Millennial Financial Literacy (or lack thereof)

I ran across this research and felt it was worth sharing.  Apparently, and not surprising to me (from my own personal experience,) millennials are pretty terrible within the realm of personal finance; I, myself, was oblivious until a year-and-a-half ago, at the age of twenty-seven.  While there are those of us out there who have been getting it right all along, by and large, that is just not the norm.

George Washington University, supported by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC,) compiled data from the 2012 National Financial Capability Study, analyzing over 5,500 responses from people ranging in age from 23-35, in order to gain understanding of decisions that are threatening Millennials financial security.   What they found was that, on average, millennials don’t know much about finance to begin with; in fact, only 24% of those surveyed had “basic financial knowledge.”  On a positive note, “8% demonstrated high financial literacy.”

Additionally, 34% of millennials are unhappy with their current financial situation, over 54% are concerned about their ability to repay student loans, 30% overdraw their checking accounts, and 42% utilize what are known as “Alternative Financial Services” (e.g. payday advances, title loans, and rent-to-own services.)  Furthermore, of those who actually have some retirement savings (only 36% of us!), 20% have taken loans from their accounts in the past year.  53% carry credit card balances from month-to-month and half of us couldn’t even come up with $2,000 for an emergency.

Part of the report’s conclusion reads:  “Millennials’ financial practices are of concern because of the potential for these behaviors to become firmly established. Indeed, the research has documented that the gap between the amount of financial responsibility given to young Americans and their demonstrated ability to manage financial decisions is rapidly widening. Furthermore, their knowledge deficit could prove disastrous for them, the economy, and society.” – underlined emphasis added by me.


Some additional information on the subject:  according to Survey of the States, only 17 states currently require a high school level course in personal finance and 20 require a course in economics.  Standardized testing in economics is only required in 16 states, a drop from 27 since 2002.  Is it just me, or does the timing of these changes occurring since the passage of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) seem a bit coincidental?  By 2010, nearly 40% of schools were lagging behind in the requirements of the law, leading the Obama administration to issue waivers in exchange for implementation of Common Core, aimed at “preparing students for higher education and the workforce” (edweek.org.)

Here’s my point…how does a program aimed at improving the education of our nation’s children (myself included) result in a decrease in curriculum that would do that very thing?  With the required standards, schools inability to reach them, and consequences associated with not reaching them, schools were essentially forced to “teach the test,” thereby spending less time on subjects not found on the standardized tests themselves.


So how do we solve the problem?  EDUCATION!  Obviously, we can’t solely rely on the school system to teach us and our children about personal financial matters.  That responsibility, as it should in my opinion, falls on our shoulders as parents.  According to additional information from Survey of the States, 72% of parents are reluctant to talk to their kids about family financial matters.  We must break this cycle, educate ourselves and our loved ones, and without a doubt, talk to our children about money and how to utilize it responsibly so that they may grow up and make sound financial decisions.  We must get ourselves on the right track and raise our children with a solid foundation that will help them to not make the same mistakes that we have made.


As you are sending your children and their young minds out to school this morning, I ask you this:

  1. If you are a parent with school-age children, how do you feel your child’s or children’s school system is fairing in their education, both as a whole and on topics such as these (i.e. personal finance)?
  2. Are you homeschooling?  Why have you chosen to do so?
  3. Are you educating your children at home about personal finance in conjunction with state schooling?

What are your thoughts?  Happy Monday!

 

-Frugal RN

 

 

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Where did all the money go?

In response to this January post by Mr. Fire Station, I pulled out my old tax returns and, amazingly enough, actually have all of them going back to my first job sacking groceries at sixteen years old in 2003.  In true math-nerd fashion, I plotted it all out on a Excel spreadsheet and figured up that I have grossed $349,318 in my working life!  I literally had no idea that so much money has passed through my slippery fingers!

You know you remember Duck Tales! 🙂

The breakdown between the “stages” of my working life:

  • 6% during my high school days (3 years)
  • 17% following high school (I got an associates degree that I do not utilize and eventually went back to school to obtain my bachelors in nursing – 4 years)
  • 11% during university days (3 years)
  • 66% since graduating in May 2013 and started my nursing career in July 2013 (approximately 2.5 years)

My investment accounts currently sit at approximately $29,000; that is 8.3% in relation to my total grossed income (unfortunately, I’m not sure what my total net income has been.)  Throughout high school, I regret to say that I didn’t invest/save a single penny.  It wasn’t until 2007, when I started working at Walmart, during my time in junior college, that I invested $1,450 in Walmart stock through payroll deduction.  I sold it within the year to pay some bills while attempting to sell insurance for a few months.  After that, it wasn’t until 2012-2013 that I started investing again while working as a Certified Nurse’s Aide and attending nursing school.  While my investment records are incomplete, it appears I had a little over $2000 at that point.  Therefore, the majority of my investing has come about in the past 2-3 years, bringing me to where I sit now.  Over the next couple years, that percentage will actually decrease as my investing is at a crawl right now as we pay off our debt.  However, our overall net worth will increase as our debt disappears so it still works out in our favor!

So I can’t help but wonder where all of that money has gone over the years…

Obviously, there has been plenty of wasteful spending throughout the years.  However, there has also been a ton of priceless memories with my wife tied to the outgoing of that money, as well, of which I would never take back for all the money in the world.  As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20, and it’s easy to think about what sort of financial situation we could be in if at least some of that money would’ve been utilized differently. Bright Future #Sunglasses #quote: Inspiring Quotes, Bulletin Board, Bright Future, Inspirational Quotes, Funny Quotes, Funny Stuff, 5Th Grade, Favorite Quotes, Classroom Ideas However, I choose to not dwell on my past financial blunders and frivolous spending and, instead, look forward to the bright and prosperous future before us.

Have you completed this or a similar calculation?  If you’re comfortable in doing so, please feel free to share your story in the comments below…or in a post of your own and ping back to this and Mr. Fire Station’s article.  Also, if you’re not already one of my amazing followers, don’t forget to follow along with our family as we make our way towards debt freedom, financial independence, and ultimately early retirement.  We’d love to have you along for the ride, get to know you, and learn from you along the way!  Have an awesome day!

-Frugal RN

2016 Goals: January Update (abridged)

For those of you who do not wish to read the long drawn out version of my January update, I completely understand…here is the condensed version:

GOALS FOR 2016

  1. CMSRN credential
    1. I have read two chapters of my study book; minimal progress achieved.
  2. Pay off at least $20,000 of debt.
    1. Paid off $2,233 this month!!!  11% of $20,000 goal achieved!   😀
  3. Weight loss:  weigh 200 pounds by the end of February and 185 by the end of April – monitoring with weekly weigh-ins
    1. Weekly weigh-ins completed: as of this morning, I have lost 11.2 pounds (5.2%) and 3.5 inches (8.3%) off my gut!  I’m extremely proud of this first month’s results and am on track to reach my goals!! 🙂
  4. Increased meal planning with eMeals
    1. Much improved in this category; drastic improvement in variety of meals and greatly increased our intake of fruits and vegetables. Will continue on as currently doing.
  5. Month-to-month junk food buying ban
    1. Going awesome! Didn’t buy any junk this month- will continue this buying ban.
  6. Decreased soda :  $24 = 3 cases/month
    1. Did well in this category – had three sodas remaining at end of month
  7. Using our treadmill for at least 20 minutes per day when I am off work
    1. Going very well in this category; began incorporating a few days worth of C25K app use; will continue as currently doing.
  8. Improved planning and crop yield from the garden
    1. Purchased seeds and ordered tomato and bell pepper plant starts, which will ship at appropriate planting time; still have to plot out where things will be planted.
  9. Read a minimum of 5 books in 2016
    1. Completed Glen Beck’s Agenda 21; now I’m two-thirds of the way through James Patterson’s Along Came a Spider
  10. Increased personal time and appreciation for my wonderful and loving wife, who is the greatest momma I could ever hope to have for our amazing son.
    1. My wife’s birthday was the 31st.  Feel free to swing by her website, Love, Laughter, & a Splash of Lunacy, and wish her a happy belated birthday!  Our son and I made some homemade cards, which she loved, of course! And she got exactly what she wanted for her birthday: we she repainted our bathroom. The yellow we painted this past summer has been wreaking havoc on her eye floaters so she finally decided she wanted to paint it a shade of grey.

All-in-all, I am extremely pleased with our progress through the end of January.  The number one category that needs work is with regards to my wife, whom I will never be able to express my appreciation for because it knows no bounds.  She is wonderful and deserves more than I could ever possibly “give” her!

So how are things going with your goals?  Where are you excelling and where do you find yourself struggling?  More importantly, if you’re struggling in any particular area, why do you believe this is happening and what do you intend to do about it?  Let me know in the comments below!

Also, if you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to my blog so that you can follow along on my family’s journey toward financial independence.  We would love to have you along for the ride and would love even more to have the opportunity to talk with and get to know you! 🙂

-Frugal RN and Family

2016 Goals: January Update

Please feel free to check out the Abridged version of this post.  You're welcome! :-)

GOALS FOR 2016
1.  CMSRN credential
2.  Pay off at least $20,000 of debt.
3.  Weight loss:  weigh 200 pounds by the end of February and 185 by the end of April – monitoring with weekly weigh-ins
4.  Increased meal planning with eMeals
5.  Month-to-month junk food buying ban
6.  Decreased soda :  $24 = 3 cases/month to ZERO
7.  Using our treadmill for at least 20 minutes per day when I am off work
8.  Improved planning and crop yield from the garden
9.  Read a minimum of 5 books in 2016
10.  Increased personal time and appreciation for my wonderful and loving wife, who is the greatest momma I could ever hope to have for our amazing son.

Progress through the month of January:

  1.  I haven’t started studying yet so no progress to report on this one yet.
  2. We paid off $2,233 this month!!! (Jeep + wife’s student loans + credit card)
    1. While I would obviously like this number to be higher, we have chosen to continue contributing to our son’s Coverdell ESA, even while paying off our debt.  Since we haven’t contributed the funds for 2015, we have to do that before filing our taxes.  We deposited $1000 of the maximum $2000 into the account this month and will finish it off over my next one-to-two paychecks.
    2. Progress of goal to pay off at least $20,000 in 2016 –>  11% so far!
    3. Also of note, but not counted towards our debt-paying goal for the year, I received my second Loan Repayment disbursement.  This was a nice deposit of $18,164…of which I sent off a little over $14,000, paying a nice chunk toward my federal loans and, more importantly, we paid off my private loans from Wells Fargo!  DEUCES!!!
      1. This is another automated budget action that I implemented.  I have a separate account for my loan repayment money to deposit in; then I send off a big chunk and hold on to enough for auto-debited monthly payments to get me to my next disbursement.  This way, it allows for easy payment verification that is required prior to next year and it allows me to focus my paychecks toward other debt.
  3. Loss of 11.2 pounds and 3.5 inches this month!!!
    1. Super proud of these results thus far.  No signs of turning back as we have gone the entire month without purchasing any processed sugary foods.  We have even resisted my wife making her incredible brownies or chocolate chip cookies and I haven’t made banana bread, despite the abundance of available bananas we have been keeping, along with apples, oranges, and pineapples.  We have also found Yoplait Greek Yogurt with strawberries to be quite good at curbing the occasional sweet tooth, as well.
      1. FYI…an incredibly delicious and healthy breakfast I have been eating a lot is to take 2-3 egg whites, including one yolk, and scrambling it up with a mushed up banana, add a little vanilla and cinnamon, and then cook it up like scrambled eggs.  I even like to drizzle a little sugar-free pancake syrup over it.  For any Weight Watcher Points followers out there, this breakfast is only 3 points and I find it to be very filling.
      2. Product Details       Product Details  These two things are my best friends in the weight-loss department.  Based on your age, sex, height, current weight, and goal of gaining, losing, or maintaining your weight, it tells you how many “points” you’re allotted to eat for the day.  Points-per-serving are calculated based on grams of fat, carbs, fiber, and protein.  It’s simple to use and gives me perspective on portion control.  The nice part is that fruit and most vegetables do not count towards your daily points in order to encourage more consumption of these things because they help you feel fuller longer than simple carbs.
  4. We have remarkably improved our variety of fruits, vegetables, and foods.  eMeals is going well and provides us with recipes, some of which we have followed, while others we have made some modifications to.  So far, we haven’t had any bad experiences and enjoy the fact that you can change back-and-forth between types of recipes (i.e. there are multiple categories such as “Crock Pot Meals,” “Low Carb,” “Portion Control,” etc.)  We have been using our Crock Pot a lot more.  It’s incredibly easy to get it going in the mornings when I get home from work and then it’s ready to eat by the time I’m up about six hours later.  One of our favorites is cooking a whole chicken with nothing more than a little Lawry’s seasoning salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika.  It’s delicious as is and is incredibly versatile for multiple meals, including homemade pizza, in wraps, on salads, and can be used in several eMeal recipes that often call for deli rotisserie chicken.
    1. If you haven’t heard of eMeals before, I encourage you to check out their website (that is NOT an affiliate link…it just saves you from typing out the address :-D.)  You can sign up for a FREE two-week trial to see if it’s something you find helpful.  It has helped us get out of a terrible food rut of having the same few meals over and over and over.  We have also found it helpful to print out a blank calendar and write out our meal plan.  This saves time and energy figuring out what to make.  If you subscribe to the service, they also have an excellent app that allows you to check out the recipes (which come to your email every Wednesday) and save the ones you want to make; when you add the recipes you want to make, it puts all the ingredients required into a shopping cart, creating a shopping list that you can check off as you go.  We find the list to be a little disorganized and, therefore, hand-write the list in an order that fits the store we shop in but it’s still an excellent resource.
  5. As noted above, we have stuck to our junk-food-buying ban and have eaten ZERO processed sugars in January!  I’ve even done well and resisted the often available temptations that my coworkers bring to work, choosing to eat the fruit I bring to work instead.  We are feeling awesome and have no desire to go back.
  6. Improved with a noticeably decreased consumption of soda:  $24 dollars purchased 76 sodas.  My wife drinks very few anyway so the vast majority of these were drank by me.  While I know that soda is a complete waste of money, I enjoy them and now find myself liking them even more when I consider them more of an occasional treat, as opposed to drinking them at will like I was.  As of the last day of the month, three sodas remained from this purchase.  We purchased February’s stash on 1/29; our closest full-size grocer is about 50 miles away so we did our grocery shopping while we were in town taking our son to get his round of vaccinations.
  7. I’ve done very well with spending at least 20 minutes per day off work on the treadmill.  I did one week of Yoga, which feels incredible and I definitely intend to incorporate this activity into my life; however, that particular week I only lost about 1/2 pound so, for now, I will focus on utilizing the treadmill until I begin getting closer to my ultimate weight-loss goal.  I have also started using the app, C25K, and have completed four days worth.
  8. I ordered seeds and pre-ordered some tomato and pepper plants for the garden but haven’t mapped out exactly what the garden will look like just yet.  We’ve got several inches of snow and ice on the ground so there’s nothing to be done outside for now.  I don’t have any supplies for indoor seed starting and, due to the terrible positioning of our house (i.e. there are ZERO south facing windows,) I have no decent spot to do so anyway.
  9. 1 book down:  Glenn Beck’s Agenda 21 – excellent fictional story about the extremes that could theoretically result from the United Nation’s Agenda 21, a real thing that I intend to do further research on.  It was a rather quick read, full of emotion and suspense.  I will have to get the sequel, Agenda 21:  Into the Shadows, that was recently released in September.  Now I am working on another fictional novel, James Patterson’s Along Came A Spider.  It is the first in the series introducing Patterson’s hero Alex Cross.  As of your reading this, I am about 2/3 of the way through the book and it is extremely good.  I also have the second book in the series, Kiss the Girls, and will continue on with it.  I got the books from dad, who I believe has every book in the series so if I enjoy these, I will have to get the rest from him the next time we make a trip home.
  10. My wife’s birthday was on the 31st.  Feel free to swing by her website, Love, Laughter, & a Splash of Lunacy, and wish her a happy belated birthday!  Our son and I made her a sweet homemade card with his hand print on it, which she loved, of course!  I also made her a homemade card, which I have done for nearly every birthday and anniversary we have celebrated to date.  While she did not receive any physical gifts from me, she got exactly what she asked for…we repainted our bathroom!

All-in-all, I am extremely pleased with our progress through the end of January.  The number one category that needs work is with regards to my wife, whom I will never be able to express my appreciation for because it knows no bounds.  She is wonderful and deserves more than I could ever possibly “give” her!

So how are things going with your goals?  Where are you excelling and where do you find yourself struggling?  More importantly, if you’re struggling in any particular area, why do you believe this is happening and what do you intend to do about it?  Let me know in the comments below!

Also, if you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to my blog so that you can follow along on my family’s journey toward financial independence.  We would love to have you along for the ride and would love even more to have the opportunity to talk with and get to know you! 🙂

-Frugal RN and Family

Our 5-Year Plan

I grew up with the notion that, due to the immense (please drip that word in sarcasm) expenses of daily life, I would essentially never retire and, therefore, work until I drop dead.  This idea was fueled by a lack of knowledge of everything regarding personal finance.  I was raised in the average-American two-parent home by blue-collar parents who pay their bills on time and sock away a portion of their money to their employers retirement plan (and state pension plan for my dad.)  Although we never had any deep conversations regarding my financial future, my dad would always try to get through to me the importance of saving.  However, I still remember believing that I wouldn’t be able to retire even if I had a million dollars saved, which always seemed like some inconceivable number anyway.  Also, Social Security would be non-existent (I don’t really know that but I’m still not counting on it.)  It wasn’t until around the time of our son’s birth, in September of 2014, that my wife and I had the epiphany that our financial decisions needed a serious overhaul.  We have been fortunate to have never struggled financially or ever miss a payment on anything we owe but the fact of the matter was…we knew that “normal” was no longer cool for us anymore.

So, although later in my life than I should have, I did what any sane person suffering from a lack of knowledge would do…I learned.  While I do not pretend to know even a fraction of what I would like to, I believe I now have a solid foundation on which to continue building.  The Mr. Money Mustache article I linked to in my last post, titled The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement, in all its simplicity, was truly life altering for me.  I had been planning to work my whole life, but now here is a common sense solution to not only retire, but retire early!  So that is exactly what we intend to do.

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I just turned 29 last month.  Our current debt snowball has us on a roughly estimated track to be debt free in 30 months…quite likely even sooner.  Thirty months will put us in the summer of 2018.  I’m locked into a contract with my current job position for another year-and-a-half for getting my student loans repaid; I love my job, where we live, and couldn’t be happier to be getting that weight off our shoulders.  As a federal employee, a portion of my check is paid into the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS,) which is the pension fund.  If I stay in my position for at least five years, I have the option of leaving my paid-in portion in place for a deferred retirement and, once I reach the “minimum retirement age” of fifty-nine-and-a-half, I would qualify for a monthly pension based on my five years of service.  If I leave before five years, my paid-in portion is returned to me and I can do with it as I wish.  I would like to stick around for the five year mark so I can leave the money in place because, if I ever rejoin government service, I do not want to have to “buy back” my previous service time.  Long story short, my five year anniversary will be in March of 2019, so it’s quite likely we’ll stick around until at least that time.

So here’s where we’ll stand at my five-year anniversary:  1) debt free for at least six months; 2) six (or more) months worth of stacking up G-bars in our Emergency Fund; and 3) hammering out the details our next great adventure.  At this moment, that adventure entails my joining one, or more, nursing travel agencies (thus the reason for the “travel” part of this blog’s name) and the process of transitioning toward a new career path.  While I will continue to work as a nurse in the same fashion I do now, we will have the opportunity to essentially go anywhere in the country that we want.  Additionally, one of the greatest perks of travel nursing is FREE HOUSING!  We will be debt free, owing only our monthly cell phone payment, car insurance, and buying food.  Topping our list of destinations is Hawaii and Alaska.  We’ve actually been thinking that we could quiet likely fall in love with Alaska and never leave; also, we are hoping to take a trip there sometime in the next year or two, so that may only further solidify that possibility.

While traveling with essentially zero expenses, we will have ample opportunity to continue saving up cash reserves, while also maxing out our Traditional IRAs and whatever employer plan I have available at the time.  Following our time in Hawaii and Alaska, assuming we ever leave, we have been seriously considering the idea of purchasing a Silverado and an Airstream and living on the road while traveling cross-country.  Having the ability to make these purchases outright without financing is the ideal goal and here’s why…

The subtitle of my blog is “Our Path to Early Semi-Retirement.”  The “semi” part refers to what traveling in an Airstream would allow us to do.  If we pull this part of our plan off, we will travel and I will continue to work either one or two travel nursing assignments per year, typically lasting three months each, while some may be as short as 7 days.  Having made more than enough money to live on for the remainder of the year, we will then travel around this beautiful country and give our son the greatest education and experience that we possibly can.

This semi-early retirement, at the ripe old age of THIRTY TWO, is essentially sustainable forever, barring any catastrophe preventing me from being able to work, and will allow us to continue socking away retirement investments, catapulting us towards our Financial Independence Day (cue the fireworks, please!)  However, we don’t know exactly how long we will do it.  That will depend on a multitude of factors; namely, how well our son enjoys the lifestyle of travel.  In the utopian version that plays out in my head, we, including our son, meet many friends along our journeys, affording him the opportunity to make friends with individuals from all walks of life spanning the continent.  As we plan to homeschool him, we are aware of many towns and cities with groups of home-schooling families who often get together for interaction and activities, as well.  This concern, among others, will be the ultimate deciding factor in how long this plan lasts.  There’s also nothing saying that we won’t skip the Airstream all together, continue traveling around for nursing agencies with no expenses, and reach our FIRE goal even quicker.

I am a rather firm believer that attitude and adaptability has a major impact on your happiness in most situations.  And the beautiful part is, if we all of sudden come to the decision one day that we want to stop traveling and “settle down” somewhere, then that’s what we’ll do.  Nothing is set in stone.  Who knows?  Three years from now, our minds may have changed completely…but I doubt itSmile.

 

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

 

-Frugal RN

Maslow’s Guide to Personal Finance

Abraham Maslow was a twentieth century Jewish-American psychologist who, unlike other psychologists of his time, studied happy and healthy people in order to learn what it is that pushes us towards achieving our full potential, what he called “self-actualization.”  He developed what is known as the Hierarchy of Needs, ranging from our most basic survival needs of food, water, air, etcetera to the ultimate goal of self-actualization, whereby an individual, in Maslow’s own words, “become(s) everything that one is capable of becoming.”

Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs[1]

While Maslow realized that we do not follow this hierarchy in a rigid manner, whereby we may be working on multiple levels at once and/or finding ourselves more highly motivated to fulfill certain needs before others, I believe that this provides an excellent framework from which we can talk about personal finance.  Specifically, I believe that if we view our financial situation with this information in mind, it can go a long way to getting us on track to achieving our (personally) ultimate self-fulfilling goal…financial independence and the resultant freedom.

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Backstory…I started thinking about this article over the past few days after my wife plugged my site in a post she had written on Facebook that brought about my best day of traffic yet.  She recently started a blog of her own, Love, Laughter, & a Splash of Lunacy, and frequently participates on a stay-at-home mothers’ Facebook group; a new member, who is now a stay-at-home mom due to reasons beyond her control, asked how others survive on only one income.  Most responses we read offered advice regarding making extra income doing things such as selling Scentsy candles and the like.  While I hope that visitors to my site from that day took away some piece of helpful information from the few articles I have published, I wish that THIS one would have been written already.  Here’s why…

One of the most powerful things I have come to learn is that decreasing our expenses has a far greater impact on our financial situation than increasing our income to match our expenses.  Decreasing our “needs,” and the subsequent decrease in the amount of money we have to shell out every month for those purported needs, decreases not only the income that we need NOW, but also shortens the timeline and decreases the nest egg we must have in order to reach financial independence.  For a perfect explanation of this concept, please refer to this article by Mr. Money Mustache; it was one of the first pieces of information I read when I began researching personal finance…it has literally changed my life and shapes my family’s path going forward with regards to our goals and how we are working toward achieving them.

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When you’re just starting out, developing your very first budget, and (hopefully not) having the horrid realization that you’re spending every dime (or more) you bring home, the first thing you must ask yourself is:  what truly qualifies as a need in my life?  At our most basic biological level, we need food, water, and oxygen to keep our bodies functioning.  Sleep and sex are great, as well, and we need some general form of covering/shelter to help regulate our core temperature in conjunction with our environment.  However, as difficult as most people in modern-day society would find it, human beings have survived for centuries without cars, central air, cable TV, and the internet.  Hell, even I remember before cell phones came into existence.  The earliest device I personally remember seeing was a bag phone that my uncle had bought – analog, mainly static and, best I can remember, it cost about $1500 at the time!

Did you know?  I just learned about something called the Universal Service Fund, a fee that phone companies tack on in order to make phone service affordable to all Americans.  This isn’t anything new and, while it’s all good and well, according to FactCheck.org, the funds are now being used to provide free cell phones to eligible individuals, as well.  I am most decidedly not some cold-hearted person who thinks we should all just be left to fend for ourselves, but I honestly find the idea of free cell phones to be ridiculous.  While I do not know or speak for the legitimacy of the following site, check out freegovernmentcellphones.net; if you make it past the first paragraph without losing your lunch, you’re doing better than me.  The first paragraph starts as follows…

“It’s 2015, seven years since the great recession, and times are still tough. Among all your other expenses, you might be faced with choosing whether or not you can continue paying for your mobile phone, if you even have one. Cell phones have become a necessary part of your day-to-day survival, and to be without one is unthinkable. But there is help.” (emphasis added by me)

Are you kidding me?  Part of your day-to-day survival?!?  They make it sound like you are literally going to die without a cell phone.  Maslow died in 1970…pretty sure cell phones weren’t on his hierarchy of needs.

The point is, when you’re making out your budget and figuring out how to survive on one income, how you can more quickly reach financial independence, or whatever other financial situation your may find yourself in, think of Maslow.  You NEED:  food, water, and shelter…every other thing is just fluff.  You may (as I admit I would) be inconvenienced without your cell phone, or sad that you’re not watching the live finale of Big Brother (honestly, my wife and I grew to love that show but we don’t watch it anymore because we cancelled cable months ago – and couldn’t be happier,) but when it comes down to it, you must prioritize where your dollars are going.  Even if it means that you can no longer read (and subscribe!Smile) to my blog, I promise I’ll understand.  As a society, we have become so ingrained with the idea that to attain a sense of achievement and respect of others requires us to follow some preordained path of consumption, prompting us to sell ourselves into financial slavery by having to one-up everybody else with a bigger house, flashier car, or latest device, while financing it all in the process.  I have been guilty of this my entire life thus far.  The good news?  It’s never too late to change.

From a personal standpoint, with regards to Maslow’s hierarchy, I find myself reaching closer and closer towards self-actualization every day.  Our family has a ways to go until we are free from debt (end of 2017-ish), and then a considerable ways further until we reach our ultimate goal of financial independence; doing some rough calculations, I’m thinking that should be somewhere around the time I’m 45 by the waySmile.  However, at this time, my family’s physiological and safety needs are in place, we share immense love for one another and find true happiness in each other’s company.  Spending time with my family and working on areas of personal self-improvement increases my self esteem on a daily basis.  I am fortunate to have discovered a career that I find exceptionally fulfilling and I feel respected by my peers and colleagues.  I have accepted many facts in life, one of which, with regards to the subject of personal finance, is that the entire pyramid could come crashing down at any moment…

While I certainly do not foresee it happening, just like anyone, I could wake up tomorrow to find myself without a job, a pivotal aspect of my capability to provide for my family’s physiological and safety needs, while also holding a key component surrounding my self esteem and identity.  But the fact of the matter is, if that worst case scenario were to play out, I know, without a doubt, that we would be fine.  No doubt, it would be a temporary struggle as we transitioned to a new chapter in our lives, but the essential components of our happiness would remain unchanged.

While I know that I went off on a bit of a tangent with the cell phone issue, I hope that the key takeaway from this post is an understanding of how our perceptions have been manipulated, leading us to classify our wants and non-life-sustaining things in our lives as needs.  We each have a choice to make.  We choose what we spend our money on and each and every choice we make has an ongoing effect on our finances for the rest of our lives.  Every dollar spent today is one dollar, or presumably more if invested, that we can’t spend tomorrow or ten years from now.  Positioning ourselves to need less-and-less stuff allows us to focus on our true needs and what we find important in our lives…each other.

 

Where do you see yourself in Maslow’s hierarchy?

 

-Frugal RN

 

P.S. – Here’s my twist on Maslow’s pyramid for Personal Finance with the pinnacle being Financial Independence, Retire Early:

FreshPaint-5-2016.01.08-11.08.50

*Be kind in your critique of my artistic abilities…remember, I’m a nurse, not an artistSmile.

Goals for 2016: Financial, Personal, & Professional

“We are what we repeatedly do.”

– Aristotle

While my wife and I are not much for “resolutions,” we have reached that time of year again where we all tend to reflect on changes we would like to make in our lives.  Whether you want to start doing something, like lose weight or pay off a debt, or stop doing something, like smoking, forming new habits in one’s life can be difficult.  The oft touted length of time it takes to change or form a habit is 21 days.

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

-Benjamin Franklin

Statistic Brain reports that, while 45% of Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions, only 8% are successful in achieving it.  I would argue that this is due, in large part, to a lack of planning and the setting of unrealistic goals.  The number one resolution for 2015 was reportedly to lose weight.  It’s simple enough to say “I’m going to eat better and lose weight this year;” however, speaking in such generalities and not developing an action plan and going through the process of implementing it is going to keep you spinning your wheels.

Psychology Today has an excellent article, from 2010, on this very concept.  Setting realistic, specific, and achievable goals, while having someone to help hold us accountable (#thank you blogosphere and, even more importantly, my incredible wife!) is the most surefire way to ensure success with implementing changes in our lives.

There are several changes we intend to make in our lives, in 2016 and beyond, that will help us to live longer, happier, healthier, and more financially sound lives.  If you would like to skip the specifics and just see my bulleted list, feel free to skip to the end;  however, if you’re interested in greater depth, please read on.

My goals fall into three categories:  professional, financial, and personal.

Professional

I have been a Registered Nurse for the past two-and-a-half years and I intend to work toward obtaining nationally-recognized certifications as a Medical-Surgical nurse and as an OB nurse (the generality of the goal.)  I have already purchased the books and study materials for the exams and it is now time to get more serious about it.  The hospital I work for does not have separate departments for M&S and OB so, therefore, we all work on both sides of aisle to one degree or another.  I have a moderate amount of experience in caring for post-partum mothers and as a “baby nurse,” meaning I care for newborns immediately after birth; however, I have not had the opportunity to become fully trained in the facets of care provided to the laboring mother.  My supervisor is working on arranging opportunities for us to attend training sessions at an outside facility a few hours away and I am looking forward to the chance to further my skill set, which will only benefit me when we hit the road to travel in a few short years.

Due to a lack of experience in this particular area, my primary focus in 2016 will be to obtain the M&S certification first, as I am more proficient in that area of nursing.  Therefore, it is my goal to add the credentials of CMSRN to the end of my name by the end of 2016 (the specific goal!)

After completing this, then I will begin the process of studying for the OB certification.  Stating this as specifically as I can allows for realizing the achievability of the goal and provides for a measurable outcome.  Additionally, I have the support of my wife and, now that this is posted online for all to see, I will provide updates along the way…and look back and reflect on my successes and/or failures as 2016 draws to a close.

Financial

To stay within the realm of reality, I will not even pretend to think we can be debt free by the end of 2016.  While we are doing quite well here in the end of 2015, since backing up our investments in exchange for getting back on the Debt Snowball($3,000 of debt gone in 44 days!,) even keeping up with that would not rid us of my wife’s student loans and Jeep payment.  Within the past several months, I made some poor decisions that, while they are in no way detrimental to our livelihood, resulted in some credit card debt.  However, this debt is at 0% through the end of 2016 and resulted in a nice chunk of cash-back reward for making the purchases with the card.  I know…shame shame shame…but oh well; it will be paid off before a penny of interest is ever tacked on to the account.  So…if we are able to keep up with our recent debt payments, we will be able to pay off $25,000 worth of debt in 2016.

While this is doable, I feel that it may be a bit ambitious and, for the sake of being realistic, I am saying that we will pay off at least $20,000 in 2016.  We pay $500/month to the Jeep so that is $6,000 that I automated from my paycheck.  Our regular budget allocates $450/month to my wife’s loans, knocking out $5,400.  I feel that, without a doubt, an additional $8,600 toward our debt is easily doable.  Quite likely, we will be able to pay even more…especially if I pick up any extra overtime.  I’m really looking forward to discussing updates on this goal throughout the year and continue to watch as we get closer and closer to debt freedom.

Personal

My personal goals for this year are rather cliché.  Number 1 is that I want to lose weight; I’m currently sitting at 215 pounds.  I’m 6’1” so my BMI is 28, landing me in the “overweight” category.  BMI is not a perfect metric, as it does not take into account body composition (i.e. a bodybuilder with six-pack abs who is the same height and weight as me would have the same BMI…trust me, I’m not a bodybuilder.)  My stomach currently measures 41” and that is just not acceptable.  I have a child who I intend to be increasingly active and outdoorsy with and, if I can’t even get myself into appropriate shape, then how can I expect to be active with him as he grows and we begin to desire exploring the great outdoors?

Carrying excessive amounts of fat around my midsection increases my risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  Mayo Clinic reports that, “for every 2 inches of greater circumference, mortality risk went up about 7 percent in men and about 9 percent in women.”  Back at the end of 2011, I weighed right around 200 pounds and had a 38” waist.  My wife (fiancé at the time) and I began following the Weight Watcher’s Point System, which is an excellent tool for learning portion control, and I was getting cardio exercise on a Bowflex Treadclimber.  Over the course of several months, I dropped to 170 and had a waist size of about 35” and it was the healthiest I had ever been in my life.  I don’t know where, when, or why we got off track…but I truly miss feeling as good as I felt then.  So, therefore, my goal is to ultimately get back to 170 pounds with a 35” waist…but let’s break it into manageable chunks.

We are planning a trip to Montana sometime in late spring, where it is our hope to do some hiking for the first time in our lives.  For the sake of my weight loss being a measurable goal, let’s say we are going to go at the end of April/beginning of May.  Four months = 16 weeks = average healthy loss of two pounds per week = 32 pounds of potential weight loss.  That would put me at about 185 by the time we go on our trip.  Therefore, by the end of February, I will be down to 200 pounds, making my way toward 185 by the end of April.  I won’t specify a waist-line goal for now, as losing the weight alone will result in a subsequent drop in waist circumference; however, updated measurements will be taken and recorded.

Changes I/we will implement in order to make this goal achievable:

1.  Our closest eating-out joint is about 50 minutes away so we eat 99% of our meals at home.  Meal planning, utilizing our subscription to eMeals, will help to avoid the ongoing monotony of eating the same foods over and over, which often result in our overindulgence of junk/processed foods.  Meal plans will allow for a greater use of vegetables, while helping to ensure a more well-rounded diet.  With eMeals, we have the ability to vary the recipes that we receive, from vegetarian (which we are not) to low carb/calorie to crock pot meals for easy preparation.

2.  Decreased snacking on junk food, e.g. cookies and donuts.  This will come about by simply not buying them.  Easier said than done when my brain starts telling me that I’m craving a donut but, if I can look at it on a month-to-month challenge, I believe I can rewire my brain and overcome this thought pattern.  Like I said, it supposedly takes 21 days to form a new habit.  If I can challenge myself to not buy any cookies/donuts/etcetera for the month of January…and not actually die!…then it stands to reason that I can continue to not buy that garbage in February and beyond.

3.  Similarly with the junk food, I need to drastically decrease my consumption of soda.  Albeit, I drink diet and couldn’t even tell you the last time I had a sugared soda, the fact is that the stuff is still not good for me and not to mention a complete waste of perfectly good debt-crushing money.  Right now, I drink an average of about 5 cans per day.  I love Coke Zero!  A 24 pack costs about $8 and, according the basic math I just did, for the first time actuallyDisappointed smile, I’m spending about $600 per year on soda!  Wow, I actually had no idea…that’s depressing.  But let’s fix that.  While I don’t anticipate quitting soda cold turkey, I can certainly work my way to quitting and dropping to a budgetary restraint of, let’s say $24 per month = 3 cases.  That comes out to about 2.5 cans per day on average.  Let me get to that point for a month and then maybe I can implement a no soda monthly challenge in FebruarySmile.

4.  Increased activity via utilization of our coat rack treadmill and increased outdoor activities, especially walks around our neighborhood when we feel it is safe for our son to be out for a more extended period of time (current temps have been in the zero-to-five degree range, with snow up to my shins, so it hasn’t been feasible.)  Also, while I have never been the running type, I would like to ease into the idea by putting to use the C25K (Couch to 5K) app that I have had downloaded on my phone for the past few years and have yet to actually fire it up.  To begin, I will start using our treadmill for at least 20 minutes per day when I am off work – the most ideal time to do this is after our son goes to bed in the evening so, due to working nights, I can’t do this very well on nights that I work.  As a nurse, I generally get a good deal of walking in most nights but perhaps I can make a point of making extra trips up-and-down the stairs during down time.  Having tried it in the past, and having the appropriate supplies already, I would also like to begin doing yoga, as well, as often as possible.

5.  Weekly weigh-ins to maintain accountability and a point of reference to ensure progress is being made towards my ultimate goals.

The whole point of these life changes, as with everything we do in our lives now, is for our son.  He has been a Gerber baby since he began eating solid foods, giving him a well-balanced and nutritious diet of meats, fruits, and vegetables in a multitude of varieties.  The fact is, he’s 15 months old now and he has been increasingly eating more and more of what mommy and daddy eat.  It’s a real gut check when you realize that you don’t want your child to be eating the foods that you do.  So the real question is, if we don’t want him eating the crap that we eat, why the hell are we eating it?!?!?Disappointed smile

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Personal goal number 2 involves having a better garden than this past year.  The summer of 2014 was the first time we had ever planted a garden.  We have a nice yard where we live and, trying out our green thumb, we borrowed a tiller and planted a small patch of green beens, corn, tomatoes, and green bell peppers.  We had several good pickings of beans and a handful of yummy tomatoes, but only about four tiny ears of corn and a bell pepper that was about the size of cherry tomato.  For 2015, I bought a tiller and broke up a larger chunk of ground in our back yard.  I was incredibly over zealous, planting more than we had the opportunity to care for (even without an infant in the house) and, therefore, weeds took over and things were more-or-less a wash.  We had a few Walmart-type bags full of beans and we picked the SIX most delicious strawberries I have ever had in my life.  The tomato plants got large but the tomatoes themselves weren’t any good and we didn’t get a single bell pepper.  Likewise, we didn’t have any corn either.  I rushed through the process of planting due to time constraints between work and our son and, without proper planning, I planned for failure (and succeeded at said failure.)  2016 will make for a better year in the garden:  more detailed planning with regards to plant layout and spacing will be utilized, as we will decrease the number and variety of crops we will focus on.  Also, we will better plan our approach to weeding, committing a small chunk of time every/every other evening, as opposed to trying to tackle the whole thing in one day per week.  I also plan to utilize lawn clippings as mulch to help keep the weeds at bay, as well.

Additionally, I am hoping that our son will be able to develop a love and appreciation for gardening, providing for a learning experience that we can share and develop together over the course of many years.  This will help guide us to be more self sufficient and foster a deeper love of the outdoors, while also providing a source of good, clean, nutritious food.

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Goal number 3 is that I would like to read more.  We read to/with our son for an average of about an hour-and-a-half every day – 30-45 minutes prior to each of his naps at 11:00 and 15:00, and then prior to his bedtime at 21:00.  Minor fluctuations in his schedule/routine account for variations in reading times.  However, this precious time with our son does not count toward my desire to read more.  Also, I do not wish to count my reading/studying for nursing certifications either.  Therefore, it is my goal to read a minimum of 5 books during 2016.  I’m not certain what these will be yet but I will be sure to provide updates along the way.

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My final personal goal that I have come up with at this time point in time involves making more “me” time for my incredible wife.  She is the glue that holds our family together, as she carries an incredible amount of the responsibilities for maintaining our home in the functioning order it runs in.  Seriously, I cook but she literally does so much that I can’t even begin to detail all the things she takes care of on a daily basis, on top of being an incredible momma to our amazing son.  The majority of our day is spent playing, interacting with, reading to, and teaching our son things.  Between that time and the time spent doing all the daily chores, there is minimal minutes free for down-time.  Once our son goes to bed, that is typically when we veg out on the couch for a little R&R with each other.  I would like to make it a mission to allow for my wife to have some well-deserved personal time.  While it is easy enough to say I could do something like take her out for a spa day, it is not always feasible to do something like that due to the fact that the closest spa is three hours away.  I’m not sure yet exactly what things will be implemented to reach this goal.  Obviously, most of these actions will be without her prior knowledge but I will be having a talk about this with her to see if she has any specific thoughts or desires in mind.  While I have some ideas in mind (which I will keep to myself because my wife is my proof-reader), any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!Smile

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GOALS FOR 2016

1.  CMSRN credential

2.  Pay off at least $20,000 of debt.

3.  Weight loss:  weigh 200 pounds by the end of February and 185 by the end of April – monitoring with weekly weigh-ins

4.  Increased meal planning with eMeals

5.  Month-to-month junk food buying ban

6.  Decreased soda :  $24 = 3 cases/month to ZERO

7.  Using our treadmill for at least 20 minutes per day when I am off work

8.  Improved planning and crop yield from the garden

9.  Read a minimum of 5 books in 2016

10.  Increased personal time and appreciation for my wonderful and loving wife, who is the greatest momma I could ever hope to have for our amazing son.

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So…there you have it…my/our family goals for 2016.  With some determination and holding myself accountable, I believe that they are, without a doubt, realistically achievable.  I hope that you have developed some goals for the coming year; furthermore, I wish you the very best of luck in achieving your goals and I look forward to sharing our progress and following along with yours, as well.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

-Frugal RN

Bill Wednesday & How We Budget

How do we budget?  Honestly, we don’t really.  Not anymore.  Dave Ramsey says you’re supposed to sit down at the beginning of every month and make out your zero-based budget for the month ahead.  Every.single.month.  If that works for you, AWESOME!  I honestly don’t have time for that crap.  My time is much better spent playing with my son.

We started out with Ramsey’s budgeting form and, I’m not gonna lie, writing everything out was an incredibly horrifying eye-opener to just how many different places our money was disappearing.  Since that initial written budget, which I folded up and carried in my pocket for the first several months, constantly checking it for areas of fine tuning, things have become incredibly streamlined.

My income is consistent; I work 7 out of every 14 days – 80 hours + 4 of scheduled OT due to working 12 hour shifts.  With my night and Sunday differential pay, I can (and have, of course Smile) calculated with incredible accuracy how much I gross and net for an entire year.  Divided by 26 (as I am paid biweekly,) this tells me what my base paycheck will be, assuming I don’t work any extra overtime…which I do from time-to-time.

Within a couple months of starting, we switched our budget over to a Word document to provide for easier tweaking, ongoing updates, and less paper waste; we put my base monthly net income at the top and line-itemed our expenses:  utilities, cable/internet, cell phones, my wife’s Wells Fargo student loans, my wife’s federal student loans, and car insurance.  These are the only things that HAVE to be paid from my net income.  I work for the Department of Health and Human Services and we live in a house within a couple hundred yards of the hospital.  It’s awesome!  I get to walk to work and, with my employer being my landlord, rent is taken out of my paycheck.  Never seen, never missed…and I don’t have to write a check.

I love automaticity!

For instance, we had to modify Ramsey’s idea of a cash envelope system due to the fact that we live in the middle of nowhere and the closest branch of our primary bank is an hour-and-a-half away.  That’s not overly conducive to getting cash on a regular basis…unless we want to pay ridiculous fees at competitors’ ATMs.  News flash…we don’t!

Enter Ally Bank.  An online-only company, they offer interest-earning checking accounts (among other services), and have an awesome phone app that also gives you the ability to make deposits for FREE just by taking a picture of a check!  This feature is awesome!  My primary bank charges a fee for this service.  For our “envelope system,” we have three accounts with Ally:  Food/Gas/Clothes, Emergency Fund, and Vacation.  Next, we take advantage of payroll allotments and our budgeted food money is direct-deposited into our Food/Gas/Clothes account and, instead of relying on going to an ATM for cash, we use the debit card associated with that account for our grocery shopping…although we are sometimes bad and utilize other money, as well Disappointed smile.  FYI…another awesome thing about Ally is that, although we haven’t used this feature, you can withdraw money from any ATM in the country and they will reimburse you for any fees charged due to the fact that they do not have any brick-and-mortar locations or ATMs of their own.  *Please note that I am in no way, shape, or form compensated for this…Ally has truly been an excellent addition to our financial lives!  What we have done with them is nothing special, as there are numerous options with a multitude of banks out there.  This is just what is working for us.  Take it as you may.

A second automated item I put in place was our Jeep payment.  After some research, we refinanced it, cutting our rate of 4.5% in half to 2.25%, with a credit union I found that I qualified for as a government employee.  The next thing I did was set up a savings account with the credit union, a payroll allotment to that account every other Friday, and that amount is then applied to our Jeep the following Monday.  The greatest part of this, even better than not having to do ANYTHING from this point forward, is that paying it biweekly is going to save us a couple hundred bucks in interest!  Double win in my book!

Now I’m sure you’re thinking we’re dummies for buying a brand new car; in our defense, we bought it in February of 2014, long before our personal finance enlightenment.  We don’t feel bad though…we had wanted a Jeep Patriot for a couple years, absolutely LOVE IT, and it’s the car we brought our son home in from the hospital.  Also, as we’ve told him numerous times, as he showers the back seat with Puffs (aka baby crack), we are never selling it and he will be inheriting it when he turns 16.  Maybe…I really love it!  I completely understand the financial reasons to not buy a new vehicle but, I’m gonna be honest, we’ll likely do it again in the next few years Disappointed smile.  I’m saying it here so as not to be called a hypocrite laterSmile.  More on that future purchase later.

Wanna know another way to save yourself a few bucks?  We have our car insurance premiums set up on a 6-month pay plan – the insurance company gives a discount (I think it’s about $40) for not having a monthly payment plan.  Well, I don’t know about you, but I find it to be an irritating pain in the rear end to come up with the 6 month premium when it’s due.  So, what we started doing about four months ago is we divvied up the premium by six, plugged it into our monthly payment system, and send the amount to the company as if we were on a monthly payment plan, while still saving the money by not actually changing the pay schedule with them.  For the first couple months, they were sending us refund checks, which I simply shredded.  When I called them to ask if this could be stopped so as not to waste the paper, I was told that it was an automatic, computer generated thing that couldn’t be messed with; however, we haven’t gotten a refund check in a couple months and they keep accepting our online bill-pay transactions…so I’m calling it a win!  *Funny note…the customer service rep I spoke with and explained what I was going to do had a little *ah-ha!* moment and said that she would be starting to do the same thing.

Let’s see…what else?  We cancelled cable back in April.  We made a list of the few shows we really enjoy watching and discovered that they are all available on Hulu or on the internet.  Even though they’re available, we haven’t watched the internet-only shows in months.  Hulu is $7.99 a month and includes our favorite shows; we have also been utilizing my grandparent’s Netflix account, for FREE!, for the past few years.  Guess what?  We don’t miss cable in the least!  And better yet, taking into account the cost of Hulu, cancelling cable saves us $90 a month!  I wish we could save money on internet access but, unfortunately, that’s monopolized around here.  The service requires a home-phone line, which is a complete waste of $11 every month, and equipment rental is tallied into the cost so I can’t save us anything there either.  FYI…if you haven’t already tried Hulu and are considering it, please consider clicking on any of the hyperlinks in this paragraph.  If you sign up through this link, you’ll be gifting us with two FREE weeks of service and we would be forever gratefulSmile.

That takes care of all the changes that we have implemented over the past year that I can think of right now.  Now for the actual bill paying.  We call it “Bill Wednesday.”  I get paid every other Friday; at midnight Wednesday morning, I can check my paystub.  From that, I write my net pay in my checkbook and then look at our budget.  In the far-right-hand-side of the document, I list out the dates on which my paychecks are coming and, beside each biller, I list the number of paychecks that I will receive before the bill is due again.  I don’t pay each biller on the same day every month; instead, I pay them on a revolving basis.  This allows for no single check to be devoured by multiple bills all at once.  Sometimes, a few billers may get paid, while other times, only one.  Once the obligatory bills are handled, the remaining money is snowballed toward our debt.  We usually hold on to a couple hundred bucks for incidentals, but otherwise it goes to work eating away at our debt.  So, once I get my paystub on Wednesday, I schedule all this through my bank’s online bill pay system to send out the payments the following Monday (after payday) and, just like that, I’m done.  As long as I’m not being my usually nerdy self and calculating, refiguring, or rebalancing our data, I can be done with our bills in a matter of minutes.

Our process takes any and all stress out of our financial situation and decision making.  My wife and I never argue about money.  She has, very rightfully, called me out for some dumbass decisions.  However, 99.9% of the time, we’re too busy throwing up high-fives at our debt ass-kicking awesomeness.

Frugal RN

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Please Please Please…If you find yourself struggling with debt, budgeting, or would like to talk about changes you can make in your own life, reach out.  We still have a lot of work to do in our own family but even small changes have made an impact on our situation.  I would truly love to talk to you and help in any way that I can…or hear about ideas you have that may be of benefit to our family, as well.

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Dave Ramsey

Personal Finance = 80% behavior and 20% head knowledge.  I can agree with that; while I have learned A LOT in the past couple years, I believe I’ve always had the general idea of what should be done with money…I just never did it.  My dad would always try to get me to save my money growing up, even telling me that he would match me dollar-for-dollar on larger purchases if I did my part of the deal first.  This literally NEVER happened.  Money burned the proverbial hole right through my pocket and was typically gone about as quickly as I could get my hands on it.  I was constantly buying worthless crap like the boxes full of baseball cards currently sitting in my parent’s attic.  Sure, I’ve got a few that may be worth a couple bucks, but I can’t even imagine how many hundreds of dollars I’ve wasted throughout my life.  Unfortunately, those habits carried over into my late teens and early twenties, and it wasn’t until I started working as a nurse’s aide during my first year of nursing school in 2010 that I began developing my retirement portfolio as it stands today.  My first retirement investing came in 2006, in the form of buying payroll-deducted stock in Walmart while I worked there during my first two years of college, obtaining an Associate’s degree that isn’t worth a hill-of-beans anymore.  After graduating from that program, I started a brief stint as an insurance salesman in 2007, eventually having to cash in my savings to pay back some income received on policies that were dropped after purchase.  Anyway, investing as a CNA rolled over into my first nursing job and has since carried over into my current position with the federal government.

After reading Dave’s books around the time of our son’s birth in September of 2014, my three recommended readings are The Total Money Makeover, Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide to Money, and Financial Peace.  These books offer an excellent beginner’s step-by-step introduction to personal finance and a simple approach to get yourself out of debt.  The seven baby steps are in plain English and easy to understand; while I’ll be the first to admit that we haven’t followed them precisely and actually got away from them over the past year, we are revisiting and working them back into our lives, especially the idea of the debt snowball.  If you’re looking to get out of debt, have no clue how to go about doing it, and haven’t read Dave’s books, I encourage you to do so.  Before beginning, it is important to develop your zero-based budget, whereby you “tell every dollar where to go” – i.e. your take-home pay minus your outflow (bills and/or savings) equals ZERO.  The Monthly Cash Flow Plan form can be downloaded and printed out from the following website – https://www.daveramsey.com/budgeting/how-to-budget/.

After you get your budget hammered out, the Baby Steps are as follows:

Step 1)  Save $1000…FAST!  Pay only minimum payments on your debts to stay current on your bills and throw every other extra dollar into cash savings for your starter emergency fund.

Amazingly, we were ahead of the game on this.  We had bout $3000 in cash saved at the time and, although Dave would’ve had us fork over two-grand to debt, we couldn’t handle the thought of parting with that cold-hard-cash.

Step 2)  Debt Snowball time…it is incredibly fun and exhilarating to start scratching debtors off your list!  This list is to include every debt you have, with the exception of any mortgage you may have on your house.  You can read about Dave’s advice on mortgages if you are inclined to do so.  During this time, according to Dave’s advice, you should not be contributing anything to your investment accounts.

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Our Credit Cards after the Plastectomy

Since we started on this step, we started by having a “plastectomy” and cut up our credit cards.  Afterwards, I listed out our credit card debts on a Word document and kept track of every payment we were making, scratching them off one-by-one until they were annihilated.  I still have that list at the bottom of the Word document I use as our budget and still get a kick out of looking at it Smile.  It should also be noted that I couldn’t completely agree with Dave on the no-investing advice.  I kept my TSP contribution through work at %5 in order to get the matching contribution.  I couldn’t wrap my brain around turning down free money.  What you do with that decision is ultimately up to you.  Also,we don’t have a mortgage, as we are renting (AND LOVE IT!)  Additionally, we still have our Jeep payment, which we bought NEWDisappointed smile prior to learning these newfound principles of personal finance.  However, throughout my learning process, we reevaluated our situation, refinanced the Patriot from 4.5% to 2.25%, and continue to pay a little bit extra each month, while primarily focusing on my wife’s student loans. 

Additionally, I love my job and am incredibly fortunate to be a Registered Nurse working for the Indian Health Service, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services and, due to working and living where we live, my 50+ THOUSAND DOLLARS worth of student loan debt is being repaid with my ongoing time commitment.  I couldn’t be happier to have that weight off our shoulders and, if you’re reading this and interested in the IHS Loan Repayment Program, I would love to talk to you more and point you in the right direction, so please reach out to me.

Step 3)  After all debts, excluding your mortgage (if you have one,) then you finish building your emergency fund, suggested to be 3-6 months work of expenses.

Sadly, we haven’t gotten to this step yet.  As mentioned above, after getting our credit card debt out of the way, we slacked off  on the debt snowball and I began ramping up our investing.  This came about primarily because I began reading several early-retirement blogs that got me more interested in the idea of doing just that…retiring early.  Therefore, over the course of a few paychecks, I ramped up mine and my wife’s Traditional IRA contributions (through payroll allotments directly to E*Trade = NEVER SEEN, NEVER MISSED Smile) to come out to just shy of the maximum annual contribution and got my TSP contribution up to 15% of my annual pay.  I would’ve had to upped it to about 28% to max it out but we hadn’t gotten that high yet.  I only recently brought investing back down to the prior %5 with no IRA contributions in November, in order to refocus on demolishing my wife’s student loans – progress of this will be further detailed in a later post.

Step 4)  With a fully funded emergency fund, then you up your retirement investments to 15% of your pay.  Dave provides further details regarding how this should be allocated in his books.

Step 5)  Start funding your kid’s college fund, if necessary.

Step 6)  With steps 1-5 complete, then you throw every extra dollar at your mortgage until it is gone.

Step 7)  Get rich and spend your time trying to give it away to help as many people as you can.

There your have it.  Please note that I’m in no way affiliated with Dave Ramsey, receive absolutely nothing for my opinions, and accept no liability with regards to the information in this post.  I just want to put the information out there, encourage you to see if his methods can have a positive impact on your financial situation, giving you a place to start making changes in your family tree.  While my wife and I veered from the path for a little while over the past year, we are working on getting back on track, and I’m here to tell you, at least from this guy’s perspective, the system is working.  Just for a little perspective, we got back on the Debt Snowball on November 9th and, in just 44 days, we have paid off $3000 of my wife’s student loans!

While we haven’t followed Dave’s plan to a T, we have altered our finances in many positive ways, thanks in  major part to the ideas and principles he has put forth.  We have taken them, tweaked them to fit our situation, priorities, and goals, and could not be happier with the path we are on.  Our son will be forever fortunate that we have implemented the changes with regards to our money and he will be immensely benefited by the knowledge that we will have the opportunity to instill in him, thanks to Dave Ramsey and the numerous personal finance blogs that I now follow on a regular basis, all of which, as previously stated, will be discussed in a later post.  Thank you for reading.  I hope you have learned something or, at the very least, gotten the spark to do your own research and look further into how you may benefit from implementing these ideas.  Please reach out to us to discuss anything.

Merry Christmas!

Frugal RN and Family

 

“IF YOU WILL LIVE LIKE NO ONE ELSE, LATER YOU CAN LIVE LIKE NO ONE ELSE.”

– Dave Ramsey

The Reason for this Site

Let’s face it.  At this point, without any readers, this site is nothing more than a glorified diary.  However, I have decided to begin this process to accomplish a few things:

1) it is a way for me to categorize thoughts, memories, and lessons that I would like to share with my growing son.

2) to provide my son with a leg up in the realm of personal finance by giving him a source of reference to the individuals that have inspired his father, thereby affording him the opportunity to be more fiscally fit and knowledgeable at an earlier age than when I discovered these principles at the age of 28 – thus allowing him, if he chooses, to have the opportunity to retire even earlier and fully enjoy the opportunities that financial independence can allow for.

3) it is a record of how we, as a family, have came to develop these goals we wish to achieve and to name what those goals are.

4) it is to be used to hold myself accountable for my actions along this path to our goals.

5) and, it is to chronicle our journey and adventures before, during, and after achieving our short-term and, ultimately, long-term goals.

I have a long way to go in terms of truly being as frugal as I would like to become; however, this site will allow me to show my faults, look back at where we started and have hopefully changed, and…maybe someday…have a community of readers/sharers that will provide both a community of support and a group with which we may discuss and share common interests and goals.  Maybe we’ll even make some friends along the way.  There are a multitude of frugal/early retiree blogs that I have gotten inspiration from, all of which will be discussed in a near-future post, and all of whom I aspire to be more like.  While they all may be more frugal than I will ever be, we, as a family, are working to incorporate elements of each into our lives, helping us to reach our goals as quickly as possible.  If, by some miracle, you are reading this…thank you…and I hope you will follow along on our journey, join us in conversation, and share any thoughts, ideas, and tips you may have.

-Frugal RN and Family