January 9, 2012

Frugality

Paper Whites

When we decided to move back to Wisconsin from Atlanta, I knew that there would be some financial hardship. We were jumping off the cliff of any financial planning we had during our time in Atlanta and had no solid plan for the future. There were setbacks and uncertainty in the years that followed. What I didn’t realize was how long and difficult the recovery would be or how much the challenge would teach me about personal finance.

In the three years since the move, I have developed and refined a household budget, set financial goals and with literal enjoyment, regularly review my progress. SB says this new-found love for personal finance comes from my passion for checking things off the list. I have long been a list maker. I love the satisfaction of a good check-off and have learned to make lists that contain steps to a larger goal, so little achievements can be checked along the way. I am terrible at remembering accomplishments once they have been checked off, but that is a topic for another post.

To aide me in my list making, I have a stack of pocket/reporter notebooks. These are spiral bound, 4 x 8 inch, lined, notebooks and contain lists and notes, to-dos and measurements. They are the foundation of my tool set. During the big move, when it became obvious we needed serious budget control, I started using Google Docs, as a shared repository for budget documents. Since the documents are accessible to both SB and I, we can both refer and edit, making the budget a living plan. The notebook and the spreadsheet have gotten me through the past few years.

Recently, I started reading a new financial blog, Mr. Money Moustache (Mr. MM) – Putting the cash in your ‘stash. This blog has reminded me that I need to start thinking longer term and bigger. It isn’t enough to have a monthly balanced budget, I need to think about the future, creating a reality where retirement is possible. If you have talked with me recently, there is a good chance you’ve heard me mention this blog. One of my friends, on hearing about Mr. MM, said, “Isn’t he just re-stating things you already know? Guys like that are just trying to make money off stating the obvious.” The sub-text being, “I’m smart enough that I don’t need to read a blog like that”.

While that may be true for my friend, I find the Mr. MM blog energizing. What he writes is not new to me, but is like a big dose of a frugality vitamin. I do want to retire some day. I do want to see every dollar helping me reach for financial independence. His blog has made me realize it is possible and worth striving towards a more independent future. In recent years I have scoffed at the mere mention of retirement, “Not in my lifetime.” Now I have hope that I can actually make it happen.

To help me make a check list for a richer future, I just started using Mint. The nice thing about Mint, so far, is that it tracks my retirement accounts and stock, in addition to the more day-to-day finances. This gives me a bigger picture of my finances than I’ve had before and will help me set some new, longer term goals. I’m excited about my financial plan for 2012 and hope to keep learning new tricks that will set me up for a great today and tomorrow.

1 Comment

  1. First off, way to go. Too many people put off financial planning. Since I’m married to a finance guy we have been tracking our spending since marriage and have used it to overhaul the way we live when we went on 1 salary. Wow dining out is expensive! As for Mr MM – maybe he states the obvious, but it’s the reminders that help and sometimes you need to hear it a few times for it to sink in.

    And it’s funny you talk about long term because we’re saving all this money … for what? I told M, what are we saving for? What is our retirement goal? We didn’t have one. Now we do – sort of. So if we even talk to a person we can say, this is what we want when we’re 65 and they can say whether or not we’re on the right track. It feels like we’re too young for this but I just found crows feet, so I guess not. :)

    Comment by rosemarie — January 12, 2012 @ 9:39 pm

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