Thursday, April 30, 2009

Why Hello There

So... the blog. I feel that I should write something, I'm certainly thinking lots of things. But there is no time- I've been working until nearly midnight every night (with a 3-4 hour break for Landon time, dinner time, and JP time) and have been absolutely swamped during the day. Yesterday I forgot to eat lunch until 5 minutes before our cafe closed at 3. I may forget my tea- I never forget my lunch. But I'm really blissfully happy with my job. I like what I'm doing, I love knowing how to do it. A feeling of competency is vastly underrated as an indicator of job satisfaction- or at least I underrated it when I first picked my legal specialty.

The biggest thing on my mind right now is one I wasn't sure I should blog about. It involves money. Tomorrow my firm is having their all-associate meeting to discuss our compensation and I'm very unsettled about it. We have yet to freeze salaries or conduct lay-offs, but the general consensus is they're going to announce 10% pay cuts for the first years and freezes for everyone else (basically taking them back to what they made before they moved up a salary class on January 1).

With a husband in grad school, a child in daycare, and law school loan payments equal to 70% of my monthly mortgage bill, there's not a lot of financial wiggle room. We live frugally. Our cars are 10 and 11 years old (with a combined 300,000 miles- and they better last for a while longer!), we don't go out to eat more than twice a month, we don't eat chicken more than once a week (I know that sounds odd but I noticed a few years ago it was always the most expensive thing on our weekly grocery bill, so it's special; we eat a lot of pasta and rice and save meat for things like soups that last more than one night), we don't have a Starbuck's habit, we don't go on vacations, I don't meet colleagues for drinks or dinner -- basically, we're careful. I like having a nice house and nice clothes, but I shop at discount stores and never go anywhere without my stack of printed coupons.

We've lived even more frugally in the past- it's how we got through our first three years of marriage without failing to pay off the credit card each month. I remember two weeks during our second month in Chicago where we ate the same vegetarian bean chili (basically the world's cheapest stew) over rice because it cost less than $10 a week, and that stretched our dollars until JP's next pay check. I didn't mind that, it was actually kind of fun- being newlyweds, spending our nights walking around the city, never spending a penny, just soaking up all the free sights. But it's a little tougher now- there's a Landon and loans and an ever growing list of expensive things that threaten to pop up each month.

Of course I'm lucky to have a secure, well-paying job. And I know that. We've been carefully setting aside money each month for our online savings account (GMAC bank, paying 2.25% right now, way better than our regular bank's paltry percentage), so I know we can live on a reduced amount, I just find it very stressful to lose the financial cushion we're building. I couldn't sleep last night thinking about it. I'd really prefer a year's worth of expenses to be stuffed in my mattress just so I know it's there (I'm the type of person who wants every dollar safely in the bank and avoids the stock market like the plague, according to JP I invest like I'm 65). I wonder how much money I'd need to stockpile to stop stressing about it entirely, I know it's a lot more than I would have guessed pre-family.

I'm probably going to read this tomorrow morning and delete sections of it for being self-centeredly whiny, but I do feel a bit better. We'll be fine, we'll find more ways to cut back. I will place a complete moratorium on shoe shopping (though I'll note that Landon's $42 pair of Stride Rite shoes are more expensive than any pair I've purchased since I bought black leather boots when we first moved to Chicago in 2005).

Alright, It's almost midnight and I need to get back to work. I have a 17 page privilege log to review before production tomorrow, and I'd like to feel secure about my job performance when the firm's managing partner beams himself onto my computer monitor. I tried to think of a way to incorporate the picture below but decided to save my few remaining brain cells for the priv log. It's from Tuesday night last week when I was so sick. Landon made a big stack of all his books and read through them one-by-one while periodically checking on his mama, pathetically lying on the floor nearby. He may have thrown a huge temper tantrum on the sidewalk by the mailboxes today and then tried to bite his own toes in fury (yeah, I don't know where that came from), but my goodness he can be a sweet little guy.


  1. Your pictures are adorable! Sorry about the salary thing, but it sounds like you will be alright. This is why you have savings, to provide insurance for cases like these. Things will get better eventually.

  2. I hope the meeting goes as well as it possibly can!

    For what it's worth, you have A LOT more financial discipline than most of the new attys I know. Kudos to you for being so responsible.

  3. Don't sweat it. As long as you've got a roof over your head, clothes on your back, food in your tummy and a safe and healthy family you'll be fine. I read your post about Landon's tantrums and some the responses about wanting to have a tantrum yourself. THAT'S exactly how I handled tantrums with my kids. When they wigged out for no reason I would promptly throw myself on the floor, kicking and screaming, crying and pounding my hands on the floor. They would get all quiet watching me "throw a fit" and then I would stop suddenly, sit up and tell them, "See, doesn't Mommy look silly acting like that? Well so do you - now let both stop it, OK?" That worked every time - and I only did it 2-3 times. Eventually they would start laughing and we would end up in a huge tickle fest! My kids are all teenagers & older now and still remember "Mommy's tantrums" on the floor! They still get a laugh out of it!! You also might try filming him having a fit and show it to him later. If anger becomes issue with him, get a tether ball and set it up in your backyard. That way he can smack the ball as hard as we wants to work out some aggression and the ball will never get lost! Worked for my kids as they got older. We did go through 2-3 tether balls but it was quite useful. All in all tough, he'll grow out of it. By the way, he and I share a b-day!! Cool!!

  4. I feel your pain. My husband got a 30% pay cut effective today. We found out the day he got back to work from me having the new baby. He is now making less than he was making when he started at his job. Luckily we saved up during the good times and have no debt besides our mortgage. However we still owe hospital co-pays from the baby and Bear's ER visit plus our yearly house insurance is due this month. Yippee. We are really having to cut every non-essential expense.

    P.S. I buy my chicken at Kroger when they have their buy one get one free packages like they do this week. It is expensive.

  5. hahaha a starbucks habit..its SO true! you're so lucky you dont have one! hope things go well at the meeting! ill be thinkin about ya

    psd love t he new label for "lanman" -p

  6. It's tough, isn't it? My husband's in automotive, so I feel your pain. Uncertainty is so unsettling, because there's always SOMETHING that could go wrong! One odd thing that helped me when I was really nervous about a potential layoff was to count things that we could sell. For some reason, just knowing that my husband's motorcycle would buy us another couple months really helped my peace-of-mind.

    Here's hoping all the rumors are wrong - hope the meeting goes well!

  7. I don't blame you for being nervous. I'm a gov't lawyer, but all is not good in big law land and I don't envy you.