Arm Chair Philosophy During Thanksgiving

Spending Thanksgiving week by myself.  I had my celebration a week ago as kind of a going away party for my parents.  I guess I don’t mind spending the week alone as I’ve spent much of my adult life alone.  I haven’t had a roommate since 2004 when I graduated college.  I would actually feel kind of strange having to share a roof and four walls with someone, especially if that someone and I got on each others nerves.

This isn’t the first major holiday I spent alone.  Several years ago I stayed home when my parents were hosting it because I felt a major breakdown coming on.  I wasn’t going to have a break in front of my niece and nephews, especially when they were still too young to go to school.  It was a sad deal in that it was also my grandfather’s last Thanksgiving.  He was diagnosed with cancer a few days later and died a couple months after.  I was fortunate to been able to host the last couple Christmas celebrations with my parents at my apartment.  Not sure what I’m doing this year as all my family is now living out of state.  But I have a few weeks to figure that out.  It could be I get snowed in and not able to go anywhere.  This time a year the weather is always a factor where I live.

Starting to sleep less again.  But I’m not staying up all night either.  I usually go to sleep around 10pm and am up usually around 2 am.  I prattle around for a couple hours and then go back to sleep for another couple hours.  I’m usually awake for good by 8:30 am.  I have been feeling quite stable lately too.  I’ve now gone a full year without a major breakdown.  First time I can claim that ever since I was in high school.

In spite feeling better overall, I really have no desire to go anywhere or socialize much.  I’m content to pretty much stay at home much of the time.  Home is where I feel comfortable and accepted, even if I am alone.  I don’t like socializing in person much anymore.  I’m almost scared of other people now, especially people I don’t know.  Maybe it’s a new aspect of my mental illness.  I don’t have the volatile mood swings but just have no motivation to see anyone or try anything new.

Perhaps I really am depressed and not wanting to go anywhere or see anyone is the way it’s being manifest.  I don’t feel an overwhelming sense of despondency or sadness, but I probably do have both.  I feel no need to socialize because, in my diseased mind, I already know the outcome of said socializing: We will talk about dumb and mundane things and not much will be accomplished from the meeting.  I guess I’m used to not much being accomplished.  I’m used to people outside of family not coming through on what they say they’ll deliver.  It’s like I expect things to not work anymore.  I’m probably suffering from apathy too.  I’m just too tired to fight against it anymore.  I’m used to things not working like they should. I’ve seen it my entire life I guess.  That’s one of the reasons I don’t understand the average person’s obsession with politics or working; people talk all the time yet nothing really changes and certainly not for the better.

I would almost swear that people are intentionally screwing up and doing what they know won’t work.  I can’t believe that people are so stupid as to do what they know won’t work over and over and yet be duped by every charlatan and con artist who comes along offering the same tripe with different packaging and names.  I guess that’s why I don’t socialize anymore.  I’ve seen it all before and I’ve heard it all before.  But nothing changes for the better.  The only real positive changes I’ve seen, at least in my life time, have come via science, technology advances, and humanitarian efforts.  Yet no one wants to talk about these.  But it is science, tech, and humanitarians that are making up for the gridlock in politics and the loss of trust in education, law, and religion.  I guess that people don’t pay attention to what really makes a positive difference.

For generations we have heard old men on their death beds lamenting how they spent too much time at work and not enough time with their spouses and children or grandchildren.  Maybe it’s finally starting to get through to the younger workers who seek a work life balance more than my generation or my parents and grandparents did.  I think I’ll say something like “Too bad I didn’t get the corner office or the company car when I was working” or “Why did I take the day off to take my nephews to the museum?  There was money to be made, dang it” just to break up the somber mood and my way of saying kiss off the old style Puritan work ethic that seems to believe that those who don’t work themselves into an early grave are going to hell.

I don’t regret not having a regular job anymore.  Most people I know who got rich didn’t do so by working forty hours a week for someone else.  They got that way by working for themselves and starting their own businesses.  But even as rich as some people I knew were, I still didn’t see them take with them to the afterlife.  Even the Pharaohs had their graves robbed over the centuries.  Get a large pile of gold and jewels only to have marauders run off with it or have it collect dust in some museum half a world away thousands of years later.  Hard work may have never killed anyone, but neither did enjoying the small things of life that money, power, and prestige can’t acquire.

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Debt And Mental Illness

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Managing money is one of those vital survival skills that just isn’t taught in schools in many places.  It certainly wasn’t taught at my school.  My parents taught me how to balance a checkbook and told me to avoid credit cards when I was growing up.  But that was the extent of my money training until I took business classes in college.  I learned to keep track of money pretty well but the idea of avoiding credit card debt wasn’t a lesson that sunk in until I ran up some debts and was in danger of getting behind on payments.  But everyone has to learn on their own time I suppose.

Over the years I learned how to make a budget for things like rent, food, clothes, medications, household supplies, and fuel for my car.  I didn’t get it perfect at first and turned to a credit card to cover the difference.  Big mistake.  Before I knew it I had debts that weren’t getting any smaller even though I never got behind on my payments.  Looking at debts with my only income being my disability pension and a part time minimum wage job scared me.  I knew I couldn’t ask for more hours at work as that would put me in trouble with Social Security’s earning limits.  So I had to drastically cut back on my purchases.  I had to quit going out to eat.  I had to quit going to the mall.  I had to live on cheap groceries (think lots of Ramen noodles, potatoes, baloney, and rice).  I had to cancel my magazine subscriptions.  I had to stop buying books and computer games.  I couldn’t buy new clothes every few months.  I had to limit my driving.  It took a lot of work but I eventually learned to live without going into debt.  I’ve been debt free now for over two years.  And I have less stress because of it.  I am sure some of my mental illness problems were made worse because I was worried about my debts.

If you have a mental illness and your only means of support are disability insurance and or a job, I would highly recommend if you’re going to have a credit card to use it only for emergencies.  I don’t have a credit card anymore as I know myself well enough to not trust myself with one.  Instead I have a small emergency fund I can get to in case of emergencies but I don’t have immediate access to it.  I have it set up I have to have at least twenty four hours to access it as I don’t keep it at my apartment or in my bank.  I budget to where I buy extra non perishable food and fuel my car to full every time I get paid.  I also maintain my car and don’t run it hard so I don’t have to make expensive repairs.  I have learned how to have a good time with friends, family, and by myself without spending much money.  I probably will never have much for money but I really don’t spend a lot to begin with.  Having no debts and having an emergency fund are the best sleep aides and stress busters I have found.  I don’t make much but I don’t worry because I don’t have to make payments to anyone.  If you are on disability or have a limited income, I highly recommend getting out of debt and staying out.

Budgeting While On Disability

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Bought groceries and supplies today.  So I’m set for another couple weeks even if it means the money is going to be tight for awhile.  Such is expected being on disability insurance and having limited funds to work with.  Being able to budget money is a skill everyone needs.  But it’s vitally important being on disability insurance.  Social Security Disability Insurance isn’t designed to make it’s recipients wealthy.  It is usually enough to get you by if you do a little planning and budgeting.

Every time I’m out shopping I hunt for sales and discounts.  I also have a rewards card (not a credit card) through one of the regional grocery store chains that gives discounts on gasoline purchases.  I have planned to where I usually get a 50 cent per gallon discount when I buy fuel.  As I don’t have a SUV or a pickup truck I can usually get by pretty inexpensive with gas.  I had a Ford Explorer for a few years but decided to trade it off once gas got more expensive.  It was good for hauling things around and I even made a little money hauling things around for friends and neighbors.  But it was an excessive expense that wasn’t worth it anymore, at least not for me.  Other luxury things I cut down on was eating out.  I was appalled how much money I was spending on eating out once I sat down and did budgets and reviewed my spending.  I probably eat out now only once a week on average.  And I found out I was a decent cook.  I’m especially good at grilling as I have one of those electric grills that I do almost all my meals on.

I also shop at discount stores, Goodwill (but I don’t buy furniture from Goodwill as I’m concerned about bed bugs), and Salvation Army. I buy most of my clothes out of season when they are on clearance.  You can find some good deals doing this.  I don’t use coupons as much as I should.  I don’t subscribe to any newspapers or magazines so I don’t get much for coupons.  But I still find deals.

Another key to living on disability insurance is staying out of debt.  Those credit card payments with interest are killers, especially on a fixed income.  All I can say if you are on disability insurance and in debt is find a way to pay those debts off.  I had some debts I could have easily gotten in trouble with.  You may have to ask for help.  You may have to negotiate with your creditors and work out some kind of deal.  You might even get some of your debts forgiven if you keep lines of communication open.  Do not avoid collections.  But do remain calm if collection agents harass you.  Getting out of debt sucks but it is more than worth it once you’re no longer making payments.

Shopping at discount stores, looking for sales, using incentive programs, and staying out of debt are vital for anyone living on fixed income.  I had friends who filed for bankruptcy. I saw how much pain and stress it caused them.  After seeing this I vowed I wouldn’t let it happen to me if I could avoid it.  I don’t have much of a margin of error with as little as I earn.  Since I don’t make much money I have to be real wise with money.  I have to control expenses.

 

 

Managing Money With A Mental Illness

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Money.  It’s something we all think about, worry about, and use on a daily basis.  But for something that is so important to our lives, it is something only a few really know how to use and manage.  We often think that ‘if only I had more money’ or ‘if things didn’t cost so much’ we would be happier and better off.  No we wouldn’t.  A person could make twice as much as they do now, yet if they don’t keep their spending and consuming in line, they’ll spend every last cent they have.  What you make or don’t make is not as important as how much we spend and even keep.  Those of us living in the more developed countries can live pretty decent on what we make as long as we know what we’re spending on what, make sure what we spend is less than we make, and even set aside some money for emergencies or other purposes.

Some keep saying if only I had more money.  What you make doesn’t really matter if you keep spending more than you make and have to rely on credit cards or pay day loans just to make it to the next payday.  I personally live pretty decent on what little I make just from my disability pension.  But this is because I got deadly serious about budgeting my limited money and got out of debt.  I’ve been completely debt free for right at a year.  But it’s only because I stick to my budget.  I write out my budget every month and decide how much I spend for food, fuel and maintenance for my car, household expenses, clothing, and minor miscellaneous items after my rent is covered.  It is possible to live on just a disability pension as long as you get out of debt and control your expenses.  Yes this means passing on some things.  Yes this means hunting for bargains.  Yes this means shopping for clothes at Goodwill or Wal-Mart instead of The Gap or Neiman Marcus.  There is no point in looking good if it puts you in debt to a credit card company or a pay day loan place.  There is no reason to keep up with your neighbors or friends when they are behind on their rent and their relationships are falling apart because they aren’t managing their money well.  Such people who look good even when broke are what a friend of mine from Texas called ‘Big Hat but No Cattle.’

The best bit of advice I can give to those with a mental illness, or any disability, who are living on a disability pension and/or working a low paying job and struggling to make ends meet are 1) Make a budget and track every dollar you make and 2) Get out of debt and stay out of debt.  You might think you can limp along  as long as you keep getting your checks or the job keeps up.  But those pensions could possibly get reduced, just like what is happening in Greece, Cyprus, Argentina, and any number of countries that for whatever reasons got overextended and mismanaged their finances.  My USA is no exception, we overextended ourselves not just through military spending but by promising everyone who asked what they wanted without planning on how to pay for it.  The biggest lie we tell ourselves is that we can ‘have it all.’  In all honesty, we have to pick and choose what we get because we and our resources are finite and limited.  Many of our current problems, as individuals, businesses, and governments wouldn’t be having the instabilities and problems we have if we merely didn’t spend more than we bring in.

But to get out of debt, you may have to do some drastic things.  You may have to give up enjoyable things.  You may have to give up smoking, drinking, lottery tickets, electronic trinkets, move to a cheaper place, maybe even reconcile with family and ask them for help.  If you are behind on your payments, talk to those you owe money.  Tell them everything and see if you can work something out.  Some may even be willing to clear some of your debt, but that is not a license to go back and do the stupid things that got you into trouble to begin with.  Look at it as the real life ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card.  Yes, it will be tough going for awhile.  It will suck when you can’t go to restaurants or the bar with your friends.  It won’t be glamorous at all.  But if you are in trouble money wise, you need to get out of debt and adhere to a budget by any means necessary.  I was and I had to do some major adjustments that short term really sucked.  But they paid off long term.  I don’t worry about sending money to a credit card company.  I don’t worry about if I can make rent because I know I can.  I even manage to put some of my disability pension into an emergency fund.

It would have been great if we learned how to manage money and budget in our formal education.  But we didn’t so we have to learn it now as adults.  And yes this is required.  Money by itself is not evil any more than wheat seeds and livestock were in farming societies in ancient times.  Money is the tool of survival in the 21st century.  We all would be wise to learn how to manage it better.  Good authors to read on money management are out there, as are youtube videos.  My personal favorites include Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman.  Check some their work out.