Focus on the Positive

I dread going to work. It’s not that I hate my job. I just don’t like that right now, at this time, I have no choice but to go to work to earn an income. It’s not having the option that kills me. My main reason for wanting FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) is because I would really rather not work if given a choice.

No matter how much I drag my feet though, I still go to work. Because there’s money to be made at work. Not at home, watching TV or seeing what my friends are up to on Facebook. It might sound pathetic but I actually motivate myself to go to work. “My job is only 10 hours a day. I earn good money. I have great benefits. Think about the 401k. At least I get to sit all day and not be on my feet making fast food. I can get promoted.” So I just repeat that over and over while I shower or get dressed. Later on I might turn it into a song. Maybe.

My mind likes to dwell in the things I hate instead of the things I love and that is something that I am trying to fix. Whining and complaining come so easily to me. I can’t even accept a compliment without saying something backhanded instead of simply saying ‘thank you’ and smiling. But I hope to change all that.

Focus on the positive. Look for the silver lining. The glass is half-full. Yada yada.

The negative will only bring me down and the positive can only give me more confidence and help me be comfortable with myself and my choices. So, what are we waiting for?

Let’s get to it.

Minimize Stuff to Maximize Life

What is the dream? What is the end game of this experience?

For me my end game is simple and easy. I would like to have a house big enough for me and my husband with a big yard to grow some vegetables, fruits and herbs and maybe a goat and some chickens. I’d tend to our little farm, making good food, enjoying the sunshine and the fact that I don’t have to work for somebody else– just myself. I’ll make a good boss, I think. I don’t aspire to live completely off the grid or off the land but I will be happy with this scenario.

A minimal lifestyle has intrigued me only recently. To be honest I never thought I’d ever say the words “I have too much stuff!” This is because growing up, I didn’t. It was only after I got married and my husband spoiled me with a great abundance of food, clothes, gadgets, sparkly things, cosmetics, and every single thing I could think of that I had a taste of the excess.

We went out to shop a lot during the first couple of months of our marriage since we had to start from scratch. We bought everything from pots and pans, closets, TV, TV stand, DVD player, stereo, fridge, bed, airconditioning units, fans, coffee maker, etc. We didn’t have a big wedding where people gifted us these things. Bit by bit we furnished our first rental unit, made it livable and decent.

Then we kept on shopping. Sometimes we’d just go to the store, not really needing anything and leaving with bags of stuff we felt we HAD TO HAVE. I had more clothes than I could shake a stick at. Our stuff collected and piled on top of one another. Our pantry looked like a small convenience store. One Christmas season, my husband purchased a stand up freezer as big as our fridge so he can stock up on Christmas hams and cream cheese. There were two of us and we had enough food to last us a year. People we’d invite over to our place for coffee or parties would often want us to adopt them because there was no shortage of food.

There was no shortage of ANYTHING.

Two and a half years of accumulating stuff (and during that time period, the need to move four times) made me exhausted. I had to think hard about wanting or needing anything. Finally, we moved to the United States, “The Big Move” as my husband called it. Guess what happened?

Yep. We started from scratch again. I moved into the apartment that my husband shared with his mother. They already had a ton of stuff but all I had in the world now were whatever I crammed into two suitcases. Looking back now, I shouldn’t have bothered packing all my clothes and shows that I felt I HAD TO HAVE in the US. Everything I thought I desperately needed, I could have bought and replaced here. I even brought shampoo and lotions for crying out loud. Really? I HAD TO drag Avon makeup halfway around the world with me? Sometimes I want to go back in time and slap myself silly.

The difference between starting over in the US was that we didn’t have a big income. I was new to the country and waited for my SSN before I could apply for a job. Long story short, once I started earning income I began accumulating stuff again. Monthly subscription boxes to birchbox and weekly online shopping at Sephora became my main hobbies.

WRONG. WRONG. WRONG.

So now two and a half years after being in the US, I am exhausted from accumulating. It’s time to minimize, time to de-clutter. Time to seriously rethink each item and ask myself these questions:

  • Do I really want to drag *insert random item here* halfway around the world on an airplane when it’s time for us to retire to the Philippines?
  • Just how many different shades of *insert makeup here* do I really need?
  • And more importantly, will owning *insert item here* make my life better, improve my self worth and increase my overall life enjoyment?

I am not yet reformed but I will get there. I will get to the place where I don’t need 50 shades of pink nail polish to make me happy or 15 purses will never be enough.

The less stuff I have to burden myself, the more space I’ll have to grow and be a better person. And maybe that better person is a farmer. Who knows?

Make Do With What I Have

Cooking is one of my favorite hobbies. I learned to cook by watching my grandma when I was a kid. I still remember standing on a chair so I can see her wrap lumpias (Filipino spring rolls) and copy her. When I got older I watched cooking shows on TV and I learned different techniques. One of the shows that heavily influenced me is Rachael Ray’s 30-minute Meals. Food in half an hour including prep time? I am in!

Living in a third world country where ingredients that I’d frequently see being used on TV were not available definitely helped me in my crazy method of cooking. As a matter of fact, my husband fondly calls it “Pinabuang” (crazy experiment) and he loves it. One day he asked me how I come up with these dishes without a recipe. I told him the method to my madness.

Google.

I would go to google. Type in the ingredients that we currently have in the pantry or fridge and the word ‘recipe’ at the end and hit enter. Then I look through all the different recipes, sometimes I’d combine three at a time. When I’ve decided what to make, I go downstairs and make food. Almost always ready in 30 minutes. Thank you, Rachael Ray!

Today I wanted to use up some ham that we had left over from Christmas dinner. I wanted to make something hearty and warm because it was a snowy day. What my husband and I made turned out really delicious and satisfying. I would post a picture but the picture isn’t appetizing.  All of the ingredients were found in the house– not going out to buy anything in the store in this weather– and it was done quicker than we expected.

One of the things I would like to do more of this year is to make do with what I have. I always thought ‘if only I had this” “if only I had that” I’d be more successful, I’d be richer, etc. It took me awhile to realize that the tools or skills I think need, I might already have. One of these skills is my crazy cooking and as long as we have a full pantry I don’t think I’d run out of ideas.

Ham Surprise (aka Pinabu-ham)

1 cup diced ham

2 cans cheese broccoli soup

2 cups milk

2 small cans of corn, drained

2 cups cooked rice

In a pot, saute the diced ham in melted butter. Add the corn and stir around until heated through. Stir in the milk and the cheese broccoli soup until there are no lumps. When the soup is completely heated through and simmering, add the rice. Season with lots of ground black pepper and a bit of salt to taste. Enjoy!

2014 Financial Goals

As 2013 comes to a close, I wanted to start a blog so I could keep tabs on my progress towards Financial Independence and Early Retirement. In September 2013 I stumbled upon a blog called Mr. Money Mustache and it changed my views on money. I have been saving money since March 2012, I set up my checking account to transfer $50 each pay period to my savings account. I felt really proud of myself because I’ve never really had a savings account before.

But I still kept my anti-mustachian ways. I used to spend $25 every other week (when the paycheck hits my checking account) buying makeup from Sephora rationalizing that I get free shipping and samples! My savings slowly built up and I felt accomplished. I felt like I was ready for whatever. But then I quit my job August 2012 and my savings was only good to cover a month’s worth of expenses. It took me four months to get a new job.

This job paid a bit more and it also offered commission. I signed up for a 401k for 3% which the company matched. My commission was good enough to make it seem like I was getting 3 paychecks a month, life was good. I learned my lesson and have stopped ordering non essentials online. I stopped my monthly box subscriptions for makeup and perfume samples. I stopped clipping coupons so I could buy things for cheap that I would never use. I increased my transfers to my savings account to $100/check. After a couple of months, I doubled that. I kept increasing until I was putting away 50%-60% of my paycheck.

Then in November 2013 I increased my 401k to 4.5%, the full company match. I enrolled in ESPP 5%. I started a Vanguard account and bought VTSMX funds.

I believe I ended 2013 in mustachian style but there’s still a lot of fat to cut. This is why I started this blog so I can keep up and be accountable come 2014.

My 2014 Financial Goals so far are:

  • Double my networth by starting a Traditional IRA account (my Christmas present to myself is the $1000 start up for this), buy stocks often, and keep contributing to my 401k.
  • Create a food budget. Our monthly food expense is probably ginormous. I say probably because we have never tracked it. I plan to create a spreadsheet where we track our food purchases and when we purchased it. This way I can gauge how long a gallon of milk or a bag of coffee lasts.
  • Decrease food waste. Cook enough food so we don’t have a lot of leftovers that take up space in the fridge, are eventually forgotten and have things growing on them only to be thrown away.
  • Have an income generating hobby like jewelry-making. But I have to stop buying beads. Ugh. I have suddenly gotten into jewelry making. So far I’ve sold a set for $20 but I can’t keep buying beads. I have to use what I have bought.

This is an ever growing list which I will continue to modify. Here’s to a more Mustachian 2014.