This shit gets real…

From time to time I write about money. Saving, spending, splurging, and thinking about the future. My childhood and lack of having many things as a child has created a passion inside of me that forces me to make sure that we never have a moment in our life where we have to wonder if there will be food on the table. Chris and I always try to have a back up plan. A Plan A, B, C…Part of the passion I have for living within our means, and saving for the future means that I stay interested in current personal finance trends and different ways of thinking about what you might need to do now to prepare for retirement.

This recent article from LearnVest shows an interesting infographic depicting what giving up a few things can mean for someone thirty years from now. If you scroll down to the middle of the page you will see an image of a pack of gum, with the description that if you cut back on a $2 pack of gum a week you would have $16,652 more for retirement. A $10 glass of wine on the weekend would be to the tune of $83,260 at retirement. The last one is mind-blowing (Chris are you reading this)? If you cut back $100 of your cable bill per month it would be $832,597 at retirement. It makes you think, right?

Thinking about retirement at 20, 25, 30, 35 and up is a very real and crucial aspect of our life. Often though we are barely paying our bills or student loans in our 20’s to 30’s and so retirement is the last thing on our list. I can imagine that many of us could cut back on paying $100 on cable each month, or get rid of it entirely. There are so many online options for entertainment. Regardless of what “thing” you could cut back (or eliminate) from a material consumption standpoint, the key is really to make a focused effort to think about what and how you are preparing for retirement. Have you thought about it? Will you be able to support yourself when you retire? Long gone are the days when your company supported you after you retire. These days a 401(k), IRA, and other options are the basic ways we kickstart our path towards retirement.

While retirement, saving money, and cutting back is not the most glamorous of topics, in 10, 20, or 30 years you may just realize how much you will need to put away each year for retirement and how much time you have lost. A good reminder that pertaining to money: this shit gets real… fast.

“I eat the same thing everyday.”

We are all creatures of habit. I am not one to have to do the same thing everyday, but there are a few things in life that are pretty similar from day-to-day.

As I mentioned in my blog “Phone calls: No thank you” last weekend, during Portland’s mini snowstorm, I caught up on my Fast Company magazines and found the article: “Secrets of the Most Productive People” in the December 2013/January 2014 issue. There was a mention of the CEO of LearnVest. See, I am a finance buff, so I am a fan of LearnVest, a website that helps with personal finance. I receive their newsletter, and understand where the CEO, Alexa Von Tobel is coming from with this quote in the Fast Company article:

“Since the beginning of LearnVest, I’ve never left the office for food. I eat the same thing every single day [an apple, almonds, yogurt, a salad…], and I never sit still to eat a meal. My ultimate goal is to create operating systems for myself that allow me to think as little as possible about the silly decisions you can make all day long–like what to eat or where we should meet–so I can focus on making real decisions. Because mental energy is a finite quantity.”

I get it. I feel like during my work day I go from meeting to meeting, and often barely know when I am going to squeeze lunch in, or eat while at a meeting or at my desk while quickly trying to catch up on emails before my next meeting. Based on the crazy day, the last thing I want to do is think about what I want to eat for lunch. I usually just restrict it to salad. That way I am eating healthy, usually raw food that my body can easily process. However, often there are many different versions of a salad that I can decide from at work which always makes my decision that much harder, yet by just sticking to salad, I have narrowed my options and made my brain not have to think so much in an already busy day. So I am not as extreme as Von Tobel, but agree that often when you have so many other decisions to make during the day, why complicate things even more by having to decide what to eat.

Are you with me?

How do you make your money decisions?

Do you talk with your spouse about money? I do, but I know it is not necessarily the norm. I am what you might call a money freak. Even so, I have relaxed over the past year. I am maybe now more of just a fiend rather than a freak. Growing up without many things has made me keenly aware of where I spend my money, and yet, that only matters if Chris and I are on the same page about money.

We were not always on the same page. It is something that has evolved over time. The evolution has happened because we talk. We talk about most purchases. Some of you might say that is a bit over the top, and yes it might be. Regardless of whether it is extreme, it works for us. There is no ill will about what either of us has purchased because we both agreed on it before dropping the credit card. You might ask, “Do you talk about every single purchase?” The answer is no. For the most part we do not talk about the normal everyday purchase, like grocery items, but we do talk about most purchases over $100. It means there is no resentment, and it is easy. It is as simple as sending each other a text if we want to make a larger purchase. If the other is not sure, we wait until we can have a regular conversation.

Why does it work? It works because we have a few rules, and it is grounded on a sense of respect for the other individual and their opinion. We have shared finances, so we believe that we have a shared stake in the decisions on how we spend that shared money. One of the first rules we have is that we do not spend outside our means. If we cannot afford it, we do not make the purchase. It would have to be an emergency for us to spend outside our means. I strongly believe that if you buy only what you can afford, you will have a lot less stress in your life, and if you take that stand you will feel more like you, then living outside of who you are. The result of living within what we can afford, means not living off of our credit cards. Whatever we charge must be paid in full when the bill arrives. It feels more honest and true to who we are, when you can actually pay for your purchase.

This is what works for us. It is in no way a judgement for how others make their money decisions. I found this older LearnVest post about how a couple handles their money decisions. I liked this line:

“Because of our open running dialogue about our finances, we never argue about money, unlike most couples.”

It is true. Honesty with open communication means little to no arguments about money. It does not mean that the conversations are always easy, but it does mean you are connected about how you want to live your life, spend your money, and engage in the world together.

What works for you?

*UPDATE* Wow. I am in a bit of shock. In full transparency, everything I just wrote about apparently happens only 99% of the time. In the time it took me to write this post, my husband strayed from our agreed-upon protocol for the first time in over 10 years and made a large purchase without discussing the final details together first. Although the purchase was made with the best of intentions, he knew better and got an earful from me. No, not because I’m a hard-ass and felt the urge to raise my voice, but because he should have had a simple, open dialogue about it first, come to an agreement, and then dropped the cash. #stilllearningtogether #patienceplease

Remember Playing MASH?

Do you remember as a kid playing MASH (Mansion/Apartment/Shack/House)? It used to be a horoscope/8-ball into your future. As a girl (and I can imagine more girls than boys played this game), you would list out 4 boys names, 4 cars, 4 numbers (usually meant for # of kids), 4 cities, and 4 jobs. Then the friend asking you the questions would say “Go” and they would make draw lines until you said “Stop.” Then they would count the number of lines and use that to go through the list and cross off items in each list until there was only one left. I have not played that game in years and years. AND. Yes, there is an online version. No longer do kids (if they still play this game) write on notebook paper. There is also, yes you guessed it, a MASH app.


It came to me today because we have been house hunting and it made me think about the house I grew up in, and how much my parents paid for that house, and how expensive homes are today. Like dominos, my mind went from the house I grew up in, to my neighborhood, to childhood friends, to games we played and then to MASH. Does your mind do that kind of domino effect of one thing to another?

As I started writing this post, I remembered I had this article saved for a while from LearnVest about “How much my lifestyle will cost?” I had been meaning to use their MASH style calculator that tells you how much money you need to be saving to have that MASH-esque lifestyle. It is sort of like a dream calculator.

Ah…the things we did as kids. The dreams we had for our mansion, the boys we dreamed about growing old with, the luxury car, oh the list goes on. In the end, it all turned out all right. Dreams are good though. Some we meet, some we never attain, and some we blow out of the water!

Love what you have…

Do you enjoy your life? Do you work hard to meet some unattainable goal? Do you ever wonder why you try so hard, and whether you are missing out on some other aspect of your life in the process?

I woke up this morning (of course not wanting to get out of bed), with an immense amount of gratitude and appreciation for what I have today. It is so easy to look forward at what is next, to anticipate that x or y will happen, and in doing so we lose sight of what is NOW, what is today. What if you were able to only look at what you had to accomplish today? What if we had no capacity to wonder how we will ever accomplish what is on our ongoing plate of to-dos, and we could only do what was possible today?

For those of you that know me well, or who have been following my blog for a while know that I have an interest in personal finance. As I have grown up, I’ve been in situations where life has forced me to understand the steps to take regarding wills, estates, living wills, life insurance, etc. This has led me to want to know more and understand what we can do to set up our financial future for ourselves and family (or future family).

Due to my interest in personal finance, I follow the LearnVest newsletter each day. Recently I found a newsletter I saved from January that really spoke to me about gratitude. While I do not think I have Money Comparisonitis, this newsletter on “Money Comparisonitis” (specifically the 4th bullet) can cross over to any area of our life. I also think the following points in their newsletter are good reminders:

“Be grateful for the things you already have, whether that means your health, close friendships, the love of your family or your fulfilling career.”

Later it says:

“One way to better appreciate the good things is to make a gratitude list every day, which will remind you of everything in your life you’re already grateful for. And, ultimately, that’s the best way to keep comparisonitis at bay.”

What if we lived in present gratitude instead of moments of anticipation? What is on my gratitude list will be different from what is on yours, but nevertheless we all have a lot to be grateful for.

It is almost time for the weekend. What if we focused on gratitude and appreciation for the next few days?!