Everything I Spent On Travel in 2019 So Far

Originally published/last updated on myearlyretiremenjourney.com on 22 May 2019.

So last week I returned from my last planned excursion for 2019. I added the final figures to my spreadsheet and thought I would share for the financial voyeurs out there.

It also helps me to take a moment and analyze.
This spending is not typical for me. The last time I took anything other than a staycation was in 2014 before I completed my clinical rotations for my degree program. I had an okay time but mentally noted it would be awhile before I traveled again. Full disclosure, I said I would never travel again.
Never turned out to be just five years. In 2019, I got soooo bored staring at my walls on the weekends, I challenged myself to get out of the house. One of the ladies I met on my most recent trip said I took it to the extreme as I could’ve just gone to the mall.
Suffice it to say, out of the house I did get. I even checked off a couple things on my non-existent bucket list, namely visiting South America. That trip was pretty cool. I don’t think I’ll NEVER travel again, but I know if I do, I prefer luxury, adventure, and a little bit of outdoors; and I’m a fan of the escorted trips. Makes it so much less stressful. I just click, pay, and show up!
I didn’t have a budget ahead of time, but I figured around my annual bonus would be a good focal point. I also realized I’d spent a lot on my family ($5-7k/yr) in the last two years and thought it would be nice to spend more on myself (but less than what I spent on them). All said and done, I think I’d rather help them. True story.
My bonus this year (2019) was: $3,769 (gross). I netted a little bit more than half that.
South Africa (Mar 2019)Grand Canyon (Mar 2019)Toronto (Mar 2019)South America (May 2019)
Vacation Package$1,018.14
Transportation to/fro Airport$114.39$214.30
Airport Parking$14.00$14.00$35.00
Rental Car$47.44$20.98
Transportation Other
Fuel related to excursion$67.46$22.47
*What I could’ve spentwas $4182.92was $894.68was $555.99
2019 TRAVEL GRAND TOTAL$2,953.24 (11% of projected annual budget)
Thoughts on Travel Expenses.
My least expensive trip was my day trip to Toronto and Niagara Falls, Ontario.  I applied for and used the American Airlines credit card to get $200 off my airfare. (First time successfully travel hacking!) That covered one way. I didn’t plan to stay overnight, so there were no hotel expenses. I rented a car in Toronto and drove to Niagara Falls and back in one day.
My most expensive was my trip to South America. Bucket list item! I have now visited five of the seven continents by age 35! I had visited four by age 25, and that fifth one just snuck in.
While pricey, my trip to South America was the easiest. Well sort of. For as much as I did, I didn’t have to do much planning. If you’ve never used a Groupon Getaway or done an escorted trip, I highly recommend it. I saw the trip on Groupon but ended up buying directly from the merchant (Gate 1 Travel). Other people got the same deal for $650. Ugh, but even though I overpaid, it was a worthwhile experience for me.
The big headache on my end was getting to and from Fort Lauderdale (FLL). When I first booked the trip, I was trying to use as little vacation days as possible. I ended up buying a total of 5 tickets between RDU and FLL in case any of my flights got cancelled or delayed. I used two, one was cancelled, and I received travel credit on the other two. Oy!
And in case you were wondering…Yes, you can make it from Terminal 4 (Jet Blue) to Terminal 1 (Southwest) and get through customs and security in 45 minutes at FLL, provided you’re first in line at customs,  you walk fast, and ask someone to cut in line at security on the domestic side!
Grand Canyon was the least fun to plan. I planned a whole trip to Phoenix before I found a cheaper way to visit the Grand Canyon by flying through Las Vegas.  Let’s just say I have a lot of travel credit to tide me over for awhile. Thanks, Southwest! So the “What I could’ve spent” category includes expenses related to my mishaps, first looks, and temptations along the way.
Ultimately my trip to South Africa saw the most cost-savings because it was essentially a staycation. I stayed with my extended family so I didn’t have to shell out any money for lodging, transportation, or food! Thanks, fam! No credit-card travel hacking required.
What have you spent on travel in 2019 so far?

Why I’m Not Paying off My $300k Student Loan Debt

Originally published/last updated on myearlyretiremenjourney.com on 22May2019. 

So when my student loan post first came out sometime last year (2018), I received a lot of attention and mixed feedback. To this day,  I still get the sporadic suggestion to aggressively pay off this debt or the ‘you’ll never retire early with that much debt.’ Thanks?
Pay off $300,000 of unsecured debt? Honestly, the thought hasn’t even crossed my mind.
Well, as I’m learning not to say in the work place…how does it benefit me? Since I’m blogging anonymously (although I know the Republic could find me in 10 seconds if they tried), I feel a little more free to explain what I mean.

1. I can’t afford it.

I paid the first monthly installment in 2016 sometime when I initially entered standard repayment and I literally had no money left. If you don’t believe me, here’s the net pay from my most recent paystub. We get paid twice a month.
My target monthly spending (incl the current $570/mon income-based student loan payment) is $2,167. And that’s buying only regular, recurring things.  Without income based repayment, my standard monthly payment would be more than $3,000/mon x 10 years. So where would that money even come from?

2. The Federal Government is okay with it.

If the government is okay with my only paying a fraction of what I owe, why would I argue? I have absolutely no qualms about it. Absolutely. None.
To see what I mean by fraction, let’s just do some quick math using the 2018 data in my original post as the loan balance hasn’t changed much, in fact I think it’s increased a bit (yes, you heard that right).
Current income based monthly payment:  $570/ mon x 12 mon/ yr x 25 years =  $171,000 repaid
Standard Repayment (2018 values): $3,642/ mon x 12 mon/yr x 10 years =  $437,040 repaid
Difference: $437,040 – $171,000 = $266,040
Why, yes I will take this bargain! As I said, Qualms = 0.

3. Have I ever mentioned how much I don’t enjoy working.

I would literally have to put retirement savings on hold for 10 years when my single most consistent goal of late is leaving the workforce…as early as possible.
Read more: About Me
Just last week, I actually printed off a resignation letter. In the past, it was just a thought. Then it was a draft in my journal at home. Then it was a draft in my Google Docs that I sometimes access at work. Then it was a draft in my email. Then that draft was deleted. Then half a year later, a second draft was well…drafted. Then Thursday afternoon of last week that draft was printed.
This was a feat because I just moved cubicles and had to add a new default printer. So did that, THEN printed my drafted resignation letter. Friday, I ripped it. I made $600 for two days’ work (a total of about 8 phone calls). I make no money staying home, eating, and watching TV. Ultimately, I stay for that reason. The privilege echoed in these last two paragraphs is sickening and I’m not even a white-man.  Eek! Let’s hurry up and be done talking about this!

4. But what if…

Sure I’ve heard a few people repeat the same thing… that one thing they heard that one time…but what if… blah, blah, blah, government, blah, blah. To date, no one has presented me any reliable data that loan forgiveness is not the best thing ever (Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) or the Income-Based Forgiveness)! But for some reason there is a pervasive thought that this is all some sort of fly by night scheme.
Just as an example, the Federal Perkins Loan program (ended in 2018) has been around since 1958, to name one, and that has offered teachers and public service workers loan forgiveness successfully without hysteria. I benefited from that. So this is not a new thing.
Just last night a friend who most certainly qualifies for PSLF told me they took out $18,000 from their investment account to pay down a student loan that can be forgiven just to hack at the principal a little. A little. This is six figure student loan debt and they’re on an income-based plan. According to her, they were advised by two professionals. What?! Someone advised you to do that and you believed them?! This is one of many friends who blindly follows the advice of a white man, when the numbers just don’t lie. If loan forgiveness is the goal and if you’re not paying the standard loan repayment amount, “extra money” thrown at the debt does nothing.
Twice we’ve talked about this, and this friend remains resolute that their decision is the best based on poor financial advice (hello, not everyone is good at their job) and some random article they read on NPR. Note they also don’t contribute the max to their 403b plans (same financial planner me thinks). Now that I think about it, this same friend told me abortion was illegal in like 3 states. Also not true. I digress. I think people just read the headlines and parrot the hysteria. I don’t understand the humans. The laws in America are mostly good. There are so many checks and balances. Even if a bad law makes it through, it doesn’t stick around for long.
Come to think of it, at least two other friends refuse to believe in student loan forgiveness (or FIRE for that matter). So my advice is this: read whatever click-bait article closely, understand the repayment process, run the numbers yourself and stop feeding into the hysterics.
As for me, my repayment contract says, I pay the amount my income dictates x 25 years. At the end, the remaining balance is forgiven (and taxed). If I retire early and my income is zero, then guess what: I pay nothing!  Where is bad?

Scrapbook: Ecuador 2019

Originally published/last updated on myearlyretiremenjourney.com on 21May2019.

I got back from Ecuador last week. It was pretty great. I had a good time overall. I ate well (three hot meals a day), got okay sleep, and spent a bit of time outdoors. I hiked, traveled by canoe, and almost ate beetle larvae. I dipped my feet in hot springs, called the US for free (just my work voice mail because I ain’t got no fraaands), and took long bus rides over the river Napo (an Amazon tributary) and through the woods. I read a few books and for several moments I forgot my life.
These are the moments I captured.
View from the bus. The Three Marias.
The equator line!
Where we stayed. Only accessible by canoe!
A yummy lunch I didn’t have to prepare!
Hot Springs!
The Middle of the World!
What the pictures don’t show.
– The random bug or allergy bites up and down my legs. There were no mosquitoes and I didn’t see or feel anything actually bite me but when I woke up there they were.
– Not everyone on the tour group was very nice.
– I didn’t necessarily want to stay, but I dreaded coming back home to my nothing life.
What about you? Have you been to South America? 

Patience Is Not One of My Virtues

Originally published/last updated on myearlyretiremenjourney.com on 20May2019. 

So as it turns out, I’m incredibly impatient. I’ve always been a little anxious (not clinically, of course). When I was in school for my last degree, I knew I’d have to work 30 more years so what was the point of a part-time job. In fact growing up, I’d always thought it’d be nice to be one of the people who could say I worked in Widget Factory for 30 years! They always sounded so proud.
We moved around so much, I think I just liked the stability of knowing exactly what each day would bring.
When will I learn “one of these is not like the other…” is the resounding theme of my life and that one is me! This girl.
Fast forward 30 years, give or take a few. I’m 3 years into my second career and I want out! And I literally just got moved to a team with much less of a workload, and I’m still trying to dig my way out with a spoon. What is wrong with me! I’m not stressed; underpaid; or in a toxic work situation. I just don’t want to work anymore.
So I bought those trips because I thought it would give me something to look forward to and diminish my savings a bit and thereby keep me working longer. It seemed like a good idea at the time. It worked a little bit. I mean I just finished my last trip and I’m still employed. So check, check!
However, now I’m back on the same hamster wheel. I don’t think being part of the FIRE community online is helping. We are different parts of ourselves online that probably isn’t sustainable IRL (in real life). I know this. I also know how hot and miserable summer will be in my apartment. And having nothing to do on the weekends will be made even worse when I attach the 5 work days preceding.
I managed to work out that I don’t have to work 30 more years to achieve financial freedom. I got it down to 10. I even talked a big game about taking a sabbatical in 2020. So, yay a break in a couple years! Then I said, bump that, I’m taking time off this Sept 2019. Now I’m ready to go last week.
Mostly this was fueled by daydreams of a couple jobs I’d applied for. See what visualization gets you! I so believed I was going to be turning in my resignation letter for greener pastures, my mind is stuck in that place. I think now it’s mostly fueled by the rejection; the loss of semblance of control of my outputs and outcomes; and the failure of my friendship outreach 2019.
I see why people engage in self-destructive behaviors…this temporary loss of control just drives you mad. I know it’s insane to quit my job but you just want to grasp for something. You get stuck in your own head and whatever poorly conceived notion your mind comes up with just seems LIKE THE BEST AND RIGHT DECISION. It’s not. I know it. But I can’t help it! Maybe I’m just constipated (which has been known to affect my mood), but I think I’m going to quit my job tomorrow.

May 6, 2019 Life Update: Where do I go from here?

Originally published/last updated on myearlyretiremenjourney.com on 06May2019.

Last month I decided to start tracking these non-budget metrics: work, life, money. As a bonus, I day dream a bit in a section I call “I Dream of Early Retirement.” Here’s my latest update.


For funsies, I just crafted a resignation letter that has me leaving in two weeks. It wasn’t even a bad day at work. I ended Sunday evening with that familiar dread. I’m actually pretty lucky! My job is NOT that bad. In fact, it’s not bad at all. If I could identify my problem, I could find a solution. All in all, I just don’t enjoy working.
In the first quarter of this year, I found myself on the job market for no good reason. Five interviews later, I’m in the same position at the same desk doing the same thing with just a little more disappointment and heartache than when I started. Le sigh.
I know I want to escape my life, but I just can’t figure out where to go from here. That seems to be an overarching theme since I started this blog.


Most recent life update on this blog: On Being Kicked and Staying Down
I’ve been a bit delinquent on my checking in duties on Aunty MERJ. She has asked me to call her daily, but sometimes I just don’t. I feel awful every time but it’s as if I want to feel awful because at least I’m in control of that feeling. It’s hard being a human.
My trips in March weren’t really that fun truth-be-told. I thought having something to look forward to would help, but it didn’t really. I have another dumb trip planned this weekend and I wish I could just get my money back and stay home.
Of note, my iron stores are extremely low, so that may be contributing to my general lack of energy. The iron pills keep upsetting my stomach so I stopped after two weeks. I’m back at it again…as of today.


Most recent financial update on this blog: What I Spent on Sweets This Month (Apr 2019)
For funsies, last night I calculated how much money I had easy access to. Using some strategic moves, I could come up with about $10k in savings. So I could essentially quit today and scrimp by for the next 6 months (at $1.5k/mon) with a small cushion for unexpected expenses. But then I’d be OUT OF CASH! Then what? That’s the part that scares me.
Dipping into my retirement accounts just seems so final. So as much as I want to be a little reckless, I’m not quite ready for that much cliff-diving. So I stay.

I Dream of Early Retirement

Today I wanted to boil an egg, cut up some avocado and eat a salad for lunch. However, this morning I had no desire to pack all that or even come up with the thought process required to make that happen.
Last week I also wanted to see the movie Little in the middle of day. I couldn’t. I was working.
A part of me has kind of decided to for real quit my job Sep 13, 2019. I hope to save $10k by then. But the question is, if I think I’m so ready to do it then, why not now?

On Being Kicked and Staying Down

Originally published/last updated on myearlyretiremenjourney.com on 01May2019.

So many people tell you that what matters in life is how you get back up when you’ve been kicked down.  Is it though? Is that what matters? 
Is it actually a fact of life that we have to be kicked down? And consequentially get back up?
Is there no one that has never been kicked down?
Is life less enjoyable if you don’t experience pain or adversity?
Why do those who create life keep doing so only to knowingly prepare their offspring for the inevitable kick down. This I will not understand. Call me neuro-atypical. I might start calling myself that. No one can pronounce my name anyway.
So I wonder today, are there those who choose not to get back up? Is the burden too great?
Are there lives any less worthy? Is it not their choice?
I wonder too if perhaps those of us who choose not to get back at up are actually in the majority but because we don’t complete the hero’s journey our stories go untold.
I’ve been kicked down quite a few memorable times in the last year or so. Namely to do with my job and social life.
I’m tired of getting back up. Is that okay? Who exactly am I asking permission anyway?
Of late, I tried just one more time to advance in my career. I got the interview (I tend to get the interview), but I just can’t close the deal.
Before this, was the Quality Specialist position I was sure I was made for. Before that I applied to be a manager, I was less made for that, but they didn’t know that. Well in retrospect, perhaps they did. And before that, I tried to go for the Senior Widget Maker position (my job now but with senior added). No dice. It’s the exact same job, so I don’t know what happened there. Not enough experience they say. Sure, ok.
This last one I was pinning my very last hope and dream on it.  Very last. I’ve been wanting to escape North Carolina for some time now. I’ve been wanting a new start. I’ve been wanting to stick it to my current company by going to work directly for our client (the one I didn’t have enough experience with).  As it turns out, those kinds of things don’t seem to happen to girls like me.
And as it turns out the best and least healthiest way to cope is to just give up.
I thought I was going to take a sabbatical in 2020. I wanted something to keep me going.
Then I thought I might move to Spain.
And on my latest hunt for purpose, I re-thought of joining the Peace Corps.
For now I’ve settled on trying to work until Sept 2019 and quit for awhile. I’m calling it Escape 2019. It will be of my own design, I hope.
I want to quit today so I don’t have to deal with work or the embarrassment or being rejected by this client.
But I just don’t have enough saved in my regular savings.
I could break some CDs or take out of my retirement accounts or figure out how to withdraw from my brokerage account. I could do that.
But a) that seems like a lot of work b) I’m discouraged and down trodden not crazy!
Although the sliver of hope gets smaller and smaller with each kick down, it sticks around.  In the meantime, I’ve moved my various escape plans from 2027 to 2020 to four months from now (Sep 2019). Will I actually pull the hatch?