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Apache is functioning normally

Buster, the cat who is and isn’t mine, lost his ear. The man who raised Buster lost his house. And I lost a tooth.

I keep a tally of what happens in my neighborhood of changes.

The lost house — around the corner from me, once the man’s family home, put on the market by his siblings — sold in no time. Of course it did. It was affordable by L.A. standards, in up-and-coming, river-adjacent Frogtown.


Proceeds from the sale were divvied up, and the man opened a bank account for the first time ever. He was able to buy a beat-up car and an old RV. The RV is tidy and has curtains. It looks more like a preserved family vacation vehicle from the 1980s than shelter for the otherwise unhoused in 2023. He parks it on the street right next to the house he grew up in and lived in until a few months ago, only moving it to the other side for street cleaning.

The man has friends, people who are looking out for him. They may not be able to house him (he has lived alone for so long he might prefer independence), but he has places to shower and do laundry without judgment. He has redeemed himself from whatever he got up to in the past (there are some wild stories), and one of the old-timers calls him a good soul. He must be. He feeds the ducks by the river, and he bottle-fed orphaned Buster when the cat was a kitten.

Buster, who now belongs to no one, has claimed a lawn chair parked under my guava tree. He developed a festering bloody lesion on his left ear — his white ear. White cats — and mostly white cats like Buster — that spend a lot of time outdoors are prone to skin cancer, just like white people.

I took Buster to the vet and he got scheduled for a pinnectomy (removal of his ear). I was advised to make sure he wore a cone and stayed indoors for the following two weeks, but I knew that was not possible. Buster was coneless in about five minutes but he spent a couple of post-op days inside my house, where he was miserable.

So I let him out, trusting his cat judgment to know what was best. He went back to his old independent routine, albeit with some crusty stitches where his ear used to be. He could still get his medicine — antibiotics — when either the man or I fed him.


A fortnight later, I took Buster back to the vet to have his stitches removed. The instructions were the same — cone and indoors for the next two weeks. Yeah, yeah, yeah… I opened the door to the carrier while it was still on the backseat and let him hop out when we got back to Frogtown. After about an hour of sulking somewhere, he was in his chair under the tree.

The man tells me what it was like growing up here. As a kid, he used to be able to get to Elysian Park by a footbridge that crossed the 5 Freeway. The bridge was damaged by a mudslide and taken down. Which, he says, was just as well from his parents’ point of view. A 9-year-old boy from the neighborhood found two victims of the Hillside Stranglers in the park in 1977.

The man is aware of his own vulnerability. He sleeps with one eye open, still able to hear the familiar sounds of the neighborhood chickens, the church bells, the trains from across the river. He knows he could be prey to criminals or do-gooders, bureaucrats or unhappy neighbors who one way or another could take what little he has. He makes me think about survival in a way I never have before.

The biggest threat might come from those whose “respectable” existence has influence. I’ve heard that some of the latest arrivals in our enclave have complained about the RV parked on the street. I guess if you’ve paid $1.5M for a property you don’t want to be in close proximity to a grizzled man in a home with wheels. Maybe they should try to get to know its inhabitant instead of complaining.

Once, pointing to the glove compartment in his car, the man told me he had an exit strategy. I was not surprised. I get it. It makes sense if you’re cornered by disease or poverty.

But for now, the cat, the man and the changes here are relatively stable. Every new day is greeted with caution.


Oh, about my tooth. It was time for a 30-year-old crown and root canal to be replaced with an implant. Like everything else, my missing-tooth smile is only temporary.

Nancy Glowinski is a former global head of photography for Reuters.


Apache is functioning normally

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Did you know June is National Adopt a Cat Month? Spring is prime breeding season for cats and dogs, so shelters nationwide report an increase in kittens and puppies every summer. If you’re planning to welcome a new pet into your family soon, consider the expenses of pet ownership before visiting your local shelter. Check out our infographic to understand the costs associated with your cat or dog’s first year. If you plan ahead and save, you’ll have a new best friend in no time!

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Apache is functioning normally

The discussion yesterday about how to earn money when you’ve lost your job got me thinking about ways to earn extra income outside regular employment. None of these are quick fixes, but they’re ways to generate cash in your spare time.

Get a Second Job

A second job can be an excellent way to earn extra money if you have the time and energy. Why have a second job?

  • To pay off your debt
  • To build up your savings
  • To get more experience
  • To ease into a career transition

Real-life example: In 2000, I took a second job programming computers. For several months, I was working sixty hours a week. I’ve never been so flush with money in all my life. Too bad I was a spendthrift back then — it was all wasted on computer games, comic books, and Magic cards.

Become a Consultant

Earlier this year, Andréa wrote a guest entry about becoming a consultant to defeat debt quickly:

“Consulting” may sound intimidating. It’s really just a fancy word for someone who trades their knowledge and expertise for pay. Every time you make a suggestion, recommend a process, draw up a plan or manage a process, you’re using consulting skills. To get into consulting, you just need to find someone who can use your expertise.

Read more advice about how to become a consultant at Andréa’s site.

Real-life example: After I decided that computer programming was not for me, I set up a small computer consulting business. I designed web pages, maintained networks, and repaired computers. Though I didn’t have much work (I never pursued the business as much as I could have), my hourly pay was the highest it’s ever been in my life.

Earn Money From Your Hobbies

If you’re like most people, your hobbies cost money. They may cost lots of money. For example, I used to spend hundreds of dollars for new camera lenses just so I could take better photos of my cats. Is there a way to turn your hobby into a money-making proposition? Even if you make just a little cash, you can help offset your costs. Here are some more ways that you can use your hobbies to bring you wealth.

Real-life example: After spending a fortune on lenses and camera equipment, I’ve actually been able to make a little money on my hobby. The $750 I’ve generated from prizes and sales is peanuts compared to what I’ve spend on the hobby, but it’s a start.

Make Money Online

Wait. Didn’t I just write that blogging is no way to get rich quick? Absolutely. But blogging can be a way to supplement your income. If you have subject that you’re passionate about, and if you like to write, a blog can let you earn extra money from your expertise.

But blogs aren’t the only way to make money online. You could open an online store. You could sell things on eBay. Here’s a list of 10 ways to make money online from Web Worker Daily.

Real-life example: This blog.

Sell Stuff

A final way to earn some extra cash fast is to sell things. Look in your closets. Check your bookshelves. Walk out to the garage. See all that junk? How much of it do you actually use? Couldn’t you borrow books from the library when you need them? When was the last time you played Mario Kart 64? Wouldn’t you feel better if your house were less cluttered?

As long as you don’t try to sell it all at once, it doesn’t take much time and effort to sell your used stuff to generate some extra cash.

  • Sell your most valuable items on eBay. (My eBay tips.)
  • Consider selling certain specialty items to specific stores: sell your used CDs to a music store, your used Nintendo stuff to a game store, etc.
  • Use Craigslist to sell bulky items, or to get rid of stuff that just won’t sell. (My Craigslist tips.)
  • Hold a garage sale to purge everything else. (Our annual garage sale is just a month away — I can’t wait.)

Real-life example: Once or twice a year, I sell extra stuff I’ve accumulated. Each year at our garage sale, I make about $300. Every couple years, I sell more valuable items on eBay. Last year I made $1500 for a few hours of work.

Use Your Extra Money Wisely!

What should you do with the extra money you earn using these techniques? Put it in a high yield savings account, establish an emergency fund, pay off debt, and then save for retirement!


Apache is functioning normally

I love the jeans I’m wearing. I actually wear them almost four days a week. Chances are that if you see me, I’m wearing these jeans. They’re my only pair. When I bought them, I very gladly put down my $200 cash and left the store with a smile. The jeans I had before them cost the same, and I wore them until they got holes in them, and then I got those patched up, and then the patches got holes in them and the hem came out and I decided to move on.

A lot of personal finance advice I read says that $200 is entirely too much to spend on jeans, no matter their longevity. The problem here is that I love these jeans. I feel confident in them. It sounds weird to me, but having jeans that fit this well have become a value of mine. The jeans aren’t the point though. Chances are, we all have something we buy that maybe costs more than it should, or at least more than it could, be it wine, fitness, clothing, makeup, electronics, or pure-bred cats. My goal is to spend on the things I care about, and ferociously save on the things I don’t.

I practice the art of conscious spending.

Your Values Should Dictate Your Spending

We can’t have it all. With my jeans, I spend on the pants and then save on the shoes I wear with them. My shoes aren’t important to me. They probably should be, but try as I might to read studies about proper arch support, I can’t get myself to make it a value. If I were to spend on the jeans, then spend on the shoes to go with them, then the belt to match, I frankly wouldn’t have enough money for a shirt.

With travel, it’d be great to stay in a luxury hotel, eat at fancy restaurants and take cabs everywhere. But for most of us, that would make travel inaccessible. If I ever splurge on more comfortable accommodation, I’ll make sure to walk everywhere and get cheap street food to eat at the park.

My point is this: Figure out your values. Spend on those, skimp on the others. For me, this meant charting my spending. By seeing where my money was going, I could more properly cut out what I didn’t care about and funnel the funds into what I did, or more probably, into savings.

Here’s an untrue example of where my $500 in discretionary spending went one month:

I look at this list and have three things come into mind first:

  • I love Chairman Meow, and so his wild caught Alaskan cat food is non-negotiable.
  • I do hear the people sing and tend to cry through all of Act I.
  • I still can’t believe how effective acupuncture is at reducing stiffness in my back.

Outside of those three, I realize I usually don’t have a very good time when I go to concerts with my friends and these Levis come on way too high on my waist. To align more with my values, I should keep the cat food, Les Mis, and needles, and enjoy a night at home reading a library book (Victor Hugo!) in my amazing new jeans.

Saving Up

If the desire to buy a more expensive item is strong enough, I should be able to save for it. If my desire wanes from day to day, or I realize that I’d be happy with something cheaper, I don’t buy the product.

I’m really looking forward to a trip I hope to take to Istanbul next year. If Istanbul didn’t come up at least once a week in conversations for me, it would probably cease to be a savings goal. If I don’t change behavior and put more money toward it, it isn’t going to happen.

To change behavior, I set up smaller goals and advertise to myself. I have this picture on my desk now and gaze lovingly at it every time I transfer funds into my Istanbul savings account. The week before I make a transfer, I go to the library and get out a book (hopefully with lots of pictures) about the city and read away. Not only will I have more appreciation and knowledge of various landmarks once I get there, but it helps keep Istanbul exciting, fresh, and sexy for me, not that it needs much help.

A few months from now, if my monthly savings goal continues to be met, I’ll buy the plane tickets and know some more awesome facts, like back when the city was part of the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul had 1400 public toilets all over town. Europe at the time had yet to build a single palace.

Merit-Based Rewards

With some of my larger purchases, I make myself earn them in a less financial sense. I want to make sure something is a value of mine before I spend the money on it. Here’s what I’m talking about:

  • For a big trip, justify spending the money by having a tangible language goal. Tell yourself that after a year of weekly French classes, you’ll finally allow yourself to spend the money on eating a baguette under the Eiffel Tower.
  • Interested in taking barre classes? Commit to using the DVD two or three times a week for the next two months. If you can get that done, it’s become a value and money can follow.
  • Want that expensive new makeup? Use up everything in the bathroom first instead of adding to the pile of half-used containers.
  • Looking forward to your favorite band coming to town? Learn the riff of your favorite song on guitar, especially if you’ve never played before.

Pick a goal that makes sense and stick to it. If the purchase isn’t inspiring you to save and better yourself, then it probably isn’t a value.

Frugality isn’t always about finding the cheapest option, but rather bringing as much consciousness to your spending as possible. You can lose the guilt, increase the pleasure, and accomplish something new.

What’s your more pricey item? How do you make sure your spending is a conscious effort on it?


Apache is functioning normally

couple doing finances on computer

In my last article at Get Rich Slowly, I gave the background on my income and expenses. My husband’s income and expenses are a little more difficult to compile. For one, Jake left the life of a steady paycheck about a year ago in order to start his own business. This means that his income fluctuates, which of course we knew going in. It also means that the first few years he’s going to make much less than we hope he will eventually. We also knew that going in.

However, another major factor is that Jake’s idea of household budgeting is “make so much money it doesn’t matter what you spend because you can afford it all.” When he started working at The Big Firm right out of law school and was making $90,000 a year, this was something that was more or less possible, especially since he was working 80+ hours a week and didn’t accumulate vacation or sick time. He didn’t have time for anything really spend-y. However, even though he’s now living the entrepreneur’s life, he’s resistant to budgeting. Earlier this week I sent him J.D.’s article about how to budget for an irregular income, and his response was:

This assumes that I actually have a budget…which I do not. I just make however much money I happen to make and pay whatever bills happen to fall due. Perhaps it’s not the best system, but it’s worked well so far.

Related >> How to Budget for an Irregular Income

I suspect that it’s going to take a major crisis or two of his own making before he comes to view things differently. One of the things I’ve learned over the last six years is that he almost never agrees with me the moment when I propose something; however, six months to a year later he’ll suggest it like it was his own idea. Go figure.

Since there’s nothing I can do at this point to convince him without violating the tenets of how to talk to your partner about money, I’m willing to wait. And to keep our finances separate, at a minimum, until we’ve reached a point where we are more in sync.

Related >> How to Talk to Your Partner About Money

Even then, we may opt to continue to keep our finances separate. Interestingly, Jake grew up in a household where access to money was used as a weapon, and Jake is also the spender in our relationship. On the other hand, I don’t recall my parents ever having a single argument about money, and Jake referred to me yesterday as “the most frugal girl he’s ever dated.” In the meantime, though, since his situation does affect me and I have access to his Mint account, I have started compiling his data so it’s ready for him to work with when he comes on board.

Jake’s Irregular Expenses

Unless otherwise noted, the amount listed reflects just his share, even for things like auto insurance that will be joint going forward, since we haven’t combined finances yet. For some categories — like auto expenses, gifts, and healthcare — I’m assuming his costs are about the same as mine until I have data suggesting otherwise. These are annual numbers.

  • Auto insurance: $840. This is the annual total; he pays $420 every six months in January and July. Similarly, in my recent post when I said my auto insurance was $500, that was also the annual total. I pay about $250 every six months.
  • Auto expenses (repair/maintenance): $250
  • Auto registration: $250. Quite a bit more than mine, since his car is 8 years newer (and also much nicer)
  • Gifts: $1000
  • Health care (copays, etc): $500. Numerous people said my $1000/year estimate was high, and when I double-checked, I realized that I’d double-counted my massage costs in both the irregular expenses category and the recurring monthly category. This means my actual irregular medical expenses last year were closer to $230. However, I think it’s best to estimate high in this category, and I know Jake has more prescriptions than I do.
  • Vet expenses (pets): $2300. As noted in my previous breakdown, he would have paid half of this. All three of our pets had dentals last year, and one of the cats had an extraction while the other had some medical issues that had to be resolved before she could go under anesthesia. This category also includes grooming for the dog (a poodle), which runs about $50 per grooming.
  • Mensa annual dues: $60
  • Total: $4050

I am sure there are expenses I am missing, and will be filling in this category over time. For example, he recently spent $437.36 on his 30,000 mile check-up, so he’s over my initial estimate. However, not only should he not spend any more this year (knock on wood), I believe that’s the first major repair/maintenance since he bought the car in 2008. And, since he is only driving an average of 7,500 miles/year (and that average should be dropping even more now that he works from home), we fall into the category of “gentle drivers” and these costs should stay relatively low.

Jake’s Regular Expenses

Like the irregular expenses, the amounts listed below reflect only his share for things, even if they are a joint expense. Accordingly, the pet, grocery, Netflix, internet, rent, satellite cable, renters’ insurance, and electricity categories should be doubled if you want to get an idea of our joint/mutual costs. Please also note I solicited more information about his credit cards and have updated the information that originally appeared here. For his payments, however, I am going by what he has paid historically, not what the minimum payment actually is. These are monthly numbers.

  • Gas, auto: $55
  • Pet expenses: $50
  • Grocery/household: $300
  • Cell phone: $135 (Note: Jake uses his cell phone for the business, too, though I’m not sure if or how he separates it from his personal use.)
  • Drycleaner: $40
  • Netflix: $8
  • Internet: $32.50
  • Satellite cable: $37
  • Renters’ insurance: $9
  • Electricity: fluctuates throughout the year, in summer $100
  • Withdrawal/cash: unknown, I suspect it varies widely
  • Charity: $10 (Humane Society)
  • Haircuts: $18
  • Rent: $488
  • Student loan 1: $180
  • Student loan 2: $70
  • Student loan 3: $176
  • Student loan 4: $112
  • Auto loan: $300
  • Credit Card 1 ($12,697.64 @ 4.99% for life): $400
  • Credit Card 2 ($2,202.87 @ 7.5% variable): $200. This is the one in my name.
  • Credit Card 3 ($2,648.33 @ 3.99% for life): $200
  • Credit Card 4 ($1,875 @ 0% until 3/6/13): $175. His share of the wedding expenses not covered in advance.
  • Credit Card 5 ($8,175.51 @ 0% until 9/1/12): $125. A loan to the business to sign up for a year’s subscription to a client-referral service.
  • Credit Card 6 ($1,350 @ 9.99%): $150. A loan to the business to cover his partner’s expenses when he was short.
  • Total: $3,370.50

Jake’s Income

Here’s where it gets tricky. Since January he’s paid himself twice per month in amounts varying from $400 to $5,963.98. Based on his disbursements year-to-date, he can expect his gross salary for the year to be $47,577.42. On average, he’s grossing $3,659.80 per month.

On the surface, then, he’s making enough to pay his bills plus a little extra. However, I’m sure he’s spending it all (that is, I expect that eating out and miscellaneous purchases would take us to the limit of his gross salary). I guess this is what he means when he says “it’s worked well so far.” However, he hasn’t been paying quarterly estimated taxes. There are some structural changes to the business that took effect August 1st, and he’s been waiting for that to start his quarterly payments.

Based on my calculations (which I will freely admit are pure guesstimates based more or less on my own withholdings), he can expect to owe approximately $8,840 by the end of the year. This amount should include federal and state income tax, social security, and medicare. Based on his earnings to date, he should have $4,760 set aside for taxes as of this moment. Guess how much is in his savings account right now? $4,194.99. So he’s short of where he should be and since he had been thinking of that as his emergency fund, not his tax fund…well. You see the dilemma.

Where to Go From Here?

Regarding budgeting, my plan is to continue to suggest it and wait for him to catch on before deciding whether to combine finances. He’s never even calculated any of this himself, though I did share the projected tax information with him, which he appreciated. While he freely admits he has no idea when any specific bill is due and is always surprised when they arrive, he also doesn’t see any need to change the system when he’s never been late paying any bill and pays more than the minimum on all his credit cards.

On the positive side, his average disbursement to himself has doubled from about $1,000 to about $2,000, so his business is growing.

What would you do in my situation? As I mentioned in the comments of my previous post, I refuse to become The Girl Who Only Says No or The Girl Who Only Talks About Money, because that will only poison the well for every aspect of our relationship, not just our finances.