Monday, March 9, 2009

Money money money

It's all about the Benjamins these days. I should be working right now, as a matter of fact. I have two projects to work on. I think I'm scared-- scared that I don't know how to do this anymore, when, in fact, it's a lot like riding a bike. What I need to do is go out to the studio, pop a DVD of House in and just do the work. Instead, I am sitting in my living room, listening to Rent, and blogging.

Back to money. We have been having some serious conversations this week about where we can cut corners. Last Thursday, for the first time, we went grocery shopping at Aldi's. I have never been there before, and from what others have told me about it-- dirty, bad produce, no shopping bags, extremely cheap-- I was scared to go. So, the fact that we decided to do our shopping there felt ominous: Okay, here we go, we have hit rock bottom. We are shopping at Aldi's.

I was pleasantly surprised. It was clean, organized, the produce looked fine, they had really an amazing selection to choose from. We got almost everything on our list there, and saved, we estimate, between $40-$60 on our groceries. That makes shopping at Walmart or Hy-Vee hard to justify, except for things like meat.

One of the reasons we have been talking about money is that last week I made a misstep when I was making credit card payments and left myself with very little money with which to get through the rest of the month... unless I run the cards back up, which I'd like to avoid.

In the midst of conversations about getting rid of cable and eating out less, deciding not to head down to Dem Days in Hannibal (thereby saving $50 on a dinner and $70 on a hotel; we spent about $20 going to see Watchmen instead), an old college friend (haha, you're 40, so you're old!) invited me to read his blog about the recession and how he and his family are handling it. It's a sobering read. He and his wife are both artists, so things are tight.

One of my friends here in town, though, is defying the odds by landing his first professional job (he's a young 'un). So great is his relief that for the first time he has been telling me stories about the poverty he has faced during his college career: Eating raw potatoes; sitting on the steps of his apartment listening to his landlord pound on his door asking for rent... Stories that made my jaw drop. He wins: I've never known that kind of poverty. And Aldi's actually gave me a lot of piece of mind: We will probably be able to feed our family just fine. The kind of poverty that we are facing means that we will have to think more seriously about spending money for entertainment, not that we are in imminent danger of losing our home. It's very different. And we are very lucky.

I have two projects to work on-- and I can't bill for them until I work on them. I have one more coming in next week. Sometimes I look at the statcounter for my business website and feel happy-- people are looking! And then days go by with no email and no calls and I feel despondent.

I toyed with the idea of applying for a position at the university. I am not yet ready to change careers, though. If I got the position (big if), I would surrender days of complete freedom, summers with my children, the flexibility to fly out to care for my parents at a moment's notice. I would rather continue having faith in my company and hoping that more projects will come. How long can I continue to do that? How long before I have to face "facts" and change careers? I could get a job at the convenience store to tide us over, or some other kind of fast food job. In some ways, that kind of solution is preferable to a career change. A career change would involve a commitment. A commitment to not quitting, to making the best of that choice. I am not yet ready for a career change.

I realize how this sounds: It's easy, when you are on the outside, to say, "Get over yourself. Get a fucking job. Support your family. Get your head out of your ass and do your projects."

Or, perhaps, to say to my artist friends, "What are you thinking? If you can't afford to be an artist, then maybe you should get a real job."

It's hard to explain why we can't.


  1. Aldi's is great. Folks with money in this town shop at Aldi's - because they like it. And they like their money ;-)

    We had lots of Aldi's in Berlin. It's a German company. We're driving into this town and what is the first thing we see - the Aldi's. Made me homesick for Berlin and hopeful at the same time.

    They have some really good frozen pastries - German style - for cheap. Freezer section.

    Good on you.

    L. in the blue house

  2. It's been a long time since I've been in our local Aldi's but it was not at all as you've described. There was no organization, I couldn't find a thing I was looking for. It was a MESS. Maybe it has changed. It always seems pretty busy.

    I think groceries are one of our biggest expenses each month. Us. HBB and me. And we eat so very little. It's a strange thing.

    I guess because HBB has been working as an independent consultant for *gasp* over ten years(?) I would NEVER say anything like that to you. Get over yourself? Not at all. You are being very realistic. You have this opportunity and I think you should stick with it as long as you all can for the reasons that you listed. And now you have some projects! And that is very good. As you said, it's like riding a bike. And you are one of the best bike riders I know. :)

  3. And you know, Jen, that I'm not one of the folks with money ;-)

    I'm putting in square foot gardens this year with cheap untreated pine (can't afford the fancy cedar which will last).

    Seeds are cheap.

    You've got a sunny front yard?

    Even if we can afford to eat this winter - with the economy headed south - I'm canning and freezing.

    L. at the blue house.

  4. You have built it and they will come. It will work out. Plus, I of little to no faith, believe in you. So you see the emails will start to flow in. I think you might just need to start chatting with the Universe again, she has always seemed to have a soft spot for you.

  5. I have some crazy ass advice for you.

    Get a part-time job doing something mundane, unappealing and ridiculous. I bet that after spending a bit of time at that job you will find yourself re-energized for your own company/work.

  6. P.S. I like to consider myself rich in things money cannot buy. I think it is the greatest richness of all.

    You totally have that going on.