5 March Update

This post is less useful financial information and more self-reflection journal.

Yesterday was Saturday.  I got up at 6AM so I could leave by 7AM to arrive in Oakland at 8AM.  Spent $20 on gas before I left, just so gas logistics wouldn’t be a pain in the ass for the rest of the day.  Arrived in Oakland and walked with my friend and his sister to a coffee shop.  He bought me a latte and I bought him a cinnamon bun with cash in my wallet.  $1 left in my wallet now.  Strictly speaking, money spent at a coffee shop is in the restaurant category, which is banned until the condo is paid off, but somehow using cash for it makes it feel like I can hide it from my budget b/c the charge isn’t on my bank statement.  I think… $5… at some point the restrictions are more neurotic than helpful.  He paid for my lunch.  I’ll count the day as a win money-wise, as I was able to go up to SF and not get screwed over by traffic or parking, and not spend $50.  He also paid for my museum ticket.  It was a fun day.  What’s the alternative?  Not seeing my friend when I’m not seeing anybody?  What’s the point of saving money if you create a life like that?*

Came back to San Jose before dinner, 7PM, picked up some beer, did yoga, showered, ate dinner, and watched Evolution (2001).  After all the walking in the city and driving back to SJ to rush through the yoga etc. – it felt like a long day.

About $100 I could transfer over from Lending Club.  Plenty of groceries in the kitchen.  Budget is pretty tight for the first half of March… the question is if it’s stressful.

I think it’s pretty amazing how much stress is abstract.  Like, if you’re in physical pain or you’re hungry, that really is stressful.  There’s no choice about it.  But if you’re simply anticipating being hungry – we have more control in that situation.  A person can look at their bank account and see $300 when they “need” $1200 to pay their bills.  That’s stressful.  They imagine themselves with $0 and starving.  But the truth is that $300 buys food, and debt collection calls can’t put you in prison.  We have a choice about how we frame that situation.  Over time, I’ve learned to notice my stress level and question its value.  It can be difficult to logic stress away, but I think it helps.  The key to a lot of stress I think is that we like to think we can predict the future, but we’re actually pretty stupid about predictions.  I’ll give an example.

In the book “The 4-hour Work Week,” the author tells people to think through their worst case scenario if they start a business and it fails.   He does this so we think through all of our recovery options.  If we’re fired, it’s terrifying.  We imagine running out of money, running out of food, starving, and dying.  We don’t imagine applying for and getting a new job that pays more than the old one.  Our brains are very bad at coming up with complex scenarios.  Very bad at coming up with optimistic scenarios.  The optimistic scenario generation is a skill, a skill people have to develop to combat stress.

Funny quote during the Simpsons unemployment episode:

Loaf-time, the cable network for the unemployed, will be back with more tips on how to win the lottery right after this.

*This is a very subjective question.  I remember a few years ago when I first started working in software development.  My colleagues at that job had taken CS majors and then started working in CS.  Some of the work was very, very dry.  Database optimization.  I remember wondering about the last time they were really happy.  I’ve never found the same satisfaction in my programming work that I’ve found in creative writing.  Not even close.  It occurred to me that people get conditioned to a certain level of personal satisfaction in their work, and once this “enough” level is set, they don’t seek out more of it.  There are people with different careers who would ask the question – what’s the point of getting an engineering salary when I have to sit at a computer all day?  I’m sympathetic toward this POV.

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