They tried to jab me but I slipped away
It is one year ago this week that I received the news that all my mental health clients were having their hours cut in half. I was devastated and livid and shared my story with you last year in a post entitled : Anyone Got a Dull Knife? I received an outpouring of sympathy and support from the OS community that was tender and very helpful. Here is my story and the changes I made.
Give me half your money. I said give me half of your yearly earnings. No, I am not kidding. You and your business are going to need to make it on half your salary. There will be no negotiations. This was my dilemma. After just a few days of crying the blues and sucking my thumb, I got serious, very serious. The first thing I did was review my spending in great detail. I then made up a budget for the quarter, in this case it was April, May and June. Since this was a dramatic change, I figured I needed to come up with some dramatic counter moves. Here is what I did.
I could have jumped out and tried to recruit a bunch of new clients and kept the ship sailing. Instead, I said screw that and simply moved toward semi-retirement. In order to do so, I figured I needed to cut expenses and see what happened. Funny huh? Lose half your money and decide to move toward retirement? HA! It worked!
I had three cars. One was in pretty good shape so I immediately sold it and kept the other two near wrecks. I fixed them both and took one up to my main work town and left it there. I bought a bus pass and rode the bus each work day. No more driving, at all. I informed all my clients that I was coming Monday, Wednesday and Friday only. I sadly said goodbye to two of my clients who lived in extremely remote areas and hooked them up with another agency. I kept only one remote client but met with his family and told them they needed to transport him to Moscow, my main hub, if he still wanted services. This worked. I also cut my expenses in spending money on clients, which took some adjustment on their part as I was quite generous with my funds when I had been making good money. These immediate changes lost me even more hours by losing two clients but the result was a net savings of nearly $500 per month as my traveling costs were cut almost in half.
Work car--Just keep running baby!
I gave up my dream three bedroom condo on 3.5 acres and walked away from the lease to buy option I had so carefully crafted. This cost me thousands in past money but cut my now housing costs in half. I lucked out and hooked up with an old friend who had a small one bedroom duplex for rent that he had just completely remodeled. I bought a storage shed and put all my stuff in it. I took out my favorite items and decorated the little duplex. The living change was stark. My condo was huge and airy; the duplex was like moving onto a houseboat. I fixed up the one bedroom for my son and slept on the couch for the three months until he graduated and was off playing Legion baseball.
I made up a specific menu for the entire three month period. I went to Costco and filled my shelves with all the items needed. My kitchen was packed with food, paper towels and all the necessities. I felt like a survivalist preparing for a disaster. I swear I could have lived without spending any money for a month. I allowed myself one trip to Subway each week. No other outside eating of any kind was allowed that wasn't on the menu. I got serious about preventative health care and started taking massive doses of B-12, a B-complex, lots of Vitamin C and E and put myself on a smoking restriction program. I got two favorite pipes and learned to smoke them in replacing cigarettes. This had an added benefit as I spent more time looking for the pipe and something to light the tobacco with than I did smoking. I went from about five cartons a month to two cartons. I quit buying gourmet coffee drinks which was quite a savings, too. I became compulsive and cut every little thing I could.
I make one big trip per quarter anymore and this is where I go.
I dropped all but liability insurance on one of my wrecks and kept the same policy in both cars, a risk I was willing to take as I rarely drove my home car now that I lived right in town near everything. I walked or rode a bike everywhere. I had always purchased full coverage on my one good vehicle but didn't need it when I sold it. I cut my Dish television package to the bare minimum after having the Cadillac service from them for years. Snip, snip, snip.
I had Avista put me on a monthly average plan so as not to be surprised with a big bill during the heat of summer, as it gets boiling hot here. I told Qwest that I was canceling everything but my platinum Internet service and got a simple Trac phone and hooked up to Skype. I dropped out of the banking system totally. I closed my account, cut up all my credit cards and closed them. I didn't care about future credit scores, fuck 'em. I got a pay as you go Visa card that has worked great. No annual fee, no late fees, nothing. Put on some money, spend it and then not use it until I had more money. No debit card fees, no overdrawn fees, no money to the banking system at all. Not one cent. I cashed my check by giving it to my landlord who would deposit it in his account and give me the cash. 'Bye, 'Bye system, Hello personal anarchy. Here is the final tally:
Snip, snip, snip and goodbye banking system....
I was making a net $4200 per month after taxes and spending most of it each month. I was pissing much of it away which I am really good at doing. Actually, calling myself financially illiterate would have been accurate and proper.
Housing costs----$1100 with payment, insurance, and taxes. New rental living---$475, a lifetime rate my landlord promised me. SAVINGS= $625
Phone service, television and internet---old costs= $256. New costs= $101. SAVINGS $155.
Avista for heating and air conditioning---old cost $190. New cost $78. SAVINGS $112
Transportation costs--$195 old. $120 new. SAVINGS OF $75.
Insurance and vehicle maintenance-- $110 a month old; $35 new. SAVINGS $75.
Smoking and gourmet coffee---$270 a month old; $70 new. SAVINGS $200. ( This was the most surprising of all things)
I was working seven hours a month for this stuff. Don't need either one.
Food-- I have no idea how much I spent on food each month. I am single and ate out a whole bunch especially breakfasts. I have to guess here and say about $300 a month as when traveling like I used to you eat while on the run. This added to a $150 a month for food at home and I think $450 may be correct or close. Probably on the low end really. I cut this to $200. SAVINGS $250. I relearned the pleasure of simple, good foods again and the fun of cooking fine meals which I can do.
Spending on clients each month--$640 old; $300 new. SAVINGS $340.
I wrote a very good letter to the state requesting that since I was now only part-time we should be allowed to close our Moscow office and have just one main one in my partner's home base, a hundred miles north. They agreed which saved me $235 a month for an office I rarely used anyway.
I told my youngest boy that I would pay his expenses but in one lump sum payment each month. I made him make up a budget. I gave my other boy two thousand bucks and told him don't call me, I'll call you. I say this alone saved me a minimum of $200 bucks a month; probably way more, as these two are both the holes in Daddy's arm where all the money goes. But no longer.
Don't ask; don't tell- my style. Daddy ain't the ATM any longer.
Total savings per month came to nearly $2700 dollars. I found a loophole and got my clients covered for a few more hours in another program. Bingo! I did it. I don't drive as much; I eat better; I walk all the time as a part of the daily routine; I only work three days a week and my stress level is way down. I have learned to love my little place and being in town where I don't have to drive all the time like I had to when living out in the country. I have gotten rid of a bunch of stuff that I moved around with me but never used. My little place is tightly organized, easy to clean and a bachelor's paradise in many ways.
I have a great writing area, art all over and have Tuesdays to travel around which I can now afford to do. I never work any weekends except when on call once in a while. I found out I do not miss any of the things I cut out. None of them. Phone service? I could care less. Not so many television channels? I could care less about television. Eating out? I make meals that are unbelievable. Here is what I cooked last night. I unfroze a fillet of steelhead. (I have a freezer full that I caught this fall) I covered it in this mustard sauce, crushed pecans, and slices of lemon. I baked it and added green beans, that I grew in my garden, and froze and a rice dish. I canned pears, bought a couple cases of mandarin oranges that I use as a candy replacement and my freezer is stuffed with frozen corn, huckleberries, blueberries and raspberries. I eat an orange, a banana and an apple each day. I have worked up to massive walks. I take walks of seven miles or more several times a week. I have nearly saved up enough money to get my blind eye fixed which will really be cool. I still have no healthcare which is the only downside of this most pleasant scenario. I realize that I could not have done this with a wife and family but I certainly was able to pull this off as a solo act.
I relish being a cheap son of a gun. I am an artist in simple living. This is my story about how I took a big blow, got up off the canvas and gave the world the finger. I have never been happier.
Jack Benny , famous penny pincher, has nothing on me!