Monday, April 30, 2018

A Funk in April's Budget Porn

I'm in a weird spot, readers. The past few weeks I've found it hard to get to bed and to wake up on time, which is usually the first sign for me that I'm getting into a bit of depression. Gaining weight is usually sign number two, and I've been tipping the scales north of 180 these days. Then I looked up and noticed I haven't written in a few weeks.

Something's up.

Stress is usually the trigger, as it's something I'm still not that great at dealing with. With the baby related activities, costs, and general uncertainty of how to raise a human piling up, and work projects somehow needing to all be finished prior to the baby arriving, there is plenty of stress in my life right now.

Luckily for me, there's enough of a pattern with this stuff that I'm not totally unprepared when depression rears its head.

Step one is setting up an appointment with my therapist. I'm fortunate that my company offers some free sessions for any new mental health issue that crops up, so we've only had to pay for sessions after those run out. And I lucked out after a trying a few different therapists, and found one who seems to really get the issues that I deal with: anger, stress management, and some abuse from a long time ago.

I also get in to trouble with booze during these periods, so I'm trying to come up with a system that keeps alcohol from just making things worse. I recently started one of those "make an X every day" goal calendars, to try to keep the days-of-no-booze streak alive. I've been giving myself a pass whenever I hang out with friends, and trying just to avoid cracking open a beer when it's just Mrs. Done by Forty and I alone. 

Still, I get a nagging feeling that I might be better off just not drinking altogether, and maybe going the twelve stepper route. But I'm not ready to dive in to that just yet. One thing at a time.

The final sign that something isn't right is that I start watching a lot of late night television. I know I should get to bed, but I end up watching just one more episode of Peaky Blinders or The Great British Baking Show. I look up and it's past midnight...again.

The funny thing with all of these problems is that I know what I ought to do to address them. It's not an issue of knowledge, but a struggle to execute. I should keep booze out of the house, meditate more, watch less television, and go to bed. When things seem stressful, I should step back for a while, go for a walk, practice gratitude and, yeah, meditate again. 

So why don't I?

I really don't know. These same problems have been my problems for a long time. Here's to hoping my doctor can help me untangle the little knots in my brain, and figure out which string end I need to pull on.

At this point, a good portion of the remaining readers are probably wondering what the fuck any of this has to do with money, and whether this is even a personal finance blog any longer. 

I guess the part that gets me is that I really don't have a right to complain about anything. Ninety nine percent of the world's population would probably trade their problems for mine, which makes me the worst kind of privileged whiner. So there's some guilt with venting problems that might feel valid but are also the best sort of problems to have.

I know even the well-off have mental health problems, but shouldn't we have the good sense to just keep quiet about them when other people are dealing with all of that on top of looking for work, not having enough to eat, or needing to find someone to take care of the kids while they're on the job?

I guess this is the part of the post where I recognize I should just keep quiet.

Let's get to the money. Here's how April shook out.

April Total Spend: $4,405
Non-Mortgage Spend: $2,929
2018 YTD Spend: $16,901
Projected 2018 Spend: $48,273

The baby expenses got a little out of hand, as we purchased the remaining stuff on our registry. We have bins filled with baby clothes, cloth diaper inserts and felt pads, and every little doodad and gadget that we think we might need. 

There's surely quite a bit that, it turns out, we won't need at all: the sort of stuff that gets used once or twice before we realize, hey, this is totally unnecessary. But we're learning on the fly, and are going to be forgiving of the mistakes we make here.

We had to spend a bit more than normal on home improvement as Ward, the name we gave to our Heyward pool cleaner, keeps breaking himself as the suction from the pool hose snaps apart his various little plastic parts over time. Rather than continuing to disassemble him and inserting new thirty-dollar parts, I am going old school: a suction brush on the end of a telescoping pole. It's kind of an enjoyable little task, and hopefully it will save us some cash over the years. Plus, now that it's warming up, we get to enjoy this every afternoon:

Yes, that's a little life vest on Jax. Dude is old and needs a little assistance.
How are we tracking towards financial independence? Here is what the Mad Fientist's lab projects, if we assume a 4% safe withdrawal rate.



And here's how the numbers shake out with a 3.5% withdrawal rate.


It's crazy what a difference that half a percent makes. But Big ERN over at Early Retirement Now has us convinced that being a bit more conservative is appropriate.

Even with the extra year needed for hitting FIRE with a 3.5% safe withdrawal rate, we're still (but just barely) on track to reach the milestone in my fortieth year. 

With a little luck from the markets, maybe a raise or two, and some old fashioned frugality, I think we can do it! Let's just hope this kid doesn't turn out to be too expensive.

As always, thanks for reading.


*Photo is from Binary Ape at Flickr Creative Commons.

28 comments:

  1. It's ok to share your funks. Just because you have a better life than most, doesn't mean you don't go through periods of stress. I hope you start to feel better. I find exercise helps me a lot.

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    1. Thanks, SFL. Between recovering from my surgery (still can't really do much exercise) and the weather getting pretty hot, it's going to be a bit of a struggle to exercise regularly.

      I do laps in the pool though (very, very short laps) and I figure that counts for something.

      But you reminded me that my company has a free gym I can use a few miles away. That might be the ticket this scorching summer.

      Thanks for the tip!

      Delete
  2. Thanks for sharing your struggles. I know it's not always easy to speak about mental health.

    You are definitely not alone. I understand you completely. I feel as if I go through a really tough time at the end of winter every year - February/March are really brutal on my mental health. But I'm starting to come out of it, I think.

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    1. Thanks for saying that, BB. I woke up at 1:30 last night, panicked and wanting to delete this post.

      I figure I ought to be honest about how things are going, above and beyond the dollars and cents, which are really a small part of how we're doing overall.

      Delete
  3. Awww... I'm sorry that you're struggling, but I can totally relate. Sometimes when I find myself in a funk, my first tendency is to beat myself up. "What the hell is wrong with you? You don't even have a job and you STILL can't deal with stupid shit like doing the dishes!" But, as CatMan (who used to be a therapist) has pointed out to me many, many times - the whole "you don't have a right to feel this" thing is really just an attempt to get away from something that I don't WANT to feel. For me, it's usually some sort of anger that I can't bring myself to deal with. So attempts to "de-stress" usually don't work well for me. Instead, I find that abusing my pillows (screaming into them, beating on them) does a much better job.

    Anyhow, hang in there, and remember to give yourself a break. You've got some pretty hefty life changes on the horizon, and I think it's only natural that that's gonna bring some shit to the surface. Just remember, the goal is to feel all of your feelings, not to try to censor them or make the "bad" ones go away.

    Big Hugs...

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement and the good advice as always, ECL.

      There's definitely some of the 'you don't have a right to feel this' happening in my mind. I like to think of it as healthy liberal guilt but it's likely more what you're saying: some sort of avoidance behavior, keeping me from really feeling what I need to deal with.

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  4. Thank you for being so open about your struggles. We're all human and have our struggles. It's also good that you've identified some issues and have some concrete plans to help solve those problems. Oftentimes, people (me included) just ignore the problem in hopes they pass. Also great that your work offers mental health help...more employers really should offer that type of assistance.

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    1. Thanks for that comment, Andrew. I, too, spend plenty of time waiting for the problems to solve themselves. It took a while for me to even realize it was happening again. But I'm (finally) headed to the doc today to start to deal with my junk.

      And yes, all health insurance really should include some regular mental health treatment. You can't really have healthcare without mental health!

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  5. I hear ya brother. My poison is food, and there is no shortage of carb crack at the office that I use to sooth myself. I need to find a way to break past that. For what it's worth, there is a lot about to change in your life, so it seems pretty normal to be hitting a funk. I'm here to chat any time!

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    1. Thanks, Tonya. I may just take you up on that!

      Carbs play in to this plenty, as my ever increasing weight can attest. I seem to do okay until about 8 or 9 pm, when all hell breaks lose.

      Delete
  6. Aww man! Sorry to hear you're in a funk!

    The impending little human entering your lives is certainly a stressful time. No doubt about it. I don't think we handled it all to well either looking back on it so it's good that you're self aware enough to catch things before the baby is even here.

    I didn't think the first part of the post sounded like whining for what it's worth, just honest. Despite not having to fetch our own water from a well etc, the pressures of modern life are just as real when you're living it day to day!

    All the best and definitely don't stop the beer, you'll need that when baby comes ;)

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    1. Also I chuckled that youb watch the great British bake off! We love that show! Not a great one to watch if you are trying to not eat naughty stuff though haha.

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  7. Thanks for the well wishes, mate.

    Yes, we are recent converts to the Great British Baking Show. I think the missus has a crush on Paul Hollywood: she keeps asking me to be harder on her when critiquing her bakes.

    And it's nice to hear that this might just be a normal part of the process when having a little one. The stress seems unreal some days, but maybe that just comes with the package.

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  8. Thank you for sharing this. You are not alone. Not that I want to add to your depressive state, but there is a piece in today's NYT that is depressing, funny, and in some weird way uplifting (to know that we all go through it). The last paragraph is killer.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/27/opinion/sunday/motherhood-job-description.html

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    1. That piece is amazing, and I've shared it with Mrs. Done by Forty. As much stress as I'm having, she's got it a ton worse and isn't writing whiney blog posts about it. Women are badasses.

      Delete
  9. I struggle a bit with depression, too. I gave up alcohol almost a year ago after reading this: https://www.lauramckowen.com/blog/2017/4/15/am-i-an-alcoholic. I'm not an alcoholic or close to it, so why did I have to give it totally up? But, I just had the vague sense that it was contributing to the problem, and I had tried to drink less or go long stretches without alcohol but I always resorted to my old crutch in the end. For me, giving it up was hard. Very hard. But awesome. Very awesome. I haven't been depressed this winter. I've lost weight. Once my dopamine levels reset (took a few months) I figured out that life feels better without booze. And if I could go back and quit to before my kids were born, I definitely would. Some awesome things have happened in my life this year. Maybe coincidence, but maybe not. Just my two cents from my own experience. :)

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    1. Hey Laurie,

      First, thank you so much for sharing that piece. It is thoughtful and insightful and so well written, and I'm jealous that I do not write that way.

      "The normal question is, Is this bad enough for me to have to change?

      The question we should be asking is, Is this good enough for me to stay the same?"

      So. Good.

      And thank you for sharing your experience with giving up drinking. I should probably follow that same path.

      Delete
    2. I felt the same way when I read it. That woman has a gift!

      Delete
  10. I'm sorry to read about your struggles. While I'm not the happiest person, I don't think I struggle with depression. However, other members of my family have including at least one suicide attempt and alcohol abuse. The alcohol abuse was ongoing and really ****ing difficult as a child. "Why are you out at the tavern and not spending time with me?" "Why can't you find the bathroom in your own home?" Rough, rough times. The ship was righted and everything is good now, but it's still hard for me not to be resentful.

    However, do I deserve to be resentful if the bad times were caused by a mental issue? Maybe I need to talk to someone too...

    Some of my family wasn't as thoughtful as you. When I heard this, I know it wasn't going to have a good ending: "I'm feeling good now, so I'm going to stop taking the meds." Anyway, the fact that you write all of this means you think about it and that's great.

    And that Big ERN is a smart guy. I also liked what he said on the Choose FI podcast about keeping no cash.

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    1. Thanks for sharing that, Carl. It sounds like some people in your family and some people in my family might have liked hanging out back in the day.

      I like your take about the root cause changing the way we feel about this stuff though. The people who hurt us deserve some empathy, too -- so many of us have stuff that we just inherited, and that's at the root of our crumby habits sometimes.

      We still are DCA'ing some cash from our home sale but, now that the kid is nearly here, I'm tempted just to lump sum that into a college fund and be done with it.

      Delete
    2. "The people who hurt us deserve some empathy, too..." Yep. Maybe a lot because of the cards they were dealt at time of birth. While it's all better for me, an acknowledgement and apology would go a long way to moving ahead...

      I've been meaning to read up on depression and how to understand those going through it. If you have any suggestions, let me know.

      Be well.

      Delete
  11. My brother! I have some similar struggles too. Hope we get to connect when you travel to MN later this summer. In the meantime, get your shit together! We'll cross that line together next year.

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    1. I appreciate the kick in the pants, Cubert. I'm back on a schedule with my therapist and already feeling better: taking the first step always seems to make the rest feel easier.

      And yes, will definitely reach out once I hear dates for MN (August, I think).

      Delete
  12. "I guess the part that gets me is that I really don't have a right to complain about anything."

    I call this the downward cycle of depression: you're depressed because you think you shouldn't be depressed. Which makes you depressed. But you think you shouldn't be depressed, so you get depressed even more.

    I've faced it, and I've seen many other people face it. It's super common, so I don't know if it's some kind of negative feedback loop of chemicals being released in the brain that sometimes requires help (in the form of medication, therapy, etc) to get out of.

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  13. First: "I guess the part that gets me is that I really don't have a right to complain about anything."
    Rebuttal: Depression gets all of us, rich or poor, and telling yourself that you don't have the right to complain probably feeds into the negativity zone that it sucks you into. I remember having to fight back "minor" negative thoughts like that when I could feel the spiral trying to suck me back in.

    Second: I'm glad that I didn't get a chance to read your post until after I read this one so that I could share with you - http://wilwheaton.net/2018/05/my-name-is-wil-wheaton-i-live-with-chronic-depression-and-i-am-not-ashamed/

    Third: If you think maybe you should give up the beer, or it's a crutch, sending you all the support you need to give it a try.

    A couple of friends of mine described a similar situation to yours, they didn't necessarily have a strong problem BUT the beer was becoming the one in charge, and they are so much happier now that they're teetolers / sober.

    If it's not The Answer or even An Answer, you can always go back but trying it can't hurt, right? It's how I'm getting myself through this Gluten Free trial :)

    I'm sorry that you're feeling cruddy right now. I hope that the therapist and various other things you try will help. For me, not talking about it helped, and then blogging about it when I was ready helped more. <3

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  14. I hope you feel better with the therapist. Did your PCP prescribe some pills? That seems to be their first step to combat depression.
    Anyway, take it easy. It'll be pretty crazy when the baby arrives so try to get better before then. Best wishes. -Joe

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  15. You are very honest with yourself.

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