Pay Yourself First

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

I’ve written before about my financial goals and my journey to be debt-free. It’s still slow going, but any progress is good, especially when it comes to debt.

Lately it has felt a bit like we were stuck – not making any big purchases to add to debt, but not making any huge payments to make a dent in the debt, either. As we headed into 2021, we sat down and had a discussion about what our financial goals were.

I don’t think either of us had ever actually sat down and had a discussion about what financial goals were important to us. It was extremely helpful – both for us to see what goals were most important to the other person, as well as to discuss whether we agreed with those goals and then how to reach them.

With two kids in college, tuition is a big goal. I want both my kids to graduate debt-free, as I did. My oldest should graduate in May, and I just made the last tuition payment for her. So yay! That goal is met for her, now I just have to concentrate on my youngest. I’m so glad that we only had one year of paying tuition for both of them – I have no idea how people do it.

Of course, we’re continuing with our previous goals – to pay off as much debt as possible. We’re down to one car payment, our mortgage, and one credit card. The mortgage will be gone when we move, so for now I’m ignoring it, though we do pay extra every month to get it paid off faster. The less we owe, the more we’ll have in equity when we do move.

The car payment also gets a bit extra added to it every month, but for now I am focusing on the credit card and trying to get it paid off. My husband was in agreement with all those goals, but also wanted to start saving for a vacation – something we haven’t had in a while (and we wouldn’t have been able to travel, even if we’d had the money, with the current state of affairs). As we talked, something I’d heard somewhere stuck with me – ‘Pay yourself first.’

I don’t remember where I heard it, but the gist was to make sure that you were paying yourself – by saving some money each paycheck, even if it was a small amount. After all, you work hard for your money, so you should get to enjoy it too, right?

So we decided that we would put a small amount aside each paycheck for a vacation fund. It’s not a ton of money, but if we put money in it consistently, it won’t take long to build up. I’ve been doing it since the first of the year, and honestly, it’s felt really good to see the balance growing.

I know that most financial advisors would tell us to use that money to pay off debt faster, and I get that. But psychologically, watching that small bit of money grow each month is more motivating to me than using it on our debt. It’s small enough that it wouldn’t make much of difference to the debt, and it’s worth more to me for the motivation factor in the vacation fund.

Who knows, we might decide at the end of the year to use the money for debt rather than a vacation, but until then, watching it grow is financially motivating. In the meantime, we’ll keep plugging along, working day jobs and trying to grow side hustles (like Etsy and YouTube). Maybe one day we’ll get lucky and one of those lottery tickets my husband buys every week will pay out. Okay, probably not, but we can dream, right? 😀

Gifts and Reflections

Photo by Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

The year is almost over and it feels like a time for reflection.

My first reflection is – this year sucked balls. And not in the good way. :/

My youngest was cheated out of his final year of competing in track and had his graduation repeatedly postponed. My oldest and I were out of work when schools closed. The pandemic has hit hard and everything has changed.

But not every change was bad.

Yes, my youngest missed competing. I think that bothered me more than it did him. His graduation was postponed several times, but it did eventually happen. Though my oldest and I were out of work, we were lucky that my husband is an essential worker and we avoided much of the financial hardship that many others experienced (and may still be experiencing).

Personally, though the reason was terrible, the ability to slow down and spend more time with my family was a gift. We spend so much time rushing here, there, and everywhere that often what is really important gets shoved to the back burner. This year I have spent more time than ever with my children – and it has been wonderful. No games to rush off to, no practices, nothing to distract us from each other. We have always eaten dinner together, but when the whole world slowed down, it seemed like we suddenly had time (and permission) to slow down and just take a breath.

That was another gift for me this year – I have seen how different my life can be when I am not constantly rushing around, worrying about ‘living my best life’ and trying to be ‘successful.’ I was free to just enjoy whatever made me happy – doing jigsaws, painting minis, and spending time with my loved ones. I imagine it’s somewhat how retirement feels – knowing that you can live without having to kill yourself working.

After this year, my views on how I want to live my life have changed. I have wanted to downsize and minimize for years. But now I have seen how much better my life could be if we weren’t spending all of our time working to afford the house we are rarely in, driving cars we have to work to afford, etc. If having less ‘stuff’ means I can relax and focus on things that mean something to me, that’s what I want to do.

It has given me even greater incentive to become debt-free. My husband and I sat down last night and discussed our financial goals for the new year. Paying off our last few debts is top of the list, of course. We also discussed smaller goals – like saving up for things. We both want new phones – his has a broken screen and mine is his hand-me-down from 4 phones ago. I have been putting money aside for just such things and we are able to outright purchase the phone he wants. That felt really good – being able to say, yes, okay, get the thing – and to pay for it in cash, with no payment plan and all the bs that goes along with them.

So I have set some goals for myself, both long and short term. I am not someone who makes New Year’s Resolutions, but I do have specific goals that I want to achieve in the coming year.

Here’s hoping that 2021 is waaaaaaaay better than 2020. 😀

Paradox of Change

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

If this year has taught us anything, it’s how to be adaptable to change – whether we wanted to or not. In addition to rolling with the punches from 2020, I’ve been trying to make smaller changes in my life.

Being debt-free is a large goal, but I also have smaller ones. I’ve been trying to get healthier – eat less, exercise more, eat cleaner, that type of thing. What I have discovered while trying to make these changes is that there is what I’m calling the ‘paradox of change.’

The paradox is that if you want to be successful at making changes, you need to stick to a routine. Which is paradoxical, right? Whatever change you’re trying to make isn’t a part of your routine, which is why it’s a change. The trick is to make the change part of your routine, so it becomes something automatic – something you just do without even thinking about it anymore.

Sticking to a routine is hard, but so beneficial. Most people crave the structure of a routine – we are comfortable when things go as expected. And having a routine that fills most of your life means that when something unexpected happens, it’s easier to deal with it. (Although 2020 is sure testing that theory for me!)

As we get closer to the end of the year, I thought things would start to calm down. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. As things continue to escalate, my job has gone remote. Which is good, but also challenging. Figuring out how to effectively deliver instruction to preschoolers virtually is a challenge – we’ll see how it goes and how well we all (students and teachers) adapt to this new change.

In the meantime, I plan to continue to keep working on the small goals in my life and incorporating them into my daily routine. Here’s hoping I can overcome the paradox of change! 😀

Slow But Steady

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I still have tons of things to work on, but – as someone reminded me – even slow progress is better than no progress. In spite of all my dithering about, I did manage to get some things done the other day. I added items to my Etsy shop, I began working on additional items for the shop, and I did some back end work for opening a TeachersPayTeachers shop.

As I get older, I find that my motivation and focus are not what they used to be. However, I’m trying to remember that I need to be nicer to myself and that everything does not have to get done in a day. Even if I want it to. 😛

So, if I want to work on a diamond painting one day and paint some minis the next, that’s okay. The world won’t end if I don’t finish all the things at once. Slow but steady wins the race, right? That is how I’ve approached our financial goals, and even though it seems really slow some days, if I look back, I can see exactly how far we’ve come.

When I started working on paying off our bills, we had a mortgage, two car loans, a bank loan, and 4 credit cards. As of today, we are down to just our mortgage, one car loan, and 1 credit card. 😀 We’re still not where I want to be, but we are so much closer than we were to being debt free.

I’m hopeful that by the time we are ready to move, we will have paid off the last credit card. That means we will have more cash available for our move and associated expenses. We want to move so that we can be closer to my husband’s family. Lots of things are still up in the air (because nothing is normal in 2020), but at least we’re making progress towards our goals. So I’ll continue to try and remind myself that progress is progress, no matter how small it is. 😀

Money is a Tool

When I started my journey towards being debt free, it was because I realized that I am tired of working for ‘things’ that I often don’t enjoy and/or have the time to enjoy.

My husband works 10 hour days and many times it feels like we are passing ships, greeting each other as we go about our daily routines. We’ve had many conversations about what we want our life to look like, and none of them include killing ourselves working to be able to afford the latest new gadget or the biggest house. I like our current house, but it was never intended to be our ‘forever’ house.

I want to downsize our next house. I want to be able to pay less in bills so we can spend more on things we want – whether that is a vacation, books, a new hobby – whatever.

Our current house is a good fit for our life right now, because my children are still living at home. But once they move out, we will be getting a smaller house. My car is over 10 years old, but it is paid off, and that makes it worth more to me than a newer car with a payment. Would I prefer to drive a newer car? Sure, but I don’t want the ridiculous payment that would go with it.

I was watching a financial YouTuber and she made a comment that has stuck with me. “Money is a tool – not a measure of your self-worth.” I think I’ve gotten so used to thinking about what we’re “worth” that I forget money isn’t everything.

Don’t get me wrong, I know money is important. But it is important because having it enables me to do what I want. Experiences are always going to be more important to me than material things. Do you know what is important to you? Or are you killing yourself trying to keep up with the Joneses?

I wonder sometimes if the ‘instant gratification’ culture of today is why so many people are in debt. No one wants to spend time saving up for a purchase, they just want it right now. So what if they have to pay 25% interest on the credit card to buy it?

I’ve tried to instill in my kids the need to budget and save and to consider the future. For example, my oldest wants a new pet desperately. So I’ve had several conversations with her about how expensive pets can be. Our last pet needed back surgery ($3K) as well as the routine costs for things like shots and grooming. Even though it was HER dog, WE paid the bills. (She got him as a gift when she was little.)

While it would be nice to have a pet, I’m not ready to get another one right now. And since she still lives with me, she isn’t getting one either. Although she isn’t happy, she understands the reasoning. Her money right now is better spent saving up for when she is ready to move out and live on her own once she is done with college.

I think people would be happier if they thought of money as a tool to help them achieve their goals and desires, rather than money being a goal itself. After all, you can’t take it with you. 🙂

Facing My Fears

fear-2019930_1920
Credit: Pixabay

It’s a strange time in the world right now.  However, it’s reminded me of something I forgot – your time on this earth is limited.  And no matter how much money you have, how many things you own – you can’t take it with you. I learned that lesson the hard way 10 years ago.

Since then, my focus has been on family and experiences.  Family and precious memories will keep you warmer and happier than any amounts of wealth ever will.  That’s not to say that money isn’t important – of course it is.  We all have physical needs – food, shelter, clothing.  But no amount of money can give you a hug when you’re feeling down, or make you laugh when you feel like crying.

Right now, we’re finding out just how much we as humans need that social interaction – even those of us who are introverts. 😀  I haven’t seen my sister in over a month – we talk almost every day, but we haven’t seen each other in that amount of time.  It’s crazy.

I’ve had a lot of time to think lately (probably too much), but I realized I lost sight of what is important to me.  We get so caught up in being ‘busy’ that we don’t realize we aren’t really getting anywhere or doing anything important.  We all have dreams and aspirations, but those get put on hold while life gets in the way.

I want to open my own business, but I’ve been letting my own fears hold me back.  What if it fails?  Am I crazy to launch a business in the middle of a global pandemic?  Should I save all our money instead of spending it on something that might not work?  Can I learn how to manage an online store and all the tech that goes along with it?

We want to move to Canada – our original goal was to retire there, but with my husband’s folks getting older, it seems prudent to move sooner rather than later.  That entails figuring out what my children want to do – do they want to move with us? What does that mean for their college education?  Can we all move together?  Will Canada even let us in?

Lots of questions, lots of fears, not a lot of answers.  But you shouldn’t let your fears hold you back from something you really want.  Will it be easy?  Probably not.  Does that mean it won’t be worth it?  Absolutely not.

So I am going to try and push through my own fears.  I’m going to work on getting that position I want at my current job.  I’m going to work on opening my online store.  And I’m going to work on figuring out how we can all move to Canada together.  There may be stepping stones along the way, and obstacles we have to face, but we can do it.

New Year, New Goals

new-years-eve-4664930_1920
Credit: Pixabay

I can’t believe it’s 2020.  I remember when I was younger, thinking that the year 2000 seemed eons away.  20 years past that, I am starting to realize that I am old.  Sigh.

As the new year approached, I found myself thinking about what goals I wanted to achieve in 2020.  I don’t like to make ‘resolutions,’ because it’s too easy to forget about those as soon as you make them.

Over the last few weeks, I was thinking about what I want to accomplish this year – both personally and professionally.  I don’t want to set too many goals and overwhelm myself.  I want concrete, achievable goals – ones I can break into smaller goals so that I can measure my progress.

Goals for 2020

Professional Goals:

  • Launch sticker business officially
  • Create at least 10 products to sell
  • Upgrade WordPress to Premium to take advantage of Simple Payments

Personal Goals:

  • Save $
  • Get fit
  • Be brave

For my professional goals, I want to officially launch my sticker business here on the website.  By upgrading to the Premium plan, I can take advantage of the simple payments options and offer the products for sale via PayPal.  There are other things I will need to do to make this happen, but this will give me more control over my products and sales than I would have on Etsy.

I may still open an Etsy store, but the goal is to eventually have enough traffic to my own site that I won’t need Etsy.  It also lets me avoid the mountain of paperwork that would be required with an Etsy shop.

Before I launch, I want to create at least 10 different products to sell.  The last 3-4 months I’ve been setting up files and products that I can easily adapt for different options to minimize my production time when the products officially launch.

For my personal life, I want to budget more carefully in addition to hopefully bringing in more income with the business launch.  My husband’s parents live in another country and we would love to be able to visit them more often.  We will also be paying college tuition for our children, which will be another large expense.

In 2020, I want to improve my health.  My husband and I would like to travel quite a bit after our kids are done with school, and I want to be healthy enough to do that.  I am making some small changes to start, but I am hopeful that I will be able to stick with them.

Lastly, I want to be braver this year.  I am my own worst critic and I want to try and, if not silence, at least lower the volume on those critical thoughts.  If I fail, at least I tried.  And then I know what doesn’t work.

Happy New Year to you all, and may your year be full of love, light, and blessings.  ♥♥