Journey Update | Week Ending Jun 29, 2018: Evil, Gums, Chocolate


Welcome back to My Early Retirement Journey. In case you're just joining us, here's a little bit about me.  I am a single 30-something, openly Christian, hesitantly immigrant-y, human woman. I love watching TV while eating takeout, and I want to retire early. I currently work as a consultant in a tele-health call center making around $40/hr. I started my professional life in 2015 at the ripe ole age of 31 after a few false starts. I spent 2016 paying off about $10,000 worth of credit card debt. I spent 2017 paying off about $20,000 in private student loans; I still have about $300,000 in federal student loans for which I am currently on an income-based repayment plan for the next 25 years, give or take.  I started really getting into savings and investing late 2017 when I stumbled upon the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) community.  In 2018, I made the decision to try to save for a sabbatical and maybe if all goes well continue the journey to early retirement.  Along this journey, I give weekly updates just like this one. Come along with me, I urge you!
Monday – Day off. Copious  amounts of TV thanks to DirecTV Now free trial, to include Chicago Med, See No Evil, Web of Lies. Apparently 14-year-old girls and single moms are prime targets for evildoers. Couple really heartbreaking stories. Thought more about yoga retreat getaway I saw on Groupon. Their marketing worked and totally awakened my senses. Still couldn’t pull trigger. I just think I don’t do enough that warrants an actual getaway.  For the most part, it’s enough for me just to have days when I don’t have to go work, hence why I’ve been championing the stay cation the last 2.5 years.



Tuesday – Not feeling great. Gum tissue near implant is swollen and hard and hurting. Up until the time I left my house this morning, I thought about calling in sick (well emailing, since sans phone at the moment). Remembered time-sheets were due today and I was on callbacks and thought my absence would be noticed more so than usual. Ultimately went in. Mouth still hurts. Really tired of all the recurring ailments this year (2018).  These are the days when FIRE would be helpful. I would take 3 days off just to give my body some healing and recovery time. Anyway, I’m here now.  Budget win: transferring $3400 from savings to broker account. After my June 2018 Financial Update, had extra savings in my savings account. Decided this year to keep about 1.5 month’s expenses in savings. Any extra would be transferred to investment account. Yay.


Wednesday – Didn’t sleep through the night. Second night in a row. Gum tissue still inflamed and painful. Ugh. More thought to Decision 2020 (in which I decide to take mini-sabbatical or not). Still need a better name for that. Went to work 10a-6p. Feeling kind of grey. Not sure why. Aunty MERJ needs surgery. Relatives and Aunty asking me what to do. How do I know? Sigh. Single girl dinner of blueberry muffins. Then sleep. Middle of the night watch of New Girl reruns.


Thursday – Slept a little bit better last night. Ended up cutting up a pint of strawberries at work yesterday during one of my breaks. Those food waste commercials are working. Usually after cutting fruit, eating it is a quick work. However brought it to work today. Had a few nibbles and didn’t want anymore. Still have uncut pineapple, cantaloupe, unboiled corn in vegetable drawer in fridge. Ugh. Sugar got low, got some $1.65 oatmeal from vending machine at work.  Did eat some semblance of a meal last night but this weird disinterest in food has been off and on this week.  In blogging news, 2 maybe 3 opportunities for guest post. Stay tuned! After work watch of The Bold Type. Loved it!


Friday – Thinking more about visiting some parks. At least starting with some nearby state parks. Walk and lunch, maybe? Trying a kiwi for first meal of the day. Read somewhere on the interwebs it can help with digestion. About 85% convinced my recurring constipation is a contributing factor to my lowered mood, or this recurring case of the blahs. Oh, on the blogging front, fiddled with blog everyday this week! Trying to get down to two days a week. Work in progress. Didn’t go to Walmart for weekly errand run; went to Whole Foods and purchased about $30 worth of chocolates instead. Yeah, that happened. On a side note got an additional $8 worth of chocolates free because their best by date was yesterday. I put them in the freezer; I’m still going to eat them. Chocolate bon-bons taste like summer and tiny luxury! Plans for the weekend: eat some chocolates and watch TV! On tap: probably Famous in Love; finish Jane the Virgin; some HGTV and Chicago Med. Have a good weekend!


TV this week: The Bold Type, Chicago Med, See No Evil, Web of Lies

Takeout this week: Vending machine $2, KFC $5

BlueBird (no affiliate) balance:  $145
(Get $215 spending allowance every 2 weeks)

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7 Easy Meals When You Need A Break: A Listicle

Seasons change and the Journey continues. For those of us still on the Journey to Early Retirement, in the background of summer fun and graduation parties is the ever present work day. After a long day, sometimes you are too tired to cook. You haven't quite simplified your life like the Frugalwoods or FIRE extremists where your daily breakfast consists of oatmeal and afternoon lunch is a hearty bowl of beans and rice. No, you're not quite to the pre-planned meals stage yet in the Journey. In fact like me sometimes you  still eat out . While you're progressing along your journey, healthy eating is a must or at least on your to-do list. One tip is to keep basics on hand and have some go-to simple recipes that you can make without much thought. Here's a few to share, courtesy of myUHC/Rally.


My Early Retirement Journey - How to Be Single in your 30s

1. Creamy Goat Cheese Grits

I wouldn't be a nice Southern gal if I didn't have this on my list. A southern staple that can be made savory or sweet, hearty or scant. It's a staple that can be easily dressed as the season or your mood changes.



My Early Retirement Journey - How to Be Single in your 30s


2. Lentil Stew

A simple stew with 3 ingredients, some seasoning and voila! Dinner.


My Early Retirement Journey - How to Be Single in your 30s


3. Tahini Roasted Broccoli

Broccoli roasted with tahini and garlic. What more could you ask for!


My Early Retirement Journey - How to Be Single in your 30s


4.  Roasted Sweet Potato with Chickpeas, Goat Cheese, and Coriander

A jazzed up sweet potato can be filling too. If you live in the pollen state (NC), you can find these everywhere you look. And if goat cheese is not your thing, try whatever cheese makes your belly smile.

My Early Retirement Journey - How to Be Single in your 30s


5. Crispy Kimchi and Cheddar Omelette

Eggs are usually my go to. I call it single girl dinner. That and popcorn are staple in the My Early Retirement Journey household.


My Early Retirement Journey - How to Be Single in your 30s


6. Pan-Seared Steak and Salad

If you don't want to stay in the house over a hot stove, enjoy the hot sun and fire up the grill. What says summer more than salad. Add a bagged arugula salad to this sizzling dish and dinner is served!


My Early Retirement Journey - How to Be Single in your 30s


7. Slowww Roasted Salmon
Salmon, an oven, and a little sprinkle of salt. How much easier can it get!

Let me know how you like this! Most of these are very budget friendly and use many of the ingredients you have at home.

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Wednesday Weekly: Jun 27, 2018

Most popular post on My Early Retirement Journey this week: Review | 3 Free Spreadsheets You Should Try (2nd week in a row)

Wednesday Weekly is a round up of what I stumbled upon this week on the world wide web because sharing resources and information is what the internet's all about.

WHAT I STUMBLED UPON THIS WEEK
Overtaxed Working Memory Knocks the Brain Out of Sync (Quanta Magazine)
Gossiping Is Good (The Atlantic)

WOMEN ON THE WEB
How To Travel Hack Without Using Credit Card Points (Baby Boomer Super Saver)


THIS BLOGGING BUSINESS
How the Heck Do You Use Mailchimp? A Full Tutorial (with video) For Sending Your First Newsletter (Melyssa Griffin)
How to Insert Ads Within your Post Content on WordPress (wpbeginner)


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My Early Retirement Journey - how to be single in your 30s and retire early in your 30s

Why My Credit Scored Dropped 16 Points: What NOT To Do

So I received a notice from Credit Karma that my credit score dropped 16 points. I scoured the site but found no explanation. They state that some fluctuations are normal. I doubt 16 points is a normal fluctuation. I called one of the credit reporting agencies and they stated they were unable to provide me any information over the phone. They would send me a free credit report, and I could then file a dispute if  anything on the report was inaccurate.  Fighting with organizations is my least favorite thing to do. How do you prove "nothing." As in, I did nothing to warrant this drop. The struggle is just ongoing.

 

Sometime in April 2018, I received the free credit report (with no score). It showed me everything I could already see on Credit Karma so that was a bit anti-climactic. I didn't see anything new on the report. The report showed 3 late payments from a federal student loan in 2015 that should have been under a grace period. I thought it was a mistake that would correct itself once my loans were consolidated or have minimum impact on my score in the end. It didn't correct itself and it did impact my score in the end.  I suspect these alleged late payments dropped my credit score dramatically in 2015 from being Very Good/ Excellent to Good/Fair.  But for them to drop again out of the blue down to Fair, I have no explanation and the credit report yielded nothing further.

By way of consumer education, Credit Karma provided some details into what impacts credit score.

My credit score was much higher in the mid 700s just 4 years ago when I was swimming in debt with 2 credit cards at a high balance of $15,000 (total) and a private student loan which at its highest was about $20,000. Both debts have been paid off as of Summer 2017, and their payoff honestly had no significant impact on my credit score conceivably because the student loan account closed, and I closed 2 of the 3 credit card accounts.  My score had already fallen to the mid-low 600s by then.

Although I've had some form of credit, either credit cards, car loan, or student loan since age 18 (so 16 years), CreditKarma shows my average credit age is about 4.5 years because all but 2 accounts are paid off and or closed. It doesn't explain the sudden drop, but according to this report the "young" credit age may be why my score is still so low.

Next steps. At first I did nothing about the credit score. I don't need it for anything. The hard inquiry was from March 2017 when I was getting serious about buying a house. That is on the back burner for the foreseeable future. I wanted the credit report, namely to make sure I hadn't been hacked as that was the primary reason for closing my credit card accounts. I thought keeping them open was supposed to be good for your score, and I wasn't wrong it seems, but it had a negative impact because I was a victim of identity theft.

A recent blogger shared her credit score journey and how she uses credit cards responsibly to keep her score really high. It started to motivate me a little to check this little blip off my list. I took another look at the report that was mailed to me. I considered funding my summer adventure musings with responsible credit card use but decided against it. I want to maintain my position and avoid credit card use at all costs for the foreseeable future. What I did do was file a dispute with the reporting agency explaining that my account should have been under a grace period. It costs nothing and at the very least I'll be exactly where I started. I wanted to feel like I did something while also pushing down the urge to use credit cards again. In the end, I've made up my mind not to be discouraged by the outcome of the dispute and not to get lost in the FIRE comparison game for something that didn't matter just yesterday.

Lessons learned:

  • Monitor your score, if needed to catch fraudulent activities.

  • Mistakes don't correct themselves. Act if you must.

  • Credit card age matters. Keep your oldest one active, if you can do so responsibly. If not, don't.

  • Run your own race to credit score perfection. No one's watching!




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My Week Ending June 22, 2018: Dry Cereal, Girdle, Chisme

Welcome back to My Early Retirement Journey. In case you're just joining us, here's a little bit about me.  I am a single 30-something, openly Christian, hesitantly immigrant-y, human woman. I love watching TV while eating takeout, and I want to retire early. I currently work as a consultant in a tele-health call center making around $40/hr. I started my professional life in 2015 at the ripe ole age of 31 after a few false starts. I spent 2016 paying off about $10,000 worth of credit card debt. I spent 2017 paying off about $20,000 in private student loans; I still have about $300,000 in federal student loans for which I am currently on an income-based repayment plan for the next 25 years, give or take.  I started really getting into savings and investing late 2017 when I stumbled upon the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) community.  In 2018, I made the decision to try to save for a sabbatical and maybe if all goes well continue the journey to early retirement.  Along this journey, I give weekly updates just like this one. Come along with me, I urge you!

Monday – Working early shift this week. Yay. Except even with the sun out, it's still hard to be fully functional at 8a. Had to hit snooze a couple times. Maybe because I went to bed late. Still trying to set limits on blogging time but it's a bit difficult to implement since I really have nothing else to do. Right now I'm hoping to at least get it to two days a week, and then maybe 8 hours a week, then maybe 4 hours a week. Oh, like the 4 hour work week! That would be nice. I also see that for my future life as a FIREee. Had a very single girl dinner of popcorn and dry cereal with water. Yes, I ate the cereal with cold water poured on it. Hashtag unintentional frugalife.

Tuesday – Yay, I went to work today. While the night time coughing has subsided over the last week or so, I've just been staying up for no good reason. Given my recurring ailments and the state of Aunty MERJ just 5 years after she retired at age 62, I've been giving more thought to this FIRE thing. I've tried different scenarios to try to break free earlier than 20 years. Doable. Earlier than 10 years? Less so.  From my ruminations this past weekend, I've got the seedling of a New Deal (thanks FDR!). I wouldn't really have to change too much of my current spending and expenses budget, but I might just end up working for 5 years total, and then taking a break for 5 years. No delayed gratification for this single 30-something!

Wednesday - Worked early again. Was sleepy for most of day. Didn't get to sleep early enough, I suppose. Got DirecTV NOW on a free trial because Netflix was not cutting it. I haven't found a way to scroll by pages yet, so have to click through every channel. Then I remembered why I tend to put a seasonal hold on cable during the summer. Still couldn't find anything to watch. Let Below Deck Mediterranean play in the background.

Thursday - People at work talk so much. All day. Some women really need a lot of emotional support and conversation. Have I lost my ability to relate to others? Do I care? Talked to my cousin last night using Google Voice app since still on and off with my phone. Talked for almost 3 hours (hypocrite much?). She has some very interesting visions of family to which I can't relate. She's married with 2 kids and from what I gathered a bit disappointed that her extended family is not a part of her (and her kids') lives. I have heard this before on the reality shows I watch. But my question to mothers, in particular since it's ultimately their body, their choice, is do you discuss having children with these members of your family and  subsequently come up with a plan on how involved everyone is going to be. Where do these expectations come from?  I used to have a deeper well of compassion for my cousin. It's fading.  Introspectively, she's not whinging about things I haven't whinged about, so I don't know what my problem is.

Also tried to talk FIRE to her and her husband. It did not go well. Didn't I tell myself I would stop doing this? Also tried it with a couple co-workers. Honestly no one's trying to hear it. As soon as I say anything, people love to say things like oh, Dave Ramsey... yeah I did his thing. As Mindy Project says, who Dave Ramsey? 😁 Anyway, I have no one to blame but myself. MERJ, no one cares about your FIRE lean. No. One. As per usual, ran errands. So cereal'ed out! Ugh. Didn't play lotto this week (saved: $2).

Friday - No work till Tuesday. Hashtag staycation. On tap: turkey tacos + tv. Don't know what I'm going to watch yet. I hope something deliciously scary is on Investigation Discovery (ID). On the blogging front, Google searched blog hop last weekend. Added blog to a couple. Enlightening to see all the now defunct blogs. I wonder how long I will last. Also, finally scheduling some down time with this blogging thing. Also, ordered a girdle. I don't think my guts are right after my surgery. Everything just feels loose. Tried to tell my doctor at my last visit. Deaf ears. For those of you new to blogging, I'm now on the following directories: CampFIRE, Rockstar, Women Who Money, Blog-Lovin, Tread Lightly, Retire Early.  Haven't seen much traffic from any of those directories, so if you haven't done it, you're not missing much. And I posted to a few blog-hops last weekend as well. Don't know how exactly those work, but somehow my spreadsheet post seems to be getting a lot of hits. Hmm.

The following paragraph is rated: PG-27 (hot gossip)
Oh in gossip news, in Spanish they call it chisme, my entire life changed, she said hyperbolically. My name is MERJ and I am a recovering Facebook stalker.  (Hi, MERJ!) When I was 27, I tried dating.  Went on 2 dates with this boy I liked.  We held hands. My life was a rom-com for 2 hours. A year later he ended up marrying a girl who used to be his friends with benefits, a self proclaimed exhibitionist and rimmer.  According to Facebook and all the skills I learned from watching ID, it  appears they're no longer together. The clues: they live in separate cities; they both had a hair change (hair changes seem to symbolize a lot of break ups or pivot points in life); their last names changed. Break-up right?!  The marriage was such an inflection point in what I thought I knew about relationships I had to include it in the chronicles of my journey. I feel like a wrong has been righted. The world is good again. On to the weekend!

What was your week like? Ever had that blurry point that became clear so many years later? What about family...any expectations now or in the future? 

TV this week: Below Deck Mediterranean, New Girl reruns
Takeout this week: zilch

BlueBird (no affiliate) balance: $232.80

Note: I use the Amex BlueBird prepaid card in my current Working Budget for regular monthly expenses (groceries, eating out, phone, gas, etc..). My last budget update 03Mar2018 showed this line item as $540/mon (down from $600/mon), but in April 2018 I decided to challenge myself to $430/mon based on my idea that my bare bones budget, if needed and possibly in early retirement, is 500/500/500 housing/student loan/expenses. Since my loans are currently $566/mon I subtracted that $66 from the $500 for expenses and rounded down.

Next pay date: $215 is auto-deposited the 8th and 23rd of every month.

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Seven Spectacular Reasons I Still Shop at Walmart - Like It or Not! (Who Target??)

Welcome back to My Early Retirement Journey. This is my summer of listicles (and catchy title challenge). Why, you ask? Because it's summer!  Who has time to be cooped up in the house reading blogs when there is so much life to enjoy!  So to you, readers, I promise to keep these summer posts short, sweet, and engaging.

So while Walmart is an affiliate, I've made $0.03 since I joined their affiliate program. And that was for a purchase I made. Yes, they allow self-purchases. I sought them out when I started blogging because I love the brand so much. You'll see in most of my weekly updates that I tend to run errands there. For the most part, they're my one-stop shop and since I try to automate as much of my life as possible, it suits me and where I am on My Early Retirement Journey.  After spending a little bit of time earlier this year with Auntie MERJ, I remembered why I love Walmart so much even though millennials give it so much flack. Since we're getting to know each other, I thought I'd share.


Top 7 Reasons I Shop at Walmart (Target? What that?)

  1. Nostalgia. Growing up in small communities around the Mid-West, Walmart was a community staple. It's where we went grocery shopping, bought clothes, hung out. It wasn't until after high school when I moved to DC that I knew or visited stores like Dunkin Donuts, The Container Store, Lowe's, Mr. Tire, and Kroger. At Walmart you could do all you did at these individual stores in one place! Why wouldn't you love that. In high school after a Friday night at the movies and dinner at the local Steak N Shake, we'd inevitably end up at Walmart.  I remember many a weekend hanging out with Aunty MERJ in the fabric section picking out patterns for new outfits or craft projects. I think every Easter, Christmas, and First Day of School outfit were home made from fabric bought at Walmart. When Aunty MERJ would take us on trips on school breaks, we always stopped at Walmart for supplies or just to browse. It was like a tourist destination.

  2. Low prices. Their tagline doesn't lie. It is always low prices. Even if something is a few pennies more at a nearby competitor or on sale somewhere else, the total savings is worth it. Moreover, they price match! Just bring in the ad or pull it up on your phone. Sometimes, they'll even take your word for it. There's no need to shop anywhere else!

  3. Savings catcher app. And just in case you didn't know about a nearby sale at a competitor's store, you can use the Savings Catcher app.  Here's how it works. Download the app. Scan your Walmart receipt and if a local competitor has a lower advertised price, you get an eGift Card for the difference! Does it get any better?

  4. Generous return policy. Walmart has a generous return policy that I take advantage of regularly. Just last week I returned some OPENED items and received a refund. For example, I bought some black cherry flavored water for Aunty MERJ and she did not like it. We returned the other cans and got a full refund. Even if you don't have a receipt they'll give you store credit! Satisfaction guaranteed is their promise.

  5. They sell everything. I can't emphasize the significance of a one-stop shop. There's never a time I prefer to have an errand day take multiple hours by hunting down deals at different stores. Why go to 8 places to get cupcakes for work, new shoes, paper goods, groceries, produce, toiletries? Many people see this as undesirable, but I love it! They can sit in their car driving in traffic and dealing with other drivers. I prefer my one-stop shopping.

  6. Treated the same. Ever go to a store and you feel like the floor staff snub their noses at you. It's as though they assess your buying potential and decide if it's worth their time to do their job. I've had that experience one too many times, but never at Walmart! Admittedly, you'll almost never see anyone on the floor at Walmart but hey that's one less person to snub you in my book.

  7.  Other services. Many Walmart stores also have check-cashing, snack bar/ eateries, banks, beauty salons, car care, and  pharmacies. You can even load my beloved Amex Bluebird card there. I mention them frequently in my weekly updates. And just the other day, Aunty MERJ had a check from over a year ago that I found. It said it was void after 90 days. I couldn't find a definitive answer on how the bank or the origination institution would handle the payout. To avoid fees down the line, I used Walmart's check-cashing service and for just $3 we got the check cashed! That's less than any fee the bank would charge had there been a problem.


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Wednesday Weekly: Jun 20, 2018

Most popular post on My Early Retirement Journey this week: Review | 3 Free Spreadsheets You Might Want To Try

Wednesday Weekly is a round up of what I stumbled upon this week on the world wide web because sharing resources and information is what the internet's all about.

WHAT I STUMBLED UPON THIS WEEK
College May Not Be Worth It Anymore (New York Times)
Making a Killing in Virtual Real Estate (Bloomberg)

WOMEN ON THE WEB
How To Live on $700 a Month (Sarah Titus)


THIS BLOGGING BUSINESS
When Is The Best Time To Publish A Blog Post? (CoSchedule)


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My Early Retirement Journey - how to be single in your 30s and retire early in your 30s

7 FIRE-UNFriendly Things I Still Do on My Early Retirement Journey: A Listicle

My Early Retirement Journey - FIRE UNFriendlyHi, there. If you're just joining My Early Retirement Journey, I had some struggles early in the Journey with how exactly I fit in as I am in the FIRE community. There are some good tips in the FIRE blogosphere about how to live frugally and maximize savings, but not everyone's advice can be applied to your life. It's your life! Live it the way you want! Here are some things I still do or buy that are not particularly FIRE-Friendly so to speak, but it makes my life easier and in the end ..it's my money... I do what I want!

1.  Paper plates, bowls, and utensils. I still use paper plates and bowls and plastic cutlery. I can hear the cringe of environmentalists. I try to eliminate as many barriers to healthy eating as possible because I love eating junk food straight out of the package. If using a paper plate means I'm more likely to eat something more nutritious, that's what I'm going to do. If using a paper plate means I'll bother heating something up without worrying about washing dishes, that's what I'm doing. Hey, I no longer use feminine hygiene products and will never buy a baby diaper and my offspring will never need to own a car or a home because I don't have any offspring!  Take that, carbon footprint.

2. Cut fruit and chopped onions.  I buy pre-cut fruit and chopped onions. I do this because again I try to eliminate as many barriers to nutritious foods as possible. Sometimes, I buy whole fruit and it's unripe or tastes bad. Then I stop eating it for awhile. If it's already cut I can at least examine it before I purchase it. Also cut fruit feels luxurious to me. It's my tiny luxury on this side of My Early Retirement Journey. Also, who likes chopping onions?

3. Single-serve applesauce. I buy single-serve applesauce instead of a big jar. It's easy and portable and counts as a serving of fruit. I keep one in my lunch bag for backup. I'm not at my best every morning. The struggle to get to work is overcome by just getting there. Anything else is just extra.

4. Single-serve oatmeal packets.  I buy single serve oatmeal packets instead of the cost effective economy size. See above. This is also part of Operation: Back-up meals. Sometimes I just don't feel like eating. And when I do, it's usually when I'm already at work. No matter how many meals I eat everyday for the last 30 something years of life pre-planning a meal is something that just seizes my brain sometimes. If I'm not hungry now, my brain can't possibly fathom I'll be hungry in a few hours.  Although... this last winter because of my tooth I was eating a lot of soft foods, so I did get wise and carry around an old mayonnaise jar full of quick oats. That worked.

5. Bottled water. I started buying bottled water in 2017 because the tap water was making my stomach upset. It turned out there was this pink sludge growing on the tap. So I cleaned it but got leery about drinking out of the tap. It's been about a year, and I'm slowly incorporating tap water back into my life and bleaching the tap more often. 
 
6. I don't comparison shop for groceries. I buy most things from Wal-mart and suspect that the savings even out in the long run. Shopping for one doesn't warrant the energy required to comparison shop.

7. I don't use credit cards for rewards or travel points.  I was in credit-card debt twice and I purposed to never use credit cards again; full disclosure I still have one open with the lowest limit of $500. I haven't used it since getting out of credit card debt in 2016.  Keeping it open may help with credit score, but since I don't use it, I don't know if that's true.

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Review | 3 Free Spreadsheets You Might Want To Try

So when I was doing my June 2018 Financial Update, I was looking into different spreadsheets. Primarily I wanted a way to visualize my numbers and maybe refine the spreadsheet I'd made back in December 2017 when I first started this Journey.

Below is what mine looks like. It's functional but a bit clunky and I keep adding things. And then I get annoyed with having to re-write the formula. I want something a bit more automated, and I want it now, says the millennial in me.

My Early Retirement Journey - tracking your spending

Currently I'm only tracking my savings and investment balances quarterly, or every three months. If you're just joining us I just started this Journey Dec 2017 and started blogging around Feb 2018.

Four Pillar Freedom
Onwards. I know Four Pillar Freedom creates some nice visuals and I knew he'd posted a free copy of his spreadsheet. So I gave that a try.
tracking your spending

 
free spreadsheet


Key points:

  • I liked the simple bar graph to track your net worth over time.

  • I liked that there wasn't much data entry involved and I didn't have to manipulate any fields.

  • The spreadsheet is set to track your net worth until 2030. Love that!

  • However it is simply a visual for account balances.


Google Sheets
Next is the Google Sheets Annual Budget sheet. I am becoming more and more of a fan of the Google suite. I think it'll be a tough ask to leave Blogger, says the novice blogger in me. Everything is so easily accessible with just one log-in! (That has an obvious con 👎.)
google sheeets example


  • I had to fumble a bit with this one. It has 4 sheets:

    • Setup - where you just enter your starting balance in one cell

    • Expenses - a very thorough itemized list with about a dozen category headings in alphabetical order; beginner's tip - start entry in each cell with  = and then + each expense as you encounter it from your different statements

    • Income - entered from my paystubs

    • Summary - a nice visual with a line graph and a cumulative and average for each expense category (seen above).



  • I found the summary especially helpful. The line graph charts both income and expenses over time so you can see the distance between each line pictorially. Ideally, you'd want those lines to have a fair amount of distance between them so it's great because you can see how this difference changes over your time horizon.


google sheets summary

 

  •  Next the summaries in numbers (seen above). Gives you a quick overview. I personally didn't realize I had that much income every month because all I get is about a $400 to $500 allowance each month on my prepaid BlueBird card (no affiliate). The rest is auto-deposited to various checking, savings and investment accounts. So not only can you see monthly and cumulative income but you can see see a quick overview of what you're spending in each category, monthly, cumulatively, averaged, and as a bar graph.


 
google sheets summary


  •  The spreadsheet is a bit clunky but overall meets my basic budgeting needs. Of note, I was initially attracted to it because it had a line item for domain registrations and the like. Can you believe that! We are in some modern times!


Zero Day Finance
Next I tried, David's spreadsheets over at Zero Day Finance. Currently, you have to sign up for his mailing list but there are plans in the works to make the spreadsheets available on his site without doing this. Stay tuned!









free budget spreadsheet
Notice the tabs

 

  • That is one involved spreadsheet! There are four sheets of data entry: Accounts, Savings, Spending, Income.

  • Then he does some nice Summary and Analysis for you on the following two spreadsheets. These have a FIRE lean and can calculate your monthly savings rate and cumulative spending rate as the year goes on. That is a nifty feature, I must say.  There are FIRE projections based on your current spending and savings. Using that input, the FIRE projections calculate your anticipated annual FIRE expenses and estimate the amount needed for financial independence based on the oft touted Trinity Study. The Analysis tab then gives you a countdown in years to FI.

  • It is well worth the effort for the active FIREe!


 free investment tracker




  • As a bonus there is a seventh sheet where you can enter in hypothetical numbers and see how that might affect your date to FIRE and a nice visual of projections of your investment horizon.

  • Tip: to change the date to 2018: Open your spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel and locate the date you wish to increment by one month. Type "=DATE(YEAR(A1),MONTH(A1)+1,DAY(A1))" without quotes in a blank cell, replacing "A1" with the reference to the cell containing the date. (source)


Overall, I had to use my spreadsheet and the Google Docs sheet to populate the other two spreadsheets I stumbled upon on these internets. I can see why most people use an app to track these things. I don't mind the manual entry for now. Provides some reflection points. However, I can see how this can get old quite quick as even now I only do updates every 3 months. I've done 2 so far this year, my first year on the Journey.  I actually don't know how the apps work as far as obtaining and calculating your income?? Anyone?

What spreadsheet/apps do you use? Any faves? Any you tried and outgrew? Do tell!

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My Week Ending June 15, 2018: Enema, Frozen Rice, Junk Food

My Early Retirement Journey - single and 30 diariesWelcome back to My Early Retirement Journey. In case you're just joining us, here's a little bit about me.  I am a single 30-something, openly Christian, hesitantly immigrant-y, human woman. I love watching TV while eating takeout, and I want to retire early. I currently work as a consultant in a tele-health call center making around $40/hr. I started my professional life in 2015 at the ripe ole age of 31 after a few false starts. I spent 2016 paying off about $10,000 worth of credit card debt. I spent 2017 paying off about $20,000 in private student loans; I still have about $300,000 in federal student loans for which I am currently on an income-based repayment plan for the next 25 years, give or take.  I started really getting into savings and investing late 2017 when I stumbled upon the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) community.  In 2018, I made the decision to try to save for a sabbatical and maybe if all goes well continue the journey to early retirement.  Along this journey, I give weekly updates just like this one. Come along with me, I urge you!

Monday -  This weekend was splendiforous. Been having some trouble with my GI system that got a little worse after my surgery. Yes, world, I did an enema! Not just one...two! I enjoyed it so much the first time, I had to try it again (NOT!). TMI? Probs. Eh, what are you gonna do.  So went to work feeling a little lighter if you know what I mean. Also created a very bare simplistic time-budget...

My Early Retirement Journey - time study


Realized I have more time than I thought. Hmm...more on that later. Tried to find a way to see my cousin this Wednesday since I have the day off and it's her birthday. Too bad she lives in Michigan. 12 hour drive. Even tried last minute flights. Was willing to spend $433..yes you heard me... but cheapest I could find was close to $700.

I keep doing this...this last minute planning. Planning a trip in advance is of no interest to me but wanting to go when the mood strikes me seems to be the only game my Brain wants to play. I can tell you it's gotten me zero places in the last 2.5 years. Oh well.  Gonna have a staycation Wed.

Tuesday -  So today in frugal living...well, I don't particularly identify myself as frugal. I'm frugalish, frugalesque, frugal-adjacent at best.  Anyway, I was going to say for the last couple weeks I kind of made up my mind to always keep rice cooked. It keeps something on hand and it seems to keep longer than I thought. I think I've kept rice in the fridge for about 2 weeks and eaten it without issue. And if worse comes to worse, I can freeze it. Never really thought about that until I tried a few freezer lunches and realized oh, they have frozen rice. I can do that too! The simple things. Anyway, so far so good. Sometimes I just eat it with fried eggs and salt and I love those dried sprinkle onions that you find in the seasoning aisle. No one should follow my food choices, it's a definite work in progress.

Wednesday - Had a pretty nice day off. No temptation to go to work. Working late shift this week anyway so that might be partly why. Watched some season six episodes of Married at First Sight. It's getting harder and harder to watch people make the same poor choices in relationships.  But I have a completely one-sided view on that type of thing. Tried to find a way to watch Investigation Discovery for free. I don't know why I keep coming back to these crime shows...they make me so scared. Got me thinking, if I were president (you know like the elementary school prompt), I'd create a Let Her Live law. The idea being men that engage in heinous violence against women but then end the victim's life to try to hide the evidence could let her live and if they confess the crime within a year, the death penalty would be off the table, something like that.

Thursday - Oh my gosh, what a day! Well I can tell you my pseudo-bowel prep and enema adventures from the weekend must be kicking in or it's this A2 milk I started drinking. So much to say! I told myself to try to limit blogging time to Tuesdays and Fridays, but I didn't want to forget everything I had to say, so here I am Thursday at 10:41pm EST blogging. Anyway, did my errand run at Walmart. The bill was only about $25 but of note was the junk I bought.

Last week was another junky haul and this week my sugar binge continues. I've been having trouble lately mustering up an appetite. Sometimes that happens in the summer to me, I think. But I've been using that as an excuse to buy garbage. Today's grocery haul garbage: 1 box Frosted Flakes, a 2lb bag+ of generic Crunch Berries (it was cheaper than the smaller box). #ughfoodwaste.  And a package of festive Oreos. All unnecessary and NOT on my list. I only had produce and Ziploc bags and soda. Soda is also a junky item, but sometimes in the summer it seems to help cool me down.

In other news, I submitted my 5 week PTO (paid time off) request for Sep 2019. Mini sabbatical, mini-retirement here I come?! I figure I can save 200 hours of PTO between Sep 2018 and Sep 2019. I picked those dates because my 3 year anniversary is this Sep 2018 and my PTO accrual rate goes up to about 7.3 hours per pay period. And in one year we accrue 22 days of PTO. So it seems this goal-setting mindset is pervasive.  On my day off this week, I just decided instead of taking these short breaks, I'm going to try to take one long break. I've been trying to figure out how to take time off since I started working.. haha... it's what began this whole journey. Ideally, I'd love to relax, restore, and just have a retirement preview-cation... maybe explore some early retirement spots...maybe not... no pressure.

Oh another good thing, Aunty MERJ has a doctor's appointment. One of her sisters is taking her to the doctor next Tuesday! Win! I didn't have to do anything. Like Tuppeny pointed out, I can lend a hand at least in the administrative tasks of elder care. I'll likely find other ways to be helpful, but I don't have to do it all!

In blogging news, still grappling with how active I want to be on social media. I'm not active on any social media in my real life specifically because it started to negatively affect my quality of life and perception of reality. I think until I can stop having ups and downs with the psychological aspect of blogging, I'll let it be for now.  I like writing so much, but I get so seduced by the reported successes of others!

Friday -  Working 11:30 to 7:30pm today and it's inching by.  No complaints overall. Did a minor Google search this morning for a side hustle gig. Nada. I know I should be resting, but with all this daylight, there's money to be made! Trying to get excited about a Netflix premiere, Set It Up; planning to get pizza after work; got soda on Thursday as mentioned, and popcorn, and cookies. We shall see! I think I keep binging on cereal because I haven't been able to drink milk for about 10 years and I missed it! After awhile, I suspect even the A2 milk will turn on me so I'm having a bit of FOMO with breakfast cereal. Yassss, queens, this is 30s. How was your week?

TV this week: Married at First Sight -Season 6, New Girl - Seasons 4 and 1, Ali's Wedding
Takeout this week: zilch as of Friday 5:49pm

BlueBird balance (no affiliate): $68.28

Note: I use the Amex BlueBird prepaid card in my current Working Budget for regular monthly expenses (groceries, eating out, phone, gas, etc..). My last budget update 03Mar2018 showed this line item as $540/mon (down from $600/mon), but in April 2018 I decided to challenge myself to $430/mon based on my idea that my bare bones budget, if needed and possibly in early retirement, is 500/500/500 housing/student loan/expenses. Since my loans are currently $566/mon I subtracted that $66 from the $500 for expenses and rounded down.

Next pay date: $215 is auto-deposited the 8th and 23rd of every month.

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Scrapbook | Jun 2018 - Junky Grocery Haul


Hey there! Welcome back to My Early Retirement Journey. I don't know what direction this blog is going quite yet. Making money off of it seems to be a long way off, if ever. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy this part of the journey and add some fun pictures along the way! My new brainchild is this scrapbook series. It's one of my favorite things to do even virtually, so I hope you like it! And remember if you enjoy what we're doing here, then Follow us on Twitter Like us on Facebook / Share/ Comment/ Subscribe!

So if you've been following along with my most recent weekly update, I hit a financial milestone and got a little spendy. Well, I bought some rando items just because. They made me giggle so I thought I'd share this part of Summer 2018 so far...









My Early Retirement Journey - sandals
$10 strappy sandals










My Early Retirement Journey - square pan with lid
$8 covered square pan from Walmart, only been eyeing it for 2.5 years now!











My Early Retirement Journey - enema
This is before eating all that junk....










My Early Retirement Journey - enema
This is after eating all that junk... 😌



 

My Early Retirement Journey - grocery haul

Yummy find.
Impulse buy..sort of.
Lucky Charms (2lb): $3
Chips Ahoy cereal: $4
My Early Retirement Journey - grocery haul




Some refreshing soda for movie night this weekend.
On tap: pizza + popcorn + soda
Movie: Set It Up









My Early Retirement journey - grocery haul



Colossal Crunch: $3
Frosted Flakes: $2
Firework Oreos: $3
Popcorn: $4

All the fun I'll have eating it: Priceless!


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Wednesday Weekly: June 13, 2018

Most popular post on My Early Retirement Journey this week: My Week Ending June 8, 2018: 100k, Google Docs, Auntie Dearest

Wednesday Weekly is a round up of what I stumbled upon this week on the world wide web because sharing resources and information is what the internet's all about.

WHAT I STUMBLED UPON THIS WEEK
 How to Make Tough Decisions Easier (The New York Times)

WOMEN ON THE WEB
The Quest of Laurene Powell Jobs (The Washington Post)
The Passion Profile Quiz (Clarity on Fire)

THIS BLOGGING BUSINESS 
7 Steps to Use Google Calendar to Create Your Editorial Calendar (Your Marketing BFF)
How To Optimize Images For Your WordPress Website (Elegant Themes)

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My Early Retirement Journey - how to be single in your 30s

How Being A Victim of Identity Theft Helped Me Take Control of MyFinances and Pay Off $30,000 of Debt in 2 Years


So I thought I'd share my debt payoff story. I didn't think there was much there, but perhaps I don't give myself enough credit (no pun intended). I just thought - I got into debt when I didn't have any money; I got out of debt when I did. That's the overall gist. End of story. And in fact as I got deeper into the recesses of my debt history, it started to get more personal and less finance. I almost didn't want to publish this part of the journey. But baring our soul through the lens of personal finance is what we do here in the hopes that it will inspire the next person and help that one person feel a little less alone.  Read on then if you dare.



Background: The Identity Theft
Between 2016 to 2017, I was a victim of identity theft. Some new credit cards were mailed to an old address and someone stole them out of the mailbox. I had no idea as I still had the old credit cards in my possession. However due to the new chip technology, new credit cards were shipped along with balance transfer checks. Those were stolen as well. From one credit card about $3500 was stolen. With the other credit card about $15,000 was attempted to be stolen.  I kept those cards opened and unused because I thought that was what you were supposed to do.




From Discover during identity theft; had been making $400 payments for a 2 to 3 year pay off, but quickly changed direction after theft.



It took about 6 months for all my accounts to be cleared. I subsequently closed all but one account. Discover Card (no affiliate) was really helpful, and it just required one phone call to report my account compromised.  I didn't close that account in the end but I did lower the limit to $500 and was informed it would not be increased without request.

The Debt: $30,000

Debt History:  I graduated from grad school in 2007 from a teacher education program. I didn't go into teaching and couldn't find a full time job living in southern California. I did however engage in some funemployment opportunities including tutoring at $30/hr; being a production assistant on a movie set for $0/hr + free food; wardrobe assistant $100/day; being an extra $120/ day; substitute teaching $90/day; script supervisor $0/hr + free food and others. They didn't pay all my bills.


Credit Card Debt: Between 2007 and 2017 I ended up accruing about $10,000 in credit card debt that I revolved around credit cards with 0% interest rates. During My Journey, there were at least several nights where I slept in my car to save money so this debt was not due to lifestyle inflation, per se, just life, I would say, and what I now know to be a careless approach to personal finance.



Private Student Loan Debt: The loan was a teaching forgiveness loan originating at $15,000. Because it was a private loan I couldn't consolidate it with my other federal student loans.  I used it to live off during my periods of unemployment. I didn't go into teaching and ten years later I owed $20,000.  You'll see in one of the screenshots that I had a payment plan different from the standard repayment to try to keep it from going delinquent. The monthly payment amount varied over the ten years from $25 to $173, as my income changed, to a a few lump sums in 2017.





After the identity theft, it became clear I had to take control of my finances. It was tough seeing my mistakes along with the theft and then having to figure out which debt was mine. Luckily it was not too difficult to discern because on one account they used balance transfer checks which stood out because I never did that. And on the other account they swiped the card which I never did.





The Payoff:
There wasn't one particular strategy I used to pay off $30,000 as this debt followed me for almost a decade. I would say paying it off in 2 years was a combination of a few little things. The first being that when I was finally gainfully employed, I had money left over after monthly expenses. I already had a car that ran well for the most part; my apartment was less than 30% of my net income and the only thing I liked spending my money on was cable and eating out. And even eating out wasn't breaking the budget.

Things I Did Do:




  • Asked for a payment plan for the first 10 years to keep private student loan out of delinquency (2007 to 2017).

  • For the credit card debt, when I could I would open new 0% interest credit cards and do balance transfers.

  • Once, I asked one of the credit cards to lower my rate from 18.99% to 9.99% and they did that with a simple ask.

  • Went back to school to get a better paying job.

  • Once had better paying job, saved all my extra money after expenses.

  • To be honest, I planned to just go back to the standard repayment plan on the private student loan when I started working again.  However, it became harder for me to spend money after I joined the workforce full time because I spent so much of my day time hours working. It was only a 9 to 5, but it was everyday...forever (until I found FIRE).

  • I had saved for a down payment on an affordable town home an hour away from when I work. After the identity theft, I felt so exposed. I felt compelled to pay off my debts and close as many accounts as possible.

  • Paid more than the minimum on the credit cards. After the theft, did a few lump sums to get them cleared so they could stop haunting me.

  • I learned to wait my turn.

Things I Didn't Do:


  • Did not inflate my lifestyle. Before I went back to professional school I was making $18/hr; after graduating I was making $41/hr.

  • Didn't buy a house. It ended up not making sense for me financially after MUCH inner debate and the decision felt more psychologically sound after the theft.

  • Didn't get married and have a lavish wedding.

  • Didn't have a baby.

  • Didn't go on vacation for 2 years and counting. Planned a trip to Peru that I ended up cancelling. Months later planned and cancelled a trip to Mexico.

  • Didn't buy a new car.

  • Didn't get my hair done at $100/week. Ended up cutting it myself with scissors. It looks terrible.

  • Didn't get a smart phone. In fact went a year without a phone.

  • For the side hustlers out there, I can admit, I probably could have worked 5 or 6 jobs instead of living off loans, but I didn't.

  • For the strategic student loan borrowers, I would advise not getting a private loan or if you do, creatively roll it into your federal loan. I didn't do that but wish I had.

Was it worth the sacrifice?


The honest answer is paying down my debt didn't feel like a sacrifice.  I wasn't used to having that much extra money so I didn't have a chance to get comfortable with it. I just saved it. As I said, there were times in My Journey that I have slept in my car to save money.  That kind of experience never leaves you.



Learning to wait my turn.


One of the lessons I have learned throughout this journey is learning to wait my turn. I've learned to live without some things I may desire because I just don't have the money for it. For example, I would really like to live in a nice house. When I was in the housing market, I was approved for a $400,000 mortgage and boy was I tempted to say forget this budget, I want what I want. I honestly don't know why I was approved for so much. No matter how I crunched the numbers, there's no way I could afford that much mortgage! So I've just learned to wait my turn. My day will come.



Not getting the $400,000 house keeps me free to look for alternative housing more aligned with my next season of life.  Not feeding into the frenzy of the latest adventure/gadget/trend has helped me save money; identify my priorities; and seek what truly suits me. I am learning to wait my turn.  On My Early Retirement Journey, I am searching for peace, belonging, and community, and a $400,000 house that I can't afford or keeping up with the trendy Joneses do not bring me those things. I've left the noise and become comfortable with the silence.



My debt journey is why I stick with my job even though most days I feel like just staying in and seeing what happens. The struggle was too recent and some days I think I'm just one mis-step away from being back in that place. I printed the zero- balance letter from my loan and keep it in my cube. It's been  about 9 months now and I barely notice it.


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Financial Update | June 2018 Savings and Investment

Hey there! Welcome back to My Early Retirement Journey. In case you're just joining us, here's a little bit about me.  I am a single 30-something, openly Christian, hesitantly immigrant-y, human woman. I love watching TV while eating takeout, and I want to retire early. I currently work as a consultant in a tele-health call center making around $40/hr. I started my professional life in 2015 at the ripe ole age of 31 after a few false starts. I spent 2016 paying off about $10,000 worth of credit card debt. I spent 2017 paying off about $20,000 in private student loans; I still have about $300,000 in federal student loans for which I am currently on an income-based repayment plan for the next 25 years, give or take.  I started really getting into savings and investing late 2017 when I stumbled upon the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) community.  In 2018, I made the decision to try to save for a sabbatical and maybe if all goes well continue the journey to early retirement.  Along this journey, I give all sorts of updates, just like this one.

This is the June 2018 Update of my savings and investments balances, i.e. my personal capital. I don't call it net worth because my massive student loan debt keeps me at a negative net worth and frankly that's discouraging.

I tried my hand at Excel to make a simple bar graph. It took a few hours to remember all the words. I kept getting so many error messages. So if it's been awhile since you tried Excel, don't give up after the first error message! Once you figure out what they're asking for, it only takes about 15 minutes to format.

Let's quickly recall some budget items:

2018 Savings goal: $37,000/yr (2017: no goal)
Monthly savings contributions: $3115/mon

 



 

When you add in my Safety Net Fund + Regular Savings and Checking, the amount is a little more.

q2investmentchart2-myearlyretirementjourney

 

💜 Yay! I've sort of reached that enviable $100,000 hump.💜 I'm not celebrating yet. I don't really count my checking and savings amount yet. I see that as my safety net fund. Experts recommend 6 months. I went ahead and saved for about 1 year of expenses ($30,000) for a couple reasons. First, it was a default choice because I had that first 6 months in CDs and I didn't want to cash them out when I first started investing in Dec 2017.  Secondly, I have this fantasy of just quitting my job and in case I do, I'd like to have 6 months readily accessible. I mean I probably won't, but sometimes humans do crazy things. Also, both my brokerage account and 401k are using my traditional retirement age of 65 to allocate my funds at a risky 90% in stocks. I keep going back and forth (future scheduled posts), but in short, it makes me feel better to have 1 year's expenses on hand. I know the compound interest lost is causing investment aficionados to gasp in horror, but again, I've only been investing "actively" for about 6 months now.  That's all folks!

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My Week Ending June 8, 2018: 100k, Google Docs, Auntie Dearest

Welcome back to My Early Retirement Journey. In case you're just joining us, here's a little bit about me.  I am a single 30-something, openly Christian, hesitantly immigrant-y, human woman. I love watching TV while eating takeout, and I want to retire early. I currently work as a consultant in a tele-health call center making around $40/hr. I started my professional life in 2015 at the ripe ole age of 31 after a few false starts. I spent 2016 paying off about $10,000 worth of credit card debt. I spent 2017 paying off about $20,000 in private student loans; I still have about $300,000 in federal student loans for which I am currently on an income-based repayment plan for the next 25 years, give or take.  I started really getting into savings and investing late 2017 when I stumbled upon the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) community.  In 2018, I made the decision to try to save for a sabbatical and maybe if all goes well continue the journey to early retirement.  Along this journey, I give weekly updates just like this one. Come along with me, I urge you!
My Early Retirement Journey - how to be single in your 30s and retire early

Monday - Monday was a great day. I worked 9a-5p. It's so busy at work! I was stacking calls left and right. Nothing too bad though. Explored some visualizations inspired by Four Pillar Freedom (4PF). It took two hours to remember how to use Excel and get my data entered correctly, but once I did the chart was a cinch! It looks great! I just looked at it in wonder. Creating things never ceases to amazes me.  Shh...don't tell but I may or may not have hit the $100k mark this month!  My savings and investment update is scheduled to publish this weekend so be ready for that!  I also downloaded 4PF's mini-Excel course to see if I can learn something new. Eh, had toyed around with a second job for the summer with these long days. But maybe I should just rest? Single girl dinner: 1 cup of rice + 1/2 can of sardines + dried onions sprinkled. Yum!

Tuesday - Inspired by the work I did tracking, visualizing, and updating my savings and investment spreadsheet yesterday coupled with tracking Aunty MERJ's expenses, I decided to tackle tracking my annual expenses. I encountered a few different spreadsheets of late and finally settled on the Google Sheets template for Annual Budget. It had a lot of categories that I tried to eliminate at first but after spending some more time with it, I just used it as is. I think it'll be interesting to see how those one-off expenses add up in the end. I thought it would be too time-consuming, and it did take about 2 hours. And that's with 2 screens. But it felt like a victory to see all my expenses right there. Once I got into data entry mode, I took the emotions out of it and was able to input the data without much reflection. In truth, that's one of the reasons I don't do the zero dollar accounting when tracking my expenses - I can't guarantee how I'll feel afterwards.

Anyway, I did it and it feels awesome! Had another little creation high. The spreadsheet isn't perfect because I couldn't eliminate unnecessary categories without disrupting the formulas and I couldn't find a good way to account for savings so I just listed them as an expense. I mean they say pay yourself first right, so that works for now. I recommend it if you're exploring spreadsheet tracking. If you have a Gmail account just go to Google docs > Google sheets and the template is right there.  What really sold me was the summary and the cursory little bar graph at the end.  So far I haven't found a good way to track both income, expenses, and savings and investments in one place. I guess that software all the big time bloggers promote is probably the answer. The manual tracking is alright for now. Any tips on getting out of a car loan? Aunty MERJ has paid principal plus about 30% in interest and fees on a usurious car loan and I can't find a way out.

Wednesday - Had the day scheduled off, but my apartment was so warm when I woke up and there was construction noise. Decided to head in after some debate. Only have $6 left on BlueBird card, so not sure what I can spend it on in terms of take-out. Also not much on TV these days. Now I'm at work and thinking of just working a half-day. Talked to Aunty MERJ and now she wants to go to the doctor, but she's in Maryland and I'm in NC. Not sure how she's going to get a ride as all our family up there live active-full-time-job-lives (all 4 siblings, and 5 adult nieces and nephews). She transferred her urgency to me and I suggested she go to urgent care or the emergency room. A friend might be able to take her, might not. I suddenly start panicking. What do I do!

Once off the phone, I looked at the situation more logically. Choice A: arrange for a nurse assistant to take her to urgent care and likely ED @ $26/hr x 4 hrs minimum + miles (I know this readily because I  looked into it for my surgery.  Choice B: She wait until July when I can go pick her up and bring her back to NC and establish care.  She seemed to think she could just go to MD and go to "the doctor" and get checked out. It doesn't quite work like that and now she's frustrated. Likely an internal medicine doctor isn't going to "fix" her in just one visit. She'll have to find one, make an appointment, find a way there, and then likely see several specialists all of which will require phone calls and appointment which she may or may not be able to do. Why don't I do it? Well I initially went to Tampa to bring her back to NC so we could establish care here, but she refused to go because she wanted so much to attend my cousins' graduation. How can you get mad at someone who's lost their cognitive ability to reason well?

The only choice I thought I had to make today was what I wanted for lunch...oh and maybe if I wanted to come into work today. Now have already searched for a mattress, box, spring, bed frame and created an ad to sell my desk to create space for her unpredictable visits. At least some separation might ease the tension. We shared a bed for the ten days she was here last. No bueno!

Thursday -  On my lunch break. Just talked to Aunty MERJ. Every day is truly a new day. Now her skin is itching her so badly she's no longer having a good time, likely due to past medical history significant for chronic kidney disease. I don't know what medication she was on that was helping or if it was helping. What I saw when I was last there is not what she told me was working. What I saw before was a cream in a tube. On last visit in March, I saw an oil in a bottle. The only RX I could find in her med list was for the oil. Her last mission was getting to the graduation. Now that that's over, the only thing she wants to talk about is finding a doctor. Somehow she is having trouble "finding a doctor." I can't quite understand what she's trying to do and of course she can't properly communicate. I put my desk on sale on Craig's list last night to try to make room for her. Then she says she'd rather be in MD than NC. When I finally mustered the courage to ask why, she said it's because she has her own room.  Ughhh...this is way out of my healthy zone. I don't even want to say comfort, because I'm willing to be uncomfortable but my mental state is at unrest when I can't properly plan for or anticipate the future. I generally cut out things from my life that have variable outcomes. Oy!

Friday - Worked till 2p. Spent breaks and lunch trying to get a ride to urgent care or a new refill for Aunty MERJ. Got the refill. Phew. Praise the Lord! Eye-twitch came back. Creative energy zapped. Had some ideas to add to this post but feeling a bit drained. Ugh. Had doctor's appointment ($30) at 3p. After a 40 minute drive, waited on drafty exam table for an hour with no bottoms. Was about to leave 1 hour after my appointment time and finally doctor came in. Saw her for 17 minutes. Ugh.  Blocked GI again. Was going to watch the 50 Shades of Grey Trilogy this weekend but not in the mood right now.  Overall, bought a few non-essential items at my weekly Walmart errand run and have a couple more planned. So far bought 2 boxes of cereal and a pair of sandals totaling about $17 plus tax. This happens sometimes when I become aware of my budget or finances. Goal seems daunting = spend more; goal seems achievable = spend more; right on or near target = no change in spending or slightly more thrifty. Overall though the Amex Bluebird card worked because when I had no money on it, I didn't want to use my bank card to get fast food. It felt... a bit much? Unnecessary?

Alright it's 8pm EST. Gonna lay down on my belly and wait for the next day to come.  If I were to take a beat and count my blessings this week a number of positive things happened including: getting featured on WomenMoneyTalks, reaching another financial milestone, re-learning a new skill and more.... It doesn't feel like it at this exact moment, but I was happy just yesterday.

TV this week: 100% Hotter, New Girl reruns at night, Jane the Virgin, Champions (ahhh, I didn't know The Mindy Project was reincarnated into a half-Indian gay teen-aged boy!!! why did no one tell me), For The People, The Middle
Takeout this week: Jerk chicken and rice

BlueBird (no affiliate) balance: $111.60

Note: I use the Amex BlueBird prepaid card in my current Working Budget for regular monthly expenses (groceries, eating out, phone, gas, etc..). My last budget update 03Mar2018 showed this line item as $540/mon (down from $600/mon), but in April 2018 I decided to challenge myself to $430/mon based on my idea that my bare bones budget, if needed and possibly in early retirement, is 500/500/500 housing/student loan/expenses. Since my loans are currently $566/mon I subtracted that $66 from the $500 for expenses and rounded down.

Next pay date: $215 is auto-deposited the 8th and 23rd of every month.

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