I was a lousy math student.
Not that I wasn't bright; I was just profoundly disinterested. My disinterest often made me careless, and I would rush through tests and assignments making a lot of silly mistakes. Fortunately, I benefited from some teachers' "partial credit" policy, meaning that they would review my homework and tests and if I had gotten an answer wrong, they would check to see whether I understood how to solve the problem and had just done something dumb in the process. If that were the case, they would only deduct half a point.
So, usually my math scores were around 50%.
Yesterday I got my first full paycheck from the new job, and when I got home I was eager to see what my tax rate would be so that I could finalize my budget. I opened up an Excel spreadsheet, put my monthly post-tax income at the top of a column, listed all my regular expenses, highlighted the column and clicked "sum" to figure out how much money I'd have left over for food, entertainment and other exciting things.
I was dumbstruck and not a little bit horrified. Okay, I could send SallieMae a little bit less than I had been hoping, and I could be less aggressive about paying down my debt from the move, but that would still only leave me about $100 to live on for the month. How did this happen? While I was looking for work, I had been over these numbers a hundred times trying to figure out my minimum salary requirements, and had held out until I found a job that was safely in the range. My salary isn't extravagant, but I was sure it would be enough to cover the bills and then some. How could I be $98 in the hole without even having bought any food? What now?
But I had to stop worrying about that for the moment and put on my happy face: I'd invited a couple of friends over for pizza and a movie. These guys are my local "A-Gay" connections, and it was imperative to me that my apartment's finished, furnished debut earn their seal of approval. I played the gracious host and eagerly accepted their praise, all the while cringing with fear that I had way over-budgeted myself and was now in debt up to the top of my 9 foot ceilings.
This morning, after an uneasy rest, I came back to my spreadsheet to do the hard work of tweaking the budget around and to start coming to terms with the idea that my lifestyle was going to have to be a lot more modest than I had planned.
And then I decided to re-check my math.
Dumbass, there are 160 hours in a work-month, not 120. I'd left out 25% of my salary.