I 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??
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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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
It’s hard for me to pick a category for this post since I try to keep things positive as much as I can. But sometimes the stress of my finances does get to me. I’m human. So please allow me to get out my honest thoughts on a topic that frustrates me, and then I’ll try to get something positive out of it by the time I’m done. Okay….deep breath….
Last night, I sat down and went through my open enrollment benefit choices. It was something I had been dreading since I know I have no choice but to go with a high deductible plan since I know there is no way I can even come up with the deductible amount for the less-high-deductible plan. Follow that?!
My deductible is $4500. The “lower” plan is $2500. Both are still hard for someone on my income to meet. (I figured out my income after taxes is something like $17,555). So basically, I hope and pray that nothing happens to me, and I use the Walgreen’s prescription plan to pay for my medications instead of my health insurance (because I would pay more for them if I used my prescription plan, which is sad.) So basically, I feel like I have money taken out of my paycheck every two weeks for no benefit whatsoever as long as things remain the status quo. I suppose I could just say “F this, I’ll just go without medical insurance and pay the tax penalty when it rolls around.” I know and work with people who do that. But being somewhat risk averse, I am reluctant to do that.
I had my prescriptions last filled in October and again, I toy with the idea of trying to wean myself off of my antidepressants as a way to save money. I could probably do it with the wellbutrin again, as I have in the past. That is the more expensive of the two, the other being prozac. (And yes, I do get the generics of both of them to save money.) But a part of me knows that when I was diagnosed as depressed several years ago, it was a “clinical depression” which means that there was a chemical imbalance. Just as folks with other health problems need meds like blood pressure pills to help balance their bodies, I need the prozac. It’s not a happy pill. Nothing is. You still have to learn AND USE coping skills, as I have done. And I just feel better about myself as a whole when I am taking it.
So . . . I think I will enroll in the HSA this year and have money taken out, pre-tax, to help pay for whatever doctor I see to get my prozac refilled. The money spent on that visit and those meds are worth it to me to remain a functional and highly performing member of society. And if I can keep a few more hard-earned dollars from being taxable AND help me lower the cost of medications I need, why not? Right?
All I know is, there has GOT to be a better way to handle health insurance than the way the US does it. My boyfriend, as you may remember, is in Canada. They have a very different health care system. If he doesn’t use all the benefits up that he has paid for out of his paycheck every week, guess what? He gets money back come tax time!! And no, I realize their health care system isn’t perfect — nothing is — but the American way of doing it seems to help no one but the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries.
So….let’s see….how to put a positive outlook on this? I’m thinking….
I guess the good thing in all of this is that I realize if I were to get hit by a mac truck while crossing the street, I wouldn’t be on the hook for all of the bill once I hit that whopping $4,500 deductible and then all the co-insurance payments for the rest of that huge balance. If I didn’t have insurance, I probably would be on the hook for all of it. (I’m straining for the silver lining here, I admit it.)
And also, I have a job that offers insurance. Not the greatest insurance, but it is something, which I suppose is better than nothing? The dental insurance and vision coverage are somewhat decent. I had a crown put on one of my teeth this past summer and it cost about $550, which isn’t as much as it used to cost me back in Boston.
And I take care of myself – eat salads at least five days/week for lunch, and have cut down on the snacking and am continuing to work out about 4 days per week. At 45, I’m proud of myself for doing that, and working full time and going to school part time!
And if nothing else, sitting down and choosing my benefits again forced me to reevaluate my budget. This year, at least I am splitting the rent with someone, which helps. Last year, it was all paid by little old me. Let’s just say living on a lower income really does help to make decisions about wants/needs more cut and dry. I’ve become more resourceful and no longer feel tempted to spend money on things like I used to. I will write an updated post about my budget and income later on — this post has already become too long!
For those of you in the United States, do you feel the same way as me when open enrollment comes around? A bit down, but resigned to your fate?
For those of you outside the US, what do you think about the health insurance in your own country? Do you feel it’s adequate for what you pay in taxes for it? Or would you prefer to have a system like ours in America? I would love to know your thoughts on what’s good, what’s bad in your present system, so please drop me a comment if you have the time to do so!
And if you think this post might make someone feel better, for whatever reason, please feel free to share it!
Yesterday was my birthday. My 45th, to be exact. In her card, my mom reminded me that it’s only another 5 years until I hit the big 5-0. Thanks, Mom. Just what I wanted to hear. My sister (who is 47) and I have made a pact to not really talk about the numbers anymore at this stage of our lives. Too depressing. We try to not think about the fact that our two older brothers are 56 and 57 this year. And our baby brother is 43.
At the risk of sounding like a walking cliche, I really don’t feel my age. Maybe it’s because I never had kids and therefore didn’t deal with that kind of stress and exhaustion. (I know having a family is not all bad. It just wasn’t for me.) Maybe it’s because I still have vivid memories of my teenage years, my twenties (when I was an idiot like so many of us were), and of course, my thirties, when I really started to wake up and see who I was as a person. When I started listening to my heart and made big, life-changing decisions.
The boyfriend and I talked the other night and I mentioned how, presently, my outlook on life is to not try to stress out so much over things like overpaying for something by $5-6, because really, it’s not going to matter a year from now. And I’m certainly not taking my money to the grave with me when I die. True, I try to be smart about financial decisions, but I don’t let one mistake ruin my day, or try not to, anyway. I told him, people make decisions based on the information they have available to them at the time, so don’t beat yourself up over what hindsight presently shows you about the past. Best to just learn from it and move on.
Recently, some people whose opinion I really value have told me that what they admire about me is my ability to express myself and be honest about things. (Hope I’m paraphrasing accurately, Pauline and Josh.) They’re from two very different parts of my life, yet they see something in common. So here’s the honest truth about what’s on my mind these days.
Am I happy with my life? Yes, and no. Do I wonder if I made the right decision two years ago to just leave everything and everyone I was familiar with to move thousands of miles away? Yes, quite often. Do I feel like I’ve grown a lot in the past two years in understanding more of what my core values are? A resounding yes. Do I wish I made more money? Yes! (I’m beginning to think there is some truth to the research that says once you make about $50-55K, any increases over that don’t increase your level of happiness as much as they might have done when increasing your income from say $25K-30K and then to 35K.)
Am I enjoying the academic program I’m taking part in with the Institute for Humane Education? Yes, because it’s making me think critically about issues that are important to me. It’s making me look inward and helping me to figure out what direction to take my life in from here.
Notice I said, “what directionto take my life in.” I am not content to let life happen to me. It’s a somewhat uncomfortable place to be in, trying to figure out that direction, and knowing that I may never get it right, but that the real value is in the interim, that space in time and location when I’m trying to figure it all out.
Where do I want to be? Where do I want to end up? In the mountains or near the coast? Do I miss being able to educate others and inspire them to expand on their learning or research skills? Do I miss the change of seasons? Do I like the warmer winters? Do I miss seeing big bodies of water? YES! Am I grateful for having met so many new people over the past two years? YES! Do I still think about doing the nomadic thing at one point in my life? Yes! Do I want a tiny house or the stability of being in one place and being able to create beauty there through my words and a garden? Yes!
Do I want to spend more of my days writing? YESSS!!!! Do I think eventually I can do that? Yes, I WILL make it happen. But how? Do I try to find work through the content mills or do I start pitching ideas to editors or just sit down and force that book or books out of me that I’ve been trying to get out of my head and onto paper?
Lots of contradictions and questions to sort out, to be sure. And I may never get it all truly sorted out. Accepting that thought as a possibility is difficult. I may never do so.
Outside, the sky is gray today (very unlike yesterday, when I took the pictures you see in this post, which are from the Bosque.) I realize I like both types of days, which makes me wonder, maybe parts of me still want to be in the Pacific Northwest (or does it mean I miss the change of seasons, and in effect, my family, or the Northeast?) So many questions to sort out.
This post has been much longer than normal, so if you have read this far, I appreciate it. I truly do appreciate all the comments that you leave me here on this blog, and on my facebook pages when I post them. I learn from each and every one of them. And if I see someone hit the “like” button, I feel grateful for having touched that person in some way. I write for myself, and to help create a community.
Thanks for joining me on this journey. And as always, thanks for reading.