Sometimes, too often really, it seems impossible to achieve our wildest dreams. But, what if you could? What would happen if you shift from a mindset of "That would be nice, but it probably will never happen..." to "That would be nice, and it might be hard to achieve, but it WILL happen..."?
I recently saw that financial guru Suze Orman would be answering questions on the Facebook page for Glamour magazine. It would be a 30 minute window to ask questions. I jumped on it, figuring so many others would as well that my question wouldn't get answered, or even seen. I was surprised moments later to see an answer!
My question: I'm struggling to get my finances under control. I also have a 13yo son, and am a single mother. How can I best make sure my son understands finances when I struggle so much myself? Thank you.
Suze's response: Malea B listen to me-- stop being a MOM you need to just stand in your truth-- kids do what you do not what you say- so be honest and proud-- you can do this.
Pretty simple, right? In a moment of doubt, and feeling bad about my financial situation, that had power for me! Sometimes we just need a little knock upside the head to say, "Hey! You already have the tools and know-how, so DO it!"
You may have read my mini-pity party about my car woes, and I was feeling pretty down about it until I calculated the cost of keeping my car versus getting rid of it. That was an eye opener! Even if I never made another repair to my car, it wasn't worth keeping. I have been without my car about a week now, but I actually haven't really been driving it for an additional two weeks. I am lucky enough to live 2 blocks from the commuter train, and one of my tutoring students lives a mile from another stop. I can walk to school, and the grocery, drug store, and post office are all right around the corner. We also are a train ride away from New York City. The only thing I've needed my car for, and the only reason I didn't sell it immediately upon arrival in New York, was so that I could get to one particular tutoring family. Well, February 3rd will be my last day of tutoring for that family on a daily basis (due to other reasons I won't go into here), and financially I will come out AHEAD despite giving up income! Until recently, I had never looked at the cost of getting to and from this family compared to not having my car, and not tutoring for this family. It actually was costing me money to do this job! Whoa!
So, my first steps to living my dreams, were realizing that life without my car is a good thing financially and in terms of my stress level. Not having my car, I've felt freer and lighter than ever. Not only do I not have to worry about paying for insurance, gas, and maintenance, but I also don't have to worry about parking (on the street, with alternate side restrictions twice weekly). And, a side bonus, I'm getting a ton of exercise because I'm walking substantially more...from the train to one of my tutoring clients is a 1 mile walk each way, plus 1/4 mile from my place to my train stop. Most days (Monday to Friday), I'm getting 2 1/2 miles of cardio exercise, and I walk FAST (why is another story involving fond memories of my grandfather...for another post) so I'm burning loads of calories! I had set a weight loss goal of 15 pounds with a deadline of April 20th. I've been tracking my walking, and calories burned, and I will meet my goal long before April 20th! Another side benefit, my son is getting a lot more exercise too. Better health means fewer doctor visit, which is money saved. Plus, we have been happier due to the positive mood effects of exercise, and we've been focusing on better eating habits to make sure we have the energy to keep walking.
The next step to living out my dreams is to finish graduate school. My last term begins tomorrow (January 23rd), and graduation is mid-May. I can't wait! I will have an MFA in Writing, with a concentration in Poetry. I've been actively applying to community colleges for teaching jobs (if you know of any openings, please let me know...including overseas openings!). These are ongoing activities, but they add to my ability to live my dream life.
Additionally, I've been tracking my spending, especially on transportation costs, and food. I've found ways to save on transportation (buying a 10-punch trip ticket for the train costs less than buying 5 round trips, and I need to find out the benefits and cost of a monthly pass). And, I'm being extremely conscientious about our food purchases, and making sure we eat everything we buy - throwing any food in the trash for any reason is wasted money - I might as well through cash in the trash bin.
I've also been focusing a lot on needs versus wants. I want a soda, but I need water. Ok, water is boring, but it's true...I need it! Of course, we all need water, but I had surgery to repair a torn tendon in my foot a few years ago, and I've noticed that if I am dehydrated, even slightly, my foot starts to get all cramped up. If I don't take care of it right away, or have been dehydrated for too long, it ends up so cramped and painful that I literally cry, and it can take hours to uncramp. I used to drink 8 cups (or more!) of coffee everyday PLUS at least two sodas! Whew! I'm amazed that I didn't have major heart palpitations! I still drink 3 to 5 cups of coffee, but I've been working really hard to NOT have a soda everyday, or even most days. I try to make my coffee at home, and fill a thermos if I will be gone all day. When I crave a soda (a certain caffeinated cola with a red and white label and polar bears in their advertising), I try to think about my foot. Usually that's enough to get me off the soda thought train, and grab water instead. When I do give in, I try to find a smaller soda (either a regular can or mini can) instead of the 20oz bottles that seem to dominate these days - cheaper, fewer calories, less sugar, and I really don't want a full one anyhow! Cutting back on soda may seem small but it adds up. In my area, a full sized 20oz soda can cost $1.75 or more...multiplied over a month, and that is $52.50 per month on just sodas! $630 per year! Those savings, combined with savings from cutting way back on evil-empire (think green aprons) coffee drinks (I've gone from 3 times per week to maybe 3 times per month), and we could, annually, take TWO trips to the west coast to visit family, or one trip to Mexico City to visit my uncle!
I also find myself more and more often thinking, "If I buy this, I will have to work x-hours to pay for it." This is something my dad used to tell me to do in analyzing my spending habits, but for some reason, I've never done it until recently (maybe I was never broke enough to feel the need?). The savings, when you realize how much you have to work to pay for the stuff in your life is amazing! Seeing the number of work hours rack up just to pay for stuff is a wake-up call, and really brings home the needs versus wants. Most of the stuff in our lives falls in the wants category. Yes, we all treat ourselves periodically, but periodically should be the key...if you just buy stuff all the time because you want it, then the stuff isn't special...it is just STUFF. How much have you spent over the years on random stuff that you can't even name anymore, that you don't have anymore, that you never truly wanted in the first place? All money WASTED...that could have paid for something you really wanted if you'd only been a little patient with yourself.
This is getting super long, so I will stop here, and post more another day...including a list of links to my favorite inspirational blog posts about living your dream life, being inspired, and so on.
Oh, and I also got some GREAT news this weekend! I received a little package in the mail from my tutoring company - inside the box I found: a tote bag, stainless steel water bottle, note pad and pen, keychain flash drive, and a letter stating that in 2011 I was one of the TOP 50 TUTORS FOR THE COMPANY! The company has over 33,000 tutors on the books (as of my last check, although at various times I've seen as many as 38,000 registered tutors!). If you are need of tutoring services for yourself, or for someone else, or you want to become a tutor, please consider using WyzAnt. I've had a great experience working as a tutor, and my students are happy with the company as well.