Let’s Talk Money, Shall We?

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Don’t you just wish money really DID grow on trees?  (Image from pixabay.com)

And why am I bringing this up?  Well, I looked to see what the stats were on some of my blog posts over the years, and lo and behold, it seems like the ones where I talk about money or some other personal finance topic, tend to get the most views.  Is it because we have this voyeuristic impulse to find out what others are doing when it comes to money?  Do we think someone else has the secret key to unlocking all the answers to the problems we’ve experienced or hesitations we feel about money?

I know I’m always willing to talk about money and I’m fine with discussing some of my details on here.  But I know people who would rather have hot lava poured onto them than to do so.  Hell, I’m even related to some people like that.  They’ve just never felt comfortable discussing it, and I think it’s partly in the way that they were brought up.  That’s okay, I won’t judge them and I know they don’t judge me.

I was brought up by a single mom that was pretty open when it came to money.  We didn’t have a lot of it, and we didn’t pretend we did.  In fact, I remember ducking down to the floor of the car on several occasions as I was mortified to have anyone I knew possibly drive by and see my car pulled over to the curb so my mom could check out what someone else was getting rid of.   Nowadays, I think doing that is cool, because you never know what you might find! As they say, one woman’s trash is another woman’s  treasure….

So here’s some numbers from me.  When I was a librarian, living in a big city, I made over $84K/year.  These days, I live in another city but make roughly $24K per year, not counting my freelance work. Back in Boston, I paid $1100 in rent for a studio.  Here, my roomie and I split $550/month for a one bedroom apartment with a fenced in yard and half of a two car garage.  Oh, and I am saving 7% of my meager salary into a 401(k) and $100/paycheck divided among a few accounts.

Here’s a look at my average monthly expenses, with a disclaimer that our gas bill will definitely be higher this month due to heating costs, and our last electric bill was around $140 since we erroneously thought using two space heaters would be cheaper than paying for heat via the furnace. D’oh!

Rent = $550 (split by two) so $275
Electric = $33 (split by two), so $16.50
Gas (household) = $27 (split by two), so $13.50
Private student loan = 162.11
Car loan = $141.42
Internet = $47.23 (but my roommate is paying for all of it via his going back to school through the GI Bill), so $0 for me after reimbursement
Gas (auto) = $50 (only tend to gas up 2-3 times/month)
Food = $200 – ish (this has definitely fluctuated)
Entertainment (eating out, etc., and yes, it includes coloring books and materials) = $40
Car Insurance = $60
Renter’s Insurance = $20
Savings for Travel = $50
Savings for Emergency Fund = $70
Two Credit Cards = $120
Cell Phone (Cricket Wireless) =  $35

TOTAL = $1253.53

Take Home Pay for One Month (we get paid bi-weekly) = $1356.78 (after taxes, 401(k) and insurance deductions)

Full disclosure:  These expense numbers don’t include my vet bill at work which is about $1200 at this time because I plan on paying it off I get my student loan money for the semester.  My work charges 18% interest (ridiculous since we work there), and the student loan will be at 6%.  I will also use some of the excess to pay off the credit cards, because again, the interest rate is much lower.  Then I’ll pay the accruing interest on the student loan and not use the credit cards.  Into the freezer they will go!

Looking at the nunbers, you will notice that there is a bit of wiggle room.  That wiggle room will help me when it comes time to pay our heat bill.  And when it’s not working to pay bills, into the savings it goes!  And two months per year, we get that bonus third paycheck which I will use to pay down debt (or go into the tiny home/condo fund.)  Editor’s note — oh wait!! I forgot my pet food expenses!!   They barely have me breaking even!!  Yep, not so much wiggle room left over.  So that tells me that I need to keep a better handle on where my money is going.  I’ve started writing in my planner at night what I spent during the day. 

In case  you are wondering, my other federal loans are currently in deferment while I’m in the master’s program and when I start paying on them again, it’ll be at the IBR (Income Based Repayment) rate, since I know I will never be able to pay them completely off unless I were to go back to my same job at Harvard as I had in 2015.  Yes, I will end up paying them for 25 more years, but the amount of my monthly payment will vary depending on my income, and at the end of that time period, the amount unpaid will be written off.

WARNING — SIDE TANGENT:  Some of you might get upset at the idea of my loans eventually being written off.  But here’s the thing.  I have paid back those federal loans’ principal balance AND THEN SOME over the past two or so years.  I really have.  And the balance has barely moved.  Paying again for the next twenty five or so years – trust me — they WILL get THOUSANDS more out of me before then! So, in my mind, I will have paid and paid and paid them some more when it’s all over and done.  I just don’t want to be paying and receiving social security at the same time.  (Of course, assuming social security still exists by the time I get to that ripe old age.)

OKAY, SIDE TANGENT/RANT OVER.

My roommate is in the process of paying me back for a few months over the past year when I was carrying the expenses for both of us. So, as he pays me, I’m paying off my debts or putting the money into savings where/when I can.  (And no, I don’t feel comfortable sharing that amount on here because it’s a debt of someone else’s, not mine.  I don’t think he’d be comfortable with my sharing that.)

My roomie and I live pretty frugally.  Mainly our entertainment is watching movies/YouTube videos or taking the dogs for walks in the Bosque, and in my case, reading and coloring. And writing here (and soon, again, for school), or in my journal or elsewhere.  Things that don’t cost much in terms of money.

I wish I had known when I made so much more money, what I know now.  I speak for a lot of us when I say that, don’t I? 

I can’t beat myself up for the money mistakes I’ve made.  All I can do is learn from them,  listen to my heart and follow my priorities.  I share my mistakes and financial numbers on this blog so that hopefully they can help someone else in some way.  Maybe you’ll feel better about your salary when you see how low mine is.  Maybe it will help you to see areas where you can cut out expenses you really don’t need.

Or, maybe you will feel sorry for me or disgusted at the thought that I could have thrown away such a good paying job.  I hope that last sentence isn’t the case.  I don’t want pity.  And if you are disgusted by it, maybe take a look inward and try to figure out why you are having that reaction.  My experience as a librarian at Harvard Law will always have value for me in so many ways.  I just no longer felt that it and Boston were right for me. (And seeing the winter blizzard and freezing cold that they have right now, well, I just shudder at the thought of experiencing that again!)

This post has been a lot longer than some others, so if you’ve stuck with me to the end, thanks for reading.  Please feel free to hit like, share, comment or even subscribe to my blog if the feeling so moves you!

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What do I value and why do I save?

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image courtesy of pixabay.com

I feel like these two questions are interrelated (at least for me) so I’m going to try to tackle them in one post.  When I thought about my long term goals, these questions inevitably rose up in my mind.  And because I love that feeling of opening a journal and finding a blank page and then covering it in ink, I started writing a few lists.

What do I value? (not in any specific order)

  • independence and me-time (to create, to think, to just be content)
  • time in nature
  • exercise/physical fitness
  • eating food that is good for me
  • family
  • my animals (and all the other animals out there)
  • writing and being able to express myself creatively
  • reading

I just noticed something – money doesn’t show up in that list.   Hmmmmm

But now here is the list of why I save:

  • so I can buy a tiny house to provide shelter for myself and my furbabies
  • so I can buy some land on which to put my tiny house
  • to be able to write more often and eventually be able to be more of my own boss
  • so I never have to face my phobia of being homeless
  • so I won’t have to work for the rest of my life and can eventually retire

Yes, I have a phobia (or very strong fear) of being homeless.  And living in Albuquerque, there are reminders of this possibility at so many intersections, with people holding signs asking for money or food.   I think the fear goes back to my early childhood, when my parents got divorced and our income was so drastically reduced at the drop of a hat.  It’s a fear that came back full-force when I thought of leaving my husband back in 2010, and ultimately did.  I think it’s a fear I will always have somewhere in the back of my mind. But it’s a fear that also helps to reinforce to me what I do value and why I save money with every paycheck.

What do you value?  And why do you save?  Do  you see the two as being interrelated? 

Please drop me a line below and share your thoughts.  And if you know someone who might enjoy this post, please share it! Thanks, as always, for reading.

 

 

 

 

My long-term goals

Notice I didn’t call these resolutions!

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image courtesy of pixabay.com

I came to the end of a journal I have been writing in this year, and came across a page on  which I had written a list: my long term goals. I knew at the time I had written them down that it was necessary to get them on paper so I could keep myself focused at times when I might feel tempted to do something random or spend money on something that doesn’t align with those goals.

I thought I’d share my list with you.

  1. To be able to write and educate/inspire people.  To use writing as my job.
  2. To be able to live simply, but comfortably.  By comfortable, I mean being able to keep a roof over my head with enough income to be able to provide for my expenses and that of  my animals.
  3. To have a tiny house and a garden that I can tend to and grow a lot of my own food.
  4. To live close to the water, even if it’s a short drive.  While being close to the ocean would be amazing, I’m realistic enough to know my budget probably can’t support that, so being near a lake or some other large body of water would be fine with me.
  5. Have that tiny house be somewhat close to a decent size town.  Doesn’t have to have a million people in it like ABQ, but I don’t want to have to drive 75 miles to the nearest town from where I live.  Been there, done that.  It was so depressing to me and I felt so isolated.
  6. Save enough money for retirement so that I don’t have to work until I’m in my late 70s like my mom did (she just retired this past year.)
  7. Be able to save enough money so I can see my family more often.
  8. Be able to look back on my life and think “Yes, I did make this world a better place.”

Writing down this list made me think of items or experiences on which I place a lot of value, and prompted me to write down “why I save.”  I’ll share those with you in future posts so as to not clutter this one up.

Please drop me a line and let me know what are some of your long-term goals.  How do you want to go about achieving them?  (And as always, thanks for reading, and please share if you know someone who might enjoy or benefit from this post.)

 

The Power of Two!! (Milestones)

accomplish-1136863_640I am very happy because this week I have hit two milestones. My retirement savings have finally hit the $200K mark (between my two accounts).  And I finally have over $2000 in my online savings account.  Yes, I still have debt but there is something comforting about looking at that number and seeing it again.  It’s been a long time.

I used to think that you needed to save $1,000,000 if you were going to be able to retire comfortably.  Of course, I used to think I needed the house, white picket fence, 2 cars and a garage to be happy.  My, how times (and perspectives) have changed!! It’s comforting to know now how much less I can survive on and still feel happy.

To many of  you, that may not sound like a lot to have saved in my basic savings accounts.  Some folks try to save $2K per month.  But in the grand scheme of things and relative to my very low income of about $24K per year (not counting the transcribing I’ve been lucky to get thanks to my friend Elaine), it feels good.  I’m saving 7% pre-tax and about 13% post tax to fund various savings accounts (or sinking funds, as some like to call them.)

And I’m almost up to $1K in my tiny house fund.  Yes, I have a long way to go.  But as my friend Dan says, I’m determined, and he knows there’s no stopping me when I set my mind to something.

Now that I’ve set my mind to something, I see opportunities opening up to me.  I was offered the chance to make some overtime at work, at another animal hospital that is undergoing some staffing shortages and I’ve taken them up on three extra shifts.  Overtime, baby! And a co-worker of mine was scheduled to work Christmas morning and she has a three year old kid. I offered to work her 6:30-12:30 shift.  It’s a win for both of us.  She gets to spend the holiday with her kid and I get paid 2.5 times my regular rate.  And the more my paycheck is worth, the more goes into my 401(k) for that paycheck because my contribution is based on a percentage, not a set dollar amount.

Last night, on my way home from work, I passed two people pushing their shopping carts full of their only belongings.  It makes me very sad to see so much of that in this city.

It makes me even more determined to not let that happen to me.  I might not want to work the next two weeks in a row without a day off, but sometimes you have to make sacrifices, and like I said in an earlier post, sometimes you just have to say to yourself, “whatever it takes.”

What kind of milestones are you reaching for?  What kind of milestones have you reached already that have made  you feel awesome and even more motivated??

Please hit like or subscribe to the blog or leave me a comment below and thanks for reading! If you know someone who might enjoy it, please share!! Thanks for reading, as always!

Feeling Contentment (Without Spending a lot of Money)

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image courtesy of pixabay.com.  The ocean and nature, what could be better?!

This holiday season, if you shop for holiday gifts online, via Amazon, would you kindly use my Amazon Affiliate link?  It will cost you nothing extra but I will earn a small percentage of your purchase!  If you’re looking elsewhere, please use my Ebates referral link – I will get a small referral fee, and you can save money on something you were going to buy online already it can even be airline tickets or hotel reservations, etc.).  Please!! And thank you!!

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been getting daily emails from Mrs. Frugalwoods of the Frugalwoods blog.  Today’s email asked the following at the end:

When are you most content?  When you are spending money?  When you are spending less money?  Can you be content with fewer material possessions?

The first is an easy one for me to answer – I’m content when:

  • I am with my animals (The Herd) watching them all sleep peacefully, knowing they are safe and sound, and they will not go hungry, wanting for another meal.
  • I’m writing (blog post or otherwise) and I feel like I’m “in the flow.”
  • I’m reading a good book that I just can’t put down! (Check out my Helpful Books page for some of the most helpful to me.)
  • I’ve just finished an awesome run or workout at the gym. I don’t smell like a rose but who cares?!
  • I’m spending time in nature, feeling at peace and just “being.”
  • I’ve just finished up a transcription or other type of project, or accomplished all the goals I set out to complete on a certain day.
  • I help someone over the phone at work, and feel my inner librarian coming out, and they tell me I’ve been very helpful with all the information I’ve provided.
  • I check my retirement accounts and see that the balance is growing! It’s hard for me to save right now with such a low salary, but I’m trying to sock away 7% into a 401(k) and $95/paycheck for my Don’t Touch (emergency) fund, my insurance premiums and travel/tiny house funds.  (I just calculated that $95 savings amount to be roughly 13% of my after-tax salary!)

As you can see, I’m perfectly content to spend my time in activities that cost me very little, or nothing, and in some instances, actually earns me some money.   Also, I can definitely be content with fewer materials possessions! When I moved from my Boston apartment to Utah, to live in the fifth wheel travel trailer, my car held everything of value I owned (and my animals who I don’t own as they are living creatures and my family).  All except for one painting of a coastal setting, which I ultimately gave to my friend Michele back in Kanab.  I just had this feeling that she was the right person to receive it and her reaction to it confirmed that.

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You can only see two pet carriers in the photo, but there were five of them inside, plus Osito on my lap!

These days, I don’t buy much. When I do, it’s usually something I have thought about a lot, such as my first Christmas tree since 2014.  Someone told me that Hobby Lobby was selling all of their Christmas stuff at 50% off, so I bought a 4.5 foot tall tree and ornaments.  It makes me happy to look at it, and I feel like it makes the house more of a “home.”  When alone over the holidays, it can be very easy to feel down.  Believe me,  I know.  And it’s small enough that I can put it up in a tiny house later on!

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My first Christmas tree in three years. A whopping 4.5 feet tall.  My baby girl, Callie, approves!  Yes, one of the ornaments is a tiny, vintage travel trailer!

When do you feel most content? When shopping or indulging in retail therapy?  Or some other type of activity – exercise, etc.?  Tending to a hobby?  Reading a book?

Please drop me a line below and let me know! And as always, thanks for reading, and if you think someone else would like or benefit from reading this post, please share it!

Money: Why and How do I Spend It?

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This image is free, courtesy of Pixabay.com!

I’d like to ask a favor at the beginning of this post.  If you are going to shop today on Amazon, could you kindly use my affiliate link?  It will not cost you anything to do so.  Thank you.

I’ve started getting a daily email from Mrs. Frugalwoods of the Frugalwoods blog.  She has what she calls an Uber Frugal Month Spending Challenge.  I admit, I’ve not been completely successful in it.  But I do like the daily emails and things that they make me think about.   An email from the other day suggested this assignment, and I thought it might be a good time to talk about it, seeing as we just survived Black Friday and today is Cyber Monday.

Write down all the reasons why you spend money and reflect on whether they’re valid or not.

So, here goes nothing.  I spend money on pet food and food for myself, gas for my car, groceries, utility bills such as gas, electric, and internet.  I spend money on things like car and renter’s insurance.  I bought myself an annual membership to the ABQ BioPark, Aquarium and Zoo.  (After going four times in a year, it starts to pay itself back and yes, I do go often.)  I recently paid $150 plus tax for new Hoka One One sneakers.  It might sound like a lot for running shoes, but if you’ve been or are a runner, you know that good quality shoes are a MUST.  (I’ve spent enough money on physical therapy over the years, thank you.)  And finally, yes, occasionally, I do spend it on a book or two if my library doesn’t have it and I think it is something I might want to mark up in the margins or to highlight.  Or if it’s for school.

For example, the other day I bought the book Tiny House Decisions by Ethan Waldman.   I bought just The Guide because I’m sure I’ve seen or heard some of the interviews already or at least parts of them, possibly conducted by others, since I’ve been watching YouTube videos or listening to podcasts for years now (long before it became “the thing to do.”)  I also paid an extra $4 to get the workbook because I know myself.  I might make decisions and end up writing them in various places, which really isn’t helpful when it comes time to do the actual work of building or buying a tiny home.

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One version of a tiny house.  Mine will likely be smaller! Image courtesy of Pixabay.com.

Another book I spent money on recently, but haven’t yet read – because I pre-ordered it – is Cait Flanders’ book, The Year of Less:  How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, And Discovered Life is Worth More than Anything You Can Buy in a Store.    Cait’s book comes out in January 2018 and I can’t wait!

Do I think these are valid reasons to spend money?  Yes.  I love Cait’s blog, and her podcast, and I want to support her as an author because I believe in her and I want to repay her back for all the helpful advice I’ve gleaned from her writing and her thoughts on the Budgets and Cents podcast.  I have made up my mind that in some way, shape or manner, I AM going to have my own tiny house or abode someday and yes, there are a ton of decisions that will need to be made along the way.  In my mind, buying Ethan’s guide and Cait’s book is a way of keeping that dream alive, that one small step I could take each day.  You have to find inspiration every day.

I’ve begun to also think of spending in a different way, that of saving.  I’ve set up a Tiny Home Fund, as I mentioned in another post.  I worked on Thanksgiving so the extra money I made from working then (getting paid 2.5 my regular hourly rate) will be “spent” into the Tiny Home Fund.  I’m currently doing some transcription work for my friend Elaine.  The money I earn from that will also be “spent” into the Tiny Home Fund.  Any little bit of money I can save from what I normally spend per month will be “spent” into that Tiny Home Fund.

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How I’d like to spend some of my days in retirement, contemplating things by the water.  Image courtesy of pixabay.com

I’ve begun figuring out how much more money I can “spend” into my retirement savings.  I don’t want to work forever – I don’t know anyone who does.  The more I put into my 401(k) from each paycheck, the lower amount that Uncle Sam gets to tax me on from my paycheck which is already small enough.  I work my butt off for it and I’d like to keep as much of it as I can for my future.

I also “spend” my money into my savings for another reason.  There are so, so many homeless people in Albuquerque.  So, so many people panhandling on the street corners.  It reminds me of my phobia of being homeless.  And it spurs me on to save as much as I can.   I know that not much separates me from them – what happens if I lose my job?  How long could I go on with what I have saved?

I spend my money on necessities.  I have to eat, and so do my pets.  I have to have my car to get to work so I keep it in as good a shape as I can.  Any clothes I do buy are second hand, and even then they are few and far in between.  I need to pay for the utilities so I can keep the lights on and the hot water coming out of the faucet to wash dishes.   I recently bought cat trees for my cats so that they would be happy in the house, and because they had gotten sick so many times on the one I had had for two years, it was gross, despite being cleaned up several times.  They purr on it and love sitting on its ledges in the sun near the window.  To me, that $80 some odd dollars I spent on both trees was well worth it to see them happy.  After all, they are my kids.

Yes, occasionally, I do spend money on something like fries from McDonalds when I have had a crappy day at work, but those events are becoming fewer and farther in between because I’ve started to ask myself – are these fries really worth the extra time it will cause you to work between now and getting that Tiny House?  And 99 times out of 100, the answer is NO!   Plus, I try to remind myself of how crappy it sometimes makes me feel afterward.

So there you have it – I hope that this post will help you to reflect a bit before you hit that “Add to cart” button today on Cyber Monday.  Do you REALLY need what you are about to buy, or will it really benefit that person you are about to buy it for?  Do you already have something at home that can work just as well, or could you gift an experience to your family or friend member instead?

What kinds of things do  you spend your money on and do you think your reasons are valid?  Why or why not?  Please drop me a comment below or hit the like button if you’ve liked this post, and as always, THANKS FOR READING!

 

 

 

 

My Money Mindset

 

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Totally unrelated to the subject of this blog entry.  Cochiti “Lake” (really more of a reservoir) but just exemplifies the vast open spaces and views of the southwest.

I love a particular podcast called Budgets and Cents.  One of their recent episodes talked about their money mindsets, and it was interesting to hear how their mindsets had reversed over the past year.

 

One mindset that a lot of us have is one of scarcity. It’s one that I have fallen victim to off and on in my life.  Recently, I found myself going down that road, and I didn’t like it.  I didn’t like it at all.  I’m one of those individuals who feel that whatever energy you put out into the universe will affect the situations and individuals who come into your life.  So I knew I needed to make a change. I really think you can change your life or your circumstances if you put your mind to it.

When I was first separated from my marriage, there was a day that it became very clear to me that my outlook on life was hugely important to my everyday life.  I could choose to be sad and miserable and hate myself every day or I could choose to wake up in the morning and say to myself, “Today is going to be better than yesterday.  Even if it’s just one small thing, that counts.”

So, when I found myself feeling very stressed about my financials recently, I decided to take a deep breath.  Then I started to ask myself what I could do to change that.  I thought of the transcription work I’ve already done over the past several months and started to look into other companies that are hiring, to supplement the income I make from my first priority company.  (It’s also run by a friend, so I can’t and won’t let her down.)

I also looked into Flexjobs, and just signed up today for a membership.  It costs $49.95 for the year, but they also offer promo codes, so I got 30% off of my first-year membership with them.  I like that the jobs and employers are vetted by real, live humans and not a computer!  At the very least, I will know that the jobs I am applying to are real and not scams.  The way I look at it, paying $3-4/month in order to have the opportunity to obtain flexible side-hustle work is a very low fee to pay. Even if I only get one job off of there, I think it will pay for itself. That’s my attitude and I’m sticking to it!

As soon as I changed my attitude, I heard good news from my friend who asks me to do transcription jobs.  It looks like there will be a good amount of work coming my way, very soon, and I can’t wait.  I like being needed and knowing that my efforts are helping someone else out.  Plus, the work is generally pretty interesting.

And finally, a friend of mine has had a delivery route with the Albuquerque Journal for several years.  I’m going to ride along on a route tomorrow and see what I think, if I can handle it.  It would involve getting up early every morning (usually papers have to be delivered by 6 a.m. during the week), but Hello! That’s something I already do, get up early! At least this way, I could get paid for it. I would be paid as a 1099 contractor, so I know I would need to hold money  back for taxes.  But it would still allow me to pay off my debts very quickly and then start putting money aside for things like travel, etc.

A good friend of mine was concerned I was losing sight of my goals by entertaining this idea.  But I’m not.  Rather, it will help me stay on board with those goals.  My day job really just covers the day to day expenses.  If I want to get ahead, I have to sacrifice in some places, and in this case, the sacrifice will be in time. But it will be worth it.  I will pay off my credit cards, then pay off my vet bill at my employer, and then pay off my car.  I really want the car paid off before I reach 100K miles.  And the best part about it?  I will be able to do that work and be productive before most people even get up in the morning and have their first cup of coffee.  And you know what?  A lot of people are in the same boat as me, having to work more than one job.  I know some of you readers have done this before.

One thing my mom taught me is a good work ethic. She taught me to do whatever you need to do to get things done and take care of yourself.  And that’s what I am going to do. By the way, if you like to listen to podcasts like I do, there is a good one called His and Her Money.  They had a recent episode called 3 Words That Will Help You Get Out of Debt Faster.   And those words are Whatever. It. Takes.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go take a few skills tests for Flexjobs to add to my skills already listed on my resume. 🙂  And snuggle with a few furry ones, because, as you know, they are the reason for the changes in my life I’ve undertaken over the past few years. ❤

As always, thank you for reading.