No Spend Year Update

Brief recap of the one decision that I made back in January that has literally changed my life. It has created a snowball effect and has really helped me reset, basically like a “financial cleanse”. I made the decision to not buy certain things for the entire year of 2019, including clothes, shoes, accessories, purses, makeup and also gave up hair dye, products and haircuts.

I was doing REALLY REALLY good with it and staying strong and not missing anything and in fact finding myself in the process. (mainly by avoiding stores and unsubscribing to all the emails) Lately though, I have definitely been struggling to stay motivated and the consumeritis can sometimes feel contagious. ๐Ÿ˜ท

I know I justified and bought sunglasses a few months back when mine broke, and if we’re being real honest, I could have worn one of the random cheapo pairs lying about my house, like the ones I got at a conference with built in bottle openers on the sides..lol. I also caught myself borderline begging my husband to tell me it’s ok to buy some used earbuds from a neighbors garage sale. ๐Ÿ˜‚ Then there was this past weekend at Target where I was getting a few toiletries and a new nail polish jumped into my cart. ๐Ÿ’…๐Ÿป

See below..they are both cute and will last me for years to come. ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™€๏ธ

It’s not about the $14 collective dollars that I’ve spent this year that if you want to get all technical..are totally on my banned items list. It’s more about me losing my way and my why in the process.

Life has been throwing a bit of a difficult season my way, and it’s easy to fall back into old ways and “things” to make me feel better. But I still ultimately know it’s only a temporary feeling and it’s a VERY slippery slope. The long term mindset shift is more important to me than the temporary gratification followed quickly by buyers remorse. So I’m committed to getting back on track, especially knowing that we are entering into the biggest spending season. Since it’s my first one on my new path, wondering if anyone has any tips on how to get through it without buying all the things. ๐Ÿค”

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Carnival Season

Itโ€™s carnival season around here..one of my favorites for watching my kids just be kids and enjoy some screen free fun time, itโ€™s also my favorite for people watching, and donโ€™t forget the funnel cake.๐Ÿ˜‹ ๐ŸŽก

The one thing I donโ€™t like is how much it all adds up in price..parking, vendors, a ride here, a ride there, games and then of course the drinks and food. ๐Ÿ•๐Ÿฆ๐Ÿฟ๐Ÿฅค

This year..we just picked one of the three carnivals we usually go to. I also avoided the $10 parking by finding a spot on the street for free. We ate before we left the house and brought our own water.

My best move was convincing my kids the games werenโ€™t as much fun as the rides. Since they only care about the prizes anyway, I told them we would go to Dollar Tree after, and they could pick out any item in the store. They didnโ€™t even ask to play any games, and we even saw another kid asking his parents to play and Caleb told him that โ€œthe games were a rip off because they were just trying to take his money to get richโ€ ๐Ÿ˜‚

We did splurge on the $20 all you can ride wristbands for each kid, and a $5 funnel cake to share, so with my Dollar Tree promise, I was all in for $47. I was proud of this, because we usually spend at least double, if not triple this during carnival season, and we end up with meltdowns about โ€œone more gameโ€, and end up with a bunch of crap toys or stuffed animals we donโ€™t need also. ๐Ÿงธ

To be honest, the spending less part was great, but we had more fun this year with one carnival and without all the extras. Getting used to a more simple minimalist lifestyle gives us a chance to really enjoy the best things in life that have always been free..the memories. ๐Ÿ’•

Lifestyle Choices

This is going to be one of the hardest topics yet to cover at a very high level and also my first mention of FIRE in my writings (financial independence retire early). My goal is just to inform you of two choices and get you rethinking, especially if you feel like you don’t have choices and are stuck in your current financial position. I am by no means claiming to be an expert on the topic or to get into the HOW in this post. I have just dabbled with both lifestyles mentioned and I feel like there are not enough people (especially women) who are thinking about or providing information on the topic..so looks like you are stuck with me. ๐Ÿ˜œ

The above picture is the best way I could summarize the concept of lifestyle creep. For now, as mentioned, this is just to introduce you to the topic, so I have a few stats and thought provoking questions to hopefully do so.

First..the stats tell an alarming story. I recently read in this USA Today article https://amp.usatoday.com/amp/34378157 that the average household is bringing in around $75,000 annually, and of that, they are spending 90% of it, which equates to $67,500 outgoing and only around $7,500 extra annually. (which the article states a lot of this is going towards interest payments on consumer debt). This breaks down to $5,625 in expenses each month and $625 extra. That doesn’t leave much wiggle room and helps paint a picture as to why people aren’t putting anything or very little towards saving, investing, emergency funds and retirement. ๐Ÿ˜ณ

Essentially pointing out that people are living a paycheck to paycheck lifestyle. I don’t know that this was a surprise to any of us, but it may be a surprise that people are making the choice everyday with their actions and spending habits to live this way. Disclaimer that there are people living in poverty, so for the sake of my post, I am referring to the middle class mentioned above.

Now on to the questions. Feel free to answer in comments if you want to share, or just answer to yourself or as an internal conversation or with your significant other. Keep it real because denial is a great way to protect yourself from the truth right now, but long term in fact it just ends up hurting you more.

1) Are you living paycheck to paycheck like the scenario mentioned above?

2) Have you noticed that no matter what you do, you just can’t get ahead?

3) Do you receive regular raises or have you changed jobs to make additional money over the course of your career, yet you aren’t seeing a difference in your monthly budget after expenses because they always seem to match what’s coming in?

4) Do you ever pay attention to how much you spend on conveniences like pre-made food, someone to mow your lawn, someone to clean that big house, someone to wash that new car, someone to groom your dog, someone to do your hair/nails/makeup, etc because you are too busy working to do these things?

5) Have you ever wondered why things are like this for you and probably a lot of people you know, yet it’s still a taboo topic to discuss money, so everyone just keeps working harder and staying in the vicious cycle mentioned above?

6) What will happen if you change nothing and keep following this path?

Please reference the above picture as you are going through these questions to see if lifestyle creep has found a way to creep into your life. Remember..be honest.

Next, know that there is another option. As mentioned above, lifestyle creep is a choice and I’ve said this so many times on purpose. So many think they have no choice unless they make more money and this is far from the truth.

Lifestyle creep is a path that many in our society have walked and not challenged until recent years. Here are some questions to ask yourself and see if you’re one of those ready to challenge the traditional path and choose a different way.

1) What upsets you the most about always being broke and living paycheck to paycheck?

2) How has constantly feeling stressed from working so much and not having any money to show for it affected you?

3) What are your values and what are you spending your money on? Do they line up?

4) What are your passions and what do you dream about doing?

5) What could change if you have an open mind and put in the work, I mean really put in the work, to change your current financial path and mindset? Think of one quick and easy way you can change today.

6) What will happen if you start to live a lifestyle designed by you instead of others?

As mentioned, a lot of people have started looking at the above stats and questions, and are starting to make the decision to customize their lifestyle based on their own unique values, not what society tells them to value. Spoiler alert..it’s not through making more money as mentioned above..it has never been about that. It’s about a lifestyle of being content with only those things that bring you value. Luckily, it usually don’t cost anything at all, just the basics needed like food, shelter, experiences and none of the extra crap. ๐Ÿ˜Š

Don’t get this lifestyle design twisted with a life of going without, because it’s actually the opposite of that. You have room for so much more when you let go of stupid shit.

Well..shocker..I have lots more to say but I’ve said enough for one day. What are your thoughts or questions on the two different paths mentioned above?

My Biggest Financial Mistake

We left off on my last post in 2005, driving a gas guzzling 2001 Dodge Durango while commuting an hour and gas being $4 a gallon. ๐Ÿ˜ฌ Go back and read Part 1 if you haven’t, because there’s lots of entertainment there that I can look back on now and say..what the?! ๐Ÿ˜‚

Back to the Durango part of the story..I had just started Financial Peace University and had also just started dating my now husband in 2007. I really wanted to do the debt snowball and keep the Durango and pay it off. But I was young and stubborn..and well..still financially irresponsible and just flat out stupid. ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™€๏ธ

Sooo..long story short..in 2008 I traded that ole Durango in for a gently used 2007 Nissan Altima. I couldn’t qualify for a car loan with under a 16% interest rate on my own, so my boyfriend (now husband) co-signed. Why are y’all out here enabling my bad decisions by co-signing..can we say enablers?! While I am absolutely grateful for the help on the loans, the now wiser older version of me is like..well..that was a sign I shouldn’t be getting a loan..period!!! If I wouldn’t have had that option, then maybe I would have figured out a different solution that didn’t involve another loan and $300 car payment. ๐Ÿ™…โ€โ™€๏ธ

With marriage, my husband brought a 2002 Nissan Maxima that was paid for. We ended up deciding in 2015 to trade it in for a 2014 Nissan Pathfinder SUV that we “needed”. So we did make that Maxima last a minute, and we even kept the Altima after we paid it off. (and my husband is still driving it today with over 200k miles) It smells weird and has different sounds, but it runs and that’s what our requirements list looks like for a car these days. ๐Ÿ˜œ

We ended up selling the Pathfinder because it had transmission issues and pissed me off at the wrong time on the wrong day. The Altima was also causing some troubles, so I decided it was no longer safe to commute in. We ended up doing some minor repairs and my little brother used the car for a year or so. Fast forward to 2017 and impulse buying my 2015 Infiniti Q50..cause I need a luxury car that my kids can spill their drinks and empty snacks all over in, and slam the doors into anything that is there when they open them. It’s also important to have premium gas for a commuter like myself. ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ

Happy ending though..sold the Infiniti and replaced with a paid for in cash 2013 Nissan Altima with 124k miles on it. So we now have NO car payments and two Nissan Altimas to get around in.

I think it’s time to analyze the overall effect this financial mistake of having a car payment for 18 years had on my overall financial wellness. Hopefully this will help prevent it from happening to others in the future. If you take an average of $350 a month over that 18 years, that’s $75,600.

๐Ÿ™„๐Ÿ˜ฌ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿคข๐Ÿ˜ณ๐Ÿคฌ๐Ÿค”๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ

I could have easily had one or two cars last me through that timeframe for under $10,000. What would life be like had I taken that money and invested it or saved it and used it for down payments on 4-5 rental properties? I could have used the cash flow to pay for a car of my choosing. Also, did having to ensure I could cover that $350 every month make me less of a risk taker on chasing dreams and playing it safe for a steady paycheck? Deep thoughts and questions we will never know the answer to.

What I do know is that I drove myself down a road paved with bad decisions for 18 years, but better late than never to realize it’s time to take a different road. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’m curious..what is your biggest financial mistake and what did you learn from it?

This is us

I thought with all the new followers, itโ€™s a good time to re-introduce the magic behind mysemibasiclife (you read that right..I totally referred to myself as the magic). To celebrate, my daughter humored me with a photo shoot, and my favorite was one of the bloopers. ๐Ÿ˜œ

Sometimes life is more about what happens behind the scenes, between the โ€œperfectโ€ pictures, when youโ€™re trying to pose and get the best lighting, hide that lazy eye, those wrinkles and those frizzy grey hairs. She captured all of these things, all of my imperfections, including crows feet I didnโ€™t even know were there. How fitting to show my imperfections to all of you who have been following along on my imperfect journey to financial freedom. This is me..always laughing at my own jokes, never taking things too seriously, currently staring off into space like only a true dreamer can do. ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™€๏ธ

This is the entire family that puts up with my latest crazy schemes, understands the bigger picture behind those crazy schemes, sometimes appreciates my hilariously witty comments and penny pinching ways, and packs in the car with me for that fifth trip to the library in a two day period. ๐Ÿ˜‚

You weren’t there for the early years, the dark debt days ๐Ÿ˜ฌ where we were living beyond our means and got ourselves into a financial spot where all of our paychecks were going towards debt. But you have now followed along as we ditched the debt, got rid of car payments and paid our last student loan off, which puts us at a grand total of $165,000 in consumer debt paid off!! Youโ€™re following as I am feeling weak, but holding strong and halfway through my #nospendyear. You followed along as we bought our first rental property and are following along now as we now search for the next one. ๐Ÿ‘€

We are excited to continue sharing our life after debt journey, including our ever changing goals, working on growing our net worth, celebrating the success, overcoming the setbacks, and the blood, sweat and tears along the way as we define what financial independence looks like for our family. ๐Ÿ”ฅ

Enough about us though..I want to hear from you..whatโ€™s your story? What topics that Iโ€™ve covered have helped or would help you along your journey?

What questions do you have for me?

๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿผ

Gifting gratitude is free

Being grateful for what we have is something we can all spend some time each day reflecting on. It’s as easy as asking yourself one question each morning before getting out of bed. What am I grateful for today? I bet there are some things you are grateful for that others may not have, such as basic needs like a warm meal or the roof over our heads.

This is one of the reasons we have all made the decision to be part of a fundraiser or donation drive. It’s always nice to stay stocked up on canned goods for a local food bank or to help get school supplies for a student in need. Monetary and food donations can make such an impact, even on a small scale.

While giving to others, we can end up gaining so much. I know the feeling I get from giving to others is indescribable, and I bet some of you feel the same way when you give.

If you aren’t in a position to give back with goods or money, there is a way to give back that doesn’t cost you anything. Time is a great thing you can give that is just as rewarding, if not more so, than money or goods.

Find something you’re passionate about and give your time..an hour a week..an hour a month..an hour a year..whatever you have. I have been volunteering with Habitat for Humanity on the family selection and services committee for almost ten years and love it. I have also been a Big Sister for Big Brothers Big Sisters for about three years and love that program also. I can always walk away knowing that I’m making an impact, which makes my heart happy.

The point is..give back..some how..some way..a little..a lot..just give..help others..be a good human. Always stay humble because you may end up on the receiving end one day.

Friendship is free

Long sappy post ahead..so hereโ€™s the cliff notes if you donโ€™t have the time or energy to read the full post: Donโ€™t be a dick..instead be a good friend

Full sappy version below and feel free to grab some tissues if you’re feeling your emotions today and ready for some self reflection:

I have regrets that I haven’t made spending time with all of my friends a priority like they deserve. I’m so lucky to have so many close friends that I have met over the years and have no excuses for being too busy to reach out, even just a simple text or just something..anything. It’s so easy to say we are busy and we will hang out next week, which turns into next month, which turns into next year. And then, just like that, last week, last month, and last year are gone..the time is gone. So here I am reflecting on those choices.

I have several friends going through some difficult times in their lives right now. Their struggles are all so different, and I just wish so hard I could do more for each and every one of them. I wish I could take the pain away and just tell some of my hilarious jokes, make a fool out of myself with some sweet Mindy dance moves, and just like that, it’s all wiped away and replaced with a big smile and we are laughing so hard we are crying. But sometimes those tears have to fall and they can’t always be from laughing too hard.

We have all gone through something challenging, something we didnโ€™t know we could get through at the time, or maybe we are currently, or we will in the future at some point. There is absolutely no way we can avoid the crazy shit life is going to throw our way and a lot of times we have no choice but to lean into it.

That’s where our true friends come in. To be there as a light in the dark, to be that shoulder to cry on, to be that person to help pick us up when we’ve fallen and don’t think we can get up on our own.

Value those true friends if you are fortunate enough to be going through good times in your lives right now. Meet up for dinner, call them to say hello, send them flowers on a random Tuesday afternoon. Just show them. Don’t wait until the difficult times to be there for them. Do it today and everyday and show them the love and gratitude you have for them.

Small actions in the good times can help us all gear up to handle the tough times when they come our way. Those that are by our side for the good times also let us know who we can look to and count on when the bad times roll in. Don’t ever forget that power you hold to make a difference for someone you care about. You could be their one person to make them feel strong when they are at their weakest. Remember that.