Thursday, February 20, 2014

Life is too Short to be Anything but Happy

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It is raining outside and it is dark inside the house. I got up as usual and started my day by searching for potential job openings in my area. I logged into my email account and found yet another rejection email. Life hasn't been that kind to me since the last holiday season. It has been taking me much longer than expected to locate my next job. It is a depressing thought from time to time.

On a cold, rainy day like today, the depressing thought of never finding something seems even worse. Then I read Mr 1500's newest blog post. Mr 1500 tells a story about a young mother with 3 children, who had been recently diagnosed with an advanced form of lymphoma. It is a form of cancer with a 50% chance of a 10 year survival rate. The young mother battling cancer shared the picture above.


I vaguely remembered seeing a picture like this on Facebook, but did not slow down to read the whole story. I had been trying to see the sliver lining under my current unemployment situation, but haven't been in a good mood from time to time because of it. The message from the young mother made me realize something I had been missing.

I still have a roof over my head. I don't really have to worry about where my next meal comes from. I have a loving and healthy husband who has been very supportive through my not too successful search process. My family and loved ones are mostly in good health. We are still working towards the goal of early retirement, even though it is slowed down.

I should not have anything to complain about, or have anything to be depressed about. The search process might not be going as well, but life is still going on smoothly.

I learned a great lesson today. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Thank you Mr 1500 for sharing that story. It is truly inspiring.

The rain will stop; the skies will clear, and the sun will be shining upon us in no time.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Valentine's Day Special

This past Friday was Valentine's Day. It seems like all the holidays have been commercialized. Retailers took full advantage of this very day to push sales, from stuffed animals to shaving cream. Holidays are turning into an excuse of buying things or expecting gifts.

Mr Y was never romantic. Throughout the years we have been together, he bought me flowers four times. Well, I never really cared. I have always been very practical. Unlike many other women, I was never really into shoes, flowers, or chocolates. Mr Y always asked if he should buy me flowers but I always told him that flowers die, please buy me something that doesn’t. So one year, he folded blue roses out of paper. Truly, those were flowers that would never die. It was really not the flowers, but the thought that counted. Priceless.

The experiences were always more important to us than what money could have bought us. We do occasionally still spend good money eating out. After all, good food is also priceless. However, for this past Valentine’s Day, I cooked a special meal.

As you know, I am still currently seeking the next right opportunity, meaning I have been spending lots of time at home. We were not planning on doing anything special as it was a weekday and the weather hasn’t been exactly nice. I thought about cooking a three course dinner the very last minute. Good thing I always fill up my fridge. A few hours later, as Mr Y entered the house after a day of hard work, there was a Valentine’s Day special dinner.

Could the food be better at a fancy restaurant? Probably. But it was the thought and effort that counted. As we enjoyed our dinner, we enjoyed more of each other’s company.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Saving Habits

Even though Mr. and Mrs. Y were raised 7,000 miles apart, it seemed like they were brought up with a very similar set of values. Thanks to their parents, they both grew up understanding the value of money at a very early age. 

Mrs. Y was given her own debit card/personal bank account when she was in middle school. Her parents gave her an allowance - not weekly, not monthly, but yearly. The entire amount was deposited into her bank account at the beginning of the year. How she handles it is all up to her. This was her very first money management experience. 

Mr. Y, on the other hand, had a joint bank account in high school through his parents. His parents deposited quite a bit of money in his account, and he never used a single penny until college for paying expenses.

As both of us grew up slowly into adulthood, we were used to saving most of our income rather than spending it. Leaving most of the money in the bank seemed to be a natural habit. As you can see, it is very important to start understanding the value of money and to start a good savings habit when you are young. So if you have kids, it might be good to teach them these values.

There are always two things in life, needs and wants. Needs are your true necessities, such as clothing, shelter, utilities. Wants are material things that can buy you short-term happiness, such as that $500 wallet or bag you have been thinking about for months. 

Many personal finance bloggers talk about living below your means and saving at least 50% of your total post tax income. The method helps with two things, avoiding debt and getting you on the fast track to financial independence. The less you spend, the less likely you will have debt.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

January 2014 Grocery Bill

This is the first month since we started tracking our weekly expenses. As of the end of January, we spent $151.49 which included a $40 Costco run. It has been very, very cold and driving conditions has been terrible, which prevented us from going out to eat. We spent $0 eating out in January. This will probably change when the weather warms up and we will have more opportunities to go outside.

Also, Mrs Y had her four wisdom teeth taken out a few weeks ago, resulting in less food consumption. Starting in the middle of 2013, we had reduced our trips to Costco. We are trying to limit the number of trips to once a month. With the increasing number of shopping apps on the phone and in addition to coupons, those helped a little in saving more money as well. With the help of savings/couponing blogs out there, we were even able to save money at Whole Foods (spent $4 on $30 worth of food).

Even though we had been doing this for years, we still continue to only buy sale items in stores every week. I know some people would argue that shopping at multiple stores wastes time and gas. However, all the stores we go are within a 5 miles radius, so gas and time is not really an issue.

Our $151 monthly spending resulted in an average of about $30 per week. Not too bad for the first month of the year. But then again, we did stock up on frozen meats (chicken breasts, pork, and chicken wings) in the month of December and are still eating through those. February will probably be higher in expenses as we replenish our food supplies. We will see how we do in the next month.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Grocery Budget 2014

It has been great that for the past few months, Mrs Y was able to get grocery shopping done during the weekdays (except when it is snowing and freezing cold). That means less waiting in line at the checkout, and way less crowded supermarkets. More time saved.

However, it has always been interesting to see what other people are buying when waiting in line at the checkouts. How people spend $$$ at a single grocery store always amazed me. Recently, we have made the decision to minimize processed/junk food consumption to keep our health in good shape. We try to control buying any kind of chips or canned items. About two years ago, we started looking at the food labels and realized many of the easy to make  microwavable dinners and frozen foods are really not good for us.  We have a budget of about $300 a month on groceries for two people.The budget used to be $200 until we got a much bigger fridge and a Costco membership.  We are trying to make a few changes to bring down our expenses. That will involve some number crunching for me in the next few weeks.

Now it is 2014. I have been tracking our spending more closely by category. I am hoping that we will spend less than $100 a month on groceries with a yearly budget of $1200. Based on the following chart I found online, the average cost of food for somebody in America is about $295 per person, meaning for a family of two, the monthly cost was roughly $600. I assumed the amount included eating out meals as well. We spent about $635 eating out in 2013. I am budgeting at $500. That will bring the total food cost to $1700 which is still much lower than $7200 shown below. We will see how we do and I will report back.