A Car-Less Future?

One thing that every reader should know about me is that I live in the greatest city in the world: Chicago. I worship at the alter of our inland sea. I brag about the heart clogging perfection that is deep dish pizza. I wear my Husband’s Bears jersey with pride. I live on the steps of Wrigley Field.

However, I didn’t grow up here. In fact, I grew up about 90 miles south of the city in a rural farming community of about 250. Cows outnumbered residents, corn harvesting was celebrated, tractors were a practical mean of transportation, and commutes to and from school would be over 60 minutes on a good day.

Yes. 60 minutes.

So, of course I grew up thinking that it was 100% necessary to own your own vehicle (be it tractor, truck, or John Deere Lawnmower) once you reached adulthood or had a full time job.  Even when I ended up in dorm rooms out in the Chicago burbs, I still believed that having a car was a God given right.

Then I moved to the city. My first full year here, I took a shuttle bus to work and paid for parking. Over the last several years and with the purchase of our first “couple” car in 2012, I have forsaken the ample public transportation for the personal vehicle. My only explanation for my reliance on the car is that I am lazy.

I actually enjoy taking the train. I like being able to read a book, turn on my music, and zone out for an hour. I dont even mind the crazies that are a natural part of the true Chicago public transportation experience.

Out of curiosity and the future sake of my wallet, I decided to break down the costs of owning a car vs. commuting. Here’s my conclusions. All are based on my current living situation. *

Time to commute:

Car

Public Transportation (Train)

Distance to parking: >1 minute

Distance to station: 10 minute walk

Distance to work parking: 45 minutes

Distance to work station (from home station): 45 minutes

Distance to work from parking: 10 minutes

Distance to work from work station: 10 minutes

Total time: 56 minutes

Total time: 65 minutes

Costs:

Car

Public Transportation (Train)

Insurance: $94/ month

Per ride: $2.50 each way or $5 per work day or $115 for October.

Gas: >$120 (September costs)

Reloadable, unlimited ride card: $100/ month

Car payment: $300.14/ month

Upkeep and city parking costs per month: $17.12

Optional work parking (currently do not pay for): $45/month

Total actual costs: $531.26

Total costs: $100

The cost difference is obviously points that the best investment would be to get rid of the car ASAP. HOWEVER, there are some social notes that I must mention. My Husband and I do a lot of transportation of animals as per myvolunteer work. That kind of work requires that I have a car available at all times and for the inevitable emergencies that arise. I also commute to my home town (with my dog to save boarding costs) about once a month. There is a train (about $9 each way) that can get me home, but not having a car in my town basically means that I am at the mercy of my relatives to get me places. Not a good trade off.

Another option we have is to use a car share program like Zip Car. Given that we use my car for non-work related purposes for about 3 hours a week or 15 hours per month, my best bet would be to purchase the $125/month plan which includes gas, insurance, 180 miles per day, and 17 hours of prepaid driving. After that 17 hours, it costs $7.43 per hour. If we continued to make a trip to my hometown once per month, the cost to rent a car per day (and usually we stay about 36 hours per visit) is $66.60 or $133.20 for roughly two full days of rental.

Total for Zip Car membership + CTA unlimited pass: $358.20.

Now the difference between owning a car and public transportation is $173.06.

There are some more pros and cons of car ownership in the city that I should include:

+ Easy access to the car. When I have groceries or large bags, I do not have to drop my car off and schlep my item to my house or drop my items off, drop my car off, and then walk home.
+ Ability to store frequently used items for my volunteer work in the car (seriously, my car has about 20 leashes, a bag of dog food, a metal crate, dog beds, dog bowls, and an endless supply of treats at all times).
+ Opportunity to travel on a whim without having to hunt down a car or find a parking depot for a rental car.
– Hit to my credit by having a car on lease (next time, we’ll buy with cash instead of a loan or lease)
– Unpredictable costs, including depreciation.
– Daily parking costs in the city when we have to park on main streets
– Environmental impact

Conclusion: While using public transportation and car share would be doable for our lifestyle and would save us money in the long run, the car gives us a freedom that we currently do not want to part with. In the long run, we will consider changing to the more sustainable lifestyle, but for now, we’ll stick with the car.

*I should note that I work in the suburbs making my commute and amount of gas used a bit more than normal Chicagoans who both live and work in the city.

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Pinching Donation Pennies

In my ample spare time (and often while I have moments at work), I devote a ton of my energy to a small canine rescue. I became involved with my then-boyfriend-now-Husband over two years ago when we decided to foster a dog I found online. I quickly realized that the girls who helped us in fostering were some of the most amazing women I’ve ever met, and I began volunteering even more. Eventually, I was asked to be an adoption counselor, a junior board member, and am now an official board member as the Director of Marketing and Outreach.

In my estimates, I spend about 10-15 hours per week working on rescue duties- even more so if I have a dog that I am assigned to as an adoption counselor. This part time job essentially eats up a lot of my energy, but like most volunteer work- the reward is often much greater than the sacrifice. My ability to care for other living things has grown exponentially and the skills involving leadership, engagement, and outreach are immeasurable (HEY- HIRE ME. I’M AWESOME!)

Time is money. And in that sense, I spend a ton of physical and actual dollars on my actions. Whether it be for gas to an adopters home, electricity costs to run my computer for a virtual meeting, or dog treats and supplies in my car for emergencies… every penny adds up along with that time.

In addition, as with all nonprofits, part of my duty as a ranking leader comes with the understanding that I will invest more than time when able.

 

Obviously, with my Husband’s loss of job, we are not in the state we are to give as much as we can. Knowing that we are not going to be able to contribute to the capital campaigns I’m steering feels hypocritical. And that is the last thing I want to come across. But how can I, in good conscious, ask for money from others when I am not prepared to “put my money where my mouth is?” How can I justify all of the gas to and from an adoption event or the lack of time to take on a second job?

I can’t.

So, this year will be the year of giving less, but it will not be the year of forgoing. It will be the year of understanding how much a crunch an adoption fee is for some families. It will be the season for sacrificing in the name of something much larger than a Christmas gift for my baby niece who will never know I gave her a thing, a trip to a local ice cream shop in the dead of winter, or a holiday themed manicure. Saving my city’s dogs from imminent death, abuse, or neglect is worth so much more in the long run. (And maybe, just maybe, this hard work will convert to real, meaningful employment down the line.)

Today, as I registered my dog for a Halloween costume contest, I felt no sting of guilt over paying the donation fee to be a part of it. The $20 I spent on having my dog parade around in a silly outfit paid for one of our dogs to get necessary blood tests to determine if she is in advanced stages of cancer.

I know that most personal financial advisers would shake their heads at me and remind me that what I can afford today to give may not necessarily what I can afford tomorrow given our circumstances. And it’s true. As I said, we will not give as much as we normally will. We will reconsider the time vs. actual dollars spent. But I am a strong believer that to get through hard times, you have to pay your dues. You have to throw some good energy out there in the world.  You have to make the world you want. And all I know is that today, I made that world a reality.

Stress and Interviews

It’s 11:30am, and I’m sitting anxiously in a meeting from Hell. While my coworkers fight over the meaning of “innovative” in relation to our new mission statement, I’m stealing glances at my iPhone. Still black. Nothing has popped up in hours. My stomach turns. I get sweaty.

My source of anxiety: Husband’s first, in-person interview since being let go. 

Leading up to this interview, I was receiving a barrage of texts from him regarding his own nervousness- everything from his shirt not being able to button correctly to a broken mirror and a missing resume.  Now, his radio silence was even more annoying than having to field questions about safety pins and the nearest Kinkos print station.

Every time my eyes darted to my phone, my coworker would shoot me a knowing look. “It’s ok. He’ll do fine.”

Noon hits and I’m still out of the loop. Now I’m getting paranoid that this wasn’t a job interview at all but some weird ploy to entangle and capture my obviously valuable husband for ransom. But then I remember that these mystery kidnappers are trying to ensnare an admittedly unemployed man with a wife working a job that makes just enough to be somewhat respectable. What do they think they’ll get from me?

But then the text comes in. “Done.” WTF. I apparently waited anxiously for a “Done” text. Boys. After some gentle probing, he finally says that it went, “fine,” which loosely translates to: “Fitisthenewpoor, it went horribly. Just stop asking me about it, and lets pretend it never happened.”

In reality, I have no idea how it went, but the silence on the end of my husband isn’t very promising. So I’m putting us back at square one.

How am I coping? Freaking out- naturally. My anxiety has sent my motivation to work out (even to do yoga) back at level 0 and has directly compromised my immune system. Every day, I feel more and more tired and sick at the same time. My eye has been twitching. My hair is falling out in large chunks. My skin conditions are acting up. I’m a massive mess. And as we count down to the last paycheck (t-minus 7 days), I find myself growing more and more in state of near panic attack.

Ok. That’s a lie. Yesterday I had my first full, post wedding, panic attack in my therapist’s office. It wasn’t pretty and I don’t want to rehash.

I suppose I should end this on a happy note, but I really do not have one right now. My husband is keeping a relatively stable mood, but I can feel the weight of what is happening starting to press down on both of us. And I wonder how much longer can the both of us keep it together, mentally.

Off Target

Hey! Remember that time when I wrote about how I have gotten only 6 in person interview requests in the last three years of ritually applying?

Well, this weekend was a reminder of just how crushing it can be to go through a life of no interest.

In a way to stave off holiday depression, I decided to apply for a part time, seasonal job at Target. When I was a teacher a bajillion (uh, 4) years ago, I worked at Target as a cashier. It was the perfect way for me to get some extra dollars, a huge discount at my favorite store, and afford to spoil those that I love with material items. Oh, and it helped me afford groceries for four months.

I really didn’t mind that it was menial or that I would run in to students in the check out lines. I didn’t even mind wearing red and khakis (my least favorite combos). In the end, working seasonally at a job that really didn’t take much energy out of me was worth having to explain awkwardly to students that their fancy private school didn’t pay me enough to afford any kind of worthwhile lifestyle.

So, now that we are less than 60 days from Christmas, I am starting to panic about all of the shopping I am going to have to do. The easy solution appeared to be applying at Target again for a seasonal job.

Uh yeah. I was turned down for it. Not even given an interview. 

How crushing is it that someone with a bachelor’s degree in education, a sturdy resume, and ACTUAL EXPERIENCE WORKING AT TARGET DURING BLACK FRIDAY gets turned down for a cashier position at not one, but TWO local Targets? In one day!

…Goodbye self esteem. It was great to know you.

I am just going to pretend it’s because i can only work at night or that they haven’t started hiring seasonal employees yet. Maybe I should go back to working as a waitress like I did during my senior year of college. TGIFriday’s may have a better re-hiring procedure… right? Guys?

Interviews and Interests

Well, a week has passed since Husband lost his job.

It’s been one week since I freaked out, drove home, cried on my couch, picked myself up, and then secretly cried on the couch for two nights straight. Oh, and then had a major argument regarding blame and resentment.

This week has been peachy.

My husband has, in return, lived up to his deal. He has managed to do much of the housework, spent time with our ever needy dog, and has ran some basic errands. Oh, and he has applied for a sh#t ton of jobs. I’m talking 15-20 a day.

There is luck in numbers, apparently, because today he landed his first in-person interview.

I really just wanted to use this gif.

Look, I know that he is lucky. Any unemployed person who happens upon this blog has most likely already x-ed out of here. I get it. Finding a job and landing interviews hasn’t been this easy since 2006.

Don’t think for a second that I’m not jealous either. Part of my anger about this unemployment situation is that I have been looking for a new job on and off for the last 3 years.

Yes, you read that right. 3 years.

I am employed. I have a degree. I am a pretty personable person. I am passionate and extremely knowledgeable about the line of work I want to go in to. I’m a board member for a larger, local non-profit. I have a teaching degree (which essentially means that I am patient, great with kids, and interested in leading and inspiring others). I am not looking for much money. I have been nominated twice for the top employee honor at my workplace. I have graduate credits. I have glowing recommendations from a wide pool of people who have worked or taught me.

(I am also very humble. I promise.)

Over the past three years, I have had 6 in-person interviews. To give that perspective, at one point in my search, I had consistently applied for three jobs a day. A DAY. I have stopped searching for short periods, but I have never fully given up the fight to find a better work place.

My Husband, on the other hand, got his last job (the one he was let go from) within two weeks of looking for a new job.

That obviously brings up some jealousy in me. I know that our job searches are vastly different given our age, background, and job markets, but i still cannot help but feel like there is something wrong with this picture.

But I go on. As I help my husband continue to apply and (now) interview, I solider on. While I search for positions he may be interested in, I stop and check for something relevant for me. That’s all I can do.

INFJ and Networking- Success and Failures

In the higher education world, we talk a LOT about personality. We are constantly assessing and reassessing student engagement and performance based on Meyer-Briggs testing. So, of course I know and will proudly attest to being a strong INFJ. 

Here’s a quick personality overview: 

Beneath the quiet exterior, INFJs hold deep convictions about the weightier matters of life. Those who are activists — INFJs gravitate toward such a role — are there for the cause, not for personal glory or political power.

INFJs are champions of the oppressed and downtrodden. They often are found in the wake of an emergency, rescuing those who are in acute distress. INFJs may fantasize about getting revenge on those who victimize the defenseless. The concept of ‘poetic justice’ is appealing to the INFJ.

“There’s something rotten in Denmark.” Accurately suspicious about others’ motives, INFJs are not easily led. These are the people that you can rarely fool any of the time. Though affable and sympathetic to most, INFJs are selective about their friends. Such a friendship is a symbiotic bond that transcends mere words.

INFJs have a knack for fluency in language and facility in communication. In addition, nonverbal sensitivity enables the INFJ to know and be known by others intimately. –http://www.typelogic.com/infj.html

Many people would label INFJ’s as “shy” or “quiet.” In fact, we are often quite the opposite. We speak when we feel it is necessary, and when we speak, it’s important. We are the thunder to everyone else’s lightning. But, sticking to this poor analogy, it’s hard for thunder to really stand out unless it’s right over you. 

Networking has always been a tough concept for me. And now that I’m re-evaluating my personal successes and failures in the workplace and with my volunteer work, I am noticing that my flaw is my inability to release all humble sensitivities and get my name out there with the rest of them. 

It has been my goal as of late to start networking more and more and to also “brag” about my workplace accomplishments. Today, I participated in an online, professional networking webinar regarding a topic that I am quite accomplished at. I was quite surprised that the internet allowed me to be free in my praises for myself and my successes while also allowing to share in my mistakes as well. While I know people could easily look me up (my name, title, and work place were clearly listed and I shared my email at the end), I didn’t mind. 

Anonymity is like honey for us hermit types, and the internet is our hive. 

But what about when it’s time to get my face out there? Eventually, I do have to actually show my face instead of the selfie from four years ago that is my LinkedIn picture. 

Well, I’m working on it. It’s a resolution. One of my thoughts is to request permission and funding to attend a conference by myself. It’s a certain type of anonymity that I typically steer clear from, but I would most likely benefit from having a wide berth of opportunity instead of having a crutch to fall back on. 

What’s your personality type and how does it play in to networking or advancing in your career? Would you rather be the chat room star or the in-person personality? 

________________________________________________________________________________

Wrap It Up (Tuesday, October 15th, 2013):

Money:

  • Spent: $35 at the gas station (by husband)
  • Method: Venture card
  • Balances of checking and savings accounts: 3,070.39 (2,305.30 in shared checking and 765.09 in personal checking)
  • Bills paid: $0.  

Fitness:

  • Activity: 45 minute yoga practice
  • Breakfast- Peanut butter and jelly toast on wheat bread.
  • Snack 1- Bag of fritos
  • Lunch- Leftover baked pasta with garlic bread
  • Snack 2- Banana 
  • Dinner- Pan tossed chicken with mashed potatoes 
  • Snack 4- Some $2 Only tortilla chips 

Wrap It Up

Part of my issue with both money and fitness is not realizing until it is too late that every penny and activity count. In order to better analyze where my problem areas are and what I am doing right, I want to make a daily post that summarizes my activies both in activity and in money. 

Here’s what it’s going to look like for now. This is my entry for 10/14/2013:

Money:

  • Spent: $16.83 at Target for 100 thank you cards and a FastBreak candy bar
  • Method of payment: Venture card
  • Balances of checking and savings accounts: 3,070.39 (2,305.30 in shared checking and 765.09 in personal checking)
  • Bills paid: $0. Last payment was my Yogaglo monthly membership on the 10th. 

Fitness:

  • Activity: 12:47 minute, 1 mile run and 1 hour, level 2 yoga practice
  • Breakfast- Peanut butter and jelly toast on wheat bread.
  • Snack 1- Bag of fritos
  • Lunch- Leftover rice and pork chops
  • Snack 2- Bag of doritos
  • Snack 3- Fastbreak bar (seriously, yesterday was all emotional eating)
  • Dinner- Baked pasta and garlic bread
  • Snack 4- Some $2 Only tortilla chips (ugh)

Notes to self:

  • Dear GOD. Could I be more of an emotional eater? Must stop now.  
  • Fitness was great. The run was nice and easy. I’m going to try to get one in every other day. Yoga is #yogaeverydamnday
  • Spending was planned (except for the Fastbreak). Those thank you cards are must purchase and are the last of our wedding related expenses. I bought them on clearance for about $5 a pack. I would have preferred to get the $8 a pack, but what can you do when you’re on a budget? 

 

Debts (An Honest Look At Finances)

In my last post, I broke down the situation. After getting back from my dream honeymoon, my new husband and I were faced with his (totally unexpected) unemployment. Our income went down by around 65%.

As the month rolls to an end and my husband’s severance package stretches us until November, we will have to face some looming questions regarding our bills.

In order to give you a full picture of what we are facing, I’ve decided to list my personal and shared debts. This is going to hurt. But it’s time to sit down and do this anyways.

Credit Card Debt: 

bills

Uh. Yikes.

The first card listed (Capital One Personal) was applied for and received when I had graduated from high school. I used the majority of this card to pay for college and travel expenses. Probably only $300 of the debt was accumulated in the last two years.

The second Capital One card is our shared Venture card under my husband’s name. We have used it for the honeymoon and wedding expenses. We paid 50% of it off before we went on our honeymoon. We planned on paying the rest off when we got back.

The US Bank card is my emotional history card. Basically, my hard-up-on-money-mother used this card (with my permission) to pay her debt. She has not paid me back and cannot pay me back. I faithfully pay $100 a month on this card and use it rarely.

And finally, I have a Best Buy card that I applied for in college and used to buy a computer and a modem.

I also have a David’s Bridal card that I used to buy my wedding dress but is fully paid off and I do not plan on using it. I am debating on if I should close the account or keep it open to help my debt/credit ratio.

Student Loans:

bills2

Holy Sh$t Balls!

All of this is pretty self explanatory. All but the top are my undergraduate loans. The first one is my graduate loan for a couple of classes I took last year. Hey- I’m not proud to have student loan debt. But it doesn’t take someone with a Bachelor’s in Education to know that I’m not the only one in my age group to be looking at these kinds of numbers.

I also have living expenses to factor in. Here’s the breakdown of our shared and personal expenses:

QUICK! SOMEONE GRAB ME MY SMELLING SALTS!

QUICK! SOMEONE GRAB ME MY SMELLING SALTS!

Ok. Now that I have picked myself off of the floor… I’m looking at this with tears in my eyes and a heavy heart. In total, my current debt payments are $481.01/month. Put that together with our monthly obligations, I owe  $2261.84.

2,261.84/month*.

In total, I make $2,260/month post taxes and benefits. In addition, my husband will hopefully get unemployment starting in November, That money will most likely cover his personal bills that I did not list. I also should note that I included some bills that I have not paid for in the past. Rent, Hulu, and groceries, for example, were bills that my husband handled out of his own pocket. They now become mine.

*What this doesn’t include is my husband’s student loans (which will be deferred until he finds a new job), his cell phone, and his personal credit card bills. We also both see a therapist weekly. So that’s an additional $200 a month not reflected here. *

I’m really not sure what else to say about this. I guess that’s what happens when you look at everything honestly and with a ton of pressure. A part time job is sounding more and more appealing now that the holidays are coming up.

Frack.

After the Honeymoon

I got married. It was this beautiful day full of everything wedding-y. Flowers, clinking glasses, open bar, crying mom… you name it. I had it. It was truly one of the greatest days of my life. And two days later, my husband and I were trotting around Paris without many cares in the world. It was perfect. It was what we all dreamed of.

And then we got back to the real world, and my husband of two weeks was fired from his job. He made 65% of our household income.

It honestly didn’t come as much surprise. My husband had been miserable since joining this organization four months ago. As a director of his small department, he faced a work place that harbored resentment and ridicule for those who tried to modify a broken and outdated system. He suffered a lot of mental anguish at the hands of the CEO and a fellow director. So, as I said, him being fired wasn’t a complete surprise.

I got the news as I was shopping for new running shoes. Two days after living a week in extremely fit Paris and two weeks after paying for a 30k wedding, I was feeling like it was the perfect time to get back my healthy. Husband and I were even planning on visiting a highly recommended gym after he got off of work. We were ready to make it work.

But as I walked from the running store to my car- bags in hand, I took that phone call that has changed our life so quickly. I reassured my husband that this was for the best. That something better would come along. He would finally get to write his novel. As soon as I hung up the phone, I tossed the $300 worth of workout gear in the trunk of my car next to the unpacked suitcase and cried.

Wasn’t this supposed to be easier? We had saved for 21 months for our dream wedding and honeymoon. We sacrificed our time out with friends, Christmas gifts, trips to my hometown, and even visits to our doctors in the name of saving money for this one day. The last months of saving were the worse, and we often spent hours talking about how we would spend our large surplus of money once we didn’t have to save over $2k a month in our wedding fund. The thought of finally joining the next social class pushed us through some hard moments.

And now, with one Friday’s awful news, we were back to square one. But I’m not returning those new Nikes.

This blog is about money and fitness. I want to be honest about both. I want to share our struggles through unemployment and financially instability- even if they are temporary- along with my journey to healthy.

So, here’s what it looks like right now:

Money:

 

  • We are living on one income of $37,890 year before taxes
  • I get paid biweekly at $1130
  • I contribute $50 a paycheck in to my 403b which I currently know zip about except that I should put money in to my 403b account.
  • Health insurance for both myself and my husband (including life insurance for me) costs around $120 a month. I’m blessed that it is so low.
  • Pre-firing, my husband brought in around 65,000 per year before taxes and contributed around $150 per month in to his 401k.

Health:

  • I currently weight 189.8 lbs at 5′ 0″
  • My BMI is in the obese category
  • I previously lost over 30lbs by training for a half marathon and taking spin classes twice a week. That was two years ago. I stopped running about 4 months after I finished my half marathon and promptly gained back 40lbs.
  • I practice yoga for at least 6 hours a week at home.

I will discuss personal bills in an upcoming post.

Now, where does fitness come in? Part of my frustration is that my inspiration on sites such as twitter, facebook, and instagram seem to always have a ton of money to spend on fancy health food, organic peanut butter, nutritional supplements, and expensive workout gear. They also seem to not work or work jobs that allow them to devote hours to fitness and nutrition.

I hate to knock these blogs and posters. I read them with so much admiration and awe that I swear that this is not supposed to be a judgement on their lives or a way to call out them as fake or unrealistic. But I have yet to see someone discuss the actual costs of getting fit that is beyond starving one’s self. Now that money is a major and important part of my life, I see the impracticality of this “fit life” even more so. My mission is to write about this and to share my struggles and hopefully success with as much honesty as I can muster.