Oct 27

Some people have, “that kind of money”. You Don’t!

Oprah and JustinMany years ago I watched an episode of the Oprah Winfrey show that really resonated with me. Although I don’t know Oprah personally, I’ve always imagined that she is as down to earth and approachable in person as she was on her show. Despite her success and fame, Oprah has always been very honest about her faults, her difficult childhood and her struggle with her weight. I really admire her for openly discussing those struggles and, “telling it how it is”.

On that particular episode, Oprah talked about watching the, “skinny girls” eat whatever they want and not gain any weight. Oprah said that she envied those girls for years and often thought, “why can’t I be like that?”

In time, she came to realize that people have different metabolisms and she’ll always have to watch what she eats. What stuck with me was the statement she made next. It was something like,

“Some girls can eat whatever they want and stay skinny, but that ain’t you (referring to herself).”

So simple, but so true!

Years later, I still remember that show and that, “ah ha” moment. Not only did I identify with Oprah’s frustration and insecurities with her weight, but I also thought about how her statement applied to other areas of my life, including my finances.

As early as middle school, I remember looking at things my peers had, and wishing I had the same. I’d see the clothes, shoes and jewelry that other girls had and think to myself, “man it would be nice to have things like that.”

Thankfully I grew up in a really rural fishing village on the coast of Maine, so there weren’t a lot of, “fancy” things to envious of. In high school, I, “figured out” that I could buy the things I wanted (GAP jeans, Tommy Girl perfume, nine west shoes etc.) by working odd jobs, babysitting and life-guarding.

When I went away to college, I met a whole new class of wealthy people that I didn’t even know existed. I also, “discovered” a world of new “stuff” to admire and desire.

Image: Amazon

Image: Amazon

My freshman year of college, I befriended a young woman who came from a very wealthy family. Her family’s, “summer cottage” in Kennebunkport was next to the Bush’s home (President Bush!) and her year-round home was a mansion (think Real Housewives of NJ). She drove a brand new Volkswagen Passat and dropped fat stacks of cash on clothes, shoes, makeup and handbags.

She was a sweet girl and I appreciate that she never made me feel, “less than” because I didn’t come from a wealthy family. Despite her best attempts to keep me from feeling like her, “poor friend”, there were definitely times when she was buying a $50 lip treatment at the Chanel counter that I was “hiding” at the Clinique counter, and thinking to myself, “must be nice”.

In times like that, I had to remind myself, (courtesy of Ms. Winfrey),

“Some people have that kind of money, but that ain’t you!”

Don’t get me wrong, I had no desire to spend $50 on a glorified lipstick, I’m a Burt’s Bees lipbalm kind of gal. But I did often wonder what it would feel like to be able to spend freely without worrying about money.

As an adult, I’ve come to terms with my finances and I’m incredibly thankful for the things that I do have. While I still can’t help but wonder what it might be like to never have to worry about money, I’m so grateful to be financially secure. Not only do I/we have a cute condo, a chunk of money in my retirement account, a good reliable used car and a fully-funded emergency fund, I also enjoy a host of comforts that many people do not have.

It’s no secret that when I was a kid we didn’t have a lot of money. I’m now fortunate to be able to travel when I want, buy what I want at the grocery store and even buy a few luxury goods here and there. What’s more important is I can give back to my family and my community. I don’t worry about money (OK I do worry a little… I think I always will) and I sleep soundly at night (except for when the cat sleeps on my head) because I don’t have to worry about if there’s money in my account or how I’m going to pay my bills.

I may never have “that kind of money”, but I’m very happy with what I do have.

Have you ever felt envious of “things” that other people have? Has the envy died down as you’ve grown older? How do you get the “green-eyed monster” in check?

Photo: Lwp Kommunikáció

Oct 20

Busy bee-life update


When I can’t find the right photo for a blog post these e-cards always crack me up.

I know I’ve been quiet lately. Life has been busy and blogging has had to take a bit of a back seat. So I just wanted to write a quick post to, “check in”. Here’s what’s going on in my world recently:

Hiring. I know I mentioned this a few weeks back, but one of my case managers left the agency and I’ve been trying to find the perfect replacement. What I’ve come to find is, “nobody’s perfect” (myself included). There have been some pretty good candidates and some pretty bad ones.

My favorite, “no go?” a candidate who told myself and my social worker (we’re both women) that one of the qualities he’d bring to the job is, “being a man”. We expected he’d then elaborate on the statement with a followup statement about the field being female dominated and how he could be a good role model for male clients etc. He did not! In fact he didn’t explain the statement at all. Strange! Sorry sir, just having male parts doesn’t make you a good candidate.


Don’t ask me why he looks so disgruntled. It was early in the morning

Cat care. A lot of my time lately has been spent with Liam. He’s now taking medication twice a day (pills and liquid). He’s also receiving subcutaneous fluids daily and I’m doing some assisted feeding with an oral syringe (he’s not eating well and is super skinny so it’s important to keep his calories up). A few weeks ago the vet she told us we might have to think about putting him down. I immediately became a wreck and starting having a meltdown. She thought he wasn’t eating because his kidney levels were getting worse. Thankfully she was wrong.

His blood work and his kidney levels are actually *better* than they were when he was first diagnosed with kidney failure. So we can’t figure out why he isn’t eating well. He doesn’t seem to be feeling bad or acting out of the ordinary, so for now we’re just playing it by ear. We’re thankful for each day with him and we’re taking it one day at a time.

Visiting. The weekend before last, Eric’s sister, brother-in-law and nephews came to town from Michigan. We spent the whole weekend together playing “tourist” in NYC. We went to Korea town for dinner, watched Aladdin on Broadway, walked around central park, and ate lots of macaroons. It was so nice to spend that time together and to get to know Eric’s sister better.

Since the rest of Eric’s family is still in the Philippines I’ve never met them (I’ve only met this sister twice). Eric sometimes speaks with his family on the phone, but it’s really not the same as seeing them in person. I’m really close with my family and it makes me sad that Eric isn’t able to be closer with his. So last weekend was really special.

Exercising. I made a goal to exercise at least 25 minutes per day 5 days a week and so far so good. I have to admit that those first few days when I got home from work and I was tired and hungry I didn’t really feel like working out. It would have been easier to put on my pjs and lounge on the couch. But I’ve found if I come home and get right into my workout gear I don’t allow myself to make excuses. Over the past two weeks I’ve been eating better and I’ve even lost a little weight which is nice.

Cleaning. When Eric’s sister came to town I realized what a mess our house was. 5 years ago you could eat off my floor my house was so clean. Today, I happily embrace the 3 second rule. After a long work week I just want to relax. The thought of spending all weekend cleaning, organizing and doing laundry makes me miserable. That being said, I’ve since realized that if I keep my house at an, “acceptable” level of clean during the work week, I don’t have to spend all weekend deep cleaning. So I’m making a goal to keep the kitchen table and counters clutter-free and wipe them down daily because clutter means chaos to me.

Hustling. I’ve been fortunate to pick up a few side hustle gigs. This weekend I cat sat (sounds funny that way) for one of my dog walker’s clients (dog walker was out of town). Starting next week I’ll be doing every other day cat visits for a little over a month for a client who’s going to Paris. Her cats are sweet as pie and I’m really excited to spend some time with them. I’m also thankful to make some extra money before the holidays.

Tell me what you’ve been up to? Do you have a Halloween costume yet? We like to dress up the dog (poor bugger-that’s what happens when you don’t have kids) and haven’t bought his costume yet.

Oct 12

Pros and Cons of Starting Your Own Business

businessHave you ever thought about quitting your job to start your own business? I know I’ve definitely dreamed about the day I can give my letter of resignation and hang my own shingle. I know several people who have started their own businesses and I’ve watched the risky, yet rewarding experience. That said, it’s probably not a good venture for everyone.

Some people do very well running their own business, while others thrive while working for someone else (and there’s nothing wrong with that!). Before taking the big leap to start your own business, you need to completely understand what you are getting yourself into. Many people don’t consider the pros and cons of starting their own business, jump right into it, and ultimately fall flat on their face. But after careful consideration and in-depth due diligence you’re prepared to run your own business, you shouldn’t be scared to give it a shot.

Starting Your Own Business: Advantages

According to Hostway, owning your own business is a completely different lifestyle. But it will take total commitment and determination to make the lifestyle work for you. Though there are drawbacks, here are some of the advantages to owning your own business:

  1. Work-life balance. Owning your own business enables you to find a balance between work and family that works for you. Many people find it frustrating to be at the beck and call of their employers. I hate being on-call, but it’s part of my job and it’s something I’ve had to learn to live with. You can also wind up working odd hours and not seeing much of your family, which means missing important family events and functions. Once you get into the groove of your own business, Inc notes that you can carve out time for family without sacrificing work time or vice versa.
  2. More work = More pay. You have the opportunity to make more money when you own your own business. When I see the direct impact of more work = more pay, it’s easy to get motivated and I want to work hard. Additionally, since you have no co-workers (unless you hire staff to help you), you can keep the money you earn for yourself. In most traditional jobs (unless you work for commission) the majority of your direct earnings never come back to you. When you own your own business you keep all of the revenue.
  3. You’re the boss. One of the best perks of owning your own business is that you are your own boss. I know I’m my own biggest critic, so I don’t need a boss telling me what to do. If you don’t like or benefit from taking orders from someone else, then going in to business for yourself might be the best option for you.
  4. Room for creative growth. It’s nearly impossible to get fired (unless you really don’t like yourself-wink). This takes the pressure off of minor mistakes you may and gives you the ability to use your creativity in ways you might not be able to in a traditional job.
  5. The Internet makes it “easy”. Years ago it would have been more difficult for someone to open their own business. You’d have to have extensive start-up money and a physical location. Thankfully, the Internet has really leveled the paying field, and you can now start a business, website or blog in your pjs from your basement. Programs such as Shopify help you run your business online.
  6. You’re in control. Whether you are going the traditional, physical business route, or beginning your business online, running your own business enables you to put roots where you want. You don’t have to live in a community you don’t like because that’s where your employer is located. If you run an online business you can live anywhere with Internet access. It also gives you the ability to travel frequently and/or vacation with your family without worrying about having vacation time, “approved” by your employer.

Starting Your Own Business: Disadvantages

Starting your own business can be awfully exciting, there are many drawbacks that some people don’t take in to consideration. If you,”under-think” everything and jump into business ownership without a well-thought out plan, you may end investing your money and time into a venture that fails. It is true that there are many advantages, but you need to be prepared for the disadvantages as well.

  1. Financial risk. This may sound obvious, but opening your own business may mean taking a big financial risk. This is especially true when you go the traditional route and end up renting or purchasing a building. You could invest thousands of dollars, only to find out down the road that the business just was not for you. Interestingly there are now a bunch of TV shows that document experts and celebrities stepping in to help failed businesses. Restaurant impossible anyone?
  2. Long hours. While it is true that you set your own hours, your hours may not truly be your own for years. Just ask a small business owner how many hours he/she spends working on her business. If you think a 50 hour work week is a lot, you’ve never met a small business owner. I can almost guarantee that starting a business will mean longer hours and fewer vacations (at least at first). Even if you do take a vacation, your mind never completely leaves your work.
  3. Income isn’t guaranteed. When you first start your business you it may take a while for business to pick up. If you can’t afford to go a few months without income and don’t have a good sized emergency fund, then you might want to think twice about starting your own business. Most folks I know who have started their own businesses have worked on building the business part-time on the side while they were still working their regular salaried jobs. That way when they took the leap into being a business owner, they already knew they could make the money necessary to survive.
  4. Benefits and taxes. When you’re self-employed you’re the one paying your taxes. What seems like a ton of money (gross) is much less once Uncle Sam takes his cut. Benefits like health insurance, life insurance and retirement matches are non-existent unless you fund them yourself. With the state of our current health insurance industry here in the US, health insurance is a real obstacle for people who are self-employed (and one you should carefully consider before starting out on your own). By the time you pay those premiums you might have very little money left over to live on.
  5. You’re not alone. Not to be a negative Nancy, but everyone thinks they have what it takes to start their own business. But do you have what it takes to really, “make it work?”. You may have a great idea for a business, but there are hundreds of people out there with the same great idea. What makes you better and how dedicated are you to making it work? What makes you stand out and what’s going to make you succeed?

Ready to quit that day job and hang your own shingle? Are you self-employed? Do you want to be? At some point in the future I’d definitely like to start my own business and work for myself, but for right now, I’m happy working for someone else and building my skills, while not having to worry about how I’m going to get paid.

Sep 29

4th Quarter Goals

goalsI can’t believe that it’s almost October! It feels like just yesterday we were making New Years Resolutions (well, I didn’t really make any, but I enthusiastically read everyone else’s!) and now another year is coming to a close.

Don’t worry, I know we still have a few months left and I’m not trying to rush through the rest of the year. Instead, I’m using this as an opportunity to reflect on progress I’ve made so far, and finish up a few projects before the year comes to an end.

Here’s what I’ll be working on for the next 3 months:

Money Goals:

  • Save $1500 a month. We’re saving towards a down payment on our next home (if/when we decide to buy again we decided we will keep our current condo as an investment property).
  • Cancel grandma’s phone on my family plan. She never uses it, so my grandfather has suggested that I cancel the plan. I’ve been meaning to do this for months but just haven’t had the time have been lazy. I’m going to get her one of those pre-paid phones that you add minutes to, to keep in the car. If you can recommend a cheap phone please let me know. I had a, “trac phone” back in the day and I think they still sell those?
  • Set up auto deposit into my retirement account. Since I got promoted in April I’ve been meaning to increase my retirement contribution based on my *new* higher salary. Right now my deposits are based on my previous lower salary, which is still better than the (zip, nil, nada) I was contributing towards retirement when I had $30k of student debt.

Health Goals (good health is wealth!):

We all know that physical fitness and financial wellness are interconnected, so I’m trying to focus more on my physical health and wellness. Someone once told me you make serious changes to your lifestyle when you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. Well I’m not, “sick and tired”, but I’d like to be much more healthy and energetic :-)

Related side note, if you haven’t been by Shannon’s blog, Financially Blonde recently, you’ll definitely want to check out her new book, Train Your Way to Financial Fitness. It’s an honest and refreshing take on getting, “financially fit”. I personally have struggled withing being too, “extreme” in my diet and exercise in the past. Ditto for my personal finances.

Basically, I like to do things 110% and if I don’t feel like I’m succeeding immediately, I sometimes give up. I love that Shannon’s book helps you figure out where you stand and then helps you focus on finding the right balance between too, “skinny” and too, “fat” (financially speaking). It’s like having a financial counselor and supportive best friend all rolled into one (love that!). It’s the help you get you want (and need) to make your finances work for you.

  • Pack lunch for work everyday. For the past few weeks I’ve been making protein smoothies in the morning and bringing them to work in my insulated Klean Kanteen. It saves me money because I don’t buy take-out. It also keeps me from overeating and gives me a big vitamin boast. I’ve been using Nature’s Bounty chocolate protein mix (2 scoops) mixed with 1 cup of frozen berries or banana (or a combo of both) and 1 cup almond milk. I swear it tastes just like a chocolate milk shake, yum!
  • Exercise 25 minutes a day 5 times a week. I’m trying to be specific and measurable for this goal. In the past I’ve said I’m going to exercise “more” and let’s be honest, “more” doesn’t really mean anything. So this time I’m going to specify exactly what I mean. Those 25 minutes can be walking, jogging (or a combo of both) or doing a Focus T25 workout. I plan exercise longer each day and incorporate some strength and stretching, but I’d rather, “start small” and achievable then shoot for the stars and be disappointed.

Christmas Goals:

  • Finish knitting the, “Christmas sweaters”. I’m currently knitting two matching sweaters for my best friend’s twin girls due in January. I also need to start a cardigan for my sweet niece Clara (who has really gotten the short-end of the stick when it comes to hand knits from aunt KK-shame on me!).
  • Give $50 to my nephews and niece for their college funds. Each Christmas I give my sisters $50 for each of my nephews and my niece. It’s not a lot, but more importantly, it gives me the opportunity to tell my, “debt story” and teach my nephews and niece about saving and choosing a college they can afford. The eldest nephews are only 6, but it’s never too early to start teaching kids about money.
  • Send Christmas cards to friends and family. I already have the cards (I buy a few at a time when there are promo codes for free photo cards from the online photo sites). They don’t all match, but that doesn’t bother me in the least. Unless you’re family, you don’t see the cards I sent other people anyway.

Other Goals:

  • Finish the course I’m taking. I’m currently taking a SIFI (Seminar in Field Instruction) course. It’s a 12-week certification course for field instructors. This year I’m teaching an MSW student from Hunter College. It’s a big responsibility and something that I’m very excited about. My student is smart, engaging and ready to take on the world (it’s a good reminder why I got into the field and a nice way to continue to “stay fresh” and build my skills).
  • Write a handwritten letter to my grandmother weekly. We’ve noticed her memory loss for several years, but have just learned that she’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I think writing letters to her will be therapeutic for both of us. Her doctor said that card games, puzzles, crosswords etc. are good “mental exercise” so I assume letter writing would be the same.

Are you already thinking about the end of the year? What goals are you working on?

Image: lululemon athletica

Sep 24

Oops they did it again: 8 Tips for Buying a Used Car on a Budget

Not my parents' car

Not my parents’ car

This weekend my parents called me, “pleased as punch” (again!) with news that they purchased a (another) new car. If you remember from my previous post, my parents purchased another new car about 6 years ago. Previously my mom was driving a Saturn Vue. Per my step-dad, the Vue needed some pretty expensive maintenance and since Saturn dealers don’t exist anymore, so they decided to purchase another car.

They did their due diligence and decided on a Honda CRV. As I’ve mentioned before my folks are very frugal in almost all aspects of their of their lives. Cars are their one big, “splurge item” and when they buy a car, they want a new one.

I personally prefer to buy used cars and pay in cash (this is what my grandparents have always done and I admire them greatly for it). I certainly don’t fault my parents for buying a new car. There’s nothing wrong with buying a new car (or any other item for that matter), if you can afford it. Sadly, many people get suckered into financing cars they can’t afford. They don’t budget for an upcoming car purchase, and subsequently end up taking out large auto loans with exorbitant interest rates.

They sign on the dotted line and before they realize what’s going on, that, “affordable” monthly payment the salesman promised is now eating up half of their paycheck leaving them feeling overwhelmed and scared. Fortunately, buying a car doesn’t have to be synonymous with accruing debt.

Here are 8 simple tips, passed along from my grandparents, that Eric and I used to buy our (new to us) car on a budget.
  1. Pay cash:

    If you can’t afford to pay cash, seriously consider if you’re overextending yourself. Do you really want to spend $500 a month on a car payment? 2-3 years from now will you still be making the same money? If you plan on having kids will you need a bigger car? My best friend is currently paying a car payment on a car that will be too small for her family (2 kiddos and twins on the way!) in less than 9 months.

  2. Consider insurance and maintenance:

    Make sure you consider car insurance, maintenance, gas costs etc. before buying a car. Depending on your age and sex, and the make and model of the car, your insurance could be hundreds of dollars per month. Also consider the added expense of buying a luxury car. Servicing (at $100/hour and more) and premium gas can really add up.

  3. Be Realistic About Your Needs:

    Seriously consider the type of car that meets your needs. If you won’t be doing any, “off roading” in Atlanta you probably don’t need a 4-wheel drive SUV. Conversely, if you live in rural Maine where you’ll be driving in 12 inches of snow you might want to invest in that 4-wheel drive Subaru. If you live in Manhattan, that Escalade might look super fly on the lot, but just try and parallel that puppy into a spot on Bleecker Street!

  4. Do Your Homework:

    Talk to friends and family about their experiences with their cars. My family has always loved Hondas for their durability, good gas mileage and reliability. Consumer Reports is a good place to find out what makes and models are reliable and require little maintenance. You should also check Kelly Blue Book to find the going price for a used make/model of the car you’re interested in.

  5. Buy Used:

    Don’t let the dealer convince you that it’s too “risky” to buy a used car (yes parents I’m talking to you!). Forgo a huge depreciation in value and keep yourself out of debt by buying used. If you’re purchasing from a private seller have your mechanic check the car before you purchase it. He/she can tell you if the car you have your eye on has any problems that will end up costing you too much money.

  6. Save First, Buy Later:

    Don’t wait until your car dies to start thinking about saving for a new one. If you wait too long to start saving you risk putting yourself in a financial bind. I started saving for a replacement long before my 1993 teal Chevy Cavalier (RIP), overheated and left me stranded on the side of the highway. Thankfully, when she “died”, I didn’t need to finance a new car because I had been saving for a replacement for over a year.

  7. Make a Budget and Stick to it:

    If you have $1,000 to buy a car, don’t browse the pre-owned Mercedes lot. You wouldn’t look at a million dollar home when you have a $300,000 budget, would you? Don’t, “window shop” places you can’t afford. It’s easy to start dreaming about bigger and better, when you’ve seen the top of the line models.

  8. Ignore Appearance & “Extras”:

    Don’t rule out a reliable mini van because it’s unattractive to you. You’re more likely to score a good deal on the less desirable cars on the lot (think school bus yellow, manual windows etc.). Also keep in mind that, Extras = $$$. Remember what life was like before we had automatic door locks, heated seats, backup cameras and sun roofs? We still got around OK, right? I know I did. Bells and whistles are fun, but they aren’t necessary (to me at least).

Bottom line… a car can be a huge budget buster and a big emotional and financial burden if you don’t do proper due diligence. So save some cash in advance, do your homework and keep an open mind about the car’s “look” and features. You can buy a good car with a limited budget, without going into debt.

Image: David Guo

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