Why Did I Just Spend $100 on a Whim?

Because fitness, that’s why.

I bought a Fitbit. Back up, I’ve been wanting one for years. I’ll admit that their step counting is not always accurate. According to my gadget this morning, I walked 300 steps while driving to work this morning. However, the pros greatly outweigh the cons. It’s only a matter of time before I actually pulled the trigger.

But why now? Well, an office job severely limits my movement. Even when I was working with kids, I’d be walking at least 10 minutes every few hours, either with a break between clients or during session to get snacks or stretch our legs or whatever. But this, this is not that. And I love my job, but I also miss being that active. The Fitbit helps me remember to move and to track my movement.

How did we finance? With a budget as tight as ours is, making a splurge purchase like this is hard to reconcile. However, with my full-time job, I have a consistent paycheck to rely on, and I wanted to make one fun purchase before my side hustle money went to repay our emergency fund. So I took that week’s tutoring money and bought a Fitbit, headphones for work, and a coffee. The rest is put aside so I can buy the hubby one.  With his shift in work, he also needs to be more conscious of his movement, and Fitbit has a cool interactive “team” function now, so we can challenge each other.

Sale. Sale. Sale. I also bought a Charge 2, instead of the greatest, latest edition. This meant that I got it on clearances at 30% off. Hopefully, when I get the hubby’s, it’ll be slightly more on sale, but if not. That’s not the worst clearance deal in the world.

The Charge is great, and I’m overall happy with my purchase, and after we buy his, it’s back to the grind of student loan repayment. I just wanted something to celebrate this momentous occasion, and something that I use every day is worth that price.

Have you ever splurged to celebrate an achievement?

 

Silence on the Blog, Explained!

Hey Guys, Sorry I haven’t written in a while. My life was going through a lot of change, and when I’m in huge periods of change, I’ve learned to step back and then re-engage when things have settled back down. It gives my husband and me space we need to figure out what we want to do in the moment, and then I have extra space to think where I would be blogging.

It seems counter-intuitive, because I’m blogging about finances and marriage, and why go radio silent when there’s a big change in one of those two categories. But it’s a boundary I appreciate and encourage others to do. So if you’ve wondered about my radio silence, it’s because of three things.

  1. My husband changed roles at his job, and we’re really excited about it, but it was a large adjustment.
  2. I quit my job to work at my church, grow my side business, and play with my new project horse (oh yeah, we got a horse, she’s adorable!).
  3. A news company called me out of the blue and wanted me to interview for a position at their company. (Spoiler: I got the job! And it’s full-time, not contract!)

Our routine, schedule, and understanding of each other changed drastically with those changes and we needed to step back and figure out who we were in the midst of them before I could even begin to blog about it.

However, life is a little more settled. I’ve figured out my schedule, so has my husband, and we’re back to enjoying life together. Which means, hiatus over! I’m blogging again.

Missed you while I was gone,

Moriah Joy

How to Celebrate Your 21st and Not Break the Bank

Last week was an especially fun week. “Why?” you ask. Good question! It was my BIRTHDAY WEEK! Birthdays are my favorite! I don’t care if it’s my birthday or your birthday or the moon’s birthday! It’s like they’re mandated to be celebrated. So much so that for my 17th birthday, my dad sent me one of those dorky crowns and sashes you buy for 7-year-olds, and I wore it all around my college campus celebrating the fact that, yes, indeed, I was almost old enough to feel like an actual college student.  My friends gave me a ton of grief, but frankly, I didn’t (and still don’t) care. It’s my birthday, I’m gonna do what I want is a saying I tend to live by.

This year is no different. And I had a ball of a time. However, since I’m married and conscious of money and stuff, we did our birthday celebration on a budget.

We signed up for all the free stuff we could. One of the best things about living in America is that we’re about as birthday crazy as I am. My husband and I spent the day tootling around town collecting free birthday gifts. It was like pokemon go, but 10x cooler! We got Dutch Bros coffee, Firehouse Sub Sandwiches, and that night, he surprised me and we got pazookis (giant cookies with ice cream on top for those of you who are unfortunate enough never to have tasted them) at BJs.

We forgot my wallet when we tried to go drinking. Yup, that’s right. My husband took me to BJs for pazookis and to have a glass of something (perks of finally being 21), but since he drove, I didn’t think to grab my wallet. This makes for a much cheaper excursion.  The date was still great, though! Cos, ya know, birthdays are the best!

We went hiking. If you don’t know this about me, you should! I love to hike, and it’s a great free activity. We live right by a giant lake (the trail around it is 14 miles), and so she and I spent a few hours there just walking around and enjoying nature. Free, except for the gas, and makes for great exercise. Plus, why wouldn’t you do all your favorite things on your birthday?

We bought pizza and watched movies.  On our way back from hiking, we stopped off at the local library and rented a slew of movies. It’s a great way to see new stuff (we rented Coco, which I hadn’t seen before) and it’s free! We also stopped by Little Ceasar’s for pizza because it’s delicious and pizza, movies, and champagne (she bought it for me for my birthday!) make for a great evening in!

We went to free events. My best friend drove up from LA for the weekend,  props to her for loving my birthday as much as I do, and we went to the Farm-to-Fork festival that Sacramento holds every year. It’s free entrance to the event, but parking is $15. She was amazing and paid though! The festival itself was super fun, and I’ll have a post about it later!

We explored Sacramento. Since we’d already paid for parking for the day, we decided to take a moment and explore the city we were in. My friend works for the government, and we were like 10 steps away from the Capitol Building. I’d never been even though I’ve lived in CA for 10 years, and she adores all things government, so we popped in and got exceptionally lost. I think we ended up on a restricted floor. We kept following exit signs trying to find the way out, but we ended up I don’t even know where, and a concierge came and found us. She was very nice and showed us the way out. Then we walked to Old Town Sacramento and explored a million different candy shops! I love the feel of that part of Sacramento. It’s folksy and has horse-drawn carriages, which are now on my bucket list. It was a cheap way to spend the day, and I really enjoyed it!

We went to the Casino. Which at first glance seems super counter-intuitive. But since we brought only $15 in cash each, it was a cheap way to spend a few hours doing things that I was now allowed to do. There were penny slots, so we got a bunch more plays than if we had just played the larger ticket slots. I’ll be honest, though. I don’t really understand the allure of gambling. All you do is click a button and lose money. It’s not that fun. And the smoke gave me a migraine. Not sure I’d do that again, haha.

We went out to dinner. Okay, this was expensive. I wanted Italian, so we chose a local mom and pop that was AMAZING! I ordered butternut squash ravioli and a glass of wine. I could have died! It was amazing! But expensive. Between the three of us and tip, we dropped about $100 on the meal. Bites fingernails. Not something I’d do casually, but since we’d been so frugal the rest of the week, one splurge was totally worth it.

The whole weekend, I spent around $110. I pulled out cash and decided that I would only spend cash for the whole weekend. So everything we bought, pizza, coffee, salt water taffy, wine tastings, my portion of the fancy dinner, it all came out of the money I had budgeted. And if we hadn’t decided to go out to eat, the total would have been closer to $45.

For the most part, the experience was great! There are a few things I would change, though. We couldn’t get as many free things for my birthday because I hadn’t been signed up to their birthday lists. Next year, this changes! Also, I wish I would have tracked exactly where the $110 was spent. I ended up budgeting it fine, but keeping better track of receipts would help in the long run.

Thank You, Emergency Fund

The hubby and I have always had a large emergency fund. I’m accident prone and it just seemed like a good idea. While Dave Ramsey suggests that $1,000 is fine for starters, I like to keep considerably more than that in the fund. About 8 times that much, actually. Sometimes, I feel like that number is too large, and that it would do more good in an investment fund. But other times, like this morning, it was exactly what we needed to keep our peace of mind.

 

We took the hubby’s car to the shop last Wednesday because there’d been some rattling above the right wheel, and neither of us is handy with cars, but we knew that wasn’t a sound it should be making. Apparently, the struts were completely stripped, and this other rubber thing that sat under the hood was also ruined. The very nice man at the shop also explained that there had been some other bad car sounding stuff that I should be able to explain to you because I asked the guy a million questions, but I can’t because, like it or not, I’m not a huge car guru. Anyway, the total billed turned out to be $1,069.55, a number I want to cry about. Or, I would… Except that we were able to transfer it from our E-Fund no problem.
This has been the fourth time this year, we’ve had to pull from the fund. My car has had four flats since we bought it and one of them also came with a broken tire wheel and a tow. Not exactly the happiest situation. Each time we’ve been able to pull from the E-Fund and then slowly replace it. Part of the reason we’re able to slowly replace it is because the fund is large enough we’re not stressed about another impending emergency without back up cash on hand.
Even this latest bill, which kinda crushed my little heart when I saw the number, isn’t as bad in the grand scheme of money issues because we’ve decided that having a large E-Fund is more important than some other money priorities.
It’s a hard line for me to walk, because I’d rather build wealth, and a great way to do that is to invest. But times like these, where we can pay the bill and move on, are times when I’m reminded that being financially secure fits better with my values than being financially investing.
We’ll eventually be in a place where we can invest. We’re not there yet, and it will be an exciting day when it does happen. But in the meantime, we’re enjoying the financial security we do have.

Is Debt Repayment or Saving Queen?

In budgeting, the balance between debt repayment and saving is the hardest for me.  I grew up on Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps, the first half of which is to save a thousand, and then don’t save anything until you have no debt. It’s a great principle if you’re drowning, but doesn’t fit well with my risk aversion. I need to be growing my worth as I’m repaying my debt in order to feel “safe” financially. It makes me feel like I’m moving somewhere if the balance of my bank account is growing while the amount I owe on my student loan is shrinking. Learning that about myself has really helped me shape the way I’m utilizing money. I want to feel like I’m going somewhere, and the few months where I did nothing but chuck money towards student loans really stressed me out.

Hubby is more “Let’s kill the loans”, especially because we have such a generous emergency fund. Since I’m in charge of budgeting (we have meetings to discuss things and stuff. But I’m the shopper, bill payer, so it makes sense I work with the monies), I really need to make sure I’m balancing my need for a positive net worth with his need for no loans.

It’s actually a little harder (for me) than it sounds. I’d rather put minimum payments towards the loans until we’re at 0-day, and then crunch debt and pull back on savings. It doesn’t make as much sense in practice because of interest, but I’m currently in my grace period, so interest isn’t as much a factor. He’d rather keep the savings accounts where they are, and pound out the debt, shoving as much towards loans in the grace period as we can.

His approach has merit (more than mine, if I’m honest), and I’ve definitely incorporated it into our money strategy while still honoring my need to save.

Debt Free

My husband was blessed to come out of college without any debt. His parents invested in Amazon when he was really young and used that to pay for his tuition. He also went to community college and then transferred to a four-year.

I wasn’t blessed with any life-shattering stocks, and I went straight from high school to a private 4-year. That being said, I got really good scholarships, and I graduated with only 32k in debt. Just a fraction of the price of my school (it’s 44k a year to go there). I want to be debt free as quickly as possible. In fact, when hubby and I were dating, we shoved anywhere between 800-1000 a month (starting in Jan) towards the suckers.

When we got married, things changed a little bit. Life was more expensive (thanks healthcare), and our priorities changed. But the last two months we’ve chucked $600/mo towards those suckers, and we’ll be on track to hit 7.5k down by Dec 31st. It’s not quite the 10k I was hoping for. But learning to roll with the punches has been really important as my financial literacy has increased.

Savings

Not gonna lie, we definitely could have put tons more towards loans, but savings is a huge deal to me. Ever since I was 15, I’ve always had around 3k in savings. The one time I didn’t, I had just finished a semester studying at Oxford and had used it all travelling. But other than that AT LEAST 3k. At all times. So saving is a huge deal for me. So huge, in fact, that we have several different accounts.

1) A cash account. Anytime someone gives us cash (mostly me, if I’m tutoring someone who pays in cash), we shove it there. That’s gonna pay for our road trip next year. And it’s probably just under 1k. I try not to count it too often or fixate on the numbers. That’s something that would drive me crazy if I let it.

2) An E-Fund. This fluctuates, we’ve had several car emergencies this year (one day, I’ll write a post on that, haha. I have the worst luck with cars), and we’re currently repaying it again, but it rests at ~8k. (This is also where save for my independent contracting taxes, so some of that is earmarked for April).

3) Fun Money Fund. This is our vacation account that we started a few months ago. All of my extra tutoring money goes here, and it’s at ~1.2k

4) 401k. Obviously, retirement is super important. Because I’m the kind of person who would obsess over gains and losses. We’ve opted out of the online tracking, and I’m not actually sure how much is in there, but I do know that we contribute 15% of my hubby’s paycheck, and (as of this month, because he made his one year mark!) his employer matches 3%. It’s probably around 2.5k if I had to guess.

It’d be really easy to take the cash account or to take the fun money account, and toss it towards loans. If we did that, we’d hit our 10k goal for the year, something I’m not sure we’ll be able to currently. We could also reduce our 15% contribution to 12%, and with the match, still put away the same amount as last year. However, we’d be sacrificing some of our other goals.  Goals that are important to us.

Being debt free exceptionally quickly would be incredible! I’m not gonna lie, there are some days when I think about what all we could do with that $600/mo if it weren’t being paid into the void. But I’m not willing to give up the quality of life to do so. That’s why finding the right balance was hard for me.

I’m a go-getter, and money is the tool that allows me to do that. Money lets us take road trips, and visit Hawaii, and go home for the holidays. My education was amazing, and I’m okay paying a little longer for it if it means I get to experience the world now.

This isn’t entirely delayed gratification, though.  We still throw double the minimum payments towards loans. We still pay enough to make it hurt towards them. We still bust our butts. We just do it without neglecting our other goals.

That’s the balancing act. How much is enough to make it hurt, but not enough to sacrifice the things we ACTUALLY care about? It’s a question I’m not sure I’ll ever answer satisfactory, until the day they’re gone!

I Guess I Shouldn’t Have Gone Shopping Hungry

Never go shopping hungry. Or that’s what they say, and generally, it’s a rule I follow stringently. But sometimes, when you need to go shopping is when you need to go shopping, and you can’t avoid it.

That was me this last week. We needed groceries. I hadn’t gone shopping for staples in a few weeks, and our cabinets were looking bare. (Okay, less so our cabinets and more our fridge/freezer. I am the worst at cooking out of boxed food. More on that at a different time, though.) The problem was I’d just gotten off a long shift, and I (per the usual, something I’m working to change) forgot my lunch.

So there I was in the grocery store, buying everything and their mother. Fruit, vegetables, road trip food (hubby and I were going up to Mount Lassen the next day), and something I normally avoid–convenience food. Namely, frozen taquitos, vegetarian potstickers, and pizza rolls.

Normally, I avoid food like this. I hate cooking, absolutely hate it, but I know that it’s A) better for you to cook at home, and B) cheaper in the long run, so I do the responsible thing, pass up the frozen entree aisle in the supermarket, but my ingredients and go home.

Generally, I can get in and out of the grocery store spending $60-$70 and then eating that for two weeks. I could probably spend less if I meal prepped, but see above where I hate cooking.

That day, I spent a whopping $94. That’s a third more than I usually spend. Why? Because I was A) hungry so I put more in my cart than usual and B) attracted to the convenience of 10-minute meals.

While I didn’t intentionally turn this into a budget experiment, it did teach me a lot about what I value. I value ease, and microwaves, microwaves are amazing. Well, actually toaster ovens. We barely use our microwave unless we’re heating up my coffee for the third time that day because it’s impossible for me to finish a cup in one sitting. Still, the ease of grabbing taquitos out of the freezer, shoving them into the toaster oven, and having wonderful, crispy, delicious food 10 minutes later is something I don’t regret buying.

If you ask my husband, he’ll be the first to tell you, I am a terrible eater. Actually, I’m a great eater, but a terrible cooker. It’s a problem. Other than breakfast, which I adore, I don’t like preparing the other meals. So half the time, I just don’t? It’s a horrible strategy, and one we’re working to absolve, but having the convenience food in the house helped.

While I don’t expect I’ll be spending an extra $30 grocery trip to treat myself to such foods, I do think that I’m going to work to make my life more convenient. After all, that’s what fosters good habits, convenience. And when it comes to money, I’m all about making life easier.

 

Looking for No-Spend Dates? Here’s What We’ve Done

Throughout our engagement, the hubby and I were adventure central. We took road trips, frequented the local lake, went to a million new movies, and ate out. A lot. Our money was separate, and we could both afford a little bit more on more elaborate dates. Marriage, however, hasn’t afforded us that luxury.

I asked him the other day if he thinks dating is the same as being married except that we kiss each other goodnight. He said no. I raised my eyebrow. And he noted that dating was different because we actually went out. Haha.

Date #1: Mt. Gilead.

This technically counts as a low spend date, even though we spent $50 on it because we’d budgeted for it months ago, and so it didn’t come out of June’s date money. It was actually really fun. In college, he worked at a summer camp, and once a year, they have all of the activities open to the public for a small fee ($10.50 a person). There was rock walls and zip lines and laser tag and a swimming pool.  We mostly just dottled

Date #2: Cooking and Anti-Monopoly

I have a more complete post for our wiles of anti-Monopoly, but this was a no-spend date because, well, it doesn’t cost money to pull out a board game and hang out in your kitchen for four hours while you smoke the hubby at monopoly.

Date #3: Junk Food Day.

Mostly, we eat healthy.  Actually, the amount of green in our fridge freaked my hubby out the first time he opened it. He hollered at me to come over. “Mo, why are there so many vegetables in the fridge?” It was pretty funny.  Anyway, occasionally I get this idea in my head that we NEED junk food. Like pizza and soda and ice cream. So I asked him if we could go to winco to pick up such things. He said, “Let’s compromise and get

Date #4: Cleaning Date

Okay, so this was really just housework, but since mostly we do housework by ourselves, it was fun to have a partner. We host a game night once a week to keep us social (ya know, living on a farm has its perks, but an abundance of people is not one of them). And normally, I clean on Saturdays so that we’re ready by Monday. This did not happen. So the wonderful hubby that he was helped me clean Monday morning so that it was ready for the evening. We mopped, we vacuumed, we cleaned the baseboards, we threw wet dish rags at each other.  It was a blast, and completely free.

Those are just some of the things we’ve done that have been low or no spend dates. We’re always looking for more ideas. Leave yours in the comments!

Monthly Budget Recap: July

Alright, let’s do this. Honestly, I wasn’t that anal about spending this month. So I’m not sure what everything is going to look like, but here goes it.

Category Money Spent Budgeted
Rent 1100 1100
Travel 71 50
Automotive 388 20
Insurance 257 150
Gas 531 300
Restaurants 99 50
Groceries 167 150
Charitable Giving 86 50
Loans 500 500
Clothing 18 20
Books 8 0
Entertainment 102 25
Household Goods 147 200
Health 11 0
Fees 0 0
Total 2500 2913

Rent: Obviously, that’s not gonna change, so props to us!

Travel: So this was overflow from my Boston trip. I had to take an Uber from downtown Boston to a suburb of Boston, which ended up being $25, BUT I accidentally missed the first one (the maps weren’t clear about the pick-up place), and so I had to pay an extra $5. It kinda sucked, but you live and you learn. Also, when my husband came to pick me up from the airport, he parked in short-term parking, not knowing it cost an arm and a leg, so that was another $18 that we could have saved, but didn’t. Finally, I gaffed with SF parking and paid $21 for parking in a lot instead of on the street. Once I figured out that street parking was available AND much cheaper, I moved my car and paid $1.67 for the rest of the day. Kinda sucked, but now I know for next time!

NOTE: This month I did a lot of traveling, so this category should be a lot larger than it is, but I didn’t bother to mess around with Personal Capital. Plus a detailed post of my trips are coming, and that’ll cover the budgeting here.

Automotive: So this came out of our Efund. I was on my way to work, but there was a shadow in the parking lot, and so I failed to notice a tree box on the lot and ran right over it– breaking my wheel in the process. Super embarrassing, but hey, that’s what emergency funds are for, right?

Insurance: So, in the process of changing insurances, it charged me for two months of Insurance in the same month, hence the 257. However, in August that payment will FINALLY go down!

Gas: Traveling, traveling, traveling. That’s my only excuse for this. The hubby picked me up from the airport. Then, I took a road trip down to LA (Yes, be expecting a travel post about that) to see my bestie from the Oxford days. The hubby and I went to San Jose to see his college buddy and to cross a few things off the good ole bucket list. And I went to SF to see some friends I hadn’t seen in 10 years because they were touring the west coast. Overall, while our gas might have been expensive, the experiences (and miles on the car) were so, so worth it!

Restaurants: Again, this is traveling related. The hubby and I ate out a little more, I needed food on the road, that type of thing. I will say that Starbucks only shows up once on the itemized list! So vast improvement there. Honestly, the best thing about budget tracking has been watching things like coffee, which I used to get on the daily, drop down to almost nonexistent, or friend related. (If you want a detailed list of how our restaurant adventures worked out, stay tuned for my travel blogs).

Groceries: Basically right on target. We’re still building our spice cabinet and things like that, but we’re doing it slowly and working really hard to stay in budget. I’m actually thinking about posting an itemized grocery list for the month later, just to show you what eating on a budget can (and does) look like for us.

Charitable giving: I think this month I finally worked out the kinks in Compassion, and we should see this matching up with the estimated soon. Oh, it’s also my little guy’s birthday, so I sent him $20.

Loans: We’re finally consistently paying back our loans again! So thrilled! I wrote a post about it here if you wanna check it out!

Clothing: (Read Bestie’s wedding stuff!) This will probably be high for the next few months as I collect the essentials.

Books: The GRE is coming up, and so I went to half price books and bought two books in their clearance section to help me study. They’re slightly outdated (2013-2014), but them along with free online materials, and I should be just fine.

Entertainment: Again, travel makes this a little high, but also the hubby and I went on some wicked cool dates. A new post about them coming soon! Definitely worth the money we spent this month.

Household goods: We finally got a washing machine! I’d budgeted $200 for it, and we’d been saving the past few months, but when one similar to the one I wanted came on sale for only $100+tax+warranty, I jumped on the opportunity to buy. And it’s such a great purchase!

Health: Eventually, this will go down to nothing but until it does, praise God for good insurance and cheap copays!

Overall, traveling to SoCal, San Jose, and San Francisco all in a month and ONLY going over budget by $413 is something I can live with. The traveling was intentional and exceptionally fun. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Let’s Talk About Debt and Celebrating the Small Victories

When all was said and done with student loans, I had -$32k in debt. A number that terrified me, still does to some extent.  After my grace period ends, with that amount of debt, my lender estimated that my minimum monthly payments were going to be ~$330. That number wasn’t any prettier, and frankly I hated it, so did my hubby (although we weren’t married yet). Starting in January, we did the obvious thing and started throwing everything we could spare towards it.

To date, this is what we’ve shoved at my student loans:

 

Date Payment
January 1 200
January 10 483.43
January 27 200
February 1 200
February 13 200
February 24 500.81
March 2 300
March 9 200
March 12 150
March 20 200
March 27 150
April 3 5
April 11 400
May 2 5
May 16 50
July 7 500
August 7 500
August 22 50
Total 4294.24

To be honest, at first, I was really disappointed by this number. I wanted it to be bigger. I wanted to have a crazy success story “I paid off all my loans two months after college graduation because I’m BA”, but honestly, that’s not my story.

Actually, that’s my husband’s story. But he got the benefit of cashing in Amazon shares that had been sitting for him since he was little thanks to his family. And that’s amazing and has totally helped us the heck out. But I hear stories like that, (I watch people live stories like that), and it’s frustrating. Super, exceptionally frustrating.

Because I’m not getting there that quickly.  I’m not even making the pacing goals I set out for myself. Before we got married, we were chucking large amounts towards my loans each month, and we were actually ahead of where I wanted us to be, which is to have 10k put towards debt in the year. Throw in a marriage and the huge shift in lifestyle that comes with it, and now we’re $2372.43 behind where I wanted us to be.

But, and here’s what I’ve been struggling with, that’s okay. I had been grandiose plans to be debt free in 3 years, and you know what, that’s still possible. If I got a full-time job with benefits, then we could take the money we currently pay for my health insurance and shove it at loans.  That’d be an extra $600 a month. And boom, debt free in three. (See, doesn’t it have such a nice ring to it).

But even if that doesn’t happen, and if we keep heading down the path we are, it’ll take 5 years, not 3, that’s okay. Because it’s about the long climb to victory.  I want to be out of debt, and I want to be out of debt now, but there comes a point where our budget breaks if we push too much towards our debt. And there comes a point where you have to step back and realize how far you’ve come.

When we first started paying off my student loans, the minimum monthly payment estimation was $330. Now, it’s $294. By just throwing what we could towards the debt, we’ve lowered my monthly average by $36. That $36 is almost enough to sponsor another kid through Compassion International. That $36 is enough for a really nice dinner date once a month.

Now, obviously, that $36 is just being thrown at debt. We’re putting $500 a month towards student loans for the rest of the year, and then we’re reassessing come January.

For me, progress is impossible to see when I’m 28k away from where I want to be. But that $36 is just that, progress. It’s progress towards financial freedom, and progress towards a better life. It’s a light at the end of the tunnel that’s reminding me I’m going somewhere. I’m making headway. I’m reclaiming my life.

 

My Husband and I Agreed to be Broke Our First Year of Marriage

Just over a year ago, I was on a plane headed back to America from my Scholar’s Semester in Oxford. I had $600 left in my bank account, and that needed to last me until I found a job. It’s not that I wasn’t frugal while abroad, I was. I stayed fairly thrifty and was still able to have a magical experience. The six months I was in Europe, I spent less than $3000, travel included. I ate out on the weekends, went to Paris, explored English cities, all while on a budget.

I didn’t realize how terribly that semester could have gone until much later when I looked at how easily some of my friends spent their money on new clothes or booze. Instead, I spent on things that really mattered to me–like experiences. I wasn’t perfect. Primark and the local charity shops caught me a few times (but I still have and wear most of the pieces I bought a year later, so not all is lost). But less than $500 a month in a foreign place isn’t bad at all.

Upon return to the states, however, I knew that wasn’t going to be possible. Rent was $400, but I didn’t have a suitable job lined up. That was my first (and hopefully only) experience being broke. And it was terrifying. I had a very part-time summer gig at the university that brought in about $50 a month unless there was an event on campus. Thankfully, there were a few big ones and I brought in $300 that pay period. Combined with the $600 I brought back with me from Europe, it was enough to cover first and last month’s rent of the new place I found, but not much else.

Job searching became a full-time job for me. The thought of being broke terrified me. And a month later, with $2.17 in my bank account, I found one as an independent contractor for the company I’m at today. I would have settled for anything, but a career job isn’t half bad.

That experience taught me a lot. I still can’t believe how far I’ve come in just a year. A year ago, I literally had $2.17 to my name and some amazing experience under my belt but not much else. Now, my husband and I have a padded savings account, a working budget, and each other to fall back on.

June has been a hard month for us financially. At one point, with 4 days left until payday, we had $20 in our checking account, just enough to eek by until the 20th. Not quite the scare it could have been since we’re not living paycheck to paycheck, but still not where we want to be. Yet, this is what we signed up for.  

When we first started our financial journey, months before our marriage, we sat down and talked about the way we see our first year of marriage going. We talked about date ideas and adventuring different places and finances and all that wonderful stuff. Our original plan had been to have 10k in savings by the time we got married, and we would have almost been there if my car hadn’t needed to be replaced. So we got married with 6k in savings and a 2009 Smart car we paid for in cash (I love it, by the way). We also agreed that if at all possible, we weren’t going to touch our savings for the first year.

And that means sometimes maintaining a $20 balance in a checking account. It’d be so much easier to dip into the emergency fund for an extra $50 that would make our last few days go without a hitch. But we don’t. Instead, we bite our nails, buy three gallons of gas at a time, and wait until the 20th. We live off of a singular soup I made three days ago until we have enough money to buy groceries yet. We don’t butter our pancakes for a few days until the paycheck comes in. It’s a rough couple of days, but it’s helped us kick the kinks out of our budget.

We decided to live like we’re broke, not because we need to, but because it allows us to fight to get a better budget and to continue to grow our savings. It’s not an easy choice, but it’s a good one.