The last year was not good to me financially. This year looks to be shaping up much better, thankfully. In 2008 I worked at four different jobs (that gave me a W-2), and continued working on my own business, but was basically unemployed for more than half of all working days last year. (Although I did get unemployment from mid-July to December.) This was a pretty depressing time for me personally and financially and I am pretty in the hole now from covering living expenses and household things with credit.
If I could re-do anything I did financially last year, it would be only through the magic of 20/20 hindsight - I'd cut spending back more, and also I'd apply for unemployment sooner. Last year, I kept almost getting jobs - to the point that it became farcical, and I was wholly surprised when my new job that I'm at now actually came through. I had multiple other jobs that I almost got (one's grant fell through, one's company instituted a corporation-wide hiring freeze, a few loved me except that I won't draw blood, etc) and so it seemed like the entire time I was unemployed, I wasn't worried about spending because it always seemed like a job was right about to start. (Plus I did actually get a job in June, but it was horrible and I was fired after three weeks. Thank God for getting fired or I would have quit.)
But there is one purchase that I made which required significant and continuing outlays all year, and usually when I was least able to afford it. I made this purchase of course right before I started to become aware of the circumstances that would force me to quit my last (full time) job in February.
And that purchase is my dog Maggie. Picture at the bottom to avoid spoilers. :)
Now those of you who have read this blog in the past (or cheated and read the archives) know that my pets seem to have a special ability to come up with terrible health problems that incur large veterinary bills. (For the newbies: I have two guinea pigs, both of whom have had uterine cancer, one of whom has recurring kidney infection problems, and the other has recurring cystic growths that occasionally need removed. I also have a cat which had to undergo bladder stone removal and several accompanying diagnostic tests of various types.)
The dog is no exception and she incurred her very first vet bill the day after we got her, because she was coughing and we though it was kennel cough but it turned out that she had scratched her throat eating a biscuit. This summer she also required about a thousand dollars in emergency care because she ate something at the park that caused her to not poop for a week. (Somehow the vet students at the hospital decided erroneously that my thin dog who doesn't like to eat had Cushing's disease, an endocrine disorder which causes you to eat a lot and gain weight. Luckily our regular vet said that wasn't so, and gave her stool softeners and IV fluids and she was just fine the next day.)
If I had known when I got the dog last January 24th that I was going to be unemployed for a good chunk of the next year, I would never have taken her. Because I would have known that that was an expense that I shouldn't take on when my income is about to be slashed. While she is a healthy dog other than the abovementioned, she still goes through kibble, special dog food sticks, lots of treats, a bzillion toys, and (recently) homemade dog cookies.
But having my dog at home with me really kept a bad period from getting much, much worse. Having Maggie in the house meant somebody to talk to, somebody to go places with me. Because a girl wandering around in the park by herself in the middle of the day might be a weirdo or homeless, but a girl with a leashed dog is obviously out for a stroll. And realistically I probably would have never gone to the park and never taken a walk without the dog. Going to the dog park gave me a chance to interact with others, and also gave me something to talk about with them. Having a dog also meant I had someone to think about other than myself - what she would like, where we could go, what should I feed her. She gave me something to think about and a built-in activity during the many days where nothing happened, and no one called.
I do feel a little annoyed with myself that I didn't put my time off to better use - while I did do a lot of mystery shopping, I didn't start any of the new businesses that I've been mulling over, I didn't take up running and get in shape, I didn't keep the house tidy or get everything unpacked after the move. But I'm pretty sure that without Maggie, I would have done a LOT less.
Here's a picture of Maggie, taken the day we brought her home. She is at least half husky (perhaps part Border collie?) and is now four years old and approximately 50 pounds. For the curious, she cost $95 at the Capital Area Humane Society.
Here is a crappy picture I took with my cell phone when she was in the river at the nearby park. She really likes going in the water and never gets cold. This was probably in August.