Ending 2020

Hi guys! I meant to publish this on December 31st, but I’m here at my parents’ house, visiting, and didn’t get it done. So I’ll backdate. Hope you are having a good 2021 so far. One of my goals for 2021 is a more regular blogging schedule so I hope to be back soon with more content!

What a year. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s had fantasy conversations with my past self about our current unbelievable reality.

Me, circa February 2020: “What’s with the masks?”

Current Me: “Girl, how much time you got?”

Also unbelievable: Moderna Inc. started working on the vaccine in early January of this year. Before any of us even had a clue what was coming. From Bloomberg Businessweek:

“The biotechnology company Moderna Inc. had downloaded the genetic code for the novel coronavirus from researchers in China. Within a few days, scientists there had developed a vaccine with the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the research agency led by Anthony Fauci. By mid-March, they’d started a clinical trial.”

There’s a lot that goes on in the world that I don’t know. Thank goodness, right? Both the good and the bad parts.

But this post isn’t about those things, so much. It’s about how my little neck of the woods did, benchmark-wise, this year.

Continue reading “Ending 2020”

20 Plant-Based Dinners

In our quest to eat more veggies in 2020 (and less meat), I thought I’d put together a post to help myself organize some of our new, favorite plant-based dinner recipes, ones that we have tried and given the thumbs-up to.

I originally started this post way back in January, but, you know, 2020 happened, and we got a little distracted from our goal. But since reading How Not to Die, I have been working to change how I cook and I think this post is more important than ever, if nothing more than a reference for me.

When I get home from work, around 4pm, if Mr. ThreeYear is not in the middle of a conference call, his first question is usually “What’s for dinner?” I try to have dinner ready by about 5:00 or 5:30 because of kid activities and husband hunger. So, I need recipes that are fast.

Continue reading “20 Plant-Based Dinners”

The Answer to That Question I Asked Myself in My 30s

Several years ago, now, confronted with yet another friend whose spouse was dying of cancer, I asked myself, “Why are our cancer rates so high? Isn’t there anything we can do to stop cancer?”

This wasn’t a hypothetical question. I really wanted to know why we went from a cancer rate of 1 in 100 in 1900 to 1 in 3 women and 1 in 2 men in 2010 (I don’t know now where I got those statistics–I just memorized them for a presentation I was doing at the time).

I never bothered to figure out the answer, until I happened to pick up a book with an intriguing title last week, and had boxes of evidence, and the answer to how to stop cancer, dumped over my head.

But first, a detour. At the beginning of this year, I read another book and changed my habits, as I so often do. I read the book Blue Zones Kitchen by Dan Buettner and was super inspired to eat more vegetarian meals.

We started eating that way at the beginning of the year, but then Covid hit, and we quietly put vegetarian eating aside and went back to our typical fare. No big deal. We eat pretty healthy. Healthy proteins, like eggs and chicken, some sausage and bacon, but not a ton, veggies, like kale, carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, pasta.

Eating vegetarian is good, I vaguely knew, but so much had happened since I read that book, that I just couldn’t remember why it was worth the trouble, especially during a global pandemic.

So when I picked up this latest book, with lots of leafy greens on the cover, provocatively entitled How Not to Die, I didn’t really know what I was getting into. I actually had no idea what the book was about. It was in my Kindle Unlimited picks, so I dived in.

Turns out, the book finally answered the question I’d asked myself back in my 30s. I honestly didn’t think there was a clear answer to why cancer rates had increased so much in this country, just thought it might vaguely have something to do with increased toxins in our groundwater.

But the author, Michael Gregor, MD, has made it his life mission to collect as many double-blind, placebo-controlled (etc.) top-flight studies as possible to figure out how to reduce various types of diseases, including cancer, that kill us.

Continue reading “The Answer to That Question I Asked Myself in My 30s”

How to Be Happy

We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

Joseph Campbell

Grasping, grasping, always grasping. We are a dissatisfied species, no?

Maybe you’re someone who looks out over your backyard, as you’ve just hand washed your dishes, noticing the beauty of the sunset, grateful for the ups and downs of your day, convinced you already have every single thing you need right in front of you.

I have those moments, occasionally. I do. I also have a monkey mind that’s always planning, yearning, seeking things to change and improve. “Does she like me?” “When will I get a new fridge?” “My house is outdated. I’m never going to get it fixed up.” “I need, I need, I need…”

Writing helps me tame the beast. It is my form of thinking with my fingers, of taking the ephemeral whisps of thought, of what I know to be true, and pinning them down, shaping and creating them into a philosophy, into meaning, into, perhaps, a plan for living.

I’ve been reading over my old journals. My writing, especially the writing I did pre-blog, was an exercise in formulating meaning, in figuring out a purpose, in discovering my authentic self. While my thinking patterns can often drive me batty, I like the self I find in my journals, the person I am on paper.

My authentic self (in my quarantine outfit). Proudly a mama, first and foremost.

Um, what about happiness?

How does this relate to happiness? I imagine you didn’t start reading this post to hear my self-congratulations.

So let me get to the point. Reading my past words has reminded me of some things. Reminded me of the candescent ideas I read, back in 2016, and then wrote down, as I suspected I’d forget their wisdom.

To be happy, I have to be my authentic self.

Continue reading “How to Be Happy”

We Doubled Our Net Worth

Pardon me for not writing about this back in June when it actually happened, but we doubled our net worth. That was one of two giant goals I had on this blog when I started it.

I think I told you that we went out to a fancy dinner to celebrate.

The dinner was anti-climactic, in part because of Covid restrictions.

The reaching of our goal, however, has left me happy. Every time I check our net worth I’m happy. Especially because it keeps going up.

I know, I know. Major bull market; we’re undoubtedly in for a major correction. But let me enjoy it while it lasts, ‘kay?

How did we get here? Well, let’s back up. I wrote a post back in October of 2017 called How We Plan to Double Our Net Worth.

Basically, we planned to pay down our mortgage principal, save money in our retirement accounts, and add money to our taxable accounts.

Here is our total net savings rate over the past three years:

Continue reading “We Doubled Our Net Worth”

How I Went from Spending $1250 to $600 on Groceries in Two Months

Well, well, well. It seems I have FINALLY managed to stay within a $600 per month grocery budget for the first time in recent memory.

You may be shouting, “amateur!” I don’t care. I have never been able to figure out how to reduce this expense until now, and I am PROUD of myself.

In June, we spent $1243.61 on food.

In August, we spent $597.13.

How in the world did we manage to HALF our grocery budget in the space of two months?

Well, if you want the short answer:

I started budgeting my grocery money weekly.

If you want the long answer (which, I think you do, because, come on, who wants a one-sentence answer when you can get something long and complicated?!), then read on.

Continue reading “How I Went from Spending $1250 to $600 on Groceries in Two Months”

Austerity Measures

For the most part, we haven’t been worried about losing our jobs during Covid, so we haven’t been especially worried about our financial situations during the pandemic.

Lately, however, my husband has had some unpleasant situations at work, and we have been reminded of how much we depend on our salaries to cover our everyday expenses.

Mr. ThreeYear and I made the decision that for the next six months, we’re going to buckle down and save as much as possible so that we can beef up our emergency fund.

Contemplating joblessness, even as a thought exercise, is scary. It made me realize that we don’t have enough in our emergency fund.

For several years, I’ve kept a smaller emergency fund of $10,000-$15,000, plus the money in our budget, which is generally about $10,000-$15,000 as well. The money in our emergency fund sits in our Ally Savings Account, and earns a nominal amount of interest each month ($10-$15 at the current rate). Our budgeted money is in our checking account.

Continue reading “Austerity Measures”

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.

Continue reading “Meandering to FI”

“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.

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

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.

Continue reading “Managing Your Money is Hard”