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You may have noticed that I didn’t put concrete tasks for me to work on for this project. That’s because, truly, I don’t have any clue what I’m doing financially. I could tell you I plan on packing a lunch everyday, but the amount of money I spent eating out/getting coffee during lunch this year is roughly 5% of my salary (and a lot less than that since my one comrade at work moved to New York). What I really want to do here is read as much as I can, and ask as many people as I can about personal finance. For me it’s not these daily battles, it’s the war.
From the advice of my good friend Graham, I started a 401k last year, and it’s already astounded me how much money compounded. So, for the past year I’ve been imagining myself retiring and traveling around the world first-class. Then this week someone said, “what about your Roth IRA?”. Apparently I need that to shelter my money from the taxes-of-the-future (say it in a spooky voice, it makes it more fun), and to use to put a down payment on a home in the future. So I did some research (love this article/guy), lowered the amount i was putting in my 401k and am attempting to automatically transfer money into a Charles Swab IRA.
For me, if you give me a box (or a budget) I will fill it up–no matter how big or little. The main thing I’ve been working on is delegating my money into other places (account my car loan gets taken out of, savings account, 401k, Roth) so all that I have left is a cushion amount, and enough to live comfortably.
When I say I want to live comfortably, my comfortably doesn’t necessarily mean your comfortably. I’m trying to find out what I value spending a lot of my spare income on, and then saving on the things I don’t. To figure that out, I use Mint.com to figure out my where I spend most my money. This way I can win more battles.
For me, this is mostly restaurants/groceries/bars. I live by the philosophy that you should spend more on the things closest to you. Certainty what goes inside you should be most important then? This is how it came about that I spend most of my money on groceries. A lot of the brand loyalty stuff doesn’t matter to me, though. Logan taught me how to cut out ALL the coupons I need from the Sunday paper (not just the Publix ones, but the manufacture ones too). These are the ones we brought to go shopping with:
I’m the type of person who buys 4 rolls of toilet paper at a time of Cottonelle, or whatever commercial has the bears, but we certainty didn’t shop like that on Sunday. We spent about $200 dollars, but most of it will last us for a while, so later in the month, all we need is some extra stuff–like if there’s a specific recipe I want to try, and don’t have the ingredients for. PLUS, we saved $50. I actually high-five’d Logan at about aisle 4. Well, not really. I went to high-five, and he looked at me like I was a dork. Apparently, this is nothing new to him.
What I don’t want to give up (at the mercy of everything else) is traveling (although I bought 7 round trip tickets this year, bit much), going out with friends/family/boyfriend. A good tip I recently read was, invite people over instead of going out. On Friday we went out, and I allowed a couple of my friends to buy me a drink. Usually this embarrasses me, and I almost immediately buy them 2 more drinks to make up for it. Instead, we invited those people over to our place for late night snacks. Then, instead of going out to our favorite Thai or Cuban restaurant for a date-night, yesterday Logan met me half way to my work in Fort Pierce to get the amazing lunch special at the greek place in the afternoon.
What do I need to cut back on? Basically, I should never be allowed in Target again.
“I know now that true charity consists in bearing all our neighbors’ defects–not being surprised at their weakness, but edified at their virtues.”–St Thérèse de Lisieux
I have not been doing very good with my generosity since the weekend ended. My cat (MauMau) started crying by my bed 10 minutes before my alarm went off yesterday and today, and instead of waking up ready and willing to start my day, I carried the situation out for 20 more minutes, then exploded at the cat making him run out of the room. Not very considerate to both the cat and Logan trying to sleep. After half-haphazardly getting ready, I start my 45 minute drive to work on a single lane highway. Yesterday me and about 15 other cars were stuck behind a slow-moving old woman driving a Buick, so my commute suddenly turned into an hour and 15 minutes long. Then came chain of events that were clearly a results of the irritated and exhausted mood the morning put me in.
I know everyone has irritations, so I wont document all of mine, but I will say that today I let my selfishness be my downfall. When an old man got lost in our building, I barely mustered the energy to help him. Even then, all I did was put a forced smile on my face and direct him to the right floor. The constant aimlessness of the senior citizens in Florida is starting to make me jaded. I need to remember the good-will I felt coming down here to help my grandparents, and my morals to respect my elders. Instead, I’m usually left only remembering the times I got stuck behind a senior-citizen going 20 mph under the speed limit, who probably shouldn’t have their license anymore; or I remember the times I was next in line after an elderly couple at lunch, who couldn’t seem to remember what they like.
This reminded me of St Thérèse de Lisieux (or Little Flower) who was famous for killing with kindness. The story goes that there was one nun at Thérèse’s convent that she didn’t like, describing her in a memoir as, “a Sister who has the faculty of displeasing me in everything, in her ways, her words, her character.” Instead of getting outwardly angry with her, she treated her as if she “loved her best of all”. She managed to do this so well that when Thérèse died, the nun that displeased her so much said, “At least I can say this much for myself: during her life I made [Thérèse] really happy.” It wasn’t until 30 years later that someone admitted to her that she was the “disagreeable Sister” from Thérèse’s book Story of the Soul.
In another story she describes how irritated she was with one of her Sisters for playing with her rosary noisily during prayers. Once again, instead of snapping at her she said, “I set myself to listen as though it had been some delightful music, and my meditation, which was not the ‘prayer of quiet,’ passed in offering this music to our Lord.”
I need to channel St Thérèse de Lisieux this week.