Sunday, April 17, 2011

Shiso fine, there's no telling

It's been really weird, the money thing, this month. My phone got shut off (just for a day, until I realized that is what was going on); the gas company called to let me know my account was too low for them to draw out the bill. Most of this was just mismanaging. I have two accounts, one that the BOE set up for me, which it the one my paychecks go into, and all my bills come out of. The other is the one I set up myself is a PostBank account, because it does transfers more easily and cheaply, and which is accessible in all of Japan (the BOE one is rather local).

So I often take a bunch of money out of my local account and move it to my Postal account every so often. After I have a lot of extra in the Post account, I wire it to the US.

It's not a well-kept science, and it's not something I do with great regularity or precision. It's just sort a flow-situation, and I keep an eye on it.

After I paid for spring break, and bought plane tickets for my two fellow JETs for spring break, I thought that was the tightest part, and it would be alright as soon as they paid me back. But it turned out that wasn't so. I was confused: where did the money go?

But I know, now, where it went. It went into the fact that I had no backup, having just sent a bunch to the US. After payday, I "manned up" three times, which shorts me 300 bucks from my normal mental calculation. It went to the fact that although my friends paid me for their tickets, they were not paying for mine. Spring break train tickets were 400. Golden Week plane tickets were 365. Throw in my two hospital visits of about 150 each, and there we were, scraping the bottom of the bank account.

The funny thing is, I know how to live poor. Part of my mind assumes that we all do, because we were all young-adults once, just starting out, but I realize it doesn't always work that way. Some people were never poor; some people's parents bankrolled them through difficulty or laziness and didn't cut them off even when they had jobs. That's how, I guess, some people I have known could be "so broke" and still buy $400 purses. To me, things like that never made sense. If you didn't have the money, you learned to go without.

Not without everything, of course, but without those things you want. Without expensive dinners and without ice cream, without the extras, without so many presents and prizes and new shirts. I never, not even when I was scratching a living out of a meager schedule in collegetown Kansas, had less than I needed. But I frequently had less than I wanted, or less than other people might have. Nothing for it but to tighten your belt and soldier on toward the future in which you won't have to worry about things like that.. which I did, and here I am, most of the time.

They say JETs are overpaid, and in some ways, we are. Exchange rates being what they are, we're living the sweet life, subsidized, making yen. A frugal JET could pay off college loans and save a good bit. A JET who wants to see Japan and make more of their time here might save a little less.

I guess this month's budget crisis has been interesting. After my first several paychecks, I started to believe I could just afford whatever I wanted to do around here, and in large part that is still true. I've grown indulgent: I get the ice cream, I get the extras when I feel like them, sort of just because I can, and that's pretty new for me. I am getting the HPV vaccine because, even though I think they are considering it optional and therefore not under insurance and it is therefore pricey, I can afford it. I can afford to go to Okinawa for Golden Week, and on some weekend trip.

But not today! Tomorrow's payday, and if I stay honest (that is, if I don't borrow against the cash stashes), I am down to my last $20 or so in my pocket (I have a bit more in the bank, since I dropped some in there after my bills stopped getting paid >.<). I'm eating leftovers and puttering in the garden and taking walks, thank you very much!

Tomorrow, there's a dinner planned, a sort of hey-it's-payday thing, plus everyone is going to settle their debts (M put down deposits for Okinawa rooms, people owe me for baseball game next weekend, gas and parking money, etc.). My first impulse was to not attend the dinner because I can't afford it. By then, I'll be able to afford it, but I don't switch so quickly and easily from one mindset to the other. If I cut it so close this month, I have to be more careful next month. Obviously. And that does not mean going to expensive dinner events just because our checks just hit the bank.

But I think I will go.. it's spring, which means our leaving JETs are leaving before you know it. I will hate it when they go. So I may not attend the PTA dinner the following Thursday, instead.

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