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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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!

 

 

 

 

How I Plan to Save Money

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com.

I recently put my financial picture out there for the world to see and I just got a paycheck a little while ago that finally had my health benefits subtracted from it. For 80 hours of work, the net pay was $699, but some of that went into my online savings accounts automatically.   I’m hoping this next paycheck is for 88 hours of work – that small difference of one additional day’s pay can make a big difference, money-wise, when you are living kind of close to the bone, as they say.  And yes, I do plan on doing an updated post on my financial picture, now that I received a paycheck that included my health insurance. So, stay tuned for that! Read more

My Relationship with Money

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com (public domain image)
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com (public domain image)

I have to admit, even thinking about this post’s topic makes me a little uncomfortable. So that tells me it’s something I need to face and to write to get some clarity for myself.

I’ve started listening to a lot of personal finance and simple living podcasts lately and one of them usually asks the guests what their relationship to money was, growing up. I definitely have an answer for that but it’s longer than just a one-word answer. Read more