Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Breaking the Nest Egg to Make Omelettes

As anyone who a) reads this blog, or b) knows me, or c) falls into both categories knows, my social life has picked up tremendously in the past two months after years of upheaval-induced dormancy.

I've got a little bit of stability, I've got a lot more going on, and the whole thing just keeps picking up like a snowball rolling down a hill. Great, right?

Mostly. The tricky part though is the distance between my place of work and my ideal city. I've found a work-around which I call the *hybrid commute.* It basically means I spend 5 nights a week in Lowell (plus all long weekends and leave periods ) and then, on average, two down here by the base where I work. It's a temporary fix, and I'm actually enjoying it. Besides, in about two years' time, I can live in Lowell full-time and enjoy it even more (that is to say, when *my* Mass NG brigade or battalion is not in Iraq or Afghanistan).

I'm making it work, but here's the tough part:

Utilities. Rent. Mortgage. Condo fee. Car payment. Insurance. Internet. Phone. Wear and tear. Gas. (Don't worry, this won't turn into a gas prices rant, it would still be a major budget item if the price fell in half).

If you add all that up, and throw it some slight discretionary spending, it ain't pretty. In fact, it's so unpretty that you might say it wouldn't work. You'd be more or less right to say it.

But here's the saving grace: The fifteen months I spent deployed, plus the fact that I lived in a $550/mo apartment in Virginia Beach in a not-so-great neighborhood where I hardly ever went out means that I saved a butt-ton of money from late 2006 to early 2008. I won't spell it out exactly, but suffice to say it's a nest egg that would support me for approximately six months if I had no other income.

It's a lot of fun to watch it grow and to see the dividends pour in each month, but here's the reality -- I don't want to be a hermit. The value of getting out and connecting with others just greatly outweighs the value of a bunch of numbers on a computer screen.

Besides, I don't plan to ever stop working. I'm not one of those people whose goal in life is to retire in their forties or even fifties. Besides, another lengthy deployment would launch me right back into another heavy-duty surplus far after all the bills were paid.

So when I looked at my budget and started to scratch my head a bit, and then start to worry, it dawned on me -- all that time I spent saving, and everything I went through during that period, can serve a greater purpose now. It's not going to do me any good on paper. A bunch of numbers on a screen aren't going to help me achieve my goal of finding a community and, well, having a life.

So I'm going to just buck up for the next year or so (before the next promotion, finishing off the car loan, and getting out of this lease) and just accept the fact that I'm going to start drawing down my savings a bit.

That's what it's there for, right?

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