Avoiding the Personal Finance Underbelly

Let me start by saying that I love the personal finance community. Blogs and twitter have been an amazing way for a numbers nerd like me to find my people. You are my people and I love you.

A side effect of being surrounded by fellow money minders is that some of us had an incredible head start. You may know some of these people.

  •  Someone on a modest income has been saving steadily for years. With a little help from the internet, they found a way to harness their savings and are sharing their financial freedom story with all of us.
  •  Someone was an alright saver but had an incredible income. They cut their spending down the bone for a short period of time and like whoa! They have enough to retire.
  •  Someone worked for a great company at the right time and got an incredible head start investing through 2008-2009 with a 1:1 100% company match. They knew how incredible of an opportunity that was and they took full advantage of it. They may have been scared at the time, but hindsight is amazing and they are leap years ahead of their peers today.
  •  Someone was super frugal and worked their way into an incredible income. They timed the housing market right in a hot market.
  •  Someone was great with computers. They were lucky enough to grow up in a time when the nerd wins. Right time, right place, right interest.

All of these stories or some combination of them may be coming through your feed. They are all great stories and we can learn from all of them. That’s why we follow the stories and the people.

I love these stories because they are inspirational. They inspired me to pay off my debt faster than I ever imagined was possible. They pushed me to max out my 401k before I felt ready even though I was. They solidified my belief that I should turn away from the rat race and make sure what I’m doing and what I’m buying is right for me, my interests, my family and my life.

I couldn’t be more grateful for the community. It truly is the best.

Unfortunately, this amazing community comes with a less than talked about underbelly. The jealousy underbelly. That left behind feeling.

Here I am at 30. Hooray, I paid off my student loans but I’m just starting to get going with my investing. My account balances are still small. I just took on a reasonable mortgage and have yet to make a single extra payment.

If I wanted to, I could look around and find 25 year olds who are already out of debt and saving aggressively. I could find people who retired at an age just a few years older than me. If I cling to the underbelly, it would be so easy to feel less than because of how far I still have to go and how many people are ahead of me.

But let’s not focus on that. There will always be someone ahead of you. Always.

Always.

Let’s focus on how far we’ve all come. Look behind you. Look around you.

The fact that you are reading this post on a blog about money probably means you are aware of your own financial situation or trying to gain that awareness. Finding awareness is the key to starting your journey. That in itself is an incredible accomplishment and you are on your way.

If you only look ahead of yourself, and don’t reflect on your own journey and your own starting point, you’ll miss the point of progress.

So please.

Find inspiration in those that came before you. But don’t fall to the underbelly. That’s where people get squished.

“When we move” Losing my excuse to postpone expenses

I’ve lived in my apartment with Hubs for 6 years. When we moved here, we didn’t expect to stay long term, but it just happened. First there was law school, then loans, then indecision as we saved for a house. We didn’t know where else we wanted to move, so we stayed put.

Staying put has been a good thing for a lot of reasons. We’ve fallen in love with the neighborhood. It really is the best. Whenever we tell people where we live, it is typically followed by “oooooooo! That’s a great area.”

The negative of staying is that we’ve accepted a lot of things as road blocks. We love where we are so we put up with a lot of annoyances. Our apartment is not perfect. It’s old. The layout is inefficient. The appliances are probably older than I am. The storage space is less than ideal.

Beyond that, we’ve also conditioned ourselves that this is what it is for now. For the last 3 years, we’ve expected that we were going to leave, so we didn’t acquire things. New couch? Nope. We’ll take care of that when we move. New TV? Nope. Anything new? Nope. We’ll handle that when we move. In addition to that, we’ve been actively purging our belongings. We don’t want to have to move something that we don’t love anymore.

To compound this, we’ve intentionally not opened nearly all of our wedding presents because we are expecting to move. Let me remind you that Hubs and I have been married for over 4 years. Bedding, towels, kitchen gear. My glorious KitchenAid Stand Mixer! This whole time, nearly every gift from our  wedding is sitting in storage, new in the original packaging.. I guess they aren’t new anymore. They are 4 year old gifts still in the packaging, never used.

Now I’m opening that flood gate.

We are moving.

OPEN IT ALL UP! (Do I have to resend thank you notes?)

But what about everything else?

I’ve established a frugal cornerstone in my life that its not worth it to own or have that now because of the hassle to move it.

I’ve effectively torn up my own frugal card. My readymade excuse. I don’t want to buy that because I don’t want to move it.

I’m an all or nothing girl. It is far easier for me to say no to everything than to say yes in moderation. Without my excuse of when we move, I’m scared what will happen with the flood gate wide open.

My wallet hurts just thinking about it.

Maybe I can change my excuse to… “I can’t. We just moved.”

We’ll see.

Fighting back against Jewelry Judgment

Hubs and I got married before we had our financial game tuned in. We were trying to be good with our money, but we didn’t exactly know what the heck we were doing.

If we were to get married today, with our current financial awareness, we would have done a lot of things differently. We don’t have regrets, but we could have been much better with our funds.

Our old way of spending is most obvious in one shiny area. Shimmering! Sparkling, even!

My wedding ring.

My ring has a history. The design means something. The setting means something. Both of these things are incredibly important to me.

We tried to be frugal with the purchase. Hubs knows a lot of people in the pawn industry and we put them to work looking for a ring that matched my criteria. They searched high and low but couldn’t find what I was looking for. Correction: They found it, but all of the settings they found were for diamonds 5+ carats. I don’t need a 5 carat rock on my hand.

After stumbling through the pawn world and coming up empty handed, we found the ring of my dreams at a jewelry store chain. I didn’t want to buy a ring from a chain. I couldn’t help but focus on the mark up. We walked away and went home.

However, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop thinking about the ring. I’m not supposed to be emotionally attached to things, but I was. I broke down to Hubs. It was more than we wanted to spend, but he’s Hubs and he saves the day.

He went back to the store, and my glorious ring had been discontinued. It was now at a clearance price. He offered to pay cash and they gave him a further discount. The ring was still spendy, but after all the discounts, it was around 60% off. Take that, retail mark up.

But here is where things get tricky.

He only bought the actual ring. It came with a Cubic Zirconium stone as a place holder. The stone is 1 carat and to get a real diamond would be incredibly expensive.

The sales women tried to get us to buy the diamond, but we played the broke young love card and said we’d upgrade later.

We never did upgrade.

For the first few years of our marriage, I was self conscious. I LOVED the ring, but I was worried I’d be caught in my frugal fraud. Surely, someone would notice that its not a real diamond. Heck, I hang out with jewelry people all the time. Would they know that my finger is a poser? No one said a thing.

It wasn’t until this last month that I realized how silly I was in my own insecurity. I went to the jewelry store chain for my ring inspection. I’m diligent about keeping the ring in tip top shape because I love it and its my favorite.

At the inspection, the tech threw a wave of compliments my way. I know this is part of a sales pitch, but I like the reminder that my ring is in fact 17 shades of amazing. While looking through a microscope, she inspected the ring and told me my diamond was loose.

She continued chatting about my diamond as she typed up the ticket. What state did we buy the ring? Do we know what store? She was looking for something, but I wasn’t paying attention.

Then she turned around with a squished look on her face and said in a hushed tone… “Is it a CZ?”

Yes.

Yes it is.

She couldn’t tell while looking through a microscope or while it was in her hand. No one could tell over the last 4 years I’ve proudly  worn it.