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Old 12 August 2016, 04:25 PM
Magdalene Magdalene is offline
 
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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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Old 12 August 2016, 05:20 PM
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GenYus234 GenYus234 is offline
 
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tl;dr:

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness.
Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.

I am happy for your good fortune.
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Old 12 August 2016, 06:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Magdalene View Post
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?
It absolutely makes sense. I usually pay my credit cards in full, on time. One month, I spaced and forgot to pay the card. They called me a couple of days later to remind me. I paid as soon as I got to a computer, and they waived the late fee and any interest. If I paid late all the time, they would not do that, but would just happily make a lot of money from me. Also, I know at work that we officially charge 18% interest on bills at day 31. We only really charge interest when it is about day 150, and that is so we can offer to waive the interest if we get full payment in one week. The contractor probably does the same.

Good on you for changing your reality around.
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  #4  
Old 12 August 2016, 07:42 PM
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Seaboe Muffinchucker Seaboe Muffinchucker is offline
 
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Glasses

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Originally Posted by Magdalene View Post
my life has less stress because I can be a step ahead
This is key, and congratulations for getting there. These things snowball, as you know, and since stress contributes to the snowball, getting ahead and reducing the stress is really good for you.

So glad this is working out well.

Seaboe
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Old 12 August 2016, 08:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Magdalene View Post
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 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.) .
An excellent description of how being short on money leads to larger bills, while having plenty of money can save considerable money in the long run.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GenYus234 View Post
Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness.
Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery..
That quote (Dickens, isn't it?) is accurate enough; but it always seems to me that it puts the stress on the expenditures, as if one could always somehow manage to spend twelve pence (allowing for roughly 170 years of inflation) less.

For way too many people, it comes out to: annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness.
Annual income twenty pounds, annual essential expenditure (at least if one is to pay rent, get to work with sufficiently suitable clothes on so as not to be fired, and eat a diet that won't land one in the hospital) nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], plus unexpected medical or other emergency about which one had no choice costing twelve pence: result, misery.
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Old 12 August 2016, 08:57 PM
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Certainly it can sometimes be impossible to tighten one's belt anymore but of the two, I would think most people would have more control over their expenditures than they would over their income.

ETA: And yes, Dickens, in David Copperfield.
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Old 12 August 2016, 09:10 PM
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I would think most people would have more control over their expenditures than they would over their income.
That is more true the more money one has.
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Old 12 August 2016, 09:25 PM
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And those with less money have even less options for increasing income. For example, they can't find a better paying job because they need a job that they can get to via public transportation. Or they can only work limited hours because they can't afford child care after school.

To quote another great thinker. "I realize, of course, it's no shame to be poor. But it's no great honor either." - Tevye, Fiddler on the Roof
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Old 13 August 2016, 01:44 AM
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Glad to hear things are going well for you, Magdalene. So long as you don't look down on others who aren't doing well, it's perfectly okay to brag. Because you don't know someone's entire life story; maybe they've got other stuff going on that you don't know about and what worked for you, won't work for them.

Me, I'm always trying to figure out what I need to do. I often think I should adopt George Costanza's strategy in that one Seinfeld episode, where he decided to do the opposite of what he'd normally do and life starts going great for him. Trouble is, I'm not sure what the opposite of what I'd normally do is.
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Old 16 August 2016, 02:38 PM
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It took my mother's death and the subsequent sale of her house to reboot my financial status. I was in the same place just 3-4 years ago, and I hope I never have to go through that again. DH and I will always have to watch what we spend, but it's great not having anymore debt and a paid for car. I never realized how much of a weight my money problems were until they were no more.
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Old 16 August 2016, 02:42 PM
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Neener, Neener

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Me, I'm always trying to figure out what I need to do. I often think I should adopt George Costanza's strategy in that one Seinfeld episode, where he decided to do the opposite of what he'd normally do and life starts going great for him. Trouble is, I'm not sure what the opposite of what I'd normally do is.
You can start by voting Republican this year, at least downballot. I'll give you a pass on voting for Trump (he's at best dubious as a Republican - although there is no firm definition of what makes one a Republican - and certainly no conservative) and suggest voting for Johnson instead - another choice that is the opposite of what you would normally do.
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Old 16 August 2016, 03:01 PM
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Assuming Mouse was actually serious about changing her life by emulating a Seinfeld character.
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Old 17 August 2016, 12:19 AM
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I think he was teasing if the icon is any guide.
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Old 17 August 2016, 04:39 AM
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Originally Posted by thorny locust View Post
That quote (Dickens, isn't it?) is accurate enough; but it always seems to me that it puts the stress on the expenditures, as if one could always somehow manage to spend twelve pence (allowing for roughly 170 years of inflation) less.
I didn't read it that way, though I'll freely admit I lack context, having never read the book or heard the quote before. I just interpreted it as "if you earn slightly less than you need, you'll be miserable." Was it intended to imply that one can control one's expenses and therefore be happy?
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Old 17 August 2016, 07:38 AM
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khisanth khisanth is offline
 
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Cheer

Magdalene,

I think yours is an excellent post. One that talks about hard work, planning, being able to capitalize on things at the right time, compassion, and generosity. I think 50% is what you can control and 50% is adapting to your environment, which you can't necessarily control (these precise numbers are pulled out of thin air).

I have also been on both sides of this divide, and yes, it's different in how you're treated and how you allow yourself to be treated. I think part of it is just we associate money to better personality traits in general. It's part of our culture valuing the capitalist mindset. So people do treat you better when they think you have money.

Also, when you are in debt, you don't have many options (as I found out first hand). I felt powerless and deserving of being talked down to.

I am quite proud of how far I've come. I feel good that I can support charities I love. I can help out friends and family members when they have something happen to them. I just gave my niece some money for college. I can tip well when someone has made my day.

I can also argue with people who look down on "those people" who are not able to make ends meet.

If things in my life had gone a different way, I could have declared bankruptcy at least once. I was a very very strong statistical risk that got through by the skin of my teeth.

Congratulations and I hope your good planning and good fortune continue!

Khisanth

Last edited by khisanth; 17 August 2016 at 07:43 AM. Reason: added some clarification
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Old 17 August 2016, 01:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Esprise Me View Post
I didn't read it that way, though I'll freely admit I lack context, having never read the book or heard the quote before. I just interpreted it as "if you earn slightly less than you need, you'll be miserable." Was it intended to imply that one can control one's expenses and therefore be happy?
It's been many years since I've read the book, and I'd have to read it again to answer that -- I'd have to check not only how the character who says that means it, but how the character's presented and how the situation presents through the book as a while. I will say that it would seem unlike Dickens (in my blurry recollection of his writings) to blame poverty on the poor; but that I've heard people in modern times use it in a fashion that implied that the problem was all due to lack of control of expenses.
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Old 17 August 2016, 03:40 PM
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I believe the character is Mr. Micawber, and that his statement is to be taken precisely as it stands--that is, there is no subtext referring to savings or being on the edge or how one unexpected expense can take you down (especially as there's no evidence that the poor of Victorian England had the luxury of thinking this way).

If you spend less than you earn, you're happy. If you spend more than you earn, you're not.

Seaboe
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Old 18 August 2016, 01:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Lainie View Post
Assuming Mouse was actually serious about changing her life by emulating a Seinfeld character.
Hey, I have no intention of changing who I'm voting for. I may be willing to consider doing the opposite of some of the stuff I usually do, but not voting.

I just keep thinking, I honestly need to do something to shake up my life. I'm not sure how, but I'm stuck in old patterns and I keep trying to figure a way out of them.

Though imitating a Seinfeld character is probably a bad way to go. I also thought maybe I should do like the protagonist of this book, but yeah, I know what would happen if I turned my decisions over to the Internet. Let's just say it wouldn't end well and leave it at that.
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Old 18 August 2016, 02:24 AM
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Applause, applause, Magdalene!

I clawed my way into the middle class myself. I know I had advantages some other people didn't have. But sometime last year, after I'd moved into a proper apartment, with legal occupancy and responsible management in a safe place, I looked around and...hey, wait a minute, no credit card debt! Plus I have a retirement plan! And really good health insurance! My goodness, my life is stable!

Stability took the first 33 years of my life to find, and it was a very long haul with detours due to (among other things) total collapse of the world economy when I was about 27. But I no longer live in the one-paycheck-to-the-next-let-me-put-car-repairs-on-this-MasterCard land, and if my pipes freeze someone does something about it, and I have heat in the winter!

Even though my employer already makes contributions to a 401(a) for me, several months ago, feeling like I was venturing into a completely new world, I opened a Roth IRA. And there is money left over each month to put in it. And it actually earns a return! And it looks like someday I will drop dead, for real, no kidding, retire. And not starve.

Here's to us. And good hairdressers. (I owe mine a visit, too.)
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