30 Before 30: Recent Completions
#21 When an article of clothing or pair of shoes becomes unwearable due to holes or some other kind of breakage, throw it away AND purchase a replacement item immediately (which currently I tend to put off).
I’m officially declaring this list entry a done thing.
Here’s my progress: over Christmas I replaced a bunch of old and disintegrated clothing, mostly through gifted money. I also leverage my Discover Card Cashback program into money for clothes. (Ask me how!) So my wardrobe has actually experienced a significant—and utterly necessary—turnover in the last year or so.
Also, several times this past summer I’ve been faced with go-to products dying in action, and I have been reasonably prompt about replacing these things. My windshield wipers—which have always sucked since the day I got my car six years ago—finally died (the squeegee strip peeled right off the wiper). I looked online that day to see where I could get new wipers, and just a couple of days later I was at Advance Auto buying the damn things. The guy there installed them for me, which was a bonus. Speaking of my car, last fall I sunk almost a grand into repairs that I had been putting off for years, literally. That kind of thing takes a real bite, but it feels good to have it done.
On a smaller scale, this summer, two of my favorite pairs of shoes became unwearable. My all-purpose flip-flops and my all-purpose sandals. I had sandals that I could wear in lieu of my all-purpose ones. I made do. But I cannot be without slip-on shoes at any time—this is because I have a dog and need to step outside five and six times a day for long enough to need to have shoes on but short enough that the effort of actually tying on a pair of shoes seems like wasted energy. So I bought new flip-flops almost immediately—nice cheap ones from Target. Now that winter is approaching, my slip-on shoes will become snow boots. These are a challenge, because the last two pairs I bought became cracked and leaky almost immediately after putting them on. Neither pair lasted a whole winter, but neither am I budgeted to buy 2-3 pairs of boots per winter. The one thing I have learned—at least—is to quit buying boots from that website. This winter, I will spend a little more money on a good pair.
I also decided, as a bonus, that it was within the spirit of this category (kind of a preemptive strike against the hoarding mindset) to get rid of clothing items which are in good shape, but which I don’t or can’t wear anymore, or itmes which are begging to be thrown away. That T-shirt with the bleach stain on it? …from helping Jeremy scrub down the walls in that house he lived in his senior year of college? …five years ago? You were only saved by your utility as a dish rag. Two pairs of dress pants and several pairs of jeans from that period when I dropped 30 pounds because my gall bladder was out of whack and I couldn’t eat anything good? I had fun wearing you for that six months, but realistically I will never be wearing you again. (And I really don’t care, because—regardless of the Weight Watchers propaganda—you were not as good as cheese is.)
And I did that! I threw away a whole garbage bag’s worth of worn-out sweaters and threadbare T-shirts and holey socks. I also weeded out a bunch of stuff that was in good condition–five paper grocery bags full–that I didn’t feel inclined to ever wear again and took it all to a Goodwill donation station. Now I know where it is, now I know how easy it is to let things go, I can do more of it.
An interesting side effect of completing this step: I have become a much more effective problem-solver and decision-maker. For a long time I basically shrugged off the inconvenience and pain that is walking around in a pair of broken shoes. Now that I’m making myself resolve this issues sooner—now that it’s really beginning to dawn on me that I don’t have to wear broken shoes—I’m looking around into other corners of my life and thinking about how I can fix them, too. I’ve spent a lot of time trying not to be an extravagant or wasteful person, which is generally a good, virtuous trait. But I took it to a ridiculous extent, and did myself no favors by doing so, either. You know that expression about cursing the darkness (and/or broken shoes)? I am not doing that anymore.
#27 Make a monthly budget and learn to stretch my meager graduate student stipend a little further.
Previously, my attempts at budgeting were usually limited to the absolute vaguest kind of prohibited spending: “No, I won’t get a pizza for dinner, I’ll have leftovers. I’m trying to save money.” While this is a somewhat useful habit to get into, no real results tend to emerge from this.
So, for a few months, I catalogued every penny I spent. Then, I started to analyze trends. Without feeling too much of a pinch (without subjecting myself to devastating restrictions), how much do I spend on groceries? How much on medical expenses (prescription meds and the like)? How much do I spend on the dog (food! vet! it never ends!)? How much do I spend on miscellaneous stuff (it’s Saturday and I’m bored, how about Target?!?!)? And then, I realistically capped all those types of expenses and added it up. The theory is that I shouldn’t HAVE to spend more than X amount of dollars in any given month.
Then, I did some figuring based on my current temp salary. I determined how much I could realistically save per month working at this job. Then, I kept subtracting dollars per hour to figure out how much money I absolutely need to earn to keep to my current standard of living. This was particularly helpful, you know, because when I was looking for work, everyone asks what your salary requirements are and I never really knew what to say. You don’t want to put too much, of course—and I had basically no context for the going rate for temp office workers—but now I have an exact figure that I can submit. Because if I earn less than that, then I have to like, cut off my cable TV and sell my furniture on Craiglist.
I did all that budget work in September, but here’s what else I did, just this week. With some internet research, along with some old-fashioned estimating*, I put together a figure that would likely allow me to 1. apply to PhD programs 2. move to the city of whatever program I am accepted to and 3. financially survive the transition. This was actually a sort of depressing development: depending on how much I am able to save per month, I will be able to get back into the academic game in two to three years. That’s…longer than I thought.
But! When you’re in a situation like I am—where you feel basically like you’re sitting in the station, waiting for your train to come—it feels good to have an actual, trustable timetable in front of you.
*realistic estimation: settle on a figure I think is accurate and add 20% on the top
#8 Cook a real dinner every night for a month.
HA. Kidding. Of course I haven’t done this yet. I had scrambled eggs for dinner the last two nights. The night preceding those I had a baked potato. On the side of…nothing. Just a baked potato. With sour cream and bacon bits. It was delicious. But even though I did everything except harvest that potato myself (I bought it at Zagaras with a bag of his brothers), it’s still not really cooking, is it?
Oh, well. I don’t need to improve in every area of my life.