How to Have a Debt Free Christmas – The 4-Gift Christmas Challenge

Christmas Gifts on Credit….the Gift that Keeps on Giving…

How much will you spend on the holidays this year?  If it’s close to $1,000.00  then you are pretty much average.  How much of your monthly budget is that $1,000.00?  It goes without saying that the holidays and holiday spending can be a budget buster.  And it’s not just the gifts that are purchased, there is extra money that goes into the food budget, into holiday decorating (do you have a Clark Griswold in your family?), traveling, getting the carpets cleaned and other purchases that are made to make the day(s) picture perfect.  And that’s what we all want, right? Is to create a feeling that will last.  There is nothing wrong with that!!!! You heard me right.  There is nothing wrong with that.

Our household loves Christmas and we love to decorate.  One of my greatest desires is to make sure that my children will have fond memories of the holidays. That they will look back and have snapshots of great moments that make them feel good.  So I completely understand that the expense that goes into the holidays is not always about “stuff” – it’s about the feelings that we have and the expectations we have about what these moments mean to us.

THE DECEMBER DILEMMA 

What is not good and not all right is to borrow to make all this magic happen.  We do not want the “high” of the holidays to be followed by the January “blues” when the mail carrier delivers the credit card statement and what we thought was just a few bucks here and a few bucks there has multiplied into a bill that cannot be paid off immediately.  Did you know that a credit card balance of $1,800.00 with 11.99% interest being paid at $100.00 a month will take 20 months to pay off? Do you really want to be paying for last year’s Christmas next Christmas?

The other danger is that holiday gifts are purchased at the expense of your current budget.  How does this happen?  If you have not budgeted for your holiday purchases and you don’t have any sources of extra income to pay them, then it logically follows that the money for those purchases is going to be at the expense of something else in your budget.  The cost of this?  Late fees, NSF fees, playing catch up for a few months into the New Year is not how you want to start the New Year.

4 Gift Christmas Challenge

 

THE CHALLENGE

So what to do?  PLAN!!! You know what they say, “those who fail to plan, plan to fail!”  I know…the holidays seem to sneak up on us every year – but it’s really more about poor planning on our part, isn’t it?  The holidays are not one of those sneaky holidays that change every year.  Each year they are in December – EVERY DECEMBER.

One way our family has opted to keep our Christmas budget under control, especially since adopting all the boys, is to do the 4-Gift Christmas Challenge.  The Challenge is simple…for each child, we purchase something they Want, something they Need, something to Wear and something to Read.  It has been such a cost saver for us and each child gets a mix of presents we can feel good about giving.

THE BUDGET

The easiest way to be ready for the holidays is to simply budget for it and put money in an account or some other stash where you can keep it and keep adding to it throughout the year.  Other ideas:

  • Get a seasonal job to pay for the extra holiday expenses
  • Budget gifts into your monthly budget and purchase gifts throughout the year
  • While you are attacking your mountain of debt –
    • have a year or two (or three) of hand-made gift giving.
    • agree on one family gift.  We know a family that did this and the parents surprised the kids with a new family dog on Christmas morning.
    • tell other family members that you are not giving gifts this year while you are getting out of debt.
    • Get creative!!! There are lots of ways to make your holidays inexpensive.

We have opted to budget for our Christmas for the past several years and limit the amount we spend on gifts.  What is interesting is that as we get further along in our debt repayment the desire to spend on gift giving has decreased.  We would much rather see our debt reduced than a bunch of boxes under the tree.

THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that one of the greatest ways to put the holidays, and what is really important about them, into perspective is by sharing it with others and by finding a way to serve someone, anyone, during this season.  You want to create memories for your kids?  You want to teach them about what is most important in this life? You want to teach them responsibility and to appreciate all that they have?  This is how it’s done.  Serve with them – shoulder to shoulder.  Serve in a shelter, deliver food to the homeless, adopt a needy family and deliver presents to them, visit a hospital, there are so many possibilities and opportunities to serve.

What’s up with that?  A message about serving in the middle of talking about holiday debt?  Here’s what I am getting at.  It’s a paradigm shift.  It’s getting off the crazy train of debt.  It’s realizing that what you have IS enough and you don’t need more “stuff” and even if there is some “stuff” you really, REALLY, want…you have to want to be debt free more.  You have to reach a point where you are satisfied and a really powerful way to create contentment in your own heart is to pour into other people.  It’s really difficult to  have everything be about YOU when you are staring into the face of someone else who needs help – it becomes crystal clear that it is not about you – but THEM.  When this shifts for you, something happens and your spending will decrease, which means more funds available to attack your debt and get off the crazy train of debt for good.

A happy DEBT FREE holiday to you all!

Love and Prosperity, 

Your GirlFIday. 

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How We Saved $4000.00 on Our First International Vacation

In October, my husband and I took our very first international trip to Greece.  It was the trip of a lifetime – and that is really an understatement – but as you can imagine, it was also expensive.  I am happy to report, though expensive, it did not break our bank account. In fact, we saved a ton.  How did we do that? 1. We saved for it and paid it all in cash.  Unlike many Americans, we did not return from our trip with debt. 2. We used our super-saving-ninja skills to get our expenses down as much as possible. That’s what we are going to talk about today.

The bulk of our savings came from a handful of choices we made.  First, we flew out of Tijuana, rather than the San Diego Airport.  We did not pay for the bulk of our meals.  Lastly, just about everything else we did was free.

The purpose of the trip was to attend a Chautauqua.  If you were like me one year ago, you had no clue what that means. Is it like a Chewbacca?  No, not even close – though that would have been a cool gathering too, I am sure.  I’ve explained our Chautauqua experience in an upcoming post, if you are interested to know what the heck one is.  (Urban Dictionary, a bit salty sarcastic, is of no assistance on this one.)

$2000.00

The first area we saved was on our plane tickets.  Having never travelled internationally before I had NO IDEA how expensive plane tickets were.  When I first started watching them, I could not believe my eyes.  They ranged anywhere between $2000.00 and $5000.00 a piece and that was for economy.  At that point, I had already bought our tickets for the Chautauqua so I was already past the point of no return. The only flexibility we had was our departure city.

I knew of a friend that flew out of Tijuana all the time, with her children, so I had to assume she felt it was safe. So, out of curiosity, I looked….I was SHOCKED at the difference.  The difference was big enough that it really was not an option.  We were already embarking on an international adventure, so why not add one more adventure to the mix. By flying out of Tijuana, we saved about $2000.00 on our tickets.  Not a bad way to start an adventure. I will be writing on that experience as well in case you’re wondering what that was like.

It’s also important to note, flight prices vary based on a number of factors besides destination.  For instance, if I you were to look up the prices to fly to Thessaloniki in March of next year they would be less than $1000 and it would have been cheaper to fly out of San Diego as opposed to Tijuana.

TIP #1 – Research your flights before deciding your destination as well as date of travel.  You can save hundreds, thousands, by having a bit of flexibility and adventuresome spirit.

SUPER SAVER TIP #2 – If you don’t want to pay anything for your flights, then there are several resources available on how to do that with travel rewards via credit card hacking.  The guys over at Travel Miles 101 have that covered.

Meals $1000 

Meals while traveling can be a budget buster.  In the past, one of the ways we have minimized our meal expense was to book at a hotel with at least a refrigerator, but preferable a kitchen. When we travel with the kids, this is almost non-negotiable.

This trip we packed non-perishable snacks; lots of nuts, cheese crisps, granola bars, and dried fruit. It kept us satisfied in between our flights and other periods we were in between meals.

Finally, as part of our package, meals were included.  This was huge.  We received 3 delicious meals at our five-star resort every day.  These varied between buffet style and plated meals.  We were able to both indulge in traditional Greek food, as well as dishes prepared by a master chef. They were divine.

Look for experience packages that include meals in your travels.  This one thing will save you additional hundreds of dollars, maybe more, depending on how many people you are traveling with.

TIP #3 – Get a package that includes meals (though be careful and analyze whether that makes sense.  Sometimes it doesn’t)

TIP #4 – Pack your own food and snacks.

TIP #5 – Get a room that has a kitchen and/or a refrigerator.

EXCURSIONS and MISCELLANEOUS SPENDING $1000.00

Another benefit of purchasing an experience package is that a couple of our excursions as well as transportation were paid for.  We were able to enjoy a walking tour of Thessaloniki as well as a tour of the museums at the foot of Mount Olympus and a bus tour up the mountain.  This also allowed us precious time to spend with our fellow travelers and get to know them better while seeing thousands of years of history.

Others in our trip hiked and went in to town to explore.  Also free.

Curtis and I opted to simply enjoy the resort on the days there were no excursions.  We were on vacation to relax and enjoy ourselves.  Reading a book, overlooking an infinity pool that expands over the Aegean Sea is how I would describe paradise.  It was enough for me.  And Free.

Don’t forget to look for coupons or other discounts for excursions.  There are so many ways to save, if you are intentional about it.

TIP #6 – Prepay for Excursions.

TIP #7 – USE COUPONS!

Curtis and I left for Greece with a spending budget.  Because of the intentionality of our spending, we came home with two-thirds of that budget unspent.  A much better position to be in than coming home with debt. Pre-FIRE movement, we would have come home from a trip having to rearrange our budget to account for our over-spending as well as work for months to pay off our credit cards.  To not have the stress of coming home to that?  It’s priceless.

How have you been able to save on your travel expenses?  We’d love to hear it.

Love and Prosperity

Your GirlFIday

 

**Photo by Alex Antoniadis on Unsplash

 

Kids and Thorns – The Impossible Task of Perfect Parenting

 

This post is not the normal type of post.  This one has nothing to do with finances.  But being a parent is at the heart of our financial journey, so I thought I would share some of what life looks like in our house….

In case anyone is misled by pictures of smiling children in the most adorable Halloween costumes – but seriously, those are the cutest, right?  I have to let you all in on something – our life is not all roses.  Whoever (or is it whomever? I never get that right) thought up that phrase forgot, roses have thorns.  Today was a particularly thorny day.  And, I am not talking a little prick on the finger thorny.  I am talking those big huge vines of thorns that sprung up in Sleeping Beauty. Massive – huge – black – ugly – thorns.

 

I would hate for anyone to look at our life and think that we have our shit together.  (Whoops – I should’ve warned you, I am not in the mood today to keep my potty words to myself.)  Some days in the Mays house, it mirrors the apocalypse.  Children turn into little demon-babies and Momma gives Linda Blaire a run for her money.  Today was not my proudest moment.  Not by a long shot.

 

You see, when you sign up for this parenting gig, no one tells you that one day one of your precious angels, that really should worship the womb that birthed them – or the heart that grew them, will scream in your face how much they hate you and call you out on your poor parenting.  In their eyes, you ARE supposed to be perfect.  They have NO idea – that it really is the most impossible task. Impossible from the start.

 

Impossible when you let the baby cry in the crib a little longer than you probably should, because you just need ONE second so you don’t crumble into a sobbing mush ball too.

 

Impossible when your four-year-old, trying to be a big boy, isn’t quite tall enough to reach the cereal and tips the box spilling cereal dust all over your freshly swept floors. And then, out of sheer frustration, because that was the first time you had swept the floors in three weeks, you chastise him for not asking for help. Yeah…so clearly NOT perfect.

 

Impossible when your special needs boy, who has had such a hard time at school because it is JUST TOO MUCH for him, misses out on a treat like his brothers. Guilt hits you in the pit of your stomach.  The look on his face. You ARE an awful parent.

 

Or when your adult child points out all the ways you have screwed up, like you aren’t aware, pouring salt into every insecurity you already have about your parenting. Ah, how do they know? There is no fooling anyone around here.

 

Sometimes it is just a perfect storm for these types of days.  Then, I stop and wonder, do other parents have these same types of days?  Maybe we ARE doing it all wrong.  Maybe it’s not the perfect storm, maybe WE are the storm?  I think I have seen that meme somewhere. I don’t think this is what they meant though.

 

What if WE are creating the chaos.  I don’t know what to do with that.  If that is the case, how on earth do we fix that?  Parenting is permanent.  You don’t get to say, “whoops, my bad – I am defective – here’s the kids back.”  Nope, this gig is for life and that’s a really looooong time.

 

I am not quite sure how to repair the destruction caused when these storms have let loose in our house.  I suppose it starts by taking a look around and first assessing the damage. Then starting with the stuff we can tackle ourselves and, maybe – if necessary – we call in the National Guard. Do they have a hotline?

 

As I write, it is 3:30 in the morning and my house is quiet except for my faithful boy Odin.  Thank goodness for the loyalty of our furbabies.  Now that’s the real deal unconditional adoration right there.  My brain is still reeling from just how god-awful a day it was yesterday.  From reports of really sucky behavior at school by half of the Littles to the horrible fight with my daughter. The worst?  My sweet little four-year-old was a witness to all of it.  UGH.  You see?  Bad parenting.

 

As I think about how events unfolded, I cannot forget the divine intervention that also took place.  You see, sometimes God just knows when and where to place people in your life – just to let you know he IS STILL THERE.

 

Even in the middle of the chaos, there is still soccer practices to get to, groceries to pick up and webinars to attend.  Thank goodness for technology, Wi-Fi and mobile hotspots. This is how post-millennial moms get all the stuff done. While setting up my laptop to listen to a scheduled webinar at the park, so I can be “present” at soccer practice but also keep any eye on my other boys, I happened to see a friend’s old neighbor and fellow foster-adoptive Momma there on a Thursday.  Not her normal day or time to be there, but you see – God.  That’s kinda how he rolls.

 

As we were catching up, the conversation naturally flowed to the common struggles we both share of having babies born with disadvantages.  That’s a really nice way of saying our babies were born to moms who abused their bodies with drugs and a whole host of other things while carrying our children.  In utero-trauma is a thing – and it has lasting consequences.  You think when you adopt a baby you can love them to healthy.  And for the most part, that is true.  But health is a spectrum.  There are varying degrees. My boys ARE healthy.  They are sweet. Active. Thriving.  But they also suffered in utero trauma and that means that sometimes their brains do not react the way we want them to. They have difficulty with relationships, boundaries, self-regulation. Handling noise – any stimulus – emotions. ALL.THE.EMOTIONS.

 

As we sat and talked and I watched her struggle with her youngest, who was having a really hard time and openly defiant and refusing to let her mommy have more than a 30 second attempt at conversation at a time – I was grateful.  Grateful because in that moment I realized we all have our struggles.  We all have our challenges.  Moments of chaos happen to all of us. And we are all just doing the best we can.  She described some of the difficulties they were having and I could see tears welling up.  I hear you Momma.  I share your frustration.  Your exhaustion. Sometimes it is all too much.

 

In the middle of our fragmented conversation, her phone rang, it was her 13-year-old calling to tell her she made dinner and it was ready and waiting for them. After getting off the phone, she began packing up and shared with me how awful a mom she is because her first instinct was not to be grateful her daughter had made dinner, but to be irritated that she now had to pack everyone up and leave practice a bit early to get to the dinner waiting on them.

 

I get it. I totally get it. How many times has my first instinct been not of kindness, appreciation or gratitude. To not see the effort of my children and their intention behind an action. Yeah, I get it. We are selfish beings by nature.  To some extent we cannot help it.  It takes intention. It takes awareness.  And sometime we are so exhausted by life that we are just too tired to be intentional or aware and our human-ness is revealed.

 

So, when my daughter yells at me and tells me I am selfish, and I want to scream with all my might that I am not – I need to acknowledge she is right.  She is right about a lot.  I am selfish and I am not as good of a parent as I want to be – in fact, I miss that mark by a lot. But I also need to give myself a little grace and also realize that we are all flawed.  Most of us moms and dads are just trying to do the best we can with these precious treasures we have been given. The roses are beautiful – but the thorns serve their purpose too. They protect the roses from being eaten – allowing them to grow.  Maybe that’s the purpose of these really awful days too.

 

Love and Prosperity, 

Your GirlFIDay

 

 

 

 

Focus On the Wins

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Day 2866…134 days in.

It is a GOOD thing to look back and find your wins.  Especially if you have been knocked on your butt a few times.  We’ve been thrown a few lumps recently as described in my last post.  Because of that, I thought it would be a good idea to look back and examine a few of our accomplishments since starting this journey back in July.

Now, when we started we took a very good look at our budget and we cut several things.  Cable. The gym. Reduced our cell phone bill.  Paid off a few accounts.  And that was a great start.  We reduced our discretionary spending significantly as well.  At the time, we were like, “wow, that’s pretty stinkin’ good.”  and it was, TOTALLY!  (I am 46-year-old California girl through and through; “Like” “totally” and “awesome” are part of my permanent vernacular. And sometimes they all get thrown together even.) 

Then, we started gaining some momentum.  Started talking to more people about what we are doing.  Talked with and listened to others that are on this same journey, some behind us and some way ahead.   It’s inspiring.  It’s motivating.  Even so, this BIG goal we have does not seem real.  It still seems like a dream.  Because when it happens – it WILL be a dream.  It will be something that most people never reach because they are afraid.  Or stuck.  Or because they just can’t envision a life of MORE than what they already have.  We want more than that.  We want to be able to choose.  Choose whether or not we continue to work in some fashion after we “retire” from our current careers.  To choose to pursue passion projects or volunteer.  Choose to pick up and go wherever we want to go, whenever we want.  All because we have laid the groundwork for it now.

Have you ever taken a moment to watch construction? It is hard, labor intensive, exhausting work.  Not many people choose to do it.  Having previously lived in Phoenix for fifteen years – I especially felt for them in the Summer months.  Its not a job you can do forever.  But their job is so important. A structure built on a crappy foundation is ultimately worthless or at best will cost a lot of money to fix.

We are in the foundation building stages of FI (Financial Independence).  Its not fun a lot of the time.  It is work.  There is sacrifice. But it must be done in order for our plans to work.  Without our foundational work now – Financial Freedom and Early Retirement, will not happen.  We will be on the hamster wheel until we die.  No thanks.

So this morning, I took a step back to look at our work. And I was pleased with our progress.  (That is an understatement for sure.) Here is a summary of the monthly costs we have cut and/or paid off since we started a few months ago:

July: 

Cell 25.00

Cable 120.00

Gym 110.00

Care Credit 49.00

Aug/Sept:

Tuition Wendy 400.00

Dentist 215.00

Department Store 27.00

Tuition Maddie 781.00

Oct: 

Nov: 

State Taxes: 250.00

Karate 375.00

Water Delivery 125.00

Gym (again) 159.00

TOTAL MONTHLY SAVINGS:  $2636.00

But wait….now times that by 12….That is $31,623.00….$31,623.00!!!!

Whaaaaat?  That is a pretty freakin’ awesome number, right?  And this does not include our reduced discretionary spending for things like groceries and fuel.  Cool fact? If you look at most of them, individually, they are fairly small amounts.  The lesson?  Small wins add up to BIG ONES.  When I see what we have been able to decrease from our budget, I get excited.  It makes me want to go back through it and look for more costs we can reduce. It makes me jump up from my desk, run into the other room and, excitedly, tell my husband, “Babe look at what we have done!”  Really, I did do that.

Now you may look at our numbers and be thinking, “I can’t do that.  You make waaaaaay more money that I do.  Of course YOU can do that.”  But I challenge you.  Listen up! Becoming debt free and saving money can be done, and IS done, by people who make significantly less that what our family is fortunate enough to make.

Have you looked at your monthly spending lately?  What are you spending money on that you can cut or reduce?  Make a goal.  Start small.  Cut $100.00 from your monthly spending and put it in an investment account.  (I put ours into a Vangaurd VTSAX account.  Unsure of why you should or where you should put your money, go to JL Collins site and read his stock series, or buy his book The Simple Path to Wealth.) Then the next month cut your spending by another $100.00 (or 1% – whatever is achievable for you and will not cause you to freak out. And invest that amount in the same way.)  Then wash, rinse and repeat.  Its MAGIC.

$100.00 in savings a month, equals $1200.00 a year.  $200 a month, equals $2400.00 a year.  $300 a month, equals $3600.00 a year.  Compound each of those over ten years at 8% interest and you get $17,383.87, $34,767.75 and $52,151.62 respectively.  How would it make you feel to have that much sitting in an investment account growing by simply making a few simple cuts to your budget NOW.  Life-changing. Truly it is.  If you can grasp this one thing – you will have changed your life and that of your family’s.

Trust me…. you can do this.  It is just math.  Math and determination.  I believe you can do it. So get to it.

Love and Prosperity, 

Your GirlFIday 

Mountains, Mistakes and Missteps

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2884 days…116 days in…

I expected there would be bumps in the road.  That at some point on this FI journey we would have some hiccups in our plan.  I did not think that it would come so quickly.  I naively, I suppose, put a plan together and thought all I had to do was execute.  It’s all just math, right?  It is.  And it isn’t.  Because we are humans.  With human problems.  Kids – that need STUFF.  And food.  You have to feed them. Fears. Impulses.  All of those things and more.

Since my last post, not much has changed.  In fact, due to a mistake I realized I made after speaking with our CPA, I had to halt my retirement contributions until the first of the year.  I discovered I misunderstood how much I could contribute as the employer into my individual SEP and due to that, I have until the end of the year to make up my “income” so I do not go over the percentages allowed by the IRS.  Ah yes, Uncle Sam, he seems to always show up and at JUST the right time.  So in a nutshell – I contributed too much money, too soon.  A good problem to have I suppose, but who wants to be in trouble with the IRS?  Not me.  Been there, done that and it stinks (still paying on that one after 8 years.  Seriously, trust me, a good CPA is CRUCIAL if you are self-employed.) Our CPA is wonderful and has really given us some of the most sound advice.  The problem is follow through.  Much like errant children, it has taken us some time to truly value his wisdom.

Ah taxes. What’s that saying? There are two things certain, death and taxes.…It will be a MOST wonderful day when we have finally put ourselves in a position to not pay so much of them.  Reducing them is part of our overall FI plan – but much like chess or a puzzle box, there are moves that must be made, in order, first.  But right now they are killing us. I am all for paying my fair share.  I like the things they provide – roads, schools, national parks, infrastructure – those things are all good things.  But if I can pay LESS – that would be super-duper awesome too.  As it is, the more we earn to pay our taxes, the more taxes we owe, so we must earn more, to pay the taxes…and so on and so on.  It’s the definition of the “hamster wheel” and we are dying to get off.  This year we have to pay more in estimated taxes for 2017 than we have ever before.  It made my heart leap out of my chest when I saw the number.  I was not prepared.  And therein – is the misstep.  2018 will be much better because we will be going into the year with one of our primary objectives being to reduce our taxable income.  We will do that by investing as much money as our budget will allow into pre-tax retirement accounts.  (Not sure what all of this means?  – Go check out some of the recommended blogs and podcasts mentioned in my last post).

My husband is incredibly fortunate in this regard.  He is a teacher and his school district allows him to not only contribute to a 403B but also a 457 plan…say whaaaat? (If you work in a service field; teacher, police officer, fire-fighter…you likely have the availability of a 457 plan as well and should consult your benefits department to learn more.  Seriously, this is like the most awesome thing ever for you.)  What this means is that we are not limited to contributing $18,000.00 a year into one account.  We can actually contribute double that amount, $36,000.00, $18,000.00 into each.  This was a new discovery for us and we were both floored when we learned of it.  The hurdle is to be able afford to max out both the 403b and the 457 as quickly as possible.  That will be extremely difficult with this mountain of debt we are carrying.  Sometimes I look at the numbers and I am overwhelmed.  Keeping positive and focused, which I usually succeed in doing, is sometimes difficult.  This plan of ours would be so much easier if we didn’t have the debt.  But there is no way around the mountain.  The only way is to painstakingly keep climbing.

Adding to the difficultly of the climb up the mountain, is that the debt service also requires a certain influx of income to also be maintained to keep up.  So not only are we climbing steep terrain, we are doing it with a 200-pound monkey on our backs.  It makes changing careers impossible without adequate replacement income. (and that, folks crushes my spirit and is a discussion for another day.)  It also delays how quickly we can achieve financial freedom.

So…the income is needed to pay the debt, thereby necessitating an increase in income – which increases the taxes, which requires more income to pay the taxes…and here we are right back on that hamster wheel.  Trapped.  That is often how I feel.  It can be so discouraging…

And then something happened….it was as if the clouds parted and a choir of angels began to sing….Well, no, but almost.  I went and looked at my Vanguard account…and there, sitting in my brand-new three-month old account, was quite a nice little chunk of free money.  Interest.  FREE MONEY.  And that was enough.  It was enough for me to catch my breath and look up ahead.  The top of the mountain in the distance, it is far, but I see it.  So we take a deep breath, we stick to the plan, and we keep on going.

Love and Prosperity,

 

Your Girl FI-day.

 

2934 DAYS…66 DAYS IN

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FI – FREEDOM.

I am sitting here looking at my “FI Life” to do list and so many of our boxes have been checked off already.  I suppose I will need to keep adding to the list, there’s always room for improvement, right? Curt and I have been working H-A-R-D.  Totally laser focused.  We are determined.  We WILL retire early.  On a beach somewhere – watching our children grow, experience new cultures and finding adventures.  Are you skeptical? Read on.

If you are tardy to the party and are wondering, “What is this FI-Life?  What is she talking about?”  There are people much more able than myself to tell you.  I would highly recommend you check out a few of the different sources listed below.

Mr. Money Mustache’s site is basically required reading,  I would start here with this classic, The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement.  As is JL Collins’ site, The Simple Path to Wealth.  Mr. Collins has a book of the same name, mentioned in my previous posts. GET IT.  If you are into podcasts, like me, the gentlemen at Choose FI are top notch, as is the Mad FIentist (which is how I first learned about FI).  On Choose FI – I would specifically listen to episode 38, The Why of FI, and episode 21, The Pillars of FI – they have a great website too, you can check that out here. If after reading and absorbing all of this information you have not crossed over to our tribe, well…then, you enjoy working and would not mind doing so until you are one foot into the grave – me? No thanks. I’ve already wasted so much time.  There is no more time to waste.

You may also be wondering how we intend to do this.  How do we intend to go from a NEGATIVE net worth to between $500,000 and $750,000 in 8 years?  And how on earth can we survive the rest of our lives on that amount?  (You should know this by now – if you have not gone back and read the suggested posts above. Shame on you – do that now…really – DO IT.)

Here is a synopsis of how we intend to do it.  We are focusing on three (well maybe four) areas:

  • Paying down debt with a fervor – no new debt!
  • Saving aggressively – currently we are at 20% but the goal is to increase to 50% as debt is paid off  and expenses are reduced.  (We were at 10% just 66 days ago, so doubling our existing savings rate in 2 months is REAL progress)
  • Reducing expenses.
  • I would also consider the rehab of our home as part of our overall objective.  Every dollar we spend on the house must have a good rate of return.  Every repair or improvement must bring value.  We also save on repairs by  comparison shopping and doing much of the work ourselves.  (Since purchasing our home as a foreclosure in October, we have added more than $100,000.00 to its value.)

If we do these three (or four) things – there is no reason we cannot meet our goal.  Its called MATH.

When I sat down to update the numbers, check balances, and analyze our spending and savings, I was nervous to plug it all and compare.  I was worried that there would be no overall gain.  I don’t know why I worried – again – MATH.  Reducing spending + increasing savings – always equals more money in the bank.

So what are the gains?

3000 Days to FI Spreadsheet 9.17.17 snippet

We have an overall gain of $24,309.00 in 66 days – a 46 day gain of $18,989.00.  Keep in mind that some the gains are carry overs from June and July that did not make it into the July spread sheet.  What is the bulk of this? Its mostly retirement.  But we also paid off quite a bit of debt as we have reduced our spending significantly.

(Your income may not be as high as ours – admittedly, we are high wage earners.  However, we also have a very high cost of living – living in San Diego is not cheap.  For your circumstances, focus not on the dollars, but the percentages. Many, many other FI-ER’s are not high wage earners and FI can be achieved by every income bracket.)

The following are some of the highlights of the “wins” since the last update:

  • Cut cable – savings of $200.00 a month.
  • Purchased 3 Fire-sticks.  We have not missed cable one bit.
  • Cut food spending by 50% (yes – 50%.  HUGE budget buster)
  • Paid off 3 consumer accounts and 3 other bills (consisting of tuition and dental work) – Total monthly savings of $1531.00
  • Cancelled Gym memberships – savings of $125.00
  • Put power on a peak savings plan and utilized the “super cool” method to cut A/C expenses. Not sure of the savings yet…July and August temperatures fluctuated greatly and I have not seen the new bill yet.  October should give us a better picture.
  • Opened a Vanguard VTSAX SEP IRA account and funded a total of $10,000.00.

Our plan for the coming months is to continue doing much of the same, but specifically:

  • Pay off Wendy’s car.
  • Pay off at least one credit card.
  • Call mortgage company to see if we can get PMI taken off with an appraisal.
  • Open an IRA for Curt to supplement his retirement from his employer.
  • Supplement Wendy’s income via Real Estate to speed up debt reduction and savings.

This train is chugging.  We are gaining speed.  There are hills up ahead, I am sure, and we cannot quite see what is around every corner – but we know our destination and we are undeterred.

I’d love it if you all would hop on, grab hold and join us.

Love and Prosperity,

Your Girl FI-day.

***The picture was taken by my friend Tara Ross (so please do not copy or share without permission).  It captures the spirit of the freedom financial independence brings.

 

 

2983 days…17 days in…

Has it really only been 17 days?  It feels like an eternity really. I am astonished at what we have been able to do in such a short time.  Intention is the word that comes to mind.   What a difference being intentional makes.

Here is just a quick update of what we have been able to do in a little over two weeks:

  • Opened up a Vanguard VTSMX retirement account and began funding it. (GAH!  How exciting is that!)
  • Paid off a credit account
  • Ordered the firestick and new remotes so we can cut cable THIS WEEK!
  • Did a three-month analysis of our spending on mint.com (Think you cannot afford to save or pay off debt, I will bet you there is a ton of waste happening.  If you eliminate the waste, you can do some BIG things.)
  • Reduced our cell phone bill by $25 – I know that’s not much, but we have a 3 month plan to reduce it even further.  Every dollar counts.
  • Cut out several unnecessary items in our budget for a total monthly savings of:  $200
  • We stuck to our weekly meal plan.  (which means money saved on food)
  • And the BIGGIE…We stuck to our budget and discretionary spending for the month of July!!!  – REALLY! This is HUGE.  I don’t know how many times I have to readjust the next months budget due to overspending in the previous month.

In the coming weeks our goal is to accomplish the following:

  • Fully cut cable
  • pay off several accounts for a total monthly savings of:  $1761.00, that savings will go directly into debt repayment
  • Pay off Wendy’s car
  • Continue funding retirement
  • Fund a “baby emergency fund” with at a minimum of $1000.00
  • Cut utility bills

The above is just a minimum.  If we keep this train chugging along, by our next update we should have far exceeded the above goals.

Love and Prosperity,

Your Girl FI-day.

 

P.S….This book is a MUST read if you are interested in retiring early.  Seriously.  A MUST.  File Jul 30, 3 19 53 PM