Friday, January 7, 2011

Budgeting - Part I

I've been debating the pros and cons of this post for a while now, but I think I'm just going to go ahead and write it.

As much as the ridiculous happenstance that occurs on a regular basis can be amusing and provide for interesting blog posts (just humor me, please, and concur), living in poverty is one of the most important things an AmeriCorps volunteer does. It allows us to practice what we preach and put what little money we have where our mouth is.

In college, I wasn't making bank, but I held down two jobs to pay for pesky things like rent and food. They weren't impressive jobs -essentially a glorified secretary/security guard (because I'm so threatening) for the residence halls and tutoring Spanish for the Athletics department. They paid... minimum wage, campus job style, but they paid and that's what mattered.

Over the summers (save for one where I worked as a grocery store cashier. Bananas. 4011), I interned with a defense contractor for the Department of Defense. It was at this internship that I learned all my legitimately useful skills - excel, time management, how to function in a group dynamic, meeting deadlines, and the list goes on. However, this job also led me to take hefty paychecks for granted. I came to expect them. When job hunting, I initially was looking for something that paid more or less what I made there, but I also wanted benefits. That kind of money is not something that exists in the nonprofit sector (much like jobs), so I was sorely disappointed.

This experience here in Roanoke has taught me that so little of the world, hell, even of Virginia, lives by DC's standards. Even just driving Mr. Merlot makes me self-conscious because he's an older car and lacks his sexy Toyota T. It's all about status and type A personalities. Everything is a competition, from salary to the car you drive to where your kids go to school - and that's no way to live, never being content with what you have.

Even though my car is ghetto, I love it. Even though there's a plastic bag taped over a window in my apartment, it's still home. Even though I don't have a dishwasher or garbage disposal, I still think I have the cutest kitchen in the world. Even though I don't go out ever, I'm still able to be happy. (Okay, I could go for a little more socializing, but that's besides the point.) Roanoke has made me simplify and reevaluate what's truly important.

I read a lot these days, something I used to love to do but could never be bothered to find the time. I love it. A few weeks ago, I read three books in one weekend. I highly recommend Water for Elephants. I took up knitting again, just for the hell of it. I have time to cook, and while I'm definitely not cooking anything fancy, I still enjoy it. Yes, I realize that I sound like a 75 year old woman, but I'm a happy 75 year old woman living a simplified life.

I'll end it there, because this is getting rather lengthy. Next up: budgeting! Not that any of you need to know how to get by on what is legally declared the poverty level, but I intend to impart some knowledge on how I get it done. Spoiler alert: I am able to feed two people on less than $7 a day. Yes, all three meals.

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