Thursday, September 7, 2017

It's Hard to Pay Yourself First

Back in the day, I worked at giant corporate bookstore when those Rich Dad Poor Dad books were really popping off.  I didn't read them until a few years later when I was working at the library and frantically saving for a cross country move, while also becoming a bit obsessed with personal finance.  In addition to a steady diet of Suze Orman, Jean Chatzky et al., I decided to try out Rich Dad Poor Dad.  I remember finding it pretty basic and repetitive, but the line where he says always pay yourself first, stuck in my head.  The idea is that before paying any bills, you put money into savings or invest it.  You will always find money for bills, because bills have to be paid, but if you don't prioritize yourself, you won't ever save.

Initially, it seemed like a terrible idea to me because I've been raised with the idea (from my banker mother) that debts need to be paid, early, if possible.  So the notion of putting money into savings when you could use it to reduce debt, and by doing so, save money on interest, just didn't hold water with me.  Except that by having no savings or financial safely net, you can potentially put yourself in a position to have to put emergencies on a credit card, and therefore pay more in the long run.

It's all very speculative, but there is merit to the idea, and I'm trying to get better about it.  For instance, I financed my car instead of paying cash for it, because that would have wiped out my emergency fund.  Ideally I would have been able to keep my previous car for many more years, but the repairs were coming more frequently, and with a two hour a day commute, I needed something more fuel efficient and reliable, so I bit the bullet.

Right now, with that car payment looming over me, I'm really fighting my natural impulse to forgo this year's goal of maxing out my Roth IRA, and funneling that money into the car loan instead.  I still have $2360 to contribute for 2017, which is $590/month, which seems impossible at this point.  But that doesn't mean I shouldn't try, and I need to keep reminding myself of that. 

It's really, really hard to focus on a goal that is so far in the future, but as much as I love my job, I don't want to do it forever.  My profession is one that people tend to never want to leave--or maybe can't since it rarely pays well, and I've worked with too too many people who should have left ten years ago.  I don't want to be that person.  It would also be nice to just work less, at some point, if I feel like it.

Despite not knowing exactly WHAT I want yet, I know that having extra money gives a person options, and I like having options.  The car loan will get paid, but so will I.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

When Frugality Flails

I have had the most expensive couple months in a very long time. Probably the most expensive since I had to pay college tuition.  Since I last checked in, I have:
  1. Moved to a much more expensive city into a much more expensive apartment.
  2. Acquired a commute.
  3. Got a newer, more fuel-efficient car to deal with said commute.
  4. Had to increase the amount of car insurance I have because my new car is actually worth more than $50. 
  5. Husband got into a car accident, so he's had to pay for a rental car since our bare bones insurance doesn't cover that. 
  6. Kitty was diagnosed with hyper thyroid, which is a common and manageable condition that most older cats get, but it means expensive medicine and more frequent vet visits, which neither of us enjoy.
  7. We hit another patch of weddings--fun, but expensive and with some travel involved.
  8. Odd, random expenses that come with a new place are gobbling up my money.  Like curtains and rods, paint, fans, something to hang paper towels on, etc.
I am currently reeling from the fact that I will have a car payment for the first time in eight years, but I also plan to pay it off aggressively.  I technically could have just paid cash for the car and avoided financing it altogether, but that would have eliminated my Emergency Fund entirely, and I'm not willing to do that--especially so soon into this move.

Despite these extra expenses, there are a few good things that have come out of this situation.
  1. I do have to drive more to get to and from work, but our new place is in an actual neighborhood where I can walk to pretty much everything.  There is a street full of restaurants three blocks away, and a grocery and liquor store two blocks away.  Previously, my work commute was 15-20 minutes, but the only place I could really walk to from my house was the library, or to get Chinese takeout.  Now I can drive to and from work, then park my car and do everything I need to do on foot.
  2. Our new place is smaller, which may seem like an odd thing to want, but it makes a lot more sense for us.  Our previous place was a huge loft style apartment with no real rooms.  It was great looking, but not very practical for two people who like their privacy.  Since it was also really big, it was easy to start to acquire more things to fill the space.  Now, our house is only slightly too big, and we've been getting rid of a lot of things.
  3. Taking on extra expenses, along with being forced by the move to really examine my possessions has got me streamlining and making a bit of side cash.  I had started getting rid of things via Craigslist and Freecycle before the move, but the new area we live in has a very active Buy Nothing group on facebook, and I've been doing a bit of ebaying.  I'm not going to get rich, but it's feeling really good to get things out of my house, and make a bit of cash that goes toward my goal of maxing out my Roth IRA. Once I start looking at my possessions with an eye to sell, it becomes that much easier to keep the momentum going.
Despite these setbacks, I am determined!  Fall is my favorite time of year, and once my house is in order, I look forward to exploring my new neck of the woods.