Saturday, July 31, 2010

When the Going Gets Tough...

We are in crisis mode at the working poor household. It's the lean season when the snowbirds are gone and business slows. When the corporations start bringing in less money they get onto their store managers to cut payroll, schedule less and send people home early when it is slow.

My hours are fewer than usual but I haven't worried because my husband has always had a pretty steady schedule and paycheck. This year we are both feeling the pinch. He was working six days a week and averaging around 42 hours. It was enough. We were surviving.

A few weeks ago the schedule changed. Two shifts were taken away and he had two days off instead of one. He was worried when he only had 34 hours but I assured him I could tighten up the budget. I was also sort of happy that he had two days off instead of one. We started tackling chores around the house together and even walked on the beach one day.

A few days ago the new schedule came out. He is down to 24 hours. My hours are down to 24 to 32 at this time. It is not going to be a fun little challenge. In fact it is costing us more. I'm sure the stress contributed to my husbands sleepless nights and sore back muscle. He went to the doctor to make sure it wasn't something more serious. Without insurance and without enough hours to cover frivolous things like health care it meant a trip out for the credit card. He also needed medicine which (you guessed it) went on the credit card. Here I was all set to be debt free in three more months. It's always something.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Silly Penny Haters

Last week I rang an order for an elderly gentleman who told me to keep his four pennies. He went on to say, "I have a whole jar of them at home and they annoy me. I just hate them!" He emphasized his penny hatred by smacking the counter with his fist. I rescued the innocent little pennies and placed them in my pocket.

Last night I had another order for a different customer. The total was $8.50. He handed me the money and said, "Here's $8.52 because I just hate pennies!" Two more trembling pennies landed safely in my pocket.

These pennies joined the discarded parking lot coins, change from my own shopping, and the 68 cents from the smoker with the new pack of cigarettes who couldn't wait two seconds for change. They stayed in a change jar for about three months, where they were very appreciated.

Why am I so pleased with pennies? I rolled them all up while I was watching a show and would have just been sitting there anyway. It didn't hurt. In fact it was very satisfying when I made my $200.00 deposit into savings. Go ahead and hate your pennies, I'll give them a good home.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Recovery of an Old Friend

Came back from our weekly (yes, weekly) trip to the vet today. She is on a new insulin and doing very well. In fact, I never thought I would see her in such fine shape again. She's has more energy and is putting on weight. Instead of sleeping in the backseat on the way there she hung her face out the window and let her ears flap in the breeze. She is almost healthy enough to have the surgery she needs. I didn't know recovery was possible. For a while every time she had an appointment I worried that it would be her last visit.

I just hope that no-one else needs health care any time soon. All spare money goes to the vet for special food, insulin, needles, and glucose checks. Soon a big chunk of savings will go toward surgery. It has been so worth it for extra moments of holding paws, well timed snorts in the middle of someones conversation, ears flapping in the breeze, and those magic smiles. I love you Chloe.

Friday, July 16, 2010

My Restless Spirit Endures a Setback

It feels terrible at times to be middle aged and have no idea what you want, or where you want to live. My mind is a constant whirlwind of longing, of wanting to drift from one place to another. That's one bright side of being poor. If you have a restless spirit you are not tied down to a career or a house.

I want to travel so badly I considered taking off a summer and tent camping across the country. My husband put an end to that when he said he could not survive in a tent for more than the occasional weekend. He did say he would consent to pare down our belongings and live in an RV so we could move frequently with little fuss.

We went over our tight budget and started looking at dealerships. There are so many styles to choose from. They kept showing us pricey models but we needed something much cheaper. We went over our income and our bills and decided what we could afford. We researched and thought of gas, propane, park fees when we would be in one place for several months, and tags and insurance as well. We knew what we could afford to spend. I will not overextend our budget.

We decided to visit one of the dealerships and fill out the preliminary paperwork. We were sure we would qualify, after all in three months we will be debt free. We had a small down payment saved up. They took the paperwork back to the owner so he could fax it in and he took one look at our income and said no way. He said our income was too low and the amount of rent we paid each month was too high. This was the cheapest house we could find when we moved to this area. They offered to sell us something much older than we wanted if we spent our entire emergency fund and maxed out our credit card for the rest. We said, "No thank you." and headed back to the drawing board.

Tent camping is out, and RVing is out, however I must move on. My wonderful understanding husband has agreed and he is still willing to pare down those belongings and MOVE! I don't know where we are going yet but I am so excited. I do know that I am looking for an area with better job opportunities. We are currently making the same yearly salary together that I once made by myself. We must boost the income while fulfilling my need to move. Does anyone have any favorite places or secret Utopias you want tell about?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Two Tales, One New, One Decades Old and Both Completely True

Strange things happen when you work with the public. Sometime managers are afraid to approach someone behaving oddly and they will ignore something that should be addressed. This is Florida and you have problems in this state with people shopping while improperly dressed. Many men will not understand why they must wear a shirt, and women decide to shop in a bikini sometimes. Last week a woman who was in her early seventies wore a bikini to do her grocery shopping. Many years ago I worked in another store where a woman who must have weighed three hundred pounds shopped in a bikini. A man walked proudly beside her grabbed hold of a roll and strutted up and down the aisles.

I heard of a new one today. A cashier called her manager to tell him a male customer just walked in the door wearing a shirt but no pants. NO PANTS at all! The managers response?.."Was he at least wearing shoes?" I guess it's long as you wear your shirt and shoes...pants are optional.

A few decades ago there was a new department manager in a grocery store in another county. This store had a weekly problem with a customer who was pooping in the sink in the men's room. This new manager walked into the restroom one day to find an 86 year old man perched on the sink like a vulture in the act of squeezing out a number two. He told the store manager who had no idea what to do so they did nothing. It's a strange world.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Cashiers Pet Peeves

1) Do not cut in line and pretend that you can't see those five people already in line.
2) Do not dump six handfuls of change on my counter and whistle the 1812 overture through your teeth while I count.
3) Do not talk to me while I am counting my drawer.
4) It needs repeating. DO NOT talk to me while I am counting my drawer.
5) Do not cuss at me.
6) Put you cell phone away for one minute. What are you a brain surgeon, going over a risky operation with your assistant? No you are just standing there holding up the line blah blah blah and having to rerun your credit card ten times because you can't concentrate on the correct button to push on the debit machine on YOUR side of the counter, and then you act as if it is my fault.
7) Shoes and shirt are required. Just draping a shirt across your shoulder is not actually wearing a shirt.
8) Please refrain from placing your hand into your pants when your nether regions itch.
9) If you haven't bathed for six months please tidy yourself up just a bit before you shop.
10) If you only have a set amount of money, please try to add up the cost of what you have in your cart before you get in line. I'd rather not ring up $200 worth of items only to find out you only have $50.

A Dose of True Reality

Let me start by saying I hate most reality shows. Give me actors and scripts and a plot any day. I don't want to watch people dividing into groups and plotting against each other to win a case of bananas, nor do I want to see twenty women dating one man at the same time, or people doing humiliating things to win the approval of a celebrity. Some shows may be entertaining but once the concept took off, you gotta admit they went too far. Now it is reality show after reality show on television.

I would like to see a follow up to the "Extreme Home Makeover Home Edition" show. You know the one where they take the rundown average home of the modest income family and bulldoze it to replace it with a mansion with a refrigerator the size of a walk in closet and a big screen TV in every room. After that first year when everything is paid for I want to see what the family does when faced with their first $800 electric bill. Does the family huddle in three rooms to save energy or do they start charging the neighborhood kids admission to use the go-cart track in the backyard?

There is another series of shows where they dress fat people in spandex and sports bras and yell at them. I watched one the other day. While oddly fascinating I could only handle about ten minutes of it. It's a very strange concept.

It was while pondering this show that I came up with an idea for a new show that may be helpful to us as a nation. They had a show where they picked people who may not have been able to afford cosmetic surgery and gave them nose jobs and new breasts and fixed their teeth. Let's get away from the vanity and just allow some people basic health care.

The show opens and you see a day in the life of a waitress, a taxi driver, a part-time bank teller, a temporary factory worker, and a cashier. You see the job they do and then catch a glimpse of their paycheck. They talk about their life at work and their aches and pains and what it is like to live their life, and then the interviewer surprises them with a trip to the hospital and complete health care. They get problems corrected, and learn what pains they have been ignoring out of necessity are symptoms of. Treatment is given to those on the show and America gets a glimpse of their neighbors lives and possibly gains a better understanding of how others get by.

We need a better understanding of the health care situation. We need more compassion, and perhaps a dose of reality.