Sunday, December 14, 2014

Tightrope to Dawn

They say it's always darkest just before the dawn.


Both are in front of me. I can see the dawn in one part of my life, and while it is indeed visible, there is a dark patch just in front of it.

I say I can see the dawn in one part of my life because this one part is indeed coming to an end signaling a new beginning.

In a way.

No, I'm not getting married, ending my singleness. I'm not even dating anyone, nor looking to.

No, I'm not retiring, ending my teaching career; though that, too, is on the horizon, just a little farther out.

No, I'm not getting a pet, ending my loneliness.

Yes, I'm trying to write my next few novels, but that will take time.

I'm talking about my financial struggles. They may indeed be ending, or at least easing up a bit. (No, I haven't won the lottery.)

When my ex left me, I kept the house and had a sizable amount of personal debt. Over the last four years, I have refinanced the mortgage, and am now able to say that by May, 2015, I will have completely paid off my personal debt. And the money I have been sending to pay these bills will not be deducted from my bank account any longer.

Yay, me! Time to celebrate that milestone!

That is the dawn. A new beginning, a new chapter, lessons learned and all the other metaphors I can think of.

Yet, there is a dark side coming first.

Per a suggestion from my tax advisor, I have decided to increase a pre-tax deduction from my paycheck to establish a Healthcare Spending Account. I've had this account for a couple of years, and have made good use of it. A set amount per month is taken from my paycheck before any income taxes are paid. Therefore, I am paying tax on less income. The money deducted is set aside and any qualifying health related expenses are reimbursed to me. As one of my therapists doesn't take my insurance, I pay out-of-pocket and these expenses do indeed qualify. So, I will get this money back when I send in the receipts and subsequently, I break even. One small downside, I will be getting a smaller income tax refund in 2016 as I will be paying less income taxes.

This also means I will be living on less money per month, and tightening the belt even more, until I am reimbursed, which I can do at any time. (I am currently researching recipes for grass stew, if anyone has any to share.) And I will be walking a financial tightrope of trying to get reimbursed before any bills get returned to me. I've managed so far, but as I'm more than doubling the deduction this time, this is a big step even if only for a short while. The deductions will continue for twelve months, but by June the debt payments will be finished and I can breathe a little.

It has been this financial struggle that has been at the core of my decisions over these last few years. While many may see these as excuses not to 'get out there,' this was indeed my reality. If there is not enough money at the end of a month for even one movie ticket, how can there be enough for two? With the price of gas fluctuating, what do I need to give up in order to fill my tank to get to work when gas is high again? Can I afford that extra tank of gas this month if I drive any more than what I currently do? Yes, even my gas is budgeted. My income is limited, and became even more so when my district instituted furlough days cutting my salary. Until I was able to refinance, I had to resort to using my savings just to survive, which then depleted my savings rather quickly, as I didn't have millions tucked away, unfortunately.

Recently, several people have suggested I find a roommate to increase my cash flow. One person was even shocked I didn't already have one being I live in a large four bedroom house. Earlier, I tried, but no one even answered my ads except someone who needed to move immediately! (I saw many red flags on that one.) I knew of two guys I would have considered as roommates, but neither opportunity panned out. So, I have come to accept that I was meant to go through this phase alone in order to learn some lessons:
  1. I am a survivor, I have been through other difficult times, financial or otherwise, and made it. I will make it to May.
  2. I am self-reliant. I have learned to rely on myself and myself alone. I don't need anyone else.
  3. I am strong. I will do what it takes to survive. I may not like it, but I can do it. And I will.
  4. And, perhaps, the fact that since I've gone through this alone, I will appreciate my success all that more.
I've also come to realize that roommates are like boyfriends and pets. The right one will appear at the right time, if the Universe so decrees.

So, what am I doing to help me make it through this dark patch? I will work out a timeline to determine when to submit receipts for reimbursement before bills are returned. I have signed up to do some tutoring after school for some additional pay. It's not much, but every little bit helps. I will continue whatever cost-cutting measures I need to, like shopping at off-chain markets, buying off-brand items, increase using coupons, only buy what I absolutely need, etc. After all, this is only for a short period of time.

Another bit of news is that my union and district are negotiating a new contract, which includes a possible pay raise. And there is an offer on the table from the district, so I'm hopeful of something. However, my instinct is that it will be settled toward the end of the school year when the district sees how much money it didn't spend, if any; and when I've been through the rough patch. So, because my financial picture is improving due to:
  • all my personal debt being paid off soon;
  • a possible raise in the future, and maybe even retroactive to the beginning of the school year,
I'm feeling better about some things.

While I'm not expecting my financial picture to look like this one:

 I'm thinking it will be more like this:

 But, this doesn't mean I'm ready to date.


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