.66 (60) 9.38 (8)
  • Personal Care: Vitamins = 13.05 (60) 26.09 (8)
  • Personal Care: Massage = 4.67 (60) 7.50 (8)
  • Gifts Given = 7.93 (60)
  • Entertainment = 84.33 (60) 63.40 (8)
  • Hobbies = 44.69 (60)
  • Writing Expense = 7.58 (60) 15.62 (8)
  • Vet = 3.51 (60) 5.89 (8)
  • Donations = 0.41 (60)
  • Personal Money = 58.26 (60) 115.21 (8)
Even though I don’t have the money this month (or probably next month) I will spend money in these categories. I don’t need to spend as much as I have been spending. Since I had the totals, I decided to do monthly averages based on all my spending (60 months) and what I have spent this year (8 months). Now I need to settle on what I can reduce spending in. I’m not going to quit cold turkey, which leads to me going nuts with a windfall.

Okay, stopping for another night. My desks are a mess with paperwork everywhere.

September 25 Notes: Brief pause in this while I pay my bills and get my cell phone back in service. Okay, that’s done and got email confirmation. Now to check my phone. Huzzah, I’m connected again! And since I already reduced that bill, it shouldn’t be as painful the next go around. Back on the how much cash topic.

Yesterday’s math not the exercise in futility that I thought it was in the middle of doing it. My initial thought was to reduce spending in all categories. That thought quickly followed by how that has backfired every time I’ve tried it and I end up blowing the money in the vending machines (which is a whole different but related to money issues problem).

So while fixing the spreadsheets last night, I remembered the “60% Budget Solution” article. I had despaired the last time I tried to set it up and moved to zero-based budget. But I thought it could work for the cash categories. I could make much broader categories for the envelopes, but once the percentage of money allotted is gone, it’s gone. And it wouldn’t matter if I decided to buy clothes instead of eating out or going to a movie. (I know, I know, the goal is to leave money in the envelope and toss it to the wind, but I’m trying to work around the stubborn mule inside of me who throws a spending tantrum upon hearing can’t. Oy, that’s bloody good symbolic imagery that I must explore later.)

This morning I grouped my expenses into stay-in-checking-account bills, debt payments, savings, and pay-for-with-cash. Then using the amounts I had budgeted, I calculated the percentages of my gross monthly income.

Bills = 73.71%
Debt payments = 33.19%
Savings = 1.92%
Cash = 0%
Total = 108.82%

After I stopped twitching over the overspending built into my lifestyle, I started tweaking and settled on this is what the percentages should be:

Bills = 63.39%
Debt payments = 19.69%
Savings = 1.92%
Cash = 15%
Total = 100%

Upon adding up the totals of the categories I figured out yesterday, I found this:

8 months average cash spending total = 706.95 = 27.14%
60 months average cash spending total = 572.20 = 21.97%

Since my historical spending is between 27% and 21%, reducing it to 15% is doable. Now reducing the bills and debt payments is a whole different barrel of monkey bats (If you have made it this far and recognize the quote, I will send you real cookies—not just virtual ones.)

Does any of this tell me how much I can draw out today for the next two weeks since I’m already in the budget black hole? Not entirely sure yet. My car insurance and mortgage payment are both past due, and I don’t have enough to cover them, much less my loan payment. What is left needs to stay put for gas payments and to get my brakes checked. So the answer is “no” for this pay period.

Automatic Payments:

Missed in August: Liberty Mutual
Atmos Gas – paid in September
Demco – paid in September
Missed in September: Liberty Mutual
GMAC Mortgage

And there is not enough money left in the checking account to cover them. So I have phone calls to make at lunch, and I have no idea what the verdict will be—since I won’t be able to afford a double whammy from any of them in October.

Verdict of calls:
  • CitiFinancial – already moved September’s payment to the end of the loan because of Gustav. Just pay October’s bill normally. So how did the evil personal loan lenders end up being the most understanding about a hurricane?
  • Liberty Mutual – taken off automatic payments and need to call in as much as I can on the past due when I get paid again on October 9th. Changed the deductibles and got $92 credit on last bill and I can change again after renewal in November.
  • GMAC Mortgage – set me up with a repayment loan (probably not the proper term for it I didn’t note it) that has no grace period for the next six months. I have to make phone call payments and I think I can pay it off early, if I end up in that situation, but will have to wait on the letter to explain that again.
  • Sallie Mae – cancelled online payments that I accidently signed up for. Call center guy was adamant that I didn’t need to turn in a deferment form that he couldn’t find where I had faxed it anyway. Funny, the two people who called me before Gustav hit and then right after were adamant that I had to have it and have mailed it to me twice. Need to call the phone number on the letter and find out what’s going on.
Not going to lie; the mortgage shuffling is going to be tight. Luckily, I get paid on or before the 10th all six months.

Reviewing Short-Term Saving Goals: It is time for me to get serious about getting out of debt. 33.19% of my monthly income is nothing to dismiss. I can barely meet my bills, I can’t save, and let’s not talk about groceries.

Side note but related I promise: I’m going to look for another job, part-time while I finish school and start my Internet revenue stream. Wal-Mart is currently hiring, Winn-Dixie had a sign up too, and Best Buy is opening in Hammond and will be having a job fair. Retail sucks, but desperate times….

To manage this debt nightmare, I’m going to follow Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover with a few modifications. As Cash Money Life explains, it’s “a rough guide, not an absolute road map.”

Step 0 is no more debt. Okay, no more borrowing and I’m going to get a second job to meet in the middle.

Step 1 is establish $1000 emergency fund. And here’s where I veer away, since I established way back when my STEF needed to have $2202 in. For now, I’m going to stuff it into my second credit union saving account that’s not tied to my primary checking, nor is it accessible by ATM. I might move it later and get a better interest rate once the economy stabilizes a bit more. And since today is payday, I moved half of my automatic savings to the restricted account bringing the balance to 149.96. Great, I’m already on my way! And if I’m really good with my checking account, hopefully the other half won’t get spent and I can add it too.

Update NetworthIQ statement: If nothing else didn’t hurt like a MF, this will.

Yeah, I knew that wasn’t going to be pretty.

Update NCN Savings Chart:

*Snort* Well, I totally screwed up on my goal date, didn’t I? And that’s information I can’t update. Still the money amount is right and that’s what matters.

Overview and Plans: NEVER let this get so out of control for so long. I CAN’T AFFORD IT!

  • Brake check for car Saturday
  • Upgrade computer battery backup
  • Upload budget spreadsheet to Google Docs
  • Reduce bill spending to 63.39% of gross monthly income.
  • Apply to Best Buy
  • Apply to Winn-Dixie
  • Apply to Wal-Mart
  • Finish Your Money or Your Life
  • Restart weekly budget meetings
  • Finish Internet project so to go live
  • Use monthly Itemized Categories reports from Quicken to reconcile
  • Set up a small expandable binder/folder (like for coupons) for money envelopes
  • Unsubscribe from Big Fish Games
  • Contact Atmos about budget billing
  • Analyze the stubborn mule comment
  • Call phone number on letter for my deferment form
  • Organize financial binders and paperwork
  • File paperwork
  • Call Sonnier Chiropractic. for what Datapath needs
  • Need to add PayPal and Revolution Money Exchange accounts to Quicken and October spreadsheets
  • Rename Transfers between Quicken accounts to “Added to account name” instead
  • Give STEF balance its own worksheet in the spreadsheet file.

My Gods, I actually finished this damn post. Eight pages long in Word. I’m already flinching to see how long it’s going to look on screen. Sorry, but I did warn you.

Read Free!
The BookWorm

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Reasons Why I Shouldn’t be Financial Idiot

Thought about doing a top ten list a la Letterman, but I don’t have the brain power to waste on that. So straight to number one:

It takes a whole month to get back on track again. And another month to fix the filing binders.

I exploded out of the two-inch binder, so I’m going to have to retool my storage of the paperwork. But I’m only letting myself get distracted with that AFTER I’m caught up with doing the paperwork. I don’t need someone to do it for me, maybe I need someone to remind me to get it done. But I’d want my personal assistant to do dishes too.

The more I think about it, one of the scanners that rolls the paper through it (like a copy machine does) instead of the flatbed makes more sense for me. I could file digitally. No more papercuts. Course the reason I have a flat bed scanner is for the scanning I do out of books and colored artwork done on tracing paper that tears very easily. Course, I keep tempting to try out the email a PDF of what you scanned feature of the multifunction copier/printer/fax machine at work, but when I actively packed papers to play with, I forgot about playing.

3:53pm – I hate working on the budget because it’s the song that never ends. I find what I have done wrong plus I never finish!

6:50pm – Morning writing has also escaped me. I haven’t been doing it for a while (along with exercising) but now I have to get dressed in the 4am hour to leave between 5am and 5:30am. When I understand the crazy traffic, I will be the first to explain it.

Programs are now cooperating, so back to making sense of my finances again.

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The BookWorm

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Still alive

Still alive, just really swamped right now. Hopefully, I will get all caught up by the end of the month.

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The BookWorm

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Number Crunching 126

Interrupted the regularly schedule weekly check-in and analysis of financial matters (thanks to unreliable power source) to start working through the steps of Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. The book’s background started with the same information shared in church seminars, so like Dave Ramsey, you occasionally have Christian spirituality talk mixed with money talk. The authors have a point that you cannot separate money from the rest of your life—including spirituality/religion. So far, I have made it to chapter three and the quote scriptures from the Bible less than Dave Ramsey. Consider yourselves warned.

The subtitle is the best summary: “Transforming your relationship with money and achieving financial independence.” I read some PF bloggers rave about this book and grabbed it on the shopping trip to Half Price Books while visiting my sister. But I only serious started on it in the beginning of September. Knowing there’s no money in the bank and no power to double check that, it seemed like the perfect time to get back on track. (Much like today, I am being teased with electricity promises unfulfilled.) Anyways, I’d like to transform my attitude about money, stop falling into my bad money habits, get out of debt, and be free to do what I want to do instead of what I have to do.

Dominguez and Robin give a nine-step program to help you achieve financial independence. The first concept they give you to wrap your head around in “Having Enough.” It’s a different monetary amount for everyone, but it exists. Money does not equal fulfillment, but reaching the point of enough “for survival, comforts, and little luxuries; appreciating and fully enjoying what money brings into your life and yet never purchasing anything that isn’t needed and wanted.” (25)

Okay, I’m ALL for that. Onto step 1: Making peace with the past. It has two parts; most steps are multi-parters. Step 1: A). Find out how much money you have earned in your lifetime—the sum total of your gross income, from the first penny you ever earned to your most recent paycheck.

I fudged. I didn’t want to try to remember how many times I babysat as a teenager or what I got as gifts. The gift thing goes against my grain. You didn’t earn it and you can’t depend on it to pay your bills. And babysitting back in the day was not a regular gig. So I started with my first income tax returns independent of my parents. 1996 – 2007 equals $160,117.00. Year-to-date for 2008 equals $24,810.72. So my grand total for lifetime earning equals $184,927.72.

Holy rusted metal, Batman! That’s only 12 years. Evidently, I am capable of earning a nice chunk of change without even selling my writing yet. However, judging by my current bank balance, I am capable of overspending that nice chunk of change.

Step 1: B). Find out your net worth by creating a personal balance sheet of assets and liabilities. I have that now that I have updated NetworthIQ.

Not that I’m terribly surprised by being worth a negative amount. I can’t ever recall being worth a positive amount.

Chapter Two starts with the question what is a universally and consistently true definition of money? And like any good nerd, I came up with the textbook answer: money is an economic tool to exchange goods and services between people.

But the textbook definition isn’t how people deal, feel, or see money, so the authors show four perspectives of money to get to the nonmaterial aspects of money.
Street Level
physical pieces of paper and metal, all financial transactions over a lifetime, jobs, insurance, savings, investing, etc.
emotional/psychological realm; personal thoughts and feelings about money; money myths – money as security, power, social acceptance, evil
cultural realm; history of money; principles of economics, sociology, and anthropology of money. Growth is good, more is better.
personal responsibility and transformation: money is something we choose to trade our life energy for.

When discussing the neighborhood perspective, the authors ask you what your money style is? I fluctuate between impulsive and worrier. The roots of this is usually in how you were raised, and I have studied that dynamic before in detail. They also ask you what your money mythology is. I see money as security. I feel worth more when I’m out of debt or when I know I stand financially, but as soon as I have a positive balance in the checking account, I quit watching. Even knowing I’ll frit it away, I still don’t watch it.

Once we get to the jet-plan level, readers are introduced to the “one consistently true statement we can make about money that will allow us to be clear, masterful, and powerful in our relationship with it? Money is something we choose to trade life energy for.” (54)

Pause for the Keanu Reeves “whoa” moment.

Life energy is our allotted time on Earth. It is finite. It runs out. You pay for money with your time. What does it reflect about your values, commitments, inner self? What does it reveal?

How scary is it to really find out?

This is where the slogan “no blame, no shame” starts coming into play. Because shame is a lousy motivator when compared to inspired. You look at your spending habits, and you decide how much your life energy is really worth.

I’m going to try to do a Step of the program in each of the weekly Budget Catch-Ups. After some blows to the ego getting back on track, I realize I must get out of the money traps for my own peace of mind. Plus it should at least make the next few weeks interesting.

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The BookWorm

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Computer problems

Dad's been working on it for an hour. Now we've determined it isn't the switch but it could be the power supply and he's hunting for his spare.

No spare power supply--he used it in my sister's Kai new computer. So it's either the power supply or the motherboard.

Well, I'm on now, with real electricity and electricity returned to the job, so back to the daily grind tomorrow. And the computer should be safe now that it is on. The problem seems to be in failing to make the connection when turning it on. But if a new power supply doesn't fix it, I may have to upgrade the motherboard and CPU.

And now there is Ike out there. I haven't listened to any news today because, damnit, I need a break. I don't know if I want to try to ride Ike out or whether I should just pack Mom up and go to Austin. It's my responsibility kick that's making it a hard decision. I'm third-in-charge at work and I never did hear anything from my supervisor and whatever title Marian has. I don't even know if anybody's going to show up Monday. Well, somebody with a key to the firesafe file cabinet needs to. I don't have one and me and Dana locked the checks up.

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The BookWorm

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Going Through Gustav Day Six

9:00am: Woke up three times last night. First to go to the bathroom. Then about an hour later before I fell back to sleep, the generator ran out of gas. It was 1:25am, so I know it wasn’t a full tank of gas. The only complaint I have to Craftsmen is that if you build something with a gas tank, it needs a gas gauge. I put what was left in the gas can into the tank and then had the fun of trying to crank it. I have no affinity for pulling crank motors. I woke up Uncle Scott, but I don’t think I yelled that loud.

“Do you get your crazy from your momma?” Considering that my mother is his sister….

“I get it from both sides, but that wasn’t as bad as I can get.”

Then that gas ran out about 4am. I didn’t bother getting up. I slept fitfully through all of it, and remember having a dream Tin Man with werewolves and a Sailor Moon plot (the part where teenage Selene is raising her daughter from the future)> I’m just glad I didn’t put a hurricane in as well.

Got out of bed at 7:30am to overcast skies again. 75 degrees and the humidity is still down. I carried just about everything out of my office to work on the front porch. Then I wanted to test out playing my mp3 player through my CD player/radio, but I only have one 3.5mm connection cord, which is currently plugged into my computer to transfer cassettes to mp3 files. Dad didn’t have a spare, so that experiment in on hold.

Fuck, we are in the five-day cone of probability for Hurricane Ike. Hell, I know there is nothing certain about the five-day forecast, but I don’t know if I can take riding out another one with my mother. Though at the same time, I don’t know if I can afford to evacuate to Austin.

No decisions need to be made right now. I’m going to listen to the home improvement show and work on paperwork.

3:30pm: Power is restored! And I can’t turn on the computer. That’s been a reoccurring problem lately. Dad says it could be the switch, but he can’t look at it until tomorrow.

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The BookWorm

Friday, September 05, 2008

Survived Gustav

I didn't get blown away, but no power. My dad kindly bought me a generator, but I don't want to spend much time on the computer while using it. I'm afraid something will blow up or shut off.

Taking lots of notes. When I can put up the observations, I will.

Read Free!
The BookWorm

Going Through Gustav Day Five

Sunlight and Mustard tried hard to wake me up much earlier than I wanted to be. I opened the back door so Mustard would entertain himself outside and went back to bed. Then I rolled over and found my cat curled up in bed with me. I still don’t know how he got back in. Need a screened-in porch and a cat door.

8:30am: I woke up and realized the humidity had gone down, so 75 degrees feels like 75 degrees. Still overcast, which helps keep the heat down, but doesn’t help you feel less waterlogged. Ike could go up the East Coast or it could go into the Gulf. We’ll know more by Sunday.

9:00am: Two guys in a PT Cruiser with “Alabama Power” stickers drove down the driveway, checking out power lines. We heard two transformers blow during Gustav on Monday, but it didn’t look like either of ours. Plus no trees or branches broke the connection from the poles to the houses. I got excited, but Mom says they talked to a DEMCO guy last night who lives on Pumpkin Center too and he said three weeks before we see power. I’m trying to be understanding and not get upset, but I don’t know how much sleep I’ll be getting without at least a fan if no A.C.

10:00am: The post office spokesperson is on the radio, saying most post offices are up and running. I haven’t seen a postal carrier in three days. They must be holding ours at the office.

I cleaned out the fridge this morning of leftovers that won’t be eaten. I have to cook what is in the freezer today. And more yard cleaning since the humidity won’t kill us today. I’m going to get started now.

11:00am: The sun is peeking through the clouds. It sounds sad, but I am hoping to get a tan on my snow white legs. Not that I’m planning on laying out in the sun, but I rarely wear shorts, so my lower limbs don’t match my upper.

My parents can get a FEMA refund on the generator they bought, since Mom’s insulin needs to be refrigerated. Dad’s going to try to find me a generator, so I can at least get a fan or an A.C. running so I can sleep.

I’ve done two fifteen-minute sweeps of the yard, trying to get the biggest, longest branches out of the way first. At least now I can see a difference. I miss ice though; I like my water chilly. I may freeze some water bottles at my parents and let them melt in my freezer. Or I may go buy ice today. I haven’t decided the best course of action. When Mom and I swung around to the ice trailer yesterday, it was mobbed.

11:30am: The third yard session done, and I’m wondering if I should attempt other yard projects this weekend. My Camilla bush needs to be trimmed into a tree. The hydrangeas need to be cut back and fertilized heavily. The unwanted saplings need to be pulled up. I know my yard drainage needs improving, but I have no idea how to start fixing that. I think some of the lowest branches in the oak tree need to go. I still haven’t made a decision about the flower pots in the front yard. I can’t create a rock garden until I can pay for materials, so that one is off this list. I’m going to pause for lunch and think some more.

12:30pm: The overcast sky has broken into white fluffy clouds and sunshine with a slight breeze from the north. Time to get started on the yard again. I have noticed that my front yard is very shady all day, so I better never plant anything that needs full sun.

1:00pm: Fourth yard session done. Uncle Scott cut the cedar limb that had started growing into the edge of my roof and other dead bits on the tree. He keeps fussing about the hauling storm debris because “I can chop that up with the lawn mower.” I’m not stressing though; I’d hate for the two-inch-diameter oak branches to tear up the lawn mower.

Though I think I have hit my daily yard work limit. Nope, mosquitoes attack when I sit, covered my skin in repellent, and I’m going to haul some more debris.

2:00pm: Don’t see any more big limbs in my yards, so I’m don’t for the day. DEMCO’s report is supposed to be released at 3:30pm. So I’m going to read and start writing until then.

7:00pm: I have electrical power! Through a generator. Took all afternoon, but I will be able to sleep with an A.C. and take a hot bath.

Read Free!
The BookWorm

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Going Through Gustav Day Four

7:30am – At work for over thirty minutes and I’m already bored out of my mind. Got here early since have-to-go-to-Baton-Rouge traffic was reduced with schools closed and nonessential state workers told to stay home. (And I really feel so essential right now.) Parked in the really empty parking lot about 6:45am having left home at 6am. I sat in my car soaking up the AC and charging the phone until a few more people showed up.

We got in at 7am. Minimumal power means emergency generator power. One elevator worked, but no computer, no phone, no calculators. I added up the deposit with my cellphone calculator and wrote the totals out by hand. And since I have never done a deposit manually before, I can only hope I did it right. I finished my Jimmy Dean egg McMuffin breakfast, and updated my blog notes. I found Blogger with my phone but can’t figure out how to update an existing blog through a mobile device. Don’t really want to start a new one. I think I will wander and see if the ice machine is on emergency power.

8:11am – And nobody else is here in my section. When I checked on ice—none—no one was in Fiscal. I’m on my last character’s compelling need questions; I’ll search again when I finish them. I hate how quiet it is. There have been a few more arrivals, but with them so quiet, it makes me paranoid that they’ve been sent home and nobody told me.

8:20am – Phones do work, internally at least. I just got a call from someone trying to figure out the main phone number for the department. The display on the phone doesn’t work, and neither do the “hey I’m ringing” lights.

Dana showed up, I turned over the deposit to Patti in Fiscal, and then Dana and I traded hurricane stories. They actually delivered some mail for us to open, which was all we could do with it.

About 10:30am, I looked out my window to see a DPS unit (a section of the state troopers who patrol the state buildings) with lights flashing and the trooper running to the garage entrance three floors below my window. I got closer to the glass and saw we had another unit plus a city police SUV and another DPS unit pulled in from the other direction. “What the hell is going on? People haven’t had time to get pissed off at the insurers yet.” Dana didn’t have any ideas, and another thought occurred to me. “You don’t think they evacuated and left us here, do you?”

“Let’s check P&C, and see if they know.” The P&C division is next door to our division and looked deserted. But people had been here just at 9. Someone finally answered our hails, two of the supervisors, with a question “Why are you still here? We got the phones covered and they let everyone else go home.”

“Nobody told us.” They also didn’t know anything about what DPS was doing, but no evacuation had been called. So then Dana and I started our trek to find somebody in charge of Management and Finance to A-okay our leaving. We finally ended up on the fourth floor and a secretary told us to go home since all the department heads were in a meeting with the Commissioner. They only needed P&C people for the phones, but thank you for showing up.

So we left around 11am. We ran into Anna on the way and she was upset with DPS. “What happened? I called in to report some broken glass in the garage from storm damage or vandalism. Guess which word they heard?” I can’t be too angry with them. We would have stayed until 4pm or when somebody told us to go home if it hadn’t been for DPS overreaction.

I stopped to check out Walker Wal-Mart, but decided against buying a new plastic cooler. I bought Popeye’s and tried to buy ice but the water had to freeze in the freezer trailer thingy. Course, I spent the rest of the afternoon fretting if I had to go to work Friday or not. The updated COOP message only called in the P&C response teams, no electricity so the building was closed to all other employees.

Then Entergy put out a neighborhood estimate list of when electricity will be restored. Capitol Park is not listed, some of downtown is already on, so no one knows when DOI will get power.

Night breezes finally died and I had to soak up some AC in the car last night, and took a Tylenol PM before finally getting to sleep after 11pm.

Read Free!
The BookWorm

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Going Through Gustav Day Three

From what I understand from the press conferences last night, the power issues start at the grid. The transmission lines got damaged and that knocks out power for whole regions. If it wasn't so damn humid, no air conditioning wouldn't hurt as bad.

New Orleans is being stupid with politics again. The surrounding parishes opened at 6am for the people who can't afford to remain away. The closest place I heard with power and said we could get gas and food was Waveland, MS. During Katrina, most people could get stuff from Baton Rouge. No help there with Gustav. I've heard from one of my coworkers, and I was the first one she was able to contact.

DOI was closed again today, and Jindal said in his press conference last night that non-essential state workers would probably be off the rest of the week.

New Orleans opens up at midnight and set up roadblocks this morning to keep people out of the city. WWL has Garland on right now and the roadblocks have come down. I hope they are taping this rant against City Hall. Evacuation went so well, so of course, they screwed up reentry.

I moved out to the front porch. My parent's generator died yesterday, so the breeze and light are better outside. Though, I need to measure when I buy chairs for my porch table. My folding camp chair is too short. Today, I think I will start cleaning the yard. It didn't rain through the window last night, so hopefully no more debris will fall.

9:30am - Before I got to the yard, it started drizzling. I found a pillow I don't care about keeping to put in my camp chair and that makes a difference to reach the table. Talked to Mom, Dad thinks the generator problem is a spark plug and he went to look for gasoline. I don't know if anything is open in Hammond. Hell, I'd love to go window shopping if they had A.C. I could soak up for a while.

I need a better 16oz athletic water bottle. It doesn't have a good airflow to keep the water flowing into my mouth. Looks like the rain has stopped, so I'm going to do yard work.

10am - I'm at puttering speed in the yard. I got the front steps clear and realized I have a lot of different saplings growing up next to the porch. I guess the squirrels have been busy. So then I wondered if creating a rock garden where the roof runoff hits would help with weed issues like that. Grass used to grow up to the base of the house when Gram lived here, but I think she had a green arm and encouraged the plants. I don't want to create a cesspool for mosquito breeding, but I need to do something with the yard. There's a cedar limb that is growing into the tin roof that needs to go.

11am - Ate lunch with Mom and told her the creek was flooding the lowlands. It has never flooded our houses, but it has blocked the road.

Individual assistance has been declared, so FEMA will pay for hotel bills. Now I wish I had left. :p I have no house damage, so no reason for to even register with FEMA. Dad found a working gas station in Hammond, and has returned.

The radio just warned that urban Jefferson Parish shouldn't use the tap water or flush or pour anything down the drain. I'm glad I'm a) not in that parish and b) on a septic system.

I don’t consider myself a lazy person—well, unless I’m on a kick-myself binge. But it’s like I can’t make myself move once I’m sitting down. I have brain work to do, but I also don’t want to start that either.

I’m glad I switched over to Verizon. I haven’t been out of contact with anyone and I can get online—sorta—and check my email. Most sites are not mobile friendly, so I haven’t tried to update my blog or send emails.

12:45pm – I think I spent thirty minutes hauling sticks to the burn pile and I think I have hit my limit for today. It started drizzling as soon as I made the decision to sit down on the porch again. Can’t see a difference in the yard either.

7:40 pm – DOI will open tomorrow. Since I can’t get in touch with my supervisor and the lead worker, and I’m third-in-charge, I’m going into minimumal power (whatever that means) and no AC. Yeah, I haven’t seen a postman in two days and have no idea what we can do without mail, but I’ll go open the office. I’m going to pack a smaller bag rather than my bag on wheels. I’m hoping for a computer so I can at least put out notices that I’m okay.

Read Free!
The BookWorm

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Going Through Gustav Day Two

Woke up between 6am and 7 to a still heavy, gray sky and rain. It took until 7:30 to get ready to face it. But the carbon monoxide poisoning headache was finally gone. That's right, my father put the generator in the back garage with what he thought was enough ventilation but people kept leaving the doors between the house and the garages open. Both me and Mom got sick.

Gustav has dropped to a tropical depression heading to Shreveport, but it was so larger, it is still pulling moisture from the Gulf. Hence the rain.

12:35pm - Gustav, Hannah, Ike, and Josephine. This is going to be a fun month already. It's still raining off and on, and Convington has called for evacuation because their river is flooding. Amite River that I have to cross to get to work is forecasted to crest above flood stage tomorrow. I have no idea about Tickfaw or the Natalbany rivers.

Mom declared it my day to cook since I have a working stove and non-working refrigerator. By 11am, I had finished beef stroganoff, beef stir fry, brown rice, Moroccan chicken, and couscous. By then, Mom was napping, Dad was off somewhere I wasn't told about, and Uncle Scott was in his trailer.

Actually, we came through pretty good. The yard debris is branches. Some of our neighbors lost whole trees, and one with the tree in their house. Lovebugs have hatched with a vengeance. Thunderstorms north of Hammond, great.

My plans for this afternoon is to work on Strix and the rest of my Big Rocks that I can do with no electricity and businesses closed. I'm not checking on COOP until after 5pm.

Read Free!
The BookWorm

Monday, September 01, 2008

Going Through Gustav

Technically, we started feeling the affects last night with light rain. I went to bed at 11pm (I'm never going to get my sleep schedule straight). My alarm went off at 3am, and I kept hitting snooze when I realized I still had electricity and WWL hadn't blow away.

I really woke up at 7am and lost electricity about 8:45. So far all I see is branches littering my yard. It's raining with gusty winds high in the treetops. Gustav's eye has made landfall, but as of 9:15 am, we haven't seen the backside of the storm yet.

Finished all my cleaning chores last night, except for washing dishes. But since I have a natural gas stove, I can boil water. No matter what happens with where I live--if I ever have to rebuild or if I actually get to remodel like I want to--I will always keep natural gas for cooking, if not heating too. Since they switched the house over from a kept propane tank to piped-in natural gas, we have never lost gas unlike the electricity.

Wow, a French Quarter resident who had left to visit Paris, France is calling from France. She's a good Catholic, lighting candles as St. Joan of Arc's thingy (I'm not Catholic I don't know what those things are called).

The weak spot in the back bedroom roof is not leaking, so the rain event hasn't been that hard, just steady. 9:30 am, they are reporting the winds have shifted from west to east. The backside of the storm has hit New Orleans, I think. I missed where that reporter was embedded at.

Gustav is now a category 2, but we could still have a flooding issue. Some places could pick up twenty inches of rainfall--not counting any storm surges. The Mississippi River rose five feet at one measuring station.

9:50am - another news conference, Mark Cooper from the Governor's Office, taped earlier. But no reports of having to rescue people during the night. Images on TV (according to the radio) are showing overtopping at the Industrial Canal. Mayor Naguin interview is the audio. No citizen arrests, depending on how things develop, people might be able to return by Thursday. Fires have broken out.

10am - Army Corps of Engineers news conference. Industrial Canal isn't overtopped, it's just wave action. Barges are loose in it. Boy, that was a stupid call. And they haven't made as many stupid calls this time.

1pm - Mom freaked out because a tree fell on the neighbors' house on the other side of them. She had a great view from her bedroom window. "I feel safer with you at our house." So I finished the dishes piled in the sink (if Gustav blows the house away it will be with clean dishes, damnit!), packed the paperwork I wanted to work on, and switched. At least, they got a generator running.

5pm - Uncle Scott got a TV and antennae working and we found out how bad Baton Rouge got hit. Gustav was worse than Betsy.

7pm - the much vaunted COOP system was finally updated. I had only been checking it all day long to hear the robot voice say "No weather-related disaster has been declared. Please report to work at your regularly scheduled time." Yeah, that matched the radio and TV reports we were able to get. New message said I didn't have to go to work Tuesday, so I took my headache home. I needed to do my back exercises and I needed some alone time.

I took 2 Tylenol PMs and a melatonin, stretched my back out, opened all my windows, drank water, and proceeded to lay in bed getting sleepy but no decrease in head pain. If I got up to close the window since rain was blowing in (three times during the night), my head spiked. I turned in the bed, my head spiked. I went to the bathroom around 11pm and my head still hurt.

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The BookWorm