Sunday, May 6, 2007

spring dreaming

Well, the taxes have been filed, and I'll get a refund of a few hundred dollars when all is said and done. Thus begins the "when I get my tax return" thoughts ...

What I would LIKE to do with the money:

Travel. Southwest fares to visit A are $99 each way. As she put it, that's almost worth subsisting on peanuts and Diet Coke for five hours.
Shop. Stores aren't even necessary. Passive shopping is quite easy thanks to catalogs like Venus and websites like Electrique Boutique. Spring weather means it's finally time to show some skin again. Legs, arms, toes can all come out to breathe. Woo-hoo!

Get a Netflix subscription. There are so many movies I would love to see, but $3 each makes it so expensive. I don't miss the TV channels but I miss watching movies.
Entertain. Whether it's one person over for lunch for my signature crab cakes or a dinner party of 8, I miss having my kitchen be a hotbed of activity. But that entails a grocery bill bigger than $30. And friends to invite.

Buy booze. I've joked lately that I have an alcohol problem: I can't afford to buy alcohol. My liver is probably grateful, but I miss having a Guinness with dinner, a glass of wine in the tub, or Captain Morgan & Diet Coke on a Friday night.
What I SHOULD and probably WILL do with the money:

Buy a new vacuum cleaner. The one my parents gave me is being held together with masking tape in three separate areas.

Get my truck fixed. It's still leaking transmission fluid and if I take it in for service, you know they're going to find ten other things wrong.

Pay down that credit card bill. The one X2B left me with $5K on it. The one that's costing me $60 in interest every month and I can only afford $200 payments anyway. I know I'll be turned down if I apply for a 0% interest card to transfer the balance, because I don't make enough money. I'm too proud to ask my parents for a loan.
Save it for the oldest's 2005-2006 tuition. My share will come to $2400 and I have no idea where I'm going to come up with that kind of money. I've been thinking about trying to find a waitressing job for my weekends when he's at X2B's, just so I can get the money for his
Save it for the legal bills. I know that divorce is going to be very, very expensive. It makes me want to vomit when I think how much it's going to cost. I might as well just stay on 'estranged squirting wife' status and save the money.

God, I hate thinking about money. This weekend's Parade Magazine supplement in the Sunday newspaper had a cover story on what people earn. I didn't want to read it. I know that the secretaries in my branch of the government make a full third more than I do, and most of them sit around with nothing to do during the day, or ask me for help with their computer-based tasks like scanning a document. Here's an irony: my boss told me that the only way I could get reclassified to earn more money is if I supervised people. I said I'd be THRILLED to get one or two people to supervise, so I wouldn't have to schlep work home at nights, have mail forwarded to my beach house when I'm on vacation, and come in on weekends just to keep my head above water. However, he also said that if he approaches the big bosses with the idea of hiring someone, it will reflect poorly on me because they will want to know why suddenly I can't manage it all anymore. I know that there's money just sitting in our accounts for no real purpose - money that totals five times my annual salary - and yet they can't give it to me. It's embarrassing to me that my colleagues at my national conventions feel the need to approach one of my bosses in attendance at the first time to tell her that I'm grossly underpaid. It's embarrassing that she brings it up to my other bosses as a situation needing rectifying and that I have to note it in the minutes of that meeting. And it's worst of all when their hands are all tied by government procedure and they can do nothing about it, even if they wanted to try.

I see prices going up around me everywhere. Gas is back to $2.00/gallon and I wonder how I'm going to afford it. My payraises have never covered the inflation difference, even when I've gotten the annual 2% increase. On Friday I gasped when Arrogant Alpha Male handed me the cash from the sale of his equipment to count, and it was more than I bring home in a two-week paycheck. To him it was what you walk into a casino with. I walk into a casino with $20.00 and leave when it's gone.

The thing that gets me is that I'm educated, I'm capable, I'm organized, and I'm dedicated. If you hire me, you get everything I can give you. I'm a fast learner. But it would seem I'm not qualified for anything except to be a secretary, at only slightly more than I make now, but without any say over my hours. So I take second jobs - in retail, in credit card company call centers - or maybe as a waitress. It's how I made sure we had enough money to buy our first house. It's how I paid off X2B's bills when we got married. But so much of that second paycheck goes right to taxes.

Well, all I can do is grit my teeth and bear it a little more. Maybe when the oldest is in normal school - first grade - I'll be able to work a normal 9-5 schedule and get paid accordingly. But damnit, next year, I hope that first digit on my "annual gross earnings" figure is at least a 4. Otherwise I might have to start keeping track of my actual hours worked and divide it by my annual salary to show them I'm probably not even making minimum wage.

UPDATE: I just saw a position on that made me sick. If you're a high school graduate (or equivalent) in my city and can work a 100-line phone system, you can earn about what I make BUT with the added benefit of a "semi-annual discretionary bonus". It's time for a hot bath. Still no bubbles, though ...