Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Feeling down

To be perfectly frank, I've been feeling pretty down this week. No, not sick (that cold was miserable for a few days, but it's pretty much gone now) just feeling the pressure. February has been incredibly expensive, with no jobs on the horizon for Shane. He hasn't even been paid yet for the work he's been doing. (Although he did get to fill out his first time sheet last Friday, so he will get paid in two weeks. Two long weeks.) There always seem to be more and more costs to life, and it's frustrating to see us slipping further and further away from our goals. Right now, it feels like too much to handle.
The end-of-winter costs are catching up with us: I checked our electric bill for last month and discovered that we paid $330. To be clear, when I looked at the usage chart, that's more than double our average monthly electricity use for the month of January. And that's comparing it to when we had roommates. There's absolutely no way we spent that much on electricity (especially not with our computers dead for so long), so either the company read the wrong meter (charging us for the upstairs neighbors) or the house is wired in such a way that we're paying for at least part of the neighbor's electricity usage. (I suspect the latter--either we're paying for all of the vehicle plug-ins, or the washer and dryer, or something. We want to do a breaker test at some point, or at least talk to the landlord, to see what exactly we're paying for that's costing us so much.) I called the electric company yesterday and it was pretty much useless. The woman at customer service didn't listen to anything I said. She reminded me that there have been two rate increases recently (one in December and one in January) and then just kept telling me, "Well, it was really cold last month. Maybe you used a space heater." We didn't. When I said that (three times) she finally said, "Well, do you have a cell phone? You charge that, don't you? Do you have a toaster?" As if I'm a complete idiot, and as if my toaster is going to cost $330 to run. (How much toast does she think we make?) The only good thing I can think of to say about our electric company (GVEA) is that they are a PERFECT example of why monopolies suck so much. I hate them.
Between the electricity, and the rent increase, and all the food we've bought, this month has been killer. We finally had to pull some money out of savings to pay for Shane's student loans. Not easy to make that call, but better in the long run than carrying that debt on a credit card. (He's got it set up to auto-pay, and then he also gets airline miles for paying off the loans.) And he's finally decided that it's time to start looking for work anywhere at all. Not just anywhere in Alaska, but anywhere. We worked out what salary he'd need to make for the expense and hassle of moving to be worth it. Neither of us is particularly happy about this decision, but Alaska is just too expensive, with too few jobs. We can't live on only one salary.
I've also pretty much decided that unless I get a raise this year (it would be my first in three years of working here) I will start seriously looking for a new job. We can't go on this way. I'm sick of having our income remain steady while all of the costs in our lives increase exponentially. And really, after three years it's time to get a raise. If they don't appreciate me by now they never will.
I also may or may not try to get a second job this summer. It would suck, and I'd hate it. After all, summer is the time when you want to have the fewest cares around here. There are always barbecues to go to, and floats down the river, plus softball, hiking, camping, biking, gardening... Winter is when you don't care how many hours you work, but there are no extra jobs during the winter. Tourism shuts down, and most people stay home rather than going out to places like restaurants so they never hire. I'll have to figure out if the loss of free time (and gardening time) would be worth the increase in income, but it is a possibility.
We decided not to get birthday gifts for each other. We'd have to pull more money out of savings to do so, and that seems silly. Borrowing from our long-term goals to pay for more immediate, short-term happiness? No thanks. I asked Shane what he'd want if I did get him a gift and he said, "Honestly, I can't think of anything." We discussed what we would have gotten each other: Shane wanted me to have some guilt-free book shopping, because it's the only type of shopping I really love to do and there are always tons of books on my "want" list. I wanted him to get the computer parts he wants, but since he basically wants to rebuild his computer, and even with some gift certificates he has saved, that would be several hundred dollars. We couldn't justify the expense for either of those things. Not right now, at least.
I have to remind myself that this is a hard time of year in general. The beginning of February warms up and you start to get a taste of spring, but you know it'll get cold again soon. (It has--this morning it was -25 with windchill.) As I said, all of the end-of-winter expenses are catching up to you right when you're running out of stored food and need to buy more, when you're running low on cash because there simply isn't work to be found. It's hard not to be discouraged, and I've given in to it this week. I'll go back to fighting it tomorrow, or next week.

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