Monday, 5 August 2013

A Year At DA

I've been going to a D.A. meeting in Chelsea for a year now, and I should probably look at my progress. DA is good for dealing with a number of financial behaviours: debting - taking credit card or unsecured debts; under-earning - not charging enough or collecting money owing; over-spending; and under-spending - not spending enough to have a minimally enjoyable and provisioned life. Along the way it will also take care of your four-Starbucks-a-day habit, if you want it to.

Let's look at the under-earning part first. I've been interviewing this year, and basically I'm doing about right for the level of work I'm doing and the expertise I'm bringing to it. I could earn more gross income working somewhere else, but I wouldn't be able to work 8-4 and the post-tax value of that extra gross income against the full package would not be significant. I don't have invoices to collect on, as I'm on salary. I am fed up with losing three per cent of last year's salary to this year's sub-inflationary pay rise, but where am I going to go that doesn't do that?

How's my saving? Right now, saving is a joke with interest rates as they are. I am putting away money for my annual season ticket, and have silly amounts of money left at the end of the month that go into an account that pays as much interest as any instant access account will. I do need as of time of writing to review all that stuff about now.
Is my spending out of control? No. Which is not the same as asking: could I spend less? Sure I could. But that's not the point. Am I under-spending? That's a subtle one: there's a fine line between living austerely and not spending enough to provide a pleasant life. I have a budget, but I don't have a spending plan, which is a different idea. A spending plan is intended to make sure you do things you want or need to do, or enjoy doing. If what you like doing is going to the theatre, then not spending your intended amount because you stayed in gets a tickle across the wrist, because you're disappointing yourself. I don't think I underspend - I don't deny myself stuff because I shouldn't spend the money. Heck, I even bought a pair of Randolph Engineering sunglasses recently.

When I started going to DA, I had a ton of resentments about not being paid enough and not being able to do "cool stuff" at work. I don't have that now, and the steps I took around revising CV's, contacting agents, going to job interviews, and discussing the whole money vs quality-of-life thing with trusted colleagues were all steps I took because going to DA prompted me to do it. Re-arranging the exact location of my savings last August was also something I did because of DA. I keep my figures, though I don't write them up in a spreadsheet, and it's depressing doing so, as it's very repetitive, much like my life. So has it been worthwhile? I think so. Even just for the journey from the West End to the Kings Road of a Tuesday evening, and the exotic pleasure of the 170 bus from the Albert Bridge to Clapham Junction after the meeting.

I have stopped thinking that A Man Of My Talents should be making six-figures from royalties alone, going about with beautiful women and travelling the world over. Business class. Never was going to be me. (I know, I should have figured that our earlier? Maybe when I was thirty? Well, I kinda did. But there is a huge difference between knowing you're going to be a suburban drone for the rest of your life, and being comfortable with the idea. Actually, I'm not comfortable with it, but I have accepted that, given the fuck-up that I was, and the low energy level my mind and body run at, plus I cannot handle relationships with organisational superiors with any aplomb, and my general attraction to all all the wrong kinds of people, and it's pretty much a miracle I'm still employed and have a roof over my head.) I think being around people who really have made a mess of their financial situation has convinced me that I have actually managed my life reasonably well. I'll take something that makes me feel better about myself for actual good reasons.

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