Lessons Learned from 2014 and Happy 2015 to You!

Happy New Year, everyone!!  I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and an amazing start to 2015!  I know I tend to begin this way, but apologies again for being so MIA.  My last month of work before maternity leave was all sorts of hectic that it was hard to even check on everyone’s blogs at lunch, but know that you were constantly thought of and that I missed you!

20150102_100614Before I begin, though – serious big shout-outs to The 1500’s, who were kind enough to not only hang with B and I during their SD getaway, but also gave us these amazing Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger duckies for our soon-to-be little one (along with a Warren Buffet book on personal finance for kids)!  Coupled with the Star Wars characters we also received from our baby shower, bath time will be the most epic Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting EVER! 🙂

I’ve officially been on maternity leave for the past two weeks (which fit in well with the holidays, anyway), and while I had hoped our soon-to-be arrival would make an early appearance to maximize the “pre leave” with him, apparently he is telling us “You’re not the boss of me!” as it looks like he might be even later than the expected due date. 🙂 It kind of fits in well as I was two weeks late and B was a few days, so I suppose he’s just keeping with tradition!  Needless to say, we’re anxious to meet him and I’m especially excited to hopefully be able to go to restrooms and turning over in bed soon without having to do a 5-point turn. 😉

I also wanted to reflect a little on 2014 (updates on whether I passed/failed have been updated in my 2014 goals list!), and what I hope to accomplish in 2015 pf-wise.  In 2014, I not only remained debt free, but also managed to accrue a nice sum in my retirement, savings, and investment accounts due to a new job and salary increase, living well below our means, and just becoming more savvy with savings and investing strategies in general.  We’re also thankful and excited about all the wonderful hand-me-downs we received in terms of baby items which saved us quite a pretty penny, and I can’t wait to return that favor to others someday, as well.

I have to be honest, though – despite being debt free all last year and feeling pretty empowered due to it, I did still remain quite anxious and uncertain with myself when it comes to finances.  Though I did give myself allowances for some splurges every now and then, I did still feel insecure at times about “going back” to my spendy ways, regressing in my/our goals, or just not having as much in ‘the reserves’.  I suppose this anxiety is a bit valid with the last component, considering the expenses for this year with daycare and baby expenses, and perhaps buying our ‘forever’ home if we’re lucky enough to find that match we’ve been looking for (especially this one, since 20% down payment is a pretty hefty sum to ‘part’ with).  However, for 2015, I’d like to be more financially confident in my decisions.  I’d like to be able to trust myself in this arena a lot more, so much so that it becomes second nature.  Thankfully, I do have some tools and techniques I can base this off of (i.e., when I maintained my weight loss back in my 20’s and 30’s), but I also know that reading PF blogs and doing ‘self check-ups’ with myself are key in keeping this up.

So with that, I have to be honest in that I’m not sure of when I’ll be able to post again while I’m on maternity leave (though I will at least strive to announce his God-willing healthy and safe arrival!), at least, but I do intend to keep up with all of my PF friends as much as possible!  I hope 2015 brings you lots of health, happiness, and prosperity, and I wish you all the best! 🙂

 

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Almost July Updates – The “Padawan” Edition!

Hey everyone!  I can’t believe it’s almost July in just a few short days!  It’s been quite busy in my tiny corner of the earth, as work is always busy (in a very good way!), and I’m grateful to report that B and I are expecting a little one! 🙂  This first trimester has felt like FOR-ever as I wanted to keep it a secret, but I’ve slowly told family, friends, and coworkers, as well as have now publicly told it on FB.  Here’s some experiences and thoughts I’ve collected these past few weeks!

1)  When I took the pregnancy test, it was the longest 5 minutes ever and I was talking to myself thinking “if not this month, there’s another month, it’s okay, just relax…”  Imagine my disbelief and happy surprise when I saw the second, albeit faint, line!  I didn’t want to get my hopes up, so I took another one a couple days later with a more sure second line… and then 5 more throughout the week. 😉  I told a couple of friends right away since both are mothers and one’s a nurse, and they’ve been an amazing source of support for every worry, from freaking out that I ate turkey on my panini to did I just harm my baby by using ear wax remover drops.

2) I was kind of freaking out telling work since I started recently, but am relieved to get a tremendous amount of support and happiness for me.  It was also so much fun telling my parents, as I gave them a frame with an ultrasound and a “Grandbaby” poem.  It took them awhile to figure it out (and I think my dad was searching for his reading glasses lol), but I will cherish their reactions for the rest of my life. 🙂

3)  I’ve had no problem playing the baby card any chance I get – I’ve often said “I think Taddy could go for some frozen yogurt” [nicknamed Taddy that week since a website described it as the size/shape of a tadpole] or “Do you mind doing the dishes?  Kinda tired tonight, ya know, growing a human inside me and all.”  B attempted to in the worst way possible when he tried to play the baby card by saying “baby wants sex.” O_o

4) This is the primary reason why my fitness has been pretty basic – equal parts of me still being superstitious/old-fashioned and feeling guilty about “jostling” the kid around whilst running despite all these studies that say it’s okay, and me feeling nauseated anyway after 3 miles.  Around Week 10, I started getting back into 4-5 miles, though only every other day and at 1-2 minutes slower per mile than usual.

5) I’ve been eating salty foods like no other – my favorite are cheddar rice cakes, California burrito (carne asada, guacamole, potatoes, salsa, and cheese in a burrito), tempura bowls, and any panini I can get my grubby hands on.

6) I also tried the complimentary pickle (the second or third in my whole life) that came with a panini to see if I’d start craving those like some pregnant women do.  NOPE, still disgusting!

7) Upon finding out I was pregnant, my coworker stated, “Ooooh, so that’s why you have that whole stash of snacks in the drawer!”  That awkward moment when I reply with, “Oh, no, I always keep that stash around…”

8) I’ve had mild nausea, but am susceptible to crazy heart burn.  A big culprit was vinegar, which is unfortunate because I do love me some daily salad with balsamic vinaigrette.  Now I’m mostly eating steamed veggies and that seems to keep the heart burn at bay.

9) We took a blood test since I’m of ‘advanced maternal age’, and we were beyond grateful to get genetic results back as healthy.  We also found out the sex!  Any guesses? 🙂

10) This is how I announced it on FB… because we’re geeks:

padawan

11) Not going to lie, when the doc showed me the two chromosomes (XX or XY) and asked if I knew what it was, it took me awhile as I went back into my AP Bio class memory to remember. lol

12) Seeing the baby’s heart beat on the ultrasound for the first time with B will easily be a permanent fixture on the Top 3 moments of my life.

Anyway, that’s my news lately, and the biggest reason why I’m more devoted than ever to increasing my savings rate as much as possible these days.  Infant day care, as well as baby stuff in general, is pretty expensive, and finding our ‘forever’ house is still a project for us, so we’re doing all we can to set ourselves up for a secure (as possible) future.  Now your turn – I’d love to hear anything new going on for you, or if you have pregnancy or parenting tips, I’d love to hear it! 🙂

 

Brief Update

Hi everyone!  Sorry for being MIA – I had every intention of writing this weekend, but my wedding thank you cards came in and I was busily writing in those the whole time.  I don’t know if I ever mentioned it, but we took a big group shot of everyone, and I made that into the cover of our cards.  I also inserted pictures both sets of families inside the card so we can honor them and give our thanks, as well as a black and white shot of us and the goofy shot of the group.  I loved how it turned out, and I’m pleased to say that I powered through all the cards and have fully reconciled the wedding to do list!

On the personal finance front, things are going well.  Though I don’t really want to divulge our combined finances since B tends to be a pretty private person, I can say that for “my” portion if we were to divvy it up, I’ve put some more structure into the budget and sticking to it.  I get paid biweekly, and I’ve budgeted rotating one paycheck for all of the month’s expenses, such as living expenses, car/gas, food, entertainment/gifts, etc., while the next paycheck goes directly to savings and investments.  Shannon has mentioned it many times about the importance of goals, and now I’m a big believer in it despite it taking awhile to gel with me.  Nothing puts a fire under you than saving for a grand goal in the long term, and it’s been pretty motivating to have this structure in place.

If I include my pre-taxed accounts, I’m able to exceed my original savings rate of 40-45%, so that’s also been motivating!  I’m not a savings rockstar yet like Mr. DbF who saves like over 60-70%, but it’s at least motivating to see my own progress within these past couple of years.

In other life news, there really isn’t much other than the crazy fires that happened all last week in SD (and some this week).  We weren’t affected by it, but we do have some friends that had to be evacuated.  It’s been pretty scary and surreal, and gave me so much more respect for firefighters than I already have.

In pop culture news, I watched “American Hustle,” and though I thought Amy Adams was amazing in it and deserved an Oscar, I don’t really understand the hype overall?  Our next movie will probably be “X-Men” so perhaps my opinion should be taken with a grain of salt. 😉  I also read “The Light Between the Oceans” and loved it, as well as want to visit Australia now with all of the author’s gorgeous descriptions of it.

Alright, y’all, I hope everyone has been doing well and I’m looking forward to catching up with you!

 

May Updates

Happy May Days, everyone!  I thought I would give a little update, mostly because I don’t really have anything else to write about.  Let’s proceed, shall we?

Work – I’ve been at my new digs for a few weeks now and I can honestly say I love it.  I kind of feel in my last position that I was doing more training and less learning over the past couple of years, so now this opportunity has created more learning and growing for the next couple of years.  I think careers tend to have those cycles, so I’m pretty excited to expand my knowledge base and networks further.  My coworkers are so genuinely sweet and positive, and they even planned a group lunch outing so I can get to know some people I wouldn’t normally interact with which was awesome.  I still have some anxiety about meeting some of my clients, but I think that’s with any new beginnings.  This work culture, despite being a bit more corporate than my previous place, feels more in line with my working style.  I’m pretty grateful to be here.  I won’t see a full cycle of the increase in a few more weeks, but it will bump up my savings rate as well, which is a great plus.

Marriage – B and I have been married for over two months and it’s flown by!  Married life isn’t all that different from living together life, including each other’s pet peeves – he still doesn’t do dishes unless asked, my hair still gets all over the place… 🙂  The only difference now is that I’ll do something incredibly dorky and I’ll say “haha, you married into this – sucka!” and he’ll do the same and say “I can do this anytime I want now you’re my wife!”  Perhaps we’re still in the honeymoon period, but I’ll take it for what it’s worth.

Fitness – Ever since we’ve come back from the honeymoon, I’ve kept my fitness at a pretty basic level.  This is part because I have to get to work earlier so it shortens my workout time – I could get ready at the gym again like I used to before going to work, but I’ve kind of liked going back home and being able to hang with B and kiss each other good-bye before we both head off to work (yep, must be still honeymoon period).  Another part is admittedly laziness, though I’m sure with the summer months soon approaching I’ll be singing a different tune.  I’ve already started feeling it now, since we have to wear khakis or slacks to work that are a looser fit – now when I wear jeans or shorts on the weekends, I have to do a few lunges and squats in order for them to stretch a smidge, so I should really take that as a cue. 😉

Finances – Finances are going well, though I did splurge a little to buy more work clothes for my new position since before I could just wear t-shirts and jeans.  I’ve scored some great finds on Ebay and taken advantage of big sales at some of my favorite stores, so I’ve had my fill for awhile.  I’ve been able to save a bit more, though it hasn’t been the same amount as I used to make my monthly debt repayments.  I think I need to switch my mindset on this and think of it as debt to myself for our forever house and life goals since somehow the concept of ‘debt’ drives me more (perhaps because it was recently experienced?).  I do at least save, though, and after a certain amount, I’ll just invest in another type of index fund.  I admit to haven’t really looked into investing as much as I would like because I get pretty beat after work, but hopefully this will change once I become acclimated to work.

Other than that, life is pretty good!  B and I are also working on a cool project that I’ll hopefully be able to share sooner than later.  I’m glad to hear everyone is trucking along in the PF world, and I hope you have a wonderful May!  Anyone have plans for Memorial Day (for the U.S. folks at least)?  It will be here in mere weeks! 🙂

Wine Tasting With My Girls

Heidi-ho, folks!  I feel out of the PF loop since last week was my first week at the new job, and by the end of the day I just wanted to go home and sob (not really, it’s great).  To make up for it, I had a great weekend full of seeing my roly-poly godson on Friday night, and then going wine tasting with Tonya and Mackenzie!  I met Tonya before during our first half so I knew we’d get along, but I’m happy to report that Mackenzie is every bit as genuine, awesome, and hilarious in real life as she is on her blog!  It was so much fun going to different wineries with them, stuffing our faces with cheese and crackers in the car since it was so windy, and gabbing like we’ve been long-time friends.  There were so many quotable moments, but this was my favorite as we were driving to the next winery (I completely ad-libbed):

Tonya: “Okay, turn right here.”

Mackenzie (about a couple minutes later): “Um, this road is starting to look like one in a horror movie…”

Tonya: “No, the main road is at the end on this map, see?  We’re fine.”

Mackenzie: “I think that’s what the first person who gets killed always says.”

I’m bummed I didn’t meet Mackenzie sooner for more hang time, but I suppose if ever it’s a great reason to visit Portland (yes, girl, I pretty much invited myself over).  And lest you worry since these are PF’ers, Tonya did a fabulous job scoring some 2 for 1 deals (as well as printed out a great map of all the wineries), and we stayed in reasonably priced lodging so that no one was driving home drunk.   I was surprised that the lodging was actually nicer than I thought, considering it received a 2-star rating (because, you know, nothing but the best for us! 😉 ).  I guess it just goes to show that with some reviews, you just gotta take it with a grain of salt.

Other than that, there isn’t much to report, so I’ll keep it short and sweet.  I hope everyone has been doing well and I look forward to catching up with you soon!

Do you like wine?  Or you more of a red or white wine?  Do you like leather in yours like Tonya?  Do you pair it with beef bourguignon like Mackenzie?

My Biggest Money A-ha Moment

fin_lit_carnival_2014Happy Wednesday, everyone!  If you don’t know, April is Financial Literacy Awareness Month, and the lovely Shannon at The Heavy Purse is hosting a carnival on financial literacy and bloggers’ biggest money a-ha moment.  If you’re not familiar with Shannon’s writing (though who in the personal finance subculture isn’t?), she’s a CFP who not only talks about the importance of financial literacy and setting long-term financial goals, but aims to teach her readers about the root of financial problems and methods to manage it. I have learned so much from her posts, and at the risk of being the biggest brown noser on the block, I attribute a significant a-ha moment due to one of her posts.

When I finally resolved to kick my debt to the curb in early 2013, I turned to personal finance blogs for methods, support, and encouragement.  Knowing that people ‘out there’ shared a common goal was a huge motivator for me, since it gave me an outlet to relate to others that I wouldn’t normally have in real life.  It was also eye-opening as there are a ton of blogs and great information out there on the different methods to attack debt, whether it be the strategies behind the snowball vs. avalanche methods, setting a budget, creating a money envelope system, etc.  While all this information was extremely useful in the implementation of my goal, it still felt something missing.  I recall reading a couple of blogs that stated that financial goals and emotions don’t, or rather shouldn’t, mix, and that seemed a bit puzzling to me.  However, since these bloggers obviously had their financial stuff together, I figured if I needed to also get to their level, that I had to learn to extract the emotion out of anything related to finance.

That’s when I came across Shannon’s blog, in particular this post.  She essentially states that money is emotional, but understanding the emotions behind spending or not spending is where you can truly gain financial freedom.  Once I read that post, a few things started to gel with me during this particular ‘a-ha’ moment.  First of all, that the simple acknowledgement of what I was experiencing was really validating, especially coming from a finance expert.  Also, it kind of felt like it was one of these things that seemed to float around in my head, but doesn’t truly click until someone says it in a coherent and understandable way.  It isn’t so much that I had to deny or stop these emotions from occurring, but rather recognize and work through them before acting impulsively.  It might seem really logical to some like my Spock-like husband (and I say that in the most endearing way possible!), but for me it takes some practice.

The biggest take-away from it, though, was when she talked about emotional spending and identifying your triggers.  While I knew that I had a history of overspending because of my emotions, whether it was because I was happy because I got a new job and I “deserved” it or sad because of a break up, I didn’t really make an effort to acknowledge these triggers as the reason behind my bad financial habits.  However, after some practice on identifying these spending triggers, I was also able to identify other emotional triggers when it came to debt repayment, whether it was feeling anxious about ‘missing out’ with friends’ outings or just from debt repayment burnout.  Once I was able to identify these debt repayment triggers, I was then able to figure out the reasons behind these emotions, as well as talked myself through it since I knew my long term goals were more important than these fleeting emotions.  It took some time, but recognizing these emotions and, basically, troubleshooting them was definitely helpful in completing my debt repayment goal.

Even though I no longer have debt, I do understand that being able to identify financial triggers will most likely always play a role in my life.  Whether it’s catching myself falling back into emotional spending (it happens, though infrequently) or, most recently, feeling skittish about now putting all those debt repayments into investing due to the risk involved, at least I’m aware of the emotions that come into play, and take steps to resolve them by realizing how these actions affect my long term goals.  And for me, that’s become a pretty important step in my experience to become more financially literate.

Be sure to check out Shannon’s Carnival on Financial Literacy Awareness – I’m grateful to be a part of this carnival, as well as excited to read about others’ a-ha moments (see what I mean – emotional about everything, I am 😉 ).

 

Transitioning the “Me” Thinking Into “We” Thinking

A couple of weeks ago, I was in the kitchen making dinner when B suddenly entered and said, “There’s a great house that just listed!”  We usually check at house listings from time to time just to watch what the current pricing ranges are, but there was an eagerness in his voice with this one (which for B, is a big deal).  So I followed him back to his computer, and there, indeed, was a great house being listed for a really unusually “low” price.

By all accounts, it had all that he would want in our ‘forever house’ – an ideal layout with the master on the first floor and three bedrooms on the second, a canyon in the back, and a real fixer-upper to get his MacGuyver on.  It had most of the things I wanted, as well – not in a cookie cutter suburbs so we’re not subject to mello-roos or HOA, close to both our workplaces, and on a cul-de-sac.  So after he received my nod of approval, while I thought we were just going back to what we were doing since we originally thought we’d be able to buy a house in couple years, he started crunching numbers.  Aggressively.

I was a little shocked and confused by this, since there was no way that I had enough for my part of the down payment (we agreed that if I at least contributed 25-30% of a 20% down payment, then it would be proportionate to our earnings).  However, he was crunching the numbers to see if he could come up with the down payment, what our monthly payments would be, etc., and his whole activity pretty much freaked me out.  Now that I’ve had a couple of weeks to process it, these are the primary reasons where I discovered we were not truly aligned in our thinking, both in terms of finances and our views about buying our ‘forever’ place (sorry you’ll have to click, I haz no skillz):

heme

In the end, it all ended up being kiboshed since he stopped by the house the next day, and discovered that not only where there a ton of interested buyers, but there were already offers in cash and way above the asking price.  The latter is an extremely frustrating part all on its own as there’s a lot of investor buyers, but that’s for another ranty post.

Ever since this situation, I’ve noticed smaller situations where I’ve noticed that my ‘me’ thinking gets in the way, like he’ll offer to pay for my car repairs since he considers it “our” car/problem, but I resist and dig into my “savings” since I consider it “my” car/problem.  And I admit, even though it would be in my favor to combine finances, the implementation has been delayed on my part.  I’m guessing it’s because I’ve been on my own for so long, that this change is a lot more challenging than I thought.  He says that while he understands and it’s because I’m pretty independent, others say I’m that to a fault since I have no problem giving/sharing my stuff, but I often have trouble accepting/asking/taking/sharing other’s stuff.

I know over time, this will probably become easier, and I just have to figure out incremental steps in merging our finances, both in terms of logistics and mindset.  I do admit I was slightly disappointed that the house didn’t work out after my initial freak out mode, so if there’s a great house and the timing is right, I’m more open to me perhaps not contributing the ideal amount I would like to.  Or maybe I’m all talk since that situation is currently not staring me in my face, and I would still freak a little. 😉

Did this happen to anyone else when you were in the transition of combining finances?