September Mortgage Update and Furnishing an Empty Apartment for a Year

This month (August):
Balance:$21,340.08
Years left: 1.583333333
P =$1,125.48, I =$88.93, Escrow =$809.48

This month (September):
Balance:$20,210.15
Years left: 1.5
P =$1,129.93, I =$84.47, Escrow =$809.48

One month’s prepayment savings: $0

In the end we decided to move out here with next to nothing– we filled up the car, sent a few boxes, and DC2 and I each checked a bag and did a carry-on on the plane.

And now our 1200 sq ft 2br apartment is mostly furnished.

How did we get here from there?

1.  We bought a couch, dining room table and chairs, large ottoman, bunk beds (and mattresses), king-size bed (and mattress), kid’s bike, shelves, and a few sundries (plates and bowls, cooler, toaster oven, microwave) from some people who were moving out for 1K.  I’m pretty sure we could have bargained her down given how last minute she was about everything, but 1K was less than we would have spent at IKEA on much cheaper versions of the same stuff, so we’re good.  Even though she was a PITA to deal with and kept going on and on about how she didn’t want to sell us things because they were dented.

2.  IKEA has a lot of very inexpensive stuff.  We bought three small tables (one for the living room, two to use as nightstands), a set of odd silverware (that cost less than the same partial sets of silverware at goodwill– our goodwill sucks), and a few skirt hangers.

3.  The apartment has some built-in shelves and cabinets.

4.  We have some friends who were happy to give us the crappy stuff they bought back in 2000 that they have since replaced with much nicer stuff but hadn’t gotten rid of the crappy stuff even though they never use it.  Yay generous packrat friends who were saving this stuff for just such an opportunity!  Here we got some not great quality pots, pans, bakeware, measuring spoons and cups (the kind where you have to guess the size because they’re so well-loved), and so on.  They have dibs if they want it back at the end of the year, but they’re hoping they won’t.

5.  The same friends are letting us borrow some shelves and a card table they were keeping in their garage because they want to clear out the garage to organize it.  Also they’ll want them back at the end of the year.

6.  We got a card table and chairs at Walmart for $55 that we’re using in the dog-run for outdoor dining.  DH also got a bike for himself at Walmart.

7.  After trying to work in the eat-in kitchen and being defeated by the heat of the sun, DH decided he really needed a desk, so we got one for $60 off a neighborhood list-serve.

8.  Target filled in more kitchen and bathroom odds-and-ends, as well as things like envelopes and printer paper.

9.  Amazon filled in for some bigger items like a printer, extra ink, a bike for me (after waiting too long to buy one locally so all the students have cleared out anything under $300.  If only I’d bought the first time I looked!  Also, what is going on with Forge bikes not actually having any bikes in stock anywhere?)

10.  I ended up getting a laptop as I didn’t realize work wouldn’t come with a computer and my old laptop is giving up the ghost.

11.  Another friend has a piano lying around that the previous house owners left that she said we could have for the year if we pay for moving.  Paying for moving there and back puts it still at less than the cost of renting or buying a new digital piano.  (We really did want to bring our own piano but just couldn’t fit it in the car and it would have cost more to move than to rent one for the year.)

12.  We got some black-out curtains from Kohls (online, clearance).  The place did come with curtains, but the bedroom curtains didn’t block out any light and the living room curtains only covered about half the window, exposing the world to streaking toddlers who don’t want to get dressed in the morning.

13.  (Update)  Scored another set of shelves and very small chest of drawers that someone in the neighborhood left out with a free sign.  Now DC2 can keep hir shirts and pants in separate drawers and I have a place to put hir winter clothing and too big stuff, which means there’s room in the closet for their toys.

We’re doing a lot of “making do”… like, we don’t really need a casserole if we have the knock-off le creuset for some tasks and a mason jar for other tasks.  We don’t need a pyrex 13×9 if we have a metal one.  And so on.  We’re using long flat bowls instead of small plates for a lot of things (the plates we have are enormous).  But it’ll be fine for a year.  Things that aren’t fine we’ve eventually bought (like an ove glove– way better than the towels system we’d been using).

How much did this all cost, I dunno, something between 2K and 3K?  Closer to 3K if you include the bikes.  How does it compare with shipping?  We’re ahead if we don’t ship stuff back at the end of the year, but we’re about even (since we’d have had to buy bikes anyway) if we do a Pod at the end of the year.

How did you furnish your first place/most recent place?

Anthems for working

You Better Work.

Unless you want to live in a Van by the River.

What reminds you to work?  Do you have any working anthems?

What free things have we been doing for fun in Paradise?

Paradise has the benefit of not being 80-gazillion degrees with 100% humidity.  WOOOOO.

Paradise has a lot of things to spend money on, but it also has a lot of fun activities that are completely free.  And we’ve been enjoying them!

1.  We have been going to all sorts of different parks and playgrounds.  The kids love this.  And, unlike the playgrounds in our hometown, they still have swing-sets.  Enjoy those swings while you still can, kids.  We’d do playgrounds in our hometown as well, and many of them are shaded, but even shaded it was really an early morning or late evening activity.  In Paradise we can take the kids whenever they’re feeling squiggly.  Drawback:  Their endurance is going way up.

2.  The library!  The last time we lived in a city this was a 20 min walk and we’d go once a week.  Now it is a 7 min walk and we go LOTS.  There are puzzles and so many books.  Their romance section isn’t great, but their other branches have more books and they deliver to this branch, so that’s been fun.  In our hometown the library isn’t as good and we have a lot more books at home so it was more of a once a month activity.  Related:  We’ve been reading more books.  DC1 has technically done two summer reading programs this summer, one in our hometown and ze is signed up for the one here.

3.  Free movies in the park.  Every Friday evening in the summer there are free movies in one of the city parks.  We do not do this in our hometown because it’s hot and there are too many mosquitos.  I don’t go to these, but the kids have been enjoying them (DH has been tolerating them).

4.  First Fridays.  Every first Friday of the month there’s music and dancing and booths and so on in the townsquare closest to us.  DC2 has been talking about the first one ever since it happened and cannot wait for the next.  At home the town next to ours has first Fridays, but it’s a drive and there’s less free stuff.  Related:  there have been a couple of community street fairs that have a few food stands for local restaurants but are mostly things like the firepeople letting people climb all over the firetruck, ditto police people and a police car, the library staff playing banjo music etc.

5.  Driving to state/local parks.  (This does cost gas.)  Some of the state parks in the area cost $ (though not much money) for either entrance fees or for parking, but many of the smaller ones do not.  They spent two hours throwing pebbles and sticks into a pond and did not want to leave.

6.  Grocery shopping/farmers markets/specialty markets.  While not technically free, we have to get food for the week *anyway* and it’s been fun seeing all the different kinds of food there are.  The kids love Trader Joe’s!  Our friends out here with kids the same age say they never take their kids grocery shopping because they don’t behave, so YMMV on taking kids to do chores.

7.  Biking.  I haven’t gotten a bike yet [update:  I ordered one], but DC1, DC2, and DH all have bikes, and DH has a seat for DC2 for longer distances.  They have been having enormous fun just biking around.  They’ve been doing a lot of seeing if they can get to daycare and DC1’s school, checking the cheap neighborhood bike guy to see if he has any adult bikes in yet, trying out playgrounds that are farther afield, and so on.

8.  Walking.  Just checking out the neighborhood and places we can walk to from where we live.

9.  Playing with friends.  We have some friends out here with kids exactly the same age as our kids and they’ve been having a great time.  It’s been really odd socializing mid-week instead of just on weekends.

10.  Going to short plays put on by a summer camp every other Friday just outside the library.

That’s it for so far, but we haven’t been here long!  I suspect there will be activities attached to public school.

What have we been doing less of?  Less ipad.  Less Netflix.  Less swimming (DC1 is taking lessons, but the HOA pool was free and we don’t have passes for the nearby pool).  Fewer video games.

What have we been doing that costs money?  Street fairs with yummy food.  DH and the kids went to a museum (there are plans to do more, but spread out and when relatives visit).  DC1 did a daycamp that had a field trip to an amusement park.  As mentioned before, we signed DC1 up for a few daycamps in addition to swimming lessons.  DC2 has daycare.  DH has used up most of his saved up allowance on exploring coffee shops and sandwich places.

What free fun things do you do?

Nicole and Maggie discuss budgeting (both individual and family) and link a lot

I hate budgeting so much, as you will read in one of these links.  Basically I pay to not have to budget by saving a huge amount extra so that there’s always slush.  Technically, our spending is always one month behind our income, so what we did last month determines what we do this next month.  I can look into my check register and go, yep, we can afford more stuff, or nope, we need to cut back.  This only works because even when we were in graduate school and spent 40-60% of our income on rent for a 300 sq ft apartment, we spent a lot less than we earned and had a relatively large emergency fund (compared to our income).  Some of the sacrifices included not buying meat for so long that the first time I had a steak (to celebrate paying off DH’s student loans), I threw up.  That’s not normal.

What I’m saying here with this illustration is that 1.  I don’t do detailed budgets, and 2.  There are a lot of different ways to spend less than you earn and keep on firm financial footing for different people.  If one method just does not work for you, you can sacrifice in a different direction and try a different type of budget.

What you shouldn’t do, though, is to keep going into more and more debt (or not doing any saving for future you) through inattention to your finances.  Some system is necessary, even if that “system” is always to spend far less than you bring in.  Most people want to spend a bit more than we did while we were in graduate school at that income, and there’s no reason not to if you want to unless you really value not budgeting, which I apparently value more than I do red meat (at least on a graduate student stipend).

For a third note, 3.  Your system may change with your income levels and required expenses, and that is AOK.

Here’s where to start if you’re in debt.

Posts on whether or not to have a detailed budget:

Do you budget?  MSN Money used to have a fantastic post of Liz Pulliam Weston’s about when it’s ok to ditch the budget, but unfortunately that post has gone to the ether.  Nick from Step Away From the Mall did a nice summary of her post that you can read here, though he notes that this list is really a general budget, just not a detailed one. And here’s bit of a personal post (from when DH was unemployed and we had to keep a tighter rein on spending) in which I talk about how much I hate budgeting.  You can also combine a loose budget with tighter monitoring of spending as Leigh (who doesn’t need a detailed budget but enjoys tracking her money) discusses in this recent post.

Different types of budgets:

General guidelines

The general idea behind a budget is to allow you to balance all of your spending/saving needs and goals.  In general you will want to balance saving for long-term goals like retirement with medium goals like automobile replacement and with short-term goals like eating.  You want to do it in such a way that keeps you out of high interest debt and allows you to save for the future while still enjoying today as much as being a responsible adult will allow.

A good general guideline for people who don’t want or need to retire early is the Balanced Money Formula by Elizabeth Warren.  This is really  just the idea that you spend 50% of your income or less on fixed expenses (she calls these “needs”), things you would have to pay whether or not you have income.  Then 30% goes towards variable expenses (she calls these “wants”) that you could cut if you lost your job and 20% or more goes towards savings.  These percentages don’t have to be perfect, but if you’re a member of a dual income family then keeping to these guidelines will put you on a good track for the future while insuring against catastrophe if there’s a job loss in the family.  If you’re interested in the balanced money formula, Get Rich Slowly has some really great posts on it, including this nice worksheet from back in the day when JD Roth was figuring things out.

Another possibility to get those percentages for yourself for a general budget is to look at your specific circumstances in the case of a job loss or other emergency and do a financial fire drill. Think of the worst case scenario and run numbers for that, then based on that set your major recurring expenses like housing, car, etc.  It will also show you if you need to target debts or sell things you couldn’t really afford to get rid of regular payments and so on.

Some people argue that you should target only big expenses and let the little ones figure themselves out.  Others argue that the latte factor, money you spend on little things, adds up and is important.  Both these arguments have elements of truth and elements of untruth.  We talk about these two belief systems in this post on the latte factor vs. big item spending.  Here we address gazingus pins, which is a type of latte factor.

Detailed Budgets

As much as I dislike them personally, detailed budgets are incredibly useful and a really healthy thing to have.  Probably the most popular method of doing a detailed budget on the PF blogosphere is YNAB (You Need a Budget).  Some people prefer Quicken or make their own spreadsheets.  Some people just use MINT, though many people use MINT in conjunction with YNAB or Quicken.  MINT is great for tracking your expenditures by category and if you’re new to finances and use a lot of credit cards, it’s a great thing to just do.  However it’s not as good a budgeting software as YNAB or Quicken.  Ana talks about how she makes a budget here.

A zero-sum budget is one in which every dollar is accounted for.

Some people have strict envelope budgets.  Instead of dealing with spreadsheets and so on, they will have cash-only budgets.  This is especially useful if you truly have a limited amount you are able to spend without going into debt.  Once the cash is gone for the month, you’re done.  Some people allow you to take cash from one variable spending budget to add it to another (ex. if you spend less than expected on food, you can add the additional money to fun) and some people don’t.

One way to allocate “fun” money for non-necessities is the use of an adult allowance.  Adult allowances are also great for balancing “fun” spending between partners while keeping below a budgeted sum and removing resentment.  Here’s two posts on adult allowances:  In praise of DH’sHow they work.

What about that nebulous idea of “savings” and “emergency fund”?  Some people will include things like vacations and so on in “targeted savings” either virtually or in actual separate accounts and others will include all short-term savings into one general fun.  We talk about when to use targeted savings in this post.

For people who don’t use detailed budgets and can wing things because they’re already saving a large portion of their earnings, it may still be useful to compare the cost of things when trying to decide whether to, for example, hire a house-cleaner.  This post discusses how to make those kinds of comparisons.

Special budgetary topics:

Financial Independence

A good heuristic to reach financial independence, definition here is to “simply” save 70% of your income until early retirement (there are more complicated formulae as well, but they all require a lot of saving or a lot of luck).  Partial financial independence can be achieved at a lower savings rate and is a wonderful thing to have even when you’re still working.  We talk about how having partial financial independence as a goal can make your life a lot less stressful because you will not be trapped by a bad job.

Not spending can be hard, even if you know you have to not spend now that you’ve looked at your budget.  Here’s some recommendations for how to delay gratification.  One that works really well for me is telling myself I can have it later!

Blitzing with a spending challenge

Some people do spending challenges for various time-lengths.  I love reading about these and they can make really big changes to people’s mindsets.  (Please link in the comments for spending challenges you enjoy reading.  I also really like reading about “the compact.”  Here’s our challenge tag, but we do more than just money challenges and we’re not that interesting.)  They’re really great for stopping an addictive behavior or bad habit, such as buying clothing every weekend because you’re bored even though your closet is already full of things you never wear.  Here we talk about how maybe no-spend days aren’t really the appropriate length of time unless you have real problems.

How to deal with joint finances

We at grumpy rumblings are not going to take a stand on whether you should fully merge your finances with your partner or not.  There are a lot of different methods for sharing finances that we discuss here.

Ok, Grumpy Nation.  What have we missed?  What do you want to know more about?

Figuring out the commute

We made it to paradise!  And we have furniture!  And food!  And it is crazy and wonderful!

We live somewhere between 6 and 7 miles away from my work.

DH is in charge of getting the kids to their respective schools and back (daycare is a 7 min walk or a 2 min drive, elementary school we’ll figure out once it starts).  We’ve only got the one car and parking at the university is pretty expensive anyway.  So the car is not really an option.

Sadly I am not cool enough to get any commuter discounts from the university– those are saved for actual hard money employees.

Google maps is amazing these days and has all sorts of great information about commuting paths other than driving.  My three options are:  1.  Bus, 2. light-rail (subway/elevated/etc.), 3. Bike.

The cross-street of the busy street that we’re on goes straight to the university.

Normally I hate taking buses because I hate having to make multiple changes, particularly when I have to keep my eye out to request a stop.  However, because the university is on the same street as my house, just 6 or 7 miles away, it’s only one bus if I take the regular slow bus.  There’s also a limited stops option that goes faster, but it is a longer walk from my house and the only university stop is the light rail station which is a 30 min walk from where I work.  I don’t like the way I have to pay attention on a bus so I don’t miss my stop, and I get a bit queasy when it comes to reading on a motor vehicle.

I like trains because they stop at every stop without you having to think about it and they usually don’t have to compete with traffic.  That dedicated rail is nice, especially during rush hour.  Unfortunately we don’t live that close to a subway stop (it’s doable, but it’s a trek) and my work is not located very close to the Uni stop either.  There is a bus I can take from the rail closer to my work, but if I’m going to do that, I might as well just take the bus from my house.

Mr. Money Moustache would insist that I bike.  And I’m going to get a bike and I’m going to look into this, but a 6-7 mile bike ride is not something I can jump into given I haven’t ridden a bike in I dunno, 15 years.  I was reading about bike commuting online and they were going on and on about all the things you need to buy once your commute is longer than 2 miles, and I found it scary.  DH says I can work up to it.  There’s also a problem that the direct route doesn’t have a bike lane, so a safer commute is a much more complicated commute and I am very bad at directions (she really, really is –#2).  Another problem that I’m sure I can get over is where to store the bike at work– my office is on the third floor and I’ve been warned about taking the elevators without my cellphone on hand as they tend to break pretty regularly.  I will probably just take my chances locking it up outside.  (#2 says, you are in a place that probably has TONS of bikes outside, I’d lock it outside your building in the racks without a second thought.  No problem.  And you’ll be getting a cheap-ish used bike anyway, right?  Just make sure it fits.)

In terms of time:  the regular bus is around 45 min, give or take, the limited bus is ~55 min, the train is ~55 min, biking is 32-35 min, and driving is 35 min (traffic is pretty nasty and there are a lot of lights).

What am I doing?  Well, right now I’m taking the regular bus.  I tried the limited bus and decided Google was right and it’s definitely slower.  Biking looks so appealing on Google– so simple for that little stick figure bike and so much faster than for the little bus or the little train.  I really do want to bike, but I’m just a tiny bit terrified, mainly of getting lost more than anything else.  Once I get a smartphone with a map application, I assume it will be a lot less terrifying, though things like “bike gloves” and “padded seats” are still pretty intimidating.  #2 recommends the padded seat for sure, based on my own experience (OW!), but you don’t need gloves.  You just need a helmet, sunglasses, sunblock, and maybe one of those straps to keep your pants out of the chain (or just stuff your pants leg into your sock).  That’s it.

How do you get to work, and what are your options (do you even have options)?  How did you decide what to do?

Networking FTW! Or how to get a job in 11 easy steps

How to get a cool job while living in Paradise:

Step 1:  Send out dozens of carefully crafted applications to highly selected jobs that interest you, culled from want ads from a number of sources (indeed.com).

Step 2:  Get a few phone interviews and an in-person interview for a job you’d really like that goes to second round.  After a long wait, fail to get those jobs.

Step 3:  Decide maybe it’s time to apply for jobs that aren’t quite as much up your alley.  Carefully craft individualized applications for job openings you find via want-ads and company pages but secretly hope you don’t get that consulting job (which is highly paid but uninteresting and will probably eat your soul in less than 2 years).

Step 4:  Mention to the extroverted wife of someone you went to high school with that you’re looking for a position.

Step 5:  Said wife notes that their kid goes to preschool with another kid whose mom is a PhD in your field working in a job that sounds exactly like the kind of job you want.  She puts you in touch.

Step 6:  It turns out that although kid’s mom has a job that is like one you would want, the mom doesn’t actually have a PhD in your field, but her husband does.  He sends an email to say hi and says they’re looking for someone right now where he works.  He sends you a want ad for a position just like the one you want (that you are overqualified for) at the center where he works.  Only catch: cutoff for applications is today (on the day that you are emailing).

Step 7:  Thankfully, the salary range is posted right in the ad.  Decide it is ok and apply for said job at 4:16pm on day applications close.

Step 8:  Just a few days later, receive enthusiastic phone call from founder of center, asking you to come in a few days from now.  Nail interview with the amazing guy who runs the center.  It is conversational and does not include dumb interview questions like “what is your biggest weakness?”.  He talks about how, if you got this job, you could increase your income above the stated range by doing various things.  The base salary is hard money (not dependent on grants).  Hours are flexible.  Like things more and more.

Step 9:  Have a great time on the informal second-round interviews, talking with the other PhDs working at the center.  Answer lots of questions about why it’s ok that you’re overqualified.  Note that they’ve started mentioning things you want to do that are outside the scope of the originally advertised job description, like mentoring graduate students and writing grants to increase your salary (which, although low for a PhD in your field, is still higher than what you were making as a tenured associate prof in Blasted Wasteland).

Step 10:  Have your references give you glowing recommendations when the center guy calls them.  Also have them tell you that the guy who runs the center has a reputation in the field for being a great mentor.  He is hiring his trainees and former students to grow the center.  Some members have worked with him for 15 years.

Step 11:  Do a happy dance when you get the job offer on the phone!  Look sort of like a chicken/’80s dancer.  Pump fist in air, go “Eeeee”.  Have 30-minute conversation with institute founder in which he is already more respectful about your skills and expertise than your previous 2 bosses.

~~~~now have job!~~~~

Step 12: Inquire with HR person about benefits.  They are pretty good.  Formally accept offer at top end of published range.  Your new office (with door!) is shared with 1 other person and a fantastic view out the big window.  Your new email is set up right away.

Step 12a:  HR person sends you offer letter via email.  An hour later you get another email: Please disregard that offer letter and use this one instead.  The center director has begged Provost for increase in your base salary; this new letter has the increased salary.  Pay is now above the posted range in the job ad, and is a number you feel much happier about (#2:  A number that is more than my engineering PhD DH was making when he was on the tenure track…).  Accept that one and print it out real quick.  Start telling friends & family you got job (#2 said YAY!).  Converse with staff about what kind of laptop you want.  Get lunch invitation for your first day at work.  Feel like a ROCKSTAR.  Send grateful messages to people who served as references.  Discover that all your friends in the field happen to know your new boss, and say he is phenomenal, influential, and a great mentor.  Keep feeling more rockstar-y all the time.

Step 13:  Hash out benefit contributions and household finances with partner (future post!).  Fall asleep on floor while trying to read book before bed.  Start new job 5 days after offer.

Congratulate me in the comments below!  After over a year with no job I was starting to feel nervous about the growing gap in my CV.  Hang in there, job searchers.

Just spend the money? Why the answer to Mr. Money Moustache is not Spend All the Things.

(Yet another ‘moderation in all things’ post from Grumpy Rumblings, but it’s been a while)

Recently it seems like a lot of mommy bloggers have been reading frugal living blogs, looking at their finances, realizing they’re not saving for the future to the extent they’d like to be.  Often, in the comments section without knowing anything about the bloggers’ income, net worth, or fixed costs, commenters say, “Buy that latte, spend money on that vacation, buy those clothes, get that babysitter, spend spend spend.  It’s worth it.”

And maybe that’s the right answer and the blogger is brainwashed unnecessarily by reading too many ultra-frugal-living blogs.  Or maybe that’s a terrible answer and the commenter makes a lot more or has way smaller fixed expenses or is in terrible financial shape.  Each person’s individual situation is different.  Each person has a different budget constraint.  Without knowing the actual situation, it is likely to be terrible advice that will make it more difficult for the blogger to get into good financial shape or will make the blogger feel bad for trying to get into good financial shape (or both!)

Something that seems to be missing from a lot of these posts, both mommy blogging and the bigger personal finance blogs is old fashioned “make a budget advice.”  With GRS gone downhill, we just don’t see these posts anymore on a regular basis.  You know, the ones that talk about how much to save when you’re not planning on early retirement, where you learn to make a budget, or discuss the pros and cons of taking directly out of your paycheck instead of having a budget etc.  It seems like everyone is strapped onto the frugality at all costs bandwagon or is reacting against that and suggesting that the answer is always to throw money at things.  Like there’s even more bifurcation in the PF blogosphere and less moderation than there used to be.  Maybe we’re just not looking in the right places, but that’s what our little corner of the internet looks like these days.

In reality, the choice isn’t “spend all the things” vs. “spend none of the things.”  Spending today means you’re making trade-offs for spending tomorrow.  The more you spend today, the less you will have to spend tomorrow.  That’s just a reality.  Those manicures or vacations or nice cars or meals out will have different trade-offs depending on your overall income and current savings/debt level.  It might mean less in your will, or retiring to Florida instead of California, or your kids taking out loans for school, or having to work a few more years, or not being able to change jobs when you have a terrible boss, or having to take out a loan to fix your a/c, or fighting with your spouse, or living in your parents’ basement in the event of a job loss (which might mean that your parents have to put off their own retirements because you didn’t save), or losing your house, or not being able to afford meat after you’re unable to find work.  Some of these trade-offs may be worth it, some of them may not.  Your income and savings determine the trade-offs being made.  You get to pick which choice in each trade-off to make based on your preferences.

On top of the explicit trade-offs with tomorrow’s spending, being in good financial shape (having retirement savings, low required monthly outflows compared to your inflows, and a nice emergency fund) just gives so much peace of mind.  I hated having to worry any time the check battery light would go on or we’d have a home repair, or a reimbursement would come slowly or someone would charge us incorrectly on a bill (or worse, screw up a paycheck!).  Peace of mind that it’s just money and we can afford it is worth forgoing fancy vacations for a few years to me.

I think there’s need for some more fundamentals of money management posts out there that aren’t just “don’t spend anything.”  “Don’t spend anything” is necessary for some people (and, given widening income gap in the US, for far too many people) and not spending is just the natural way of being for others, but by far the majority of people reading these blogs are in the situation where they have to think about at least some of our their spending.  The money won’t just take care of itself.  But there’s also no reason to cut spending to the bone.

Side note:  To be honest, I feel a little out of place commenting on these discussions now because we’ve made a commitment to spending more than we earn this year (since I’m at half pay this year while our expenses have doubled or tripled).   We’ve been at the “don’t spend anything” point and at the “don’t worry about money” point (though not completely– we haven’t yet been able to pull the trigger on a kitchen remodel– that may take another year or two).  But by far the majority of our lives (adult and otherwise) have been in that murky “you can have anything but you can’t have everything” stage where we have to think about things and make choices.  Of the three stages, “make way more than your fixed expenses so you don’t have to think about things” is by far the best place to be.  But it takes a lot of work and a lot of luck to get there.  And, being honest, “don’t spend anything” kind of sucks, though it doesn’t suck as much as it could– the trick being that it only sucks less when you know it is temporary and for a good cause and that the future will be brighter.  I’m all for temporary Dave Ramsey style saving blitzes to get into the black and on the road to investment.  Mostly I’m for having done that in the past!  But that’s the point, that they’re temporary and the future is brighter the earlier you do them (and now is the best time to start).

Although it seems like our last ‘moderation in all things’ post was about 3 years ago, we’ve got a bunch of them:

Mr. Money Moustache vs. Laura Vanderkam and Expanded ramblings on extreme living

Is it ok for personal finance bloggers to be balanced?

Why I’m in no hurry to become a millionaire (this one was written before DH’s new job, so the numbers have changed, but the ideas are still the same)

Why we pre-paid our mortgage early on, but didn’t just pre-pay it (and now we’re no longer pre-paying it, partly because we’re in a better financial situation!)

Why you shouldn’t spend all your money on experiences (or on stuff)!

Why are our stop feeling guilty and relax posts so popular?

Two related posts:  Satisficing as a life philosophy and There is no best

Why it’s ok to buy a new car (or a used car, whichever)

In the near future, I will collect posts on different kinds of budgets and different ways of spending/budgeting (including couples’ finances!), and I’ll point out some classic Get Rich Slowly posts that are well worth reading.  If there are gaps in that list that I see, then I will try to find some time to come up with some new posts to fill in those gaps.  I’ve resisted doing a 30 days to better finances series because people are so different and different things work for different people at different stages of their lives, but maybe I should dig that out and try again.

Do you have a handle on your finances?  Do you balance fun spending and future spending?  Are you happy with your balance?  Do you feel like you need to cut back or loosen up?

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