Things I’m Proud Of

I’ve been a bit down on myself lately, what with the job and other things going on in my life. In the past, I’d often relied on watching shows like Girls or trashy reality television like Millionaire Matchmaker to boost my waning confidence. “I’m not perfect,” I’d think to myself, “but at least I’m not that bad.” And yet, as I get older, the comparisons seem to be wearing thin. A self-esteem built on comparison is a fragile one, to say the least.

So instead of tearing others down, I want to list the things I’m genuinely proud of to build myself up. Alright, here it goes:

  • I willed myself into getting into a well-ranked college and graduating, thus securing for myself a base level of economic comfort.
  • I deprogrammed myself from the toxic behaviors I learned in my childhood and have found a core set of genuinely good people that I love having in my life.
  • I have taken forced myself to take risks, like buying and renovating this condo and quitting my job even before I had anything lined up, which have forced me to grow and realize most people don’t (and probably can’t) have everything figured out before moving forward.
  • I have consistently stuck to an exercise regime which has helped me to feel strong and healthy in a way that I wouldn’t have expected for myself just a few years ago.
  • I have maintained strong financial discipline which will likely mean I can retire decades early and allow me to spend the bulk of my kids’ childhoods really focusing on our time as a family.
  • Meanwhile, I have also been able to be generous with my money and my time in a way that makes me feel I am making a difference.
  • I have grown the capacity to appreciate and care for people who are very different from me.

What are you proud of?

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Goal: Stop Eating Out

Look, I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog kvetching about how much I spend on food. Well, this year, I’m going to do something about it. My two step plan is as follows:

  1. Stop going to restaurants that aren’t worth the price. You can see in the below chart I have mapped every local area restaurant I’ve gone to in the past six months in terms of price/quality and, upon reflection, I’ve found some of my most frequent haunts (“Chinese delivery”) don’t actually make the cut. This causes me to continue craving a “nice” meal later in the week, perpetuating the eating out cycle.
  2. Limit the number of restaurant trips I make in each price bracket. I typically have too many $20-30 meals which gets me in trouble. Knowing how many of those I can have in a month will hopefully help me ration it out a little better.

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Based on these numbers, I’ll be able to go out to eat between 2-3x each week. That’s less than I’m used to, but not terrible. If you sum everything up, there’s a good chance I’ll still be spending ~$300/month on eating out if I go somewhere fancy every month or have a board game night where we order in (there’s always at least one). While certainly not frugal especially for a FIRE blogger, is a number I can definitely live with.

Is eating out consistently “worth it” to you? 

On My Wishlist Lately

For better or worse, I can’t seem to bring myself to spend less on food and allocate more of my personal allowance on, well, anything else. So I want to document this list of unattained wants in a visual way which will, hopefully, spur myself to be a little more disciplined with the eating out.

Anker Soundcore Space NC

$100

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Like many tech workers, I sit in an open office, which means I am constantly overhearing other people’s conversations less than five feet away from me. While I have a pair of headphones I already keep at my desk which do work, they are super old and incredibly cheap. The sound isn’t great and, most importantly, I have to turn it up pretty loud in order to drown out the people around me. Sometimes, all I want is just quiet– no music even. While I’d love to have something akin to the Bose QC 35s, I can’t bring myself to shell out $300 for a pair.

Symphonized Wood Earbuds With Fabric Cable

$25

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This is my go-to earbud. I’m going to be honest, they are not the top of the line. But I am HARSH on my earbuds. Nothing ever lasts more than a year so why pay $100+ for something that’ll just get broken? I like these because the in-ear pads are extremely comfortable and the braided fabric cable tends to prevent snags and frayed wires more than just the plastic-sheathed cables.

Superfeet Black Insoles

$40

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I bought a few pairs of these a couple years ago and they have been pivotal in keeping my flat feet comfortable day in and day out. Sadly, though, I’ve run through all the pairs I had and now it’s time for some replacements, at least for my daily shoe.

Mizuno Wave Paradox 3

$50

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It’s about time (honestly, probably even slightly past time) for me to get replacement running shoes. I’ve always like the Mizuno’s Wave Paradox line, so why mess with a good thing? Opting for the v3 instead of the v4 because it’ll save me about $70 and, honestly, I’ve never cared about being the early adopter type.

Leather Repairs

$40

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My leather jacket has gotten a very small tear in the shoulder, so I’d like to take it to get it repaired. I’ve been avoiding wearing it in the meantime since I don’t want to make it worse, which is a shame because I love wearing this piece. Not sure what the actual cost will be to fix, but I feel like $40 is a decently conservative estimate.

Watch Repairs

$250

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I got a couple nice family heirloom watches as gifts during my wedding. They’re old and haven’t been used in decades, so they definitely need battery replacements and some amount of cleaning/tuning I imagine in order to be worn. There’s a part of me considering just selling them or holding on to them unused so that my children can inherit them, but on the other hand, I feel like vintage watches/jewelry/etc. lose their value more quickly these days in the age of online shopping, remakes, etc. Should I really just let it gather dust in the hopes it might be worth something later? I don’t expect I’ll wear them all that often, probably only when meeting with business contacts, so I probably only need to get one repaired at most and hide the other for safe keeping I suppose.

Shorter Haircut

$35

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My hair is in an okay place right now– it’s healthy and decently kept. But it’s at a length that I don’t love and, now that the wedding is over, I’m pretty eager to chop it off to look like the above picture (minus the dye).

Alighieri La Collisione Necklace

$260

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I’ve been crushing on this piece for a long time. I really like it because it’s mixed metal, which I’m thinking/hoping will help me wear my silver wedding ring (actually I think it’s either tungsten or titanium, but it’s silver colored) along with some other gold pieces I received from family.

Custom Leather Chelsea Boots

$245

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A new shoe store opened up a few minutes away from my house. Their pieces are absolutely gorgeous and are custom-tailored to your foot. They take the measurements locally but the manufacturing actually takes place in Guatemala. They claim to pay their cobblers well and have individual biopics of each on their website, but Everlane and other clothing brands have ruined the “ethical clothing” label for me. It is very clear, though, that they know what they’re doing when it comes to shoes.

What’s on your wishlist?

My Goals For 2019

In many ways, 2018 was a preparatory year for me. Putting the little bits of my life into place so that I’d be ready to transition into a new sort of life, a family sort of life (*silent scream of terror echoes in my head*). And I certainly feel more at ease with myself than I was even a year ago. So here are my goals for 2019:

  1. Get pregnant. AAAAAAaaaaaahhhhHHHHHHhhhh. Sorry, this one scares me a little. A lot. Bodies and pregnancies are weird. But also they’re totally normal? And I really want a family, but also knowing that I’ll be so much free time and sleep is, *gulp*, kind of daunting.
  2. Achieve “financial equilibrium”. Once we’ve hit this net worth milestone (roughly equivalent to CruiseFI), then we’ll start working our way toward upgrading our home and reaching semi-FIRE levels of investments.
  3. Take two international trips. My friend is getting married in Copenhagen this summer and my husband and I are talking about going to Japan. Want to sneak in a couple of international jaunts before kids.
  4. Finish at least two “courses” worth of learning materials. I feel like my brain has been atrophying over the past however many years since college. Therefore, I’d like to make it through a couple of “courses” worth of learning material over the next year. I think this will be brushing up on my Japanese before our trip using Pimsleur and taking some Coursera classes on DB engineering / playing around with AWS for work.
  5. Get my internet addiction under control. This will be starting with a no-internet January. (Note I wrote all my January posts in advance.) So if you don’t see me around for a while, that’s why.
  6. Finish writing my podcast. I’m in the middle of writing a fictional podcast. And by middle I mean very beginnings of. I have an arc though and decent outlines. By the end of the year I want to have finished scripts for the season and be ready to start staffing/recording a pilot.

Then there’s my “keep on keeping on” list:

  1. Maintain regular diet and exercise. Last year “body weight” was on the list, but, um, goal #1 from the first list. Instead, I want to make a commitment to maintain regular exercise that is appropriate for where my body is at throughout my pregnancy and thereafter.
  2. Continue volunteering and donating 10% of our income. Instead of just my income, I want my husband and I to donate 10% of our combined net (which he’s a-okay with).
  3. Read at least two books a month. I think I set the goal too low last year. I’m hoping, if I manage to get my internet addiction under control, I should be able to free up a lot more time for reading.

What are your goals for 2019?

How Did I Do On My 2018 Goals?

Here were my goals for 2018:

  1. Marry and combine finances with my partner. PASS. To be fair, this is not completely finished by I did manage to get married and we’re like 80% of the way there with the finances. So I’ll give myself this one.
  2. Increase net worth 3 units FAIL. I started off the year 5.28 units from my financial freedom goal. Haven’t finalized the numbers for this month yet, but it looks like I’ll be somewhere between 0.25-0.5 units shy of my goal. But I’m okay with that. Husband was unemployed for half the year, I took a month off between jobs, and of course there was that big salary drop with my career change. There are more important things than money. And, honestly, we did fine.
  3. Generate another stream of income, separate from my job. FAILI didn’t really focus on this at all.
  4. Chisel my way to six-pack abs. OKAY. I don’t have a six-pack or anything close. BUT I did keep up with my ab workouts all year long and have core strength like woah. So that’s cool.
  5. Visit Ireland and Amsterdam. OKAYWe did go to Ireland for our honeymoon, however I’ve come to realize that (1) my friend lives in Copenhagen, not Amsterdam and (2) we’re going to visit her next year for her wedding.
  6. Get involved in 2018 governor’s race. FAILBasically anything that required time this year I simply did not do. Other than my new job. That’s taken up… a lot.
  7. Do one “interesting” thing per month. FAIL. This was a cool idea in theory and if I really thought about it I probably averaged one interesting moment per month but didn’t really document this well and twelve months later this feels more kitschy than important.

Then there’s my “keep on keeping on” list:

  1. Maintain body weight, regular diet and exercise. PASS. Consistent exercise and good (enough) eating.
  2. Continue volunteering and donating 10% of my income. PASS. Summary here.
  3. Read at least one book a month. PASS. I technically passed this but I feel pretty silly for setting the goal so low and also still kind of ashamed for how little I read. I started plenty of books but got bored midway for a number of them (which never used to happen to me before). Yes, I’m super basic and read like a high school student. What of it? If y’all have book recommendations, I’d be happy to take them. Anyway, here’s what I finished:
    1. Tar Baby by Toni Morrison (5/5)
    2. Jazz by Toni Morrison (4/5)
    3. God Help the Child by Toni Morrison (3/5)
    4. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (3/5)
    5. Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver (3/5)
    6. Civilwarland in Bad Decline by George Saunders (2/5)
    7. Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit (5/5)
    8. The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov (3/5)
    9. The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin (4/5)
    10. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (5/5)
    11. All the Names by Jose Saramago (4/5)
    12. Daisy Miller by Henry James (4/5)
    13. Cymbeline by William Shakespeare (3/5)
    14. Laughter In the Dark by Vladimir Nabokov (3/5)

Overall I did pretty terribly with my goals this year. Oh well. But at the same time, I still had such a big year between marriage, changing careers, and going through really hard personal stuff with family and friends. Looking back, I was so unfocused on what I wanted my life to look like. But I am pretty proud of myself of powering (muddling?) through some really hard times. I feel more mature, like I am starting to get an understanding of me as a fully formed being with experiences, not just a little bundle of potential. It’s a scary feeling, like I’m finally accepting closing certain doors on my life. But I’m moving forward. And that’s… good?

How did you fare with your 2018 goals?

‘Tis The Season For Charitable Tax Deductions 2018

Since 2016, I’ve made the commitment to donate 10% of my net income each year. I do 10% because I grew up around very religious folk and felt like, though I’m not religious myself, I wanted to have something akin to a secular tithe. An amount that felt “moral” but not like I was giving away the farm. Something that was just the right amount of painful. Here is a link to my 2017 post.

In 2018 we continued to donate 10% of my net income, but not our joint income (though we will be contributing based on joint in 2019). We donated much more in 2017 than in 2018 because I “prepaid” my balance for tax optimization purposes due to the Republican’s new law. However, we did get our wedding guests to donate a few thousand dollars to our favorite charities rather than buy us expensive presents, which is not reflected in the below numbers.

Here are the areas we donated to in 2017 and 2018:

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We don’t plan at the beginning of the year how much we’ll donate to each area, but we think this is more or less a decent reflection of my values. Note that we donated much more in 2017 than in 2018 because I “prepaid” my balance for tax optimization purposes due to the Republican’s new law.

Here are the organizations represented in each bucket:

  • Food Security. This is for the small, local food rescue organization that donates fruits and vegetables to seniors, people with disabilities, and other food programs in our area. This is money I feel “proudest” to donate to each year (see: my deep emotional connection with food).
  • Immigration. Lots of money to RAICES because we as a country continue to jail and torture migrants in droves. Honestly, I don’t understand why the press continues to fuck around about the internal politics of the administration when children are literally dying under ICE custody. I am deeply ashamed for how impotent I feel on this issue. Money doesn’t feel like enough.
  • Environment. I used to divvy this bucket up amongst a lot of different environmental advocacy groups, but nowadays I just dump it all to the National Resource Defense Council.
  • Criminal Justice. Local (state) bail fund.
  • Civil Rights. Local LGBTQ+ advocacy organization.

What we didn’t donate to this year:

  • Brother’s education. He graduated and while I gave him a little money to celebrate that, there are no more tuition/room/board etc payments going forward. Woohoo!
  • Political organizations. I feel somewhat guilty about this but, honestly, every time I thought about donating for the 2018 cycle I kept thinking (1) Dems already had landslide levels of funding and (2) the money would be better put to use targeting migrant issues. So that’s what happened there.

What is your charitable giving philosophy? How much did you donate in 2018 and to what organizations? 

What’s Your Personal Discretionary Spending?

The past couple months, my husband and I have been easing into a his-hers-ours version of joint finances. As part of that system, we each get $600 of discretionary “allowance” money, no questions asked, shielded off from each other in our own personal accounts.

Spoiler alert: I’m having a hard time with it.

I knew I had inflated my lifestyle since I started working six years ago. What I didn’t realize is just how much. You can see in my previous budget update that I like to eat out a lot, though I guess I’ve documented that pretty well over the months. In addition I go to a fancy climbing gym near our home — it’s so convenient, I love the exercise classes, I guest in friends all the time. And then there are my material wants: nice clothes, noise canceling headphones so I can actually focus in my open office. My wants are overwhelming. I am, very clearly, not frugal.

The other thing we’ve been trying to calibrate as a couple is what actually counts as discretionary spending, like:

  • Clothes: I’ve been putting clothes on my personal account while he needs business casual clothes for work and has been putting on the joint.
  • Haircuts: He has more expensive hair maintenance than I do (dying and more frequent cuts)– is that a him thing or an us thing? We’d previously discussed this as being individual, but lately he’s gone to a cheaper place and wants to put on joint.
  • Gym: I could go to a cheaper gym but I like the nicer gym more, so I’ve defaulted to eating the expense in personal. On the other hand, I go frequently and it is an important facet of my health maintenance– physical, mental, and social. His therapy is a joint expense because it’s important for his self-care, so shouldn’t my gym membership be too for the same reason?

Writing it out, I realize part of the angst I am feeling is that in a lot of these cases we’re defaulting to his self-care as being a joint expense and mine as being an individual expense. There’s a lot there, including how we approach self-care and a lot of differences in our self-image (particularly our own body images) wrapped all up in there. So yeah, some “fun” (read: difficult but probably necessary) conversations to be had there. Whee.

Obviously, I / we don’t have answers to all of them, but we’re sorting through it. But I’d love to hear feedback from y’all:

Do you have a budget for your discretionary spending? If so, how much do you spend?

Is self-care an individual or a joint expense? What type of self-care is a “want” versus a “need”?