It feels odd talking…

It feels odd talking about money as specifically as I do in this entry -- I feel like I should apologize to those of you who are getting by on less (sometimes much less) than I am now. Or not post the entry at all. But I actually think the big taboo we have about talking money in this culture is pretty damaging, very clearly to writers (I have a temptation to form a Total Disclosure Club, where writers would just post all their financial statements for each others' edification) so I'm trying to get over it.

For the first time in my life, I'm actually trying to keep to a budget. Last year we had a very good year, financially, and we went a little nuts with various financial aspects. This year certainly won't be bad, but it'll be a bit tight unless BiM starts selling like hotcakes. So last night, Kev and I sat down and worked out our annual and monthly fixed expenses, and then figured out what we had left for weekly costs. We ended up with $150/week for groceries, toiletries, clothes, books, movies, grabbing sandwiches when Kev's on campus, occasional dinners out, his nice coffee from Intelligentsia, etc.

This still sounds like a lot of money to me. But I suspect it's not as much money as it seems like right now. For example, I just bought $40 of books on Amazon: King's On Writing, LeGuin's The Language of the Night, Seth's travel memoir, and The Best American Essays of 2004, so this week's budget is already down to $110. While I expect to enjoy these books, they're also valid teaching/writing expenses; part of the job is reading. At least I get to deduct them on taxes.

It'd be good if I actually spent less than $150/week, since we're not saving anything this year as the budget currently stands. (Kev does get automatic retirement benefit stuff, but I don't, for example). This is just for this year; we're planning on paying off the rest of my student loans this year, so next year should be better. I'd ideally like to work until I keel over, but there's no guarantee my health (physical or mental) will allow that, so I do need to start planning for retirement at some point. Next year, hopefully.

Being a writer is complicated. :-) If I take a nice full-time academic job with benefits, all of this essentially gets taken care of for me. But that might cut into the writing, which is Not Allowed. So we're planning for various contingencies.

By the way, in case it isn't clear, Kevin is still essentially supporting me, as he did last year too, while all my income is going to pay off various old debts (and pay for various writerly expenses, like the Sri Lanka trip and a comfy chair and a new laptop and a book launch party). Writers may not need patrons as much as they did in the old days, but gosh, they're nice to have.

8 thoughts on “It feels odd talking…”

  1. But, please say that you are maxing out your IRA contribution, for 2004 as well as 2005? I’ve heard from financal planners that this is priority over loans (mortgage and college) and may be borderline even with credit card debt. It’s too late to do a Roth, but you have until April 15 for a traditional IRA.

  2. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Heh. You assume far greater foresight than I have. I hate the debt; I’m just so sick of it. I want it gone.

    I’m sure you’re right about the IRA thing, and I should ask Kevin to look into it for me (thinking about money makes my stomach churn), so we can figure out what’s actually best to do. We have some time to figure it out, since the next big book check probably won’t show up until late this year.

    It’s not too late to contribute for 2004?

  3. YES, make Kevin DO IT. I’m sure it’ll be as obvious to him as to me. Didn’t you say you’re done with paying off the condo? It would even be worth taking out an equity loan to pay off whatever loans you’ve got at a high rate, put in for 2004 and 2005, and then have a new mortgage/equity with today’s phenomally low mortgage rates. Have someone who knows your loans percentage rates etc. crunch the numbers. It should be a no-brainer.

  4. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Okie, will ask him. We’re still being fairly random about the whole joint finances thing; it’s happening in bits and pieces, over time, rather than in one fell swoop. I think he still doesn’t quite get how completely financially inept I actually am. :-/

  5. I forgot to answer your question: A Roth must be done by Dec. 31 for the year in question, a traditional, have until April 15. The Roth is nice because it’s post-tax money, so you don’t get the tax benefits now (when you probably don’t need them), and you can effectively put in more than the 3K max. I’m assuming you and Kevin still have separate taxes, but if not then you’ll have to check if you’re even allowed to do a Roth for this year, since there are income ceilings.

  6. Okay, I googled it, and it seems like I’d misunderstood something about Roths. Either I have old information or I was thinking about recharacterizations or… Anyway, you can still do a Roth for 2004, maxed at 3K, and I would recommend putting in for 2005, which is a max of 4K, as soon as possible. Admittedly, I haven’t done mine for 2005, but in an ideal universe, I would have had it set up to invest on January 1.

    maximum 401K contributions, by the way, are perhaps as big as health benefits amongst the reasons to get married.

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