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The Backpack Saga: A resourceful tale.

I’m not resourceful, or at least that’s what I tell myself.

I operate under the mindset to acquire the smallest number of things, by spending the least amount of money without harming the environment too much. Maybe that’s resourcefulness. I prefer to call myself a lazy environmentalist.  Why buy something, when I can find a way not to?

I was faced with a prime dilemma recently, challenging my lazy environmentalist ways. My lunch leaked in my backpack. EEK! My teriyaki meal prepped rice leaked out of the container, leaking sauce all over the rest of my lunch (ew). It leaked just right that it leaked out of my lunch box, on to my library book, bullet journal and all over the bottom of my back pack. Ew. Sticky Ew.

My coworker saw me dealing with my sticky mess. Her suggestion: Throw it out and start over.

What???????????????

No.

She suggested I throw out all my lunch containers (The ones in my lunch box and at home) and start over. Throw away my backpack and buy a new one. She didn’t see my now sticky bullet journal, but she probably would have suggested I throw that away and start over as well. All because of a teriyaki spill.

Never did it cross my mind to throw it all away.

I went to the lunch room and cleaned out my lunch box and all the stickiness. I let it dry in the back of my cube. Good as new.

When I came home, I threw it in the washer and soaked it in soapy water. Simple enough. I forgot about it and let it soak overnight. When I came down in the morning, the water was disgusting. Life Pro-Tip: Maybe wash your backpack more than once every 15 years.

I didn’t want to add any other clothes to the wash, so I ran it on its own. MISTAKE. I forgot to put it in a garment bag or a pillow case. It took a beating. When the wash finished, my bag was sparkling clean, but had 2 rips – a matching one on each side.

Perhaps at this point, I should have throw it out. But that didn’t cross my mind.

So my backpack had rips in it. Its a backpack. I know how to sew. I might even have some fancy contrasting thread I can use to add a little pizzazz to my wonderful backpack. I’m thinking purple Xs on my pink and black pack. Prettttty.

While I waited to let the pack dry and then procrastinated, I still had no plans of getting a new bag. I used my laptop bag for a week and it was okay. The one sided strain was what finally got me to get to stitching. Turns out, I had pink thread that was nearly a perfect match to my pack. I stitched it up while I browsed YouTube on a slow Sunday morning.

Is this resourcefulness? It probably is. I prefer to think of it as part of avoiding this crazy consumerist culture we live in. It’s more important for me to avoid that and the cycle than anything else. What if I did throw everything away after a teriyaki spill? How soon after that would I be throwing it all away again? If I throw everything away at the first sign of trouble, I will be throwing everything away constantly.

I don’t have the emotional energy to always be shopping.

Cleaning up after the accident took a few minutes at work, 30 seconds to throw it in the wash to soak and later turn on the machine. The YouTube video I watched while stitching was 45 minutes and I had video to spare. In total, spending an hour bringing my pack back to life sounds way better than shopping for a new backpack and abandoning this one.

I’m sure the environment thanks me. Laziness for the win.

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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.