Why I Stopped Extreme Couponing

extreme couponing savings receipt

[Happy Friday! Here’s a little ditty on Mrs. Picky Pincher‘s love/hate relationship with extreme couponing – something I’m sure we’ve all thought about and/or tried at some point ourselves! Let us know where you stand in the comments at the end :)]

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I am not an extreme person. If given the choice between couch-lounging and base jumping, I will always pick my couch and sweatpants. Always.

Predictability is a good trait to have, especially since I’m dumping $225,000 of debt to the curb. And that includes credit cards, student loans, and even my mortgage. It’s a lot to pay off and I’ll try just about anything to eliminate it.

In my quest to vanquish debt, I became a Savings Extremist. A year ago you would have caught me lounging on my couch as usual, manically clipping coupons and reading sale papers.

Somewhere along my journey I became a crazy extreme couponer.  For the six months I couponed, every Sunday was like Christmas morning when the newspapers (plural) arrived with the next batch of coupons. I had accordion folders filled to the brim, bursting with meticulously-labeled Red Plums and Smart Source coupons.

I was this close to digging through the trash looking for coupons.

I was a little obsessive, but there were many upsides to extreme couponing.

It was fun: There was nothing like the thrill of scoring $60-worth of swag at CVS for a paltry $10! I salivated over my three-foot-long receipts with a $5 total. Math has never been my strong suit, but I really enjoyed planning my couponing hauls. I stuck it to The Man by swiping products off shelves for rock bottom prices. I did my fair share of happy dances.

There were good deals: I once scored a giant jug of Dr. Bronner’s soap for $10 – which normally retailed at $20. I also bought $4 bottles of shampoo for a mere $1 apiece, and cold medicine for $1 per pack. I won’t lie: you can find great deals with couponing!

I was always stocked up: Toothpaste? Check. Shampoo? Check. Hair gel? What brand do you want? I have 13. Extreme couponing is most effective when you stack coupons and buy multiple products at a time. Which meant I always had a treasure trove of household products and snacks at my disposal. It’s been over a year since I quit couponing and I still haven’t finished our stock of shampoo! It’s a great way to stock up on lots of items at once, and on the cheap.

Although extreme couponing was a blast in many ways, I decided it ultimately wasn’t for me. After saving over $300 by couponing, I called it quits.

Here’s why I stopped extreme couponing.

It was a time-sucker.

I spent an average of 15 hours a week couponing, and this was below the average (hardcore couponers spend upwards of 30 hours a week couponing!).

I spent hours scouring sales papers, company websites, and handfuls of coupon books to match deals. I carefully planned my weekly trips to CVS and Walgreens with precision math. I knew exactly how much money I needed to spend for each trip, taxes included. I memorized the rewards points balance on both mine and Mr. Picky Pincher’s store rewards cards.

It took for-freakin’-ever. Extreme couponing required an insane amount of planning that didn’t fit into my schedule. I already worked a full-time job and barely had the time to plan the shopping trips, let alone complete the act of the actual shopping.

I grew weary of extreme couponing after realizing it was my main hobby. I had video games to play and cats to pet, after all. I didn’t want to spend half of my waking free time at a drug store!

Bye-bye money

I’ve always been a big fan of spending more money on quality things. Whether that means buying sheets with a higher thread count, dropping more cheddar for good shoes, or buying in bulk. Couponing seemed like a natural way to use today’s money to pay for tomorrow’s bills – I dug it.

As it turns out, extreme couponing still costs money, even if you do it with care. I justified my addiction with the old adage, “You gotta spend money to make money!” and felt that, even though a CVS run cost $15, I was saving money in the long run.

Mr. Picky Pincher mercifully pulled my head out of the clouds. I was spending at least $15 a week between my couponing runs to Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart which added up to an extra $60 a month that we didn’t plan on spending.

I was spending more money on things we didn’t really need—which meant we put less money towards our debts.

At first that didn’t sound so bad. “So what?” I thought, “Those costs will even themselves out in our budget.” But they didn’t. Our expenses increased. The sixteen bottles of $1 nail polish weren’t saving us money—they were costing us money.

I lost my sense of practicality with extreme couponing. I bought hair gel, brushes, and crates of toothpaste that I didn’t need at all. I would buy items just because they were on sale. I was overspending every week and it added up quickly.

Finding cheaper alternatives

Even after realizing how resource-intensive couponing was, I still couldn’t kick my obsession.

I stocked up on makeup remover wipes, fancy lotions, packages of pizza-flavored chips, and bronzer – which is ridiculous when you’re vampire-white like me.

I cluttered our extra cabinets with this extraneous stuff, confident I’d use it all eventually.

But after watching the bills stack up, I wondered if there was a cheaper way to enjoy the same items? After snooping around, I found several cheap and easy alternatives for things I already bought.

Here are just a few items I make now to save money:

  • Instead of buying Neutrogena makeup wipes, I started using coconut oil to remove my waterproof mascara. Works like a charm!
  • We fry our own chips instead of buying 3 for $1 Pringles at Walgreens. I’ve also started opting for healthier whole food snacks, like almonds.
  • I bought a safety razor handle and a pack of safety razors. It cost the same as a new pack of razor cartridges with a coupon. The upside is the safety razors cost pennies compared to disposable cartridges and I get a better shave.
  • I love sugar scrub, so I started making it myself out of coconut oil, sugar, spices, and essential oils.
  • I use homemade dry shampoo instead of store bought. I add essential oils to corn starch and run a small amount through any greasy parts of my head.

The result with these are actual savings. By opting for a DIY approach, I got the same (or even better) result as store bought products. Couponing encouraged consumption of products that I found out I could make cheaply at home.

I know people hear “DIY” and think “Oh man, it’s so much faster just to buy it at the store,” but this didn’t happen in our case. After factoring in the time it took to hunt for coupons, match deals, and do the actual shopping, DIY always came out ahead.

This was the nail in the coffin. I canceled my multiple newspaper subscriptions, recycled my coupon books, and gave up extreme couponing.

The Bottom Line

I still love to use coupons, I just use them more judiciously now. By focusing on non-consumption and producing a few household items myself, I’m able to save more money than I ever saved with extreme couponing. I still think it’s great if you don’t get carried away, but in the end it just didn’t work out for me. This experience has made me realize that there isn’t a right way to save money, though. It’s all about doing what’s right for you!

How about you? Have you tried extreme couponing before? How did it go?

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Mrs. Picky Pincher is the blogger and resident money maven at www.PickyPinchers.com. She blogs about paying off debt while living the good life.

[Photo cred: YouthfulHomemaker]

Thoughts on Owning a Lexus After 9 Months

lexus rx-350 grill

Ever wondered what type of cars us financial bloggers drive? If so, you’re in for a treat today :)

My man MP from MustachianPost.com just collected data from over 20 different bloggers on what they’re riding these days, and why, and was kind enough to let us debut it on Rockstar Finance yesterday. Check it out when you get a chance!

The Cars of Personal Finance Bloggers

Some of the bloggers featured are Joshua Becker from Becoming Minimalist, Brandon from Mad Fientist, Justin from Root of Good, Jesse from YNAB (his car was my favorite surprise, especially considering he founded a budgeting company! ;)), the Financial Samurai, Mr 1500 Days, Paula from Afford Anything, The Frugalwoods, Physician on Fire, and Jason Fieber from Free At 33 – formerly Dividend Mantra.

You may be surprised what frugal people rock ;)

And if you haven’t been reading this blog for more than 9 months, you may be surprised what I drive too. In a nutshell, I went from this:

frankencaddy(1993 “Frankencaddy” – 90,000 miles, fully paid off, side hustle king!)

To this:

lexus rx350[2008 Lexus RX-350, 80,000 miles, car loan]

All in a span of a couple of weeks and totally unplanned, haha… I wrote about the whole thing in depth here (Bye Bye Frankencaddy, Hello Car Payments!), but the short version is that I needed a bigger, more reliable, car as I was taking over responsibility of driving my little nuggets around every day, and out of all the cars we looked at this was the only one that *excited me* enough to want to spend any money. I don’t really care about labels or how fancy/expensive things are, but stuff I consume DOES need to make me happy. And as long as I can afford it, it’s fair game.

The beauty of personal finance, eh?

Anyways, it came down to picking up a used minivan or a used luxury car (both around the same price, interestingly enough) and, well, for once I splurged and picked up the fancier one. I did wish I had more time to search for a cheaper and privately owned model vs snatching it from Carmax, but outside of that I’ve surprisingly had little regrets. In fact, I’m actually MORE in love with it than the day I took it home!

It’s been about 9 months now since owning it, so today I thought I’d share my thoughts so far. While hopefully not losing any more of you in the process :)

(The day I blogged about this purchase broke the record for the most unsubscribes ever here! HAH!)

We’ll start with the items that shocked me the most…

#1. A luxury car feels damn good to be in!

I know everyone (including myself) likes to say “a car is just a car and it gets me from point a to point b”, but the truth of the matter is that some just feel nicer to be in! You may not need or want a luxurious ride, but they’re definitely not all made the same. And never again will I assume people are buying them simply for “status.” I know many are, but there’s something to be said about the quality too. I’m just hoping I haven’t screwed myself from ever owning a hoopty again, haha…

#2. I’ve got more swagger than usual.

I don’t know if this will shock you as much as it did me, but I actually feel more confident riding around in this thing. I don’t know why that is, and I know I probably shouldn’t, but in all honesty I do. I just feel GOOD driving it around town, and even more so when I step into it for the first time of the day! Now granted, I also felt pretty pimp’ish rolling out in my Caddy too, but there’s a nuanced difference in the type of swaggership going on here, haha… How do you put a cost on that when factoring stuff in? ;)

#3. My charitable giving has skyrocketed

Tell me the truth: if you see a fancy car rolling up to a street corner and a homeless man is there asking for money and the driver turns a blind eye, what’s the first thought that goes through your mind? Be honest! Mine? “What an a-hole!” “You can afford that car but can’t afford to dish out a few dollars? Come on now….”  Haha… Now what if this same car that rolled up was a beater? ;)

Obviously there are a TON of factors as to why someone does or doesn’t give out money, and I’m clearly in no position to judge, but for me personally, I just find it MUCH harder to *not* give when I’m sitting in a car that’s not at all a necessity. And if I had to guess, I’d say my charitable giving has at least tripled since buying this car. Whether on the street corners or in life in general. Who would have guessed that??

In fact, this same period of ownership has also seen me finally get our philanthropy project up and running too after all these years!! Which has already helped give out over $5,000! Now perhaps it’s purely coincidental, but then again who knows… All I do know is that I’ve become much more charitable since picking up this ride and it’s nice.

#4. Expensive $hit still breaks :)

Going down to the not-so-shocking list, no matter what car you drive – old, new, expensive, cheap, fancy, boring – all cars require maintenance. Now some are more quality made and will last longer than others, but at the end of the day no car stays alive without some good ol’ TLC.  And not surprisingly, TLC costs a lot more on luxury cars vs standard ones.

I’ve already had to do oil changes, regular scheduled maintenance, and lately all new tires due to some bare threads I knew about when first picking it up, as well as a nice tire popping when some asshat left razor blades in the middle of the road, ugh. All things that come with the territory of car ownership, but all things that cost more typically with a luxury car than not. This area I don’t like so much ;)

(Also – as VIP as they treat you at the Lexus dealerships, and they def. treat you well!, it’s definitely not worth the mark up as I found trying to experience it for the first time… yikes)

#5. Expensive $hit has too many fancy buttons!

If I gave you a dollar for how many times my dang tire pressure light comes on, you’d have $15 already. I’m all for smart technology and keeping me in the loop, but my goodness does it seem a bit too much at times. Anytime the temperature changes drastically that tire gauge goes bananas over here… It even goes off when my *spare* tire needs air! Haha…

I miss the days where I just chalked it up to the car “being old” and carrying about my business ;) Though that’s probably not the smartest route to take either, and leads us to the next thought…

#6. I’m taking MUCH better care of this car than any others.

I’ve only owned one newish car before – a new-to-me Toyota Highlander back in the day, with chrome rims and all! – but even then I only did the bare minimum and was stressed any dang time new car repairs needed to be done. Which actually tells you something good right there – if you can’t afford the repairs, you can’t afford the car!!

But in this more-mature phase of mine, over 8 years since owning that car, I’m quick to act like an adult now and actually face the music anytime something needs attention. I still cringe every time and don’t enjoy it, but these days the precious cargo I drive around are much more important than the cash. So I suck it up and get stuff taken care of in a more timely manner. I’ve also since learned that I require a mechanic who I can ask a billion and one dumb questions to and not get laughed at! ;) I hate not knowing if I’m getting ripped off or not!

#7. Lots of you reading this right now also have a Lexus RX :)

The last thing I’ve learned was that, despite oodles of people hating me for this and leaving my site,  many others shared that they HAVE THE EXACT SAME CAR!! Which is fantastic! And I appreciate all of you who reached out to tell me so during the apocalypse too. (Though more of you emailed me on the side vs publicly stating it ;))

I started a tally so I could share the total numbers, but it seems I lost it all and could only find one of the messages I saved which coincidentally also came from a $$ blogger! Per Grant from Millennial Money:

“I have a 2007 and I love it. Best car ever. I bought mine off someones lease and it only has 61,200 miles on it. I live in the city and only drive like 1,200 miles a year, so I plan on driving it for at least the next 20+ years! One of my life goals is to never get rid of that car”

BOOM! So frugal or not, it always feels good knowing you’re not alone, haha…

And that’s where we stand at least now with the Lexus experience :) Will I regret it later and come back singing a different tune? Perhaps. But so far so good, and I look forward to seeing how many miles I can rack up on this thing before it runs into the ground…

I’m going for 218,000 so I can bet out the attendees of Camp Mustache! (Nice find, Gwen!)

camp mustache cars

What car you rollin’ in these days?

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PS: Here’s that list of bloggers’ cars again if I haven’t scared you away yet: What 21 financial bloggers drive. They’re def. more in line with what you could expect, haha…

9 Things I No Longer Do With My Money

life pondering ocean

9 years ago I blogged about how people who like to “split the check” aren’t my friends anymore. I had totally forgotten about it, but the memories flooded back when I received the following comment on it just this week :)

I know it’s not entirely fair. BUT COME ON, it was only 3 bucks dude. After reading your article, it seems like you are the cheap person there. You had a good time, then just let it go! Chill out dude.

Haha… Fortunately these days I do just “chill out” whenever stuff like this happens (though I’ll still ask for separate checks w/ larger parties! Takes forever trying to pay those bills!) but it was a great reminder of how far I’ve come since first starting this blog all those years ago… Now I’m more likely to “split the check” myself, or pay for the other person’s meal entirely because it’s just a nice thing to do!

But in honor of hitting my 9 year Blogiversary last month which I accidentally skipped (oops), I thought I’d share 9 other things I no longer do either since my early days of paying attention to money.

Hope it helps in some way!

#1. I no longer obsess about money anymore

It helps having more money than I used to, of course, but somewhere along the line I’ve moved way from dreaming about millions, to dreaming about having a great LIFE instead. Which, big shocker, you can actually have with or without gobs of money! Now unfortunately it takes just as much time and energy to figure out how to set this up as it does your finances, but hey – it’s a valiant pursuit :)

#2. I no longer track every last penny

Someone on Twitter just asked me if I thought I’d be where I am today without tracking my money every month, and the answer would be an affirmative NO. I’ve tracked my net worth for over 110 months in a row now, but it was really those first couple of years that were most transformative. Paying attention to where all your money is coming and going is HUGE when you’ve never done it before – it totally opens up your eyes! But once you get a good grasp of it, tracking every last penny isn’t *as* game changing as it is in the beginning.

Now it’ll certainly save you more cash than not tracking it, I guarantee that, but once you’ve got your rhythm down you get the beautiful decision of whether or not it’s worth the trade off of time anymore. If it is, great! You’ll be saving more than me! But after a few years and seeing the same rough expenses over and over again I decided to just stick w/ my net worth which gives me that overall picture I need without driving myself too crazy. Then I’ll just pop my head into the nitty gritty anytime something major happens, like moving or new kids popping up ;) Another big difference between now and 9 years ago – I’m now a daddy, crazy!

#3. I no longer hustle 24/7

In my efforts to improve upon #1 up there, I realized that in fact working more does NOT make me that much happier despite our culture (and entrepreneur friends) telling us it does. In the last 4 years I’ve gone from priding myself in working 20 hour days down to working about 9-10 ones depending on how efficient I am or not. It’s still a lot more than I want – my target is to stop working nights and weekends! – but you know, one step at a time… And it was again those babies that really put all this into perspective because I was on the train straight towards Workaholicsville and couldn’t get off!

#4. I no longer chase credit card deals or the best interest rates or even the hottest stocks

I’ve since learned that I value simplicity far more than I do an extra percentage point on one of my accounts – so long as I have “good enough” (or, 80% for any of you Pareto Principle lovers out there). It means not having every last one of my dollars maximized, but it also means feeling more at peace with myself/wallet and not being so frantic all the time scouring the web for the next hottest deal, or worse – stock. And believe me, even if people can tell you the latest trending stock, they sure as hell can’t tell you when to cash out of it in time!

So there’s no more chasing the markets or looking for the best savings/credit card accounts for me anymore… I keep almost all my banking under one main roof I’m happy with (USAA), and then all my investments under another happy roof (Vanguard). I then keep my sanity and go about my business from there :)

#5. I no longer go shopping for the fun of it

This was one of the first epiphanies I had in my early stage of blogging. I had tried my first “No Spend” challenge where I couldn’t spend any money on stuff that weren’t essentials (bills, groceries, etc), and WOW did I realize I had gotten into a bad habit! I’d literally catch myself pulling into the mall or other random stores anytime I was simply *bored*. And the crazy part was that I had no idea I was doing it!

From that point forward I literally just stopped walking into stores and have saved myself approximately $200/mo ever since… (Now if only there was a way to not stroll into Amazon! ;))

#6. I no longer require new jobs or locations to be happy

This is probably the biggest shocker of them all to me. Having grown up moving around every 2 years in a military family, *change* played a major, and rather exciting!, role in my life. It didn’t matter where I was or what I was doing, as soon as that two year mark hit I was ready to move onto the next glorious adventure awaiting me.

It wasn’t until I went off to college and started working “real” jobs that I realized my normal wasn’t going to be normal anymore… Even so, I struggled with not being able to stay put, whether in location or employment (or relationships!), until finally this blog and my wife were found. Both of which showed that stability can be sexy too :) And coincidentally enough, both found in the same year as well, making it super easy for me to remember the more important anniversary! Haha… And thankfully the entrepreneurial life brings enough change and adventure to keep anyone on their toes.

#7. I no longer care what others think of me

This is also a big turnaround for me over the last handful of years. I still have my weaknesses and seek approval from certain people out of habit, but for the most part I try my best to just be me and do my own thing whether others seem to approve of it or not. Even my beautiful mother – gasp. (As evidence of me still rocking a mohawk at 30-something years old and “looking like a vagabond” with my ragged clothes, per this same mother ;))

Another perk of running a blog, however, is that you also learn how to grow some thick skin as there’s never a shortage of people who find it necessary to tell you how they really feel. Here are a few of these kind words I’ve saved from only the past handful of months:

“The content is good, but I’m unsubscribing because I have a difficult time with the grammar style of this blog. I feel like I’m reading text messages, not trying to save for retirement.”

“I don’t really care to read about your life for the few nuggets of financial advice you give. My time is too valuable.”

“Oh, and I listen to your podcast with Paula. Love her, but you sound like a clueless 16 year old valley girl.”

“Not the most professional blog.. way too many smiley faces on everything.  I also cannot believe you rent!  You did introduce me to Rockstar Finance though, so thanks!”

And my all-time favorite:

“He says really nice things but looks like a weirdo. But i guess thats why people like him. Hes like the Miley Cyrus of Finance”

#8. I no longer watch the news/Facebook/media

Want a great way to feel worse about your life? Go scrolling through the news or your Facebook feed :) I used to be obsessed with keeping on top of everything, as well as what all my friends were doing/ buying/flying, and then I realized I never left any of those places actually feeling *better* than when I got there. I’d either feel depressed, jealous, anxious, or just plain scared.

So I stopped reading everything and deactivated all of my personal social media accounts except those relating to this blog. I’ve been in bliss ever since! Now it also means I don’t always know what the hell is going on in the world, but again – trade offs. And my wife is quick to tell me anything she thinks I better know :)

#9. I no longer buy bottled water or lottery tickets!

If you were around this blog in 2011 you might remember the hate storm that occurred when I proudly exclaimed that I drink bottled water and wasn’t ashamed to admit it ;) I was mainly targeting the financial aspect of it and how I don’t mind spending the $$ there since bottled was the only way that got me to actually DRINK water (thus, the money spent was = the health benefits), however, I underestimated the environment part of it and was called out pretty good about it.

6 years later though, I’m proud to exclaim that I very much still drink loads of water, but no longer need to use a new bottle every time in doing so :) Finding this bad boy has helped immensely with that, along with purifying the tap more.

And lottery tickets? Well, my experimenting there is over too as I no longer have as much fun playing them as I used to (nor the time to keep going out and buying them each week). I still enjoy giving, and receiving them, for Christmas as they make excellent (and cheap) stocking stuffers!, but now a days I get my cheap thrills off hanging with my kids or chatting with you all here on the blog ;) I’ll never get rich off of it, but hey – LIFE!

And that’s really the point of everything I’ve learned over the past 9 years. Money is great and severely needed up to a certain point, but once you’ve hit the minimum amount for survival/happiness, the rest just feels like extra. The trick then becomes incrementally improving your *lifestyle*, which is just as challenging, if not more, than figuring out your money.

My dream for everyone here is to be able to master BOTH sides of this equation, and then appreciate the progress we’ve all made so far as well. I don’t know what comes after that, but I’d imagine it’s one helluva place to be at :)

What have you learned over the past 9 years?

*****

PS: As far as I’ve come over the years, I still mess up alllllllll the freakin’ time. Check out last year’s 8 fails over 8 years of blogging for some good ways to feel better about yourself ;)

An Ode to Debt

skunk cuddle

[Sup y’all! Please enjoy this fun little ditty by resident blogger Lance who likes to stop by any time he thinks we need a quick kick in the ass ;) You might remember him from our Financial Confessional Series or perhaps his beautiful classifieds around Valentine’s Day. He’s got no shortage of opinions!]

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Ever have a friend or co-worker that emotionally drains you every single time they’re around? The second they come through that door you just cringe and pray they don’t come sit by you and start a conversation? Yet for some reason we continually put up with it?

That is debt.

Instead of cringing at the sight, the world has taught us that debt doesn’t really hurt us and that we should in fact embrace it like a kind friend who is helping us get what we deserve. Then later when the bill comes, that same kind friend surprise attacks you right in your financial back with a dull rusty knife.

What Debt Should Truly Look and Feel Like

Have you ever hit a skunk while driving on the road? I never have, but I’ve seen a few dead ones and I’ve smelled even more heading down the highway.

Debt is like hitting one of those skunks on the road, stopping your car, picking it up and licking it to see if it’s still alive, then putting it on your lap and taking it to work with you and then back home where you place it on your pillow and spoon with it all night long.

Debt is a stink that doesn’t go away, yet we’re so willing to incorporate it in to every aspect of our lives!

How can something that seems so normal… be so wrong?

How can something feel so good up front… then penalize us so harshly in the end?

Here’s a poem for you. Print it out and put it in to your wallet to remind you just how two-faced debt is:

“An Ode to Debt – How It Loves You and Hates You”

Debt is a neighbor that borrows your tools and never gives them back.

Debt is a soft comfortable blanket that makes you feel so good, only to discover when you get up you are covered in cat hair.

Debt is a friend that visits every day and consistently kicks you in the crotch as you just lay there smiling on the ground saying, “that’s okay, see you tomorrow.”

Debt invites you to go out to dinner on their dime but forgets their wallet.

Debt is your other neighbor who asks for help to move, and then when you show up has nothing packed or ready to go and expects you to do most of the work for them.

Debt is your boss that tells you you’re in line for a huge promotion and raise that you excitedly tell to your family about, only to see your boss leave the company the next week and the new boss give you the pink slip.

Debt is your sister-in-law who borrows your Redbox and says she’ll take it back before 9 pm and then doesn’t return it for 31 days.

Debt is your buddy who asks to drive your new car and then jumps the curb.

Debt is your fiancee who leaves you standing at the alter.

Debt is your child who decides to use your bathroom to take a dump right before you planned to take a nice long bath.

Debt is your air conditioner that breaks down on the first 100 degree day of the year.

Debt’s brother is the air conditioner repairman who says it’s going to cost way more than he originally quoted you, then tacks on five extra days while he “waits for the parts to arrive.”

Debt sleeps with your spouse, and on the way out of your house asks if you want to play golf the next day.

Tell me again, why do we love debt so much?

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Lance is a former blogger who loves talking about money, but hates running a blog. We’ve given him a spot here anytime he has something juicy to say ;) You can find him on Twitter @Lance_Finance.

Other Posts from Lance:

Financial Overheards Round III

j. fox

Lots of juicy convos going on at Starbucks lately :) Thought we’d do another round of financial overheards today since y’all liked the last one we did! So interesting to hear random people talking about money!

We’ll start with these two kids:

Teen #1: “I want to be a millionaire”
Teen #2: “How?”
Teen #1: “I’m going to be a business man”
Teen #2: “What are you going to do?”
Teen #1:  “I don’t know yet”

Haha… Sounds about right :) I remember having these same conversations myself growing up with my best friends. We were really great dreamers, but not so much do’ers! After a while some older guy (one of their dads?) came up and interjected into these guys’ conversation, “Start with the things that you like – it’ll push you to get closer to it.” Now we’re talking!

Then this sad one from someone who looked to be in their 70s, maybe early 80s:

“I would love to go back to work! But no one hires old people anymore.”

It sounded like he was forced into retirement a while ago and was never able to pick up something new… Said it was crazy because he has all this knowledge in his head and no one seems to want it :(

Another convo I overheard from some sort of financial advisor/salesmen talking to a new hire:

“I tell people all the time that I want to retire…

They ask me how much you need to be able to do that, and  I tell them $3,000,000. And then I walk them through how to get it backwards – investments, insurance, etc.

Works every time.”

It took everything in me not to turn around and punch this dude in the face. First, for spreading the ridiculous notion that everyone needs the same large-ass number when we all know it’s based on your *expenses* which differs for everyone!, and secondly for then using this number to upsell his clients on Lord knows what type of investments and insurances. The guy he was talking to was totally soaking it in too and making mental notes so he can copy it once he’s out in the field too, ugh…

Thankfully most of the other eavesdropping I did was more on the entertainment side of things ;) I blurted out an unexpected laugh upon hearing this one!

“Have you ever eaten an egg, that came out of a chicken you ate?”

Which he then followed with,

“Did you know you could fit the entire population of the world in Rhode Island?”

I thought I was listening to that kid from Jerry Maguire ;)

Then there was this gem:

“Found out my parents have a copy of “the love of joy and sex” on their night stand drawer:

(How else do you think you were born?? ;))

And then this one:

Guy #1: “Man, Obamacare sucks!”
Guy’s friend: “Wait, but aren’t you on Obamacare?”
Guy: “Nah man – I have the Affordable Care Act”

Haha… Told my wife about this one and she told me to go look up Jimmy Kimmel’s street interviews around this – pretty hilarious!

Getting back to money though, here was another good one:

“Want to know how to beat out the market every time? Just watch what I do and do the opposite.”

That could have easily been me years ago :) For some reason there’s never a shortage of the hottest trends or stock opinions out there, yet no one can ever tell you exactly when to scoop them up and when to cash them out. The latter being the most important. I’m SOOO glad I’ve totally gotten out of that game and now just stick to my boring, yet very trusty, index funds :)

Here’s another line I overheard about a woman dishing dirt on her sister:

“The woman can spend some money. She’ll easily drop $1,000 on theater tickets but not on her child?”

Ouch! Apparently her child is sick and the sister refuses to give her any medication… Anytime when asked why, she would start quoting Johnny Depp? No idea what that was about, but had to pop in my earbuds at that point as they were heading into deep personal matters… And that’s where my eavesdropping line gets crossed ;) Money chats? Fair game! Personal secrets? I’m outta there…

Another medical one :(

“How dare do you judge somebody for their credit card debt when it’s all medical bills!”

Always sad to hear how badly getting sick can crush our finances on top of our lives. Have to be better about remembering this whenever blogging about financial freedom and getting out of debt here as it’s so easy to forget that for some it had nothing to do with poor choices at all :( We’re blessed if we’ve never had tragedy strike!

And not this type of tragedy either:

“There’s nothing worse than having to listen to people bitch about the world ending because their yacht is in the maintenance yard.”

Lastly, probably the most important thought of the day:

“I said, “No way babe, we are not going to get married to a song that was on Twilight.””

Haha… That’s it for this round of financial overheards. Check out our last one here, or the one before that here, and I’ll continue to keep my ears open for more juicy gossip…

In the meantime, you’ll have to let me know where YOU’RE drinking coffee these days? ;)

6 Great $$$ Ideas To Steal

neon dollar sign

One of the best things about blogging is starting conversations, and then watching all your smarty pants friends chime in with clever ideas of their own ;)

I’ve been collecting a handful of them over the months, and thought today was as good a day as any to share them around so that you guys can steal them too.

Hope they help!

Idea #1: No more gifts please, 529 only!

I have been searching for a LONG LONG time to come up with a (polite) way to stop getting gifts from family and friends without making it awkward for anyone. Some years are better than others, and it has been getting better over time (for example, now at Christmas we only focus mainly on the *kids*), but I have yet to find that magic bullet that not only pleases the givers (since, after all, they get joy out of it too) but also satisfies my minimalist/essentialist ideals too.

Enter Paul’s idea, which I’m beyond excited to try! (He left this in response to my slacking on our kids’ 529 plans without even realizing I was in desperate need of a better form of gift giving too :))

I have relied a lot on my family to help with 529s. I basically just tell them not to ever get me a present because it will be something that I don’t want and will end up sitting in my basement till I get around to donating it one day. Just tell them to give to your kids 529s instead. Strategy has worked so far. My 9 year old has close to 50K, 7 year old close to 40k, 3 year old has about 10 and my new born has less than 1k…

Some people institute a no gift policy to avoid collecting clutter, I simply took it a step further and asked for a specific gift or nothing… Family tends to be more generous in giving doing this as well.

It’s so brilliant, isn’t it? The givers get to give and know it’s 100% not only what you *want*, but also *need*, and at the same time their grandchildren/nephews/nieces/pals/whatever they are to you get helped too! And you can still buy them toys as well since the gift was for you technically and not for them ;)

Totally trying this with the next holiday – will report back!

Idea #2. Spend something, save something!

This idea comes from Stefanie O’Connell who dropped it on our post the other week about being able to save more if you’re spending everywhere. Here’s her idea:

I’m not totally against lifestyle inflation. I think some sensible improvements are reasonable, but it is SUCH a slippery slope. So I’ve been thinking a lot about how to find the balance. Somewhat similar to this reader, I’ve toyed with a system of matching any new expenses with additional savings before upgrading. For example, if I’m going to start getting a massage once a month. I won’t consider myself able to ‘afford it’ until I can build both the cost of the massage and match that with an additional contribution to my savings, into my budget. TBD on how this method works out.

TBD or not, I think that’s awesome. It gives you full permission to spend and enjoy yourself, while at the same time doing the responsible thing! The more you spend, the more you save, and the less you spend the more you STILL save! (I think I got that right? ;)) I’ll have to go xfer out $2.60 now which I just spent on this delicious Starbucks coffee I’m downing, haha…

Idea #3: “Do I want to clean this thing?”

I loooooove me some self-reflecting questions whenever you’re about to buy something. We’ve covered a lot of them here on the site (I’ll list them below) but here’s a new one that I’ve never heard as yet – by fellow blogger ZJ Thorne:

“I’m a big fan of asking myself if I’d like to clean/maintain the item before purchasing it. So much is not bought this way.”

YES!! And not only with “stuff”, but with pets too. Sooooo many people pick them up on a whim without even thinking or realizing the level of responsibility that comes with it – myself very much included back in the day :( I can’t even imagine how poorly I treated those poor guys looking back, ugh…

But, a great question to ask yourself for sure. Not only to save some money, but to avoid any stress and clutter down the road the item might bring too! Here are similar questions we’ve posed over the years too that might help:

Idea #4: Separate out your recurring expenses with your variable expenses

Here’s another idea from the same Paul above (how come he doesn’t have a $$$ blog yet??), which he left on our article on how avoiding debt is much more important than your credit score (true fact):

“Instead of going the credit route, I have thought about opening a second checking account specifically for non recurring and variable expenses (i.e. groceries, amazon, walmart, etc…). That way I could make certain I had enough for recurring bills (i.e. mortgage, phone, internet, etc…). Then if my wife or I went to walmart and got declined because we weren’t paying attention, it would have no effect on the mandatory bills we pay. Also, in the event our card number was stolen it wouldn’t mean our mortgage went into default.”

So smart! Most of your necessities would be covered with checking account #1 (recurring) making you feel pretty comfortable, and then whatever’s left over in account #2 you can do with as you please – knowing when it’s gone it’s gone. It also saves you in the event of a hacking too, as mentioned, which at some point *will* occur of course because people are complete a-holes out there…

Hiding money from yourself is one of my favorite tricks, and one of the only reasons we’re at over $600,000 these days.  They go right into our retirement accounts which are completely separated out and only checked for net worth reporting once a month! No way I’d be able to look at those #’s in our checking account and not be tempted to spend any of it, haha… I certainly wouldn’t be a personal finance blogger anymore, I can tell you that much ;)

Now hurry up and get your own site up and running, Paul!

Idea #5: Share your failures at the dinner table

Okay, so this one actually comes from Spanx founder, Sara Blakely, and not someone who reads our site (although you never know?), but it was really good and I thought you’d like it.

Business insider ran a story on how her dad taught her a bunch of business lessons growing up, and one of the ones that really stuck with her was around failure.

Here’s a clip from the article:

From a young age, Spanx founder Sara Blakely was encouraged to take risks… Blakely said her dad used to invite her and her brother to share their failures at the dinner table. Instead of being disappointed or upset, he would celebrate their efforts.  “What it did was reframe my definition of failure,” Blakely said of the tradition. “Failure for me became not trying, versus the outcome… I’m already having that conversation with my 7-year-old. I talk to him all about, ‘What have you tried to fail at this week?'”

This is so good on so many levels. First, it encourages you to DO STUFF vs thinking about it all the time! Secondly, it helps you get over the fear of failing in itself. And third, it teaches you to take risks and learn before you’ve got gobs of responsibilities and money to worry about messing up ;) I mean, you’re just a kid!! And when better to fail and learn – and then fail all over again – than when you’re so young and nubile? No wonder why she’s so successful these days… She’s failed a ton!

(Reminds me of a quote I recently read from Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s – “I was an overnight success alright, but 30 years is a long, long night.”)

Idea #6. “How much would I pay for this?”

Lastly, here’s one more question you can ask yourself when you’re trying to decide whether or not to buy something. This time by Sarah Von Bargen over at Yes And Yes Blog.

“Think about how much you’d be willing to pay for it before you look at the price tag.”

This is great because it places YOUR value on the item before you actually find out the true value! Or, I guess, the price tag, but still – same thing if you’ve agreed to exchange money for it, right?

If you guessed close and it *excites* you, great. At least you know you’re getting what you feel it’s worth. If it’s way out of the ballpark, though, you better stop for a hot second and really be sure it excites you enough. After all, you have to want it MORE than cash money, and that’s one helluva tall order! ;)

So there it is friends! A handful of new ideas for you to run off with and steal too. Please continue to spill all your secrets here, and I’ll do my best to continue making you famous :)

See you smarty pants in the comments…

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Want more? Check out other tips our community has shared over the years:

My Accidental Side Hustle: Making Frozen Meals!

frozen meal hustle

[Got another one for our Side Hustle Series today! This one comes to you from Dan and his wife of PenniesAndDollars.com who stumbled across a great opportunity by putting themselves out there and really just being *nice*. Two magical ingredients that can take you pretty far in life :) Hope this inspires other food lovers and cooks out there!]

My wife and I make 5 frozen meals a week for $100.

We never set out to make this a side hustle. A friend of ours recently had a baby, so we made her a (free) frozen meal to help her out in the first couple days, and it turned out she really liked our cooking!

My wife was originally looking to do some baking on the side for money, but when she reached out to friends and family it didn’t seem like any of them were really that interested. However, the friend that had previously liked our frozen meal said right away that she’d be willing to buy more meals from us! Both her and her husband work full time and have 3 kids, and they just don’t have the time or energy to make dinners themselves.

My wife and I are such cheapskates that it just blows our minds that someone would be willing to pay to have meals made for us!

But after asking our friend several times if she was serious about the service, and receiving an absolute affirmative each time, we settled on $20 a meal.

How It Works

Each week, we offer 5 meal options. Almost every week, she’s chosen all 5 options. A few times one won’t sound good, so she’ll ask us to make a double batch of a different one instead.

We have all the meals ready by Sunday, and then she swings by and picks them up, or we drop them off at her place depending on what’s more convenient at the time.

This hustle really works out well for everyone. Our friend gets a home cooked meal every day of the (work) week, and we make some side money in the process. We also make the meals big enough for her family so that there’s always leftovers for lunch the next day, although apparently her husband likes to do a second supper at midnight :)

Our schedules are all over the place, but since we give ourselves a whole week to make the meals, we can whip one up whenever our schedule allows. And whenever we make her a meal, we usually just make a double batch so we that we have one for ourselves too with little additional effort!

The Types of Meals We Offer

We try and keep a good variety of meal options coming for her, which has actually been a good exercise in broadening our own cooking and eating horizons too! We’ve gotten out of the pasta and casserole rut now, and are currently trying out Chinese cooking (or Chinese ‘inspired’ cooking) for the first time with some sweet and sour chicken balls and orange chicken. I’m looking forward to giving chimichangas a shot next! The recipe looks easy, but we’ll see.

We’ve also asked her to give us a 1-5 rating each week so we know what to offer again. Maybe she’s being a little too kind with her reviews, but 26 of the meals so far have come back as a ‘5’, four came back as a ‘4’, two as a ‘3’, and two as a ‘1.’ Since so many of the meals come back as 5, we don’t re-offer anything less than a 5 now.

Keeping Everything Easy Prep

frozen meal prep

Before our friend started buying meals from us, she had gone through a company that offered a similar service. Her biggest complaint with them was that they still had her doing some of the prep at home.

From a culinary standpoint, I definitely understand why they had her do this. Some parts of meal prep almost have to be done right before it’s time to eat. But I also understand why she didn’t like this. If she’s paying $20 for a meal, it’s completely reasonable for her to expect 100% pre-prep, and no dishes!

With this in mind, we have turned every meal into a casserole or something that can be reheated in a casserole dish. This way we can package it in a disposable aluminum 9×13, and all she needs to do is throw it in the oven and thaw it out. Once she’s done, the 9×13 can go into the trash. The only exception is the soups, where we’ve frozen them in the bag and she does need to get one of her pots dirty.

How Much We Make

While we bring home $100 a week for these meals (5 x $20), of course it’s not pure profit as we have the expenses of the food. Our goal is to at least make $10/hr of profit though, so we try to stick with meals that cost less than $10 to make in under one hour or less.

We’re paying Midwest food prices and not New York food prices though, so sticking to the $10 food cost is fairly easy. We did make some chicken spinach artichoke lasagne the other day that did cost $15 with all cheese and special ingredients (and took over an hour), but that was averaged out by the Mexican soup that cost $6 (beans are a cheap filler) and barely any time at all. Each meal also costs an additional 50 cents for the disposable casserole pan. Leave a comment if you know where to get them cheaper – .50 a shot adds up!

(Editor’s note: I wonder if you could just invest in some nice solid containers that you can just have her return each week to not only save $$$ in the long run, but also the environment? I feel like that wouldn’t be too much trouble for anyone? Maybe give her a box to throw them all into too that’s completely sealable so she doesn’t have to smell or clean anything, haha…)

Also, some of the prep time doesn’t require our full attention. While we’re boiling pasta, for example, we can take 5 minutes to do a few dishes or start work on another meal. Furthermore, since we usually end up with a meal for ourselves as well, it is often time we’d spend on meal prep anyway. And if our hourly pay is low some weeks, the flexibility of the gig still makes it well worth it in the end.

All told, we typically spend $40-$50 of the $100 on buying her share of the groceries. We started this gig at the beginning of this year, and so far have just put all the profit back towards our own groceries allowing us to not have to tap our own grocery budget at all. We have been drawing down our pantry a little though, so we’ll see what happens there.

Is It Scalable?

We’ve discussed growing this side hustle by advertising for more customers, but for now we’ve decided to just stick with our one friendly customer. Scaling it into a ‘proper’ business requires pursuing licensing and needing a separate kitchen along with all other kinds of costs and requirements, and that’s not something we’re interested in at the moment.

Can Anyone Do This?

If you have some spare time anywhere in the week and know how to cook, you can probably do this gig too. You do need enough freezer space to store 5 casseroles though, and as an FYI you can’t stack them (or anything else on top of them) as you’ll then tear the aluminum cover.

When you’re just starting out, you’ll probably want to find customers among people you already know who won’t care that your kitchen isn’t licensed and inspected, though obviously you still need to use common sense and keep everything clean and all the food safe. Your friends might also be more open and tolerant as you figure out what works and what doesn’t when starting out. On the other hand, a stranger might be more honest in rating your meals. And if your meals don’t actually taste that good, you’ll avoid pissing off a friend by selling them subpar meals at $20 a piece!

For us, finding a customer just took a single Facebook post. It may be that easy for you, or you may need to turn to Craigslist or classifieds. Just keep your ears open, and next time you hear someone complaining about meal prep, jump in and make them an offer!

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Dan Palmer aims to take a wholistic approach to personal finance by blogging about everything from the underlying ‘why’ of personal finance, the every-day nitty-gritty hacks of frugal living, and the ‘how’ of investing and growing your wealth. You can find him at penniesanddollars.com.

Editor’s Note: For all those who do like cooking for themselves, a friend of mine recently launched a meal plan service that helps with planning cheap meals if anyone’s interested… It’s called “$5.00 Meal Plan” and they’ll email you a weekly meal plan that contains ten recipes to make each week. The plans are easy to prepare, don’t use exotic ingredients, and will cost you less than $5 a meal if you plan and use coupons. More info can be found here: 5DollarMealPlan.com.

***Enjoy reading about side hustles?*** Check out the 68 others we’ve featured over the years! :)

Are You “Retirement Free?” Check Out This Calculator!

antique white clock

Guys!!!

You know how we’re always wanting more money no matter how much we already have? Or how we’re always getting impatient with ourselves, even though we know we’re doing okay and it just takes a gazillion years to get to financial freedom?

Well, I just stumbled across this BRILLIANT idea by Chris at KeepingThrifty.com and it’s totally helping me to *appreciate* my money more.  He dubbed it “Retirement Freedom“, and in a nutshell it’s a quick way to tell if you can retire at a normal age based on how much you’ve already saved up to this point.

In other words, if you never invested another penny again, could you retire safely by the time you’re 65 years old? And if not, how much more would you need – either time or investments?

This is great because it not only gets you to appreciate the hard work *you’ve already put in*, but it also helps you slow down time and get a better forecast of the future. And why rush through the next two or three decades to see if you can retire then when you can find out now? ;)

Time is always > than money.

(Another way to put things in perspective? Ask yourself if you’d rather be Warren Buffet or remain yourself? You might want to answer Mr. Buffett, but unless you desire to be 86 years old right now you’ll want to reconsider that ;) No one’s found a way to buy more life yet, right?)

So, how do you determine if you’ve hit Retirement Freedom or not?

There’s a spreadsheet for that.

retirement free spreadsheet

You can grab it here or by clicking through Chris’ blog, and after a few short entries it’ll pop you out your status, complete with nerdy graph and all. And here’s the best part – for all the new people starting out their journeys, as long as you have $1.00 or more invested it’ll extrapolate it over the years and show you just how much an effect it’ll have, even if you’re miles from hitting “Retirement Freedom.” All money invested grows exponentially.

Fill it out and see where you land!

I just did it and it showed I’d need $3,506,110 by the time I hit 65 to retire safely (25x yearly expenses + inflation and all that good stuff), and after inputting our current investments ($547,416) it shows we’d have a total pot of $4,651,476 by then – a million more than needed, woo! We’ve hit Retirement Freedom – party time!!! Haha…

retirement freedom date

Of course, if we stopped contributing now we’d have to be okay with waiting 28 more years to retire, which we’re not, but still – talk about putting things in perspective. Even my wife who hates talking about money took a few seconds to listen to me before going back to whatever it was she was doing. And that’s a few seconds more than usual, so you know it’s good! :)

It’s been a few days now since first coming across this, and I really can’t understate the amount it’s shifted my thinking so far. I do my best to be appreciative and try to envision a great future, but I’ll be the first to admit that I need to be shocked into reality sometimes. And this is certainly doing the trick.

Do yourself a favor too and read more about this idea here, and then come back and let us know what it showed for you. You can watch your money grow, and you don’t even have to age a bit! ;)

Net Worth Update: $631,547.73 (+$20,777.48)

net worth - feb, 2017

[This is part of our monthly Net Worth Series where I share our real life #’s with the world. Seeing this was GAME CHANGING for me over 9 years ago when I stumbled across financial blogs, so hopefully it helps you out too!]]

Hey hey! Welcome to our 110th net worth update in a row – the longest streak of anything in my life :) (Maybe outside breathing).

I swear every month I promise myself I’m going to spruce it up a bit and add all sorts of bells and whistles to the snapshot (credit score, early retirement date, my made up Lifetime Wealth Ratio™!) but each time I just end up keeping it O.G. and the simplicity continues forward…

It’s pretty wild though that the spreadsheet can look exactly the same all these years, however the contents inside can paint two drastically different pictures! And even crazier that the only thing that really ever changes is the boring passage of time! You make a $500 deposit 10 years ago and it’s $500. You fast forward a decade and it’s all of a sudden $1,500.

Gotta love the power of compounding :)

Anywho, here’s how the month of February went down…

CASH SAVINGS (-$16.54): Nothing too exciting going on here, other than not playing inside the financially prudent line this month… I’d blame it on some outstanding checks waiting to be delivered, but it’s probably more due to not tracking every last penny like I used to ;) 95% of my spending is “mindful spending” and the rest tends to go either way depending on the month. Sometimes I do good and other times I slip up. But so far it’s been worth the trade off.

BROKERAGE (+$45.05): Nothing new going on here either. Just a few extra dollars thrown in via my trusty Acorns app, mixed with a little (a lot?) market growth this month. I still cannot understand for the LIFE of me how it continues to blow up w/ all the political turmoil going on, but I do my best to ignore it all anyways so not like it really affects the game plan here. What I should be doing is storing up all my nuts and laying low until it all crashes to then scoop it all up! NOM NOM NOM!!!

THRIFT SAVINGS PLAN (TSP) (+$695.71): This area is still my recent favorite with those epic % increases every month now that my wife is back in the workforce again :) I feel bad for her since her job is all kinds of messy right now due to the aforementioned landscape (she works for the gov’t), but investment-wise the money continues to flow in so we’ll grab it all while we can. Just praying that her fear of being let go at any time doesn’t come to fruition :(

ROTH IRAs (+$4,157.99): Great boost here too! Courtesy of the markets doing its thing lately. The end date’s coming up for being able to max it out for the 2016 year – which we still need to do – but like always I’ll probably wait until the last minute to push it through just to drag on the excitement of it all ;) I think this will be year #6 or #7 in a row of doing so?

SEP IRA (+$16,071.98): Sweet one here too! As soon as I catch up with my accountant this month we’ll be maxing this one out as well in one fell swoop. I prefer to do it incrementally over the months like with regular 9-5s, but my income continues to be as wild as ever being self-employed and I literally never know how much – big or small – I can put in until the business year wraps up (it’s measured by the amount of profit your business brings in). Still, similar to the rush of the Roth maxing, it’s always fun to throw in large clumps every year :)

Here’s a snapshot of our Vanguard account since switching over to indexing a few years ago:

vanguard returns 3-1-17

CAR VALUES (-$641.00): Nothing too shocking here. Just cars doing what cars do! Don’t let anyone ever tell you they’re an investment ;) Here’s what KBB says our two rides are worth:

  • Lexus RX350: $12,401.00
  • Toyota Corolla: $3,814.00

CAR LOAN: (-$464.29): A little more chopped down, per usual. I started thinking more about when I’ll for real just kill it all in the future, and the time that keeps popping up is at the end of the year. No real rhyme or reason to it (like I mentioned before, I’m in no rush as I enjoy having the cash cushion!), but just for simplicity sake it would be nice to have one less account to manage every month. We’ll see how it plays out though – the interest is only like 2-something %.

And that’s Feb!

Here’s how the last 12 months have gone down:

net worth last 12 months

[If you’re wondering what happened in December, read this :)]

And then here’s the worths of my two beautiful boys – hah:

baby net worths feb-17

I’ve been a bad dad and haven’t put much into their accounts lately, so at some point I’ll need to get back to it again… I feel like all they actually care about though is spending time together and playing all day? When will they learn money is everything!!! ;)

Hope your financial journey’s going well so far! How long have you been tracking your net worth for? Cross any juicy milestones lately?

As always, you can find all 100+ of our net worth updates over the years here if you want to see how we went from point A to point B – though no magic bullets or anything of course.

Or if you’re finally bored with our finances (and I wouldn’t blame you – there’s nothing special going on!), head over to our new and improved Blogger Net Worth Tracker over at our new Blog Directory as we’re tracking over 200 others’ money. You’re bound to find some new ones to relate to and be inspired by? Look up for the ones to strive for, and down any time you need a reality check of appreciation!

Here’s to a prosperous March! You still doing your New Years Resolutions?? ;)

j. money signature

Minimalist-ish Family Series: Ashley

Tell us about your family, who you are, where you live and things that you love:
My name is Ashley and I’m writing from Victoria, British Columbia.  My first born was three months old when my husband and I bought a condo.  We had been living with my in laws for two years and prior to that we had rented a basement suite.  At the time of our condo purchase it was all we could afford since Victoria is very expensive.  These days we are happy in the condo, where I home educate our two boys ages 6 and 9.  During the past nine years we have experienced the joys of living a fifteen minute walk from the ocean, downtown, parks, grocery stores, the library and my husband’s office.  We love to walk and be outside.  Cycling is my husband’s favourite mode of transportation, so we are quite fortunate to live in this area.  On the other hand there have been many times when the inconveniences of condo living have brought us frustration and discontentment; shared laundry two floors below our suite (which for many years meant timing laundry at nap time), trying to keep the noise and footsteps on laminate floor to a minimum (very difficult with toddlers!), one tiny bathroom, not enough light in the winter months-I could go on and on.  However, I can honestly say that my husband and I have now started to let go of the unrealistic dream of owning a house in our city, and instead we’ve begun to truly appreciate what we have.
When did you first hear about minimalism and what was your initial reaction?
I first heard about minimalism when I read Rachel’s article in the Globe and Mail, many years ago!  I wasn’t intending to start living a strict minimalist lifestyle, but purging all the stuff that we never use and then being more deliberate about items I purchased, well, that was exciting to me. I started going through the house, finding all sorts of little things (especially in the kitchen) that I never used.  Cleaning out feels good, but realizing that I don’t have to hold onto things in order to feel secure or happy feels like a huge burden lifted.
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What do you find most challenging in trying to live with less stuff?
I don’t think that I’m deliberating trying to live with less stuff.  I’m not a very good example of a true minimalist.  However, making the decision to stay in our condo for the long term has caused me to shift my thinking.  Instead of saying, “I don’t want us to have lots of stuff’, out of necessity I have to say, “There’s only one small space where I can keep recipe books so I’ll have to decide which ones are worth keeping”.  Or, since we don’t have a garage or basement but only an awkwardly-sized storage locker, we can’t hang onto anything we aren’t using upstairs.  The locker fits our bikes, camping gear, Christmas boxes and a few odds and ends.  There’s no option to hang onto boxes full of pictures or books or old school work. This fact forces my husband and I to constantly make decisions around what to keep and what to donate or recycle or sell.  The downside is that all this decision making can be exhausting!  Especially as my boys get older and are producing more drawings, more projects, more school work, more stuff.  I am running out of creative storage solutions and the momentum needed to keep cleaning out!
What do you find most rewarding in trying to live with less stuff?
Being able to find everything!  Seriously, I can find most items in our home fairly quickly (with the exception of toys or other little knick knacks that the boys collect).  I also have less to tidy and less to clean.  The best example I can give of us living with less stuff is in my bedroom.  We gave the boys the master bedroom a couple of years ago, which was a great move.  Our bedroom now holds a queen sized bed, a small bedside table and then the little closet holds all our clothes.  Since the closet is small we can only have so many clothing items at one time, which keeps us from shopping and hanging onto old clothes that we ‘might wear one day’ but never do.  Most importantly, deciding to make the best of condo living has opened up great relationships with our neighbors in the building.  There are a few people in particular with whom I regularly borrow books, or kitchenware, and in turn I can lend them items I don’t use on a regular basis-hair clippers, a dehydrator or tools.  Sometimes I will offer my boys’ clothes to my neighbors who have younger children.  This has lead to many face to face conversations with the people who live below, beside and above my family.  I feel like our building has become a very special community of all ages (from eighteen months old to ninety-three years!) and what could be a better place to raise my kids.
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Do you see any challenges (older, bigger kids, retirement, etc) to continuing on with this lifestyle in the future?
Oh yes, I know there will be challenges as the boys get older.  They will get bigger, for one thing.  They will crave more space!  But, I guess I need to keep in mind that life will always have challenges no matter where we live or how we live.  The reality for my family right now is that we don’t have the finances to move, so we will do what we can to make it work as best we can, for as long as we need to.
Thank you Ashley! So lovely to hear from another condo family making the best of their small living situation. If you’d like to share your story of living minimalist-ish family life – any size home or family! – contact me at the minimalist mom at gmail dot com.