Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Winning, November 2017 Edition

I almost - but not quite! - slacked off on posting the November edition of WINNING, a series in which I identify our accomplishments in an effort to stay positive and motivated throughout our debt repayment journey


via GIPHY

As hard as this season has been with respect to my job and the never-ending slog of digging out of our financial hole, we've had several financial and personal wins lately:

(1) Per our new and improved repayment plan (I've dubbed it The Monster Repayment PlanTM), we dedicated $2200 to debt repayment this month!:
  • $1330 to Credit Card #2
  • $275 to Credit Card #3
  • $201 to Student Loan #1
  • $393 to Student Loan #2
If this plan is sustainable (and I think it is), we'll pay off both credit cards by the end of next August - possibly earlier, if we get a tax refund and work bonuses.


via GIPHY

(2) Thanks to Win #1, we now have a total debt load of less than $70K (to be precise, it stands at $69,771). That's still a lot of debt, but considering that we started off at close to $78K last April, we've made some major progress. It feels amazing to hit this benchmark.


via GIPHY

(3) Despite the hefty repayment sums dictated by The Monster Repayment PlanTM, we'll still be able to put $600 into savings this month. That brings our total emergency/sinking fund to almost $3000.


via GIPHY

(4) I finally made a decision about our 2018 health insurance. The choice was between my current traditional PPO plan and a lower-premium high deductible health plan plus health savings account. After asking for tons of advice (thanks, blogosphere!) and crunching the numbers, I settled on the latter. We'll spend $100 less per month on premiums, while my employer will funnel an additional $110 per month into the HSA. Honestly, I couldn't pass up the free money. Plus, the maximum out-of-pocket is $4000; while that's no small sum, we feel it's something we can cover if we need to.


via GIPHY

(5) Fortysomething received two major accolades at work: He won a teaching grant for his classroom, and he earned a teaching award from the students and administration. Although he's been in his current position for only four months, it's clear he's absolutely thriving and sees this gig as a long-term commitment (which promotes long-term job stability, which in turn promotes longer-term financial stability).


via GIPHY

Progress! It's happening! It's really happening!

What about you? What are some of your recent financial accomplishments? (I want to know!)

Friday, November 17, 2017

Update: Work and Life Epiphanies



Recently, I've written extensively about work anxiety, insomnia, and the sustainability (or... non-sustainability?) of my people-oriented, customer-facing job. I've talked about how my doctor recommended that I actually quit my current gig, even if I don't have something else lined up with which to replace it. I've seriously considered the possibility of going it alone, taking on contract work, turning to the marketplace for my health insurance, and crossing my fingers that it will all work out.

If I sounded like I was agonizing over what to do, I was. I am. Trying to analyze difficult circumstances and make big life decisions is an uphill battle, especially when you're depressed, sleep-deprived, and not thinking all that rationally.

This past week has been better. Work has slowed down. My sleep has improved (it's still not great, but at least I'm not staying up for multiple nights in a row). PLUS, I've had not one but TWO epiphanies that helped me view my job conundrum in a whole new light:

Epiphany #1: Maybe the issue is not so much the requirements of my current job as the fact that I'm still grieving the loss of my previous career. I won't go into the whole story here, but I used to be a college professor at a small, idyllic liberal arts school. After my first year of instructing a handful of introductory science courses, I started to suspect that teaching wasn't my calling. I was decent at it - my evaluations were good, and I connected with my students - but I hated the grading, I hated the bureaucracy, I HATED faculty meetings, and I hated the whole tenure process. I stuck it out for two more terms just to make sure it wasn't simply first year doldrums. I resigned after the second year feeling 100 percent certain that I was making the right decision. Fast forward a few months: I applied for my current job on a whim and landed it primarily because I had some solid transferable skills (including the ability to pass as a people person).

While I don't miss teaching (like, at all), I do miss science and the science community. Being a professor was my entry card into that world. I miss it the way you might miss an old flame whom you loved deeply, but who just wasn't right for you. Do I regret the breakup? No, but that doesn't make the grief any easier.

I've been in this current job for almost 10 months, and over that time, I've scoured the job ads almost every day, searching for a science gig in my town for which I'm qualified. Nothing's panned out, but I keep hunting. And hunting. And hunting.

The problem with this never-ending job search is that I always feel like I have one foot out the door at my current place of employment. This week, I realized that a sizable chunk of my stress comes from being in that position - in, but not all in; always searching for something different instead of investing in what I already have; constantly pining for the past. Busy times are always stressful, but I'm pretty sure they're even more stressful if your mind isn't totally in the game.

So I've made a decision: I'm going to apply for one more job that popped up in my search last week, and then that's it. For the next few months, I'm just going to focus on my current work. I'm going to invest myself in this job. That doesn't mean I'll do this forever, but I desperately need a break from the what-ifs. If other opportunities present themselves in the meantime, I'll consider them... but I'm taking a break from actively seeking them out.

Epiphany #2: My primary goal right now isn't to find my dream job. It's to get out of debt. Clearly the two aren't mutually exclusive; I may eventually land said dream job AND get out of debt. But if we're just talking goals and which one I want to focus on right now, it's doing what I can to help my family establish a stronger financial foundation so that we have more freedom in the future (and you know what? That is a perfectly legitimate, laudable goal.)


So no, I will not be quitting my current job, which offers excellent benefits, requires very little thought outside of the nine to five, allows me to work with people I genuinely adore, and generally provides exactly the kind of stability we need in order to reach our zero debt goals. Instead, I'll be making more of an effort to give what I can to the job and seeking out in-house opportunities to utilize my strengths and experience.

That said, I will be actively working to reduce my work stress, especially during this current slow period. I'll be finding a good therapist between now and January. That way, when things pick up again, I'll have better coping skills and someone I can turn to when I just need to vent. 


I've made my decision, and just by doing that, I feel so much better.


Onward!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

October Budget Review: Grumbly Progress

When I was 24 years old, I hiked through the Alps. We started in Germany and wended our way down to Italy via Austria. I had little previous hiking experience, so the first few days consisted of blistery foot pain, utter exhaustion, frequent spills (I'm not the most coordinated person you'll ever meet), and constant hunger. But I didn't really care, because every time I looked up, I caught another glorious view of the mountains. Far off in the distance was our destination, and I knew we were going to get there one day. In those first few hard days, those views sustained me.

Fast forward three weeks: I'd transformed into a seasoned and efficient hiker. I could walk all day long with just a brief rest at lunch. My calloused feet were inured to my stiff boots and the rocky ground. I'd figured out how to pace myself, and I wasn't tripping as much. 

You'd think, then, that the trip became easier with time - but it really didn't. The further we traveled and the stronger I became physically, the more mentally worn down I felt. By the time we arrived at the Italian border, I was sick of eating rehydrated food, sick of going to bed in my stinky sleeping bag, sick of the same four trail ditties that my trail buddies would sing on repeat, and generally sick of walking. The views were nice, sure - but I just wanted to get to my destination and take a shower, thank you very much. 

Had someone come by and offered to drive me the rest of the way, I probably would have said yes.

Despite the fact that so many aspects of the hike became easier with time, there seemed to be an inverse correlation between time on the trail and mental stamina.

I've noticed a similar phenomenon with our debt repayment. At first we were clueless and clunky with our budget. We regularly over-spent. On several occasions, we forgot to account for all of our bills and accrued late fees. We made plenty of mistakes -  but we kept going because we felt thrilled at the thought of creating a better financial situation for ourselves.

Fast forward six months. We don't make those rookie mistakes anymore, and the budget is dialed in. Take October 2017, for example:

Sure, we went a bit over in the "Other" category (I blame my birthday), but we still came in $20 under budget. For the most part, we spent what we planned to spend. We even put $500 into savings... and we paid off the car. This month, we're ramping up our debt allocation to $2200 so that we can put our repayment into overdrive.

We're doing almost as well as we possibly could be doing, and yet the main thing I feel about this debt repayment process right now - and here's where I keep it real (and whiny!) - is that I'm sick of it. I'm sick of being in debt, and I'm sick of digging out of it. I'm sick of seeing thousands of dollars go to our creditors each month instead of into our own savings and investment accounts. 

That's how I would characterize our journey in October of 2017: We're doing it, and we're doing it well, but we're not particularly happy about it. This journey is long, and exhausting, and frustrating. I mean, we're totally getting there... It's just not always fun. But we're moving forward, one grumbly step at a time.

Now that I've got that out of my system...



How did your October go?

P.S. That Alpine backpacking trip? It was one of the most worthwhile experiences of my life. I look back and appreciate all of it - the good and the bad, the inspiring and the painful. And that's how I'm hoping to see this debt repayment journey when I reflect on it in a few years.

Disease Called Debt

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Sometimes, You Can't Just Walk Out.

I've been dealing with some intense work-related anxiety (see previous work issues post here, where I explain what bothers me about my job despite my awesome coworkers, considerate boss, and amazing benefits). The anxiety has, in turn, sparked a debilitating wave of insomnia the likes of which I've never experienced before. I've gone entire nights without sleeping; earlier this week, I went almost two nights without sleeping and was nearly delusional by the time I finally conked out at 4 AM. Zzzquil has become largely ineffective because I've used it so often that I've developed a tolerance. I've blazed through all of my sick days and even dipped into my vacation time. I've lost five pounds without trying.

Fearing that I'd get fired or at least hauled in by HR for a friendly chat, and utterly tired of being tired, I called my doctor and begged for a same-day appointment to discuss my options. She did the usual physical tests, all of which were normal, and then dove into an extensive mental health questionnaire. I broke down when she asked how often I feel overwhelmed (answer: Every. Single. Day.)

She sat down and looked me in the eye.

"Listen to me," she said. "I can give you a prescription for a sleeping pill. We can talk about some cognitive behavioral therapy. But my honest opinion is that this job is becoming toxic for you. You need a new job. Ditch what you're doing, because it isn't good for you."

Then she brought in an in-house therapist to chat with me. The therapist had the same opinion: "Life is too short to be unhappy at work. Sometimes you just have to walk away. Nothing is worth more than your health."

I get what they're saying. Health is wealth: not going to argue with that. And there have been days when the easiest thing in the world would have been to get up from my desk, pick up my coat, and walk out for good. I'm 100 percent certain that I would have felt immediate relief. Maybe I'd even be able to sleep.

But here's the thing: for the sake of my family and our finances, I can't just walk out; I think it's irresponsible/naive/flippant of anyone to suggest I should do so. Sure, I might feel better for a day or three, but then reality would set in. How would we pay our bills? How would we deal with our debt? Would we have to purchase health insurance via the Marketplace? (I'm all for healthcare that includes those of us with pre-existing conditions, but my premiums would be three times what they are now.) What's worse: financial stress or job stress? 

If we lived in a big city with a wealth of employment options, I might be able to get away with giving notice before having something else lined up. But here, jobs are scarce; I competed with at least 50 other applicants for my current gig. It's not as simple as just sending out a couple of resumes. Finding another job will take months. 

Right now, I'm willing to look for other work (and have been doing so for weeks), but I'm unwilling to walk away from financial stability. I just need to find a way to handle the stress of my job. I'm already doing things like getting outside at lunchtime, enjoying my interactions with coworkers, meditating for a few minutes a day, taking deep breaths in between clients, and appreciating that I have a job, but there must be something else I can do to improve my situation in the short term. 

Or at least, improve it enough so that I can sleep. (The sleeping pill my doctor prescribed is hit or miss: some nights it knocks me out within minutes; other nights, it almost seems to have the opposite effect, making me feel wide awake instead of drowsy. Maybe there's a better option out there.)

My biggest fear right now is that this won't improve, I'll continue having to miss work, and I'll be forced to quit because I literally can't do my job. 

I don't know what the answer is, exactly, so I guess we'll wait and see. But for now, I'm forging ahead, plans (and salary) intact. 

If you've been there, done this, I would love to know how you handled it. I feel like I'm between a rock and a hard place right now, and although I know I'll figure it out eventually, it's definitely a trying time.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Help Me Out Here: Picking A Health Insurance Plan

Fun fact: when I was pregnant with The Kiddo - this was in the pre-Obamacare days when pregnancy was considered a pre-existing condition-slash-disease - I was completely uninsured. Yup. We paid for nine months of prenatal care, ambulance transport, a hospital stay, a blessed epidural, and a C-section completely out of pocket.

I do not recommend this approach. 

There's a longer story here, one I will share in the future, but the point I want to make in this post is that I don't take health insurance for granted. Ever. I have great coverage now, and I'm thankful for it every single day. Everyone deserves this kind of security in their lives. (Surely we can make this happen, America.)

Given our past health insurance nightmare and our current debt reduction mission, I am super uptight when it comes to picking health insurance. Open enrollment rolls around and I obsess. This time, I've narrowed it down to two possibilities. Although I've spent the last week weighing the pros and cons of both, I can't decide:

(Note: Fortysomething has complete coverage through his work, so my insurance covers myself and The Kiddo.)

Option 1: Preferred PPO

Monthly premium: $150
Family deductible: $500
Maximum out-of-pocket: $2000
Preventative care: $0
Mental health: $0 after deductible met
Office visit co-pay: $35 after deductible met

Pros: The premium is totally reasonable (see "but" below), max OOP is low, deductible is decent, mental health costs nada (which is amazing)

Cons: BUT my paycheck is laughable to begin with. I really don't make that much, so the $150/month premium matters. The co-pays matter. The Kiddo and I are - knock on wood - pretty healthy. We don't have any ongoing prescriptions, and the amount we spend per year on medical expenses is usually far less than the $1800 we'd spend on the premium. 

Option 2: High Deductible Health Plan + HSA

Monthly premium: $52
Family deductible: $2700
Maximum out-of-pocket: $4000
Preventative care: $0
Mental health: 10% after deductible met
Office visits: 10% after deductible met

Yearly employer contribution: $1400
My (self-imposed) minimum contribution per year: $1300
Max contribution allowed: $6,900

Pros: My employer would be giving me extra money (the thought of this makes me so happy); money put into HSA is pre-tax; HSA rolls over from year to year. I could use my HSA when I go to the doctor.

Cons: What if we end up in the ER in, like, January? We won't have much money in the HSA yet, and we'd have to dig into regular savings. (I could also set up an FSA when I enroll in benefits.)

Both plans are great... I'm just being all nitpicky and Type A about this. 

What do you think? What would you choose? Or... is this kind of a wash, with both options being equally good?

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Six Month Progress Report and An Ambitious New Plan

As I mentioned in a recent post, we've been on our debt repayment journey for the past six months. It was back in April of 2017 that we assessed our debtload, made a budget, and started allocating $1600 a month towards repayment of our $76K+ in credit card, car loan, and student loan debt.

This was what our debt looked like by June, the month I started tracking every single penny (keep in mind that our actual starting amount in April was even higher... but I don't know what it was because I wasn't documenting the total at that point):


Talk about some big, bad numbers.

Six months after setting off on this journey, I can tell you that we've made some major progress, and we're more motivated than ever. Some highlights:

(1) We paid off Credit Card #1. We did this at the end of July, once we realized that we had enough money in savings to make it happen. Although the original balance of $1553 was nowhere near as high as the other CC balances, paying it off felt like a big accomplishment, and it motivated us. Plus, it freed up another $150 for CC#2.

(2) We ditched our car loan! We paid it off last week as my 39th birthday present. With a balance of only $600, I just wanted to say goodbye to this monthly bill. So we shuffled some money from savings to checking, called the bank, and made it happen. That's another $300 we can allocate to CC#2.

(3) We saved some money! Right now, we have an emergency fund of $1000 and a holiday/sinking fund of about $1200. We're planning to continue contributing ~$600 a month to savings. Yes, paying off debt is the priority, but we also want to build a more secure financial safety net. Our savings account is one component of that endeavor.

(4) We increased our incomes by taking on worthwhile side hustles. I'm kind of obsessed with the side hustle concept right now because it's really helped us with respect to saving and debt repayment. We were able to pay off CC#1 and the car earlier than planned in large part because we had those extra earnings available.

(5) In total, between June and now, we've dispatched more than $5900 in debt! If we count the debt we repaid in April and May, that total is >$7000 (To be honest, I'm too lazy to go back and calculate the precise number). Moreover, if we continue with our current rate of debt repayment ($1600/month), we will be completely out of debt by March of 2022:


(5) WE'VE DECIDED TO PUT OUR DEBT REPAYMENT INTO OVERDRIVE! After crunching the numbers again, I realized that if we increase our monthly debt repayment budget from $1600 to $2200 - something made possible by our side hustle income - we could be debt free BY NOVEMBER OF 2020. 


According to the $2200 plan, the payoff schedule looks more like this:


And this isn't including extra cash that could come our way in the form of raises, bonuses, or tax refunds, much of which would go right to debt repayment and further expedite the process.

I'm... astounded. I thought this would be a five-year process.

Of course, this new, ambitious plan depends on us maintaining our side hustles (Fortysomething and I both want to, but the gigs aren't guaranteed over the long term), and who knows what unexpected expenses could derail us, but I think it's worth a shot. Worst case scenario: we'll have to back off a bit if we have some tight months.

Bottom line: I'm thrilled with where we're at after half a year of highly imperfect yet dedicated debt repayment. Now we just have to keep going!

Disease Called Debt

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

10 Things We've Learned About Debt Repayment

Although I started writing this blog back in June, we officially commenced our debt repayment journey six months ago, in April 2017. Our financial overhaul was inspired by a sudden, deep desire to offload our $76K in debt (consisting of credit cards, student loans, and a small car payment) so that we didn't have to go through our entire lives with that weight on our shoulders.

Something needed to change. We made a plan, constructed a budget for the first time ever, and dove in. Somewhat miraculously, we've stuck with the process for half a year. We've made plenty of mistakes along the way, but we've also made significant progress, something we'll share in more detail at the end of the month.

Let's face it: debt repayment is a long journey.
Maybe you're at that point, too. Maybe you're ready to take action and ditch the debt. If so, this post is for you. We can hardly call ourselves financial experts, but we do feel like we've learned some lessons that might be relevant to others who are on a similar path or who want to start their own debt-destroying journey:

(1) A long-term debt repayment plan composed of short-term benchmarks is essential. To develop our plan, we took a brutally honest inventory of all of our debt, including credit cards, student loans, and car loans; decided on a general repayment approach (we chose a hybrid of the debt snowball and debt avalanche methods); figured out how much money we could allocate to debt repayment each month (for us, that's $1600); and calculated how long the process would take via the What's the Cost debt repayment calculator

We also identified short-term benchmarks. These include credit card payoffs, payoff of our car loan, and establishment of a basic $1000 emergency fund.

Both the long-term plan and short-term goals are important. Obviously, the long-term plan is designed to get us to our overall goal, but given that it's going to take upwards of five years to achieve full debt repayment, we need the short-term benchmarks to stay motivated.

The Very Expensive Feline does not care about goals. Except nap goals.
(2) Budgeting is key. It's key for us, anyway. It helps us plan out our expenses and avoid accidental overdraft of our bank account (something we used to do on a fairly regular basis). It took us a while to configure a workable budget - the first two months or so were admittedly a bit of a mess -  but nowadays, we know what our monthly bills entail and when they're due, and we're taken by surprise far less often.

(3) That said, a budget is also a constantly-evolving entity. When I made our first budget back in April, I was under the impression that it should be the same from month to month, which led to frustration early on. Then I realized that a successful budget is a flexible budget, one that we can adjust depending on season-specific needs and one-time expenses. For instance, back in June when we had our fans running almost constantly in our hot little apartment, I budgeted for a higher energy bill. In October, I budgeted for the purchase of winter gear.

(4) Debt repayment requires difficult, sometimes painful decisions. As it turns out, when your salary is limited and you have debt repayment goals, you can't have everything you want. For instance, Fortysomething would love a new iPhone to replace the cheap flip phone he bought when his old phone died, but it's just not in the budget right now. (He's a total tech geek, so the whole flip phone thing is quite un-fun for him. I don't blame him a bit for feeling that way.) Vacation to a distant locale next summer? Probably not. New work clothes to replace my worn and fading work shirts? It can wait until the new year. Rental car when we visit relatives over Christmas? Nope, we'll just have to ask my dad if we can occasionally borrow his minivan. Fewer dinners out? Just the way it is now.

We're not suffering from real scarcity, so I can't complain much. But when you're used to getting what you want when you want it, putting the brakes on immediate gratification can be challenging. It can be tough to say no even when you know it's the right thing to do.

Exotic vacation? Nope. Just a trip to the local lake.
(5) Free activities are more abundant than they might seem. We were used to paying for entertainment - movies, festivals, concerts, etc. - so we thought relying on more free activities would be difficult. As it turns out, it really isn't. We've ditched anything with an entrance fee and have spent more time hiking and running outside, seeking out free movies and fairs, and hanging out with friends. The local paper offers a running list of no-charge activities, so we keep an eye on that and attend the events that look most appealing to us. 

Library books: always free.
(6) A side hustle can be a game changer. I've written extensively about our side hustles, gigs that brings in a few hundred extra dollars each month. Our regular income doesn't leave much room for savings - so instead, we use our side hustle earnings to beef up our savings account (once we reach our savings goal, the extra cash will go to debt repayment). It's a lot of extra work, and it's totally decimated my beloved evening Netflix veg fests, but I regret none of it. Aside from generating extra income, it gets my mind off of my regular job, gives me a chance to do something I love, and makes me feel more job secure. I highly recommend a side hustle if you're paying off debt.

(7) Even if your ultimate goal is debt repayment, you still need savings. We're determined to pay off our debt as soon as possible, so it's tempting to take any and all extra money and throw it at our credit cards. However, we realized early on that we also need a financial buffer in the event that an unexpected expense lands in our laps. We started by building up $1000 in emergency savings, then decided to add on a holiday/sinking fund. This way, if we do find ourselves saddled with an unforeseen expense, the monthly budget won't get derailed or sink us further into debt. We'll just cover it with savings.

Big recent win for us: we used savings to pay in full for new tires.
(8) For maximum effectiveness, everyone in the household needs to get on the same financial page. We've found that unless we're all working towards the same goal, it's easy to get derailed. So we talk a lot about debt repayment and how it will benefit us in the long run in an effort to constantly motivate ourselves and each other. Everyone (even The Kiddo, though to a less specific degree) is aware of the budget and where we're at each month with respect to earnings and savings. Both Fortysomething and I are devoted to this debt repayment process and hold each other in check when it comes to planning and spending. Again, we don't always do it perfectly, but we're making progress.

Disclaimer: the VEP does not care about being on the same financial page.
She's kind of a rebel like that.
(9) Comparing yourself to others can be a debilitating mistake. I say this, and yet I have to admit that it's something I struggle with on a regular basis. It's all too easy to look around and think that everyone else is in a better financial situation than we are: they have their own houses, they take more interesting trips, they have more flexibility in terms of how they use their time... Every time I fall into this rabbit hole of comparison, however, I realize that it's completely unhelpful and enervating (and, because appearances can be deceiving, it may also be utterly inaccurate). So instead of playing the comparison game, I try to focus on everything our family has in terms of resources and opportunities. 

(10) You have to celebrate your wins. I try to do this each month in our "Winning" posts (recent examples here, here, and here). Celebrating our accomplishments - however small they might seem - helps us stay motivated and positive. They also counteract that tendency I have to compare myself to others. Debt repayment is a long road, so it's essential to acknowledge every benchmark and every example of habit change.



Onward to the next six months! I'm excited to see how much progress we make and what we learn in the process.


Disease Called Debt

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Keeping It Real: Job Struggle

Dearest Blogosphere:

I am going to be very honest with you, despite the fact that this may come across as a load of privileged whiny whining.

I am struggling with my job.

Really struggling.

Like, I cried before work this morning. And two mornings ago. I also kind of cried in my cubicle around 10 AM today, but I mopped myself up before anyone saw me.

I feel so anxious that I can't sleep without taking a sleeping pill. I've never had to do that before.

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with my work environment. My coworkers are categorically wonderful. My boss is understanding. I have a standing desk, a double monitor, an ergonomic chair, an office plant, and access to a decent coffee maker, all of which make my work life pretty comfortable. Nobody gives me a hard time when I take a sick day. Although the salary isn't great, the benefits are outstanding. People don't walk away from benefits like these. They just don't.

So this is not a complaint about my employer or the people I work with.

The problem is me. My job is essentially a customer service job in that the primary job function is to assist customers - via email, phone, and in person. At least half of my day is spent in back-to-back meetings with people. While my gregarious, extroverted coworkers thrive in this environment, my introverted self wilts within the first hour. I literally lose my words. I struggle to talk, or sometimes even breathe. Cue panic attacks. (Have I ever mentioned my mental health issues? Yeah... I'll get to that sometime.)

Also? As it turns out, cubicles make me feel claustrophobic.

I keep landing jobs like this because I genuinely do like people. I genuinely care about their well being. But... I've come to realize (it's only taken, like, 15 years) that I mostly like and care about people from a distance. I need my space. I don't want to be in a job that requires constant in-person human interaction. Or really any face-to-face communication. Can't we all just do our thing and check in via email? Maybe Skype in a pinch?

In this job, I am like a water buffalo trying to pass as a giraffe. I feel like I am the wrong person for this job, and it's exhausting. 

What keeps me going is a) the health insurance and b) our debt repayment plan, which relies heavily on my paycheck. I want this debt gone, and if this is what it will take, I'll do it. I'm trying to keep my eye on my "why".

Again, I don't mean to whine, but if only for my own records of this whole financial overhaul, I want to keep it real. Doing things I don't like is, I suppose, part of this whole debt repayment thing.

So tell me: have you ever struggled with a job? How did you handle it - especially if you're a fellow introvert? (Also, please be kind, because putting this out there isn't easy.)

Friday, October 13, 2017

Winning, October Edition

I almost wrote a post entitled Debt Sucks And I Want To Kick It In The Groin* - that's the headspace I've been in over the last few weeks - but then I decided to turn it around and focus on the positive. There IS some good stuff happening in the 76K Project financial world, and I want to take a few minutes to acknowledge it.

(1) We used allocated savings to pay for new tires. Total cost: around $800. We'd squirreled away this money several months ago, knowing that the tires on our little sedan were worn down and would need to be replaced before the winter. This is a massive departure from our former M.O. in situations like this: we used to toss every big, unbudgeted expense onto the credit card and then look away. Far, farrrrr away.

New tires = less stress when traveling to our favorite places.
What I like best about how this went down is that although the tires were pricy, we didn't have to fret about the bill. There was no stress involved because we were, for once, prepared. All we did was transfer the money from savings to checking (actually, we *did* put it on our credit card so that we could get the points, but then we immediately paid it off). 

Speaking from maaaaaany past experiences of this nature, trying to pay for something expensive... that you absolutely do need... when you absolutely don't have the money for it... is frustrating, exhausting, and demoralizing. To be able to avoid that emotional turmoil this time around is an amazing feeling and a huge win for us.

Bye, old tires!
(2) We still have money IN SAVINGS! Thanks to our overestimation of the cost of the tires and our continued side hustle revenue stream, we'll still be well on our way to meeting our Emergency/Holiday Travel/Sinking Fund goal, now set at a nice round $3000. 

On the topic of the savings account: due to some possible changes in the new year, we've decided to hold steady on debt repayment (for which we allocate $1600 a month and will continue to do so) and build up our savings account to several month's worth of expenses. Paying off the debt is critical, but so is having a financial cushion when life takes you in a new direction. More on that later, if and when the time is right to share. /vagueblogging

(3) Something I realized this morning: six months into our family finance overhaul, we're really committed to debt repayment and gaining more financial security. Evidence of this commitment:
  • Since April, we've created a detailed budget each month and tallied every single expense. 
  • We've cut way back on impulse spending. Gone are the days of last-minute Target purchases, impromptu runs to Starbucks, and every-other-day restaurant meals.
  • We have an emergency fund, holiday fund, and sinking fund now, and bit by bit, they're growing.
  • We're taking the long view when making decisions. There are things we would like to be doing RIGHT NOW, but we recognize that waiting and saving will make those things more doable and less stressful down the road. 


*I still want to kick debt in the groin, so maybe that's a topic for a future post.

Disease Called Debt

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Hard Week; Budget Adjustments

A note on this past week: It was tough. Like many of you, I was left reeling by the shooting in Las Vegas. I didn't know anyone who was killed or injured, but the senselessness and horror of what the killer did and our inability to get a handle on gun violence in this country have left me feeling depressed. Getting through the last few days has been like running through taffy: I'm defeated and exhausted. Based on what I saw from you guys via Twitter, I'm not alone. These are difficult times (understatement), and I know many of us are mentally exhausted. Let's take care of ourselves and each other, okay? And let's do what we can, whenever we can, to make the world a better place.

*     *     *
Moving on to much more mundane things, our financial situation and budget changed a bit this month. Here's why:
  • Fortysomething's health insurance kicked in at his new job. His employer covers his health insurance almost entirely, and thus, I was able to take him off of my insurance. Our total monthly premium dropped by a little over 1/3. Savings!...
The Very Expensive Feline loves savings.
  • ...But. My employer started putting 11.5% of my pay into the state retirement fund. Don't get me wrong: I know this is a good thing in the long run, especially because I get an employer match (although the big caveat here is that I only get this match if I stick with the organization for 25 years, which seems like a stretch, so...) That deduction leaves a big dent in my weekly paycheck, something we definitely feel given the high cost of living around here. Even with the offset in health insurance savings, my take-home pay is still about $140 less per month. 
VEF pondering budgetary changes. She's thinking real hard.
  • We increased our weekly food budget from $150 to $175. The Kiddo is like a bottomless food vacuum. He eats everything, and then he's still hungry. He and Fortysomething lobbied for $25 more per week in the grocery department, and because this whole debt reduction thing will only work if everyone is on board and satiated, I agreed. I'm okay with it as long as we eat all of the food we buy. If there's food waste, it's back to the old budget (says the stern money dictator).

  • We created an "Other" line item in our budget. I got tired of trying (and generally failing) to anticipate every one-time expense at the beginning of each month, so this time around, I allocated $450 to  a general fund that should cover all of our October extras: household items, birthday dinner, new jacket for the Kiddo, etc. I'll need to be careful, though, because my tendency when I have wiggle room is to spend more than I anticipated.
Sometime in the next week, I'll try to do a "How'd We Do" post for September... but frankly, we totally blew the budget and I'm not exactly champing at the bit to give all the details. 

Disease Called Debt

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Pros and Cons of Side Hustling

As most of you are already aware (thanks to my not-so-subtle kvetching), my current work life consists of both my full-time job and a side hustle, an online teaching gig that I tackle in whatever open pockets of time I can find in the evenings and over the weekend. I decided to take on this extra work for two reasons. One, we wanted to build up an emergency fund and sinking fund, something that would take forever and a day to accomplish if we were relying entirely on our salaries; and two, we wanted to speed up our debt elimination process (we’ve currently mapped it out over a five-year timespan, but we want to shorten that as much as possible). 

Both Fortysomething and I found side gigs we can live with and have been investing our time in them for a little over a month.

Her side hustle is napping.
Many folks in the personal finance/debt elimination circles see side hustling as an efficient way to make up lost financial ground. Generally, I agree. But I also think it’s not a strategy that will work for everyone: it’s such a tradeoff between time and money. So one of my main questions when I decided to give side hustling a chance was, Will it be worth it for me?

TL;DR: Generally, yes, but the SH life comes with both pros and cons.

First, the pros:

Not surprisingly, it brings in some extra cashola. Our gigs generate an extra $1200 or so a month, a sum that currently goes straight into the emergency/sinking fund (though we may end up using some of it to increase our grocery budget because both Fortysomething and The Kiddo are bottomless pits when it comes to food). Our budget is pretty tight, and the amount we can allocate for savings via our steady income stream is limited. Thus, side hustle savings is a major boon for us.

It offers a safety net through job diversification. I don’t know how many of you are as paranoid as I am, but here’s an admission: I’m always worried about losing my job. I’ve had this fear from the very first day that I commenced my very first job as an administrative assistant. My boss was a family friend and the likelihood of me getting canned was, despite my obvious inexperience, pretty much zero, but such rationalization is no match for my brain, which prefers to wallow in worst case scenarios. In my mind, no matter how secure my position might seem, there’s always a chance that it could slip through my fingers tomorrow. Having a side hustle makes me feel like I have a safety net in the event that my employer decides to downsize or reorganize. Damn, would that be a problem, but at least I’d have some stopgap measures in place to staunch depletion of savings.

It helps me avoid stressing about my day job. I have a tendency to come home and fret about any lingering problems or negative experiences I might have had at the office. I’ve been known to spend entire evenings obsessing about the day, which of course is completely pointless and unproductive. (Okay, so in rereading this, I sound pretty neurotic. Which may be true.) With a side hustle, though, I don’t have time for endless rumination. I’m forced to shift gears. The upshot is that I'm more refreshed and mentally ready for the day when I head to my office each morning.

It presents an opportunity to dabble in something I enjoy. A side hustle should be fun – or at least mildly pleasant. I’m enthusiastic about teaching because it gives me an opportunity to immerse myself in science, something I don’t get to think about in my regular line of work. Geeking out about topics like star clusters, genetic engineering, and earthquake prediction with a bunch of enthusiastic undergrads? I can happily live with that. 

To be honest, I feel pretty passionate about what I’m doing in this side hustle, and that in itself makes me want to continue. 

And now the cons:

Also not surprisingly, it eats up a lot of time. I spend at least 12-15 hours per week on the side hustle. The nature of my work dictates that I’m in my virtual classroom every single day to answer questions, participate in discussion forums, and grade. By the time I’ve walked home from work, made dinner, and finished my online class checklist, I am usually way past ready for bed. My free time has definitely dwindled. Fortysomething devotes anywhere from half to one full day of his weekend for his work, which means less rest for his weary teacher brain and less time for us to go explore the world as a family.

The VEF loves our side gigs because it means we spend 
more time at home, paying attention to her.
Occasionally, it can be frustrating. My interactions with my students are overwhelmingly positive. Every now and then, though, something will come up: a student disagrees with a grade, for example, or there’s a misinterpretation of instructions and an ensuing angry email. Or my supervisor decides to tack on an extra outreach initiative and wants it done an hour ago. It happens, and when it does, I sometimes question whether the job is worth it.

Side hustles often pay a pittance. I’ve dipped my toes into enough side hustles to know that many of them aren’t worth it (at least for me).  Case in point: last year I tried freelancing with Rev, a company that transcribes audio files and adds captions to videos. After my first week of dedicated caption-making (which involved listening to audio files over and over and over again), I raked in a grand total of… wait for it… $25. It didn’t take long before I quit*. The same goes for survey-focused outfits like Swagbucks and Inbox Dollars. Yeah, it’s kind of fun to take the occasional quiz or watch a short advertisement for a few points that eventually turn into a few dollars, but as a real revenue stream, they don’t seem worthwhile (If you’ve had a different experience, I would love to hear about it!) 

Basically, my time is valuable enough that I’m not going to dedicate myself to underpaid employment. One of the reasons I decided to pursue online teaching is that this particular school pays a wage that seems fair to me. Fortysomething's happy enough with his pay as well. I wish more side hustles offered higher wages and made the work more worthwhile. 

*(On the other hand, I did meet an experienced Rev captioner who earns upwards of $1500 a month. He’d figured out how to transcribe quickly, efficiently, and accurately, and he’d turned what started as a hobby into a full-time occupation. So I’m not saying Rev is a scam. I just didn’t want to put in months of nearly-free labor before getting to the point of being able to make some significant money.)

So will we stick with it? For now, absolutely yes. For me, at least, the pros far outweigh the cons. I have four more weeks to go in this class and have agreed to teach another section in November. The earnings from our side hustles will first fund our emergency and holiday accounts, and then we’ll use it to pay down debt. It’s hard to say no to that opportunity. Even with limited time and occasional frustrations, it’s a challenge we're happy to accept, at least for a season or two.

Disease Called Debt

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Overwhelmed

I'm just popping in for a couple of minutes to say that, well, I'm feeling a little overwhelmed.

Yes, I'm feeling overwhelmed with work + side hustle, but I knew that would be the case and was somewhat prepared to cope.

As the seasons change and as I approach my 39th birthday, I'm also overwhelmed by other questions and thoughts (I mean questions and thoughts aside from natural disasters, politics, and suffering, which occupy a big part of my headspace on a daily basis):
  • Was that career change (from academia) two years ago a good idea? I don't miss the stress of being a tenure-track professor, but I miss my area of specialty to the point that I feel almost homesick for it on a daily basis.
  • What are my career goals now? Do I even have a career goal, or is my goal simply to use my job as a way to live in a place I love, do the things I want to do, and get good health insurance? 
  • I keep thinking about starting my own business - it's something I've wanted to do for years - and I have some ideas... But at what point would I be ready to make that leap? Is it worth trying to map out a plan, or is that just a total pipe dream from a very privileged lady?
  • What are my goals - other than debt elimination! - and dreams? What are the things I love? How do I make those goals and dreams part of my life?
  • Man, life is short.
So I'll keep thinking on these things, and meanwhile, if you have anything to offer in the way of suggestions, advice, or your own experiences, please feel free to share! I'd love to get your thoughts.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Winning, September 2017 Edition

Fall is here! FALL IS HERRRRREEEE! 

Finally.

It was an uncomfortably warm summer in our second-floor apartment with no air conditioning. The return of crisp temperatures is a massive relief. We're relishing the luxury of thick blankets at night, the tinge of bright colors spreading over the trees, and the coziness of autumn-themed baking and coffee making (remind me to share my favorite homemade pumpkin spice coffee recipe with you!)

After the usual end-of-summer, beginning-of-school upheaval, we've settled into a September routine. The Kiddo is busy with homework and video games. Fortysomething is constantly grading and making lesson plans. I'm juggling my day job and a side hustle. The Very Expensive Feline is sleeping all the time (except when she's supposed to, because nighttime is PARTAY TIME). On the weekends, we alternate between lounging around like slugs and getting outside to enjoy our beautiful surroundings. We're busy, but for the most part, we're enjoying it.


As I've done for the past few months, I want to motivate myself by identifying a few financial wins for September. Because let's be honest: even with our big long-term goals to inspire us, this debt repayment thing is a slog. Without this blog and massive amounts of encouragement from others and myself, I'm not sure I'd be willing to persist. Taking the time to identify what we're doing well is crucial to our long-term success. 

So here it is: three ways we're winning this September:

(1) We're on a roll with side hustling. I started my online teaching gig a couple of weeks ago. As I mentioned in a previous post, it's definitely time consuming. The grading itself requires several hours of committed time each week; most of that has to be done later in the evening after a full day at my regular job. But on the plus side, I get to teach science! The opportunity to share my passion makes this extra responsibility more palatable.

(2) As of this writing, we have almost $2K in savings. The pay for the side hustle is decent, and we're putting every single penny of it straight into savings. Seeing that balance grow is gratifying because it shows us that our hard work is paying off, literally. At this time last year, we had next to nothing put aside for a rainy day. Thus, this is a big deal for us. I estimate that our emergency/holiday/sinking account will be fully funded by December. We're already more than halfway there. It's going to feel amazing to travel at the holidays and buy new tires without stressing over finances.

(3) We're finding more ways to entertain ourselves on the cheap. Gone are the days of going out to eat every few nights. Instead, we're making peace with home-cooked meals, offset by the very occasional restaurant treat. We also make every effort to avoid purchasing full-priced tickets for movies, festivals, concerts, and the like. We're constantly on the lookout for free stuff to do - and much to my surprise, there's plenty on offer. One example: last Friday we attended a free movie night hosted by a local nonprofit. This Friday, we're going to a star party at a local park. We're spending more time at the library, too, and participating in picnics and gatherings. Our newfound frugal ways seem to be strengthening our ties to our community.


Bonus win, because it's my blog and I can break the rules of three:

(4) I've been hiking and running more! My leg is almost all healed up (damn, IT band injuries are persistent), allowing me to hit the trails more often and for longer periods of time. I'm up to 5-6 miles of running per session, and I recently conquered one of the steepest hikes in our area.


So that's us! Tell us about you: what are your wins this month so far? What are you proud of?

Disease Called Debt

Thursday, September 14, 2017

What Should We Do With Our "Extra" Money?

It's crazy to think about it, but at this time last year, we had nothing in our savings account.

Well. Full disclosure: we didn't have a savings account.

We just had our checking account, the balance of which perpetually oscillated between a couple thousand dollars and nearly zero, depending on which bill was due when, how many late fees we'd accidentally accrued, and what impulse buy seemed like a good idea in the moment.

In April, we finally started saving. Our initial goal was to set aside $1000 for emergencies, a stopgap that would allow us to diligently follow our debt repayment plan even if the famous Murphy were to take a poop on our lives. So we earmarked a hundred dollars or so per paycheck to the emergency fund. Much to our surprise, we met that goal within a few months.

Now our savings is growing. The pace of growth was slow at first, but it's picking up speed thanks to our new side hustles. Fortysomething and I have agreed that any money generated via side employment should go straight into the savings account. But once it's in there, what to do with it?

We have three options:

(1) Keep the cash in savings and watch it blossom. This option appeals to me. A lot. I love the motivation that comes from watching our balance balloon. Having substantial savings at hand would also make us feel more secure in the event that something more catastrophic - such as a job loss - were to transpire.

(2) Put that cash to work and throw it at debt. The idea here is to set aside all of our "extra" money and make a monster debt payment at the end of each month (in addition to the $1600 we already allocate for debt). The obvious benefit of this is that we'll be able to pay off our debt faster. 

(3) Establish sinking and holiday funds. We currently have neither, but with our car begging for new tires and my parents begging us to visit them at the holidays, we need both.

Option #2 was our original choice. We just want to get out of debt, and the more money we devote to that goal, the faster it will happen. Eventually, though, we realized that the sinking and holiday funds are more pressing priorities. We do need new tires - in reality, we're overdue - and we do want to spend time with family, something I don't want to put off even though it requires purchasing pricey plane tickets for holiday travel. Debt repayment is important. It is not, however, everything.

Now, BEHOLD: our Holiday Travel/Sinking Fund:
  • New tires: $1000 (could be less than this, but I'd rather over-estimate)
  • Annual fee for Thousand Trails (more about this in a future post): $500
  • Air travel for three: $900 (my parents will contribute to airline tickets)
  • Gifts for 8+ people: $200
  • Activities while on trip: $250
  • TOTAL: $2850
Once the savings account hits $3850 (emergency fund + sinking fund + holiday fund), we'll put any money in excess of that towards additional debt repayment.

I keep reminding myself that while we're paying off debt, we also have to live our lives.

We have to strive for happiness and stability.

We have to avoid blowing our threadbare tires on the highway.

This savings fund will help us achieve all of those things. After that? Watch out, debt. We're coming for you.

Disease Called Debt

Monday, September 11, 2017

A Season of Side Hustling

Y'all, I am 1.5 weeks into side hustling, and let me tell you: I need more hours in the day. Not that I'm complaining (much). The side hustle - an online teaching gig - will allow us to purchase new tires for our car and fund a holiday trip to see family. Moreover, my students are engaged and motivated, and I get to talk about science, my favorite subject. It's a fruitful opportunity for a variety of reasons.

But seriously. More hours. I need them.

Here's what my day looks like right now and pretty much what it will look like through December:

6 AM: Wake up, stumble around the kitchen in a daze for 30 minutes while getting absolutely nothing accomplished (to put it mildly, I am not a morning person), slug coffee, finally pull it together, make child's lunch, drink more coffee, make own lunch, get dressed, panic about not being able to find keys/shoes/some other vital item that has mysteriously disappeared in the last 12 hours.


via GIPHY

7 AM: Pour another serving of coffee into travel mug. Say goodbye to the family, walk 2.5 miles to work, usually reach railroad tracks just as train is starting to pass through, curse train for next six minutes, speedwalk the rest of the way to office so as to avoid being late.


via GIPHY

7:50 AM: Arrive! Beeline for the bathroom and change into fresh, unsweaty shirt before coworkers catch a whiff of any unprofessional odors.

8-Noon: Work, work, work, work, work.


via GIPHY

Noon: Lunch! Cram food into face while reading personal finance blogs.


via GIPHY

12:30-4:30 PM: Work, work, work, work, work.


via GIPHY

4:30 PM: Walk home (uphill the whole way, of course). Get sweaty again.

5:20 PM: Arrive home, say hello to fellow exhausted family members, go for a run, take a shower.

6:30 PM: Make dinner per meal plan devised earlier in week. Sit down to eat with The Kiddo and Fortysomething. Sometimes converse. Sometimes share in communal catatonic silence.

7:30 PM: Log into online classroom. Participate in discussion forum. Answer questions. Post announcements. Grade.


via GIPHY

9 PM: Start watching a show with Fortysomething. Give it my full effort. Get halfway through the show; start falling asleep. Discover that Fortysomething has also crashed out.


via GIPHY

10 PM: Usually drooling onto my pillow by this point.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

I keep reminding myself that sometimes we need to sacrifice short-term comfort for long-term goals. Historically, I haven't been too adept at this: my need for an immediate panacea to momentary discomfort/boredom/inconvenience is one of the reasons we're in so much debt. I'm committed to changing my perspective. For the next few months, for this season, I'm going to do what it takes to honor the future.

But I'm sure all of you other side-hustlers can attest to the fact that it isn't easy.

Tell me about your side hustle. How do you fit it into your day? How do you manage your time?

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Our Approach To Plant-Based Food Budgeting and Meal Planning

Some of you savvy folks have caught on to the fact that we're a plant-based family, meaning that we mostly* avoid eating meat, fish, and dairy products. We adopted this lifestyle last year when we realized that reducing the consumption of animal products is one of the most effective ways in which individuals can help cut greenhouse gas emissions. Fortysomething and I both have backgrounds in Earth Science. We've seen the reams of data indicating that atmospheric temperatures are rising and that human activity is the main culprit. Eliminating most animal products from our diet felt right for us, especially when we also considered the health benefits.

Quinoa salad: Always a winner
That said, I want to offer the disclaimer that I'm not here to convince you to go vegan. There are other blogs for that. If you're interested in giving up meat, you'll try it; let me know if you want tips or recipes. If you're not interested, a lecture from an Internet stranger isn't going to do anything other than piss you off. Sure, I'll encourage you to consume less meat and point you to this short TED talk on the benefits of being a "weekday vegetarian," but... what can I say? Changing the way you eat works only if you're really sold on making that change.

Vegan deep-dish pizza
The real purpose of this post is to share our approach to budgeting and meal planning for our plant-based diet, per a reader request. On a weekly basis, here's what that looks like:

(1) Like most of you, we set a weekly food budget. For the last couple of months, we've allocated $150/week for groceries. I know most other personal finance bloggers spend less than that, but for us, $150 is what keeps everyone fed and happy throughout the week, including The Kiddo, who never really stops eating. Our food budget allows for some treats, too, like popsicles and wine. I'll argue that treats are important: they prevent impulsive visits to Starbucks or the local brewery.

(2) I make a weekly meal plan. That plan is fairly loose for breakfast and lunch. We typically have cereal, toast, and/or fruit in the morning, depending on what each person is in the mood to eat. For lunch, Fortysomething and I enjoy leftovers from the previous night's dinner, and the Kiddo has a sandwich, apple, and crackers.

Weekend breakfast, featuring the most important food group: COFFEE
Dinners vary from week to week based on what I'm interested in making, whether I've found any new recipes to try, and how much time I'm going to have when I get home from work. I aim to come up with meals that feature real food, are fast and easy to prepare, make good leftovers, and don't require overly expensive ingredients. Risotto that requires truffle oil? Not happening.


(3) I create a detailed grocery list featuring plenty of produce. As much as possible, I focus on fresh ingredients rather than packaged foods. Obviously, fresh foods are healthier than their processed, boxed, frozen counterparts, but generally, they're also less pricey. Frozen meals, frozen pizzas, and vegan treats tend to be painfully expensive. As tasty as they are, it's usually not worth it, especially given how minuscule these products tend to be. So while we do buy some processed foods, such as vegan meatless crumbles for our nachos and crackers from The Kiddo's lunchbox, we try to limit ourselves.

In short: to be a budget-minded plant-eater, SAY YES to fruits and vegetables, SAY NO to most processed goods.

I like to divide my list into Produce, Dry Goods, and Cold Foods because
it makes grocery store navigation a little more efficient.
*PAUSE: Before someone looks at the list above and calls us out, I want to be totally upfront and acknowledge that the three of us are at various points on the vegan--meatlover spectrum. We're not true vegans, which is why I prefer to refer to our diet as "plant-based". Fortysomething eats only vegetarian/vegan foods at home, but he'll eat animal products if we go out to eat (rare these days) or if he encounters free barbecue. The Kiddo always has a turkey and cheese sandwich for lunch, and he can't say no to sushi, salmon, or macaroni and cheese. As for me, I'm almost all in... Almost because if you give me a cheesy pizza straight from a wood-fired oven, I will not think twice about consuming it.

Anyway, here are our typical grocery store staples each week:
  • Produce: Apples, bananas, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, kale, spinach, onions, broccoli (the one vegetable The Kiddo is happy to eat), corn, potatoes
Apples are a favorite snack around here.
  • Dry goods: Cereal, bread, bagels (so many bagels), pasta, rice, beans, quinoa, pretzels, crackers for school, mac n' cheese, Bob's Red Mill Pizza Mix

  • Cold: Turkey and cheese for The Kiddo, popsicles, orange juice, almond milk, firm or extra firm tofu, soy crumbles, vegan "cheese"
(4) Before going to the grocery store, we check for online coupons. We usually save $15-20 this way. I'll admit that we don't do a lot of shopping around because... well... we don't want to. Is that un-frugal of us? Fortysomething and I hate getting into the car, driving to one store, dealing with people (INTROVERT ALERT), getting back into the car, shuttling to another store... We do occasionally purchase items online, though, if we know we can get a better deal.

(5) I review our receipts to see how much we spent, what cost the most, and how much we saved through in-store coupons. If something was pricier than expected, we avoid purchasing the same product the next time around.


And that's about it! I love the simplicity of the food we eat. I love that in our own small way, we're having a positive effect on the planet that provides for us. And I love that we can do it, and make delicious food, well within our budget. 


Seared tofu and kale-cabbage salad

Disease Called Debt

Winning, November 2017 Edition

I almost - but not quite! - slacked off on posting the November edition of WINNING, a series in which I identify our accomplishments in an e...