Meandering to FI

Also, meandering to the point of this post (not sure I ever got there). I wrote this post in bits and pieces over the past couple of weeks. They are thoughts, feelings, and my attempts to make meaning of this crazy time. Hope you find some value here. 🙂

Sometimes people have different opinions than I do. That’s okay; the world is a big place and people have had very different life experiences.

Sometimes people are scared. That’s okay; I’m scared about the dumbest things myself–like buying a new sofa. I have a pretty large net worth and I’m scared to buy a sofa.

Sometimes people are wrong. That’s okay; I’m often wrong (Dunning-Kruger is real, y’all).

Sometimes people are depressed. It took me a long time to figure out I struggle with depression. I have really bad Seasonal Affective Disorder and when something as minor as three days of rain happens (like this week) I suffer.

Covid and the quarantine have brought out a lot of opinions, ideas, posts. There is good scientific data on how to control a pandemic, but it seems to get lost in the shuffle (here’s one of the best articles I’ve read on how to manage the outbreak and here’s a common sense article about social distancing). And everyone has competing ideas for the best way to go about our lives and keep others safe.

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“I’m Drowning. There’s No Way I Can Get Better at Money. What Do I Do?”

A lot of what I write is directed towards people who have been managing their money for a long time.

But in case you stumbled on this blog and you feel like you’re one bill away from bankruptcy, I thought I’d write a post for you.

Let’s say that money scares you. You don’t look at you credit card bills, you don’t know what your credit score is, you haven’t even thought about retirement. That’s a long time away.

But you know that something has to change. You know you’ve got a lot of debt, and spending feels scary, and it never feels like you have anything approaching control around your money.

There is ONE thing you need to do. One thing only.

I’m not going to tell you what that is, yet. First, I want you to figure something out.

Step 1

When is the first time in your day when you sit in front of a computer or phone?

Do you get up early in the morning like me and go upstairs to your desk and start checking your email?

Do you get up, throw some clothes on, grab a protein bar, then start scrolling through your phone on the train (or you did, before Covid)?

Do you feed the kids, get them off to school, drive yourself to work, then sit down at your desk and open your work laptop (again, before Covid)?

Figure out when that is. Then, make a decision to take five minutes tomorrow, when you first get in front of your devise, to open Notes, or Google Sheets, or your email browser, and write some numbers down.

Don’t panic!!! Let me finish.

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Managing Your Money is Hard

I didn’t start a blog because personal finance is easy for me. I started a blog because I’m obsessed with reaching financial independence, and I love to think and write about it.

But managing your money is HARD!

Occasionally, I will read a blogger (usually an extremely frugal blogger) who will glibly comment, “It’s really hard for me to spend money. Being frugal is just part of who I am.”

That. is. not. me.

It is really hard to manage my family’s dollars, even after more than 12 years of paying really good attention to where our dollars go.

I have been budgeting since August 2008. Every month. That is 143 budgets, if you’re counting (12 months times 12 years, minus one month because it’s only June).

As I mentioned in several posts recently, I’ve rededicated my commitment to getting our budget right over the past several months.

In April, we got one month ahead with both our salaries in YNAB, our budgeting software of choice.

I started more sinking funds, so we can save money each month for even the smallest yearly subscriptions, like Ring Doorbell ($35 per year).

I’ve started a Celebrations Fund, so we can fund celebrations, birthdays, teacher gifts, and graduation gifts.

Those measures have helped, because I’m starting to see these sinking funds grow, and it’s making me feel better prepared for the future, less likely to rob from Peter to pay Paul in the budget.

But, we struggle constantly with spending. Last weekend, we went to Costco, and spent $265. That’s AFTER we already bought groceries for the week! And while we did buy a couple of items that will last us for a while, much of the food we bought will be gone by the end of the month. Housing an almost-thirteen, ravenous pubescent boy doesn’t help.

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#BLM and Money

For a long time I have championed immigrants. I personally understand the rage and frustration behind unfair immigration policies, policies that wouldn’t let my husband’s family members get a visa to come to the US for ten days in order to watch his marriage. I also had enough white privilege that my parents could make a contribution to a certain senator’s campaign fund to get that decision reversed so my family members could come visit me.

When I saw the news of children being separated from their parents at the border it hit me like nothing else. I immediately signed up to make a monthly contribution with an organization that worked to bring parents and children back together. I still feel rage and impotence every time I think of children being separated from their already-brutalized, already-war-weary parents. I’ve seen how people in Central America live. I’ve visited a neighborhood in Honduras that was built over a trash heap, watched children scamper around that filth, watch their parents with looks of resigned desperation.

I know those parents would do anything to give their kids a better life.

But here’s what I also know.

For a long time, I’ve watched cases of police brutality against black Americans, and I’ve felt some frustration. Some. Frustration. Not a lot, mind you, but a little. Enough to debate the issue with loved ones but not enough to call my senators and demand change.

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