Right about now, my garden really is in high gear and I am harvesting a belly filling and grocery bill neutralizing amount of produce. This will be the third summer we have been in our house and we have been able to have a productive garden each year, easily eliminating the need to purchase vegetables from about May through October.
Can everyone do it on the scale that we do it? Maybe not, but certainly everyone can make a concerted effort to produce some level of produce and reap the rewards of their labor! I will talk you through what we did to setup our garden, and why it has been so productive. Also, I will talk about what you can do to start your own little garden now and still get some veggies this year.
If you don’t have a garden currently, it is fairly easy to create a space to grow some vegetables. During the winter, I grow sprouts in planters, anything with about two inches of dirt can produce sprouts easily. If you don’t have yard space to devote to a garden, you can use pots or buckets to house your produce. The major difference between the two is the watering requirement. With a bucket or planter, you must be careful to not over or under water your plants. Because the dirt is above the ground, it is much easier for it to dry out. On the flip side, it is much easier for the plant to be over watered since it can’t drain into the surrounding dirt either. When watering your plants in pots, it’s good to let the dirt dry out for a day or so and then to water it to a level of consistent moisture down about an inch into the soil. If the soil in your planter is blowing away with gust of wind or is constantly dripping wet, you need to take action to save your plants!
You Have Some Yard Space?
One of the non-negotiable items when we were searching for our house a few years ago was proper positioning with the sun and enough space for a large garden. Therefore, when we moved into the house, one of my first projects was to build a raised bed garden. This was easier to do than digging a garden in the dirt already since I wasn’t competing with the grass that has been growing there for years. I created a large box on the ground, about eight inches high (since I had 2×8 boards laying around) and filled it with dirt. Before I added the dirt, I laid down a bunch of cardboard boxes to smother the underlying grass. Long after the grass died, this cardboard started to decompose, but not before leaving me with a weedless garden where lush grass used to be.
To get my garden started, I purchased dirt from Walmart. I got the cheapest dirt they had, which was actually a humus and manure mix. This definitely supercharged my garden for the first year, which was an exciting way to start gardening in the new place! Each fall, I pile on the leaves I rake up from our trees and run over them with a lawn mower. This provides new organic matter which breaks down over the winter, while also providing a mulch-like cover to the soil so I don’t lose as much soil or nutrients to the rain.
Each year, I change a few of the plants I grow, but I have a core selection of plants I grow every year. Some of the depends on our diet and preferences, but it also depends on my success with growing them. There is no reason to keep planting plants that fail, providing only frustration. I am trying to learn from my mistakes and that sometimes means that I will give up on a varietal or species altogether.
Tomatoes, kale and green beans are perpetual choices for the garden. They generate so much for the space they take, I don’t see it as an option to stop planting these.
I grow tomatoes from seed each winter (I would say this a more advanced level), so I don’t have to pay the crazy prices that stores charge for tomato transplants. If shopping for tomatoes, look for the six-packs rather than the individual tomato plants. Even if you have to purchase tomato transplants, the savings you will get from growing these far outweigh the cost.
Kale is almost like a weed. It is easy to start from seed and pretty hard to kill. Compared to the other leafy greens, kale is far and away the easiest and most productive that I have tried. We use it instead of lettuce for salads, saute it like we used to do with spinach, and mix it in smoothies too. We have been growing kale since before it was a “superfood” but I’m happy to see that we’ve made a “super” healthy choice!
Green beans are the most productive plants we have in our garden. They are also the best bang for your buck in terms of savings at the grocery store too. Last year, we planted about 120 row-feet of green beans (six rows at 20 ft long) and ate fresh beans from June to October, froze several gallon bags worth and canned 10 or 12 jars of dilly beans. I’d say that production for the amount of space provided is unparalleled.
I have been planting squash for years, but they take up so much space and I usually have pest problems, reducing my harvest. I am considering not planting them going forward, save for one variety–the Tromboncino squash. This squash grows like a vine and I am able to plant it on the edge of my garden and let the vine grow out into my yard. It also has better defenses against the squash vine borer bug that tears up my other squash plants. Finally, the squash can be used while they are young, like a zucchini, or I can let them mature and they become a winter squash like a butternut.
I can’t seem to get spinach to grow in this garden. My dad has no problem at all growing spinach and often gives me what they can’t eat. This year, I planted about 12 row-feet of spinach and got two spinach plants to come up. Luckily, I planted the last of my seed and won’t purchase any more going forward. If we start a garden elsewhere, I may give it a shot again but I won’t have high hopes.
I have been planting peas for years and they are one of the first plants that come up in the spring. However, I got some variety of peas a few years ago that had to be shelled before eating them. This was way too much work and I gave up on that variety. This year, I got new seeds, for snap peas. That way, I don’t need to shell them before cooking and eating. I think the snap peas will have a place in the garden going forward.
I was really excited to try planting broccoli since this was one vegetable that we were always purchasing in the store. However, it takes up a ton of space and I had a real problem with bugs. I did get produce out of the plants but the heads of broccoli were significantly smaller than those sold in stores, so the reward was not worth the effort.
This year, like it or not, I have had a ton of pumpkin plants come up. I didn’t plant them on purpose, instead, I chopped up our pumpkins from the fall last year and added them to my garden compost. These plants take over everything in the garden! They have overrun my tomato plants, are spreading out in the yard and have shaded out my green beans. It’s cool to see pumpkins the size of soccer balls already, but I don’t think it’s worth sacrificing the space and production of my favorite plants for decorative pumpkins.
The main takeaway for me is that trial and error is necessary in your specific garden. Don’t be put off by failures this year, just try something new next year if you’re not having good production. If I were to start from scratch, I would do some leafy greens (kale!) and a few tomato plants to get started. Green beans require a bit more space to make multiple meals a week out of, so they would be my third choice. Take your time getting started and note that some varieties of each of these plants may do better in your planting zone so do a bit of research before plunging into it.
When you first discover the financial independence community and a path that’s different from the mainstream, it might feel like a thunderclap that wakes you from a long sleep. For others, discovering this path was simply putting a name and community to something they’ve identified with for a long time. If you fall in the first category, and FI has given you a new zest for life, you might find yourself searching for a new normal and a place to belong.
At times, some people find the path to FI to be a lonely place, especially if they’ve just gotten started. Getting on the path to FI can spark some serious changes to how you spend your money and your time. In other ways, you might feel wholly isolated from your existing peer group and even some family members.
If that’s you, and you’re feeling isolated and lonely on your path to FI, I hope this article helps you, since we’ve all been there from time to time. Luckily, with a bit of effort, it gets better and you can find your new (FI!) normal soon!
When You Feel Lonely With Your Existing Peers
Feeling completely alone within your existing relationships can be the worst feeling. You’re really excited about this new path you’re on, and you feel you can’t talk about it to anyone you know. You may feel disconnected or distracted at your typical social engagements or you may even feel you’re hiding a big part of your life from those you love.
With your existing friends and family, it’s up to you to decide if you want to disclose your quest for financial independence. It’s important to examine why or why not you’d be comfortable doing so and decide where to go from there.
Likely, you may have a good reason for not wanting to share that you’re shaving 5-10 years off of your retirement date, or, that you no longer find the hamster wheel as appealing as it used to be. If that’s you, there’s no shame in keeping that part of your life to yourself.
You Can’t Change Everyone Simply Because You’ve Changed
Loneliness can sometimes stem from feeling like you have a huge secret you’re hiding, or even a feeling of obligation to share what you’ve learned to change those around you. Is your loneliness stemming from a need to save people from themselves?
Sometimes taking away the need to change other people makes your path to FI feel less isolating. A quick reframe if you don’t want to share some, or all of your financial outlook and process with people, might take the pressure off and help you maintain existing social connections.
Not every friendship is forever, nor is one connection meant to be “everything” and that is okay. Some connections come and go, while others serve a specific purpose. You can reframe your connections as fitting a specific need (like a work relationship) and recognize what your other social needs are and pursue those separately.
When You Feel Lonely Because You Have No True Peers
You may be completely fine with your existing social circles, but feel that you need an outlet of like-minded peers to learn from and engage with.
As you begin to plot a way forward, you’ll need to put feelers out there to build new relationships and it may take some time. Unlike our childhood days of meeting friends on the playground, making friends as an adult, FI or otherwise, takes more effort than saying hello at the monkeybars.
The ChooseFI Facebook Group and connecting with whatever local ChooseFI group is in your area is a great way to foster connections. Of course, the real dividends pay out when you can make connections in person and meet up in real life–so don’t hide behind your keyboard if you’re feeling lonely!
You also might have luck on Meetup.com or signing up to volunteer with a local charity. You’d be surprised that even if new activities and relationships aren’t necessarily “FI” you might find fulfillment and community with fellow knitters, hikers, volunteers, and dog lovers.
If attending an in person group feels weird to you, try socializing online first–but push yourself after some time to take the plunge.
Making connections doesn’t have to cost money, and even if you don't hit a home-run with a FI meet-up in your area, finding new groups with common interests and taking the connections offline could help. Over time, you may feel the loneliness on the path to FI subsides simply because you’ve been able to fill your life with the right people, even if they aren’t necessarily fellow FI’ers.
When You Feel Lonely With Your Partner Or Spouse
If your significant other isn’t aligned with your choice to work towards FI, or they’re readily ambivalent or dismissive about your FI goals, it can be a lonely place indeed. While we’ve talked on the blog about how to get your spouse on board with FI, the process can still feel a bit lonely.
One helpful tip to bridge the FI gap between you and your partner is to invite them to participate, without judgment. Many of us have made the mistake of diving head first into FI, and expect our partners to catch up instantaneously. We simply take them along for the ride, not realizing we’ve not given them a chance to decide if and how they can contribute to the journey–which can be isolating for both parties.
If you’re feeling adrift, they also may be pulling away because they're afraid that making different financial choices might alienate them from their existing social circles. Exploring and addressing their concerns might be illuminating, and committing to budgeting for activities that aren’t “FI aligned,” but ease their fears might mean everyone’s happy with the result.
Make strides to help them maintain their identity, while bridging the gap to a new one. Attend their events, without groaning, and invite them to do the same for yours. If there’s a FI meet-up near you, or you want to start doing “budget nights,” know you may need to reciprocate to level the playing field so nobody feels left out!
There seems to be a misconception that people don’t have to work at developing relationships, but just like everything else, it takes some time and effort to develop and maintain. You may fumble around for a bit to find your tribe, but with some effort, you’ll be rewarded with a new sense of connection, FI or otherwise!
Granted, if you’re reading this, you are already a FI geek. However, your other half may not be cut from the same cloth. I, (Vicki) was the last one on board with making some changes to what we we were doing, so I wanted to share a bit of our journey.
Though I wasn’t a “Reluctant Spouse”, I was a “Clueless Spouse”. Yet, in the past few years I’ve mastered the Dave Ramsey program and more recently, have learned about FI. Also, the FIRE concept particularly interests me since my salary with the State of AZ has been the same since 2007. I'm ready for something new!
Alan and I are several chapters into our our financial journey, but those early chapters were pretty scary for both of us. We grew up in the 70's and learned a lot of life lessons, particularly about work–and that’s where the lessons stopped. We both came from small town Nebraska. My parents had the mindset that you just spend as little as possible, except for cigarettes. Alan and his two older siblings were raised by a single mom and he is astonished today as to how she did it on so very little.
If we had known what FI was back then, we would be in a completely different place. Everyone nod their heads with a collective sigh.
Our combined story started quite regular. Roughly twenty years ago, we met, got married, and moved away all within a year and a half. As time went on, we hummed along through life, both of us had very average jobs but we felt like we were “adulting” before it was cool. We even had a brand new Dodge Dakota sitting in the driveway and made the “investment” of a Timeshare. We must be doing okay; so society tells us. We had struggles with infertility trying to start a family, but eventually were blessed with one daughter. Time continued to pass. We kept asking ourselves “What can we do better to handle money?” and “How can we make more progress?” We felt like we were just treading water.
We had about $7,000 in savings at this point in our marriage which was thirteen years in. That didn’t seem like a whole lot for all the work we had done and all the thriftiness we had practiced. After all, what do you get when you mix Goodwill shopping with new truck payments? We didn’t take glamorous vacations. We didn’t go out to eat very much. We knew what net worth was and we knew that it was a stagnant concept for us.
Discovering Dave Ramsey
One day, Alan got to talking to his friend Steve about Steve's family's journey. Their child had just been diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. What a blow! Living paycheck to paycheck was not a good place to be, considering this new challenge in their life. They had started this process called the Total Money Makeover and had received the Financial Peace home study kit as a gift. Steve raved about the progress they were making. “Progress”, well shucks, that’s what we were after!
Alan came home with the Total Money Makeover DVDs that Steve had let him borrow. My Love Language is Quality Time, so when he suggested we throw these DVDs in and see what it was all about, I was game. I was all up for snuggling with some popcorn with my sweetie and learn something. Movie night will never be the same. I think he even ordered a pizza. Twist my arm!
And so it began, we came to find out over the nine week course that there were some pretty good ideas presented in the material. Dave is a dynamic teacher and we were willing to learn. Heck, what we were doing wasn’t getting us anywhere, might as well change the recipe. I had a fog about me at this point, but luckily, Alan is the one making things happen. I just had to show up at the budget meeting and negotiate. Consider it done!
According to Dave’s teaching, anything above $1,000 should be taken out of savings and thrown at the debt snowball. $6,000 knocked off several of our smaller debts. You’re kidding me? With that single action, I felt “progress” on steroids. Now we only have $1,000 in the bank, but if something happens, we can cashflow it. OK, that makes sense. Amazingly, it took us 13 1/2 months to pay off right at $37,000. I couldn’t believe what a difference this method made. It was the measurable, visible, tangible movement of the needle we had been looking for.
We finished Baby Step two in April 2012–and in July 2018 we paid off our home. There is something that changes in your spirit when that happens. It is indescribable; and so doable. As the FI community says, now on to Baby Steps eight, nine and 10.
We are still learning. Amazingly (don’t tell Dave), we applied for a credit card in order to jumpstart some travel. So we’re going to need this community of like-minded smart people to help us zero in on the Pillars of FI and open up all that comes from the freedom we’ve yearned for and now savor!
In my novice-to-natural path, I’d suggest a few things to convince your “reluctant spouse” to join the FI journey: Negotiate the Cash: When we went to a limited amount of “blow money”, Alan had to be flexible with me. Limits? I don’t need no stinking limits! We slowly reduced that category as he was able to chart every time we saw the debt go down. Seeing those numbers made me realize that I could spend even less, and I did. He lost the battle to win the war. FPU is a good place to start: Again, assuming that one of you is slow to come to the table, this was a great way to simply get things under control. Keeping the car out of the ditch is the place to start. Then we’ll worry about what comes next. The Steps are foolproof, so even the most nonchalant or uptight spouse can at least see THE PLAN. Go back to the beginning: I love my spouse, I would do anything for Alan. In those big and little actions and words, (pay attention!) true teamwork is solidified. If you have a spouse who is trying to guide you, let them. That doesn’t just mean the one with the head knowledge. It means both of you. In your mind, your heart, and your soul, breathe that in for a minute–show them patience and understanding and truly try to see what they see. After all, you would do anything for them. Actions and words are deposits. Make a habit of making lots and lots of love deposits and you can’t help but become an unstoppable team!
Were you the reluctant spouse? What helped you get on board with FI?
While Financial Independence (FI) is personal finance, personal finance is not always FI. Many people come to the FI community and way of thinking because of an interest in money, or perhaps because they’ve worked through Dave Ramsey’s “Baby Steps” and now want to level up their money savvy. But FI is not just about finance. It’s more!
FI Is Personal Finance 2.0
FI is different from personal finance, and even though many FI’ers love the nuts and bolts of finance–the spreadsheets, the draw-down strategies, the magic that is compound interest–there’s so much more to it than that. FI is different because it spills into your “how” and your “what” to envelop the “why.”
Often, people start into personal finance via Dave Ramsey or through finance bloggers in order begin to understand the basic concepts of loan repayment or staying out of debt, but many wonder what’s next–beyond the basic concepts. Often, people discover FI because they want to “level up” after their credit cards are paid off and want to figure out how to build passive income streams or shave years off their retirement, but this approach is often at odds with the “average” personal finance advice designed for the “average” person.
Once the debt is paid off or a financial milestone has been reached, for many people looking into personal finance, their work has ended–but for aspiring FI’ers, they often wonder what's next and if there’s more to discover.
The biggest difference, at least on its face, is that personal finance is based on the premise of retirement at age 65, with a good 30-40 years of working history.
FI of course, seeks to shave 5, 10, 20 or even 30 years off of your working timeline. So while traditional personal finance advocates that you should seek an average savings rate of about 15%, FI'ers work towards a 40-50% savings rate. Doing so shaves the retirement timeline down significantly. While most FI'ers value security, they also value freedom and believe they can have both by living mindfully and buying back years of their lives.
Credit Is Not The Devil, But An Incredible Tool For Travel Rewards
Two of the biggest proponents of a traditional personal finance approach are Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman. Their entire model is based for the “average American,” who lives an average life of consumerism, with an average age of retirement at 65. Dave is especially known for his disdain of credit cards, mainly because so many people come to traditional personal finance due to credit abuse and debt. Suze Orman is a big proponent of “can you afford it?” and bases her models on a long game to retirement. FI'ers differ from both of these approaches because they see credit cards as a tool to be able to creatively afford travel, even on a limited budget.
FI'ers acknowledge that avoiding credit card debt is a solid approach to life, but wonder if this limited use of credit (simply in the fear it could be misused) is shortsighted. That's where travel rewards and using credit cards to get free stuff comes in–FI'ers do not shy away from credit cards, especially after they've managed a healthy relationship with credit. They use credit to their advantage and play the game accordingly to travel the world. With creativity, they can afford just about anything, whether or not Suze Orman says their income matches up!
Your 401k Isn't Your Only Tool For Retirement
Most of what traditional personal finance teaches us is that we should work to max out our 401ks every year and funnel every penny we can into our retirement accounts. While this can be solid advice, it doesn't work as well for early retirees who require more flexibility on a condensed timeline.
FI'ers are known for their diversification and not seeing their retirement accounts as the end-all, be-all for retirement, but simply as one strategy of many. Purchasing rental homes, starting a side business for ongoing income, and even employing tactics like mega backdoor roths and tax optimization are also tools in the FI retirement toolbelt. Since the FI timeline is shorter, the tactics get more complex and are both proactive and passive to help create a unique mix of investment strategies to diversify and optimize–versus “throw your money in a retirement account and wait.”
Side Hustles Don't Quit
Traditional personal finance advocates frame up that retirement will finally be a welcomed respite for workers after years and years in the workforce. Traditional retirement requires that you save up as much money as possible, because you likely will not be able to produce much, if any income, in your late 60's.
FI is different because it insists that the lines between work and play don't have to be so stark, and retirement doesn't have to be a time when a person is “put out to pasture.” By the very nature of the condensed timeline, it's unlikely that anyone would be completely happy playing golf and hanging out with the grandkids for the next 40 years with nothing else going on! Heck, many FI/RE walkers “retire” well before they even have grandkids!
For FI folks, retirement is simply another evolution of work. A side hustle that was developed to get to that FI date even faster, now becomes a full-time profession, and a lifelong passion project. While many traditional finance folks see a divide between work and retirement, FI/RE folks often intentionally blur this line as part of their strategy.
In the personal finance realm, most people in the “normal” world will research what they need to know from time to time to hit their financial goals and be done. For people who discover the FI community, they start to see that the journey to FI makes life more exciting and it starts to spill into all areas of their lives–like minimalism or stoicism, seeing the world using travel rewards, taking on side hustles to learn new skills and being healthy as a tactic to not just feel good but save money too!
In sum, while it should be obvious–what sets FI apart from personal finance is not about accumulating wealth for wealth’s sake. It takes money a step further–not just to have it, but the freedom money can purchase. Money is not the end goal, freedom is the goal and money is simply a tool to get there.
Personal finance is about tactics and numbers, the FI mindset requires you to try and understand what tactics make you happy, and the “why” behind your financial goals. While it could be impressive to the personal finance crowd to say you have 10 million in net worth, many in the FI community would ask if that money afforded you the life you wanted and of course, if all of it is necessary. It’s less about numbers and more about purpose.
It’s not just assets that create meaning in life, but what number would be enough for you to be satisfied? While personal finance can show you how to do something–it doesn’t help you understand why you’re doing it, while FI strives to.
United Mileage Plus Explorer and Mileage Plus Club cards
Ritz Carlton Visa
JP Morgan Reserve cards
In order for credit card coverage to kick in you need to: decline rental company collision waiver, be the primary driver of the rental vehicle, and pay for the card in full with the card that offers the insurance protection.
Does your primary car insurance actually provide rental car insurance?
An email from Shari who recently made huge adjustments in her investments strategies, and realized that her son is 4th Generation FI.
Chris talks about his “Family Bank”.
How and why did Chris get this started?
What are the logistics of how the loans and “accounts” work?
Why does Chris’ family opt to use the Family Bank as opposed using traditional mortgage loans?
What impact does the Family Bank have on Chris’ investment strategy?
The first step toward the family bank is having transparent conversations about money.
What does Shane Mason, CPA/CFP, think of the family bank?
Does Shane consider the family bank an investment comparable to bonds?
Does the Family Bank need to be considered a business?
Interest income is always a taxable income.
Might the IRS have an issue with taking a loan from oneself?
I think it's no secret that many people in the FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) movement have a hankering to quit their 9-5 job.
However, there are some of us who want the choices that Financial Independence (FI) will bring but don't necessarily plan on the RE part. I fall in this latter camp.
Whatever your flavor, make sure to love the journey. Life is too short to be miserable now in order to be happy later. Which, to be honest, may never come. We are not promised longevity on this earth.
Wikipedia will tell you that delayed gratification is the process where a subject resists the temptation of an immediate reward in preference for a larger later reward. I can agree with that.
What I'm about to propose is that delayed gratification can create more room for joy. And that joy can include a purposeful career. You just need to be really intentional about what truly matters to you.
Unfortunately, in my younger years, I was the poster child for instant gratification. This thrill-seeking lifestyle ultimately led me to a dark bottom when I was in my 30's. The good news is that I've come out stronger and quite amazingly am now on a path to FI.
Recovering from addiction and debt has taught me a great many things. I've learned to embrace delayed gratification and in the process, I discovered what truly matters to me. Turns out the things that bring me joy, don't really cost money. A lot of things which bring instant gratification are fleeting. I desire for a more lasting gratification in my life. So let's come up with a more appropriate name for that.
I've found a better life in being intentional about what brings me true satisfaction while factoring in my long-term goals. Embracing this intentionality is producing fruit in both the short and long term.
Since the things I value don't necessarily cost money, I'm able to sustain a fairly high savings rate. A high savings rate allows me to invest in the goal of achieving FI which will, in turn, allow me more freedom to spend time on the things I value. It's a beautiful cycle! However, I'm not waiting till later to take the time for these things:
Health and Fitness
None of the above truly cost money or, at least, don't have to. The glaringly obvious one that can cost money is health and fitness. I'm a fan of group fitness as I like the accountability. This costs money. Fortunately, my boss pays for my gym membership. That's certainly a top reason I love my job!
If I had to fund my own fitness, a membership would still be something I value. But, I know if I have to cut costs, I can still maintain my fitness for free in the beautiful world we live in. The following activities are free:
Check out this podcast episode to learn about seven easy ways to workout for free.
However I do it, it remains a top priority for me. I heard a great quote from the late Dr. Wayne Dyer, “if you don't take the time to exercise when you are young, you'll have to take the time to be sick when you are old.” #Motivation
Enjoying The Journey
I love my job but that was not always the case. I've worked in some crappy environments, had abusive bosses, worked nights and weekends, and was paid little. I've worked really hard to get to the place I'm in with my current career. It's good.
I would like to explain what I love about my job in hopes that it'll inspire you to make the most of your current career or maybe even change careers. Find your passion!
Firstly, it's called work for a reason. Some people loathe hard work. I personally find it gratifying and no doubt, in retirement I'll still work really hard on my hobbies. It's just ingrained in me. Even when I was caught in addiction, I worked really hard. I was high functioning. The difference is now, I work smarter.
Bosses can really make or break a job. I endured cruel treatment from bosses in my past. I'm not sure why but I have this loyalty thing in my bones. When I start something I see it through. That can be a great trait but obviously in the case of staying at a crappy job for too long, not always.
My boss is a genius. He started his company with a great idea and has grown it from there. I get to participate in that growth.
He personally values health and fitness, and in turn, provides health insurance and foots the bill. Additionally, he offers a membership to a fitness club. I take full advantage of both.
He values his employees and tells them. I love affirmation. No, actually I crave it and that is probably due to the lack of affirmation I received as a child. My boss gives it, but we have to work for it. He recognizes hard work, efficient processes, talents, and skill. He tells me often that my stock at our company is high. It makes me want to work harder and smarter.
I work with a bunch of team players who strive to get better both professionally and personally. Sure there can be the occasional drama but I'll tell you what, my boss doesn't tolerate it. If there is a relational issue in the office, my boss will get to the root and make us work it out.
Most of the people in my office care about their fitness. That in and of itself creates a healthy environment. It seems to me that people who work out, also eat healthily. When others are making healthy choices, I'm inspired to also make healthy choices.
In the past, I didn't know my worth. I lived below the line and accepted whatever pay I could get. During the last seven years at my current job, I have undergone a lot of financial transformation. Namely, I dug my way out of debt.
An amazing thing occurred as I started to pay attention to my money. Actually, several amazing things occurred with this level of intentionality:
As I started to pay attention to my personal finances, I learned to pay attention to my company's finances.
I discovered my professional worth.
Let me tell you what has happened to my income over these past seven years. Within four years my salary had jumped by 25%. During the intensity of my debt pay off phase, I began employing career hacking and received another 20% raise. This year, I received an 8.3% raise. Additionally, I have received quarterly bonuses.
When I got back from Ramsey Studios where I was able to share my testimony, my boss talked to me about my future financial goals. I am happy to report we are on the same page with the next level of pay increase I'm striving towards.
I know that recovering from addiction is a gift and I use that gift to help others find the same freedom. My career doesn't involve helping recovering addicts or alcoholics but it does involve helping others. I'm a fan of helping all kinds of people.
I manage accounts and we have a unique model for helping small business provide health insurance for their employees. Part of my job involves cost-benefit analysis. I find it gratifying to work the numbers to find the optimal solution for our clients.
Another part of my job involves teaching the employees of our clients about their benefits. I'm a teacher at heart as I used to teach high school mathematics. Teaching falls in line with helping others.
We have a diverse set of clients and some require hard hats during visits. I always enjoy seeing how companies run and employ different efficiencies. Not to mention I get to meet a lot of interesting people and hear a great many stories along the way.
Enjoying the journey and living a life of purpose is what it's all about. If you don't yet know your purpose, I suggest you spend some time figuring it out. It's well worth the time!
Now I'd love to hear from you. What have you learned on this journey? What do you value in life? How do you live your purpose?
Twenty years ago, if you wanted to cut your lodging costs to see the world, you had two choices–hotels or hostels. Now, with the popularity of Airbnb for affordable and alternative experiences, we have more choices to curate our travel experiences to our budget and our expectations.
Much like online dating, staying in a stranger’s house has become far less taboo than it once was. Additionally, it also opens up the world to allow you to stay in some notable Airbnb accommodations- like boats, yurts, Airstream trailers and pool houses. Truly, your room with Airbnb can be just as much of the adventure as your destination!
If you want to save on travel, know that you don’t have to sacrifice feeling safe when you do so. Here are some pointers to ensure you know what to expect with your next Airbnb booking.
Read The Reviews Before You Book
Book a place that has at least a handful of reviews and read through them. Listings with detailed reviews beyond “it was a nice stay,” can help you book with confidence. Descriptions of the host, location, room, and added perks help you match up the true experience to what’s described in the booking.
How do you deal with negative reviews? Know there’s a difference between “I wish this was closer to the train” or “the decor could use updating” versus “the door on my room didn’t lock,” or “the host wasn’t very responsive during my stay.” Some reviews are petty or subjective, but others are telling.
Unfortunately, some people can leave unfair reviews for circumstances beyond the control of the host (like urban noise or if the AC went out but was fixed as quickly as possible) while others can leave valid concerns that the host needs to fix, and address publicly. Things inevitably will go wrong during a stay, but if a host responded to a public gripe fairly and stated the problem was fixed, that's a good sign that they care about their guests.
Ask Loads Of Questions, Expect Fast Response Times
Airbnb encourages potential guests to reach out to their host before booking if they have questions, or to get clarification on any points they might not understand. It’s truly a win-win when communication is clear and everyone feels like expectations for the experience are met.
Use the chat feature to get to know your host–and ask questions before booking, especially if they have a strict cancellation policy. Be clear on check-in and check-out times, how you can expect to check-in, what the parking situation will be like and how they recommend you travel to nearby activities.
Your host should be quick to respond. While it’s true some hosts have many properties to monitor, it’s a fair expectation that no matter how busy your host is, they answer you promptly. If your host is ghosting you, you absolutely can reach out to Airbnb to have them intervene or refund your money (even with a strict cancellation policy).
Be Proactive About Safety & Communication
You’ll want to book an Airbnb that suits your travel plans accordingly. For a long road trip across the U.S. where a room is simply a place to crash, book with easy parking and freeway access in mind.
If you’re palling around Paris as a tourist, you can ask your host their recommendations for how to best travel to your big “must see” destinations. Read through the reviews to see if solo travelers have stayed and if they commented on the location. If you’re worried about walking around at night, ask your hosts, or hop on to Facebook and find a group for travelers to ask for advice on locations.
Finally, while it’s totally not necessary to print out confirmations, take a screen shot. While I’ve never had a problem with Airbnb goofing up a reservation, I have had issues at traditional B&B’s that insisted I didn’t book a room or pay ahead of time–that confirmation email was a lifesaver!
How To Watch Out For Fake Listings
While this is far more common on Craigslist than Airbnb, finding listings that are duplicates from real listings can happen. If you see a location with no reviews, stock photos or a user with multiple listings and it seems fishy–it can be a sign of a fraudulent account. If you’re really unsure, and something about the photos feels phony, do a reverse Google Image search to check around.
If an Airbnb listing feels too cheap for a certain location or what’s offered, double check that the place really exists. Contact the host directly and ask follow up questions about the listing or reach out to Airbnb before you book.
One thing to note–Airbnb does NOT allow transactions or bookings to happen off of their platform. If a host is asking for cash when you arrive, or wants payment off of the Airbnb platform this a surefire bet it’s a scam, so report them right away!
Gut Feelings Versus Cultural Ignorance
The goal of Airbnb is to connect travelers to the places they visit with an authentic, local experience. While booking with Airbnb offers a convenient and affordable place to sleep, it also gives you a chance to experience the city in a new way.
While you are bound to do your research on cultural differences before you visit a new country, these differences can sometimes be amplified when you’re literally staying in someone’s home. Wearing your shoes into your room might be fine at a hotel in Tokyo, but doing the same at an Airbnb can be incredibly tone deaf.
Culture is a big part of the Airbnb experience, but that never means you should feel unsafe. In a large city, you might find a host treats their guests more like that of a concierge- happy to provide guidance on request, but in general, they might be a bit more “hands off.”
In other locations, a host might invite you to morning coffee and ask to hear about your travel plans and give you an umbrella before you head out the door. Some hosts do this as a hobby, others to cut their living costs, and some see themselves as cultural ambassadors. It can vary!
This being said, while cultures vary from place to place, you should always feel safe and trust your gut. If you book and your host is unresponsive, or if upon arrival, the place is in disarray or not matching up to the listing, call Airbnb. Your cultural boundaries may be challenged a bit with customs different from yours, but you should never feel unsafe!
Appliance replacement is something most people have had to deal with at some point in their lives. Sadly, it seems like many appliances built today use the concept of planned obsolescence to require us to buy another appliance in just a few years because it no longer works like it did when it was new. While we can’t force appliance makers to build better quality appliances, we can make sure we’re maintaining our appliances as intended to get the best shot of a long life out of these multi-hundred or often multi-thousand dollar appliances.
I asked the ChooseFI Facebook community for their ideas on how to make appliances last longer and compiled their advice with some of my own knowledge and research. I’ve listed what you need to know to get started below, but feel free to check out the post on the ChooseFI Facebook group for more details or to add your own ideas.
General Appliance Tips
If you’re buying a new appliance today, do plenty of research for the models you’re considering. Read reviews from people who’ve had the appliance for more than a few days to see how they really like it. Also, look for multiple instances of the same problems popping up in reviews as that can show poor design by the manufacturer.
Once you get any appliance, read the instruction book. Set up the appliance according to the instructions and perform any maintenance the instruction book recommends. While there is plenty of junk and silly warnings that their lawyers make them include, there is plenty of good information in these manuals, too.
If your appliance breaks, don’t freak out. If you have any inclination to look into the repair yourself, your first step should be Googling how to fix your appliance. Sometimes it’s a super easy fix that you can take care of yourself after watching a YouTube video. That said, if you don’t have the expertise to do the job, don’t risk hurting yourself or further damaging your appliance. Call a pro instead. Also, consider the expense of any materials or tools that may be cost prohibitive in comparison to hiring a professional.
Dave Klemarczyk from the ChooseFI Facebook group had a tip about finding replacement parts. He says RepairClinic.com is a great place to identify the item numbers you need to fix your appliances. However, he suggests that you shop around because you may find better prices on your parts elsewhere. And if you can't find what you need on YouTube, RepairClinic.com also has over 3,000 expert repair videos.
An air conditioner is one of the most expensive systems in your home and can cost thousands of dollars to be replaced. By doing a few maintenance tasks on a regular basis, you can help extend that life.
First, replace the air filter when it’s dirty. Don’t simply replace it every 30 days just because that’s the general rule of thumb. Instead, look at the filter to see if it is dirty and air flow is impeded. If it is, replace the filter, if it isn’t, wait until it is then change it.
If you live in a climate that has corrosive salt-water air like mine, it helps to rinse your air conditioner coils off once every few months. Doing this will remove potentially corrosive materials such as salt from the coils and prevents it from eating away at them. The coils are how the system cools. If they break down, your air conditioner is less efficient.
Keep the area around your outside air conditioner clear from shrubs and plants so the air can flow over it naturally. Reduced airflow makes your system work harder.
Finally, schedule regular maintenance visits so a trained technician can make sure everything is in tip-top shape. This includes cleaning the interior parts of your system that you don’t normally access and checking coolant levels among other tasks. Personally, I leave this to the trained professionals as the amount of electricity that runs through an air conditioner can be very dangerous.
Hot water heater maintenance is pretty straight forward. First, keep the immediate area around your hot water heater clear from junk. Since many hot water heaters are in closets or garages, it’s easy to want to store stuff right next to them. However, you need to give your hot water heater space.
Additionally, draining your hot water heater once per year from the bottom of the tank is beneficial to clear any sediment that may have built up. This sediment makes your hot water heater work harder. When draining the hot water heater, be extremely careful as the water will, hopefully, be hot.
Refrigerators are relatively easy to maintain. You’ll want to vacuum the condenser coils a couple times per year to clear them of any dust, pet hair, or dirt buildup. If these coils are clean, they can cool your refrigerator more efficiently which will hopefully extend the life of your refrigerator. Cleaning the door seals when needed will help the seals keep cool air in as best as possible. You can even replace them if you need to.
Clothes Washer and Dishwashers
Clothes washers and dishwashers aren’t difficult to maintain either. A ChooseFI Facebook group member explains that you should clean the water screens on your clothes washer on a regular basis to remove buildup so the water pumps aren’t overworked. It's also important to make sure your clothes washer is level from time to time.
As far as dishwashers go, there is usually a screen or trap on the bottom that should be cleaned or emptied every once in a while, too. For both the dishwasher and clothes washer, it is good to run a cycle of cleanser on a regular basis, as well as a white vinegar rinse, especially in areas with hard water. This assists in keeping the buildup of minerals from clogging the plumbing and impeding the efficiency of the appliance.
Finally, don’t forget to inspect water hoses on a regular basis. While it may not make your appliance last longer, replacing a damaged hose could save you a ton of money in water damage down the road.
Last but not least is the clothes dryer. Clothes dryers naturally build up lint around the lint catcher. Clean the area around the lint catcher occasionally to remove any buildup in addition to cleaning the filter between every load.
Also, clean the exhaust vent on the back of your dryer and the exhaust tube to remove lint buildup. Finally, inspect the vent outside to make sure it is clean and hot air comes out when your dryer is on. If it isn’t, get the exhaust tube cleaned. If you don’t or this gets blocked, it is a huge fire risk as lint is very flammable.
Maintaining appliances can be done with a bit of DIY courage, research, and practice. Thankfully, Google seems to know everything about most appliances and models. Simply research your model and maintain it as intended. Extending the life of your appliances is it's own reward and peace of mind. Also, keep in mind, planning for appliance replacement allows for one to pick and choose what they really want in features and variables versus the immediate need of replacing during a crisis.