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Old 12 August 2016, 04:25 PM
Magdalene Magdalene is offline
Join Date: 30 October 2001
Location: Colorado
Posts: 5,697
Default A year of living well

Or nine months of it, anyway. But a year sounded more neat.

I had debated not writing this, because 1.) It felt like bragging, and 2.) I’m afraid I’ll jinx my current good fortune by talking about it.

But I have spent the past nine months reflecting on the changes in my life since I sold my old house and moved. Mainly, on the financial aspect.

My old house had developed a couple of problems while I lived there, and sadly, they all happened at once—hot water heater went out, furnace went out two weeks later (both high-ticket items). There were other issues as well—my car was seven years old and beginning to develop the issues that come with that. I had dental issues, and while insurance covered a chunk, it didn’t cover everything. There were some plumbing issues that again, while insurance covered a lot of it, it didn’t cover everything (and didn’t make up for lost time at work.) Dazzle and Mystique had both developed cancer and were failing.

The result was I was having to pay for a lot of things on credit…..and we’ll just say that the credit-card debts hit the five-figure mark easily. And with interest rates, I was making just a smidge over the minimum payments and wasn’t getting ahead. I was literally going from paycheck to paycheck, and I was constantly hoping nothing else would go wrong, and stressing about what else *might* go wrong. And let’s face it, creditors don’t care how desperately the items were needed, they want their money and the interest rates they get you with too.

Something that helped was my dad buying me a new car. Then the housing market here took off like gangbusters. And I’d been looking to sell anyway, since my house wasn’t really suited to both my sister and myself. I figured a little step up, but to my surprise, I got a *lot* more for my house than what I had paid for it (plus, by the time I sold my house, it was almost half-paid for—I’d been there fifteen years on a thirty-year mortgage.) And initially, I’d panicked, thinking I’d made a huge financial mistake (my realtor had to talk me down from a near-hysterical state.)

But the result was….the money I made from the sale of my house was enough to put 10% down on the new house and pay off all my credit card debts. And I *still* had a lot left over. And I was able to do things with the new house—it was actually fifteen years old, and most of the items in there were also fifteen years old (which past experience has taught me is about the age that most items will start to fail). And I’ve been able to make improvements/replacements on them, without going into debt. And it’s been….a mix. On one hand, I’m thrilled and happy that I can do these things *before* something breaks down and becomes a *big* problem, and that I’m not going into debt over it. On the other hand, I worry that maybe I’m blowing through all that money too quickly. I still have quite a bit, but my past experiences make me cautious. Then I go back to thinking, “But I’ve decreased the odds of having big problems that I wouldn’t be able to pay for later on, if something happened, like a job loss.” (Which of course, seems to be the time when things are most likely to go wrong.)

And it’s amazing how much more relaxed I am about this. A lot of my friends have said that I’m more ‘at peace’ ever since the move—and I am. Knowing you have the money to pay for something instead of having to get it on credit makes a *huge* difference when you realize something needs to be done. Instead of putting it off until I ‘save a little more money’ (which never seems to happen and just gives potential problems time to get worse), I can do it *now*, before it really is a big problem—in other words, I can be *proactive* about potential issues, instead of *reactive*. I still haven’t done all the changes/improvements that I want to do (there’s still a few things on the list), but I’ve been sitting here thinking that I can *plan* to do them, and not worry about where to get the money, that for me, it’s a question of timing. I can go to the dentist and get my teeth taken care of (some ongoing issues there) without stressing about my insurance not covering all of it, because I have the money to cover what insurance doesn’t (which means, again, I can be proactive about fixing the issue and not letting it get worse.)

I did have an issue with the new house that my insurance wouldn’t cover, and even though it was stressful that it happened…..I did at least have the money to cover it without going into debt for it.

I’ve been able to generously tip my hairdresser (she took great care of me when money was tight, was understanding when I spaced haircuts way out and dyed my hair myself instead of paying her to do it, and when I was unemployed, scored a job interview, and desperately needed a trim and only had the money for the trim, she cut my hair, touched up the roots, did my eyebrows, and gave me a basic mani all on her, with the wave-off of, “When you nail the interview, you can pay me back.” I did nail the interview.) Last Christmas, I was able to tip her 40%. For my birthday when I did a ‘birthday blowout’ at the salon, I tipped her 30%. When she mentioned she was going on a trip she’d been saving up years for, I gave her another big tip so she could have more money to spend on her trip. And it feels nice to be able to do this for people (maybe it doesn’t radically change her life, but maybe it makes hers a little easier sometimes too. And it’s nice to feel that your good fortune can be passed on to maybe give somebody else a little bit more, y’know?)

My credit cards were paid off nine months ago, and haven’t been touched since.

I can donate to food drives. I can help out friends a little bit (maybe not tons, but maybe small little things here and there, because I remember when I was struggling for money how all the small little things added up.)

I can make extra payments on my house, and I can also put in more to my 401K.

I’m able to buy healthier foods for myself, instead of cheap junk.

I can pay off my bills in full and as soon as they come in, instead of minimum payments or having to wait until payday (which, of course, always seemed to be the day *after* a grace period would end, which meant late fees would apply, which put me even further behind.)

But I’m finding myself thinking that instead of always being behind the eight-ball, I’m now feeling like I’m ahead of the game, and that I hopefully have a chance to *stay* ahead of the game, even if it’s just a little bit, because it’s really a lot less stressful.

Something I noticed is how you get treated when it’s presumed that you do have money. One of the things I had done with the house (the above issue that the insurance wouldn’t cover), I’d been mailed a bill for and was advised it was due by X date. It slipped my mind, and I’d called the contractor the day it was due, apologized, and offered to pay over the phone. He advised me it was okay, to put a check in the mail because they weren’t set up to accept phone payments, and advised I wouldn’t be charged a late fee. I couldn’t help but wonder….if I were still ‘struggling’, and if my payment had been delayed because I was waiting for payday to come and pay it, would he have been so nice about it, or was he only nice about it because I offered to pay right then and there, so presumably, I had the money, so therefore, he’d cut me a break for being late even though it meant he’d have to wait a few days for the check? I was wondering if I’d just sent the check late anyway, without contacting him first, would he have sent me a bill for late fee charges? Does this make sense?

I suppose this could be more summed up as ‘life with extra money’ vs. ‘life without extra money’, and how much of a difference in the quality of life it makes. I am feeling overall, very grateful about this, that at least at this moment, my life has less stress because I can be a step ahead of anything needed, and feeling much more hopeful that I can stay on this path. I keep comparing my life now to "this time last year" and thinking I'm so glad for all the better changes that have come up.
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