Some Long Overdue Catharsis

freedom-fistWhile working at my old job, I had a set of tabs open on a Chrome window that more or less never changed. After I was laid off, it felt weird to close that window and lose them. As time went by, I felt more and more like I should, but I felt I needed to mark the event somehow. That it would represent a turning point I needed to write about.

Today, just shy of a full year later, I finally close that window.

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Good news, everyone!

GoodNewsEveryone

I have good news, that will in no way be bad!

I have a job.

This is, undeniably, incredibly good news that I’m excited to share. But it presents me with something of an existential question – what is the purpose of this, ostensibly an unemployment blog, in a post-unemployment world?

Part of why it’s been so long since I’ve been here last (aside from, you know, the new job) is that I’ve been trying to figure that out. I’ve been just as drawn to writing here as before – if I didn’t know quite what I wanted to say, well, I knew I still had something to say, at least. I know I felt busy though as I was adjusting to the new changes in my day, and I think on some level I might have felt a little guilty, too.

Join me as I talk a little about this exciting news and muse on what this blog is really all about.

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August Food Budget – Considering The Plateau

plateau

Bears a resemblance to the stock market these days, no?

It’s time for the latest installment of my yearlong quest to track and trim my food budget. For those of you short on time, let me just say that if you remember my numbers from last month, they were very similar in August. Shockingly similar, in fact. I think we’ve possibly hit what I’m calling The Plateau. It’s not a bad place to hang out, this new baseline, but it is a bit short of the lofty goals I initially set out for myself, so there is work to be done.

There are some changes coming starting next month that will take a little pressure off our overall budgets (more on that in another post), so vigilance against lifestyle creep is more important than ever. Keeping this budget low was never about penny-pinching and always about exploring how to actually cook and love the food I eat, which just so happens to cost less than it does to be lazy on food consumption anyway. It’s no coincidence that the months our costs were lowest are also the months where I felt I invested the most time/energy in cooking. As time becomes scarcer, I need to remind myself why I continue to work on this – because it’s fun, not to mention the fact that it helps pave the way to financial independence.

Anyway – onto the numbers.

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Harnessing the Good in Should

angry-man

What the voice of should often seems like – but hear him out, he could be making a good point

Nobody likes to be told what they should do. In fact, the word is often condemned as unfair to use at best, or downright harmful at worst. “Should” stifles more natural or personally beneficial inspiration, replacing it with the judgment of the “shoud”er. Kinda harsh, right? Who says who gets to judge people? Who says who gets to judge you?

“Should” in this sense can be a dangerous word to try and grapple with. While we could take this off in a debate on moral relativism, I’d rather focus more on the duality of “shoulds” that I’ve been thinking about in recent weeks. One “should” is indeed harmful, but the other I’ve actually found very helpful to keep in mind.

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May/June/July Food Budget – Time for a Reckonin’

kiwifruit

Kiwis – must be the season, because we’ve been getting a lot of them delivered to us lately

Sitting down to write this post has been a little daunting. After posting my April budget in early May and falling behind in my reporting here, it’s just felt like a lot of data to share. Even though, as I mentioned in my last post, I did collect my May/June data in early July, I never quite got around to sharing it here. The very same thing nearly happened today. However, it’s time to reckon with what’s been happening.

Unlike past months, I will not be able to state that I’ve continued to aggressively cut costs as the summer has unfolded (this may also have played a subconscious role in being in no hurry to put this post together). Food costs have definitely risen. Overall though, I’m still pretty pleased that even with less intention, our numbers routinely came in under our 2014 averages – over the span we beat it by about 8%. If that’s the new baseline, then great. I didn’t even shop at my wholesaler since March – March! I’m paying for a membership there. That needs to be rectified.

Ok, let’s dive into the numbers – now featuring a spiffy new chart.

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Rediscovering Inspiration

man-binoculars-looking

I know it’s here somewhere…

While I’m sustaining today the (dubious) accomplishment of having posted at least every month since I started this blog, the obvious truth is that it’s been a while. Even my food budget posts have been absent since April, although near the start of this month I did collect the data together for May and June with the idea of catching up (the new plan is a 3-month-budget post in the near future that includes July). In any case, if this blog is to be in any way a record of my thoughts and actions during my experience with unemployment, I clearly have some blanks to fill in. I’m not sure, exactly, that’s what this blog is for – but let’s go with that for now, at least. I think the original struggle to keep this blog more related to “tips” and “successful stories” was more limiting than I’d hoped. There’s only so much of that type of content to go around.

Anyway, let’s begin. I’m here in part because I’ve experienced a wave of inspiration this week, after what can fairly be described as a multi-month period where I felt it lacking. I was kind of down, I lost interest in cooking and tracking my finances carefully, I didn’t read many of the other bloggers who originally helped inspire me and obviously all but stopped posting here. I gave in to a vice I very much already identified as a unenjoyable time-suck and let it soak up hours. I’d roughly mark the time of things falling apart a little as beginning in late-May, when the little groove I was trying to get going fell off the rails. Ironically, one of the reasons I think that happened was a series of interviews (a good thing!) packed tightly around a spate of travel (a fun thing!), but for whatever reason, it threw me a little and I didn’t really recover until recently.

Not that I wasn’t getting myself by. After striking out for pretty much the first three months of my unemployment, starting in May a snowball started rolling, and on top of those interviews (didn’t go anywhere) I’ve currently got interviews at four other organizations that are either in process or still open as I await word. And when I collected the May and June food budget data, things were surprisingly decent despite the lack of micromanagement (sure hope that’s sustainable). Those months weren’t a loss, but at times I was simply dragging myself from one day to the next, always feeling like I wasn’t getting enough done.

So what changed?

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Turning Down a Job While Unemployed

jobs-for-students-stubsToday I made the hard decision to turn down a job offer. I mean, in a sense it wasn’t all that hard because I suspected that I would probably turn it down if things played out as I expected, which they did. But it was still a decision I agonized over in the moment of making it, sweating profusely in my car in the parking lot after a different job interview, furiously texting my partner agonized reflections one sentence at a time (I’m lucky to have a great support in her, and despite being in the middle of a meeting she did her best to respond).

It’s hard to turn down a job when you’re unemployed. Though I’m still collecting some money via unemployment, this job would have paid me far more than UI does and certainly given our savings and my FIRE plans a nice immediate boost.

I thoroughly enjoyed the people I spoke with in my interview, and in many ways this was a great job. However, it wasn’t the right job for me, and I said no. I think it was the right thing to do.

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