Being Grateful: Fifty-Second Anniversary Edition

It’s been one whole year since I started this little weekend series of mine, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have.

Originally, I started this series because I have a natural tendency to be pessimistic. I’m usually a cynical, glass half-empty kind of person.

I wanted to change that as much as I could. Having that kind of perspective on life can be warranted at times, but it was as if I had cast a permanent cloud over everything.

The practice of gratitude can put things into perspective, as you learn to focus on and be grateful for the things you do have, rather than focus on what’s lacking.

After a year, I can tell you I think it works.

What I'm Being Grateful For in 2014

Even in my worse moments, I can realize the situation for what it is, and overcome it by reminding myself of the things in my life that are going great.

I also figure that in a month, this will just be a microscopic blip on the radar, and I won’t even remember it. It helps me let go easier.

That wasn’t the case over a year ago, where I stressed out over every little thing constantly, worried constantly, and always thought the worst was going to happen anyway, so why bother caring.

After I (mostly) overcame the horrible depression I endured in my teenager years, I realized that life was not worth living in such a dark light, but still didn’t reach the point where I am today.

I fully believe that we each deserve to be happy. To wake up every morning and be thankful that we’re still here. That there’s still another day waiting to unfold.

Tomorrow is never guaranteed, so what’s the use of living each day with such a crappy attitude?

There really isn’t any, and I’m glad I’ve made a huge stride in that department. I’m not perfect at all, but I am grateful for the change in perspective this series has brought me. It’s become ingrained in me to be grateful.

So with that long intro out of the way, here is a recap of all the things I am being grateful for in 2014.

Our Dream of Moving Came True

Let’s start with the biggest highlight of the year – that was our move.

R and I knew we wanted to leave NY at some point (I wrote that over a year ago!), simply because where we were was expensive. We couldn’t afford much beyond what we had. That needed to change in order to make any headway on saving or paying off our student loans.

Our storage unitLong story short, R got a job that would allow him to relocate after a year, and he would also get promoted in the process. Win-win.

As his first year approached in April, he started looking at the available openings. Ideally, we would move closer to my parents, because I missed them and worried about them. =)

He got an interview for a position in SC, but unfortunately, the guy ahead of him got the job. It turned out to be a good thing: after his interview, they told him to go to another store just 15 minutes away, to interview for a different type of position, which happened to involve a raise.

We didn’t need any time to think about it. R accepted the next day once we got home, and we started packing. The rest is history. We’ve been here for 7 months now, and it both does and doesn’t feel that long. I still sometimes can’t believe we made it. Moving seemed like a pipe dream when we were first together, yet here we are!

I’m very grateful all the pieces fell into place on this one. While we’re not sure if Charlotte is where we’re going to stay forever, we’ve enjoyed it so far.

I Left the 9-5 Behind and Started Freelancing

With the move came the loss of a job for me. Because we didn’t know where we would end up until the last second, it was impossible for me to search for a job.

In full disclosure, I was making less than $15/hr at any job I ever held in NY. I majored in Criminal Justice in college, with the thought of eventually getting into the FBI, and obviously, that didn’t happen! I ended up working entry-level admin jobs, which didn’t pay very well.

I figured it would be the same story here. I decided to give freelancing a try, as I saw so many fellow bloggers rocking it, making more than I ever had in a month!

I am really happy to say after many, many difficult months of self-doubt, fear, slight depression, and all around craziness, I made the right decision. I won’t write off returning to the workforce fully at some point, as I know there are some really cool companies out there. But for now, this is right.

I never, ever thought I would be a freelancer, or a solopreneur. There are no entrepreneurs in my family to speak of, and I didn’t recognize it as a possible career path. It’s been quite the learning and eye-opening experience.

Being Grateful for Blogging? Yes!

Which is why I am so very grateful for blogging. It has opened my eyes to all of the possibilities available for those that want to take advantage of it.

Without blogging, I don’t think I would have fully known that side hustling was a thing. I wouldn’t have thought of doing half the things some people to do earn money.

I never thought anyone would be willing to pay me to write, or manage their social media.

And without blogging, I wouldn’t have met some of the awesome people I am happy and grateful to work with. I also wouldn’t have become acquainted with my awesome readers and blog friends!

Weekend Trips to Visit Parents

When we moved, we essentially left behind all of our friends and family. My parents are the only ones that live down south.

Enclosed porch we hang out in at my parentsYou only get one set of parents, though, and I happen to be really close with mine. As I’ve gotten older, I realize my family isn’t getting any younger, either.

And while I worry about my grandma (especially since she was in the hospital twice since we left, which had never happened when we were there!), she is retired and can come visit at any point.

Besides that, freelancing allows me the flexibility to go back home.

For the most part, we have been visiting my parents one or two weekends out of the month.

To put things into perspective, I decided we couldn’t miss Thanksgiving with my parents last year. We drove 12 hours down, and 14 hours back, just to spend 3 days with them, because that’s all we could take off for work.

This past weekend, we drove 3.5 hours, with our cats, and enjoyed 4 days with them. Coming back took 4 hours because of torrential rain, but it’s still way better than 14.

For Christmas, we’ll spend 6 days with them, and none of us will have to risk driving in the snow to get there (hopefully?).

That’s the perfect example to show how things have changed for us, and all I can say is, I’m being grateful upon reflecting just how much things have changed this past year.

What are you being grateful for this Thanksgiving? What’s changed for you this past year?

Being Grateful: Fifty-First Edition

Hey everyone! This week flew by, mostly because it has felt like the weekend since Wednesday.

We decided to celebrate Thanksgiving early, as my mom is working pretty much every day next week. R took off Thursday and Friday, and we’ve been here since Wednesday night.

Before we go on, I have to apologize to you all. I just wrote up the entire post, went to save, and received an error from WordPress. My stomach sunk upon realizing the entire post was gone.

As I’m all about being transparent, I don’t really have the energy to completely re-write the post, so forgive me for running through things rather quickly. =( I absolutely hate when technology doesn’t cooperate!!

Not surprisingly, this week is focused on being grateful for family.

Being Grateful | Journey to Saving

Bingo!

Every Thursday, my mom and her neighbor play Bingo at a nearby restaurant. It doesn’t cost anything except a meal to play (and I think you only need to spend $5).

The jackpot is $350, so I figured I would tag along and play with them. R came, too, and the neighbor’s sister was visiting, so that made 5 of us!

I have never played Bingo for money before, and it’s been a really long time since I played at all. It was fun, even though none of us won! I kind of wish I was around here on Thursdays now.

My mom had won a $25 gift card the previous week, so we mostly ate for free, which was great.

By the way, my mom (being the primary money manager) has been keeping on top of her budget! I’m really proud of her. She should end up coming in with some money leftover this month, which she will be putting toward debt.

Low-Key Get-Togethers

We celebrated Thanksgiving on Thursday with a small chicken dinner. We couldn’t find a turkey small enough for the 4 of us, and none of us really cared what we ate!

I had mentioned lasagna as part of the weekend celebration, and my mom agreed to make it. We ate that tonight, and it was delicious!

Small, low-key gatherings are always nice. Sometimes when you have too many people in the kitchen, things can get hectic. With just the 4 of us, it wasn’t necessary to go all out with the trimmings, and I kind of prefer it that way.

Yes, I know, I’m weird! I’ve never looked forward to Thanksgiving because of the food; I just looked forward to spending time with my family, and making plans for Christmas. Speaking of which …

Christmas Tree

My parents threw out our old Christmas tree when they moved, as it didn’t fit on the moving truck. I would have taken it, except that a 7.5′ tree wasn’t going to fit in our basement apartment!

Since they were visiting us in NY last year, they decided not to bother with one…so they needed one this year!

We went up to Target yesterday to see what their selection looked like. My parents had already been to a few stores and weren’t impressed with the choices.

Thankfully, we ended up finding one, and it was on sale for $51! Not too bad, especially considering they’ll probably be using it for all future Christmases.

I should probably mention (fun fact), I’m allergic to actual Christmas trees, so that’s why we go the fake route.

I don’t recall this at all, but my dad said the second they found out, he tossed the real Christmas tree we had over the deck of our old house. Apparently, I ended up in the hospital as I had such a severe reaction, and he wanted nothing to do with it after that.

Anyway, I’m grateful we found one, and that we can decorate together again. Last year wasn’t the same without a tree!

Craft Fair

Earlier today, 40 vendors came to my parents’ community for a craft fair. My mom and I were hoping to find a few frugal gifts for everyone back home.

We didn’t find a whole bunch (mostly because we had to keep in mind we had to ship items, and some were too delicate or bulky), but we found some really unique pieces of jewelry for 2 family members, so that takes care of them!

R and I also found a really neat looking cutting board, which my parents bought for us. How can a cutting board be neat?

Well, it’s made out of different types of wood, and it looks similar to this. R is really interested in wood being that he works with it at his job a lot. One of my dad’s favorite hobbies is also woodworking, so I’m slightly interested in it!

Suffice to say, it caught our eye, and it’s nice to be able to support someone instead of a store. Plus, our old cutting board broke a month ago!

While we were there, I observed that most of the people selling things were older. I was impressed with how they had turned their hobbies into a side hustle.

I even overheard one of them claiming you need some sort of activity in retirement to devote your time to. Rock on, senior citizens!

Overall, it was inspiring to see the ideas some people came up with. Not all of the items being sold were overly complicated to make, and some of them didn’t take much artistic talent at all, but people were clearly willing to pay.

Working from Home

Lastly, I am being grateful that I work from home, as these extended weekend trips wouldn’t be possible otherwise. It’s hard enough to coordinate days off with one person working, let alone two!

I am also grateful that R’s job is so flexible. He’s already taken the day after Christmas and the following Monday off, so we’ll be able to enjoy time with family then, too.

If you were reading this time last year, you might remember that R and I made the questionable/crazy decision to drive down here and visit. We spent 14 hours on the road going back home. I’m SO glad we’re a lot closer now!

Tune in next week for a special 52nd edition, complete with a lot of introspection, reminiscing, and lots of gratitude.

(And if you missed it, I featured a great guest post by XY Planning partner and owner of Bespoke Wealth Management LLC, Laurel Hardy. She gave some great advice on paying off student loans and saving. I am always grateful for guest posts!)

What are you being grateful for this week? What’s your favorite part of Thanksgiving?

What Pro’s Know Your Money Can Do (and You Should, Too!)

Advice from a pro on what your money can doHello everyone! Today I’d like you all to welcome Laurel Hardy, a financial advisor starting her own firm with the XY Planning network! If you haven’t heard of them, they’re a great group of fee-only financial advisors, and as you can tell from the name, they’re geared toward helping Gen X & Y.

Laurel is here to give you some tips on managing your money. If you’d like to check out my writing, I have a post up on Careful Cents about managing a schedule while working from home, and a post on Young Adult Money on getting over your fear of side hustling. Now, enjoy Laurel’s post!

I had a client who was in her 90’s. She purchased a few shares of McDonalds in the 1950’s and forgot about them. Can you image the balance today? It’s amazing what can happen when you let something grow and have enough self discipline (or absentmindedness) not to sell or spend it!

Start with a mini financial plan

If you’d like to start working on your own mini financial plan and are still paying off your student loans, here’s somewhere to start…

  1. Collect all the statements for the student loans you’re paying off
  2. Make a list of their balances and the interest rates you’re paying
  3. On a calendar, project how long you will be making payments to each one

This is a start. Now you can add in your income from work…

  1. To keep it simple, just calculate how much you’re taking home after taxes and benefits are removed each week.
  2. Figure out what percentage of your income is going towards paying the balance on your student loans.
  3. Figure out what percentage of your income is going towards paying off the interest on your student loans.

Knowing these figures will give you a better grasp on exactly where your income is going. The more specific you can get, the better. You can compare the difference between the student loans with different interest rates to see how interest affects your income. It’s also good practice for analyzing the rest of your finances.

Save as soon as your debt is paid off!

If you’d like to take this a step further, you can plan to start saving as soon as you’re done paying your debt. I would highly recommend doing this without skipping payments, so that you can make as few changes as possible to your daily life and budget during the transition.

  • Plan to open a Roth IRA. A financial advisor can help you, or you can open one online.
  • Plan to continue making the payments on your loans to the Roth IRA.

You will already have trained yourself to live off of your current level of income. If you have enough self-discipline, take advantage of your resourcefulness by contributing to a retirement account.

If you don’t keep making the payments and chose to spend more instead, later on down the road you’ll have to put more money aside to make up for the time you’ve lost. You may also have to make some budget cuts to create room for the money you’d like to add to your retirement account.

It’s less painful to just keep the payments going. You’ll be really happy you did for two reasons:

1) Money grows over time. The more time your money is invested in an account, the larger that account can become from growth in addition to whatever you’re adding. If you wait to make a contribution, the money you put in will have less time to grow, and so it won’t grow as much. This is the “Time Value of Money.” I believe it’s also why people say, “Time is money.”

2) A Roth IRA is a retirement account that you set up for yourself and contribute money to on your own (your employer doesn’t do it for you). The reason it’s a great tool is because you contribute money after you’ve paid income tax on it. The fed won’t tax that money as income twice. It will grow in your Roth IRA, and when you take distributions in your retirement, you won’t have to worry about paying income tax on it then. Retirement accounts with money that hasn’t been taxed yet will cause you to pay income tax on your distributions in retirement.

I hope that this has been some help in explaining what financial advisors and planners do. I also hope to have inspired some readers to start taking a look at their finances from a planner’s point of view and take advantage of the resource you have right now….time!

How many of you have a financial advisor that you meet with? Is anything holding you back, or do you prefer to take the DIY route with your finances? Have you contributed to retirement accounts while paying off debt?

Laurel Hardy as a model in 2001

How many financial advisors can say they were models?

Laurel Hardy is an investment advisor and planner for young investors and founding CEO of Bespoke Wealth Management, LLC. Laurel started her career as a stockbroker, and left her position to start her firm after 4 years. She now provides Fee-Only financial and investment advice to individuals across the country.

Laurel has been quoted on various websites and publications including Women & Money Magazine, Gen20, and NerdWallet.com. Before becoming a financial professional, Laurel was a fashion model in Manhattan and Milan. She earned her degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Connecticut. Recently, Laurel was named “2014 Woman of the Year” by the National Association of Professional Women, and the “Pinnacle Professional of the Year; Lifetime Achievement” by Continental Who’s Who. In her free time, Laurel and her husband enjoy restoring their antique home in Connecticut.