Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Fiscal Insanity

A year ago today I proposed to Tina.
"You proposed on April Fool's Day? That's stupid!" *shrug* She said 'Yes' so it kinda worked out. A marriage proposal from me required my brain to add a hook. With an April Fool's Day proposal I had several: 1) The tag line: "She would be a fool not to!" 2) The secure knowledge that 30 years from now I'll still remember the date I formalized my intention to link my future with hers in a contractual way. 3) Friends and Family would either realize immediately that I/We aren't the sort to kid about this sort of thing even on an auspicious day like April Fool's, or they wouldn't and that would be good to know about them. 4) There are more, but most of them involve improving April Fool's day in my head. I'm not very fond of it in general. But yesterday I searched online for cookie bouquets so that I could send one to her work with the note: "I want a divorce...
... or a cookie. Your choice." This amuses me. But not enough to actually follow through. They only let you write up to 25 characters on a cookie. I did share the thought with Tina and she laughed. Yup. A keeper.
On the 5th of this month will be our one year anniversary as Home Owners. It also signifies the beginning of a huge financial sinkhole that makes me appreciate better the stress and worry that this kind of commitment can introduce into a relationship. It is deceptively easy to overextend yourself when the numbers get big enough. Shopping for a mortgage shows you only a fraction of the costs you will ultimately pay. When we started the process we had a pretty firm handle on the costs. We made pessimistic guesstimates for utilities, services, repairs, added in some emergency expenses for good measure and then went shopping. It turns out we were STILL lowballing the costs as responsible adult homeowners. Insurance, taxes, maintenance, upkeep, furniture... Luckily both of us are pretty low maintenance (I said it before, I'll keep saying it. A keeper.) Our guesstimate for the monthly mortgage payment jumped by over 30%. A small part of that is mortgage insurance because we decided that we'd rather lose a few hours of work every month to that than drain our safety net further than necessary with a full down-payment. So far that financial buffer has eased the transition from tenant to 'property manager' and we haven't really felt any sting... yet. But we are trying this whole 'responsible adult' facade. Life insurance. Lawn care and fertilization. Blinds and shades in the windows instead of bed sheets. That stuff's expensive, yo! And they are all disguised in bite-sized little payments just nibbling away at our take-home pay.
So I bought a license for a program called You Need A Budget (YNAB). We are entering month three using this software and it has been an eye-opening experience. Our various debts and pools of resources all visualized and in neat columns and rows. I love data. I had been operating from gut feelings and impressions and a forced cautious pessimism and it is reassuring to see the chaos of two relatively irresponsible adult children resolve into a relatively stable image that is surprisingly sustainable. We've had a pretty indulgent start to our year. But all of our spending has been successfully off-set with self imposed austerity and unexpected incomes. We're even on-track for our super-ambitious plan for paying down our mortgage a bit every six months. Yay!
Why do I feel compelled to share all this? Probably because I feel guilty. I bought some stuff for my computer yesterday. And some new clothes a few days ago. And Tina bought me some computer stuff. And we're about to contact a guy that will do some weed-treatments and pest control and grub control and fertilize our lawn for the year if we give him money. A little less money than we just spent on my computer stuff and clothes. Guilt. Maybe I really should have sent a bouquet of something to Tina... but that would cost money again. It's a vicious circle!
I finally decided to play Starbound and promptly lost a few dozen hours to it. I hit a point where the systemic progression stopped and any further upgrades depended on exploration... that's a good cooling down point for me. I look forward to diving back in after the next update. While exploration can be fun I usually prefer to 'own' a territory. Building up defenses, harvesting resources, generating self sustaining industries to feed whatever engines I'm given access to. Sadly this part of Starbound is still lacking and short of skyrails and some basic circuits it seems more like this phase is all about sampling lots of different environments rather than building up infrastructure. So I booted up Terraria again since that gives me a little more of that systemic progression towards industry, but in that one you can't ever really be in full control. The environment will hunt you down one way or the other and it depends on boss battles to drive progression. My only real other alternative is Minecraft and unless I dive back into mods like Thaumcraft I will most likely need to play some of my more story driven games soon. Or I could play Carmageddon. Since I Kickstartered the reboot I have Pre-Alpha access to builds of the game and even as rough as it currently stands it is just as fun as the original games were. Irreverent. Silly. Over the top. A racing game for the chemically imbalanced.
More soon!

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