Sunday, November 8, 2009

I am finding it harder than expected to come up with good content for this blog. I need to take a little time and figure out my direction so in the meantime, there probably won't be daily posts.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ripping off the blinders

I (re)learned two important lessons in the past few days: 1) perception is reality and boy, can it differ widely; and 2) don’t give advice unless it’s asked for (and proceed with caution when it is).

I’ve had several uncomfortable discussions (read: arguments) with my mom over the past year regarding money and planning. This past weekend brought about a doozy and while debriefing with my best friend, a realization slammed into me – what I viewed as helpful advice was being seen as judgmental critique. From my perspective, I saw my mom in a tight spot and wanted to help. From her corner, she was dealing with a rough situation and being judged by her daughter at the same time. I’d never considered that my advice might be unwelcome or that this role reversal might be painful. I simply saw a problem and a need for a solution so I stepped up to provide just that. But I didn’t set myself up to see it from her shoes so she didn’t consider the “solutions” as being feasible for her. I’m not sure I’d like that either.

Monday, November 2, 2009

An eye-opener

I attended a beautiful wedding yesterday. The love between the bride and groom and among the guests shone brightly. As I enjoyed the company, food, and dancing, I suddenly realized that I was in a room full of people who routinely pursue their passions, with little regard for the financial implications. One woman is a folk singer (though that barely scratches the surface of her talents), another is an author, yet another is a dancer. It’s a tight knit group of incredibly talented, artistic people who spend their lives doing what they love. What a concept!

And as I looked around, I realized that few people I know would consider these folks successful, simply because most of them aren’t out making gobs of money. A couple of years ago, I probably would have drawn the same conclusion. But now, I’m not sure I feel that way. Because their success is a life well lived, spending their time pursuing their passions. The more I think about it, I think that’s the greater success. It’s given me a lot to think about in relation to my own life. I work in the corporate world – is that what I want? If not, what else would I want to do? What are my passions?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Striking a balance

First, Happy Halloween! Ok, now that that’s out of the way…

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the way emotions and reason often clash. This topic has been covered before but I am only now realizing the true depth of this conflict.

Over the past few months, I’ve found myself in several situations where my emotions pushed against reason in regards to spending. One was the convertible incident described previously. I had a couple of stressful weeks, with the car and travel and work, and I noticed that I was less likely to think twice about spending during that time. The big win (at least in my book) is that I was cognizant of the conflict and so, even if I wasn’t completely able to stop the slippage, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

I think the biggest area of conflict for me arises around my social life. My friends and I have been blessed to have success in our careers and we all enjoy the good things in life – food, wine, travel, etc. I have noticed that when I try to pare back on social spending, it often means missing out on occasions because of the way those occasions are structured. Suggestions of doing something less expensive are met with eye rolling and snide comments.

I can’t blame my friends and family for this because I’m the one who set the expectations. It’s not surprising that I get these reactions for I am the one who’s changing the game. And let’s be honest, people generally don’t like change. We get into our comfort zone and like staying there. But in order to reach the goals I have set for myself, I have to get out of that comfort zone, at least temporarily.

So how do you handle balancing your goals with your reality? And can you change it without changing your entire social structure? For now, I’m combating this conflict by allowing for a tad more discretionary spending. Will I get to my goals as quickly? No, but I’ll have people to celebrate those goals with me when I get there and to me, that’s much more important.

Friday, October 30, 2009


I love to travel. Stepping onto an airplane in one place and soon thereafter, landing in another. Visiting friends and exploring new territory. Airfares have dropped drastically over the past few days. (check out this article for more info)

When I saw this article and the emails from airlines and Travelocity, I immediately started browsing the options and perusing my calendar for a free weekend. After a few minutes, I came back to reality and closed all of the windows. Travel is one of my big categories of discretionary spending and it’s on hold as I pursue paying off that student loan before my birthday. So, while these are fantastic deals, they still represent unplanned spending and delaying the plan that will (hopefully) lead to realizing my dreams.

*sigh* It sure would be nice to jet off though. Sometimes being responsible is hard.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Halloween! An excuse to dress up, play, and party. And this year, we’ve got the fall back from daylight savings time, giving us an extra hour to celebrate. Lots of other blogs have given tips on how to save money on Halloween (I love this one from Jenn at Frugal Upstate).

My challenge was in finding a costume that would be versatile as well as frugal. I’ve got plans that include a family outing, one with my goddaughter, a low-key friends’ party, a fancy-dress party, and a party party. I decided that I would be a cat this year, since I can range from simply drawing on whiskers and wearing the ear headband with regular clothes up to full on costume complete with all black clothes and tail.

What will you be for Halloween this year?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Convertible cars vs. dreams

A couple of weeks ago, I picked up my goddaughter for an overnight visit and her parents and I made a big deal about how she was going to ride in my new car. She was very excited about it. As she was climbing in, she asked “is this a convertible car?” and my heart plummeted. It pained me to explain that it wasn’t and I found myself wanting to reassure her that I’d have a convertible soon. Throughout the weekend, she asked “why isn’t this a convertible car?” several more times. As word spreads about the new car (at work, to family, etc.), people keep asking the same question. Every time I hear it, I have second thoughts about my decision. It’s not exactly a fun process but it’s got an upside: my conviction that I made the right decision grows stronger because I have to keep reliving the decision process.

That was hammered home yesterday as I talked to a colleague about the new car and he needled me about the lack of convertible (which has been sorely missed with this week’s nice weather). I started down the usual path of questioning myself…and then I really listened to him talk. He was describing how he and his wife approach cars: they lease new cars every three years. He considers car payments “just another bill,” like a student loan, so they don’t bother him anymore (his words, not mine). That snapped me back to reality. By the end of this year, I’m going to pay off my student loans and less than a year later, my new car will be paid off – then I’ll be non-mortgage debt free! And that means more to me than having a zippy little convertible. Because then I will be that much closer to financial freedom.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Millionaire Next Door

I recently finished reading The Millionaire Next Door by Drs. Stanley and Danko. I remember borrowing this from the library a couple of years ago and it failing to catch my interest. Fast forward to now, when my overall interest in personal finance and wealth-building has developed, and I found it fascinating. Their research reinforces so many basic tenets of personal finance, mainly spending less than you earn. They also present an interesting paradox, namely, that those who appear wealthy probably aren’t. There’s also an underlying theme of family values since most of the millionaires married once and stayed married, usually raising several children along the way. If you get a chance, I recommend checking this out. As for me, I'm moving right along to Stop Acting Rich:...and Start Living Like a Real Millionaire.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A new perspective

A few weeks ago, misfortune threw car trouble my way. The anticipated repair was pricey but after calling around for other estimates, seemed within the range of reason for a 7 year old car with 100K miles. I had had several conversations with a friend earlier in the year about buying a new car and I had decided to keep this one going for a couple more years so I went forward with getting the repairs done.

Then I had the car taken to one of those other places (it was overheating so driving 20 miles was out of the question) and found out that it was much worse than the original mechanic thought. A word of advice: if the mechanic calls you and begins by reminding you of your car’s trade-in value before telling you the cost of repairs, you should heed his advice to buy a new car.

I was unprepared for the emotional roller coaster that followed. My first instinct was to replace a convertible with another convertible – logical, right? I shopped around and found some cars that were very nice. Yet something kept me from pulling the trigger on the purchase. I simply couldn’t fathom taking on $20-25K in debt. I was unprepared to purchase a car at the time and consequently did not have much cash saved for a down payment so financing was in order.

Fortuitously (or perhaps not), a mini-break came up during this process. I flew across the country for a long weekend and got to take something of a break from the car problems. I was in a great position – I got to step away and think about what I was doing and how I should do it.

This was when I started considering non-convertible options. When I'd talked to the mechanic, he recommended Honda (Civic or Accord) and Toyota (Corolla or Camry). Once the idea crossed my mind, I couldn’t believe that I had brushed it off earlier (isn’t that the way?). When I came home, I started looking for a late model, low mileage car that would be fuel efficient, comfortable, and that would hold its value well.

And that’s exactly what I got – a 2007 Honda Accord with 26K miles on it.

Unfortunately, in an unplanned situation like this where time is of the essence, one is limited in the amount of frugality that can be practiced. I ended up with a car loan, which pushes my other plans back a bit. Yet I’m comfortable with the balance that I struck – I didn’t buy a clunker with the little bit of cash I had on hand but I also didn’t buy the brand new convertibles that caught my eye (oh, how I will lament the lack of drop-top come spring).

The unexpected result of this process has been a constant questioning of my own assumptions. I feel like I’ve regressed to toddler phase because my constant question is “why?” Does the fact that I’ve done something a certain way in the past automatically mean that it’s the best way? This mindset is being applied both at home and at work and I have to say, it’s interesting. Ah, change is so scary and so good, all at the same time.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Staying focused...but how?

Change is hard. It’s so much easier to fall into the same old routines, to walk the easy route. I had a Sunday afternoon and evening with no plans. Instead of doing something productive or getting around to something I’d been meaning to do for a long time, I ended up watching television for the majority of the day. I spent a good portion of today doing the same thing. How do you stay focused on your dreams? Trent over at The Simple Dollar re-posted an article from 2007 about personal finance lessons a couple of weeks ago and reading the first one truly did rock me like a hurricane: Every time you buy anything, you sacrifice a bit of your dreams.

What a succinct way to bring things into perspective. When I agree to go out on the town for an expensive evening, I’m pushing my debt-free status back further. And it doesn’t just apply to spending money. While I don’t think that I need to spend every minute of every day wholly focused (because that’s unrealistic), spending time on unproductive activities is keeping me from realizing my dreams. How do you maintain focus?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Why blog?

So what’s so special about my journey and why blog about it? Well, I’m a single woman and I don’t feel that I have a lot of support in this area. My friends and family aren’t on the same page with me and I often get blank stares when I get to talking about my plans. Taking it a step further, I regularly get comments about “live a little” and “you can’t take it with you.” Their view is that I’m a young, single, successful woman so I “deserve” to play hard right now. Someday, I’ll be saddled with lots of expenses (because, you know, that’s how it is for them so it has to be that way for me) and I will regret not doing/buying things. What they don’t understand is that there are tons of ways to play hard without spending a lot of money. In reading other personal finance blogs, I’ve learned that there ARE others like me out there and I’m re-energized. So while I’m here to share my thoughts, dreams, and ideas, I’m also here to learn about yours.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Live Your Dreams

Live your dreams. These words float through my head several times a day. I thought I knew what that meant to me but over the past few months, I’ve learned that maybe it’s not what I thought it was.

A year or two ago, I started reading about personal finance. MSN Money and The Simple Dollar started things off and now, I keep up with ten or twelve sites on a regular basis. I came to realize that I’m in pretty good shape when it comes to personal finance so I treaded water, occasionally picking up a new tip or two.

Then I read Dave Ramsey’sThe Total Money Makeover” this summer and it was like my blinders were ripped off. I was someone who had a long way to go on her journey. Sure, I only had “good” debt (a student loan and a mortgage) but it was still debt and it was holding me back. So I got aggressive and mounted an attack on the student loans.

A couple of months later, I started reading “Tales of a Female Nomad” by Rita Golden Gelman and I realized just how much it appealed to me – learning, helping, freedom. It spurred me to work harder, pushing forward to eliminate that student loan debt.

Then my car bit the dust. I struggled with this decision (more on that later) and eventually, I came to realize that a cheaper, slightly older car would cause a shorter delay in my plan. This was a more difficult decision than I would have expected.

It was then that I realized I was on a major journey. My dreams and goals had become clear and I was working my way towards them. It was an exciting moment.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Off to the Races!

It’s taken a long time and a lot of thinking to get to this point. It took me several weeks to work up the courage to make the leap, only to find that the name I’d chosen for this blog was taken. So were several variations and iterations, leading me to conclude that it just wasn’t time to get started. Things have come together and here I am! Thanks for joining me on this journey.