Tuesday, October 15, 2013

This post is not about traveling, it's about how come I'm ABLE to travel like I do.  I didn't hit the lotto or inherit a bundle, I made saving a priority when I was young, and now I have the money to do the things I really want.  Within reason.  And that's what it's all about.  But you're never too old to start and every little bit helps.

So, I know I'm gonna piss off some friends of mine with this, but I kinda hope this shutdown serves as a wakeup call for some folks.  If you can't miss a paycheck without paying your mortgage or needing to go to a food bank, you need to work on your finances.

There were two things I did when I first got hired that helped immeasurably.  First was setting up an allotment from every paycheck that went into a not-very-accessible account.  In my case it was the OKC credit union. I have an account there to this day and I *still* don't have an ATM card for it.  The only way I can get that money is by writing a check.  I think I started out with $50, then later on raised it every time we got a raise.  Same thing when I bought my house.  Every time we got a raise I put more $$ towards principal payments.  It hurts for a little while then you adjust.  Obviously, you need to also max out your TSP contribution ASAP as well.  I started out with the minimum amount that got full matching, and by the end of the first or second year I was maxing out.  Another painful thing when you first start, but when it comes out of the check before you see it, you adjust.

The other thing I did was claim single-zero on my deductions and then take that big refund and send it directly to the mortgage co. Before I bought the house I put those refunds in savings for the downpayment. I paid my first house off in less than 10 years.  Of course, it was a cheap house.  I didn't buy what the realtor said I could afford.  I knew better.  Do you REALLY need that 5000sf house that will cost a fortune to heat & cool?

My first house, in the process of having the roof and siding replaced.

Everyone has areas where they can trim the fat.  Do you really need a new car every two years? I'm on my second one, it's a 2006 with about 100,000 miles on it now, and I paid cash for it when I bought it.  The first one was 8 yrs old when I replaced it, and I coulda squeezed a few more years out of it but I needed something bigger.  Or thought I did, anyway.  And I doubt I'll ever buy another new car, I'll buy someone elses 2 yr old trade-in and let them take the huge depreciation hit.  But I haven't had a car payment in this century.  I'm on my third new TV too.  :-)  Granted, I spend a TON of $$ on computer and camera gear and travel.  But I only started that after I got a cushion.

My very first new car, 1998

If you smoke, consider quitting.  You can save big $$ and feel better.  If you eat out all the time, try to cut back on that.  Learn to pack a lunch.  Keep all your receipts for a week and add it up.  You might be surprised.  If you use a credit card, make sure it's one that gives you cashback.  Preferably one with no fee.  Some grocery stores offer $$ off gas purchases. This may or may not be a great deal....   Something silly I still do is throw every bit of loose change in a big vase.  At some point when it gets full I hit up one of those coinstar machines.  You'd be surprised how much $$ you can save without trying.  There are a million advice pages on how to start bootstrapping yourself out of debt and begin to live within your means.  Worrying about money is a killer.  It doesn't have to be.

Standing on the beach looking north towards my property in the Bahamas, which I purchased in 2004.  With cash.

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