Saturday, May 23, 2015

The value of having three budgets

One of the most helpful ideas to come out of the money program for me is the idea of three budgets or three financial lifestyles. A lot of our program is focused on developing peace of mind around money and this activity really helps with that.

Budget 1: Bottom-line sufficiency or how little can you live on?
In this budget, you list all of your basic expenses but none of the luxuries or emergency items. Housing, food, taxes, insurance, utilities, work-related transportation, school loans, etc. You're looking for absolutely the least amount you can scrape by on and survive. Most of us discover that this figure is much lower than we think, that we can actually live on very little. However, if this is a big amount for you, our financial teacher says to look at several areas: are you over-housed (living in a too big, too expensive place)? Do you really need a car payment? Do you have a lot of credit card debt? All three of these create a lot of financial stress.

Budget 2: Comfortable sufficiency
      This budget takes Budget #1 and adds in some luxuries: eating out, entertainment, vacation travel, emergency fund for vet bills or home or car repairs, replacement clothing. What do you need for a comfortable but not extravagant life? My house cleaner would go in here but massage and facials would go in Budget 3. Each of us decides. If your car is decrepit, a new car would go in this budget. If you're just bored with your ride, a new car goes in Budget 3. You get the picture. Budget 2 also should include any debt repayment and steady input into savings.

Budget 3: Cushy sufficiency
      This is Budget 1 plus Budget 2 plus anything else you want to budget for. Work with a clothing stylist? A new wardrobe? A month in Italy instead of a week at the coast? Remember that this is still a budget meant to help you live within your means.

Having this sorted out helps me understand the difference between expenses and discretionary spending. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Poem 141

The last mementos
got recycled last night
Random letters from
family and friends
old calendars
and date books
I don't know
what I kept them for
Perhaps proof
that I was busy
that I worked
that I taught
that I had friends
that I had a life

No one will carry
the Kelly DNA forward
My brother's daughters
are childless by choice
like me
My sister's boys were adopted
How often do they think of my parents?
How often do I?
How often will they think of me?
And after them, no one

It seemed right to let it all go
those fading letters from
a different era of communication
those calendars documenting
dental appointments and
committee meetings

It's what I do now
that matters
what I create
that may last

A comforting thought

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Taking things for granted and poetry writing

My favorite blogger, Leo Babauta, recently wrote about the sad reality of taking things for granted, things like sunshine, roses, our human form with its senses, food, love, connection. And I find myself wanting to slow down, stay awake, be in this life while I'm in it.

I think some of this is being satisfied by my current poetry writing activity. While I don't write a poem every day (that seemed too tyrannical even for me who loves structure so much), I do write a poem or two every couple of days and so I am watching for observations, experiences, visuals that intrigue me. It is making me more alive in my life.

What is keeping you alive in your life?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Poem #149

Written at Sandy River Lodge, May 2015

The geese fly up and down the river
They honk as they pass the deck
where I sit reading
and Eileen sketches
the soft May green of the trees
on the other bank
There are swifts and swallows
robins and crows in the woods
but we don't hear them
for we sit at a bend
between white water and white water
and though the winter has been dry
enough melt is moving to the sea
to create a steady rush of sound
I move between the quiet
of the house
where my characters wait
and the deck where the geese pass
and the last of winter rushes down hill

Friday, May 15, 2015

My current favorite bumper sticker

Kindness to animals makes a better world for all of us.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Becoming a big tipper

In this second year of the money course, I've been thinking a lot about generosity and donating money. I find the donation decision so complicated: which charity is truly worthy, which ones pay their CEOs big money and should they do that, which ones are a scam or have so much overhead that little trickles down to the recipients of the services. I used to give all my charitable donations to the local food bank but its reputation for good management has dwindled. I want to save every old tree, every polar bear, every old dog living in a cage or on a chain. And I know I can't.

So for lack of a wiser decision, I've decided to become a big tipper. Whatever the bill and its percentage, I round up to $5 or $10 or $15. I'm well paid for what I do. I know that service people aren't and that tips are shared in most restaurants with bus boys and dishwashers, all that staff. It won't save a polar bear but it seems right for me to do.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A heart stretched by beauty

For the last three days, I've been up on Mt Hood on the Sandy River at a lovely rental house with three good friends. We talked and laughed and wrote and spent a lot of time, by mutual consent, in silence. The weather was near perfect and even though the winter has been a pretty dry one, enough water was flowing to thrill us with steady river sound.

This morning, I spent all my time on the deck, writing and reading. It was almost too cold but I so wanted more of that beauty to soak in before I came home to the city. After a while, Pam and Eileen joined me and we talked about what a lovely time we'd had. And Eileen said that her heart felt stretched by the beauty of the place. I love that image.