Snack Your Way to Financial Independence

IMAG1373

If you read my post on March goals, you would know that I have resolved to not eat out during weekdays for the entire month of March. The first few days were easy as they are in any resolution. But Day 4 came along and the craving for my old ways crept back up. I had to get creative and I had to do it fast because quite frankly I hadn’t really formulated a plan of action for how I was going to accomplish this. Bad idea! So here is how I conquered one of my March goals (I’m not jumping the gun – I got this in the bag!) and my hunger at the same time.

Day 1-3: Packed my lunches with leftovers. Everything was grand. Until… I ran out of leftovers. Busy me had no time to go to the grocery store and instead went to work on

Day 4: Being a rather tall and active individual with a metabolism that is still kickin’, I tend to eat alot. Or maybe that’s just what I tell myself. Regardless, when lunch times rolls around, I’m usually extremely hungry and the most convenient thing to do is to step away and grab food somewhere fast. To stay true to my goal, I went to the local grocery store instead and picked up an array of snacks that would get me through what I thought to be a few days. Well, it turns out when I snack throughout the day on healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, etc, I actually eat way less and feel fuller for longer, and have way more energy. GO FIGURE!

With my new found energy, time, and money I have been using my lunch break to either

A. work and impress the ol’ boss

B. Go to the office gym

Why didn’t I think of this before?! By looking at my CC statement from prior months, I was also able to tally up how much I typically spend a month on eating out. By not going out for lunch alone, savings in food alone is $200+ not considering the gas and lost time that I could be using to do something else (like work out!).

I took this challenge a step further and stocked my office drawers with breakfast items too(for me that’s a tub of oatmeal and dried fruits to mix in). This has saved me 15-20 minutes in my morning routine which for me equates to extra ZZZ’s. It’s really a beautiful thing.

Advertisements

When To Rollover

Image

If you’re like me and have made several career moves already, you probably have a lot of money sitting around in different places. In my earlier years of investing, I never thought anything of if.. the more brokerage accounts I have the more diversified I am, right? Aside from the ease in having all of your money in one place (receiving one statement, the ease that comes with filing taxes, etc) there are several disadvantages to having several accounts:

The most dreaded word when it comes to investing:

FEES

Most brokerage accounts charge a custodial fee which is the cost of “maintaining” your IRA account. In the long-run these can really add up if you’re paying them on multiple accounts. It is usually better to bite the bullet and pay the termination fee that often comes with transferring your funds and reap the reward of fewer fees down the road.

HIGH COST

It is true that many employer-sponsored retirement plans are high-cost options for investors. Like most insurance plans, and other employer sponsored programs, they are looking out for themselves; what costs the least for the company.

There are some benefits that come with owning multiple IRA’s that pertain to assigning beneficiaries and withdrawing. Additionally, there is some legal protection that comes with owning multiple accounts in the event that you find yourself in court. Each type of plan is protected differently in various types of legal situations, so there may be some advantages in not having all of your eggs in one basket if you find yourself face to face with the law.

But if you’re young like me these factors are (hopefully) negligible as I have a long life ahead of me and will probably switch jobs and accumulate a few more accounts before it’s time to withdrawal.  There are obviously a lot of “what-ifs” at play here. Such as “What if my previous employer is one of the few with a great selection of low-cost funds?” Hopefully  your employer sponsored plan has plenty of information available to you to sort out these kinds of questions and find out what works best for YOU. The rest is up to your particular place in life and your risk tolerance.

In my case, I am already too diversified. I can hardly keep track of all of my accounts. Rolling over two of my high-cost accounts into low costs options such as Vanguard will save me in the long-run without giving up certain legal protections and advantages(if I even need them). If I’m wrong, I have 20+ years to adjust and figure out what works best for me. Ah the beauty of being young.

Stop Spending $ on these things:

You probably shouldn’t do everything you read on the Internet, but trust me here. If you’re spending money on these things, you probably shouldn’t be. Take all of these suggestions with a grain of salt. No one should give up a hobby if it brings enjoyment(unless it is just plain unhealthy). The message you should take from this is that, if you’re creative you can continue living a full exciting life without breaking the bank.

1. Music– Now some of you are going to hate me for this one. One of my greatest loves is music. I love finding new music, supporting local artists, going to concerts, organizing my playlists (seriously you guys – music is my boyfriend). However, I am able to support my unhealthy addiction without breaking the bank. For exploring music there are a MILLION options: grooveshark, pandora, spotify (My personal fave), youtube, myspace (not kidding, check it out), 8tracks, soundcloud and soooo many more options! But what about the artists?!! Yes, by all means buy an album and support these people but also remember that when you play their songs all the way through on sites like Spotify or Pandora, these artists are seeing money by way of royalties.

2. Books – One word. Library. Yes they still exist and they are amazing and full of awesome resources. A cool thing that is popping up in Atlanta are roadside libraries (they look like birdhouses, but they are full of books!). You drive up, drop off your books, and pick one to read. It is great idea and definitely adds a sense of community. If you don’t have these available, you should. If you don’t want to build a road-side library, fine, you can implement the same sort of community in your office, neighborhood, social circles, etc. Share your resources!

3. Fast Food– This is a convenience that  you pay a premium for. It is not quality. It is not healthy. A little foresight in planning snacks and meals for the day will make cutting this unnecessary convenience out of your life for good.

4. Cable– I used to be one of those people that couldn’t imagine going without my favorite tv shows. After cutting the cord, I’ve found a million other uses for my time and can honestly say I’m a much happier person. Instead of going home from work and vegging out on the couch, I do a number of meaningful tasks such as: cook, walk my dog, garden, call a friend. So simple and so fulfilling. I do not miss the tube at all. I do subscribe to Netflix where I can get my fix of TV if need be for about $8 a month as opposed to $100+.

5. Gym Membership– This has been the hardest for me but the little extra work I’ve put in so far has been worth the savings (in membership, commute time, and gas money). I do have a gym at my office, but without this I would still be able to get by. There are so many resources on the Internet and it’s true, you don’t need fancy equipment to get in shape- Just the road and your body weight. The hardest part about this has been forcing yourself to work out at home. A cool app that has helped me stay focused is Gym-pact. The days of paying to stay fit are long over. With this app, you make a pact to work out so many days a week and if you meet it you get paid, if not your pocketbook takes a beating. Shouldn’t be too hard to meet you pact though if your priority is to be healthy.

My savings this year from the changes I’ve made: (Jan – March)

Cable ($360) – Netflix ($24) savings = $336

Spotify Subscription savings = $30

Books (I was a frequent Amazon book buyer) savings = roughly $50

Water savings = roughly $40

Gym membership savings = $180

That is over $600 in savings for just three months and my life is fuller and more meaningful. What can you cut out? What have you cut out that’s not on my list?

March Goals – Two Posts, One Day

I’m going to try to make a habit of posting goals once at the beginning of the month as well as a summary/recap at the end of the month. Let’s start with what I’d like to accomplish this month.

March

  • Purge 100 items- The challenge is to find 100 items in my house that I can either sell or give away. This sounds daunting but trust me when I say that it will be extremely easy. When you’re done and have the reward of extra cash and space, you will probably want to do it again. At the end of the month I will post my results. There are no limitations, no item too big or too small. Just keep track or any proceeds you make and share in the comments!
  • No eating out during the week- Now to some people, this sounds like torture. Why sacrifice the convenience and luxury of eating out? Well, no matter how much you make, all of these occurrences add up. And if you’re like me they add up to the tune of $300-$500 dollars a month. That is crazy! How did I ever manage to accumulate any wealth with habits like this? Even if you’re goal is not to build wealth, think of all the things you could do with that amount of freed up cash PER MONTH. It’s only been a week in and I’m already planning on doing it again next month. With a little planning it is really quite easy. I will share in my month-end post what my results are. I may even post a lower weight since it seems I am eating much healthier and smaller portions. It’s a win-win!
  • invest $2000 of income in taxable accounts- I currently hold several accounts from low maintenance Betterment to hands-on peer-to-peer sites such as LendingClub.com. Part of my investment strategy is to build a passive income stream. I’m using Betterment as a means to save for a rental house(1st form of passive income). LendingClub.com is slowly accumulating a balance by way of recurring payments. I’d eventually like to get $100-$200 monthly payments out of this account. I’m using what’s left over from my monthly income to build these accounts.

Wish me luck! I will post results in April but hopefully after all is said and done my net worth will be +2000-3000 after one month of hard work!

Fresh Soil

Image

That’s it. I’m doing it. And so far it feels great. I am a 25 year old Atlantan but more importantly, I am the queen of lists. I have a list for everything – groceries, to-do, to-read, to-eat, etc. I think there is a word for what that makes me but we will save that discussion for another post. The point is, there is one word that keeps resurfacing on all of these lists. BLOG. I have no idea how to do it. In fact, right now I’m writing this in a Word document with plans of pasting it into my blog once I get it up and running.

I have a ton of ideas, and all the time. With this blog I hope to not only get these ideas on paper to be accountable for, but track my progress and hopefully be an inspiration to others. Progress in what you ask? I have been accused of having some lofty goals and this may be one of them, but I think it is definitely possible: to be financially independent in 5 short years.

I was fortunate enough to make it out of school with zero debt and a decent job in my field of Finance. Shortly after I bought my first house, and have since moved up the ranks and I’m receiving a moderate salary for someone my age (roughly $60K). Although I have always been pretty frugal, I have only recently started getting deep into researching and investing- I have in two years accumulated close to $90K net worth ( I will get into more detail in a future post).

So what do I need to do in order to reach my goal of becoming financially independent by age 30? Well, I haven’t quite figured that out but here are some ideas for starters. Lines that are in bold, I plan to have accomplished in 2013.

Start a blog that provides a stream of passive income. “What?! I thought you said you were going to start this journey for the greater good and as a way to track your journey?!”  Well yes, indeed I am. The more you get to know me, the more you will see that I am a big fan of optimizing income from tasks you already do or enjoy. And after all, isn’t that what the quest to retirement is all about, doing whatever the heck you want, WHEN you want?

-File for an LLC : There are SO MANY advantages to having your own business. Even if you don’t already have an idea for what your business might do yet, it is a BEAUTIFUL thing that everyone should take advantage of. I already have a few ideas up my sleeve for what services/products I would be providing and I’m actually already making a small amount of money doing so. I just need to make it official, meaning file with the state, track expenses, market, create a website. There is a lot to-do and a full-time job sometimes makes it difficult.

Downsize: This is a pretty broad one as it encompasses many things. Simplicity is something I’ve taken a liking to. It provides peace of mind and quite frankly, makes life a whole lot more enjoyable when you realize that you can still be happy without so much STUFF.  I have a few ideas on how to accomplish this task.. stay tuned. You can join me in this challenge and compare your progress to mine.

Set up an online store/website:  This definitely requires a lot of research but I think it is achievable within the year. My short term goal would be to brainstorm some items that may be successful selling online in addition to it being something I have an interest in. Secondly, I have absolutely no experience in anything web related (design, SEO, etc). I want this to be a project that I create from the ground up and I don’t see any reason that I couldn’t learn how to build a successful website by researching online.

-Get an MBA: Now this sounds expensive. Yes it is, even when your employer will reimburse you for tuition, which just so happens to be the case. Another thing you’ll learn about me is that I love to take advantage of any benefit your employer offers: coffee in the breakroom, 401k matching, tuition reimbursement, YES PLEASE! And it just so happens that I love school so why not take advantage of this opportunity which would prove valuable in opening doors to whatever path I choose to take after I quit the ol’ 9-5.

-Find a distressed home and fix it up as a rental investment: This is something else I would find extremely fun doing in addition to advancing my plans for early retirement. I will probably go into a much more involved blog about this one as it is probably the riskiest short term goal that I have.

When I think about retirement, I think about more acres than I can count on two hands, rolling pastures, a quaint house with rocking chairs, chickens, goats, and enough land to bring home any stray dog I find in my travels. O yea, and it’d probably be in some place cool like France or Ireland. Well I’m not too far off from that ideal landscape. Despite my 8-5(8) and ¾ of an acre in Atlanta, I try to live a life as close to this as possible. I currently have 10 chickens, 2 goats, a dog, and a cat. No one believes me, not even my friends, until they see it. So although I am working towards the perfect retirement described above, I still try to live in the present as much as possible.  Any good farmer would tell you, “you reap what you sow”.  In addition to making smart financial decisions now and reaping the benefits in the long term, I take that to mean enjoying life in the present. REALLY enjoying it, and not being distracted by the things that we think we should enjoy like clothes, gadgets, and tv. Sure, I enjoy these as much as the next person but I’m learning more and more to be able to do without them and start enjoying moments, experiences, learning new things, and good food! Here’s to new adventures. Thank you for joining me on this one.