Category Archives: Budget and budgeting

Only Child on living barely above the poverty level

Only Child  contemplates some harsh financial realities

Only Child contemplates some harsh financial realities

I received a shock on Sunday when I was interviewed for a survey at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre. For one question, “What is your income level?” the lowest category started at $40,000. I just looked at the guy and asked, “Could you repeat that?” My reply? “Below the lowest category.”

I almost had to laugh when he asked how much I was spending that day at Harbourfront. Should have said “nothing, because I can’t afford to.” Instead I said “I don’t know.”

This is the way it is for those of us who live barely above the poverty level. In case you are interested, the poverty level for a single person on his or her own in Toronto is just under $19,000 annually.  Sometimes my monthly income from all sources is below or at the level that some of my friends have to pay monthly for renting a two-bedroom apartment. So, despite all the crap with the house, I am grateful that I do live in a house and have no mortgage.

I’m reminded of my parents and the everlasting budget, no doubt instigated by my practical-minded mother. In my memoir I write:

Late at night, long after my parents think I’m off in the land of nod, they discuss the family finances. Their loud whispers seep under closed hallway and bedroom doors.

“But we can’t afford that,” Mom says.

“We need . . .” Dad’s voice seems to hit the hallway door.

I throw off my bedcovers, sit up and strain to listen. I never get a clear idea about their plan until it happens or my parents discuss the revised version at the dinner table the next day, (Excerpted from You Can Go Home: Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2013 Sharon A. Crawford)

We didn’t live beyond our means but we were never in debt. Not so with me. My only ongoing debt is that line of credit but I try not to get into it if I can help it. All other credit purchases I pay off in full when due.

What irks me is those unexpected expenses coupled with client work expected to arrive and it doesn’t because it is not ready for editing or evaluating.

That’s what happened this month. I budgeted to pay for those  two new window blinds, long needed. (The kitchen one fell on me last summer and the bedroom one was falling apart bit by bit for years). I ordered the service at the annual Home Show and Sears gave me 10 per cent off. This month I did receive a couple of extra payments including the final fee from a client whose worked I finished late in June. There should have been enough for the regular expenses and to pay Sears for the blinds.

However, I had to buy a dehumidifier, pay my lawyer for updating my will (he does give me a discount because I’m an old childhood friend), and the city water and waste bill usually coming in August arrived this month. (Is this a permanent schedule change that the city officials forgot to tell us?) When I totalled all that up, guess what? It’s about the same amount as I owe Sears for the blinds. So without the new work and its deposit payment, I have to hit the few and dwindling RRSPs – again this year – to pay my Sears bill on time.

The race is on which will go first – me or the RRSPs. No bets on this end and at this point I’m not sure I care.

My garden and writing are my salvation – the former for many things including a food source and the latter to help earn a living and to write about the highs and lows of living poor and also writing fiction – sometimes with ideas from my life, often creating disturbing stories.

Maybe you have to live hard in order to write good stories. My mystery short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, fall 2012) attests to this. Check it out at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC505OMPiVNy27zCFfND_8WA    which has videos of me being interviewed about my book and one (three minutes long) where I read from one of the short stories, “The Body in the Trunk.”  A disclaimer here. No, I have never transported a body in a trunk or any other way for that matter. After all, I don’t drive and can’t afford a car.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Budget and budgeting, finances, Gardening, Home and Garden, Mom and Dad, Money, Only child memoir, Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child on time and money dilemma

Only Child will no longer sit on time like this teddy bear

Only Child will no longer sit on time like this teddy bear

Time or the lack of enough is worrying me. This time (pun intended) it is connected to money. Already I’m juggling editing one client’s work with trying to finish the rewrite of my novel which my publisher wants to see and doing PR (including workshop related prep) for my first published book, Beyond the Tripping Point. Two more ongoing clients’ work are due to arrive for editing the beginning of February. So far, I think I can manage the time with all of this (and it is all work I enjoy doing). However, I have another repeat client needing another book edited. The catch here is the book is very long; the timeline is very short, and the client has a budget. The money part? I may need this potential client’s money to pay bills next month.

Such is the dilemma of freelancers who work on contract. Add in my situation (which some others have too) – what I call “only person,” I have to factor in personal and house stuff which beyond the odd snow shovelling job, I can’t afford to pay someone else to do. I do try to limit how much I do, but still I am up late doing bits and pieces of housework that needs doing before morning.

Then there are people who want free writing and editing advice and take up my phone and email time. Right now I deal with this on a priority basis – if it doesn’t look like it might lead to work or it’s beyond a reasonable follow-up to work already done, I reply when I can squeeze it in. This may sound harsh, but to borrow a phrase, “business is business.” Or as someone once said, “I’m not running a charity.”

Which brings me to the prospective client with the large book and my time constraints (which this person knows about – right now the situation is at a “maybe”). I will have to expand my parameters – money- and time-wise and if it doesn’t work with this person, then so be it. I will need to hope that the other editing prospects delayed because the rewriting of the manuscript is taking longer than expected (and I understand that from personal experience) will come my way sometime later in February. I will manage on what I have even if it means yet another hit on the decreasing RRSPs. I am my late mother’s child after all. Mom didn’t work (it was the 1950s and early to mid-1960s) until my dad was in the last stages of brain cancer – and after he died her arthritis kicked in and forced her to quit working. Mom was very good at budgeting and making do with what she had.

One more year until I can collect the Old Age Pension – I received my application yesterday and that will get filled out and sent in this week.

Next year I hope to cut back on the editing, even though I like doing it, and focus more on writing and writing workshops and readings, as well as other PR.

To paraphrase my mother’s making do with what she had, I am good at making do with what I don’t have.

And as I’ve mentioned promoting my book Beyond the Tripping Point, below is  a link to a three-minute video of me reading an excerpt from one of its short stories, “The Body in the Trunk” when I appeared on the Liquid Lunch Show on http://www.thatchannel.com

Book is available in print and e-copy at both http://www.amazon.com and http://www.amazon.ca as well as other venues.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgOKYgBfAwY&feature=youtu.be

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Filed under Anxiety, Balance, Beyond the Tripping Point, Budget and budgeting, Decision Making, Life learning, Mom and Dad, Old Age pensions, Prioritizing, Self employed and cash flow, Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child’s Creativity comes from where?

Only Child’s late Mom – a creative influence

I’m continuing in this creativity vein from last week’s post. There are other areas where my creativity has saved me many times in many areas of my life – problem-solving, juggling clients, and of course writing.

This got me wondering. Just where did my creativity come from?

My mother? She tended to take after the practical side of her family – the Schefters and was good in the business and budgeting end. However, she was also a Strauss (no relation to the 1800s’ composer Johannes Strauss – but our Strauss ancestors came from the same Black Forest neck of the woods). Mom’s creativity showed up in how she approached honesty and got me involved in it. In my memoir, Chapter 5 , “Mom’s Ten Rules of Honesty,” Mom was determined that I would get my just desserts, so she created this story.

“Eat your dessert or the police will come and get you,” Mom says. She points to the front door and nods her head like I better do it or else the Black Maria will roll up the driveway and scoop me up into its dark interior.

I stare down at my bowl. Stewed huckleberries and apples. Black smashed berries and their dark juice seep through the apples. Yuck. Smothering the stew in vanilla ice cream can’t hide the taste of huckleberries, a taste that sits in the middle between sweet and bitter. But Mom insists on growing these strange berries in her garden.

“Sharon, did you hear me?” Mom gets up from the kitchen table, scurries into the living room and stares out the front window. “Oh, I can see a police car coming up the street; it’s turning into the driveway.”

I start to shovel the mixture down my throat. Then I jump up and take my turn at the living room window. Down the street, Mare’s father cuts his front lawn; Mrs. Armstrong sits on her front veranda, with her collie dog at her feet, and a couple of finned cars cruise up the road towards the dead-end street. Our driveway at 139 lolls in its usual empty state. When I finally get the nerve to look straight down at the veranda outside the window, all I see are the two Muskoka chairs – vacant. (Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2012 Sharon A. Crawford).

Mom was also supportive of my creativity – writing and teaching. Maybe that’s partly it – heredity and support. The rest is my own doing.

I try to live my life creatively. When you are an “only person” and have to depend on yourself, you have to be creative. Finances and budgeting are especially important. Sure, there are financial planners and advisers and I do get advice from the experts. But I have to decide how to bring in the money and how to use it best. Sometimes I do well at it and other times not so well. Perhaps the biggest most recent hurdle was last December when I had to live on under $1,000 – including “stealing” from the money saved to pay off my glasses when the year’s financial payment grace period ran out. Fortunately that turned into 13 months because of the timing of ordering my glasses the previous year and Sears billing date.

It also meant working hard to get more clients so in January things turned around and I got out from under.

Juggling clients when you are running your own business also requires creativity. I’ve had to learn tact (definitely not inherited from Mom), time management (still learning), and when to say “no” (especially to clients and would-be clients who want freebie work done). Then there is the bane of most of us unless we live in the dark ages – computer problems. I can’t solve most of mine – but I use my creativity to figure out what to do (after swearing a lot) – call in a computer techie, figure it out for myself, etc.

House and property problems require the same type of creativity – to do or to delegate. I do both but the former has tried my creativity and I’ve learned that sometimes what you think you can’t do, you can. However, I still won’t climb up on a ladder beyond my height (5’ 1”) because of Vertigo. That’s being practical so I can survive to be creative.

What are some of the ways you live creatively?

I may delve more into creativity in next week’s post.

Meantime, take a look at my latest creative effort – my debut collection of mystery short stories Beyond the Tripping Point. Click on the book cover below for more information.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

Only Child aka Sharon A. Crawford’s debut short story collection

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Filed under Beyond the Tripping Point, Budget and budgeting, Computer problems, Decisions, Living alone, Memoir content, Mother, Only child memoir, Problem solving, Sharon A. Crawford, short story collection

Only Child sums up year end

Only Child optimistic about 2012

The cupboards, fridge, freezer and root cellar are full but my bank accounts are almost bare. True there are a couple of Christmas cheques to deposit but it has been a very rough month. One client messed up on paying me for work done last month and I’m still waiting for the cheque. And the expenses kept rolling in. I’ve had to reach back to my childhood when my mother ruled as queen of the family budget to try and find some tips on getting through this month and into 2012. What I’ve learned is that’s it is only part “hereditary” but a lot of what I’m doing comes from ideas picked up over the years plus using my own skills. A good dose of persistence doesn’t hurt. However, I also found that sometimes yelling out there (read “God “or “Universe” or whatever) for “help” does get positive results. The surprise is, not what I anticipated, but maybe better.

Throughout the month I’ve found myself repeating a version of my mother’s budget process – except unlike her I don’t have a partner to consult. It’s only “me, myself, and I” – the trio of one. So, late at night (several nights) I was still up, calculating and re-calculating “income/cash on hand and expenses.” The situation changed frequently with a mess up in my gas bill (twice), two other utility bills arrived (I expected the water but not the hydro until the beginning of January). My business insurance was due January 1 (which means pay by December 31). My glasses payment was due and it looked like what I’d saved for that would have to pay other bills. The list went on and on. I put on my dual consumer/business hat and got to work on the phone, the Internet and e-mail. It turns out the glasses payment is next month – if I’d have known my statement date vis-a-vis the date of purchase, I could have figured that out myself. Some Internet research and a phone call got my business insurance placed on a credit card (payment not due til the end of January). Then I received an unexpected Christmas cheque; a new client (to start work in January), and notice of a settlement, possibly for late January.

I still haven’t received the delinquent client’s cheque and I still have a credit card payment (small amount) due later this week. But I’ve learned several somethings. Keeping a positive, but no-nonsense attitude. and following those through with positive action to rectify the situation(s) helps. It doesn’t help to just sit and moan. Sure we have a right to complain but we have to take the complaint a step beyond wailing.

Which brings me to another lesson learned and a blessing…my family and friends (well, some of them). They listened to my whining and gave helpful sympathetic responses. None of them told me to pull up my socks and do something. Perhaps the most surprising response was from my friend Carol who told me she had to admire me for all my persistence and consumer action (my paraphrasing). I was speechless, but managed a “thank you.”

Maybe I learned something here from my mother. And perhaps I have another career. Consumer advocate?  I do have insights about myself to take into 2012 – persistence and staying positive. Comments anyone?

Hope 2012 is better for all of us. Remember the old saying about making lemonade out of lemons.

Cheers and Happy New Year

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Budget and budgeting, Consumer action, Debt, finances, Only child, Persistence, Self employed and cash flow, Sharon Crawford