Resetting My Relationship with Money

It's time to start sticking to a savings plan.

First things first, this blog is not about a person who wants to retire early.

I am not trying to build the biggest pile of money that I possibly can (although a big pile would be nice).

Nor I am a person that is going to spend the biggest pile of money that I can to keep up with the Joneses.

My job as a special education teacher defines a large part of who I am.  It challenges me and motivates me for a lifetime of growth and achievement both personally and professionally.

I have spent 12 years in the classroom, and if you were to ask me today, I would tell you that I am planning for 28 more.

But after a dozen years, I find myself with a gaping hole where savings should be.

Like many people in their 20s, I pissed away a lot of money socializing, eating out, and hitting the bars regularly.  I bought a Jeep Wrangler that I could barely afford.  They were fun times, and to be honest a lot of it I would not trade, but what kills me is that I put zero effort at putting any money away.

Fast forward a decade.  In my 30s, my career in education was taking off.  Married, kids, Dodge Ram, four bedroom house at the maximum amount I could "afford" in north Jersey.  I joked that I was house poor, but I thought that everyone in New Jersey was - at least all of the other teachers I knew - and that generally, I was doing ok.

Well, a few months ago I turned 40.

Still have the Dodge Ram.  Still have the big house and big mortgage.  My salary increases have given me juuuust enough room to breathe after paying the bills, but I have to work a ton of hours in the summer at Job #2 in order to even have a chance at paying for the inevitable car repair and the unforeseen bills that always pop up at the absolute worst times - new hot water heater 8 days after Christmas, check!

On the plus side, I do have enough cash to pay the bills for a few months should things take a really bad turn, which given the nature of my job is highly unlikely.  I am well covered with disability insurance and life insurance if things go from bad to worse.

But assuming those things do not happen this year, what I have is simply not enough.  I'm well behind the curve.

My story is probably similar to a heck of a lot of people out there.  It makes me want to kick myself that I have taken this long to start to build a nest egg, but here I am.

While I will hopefully still be entitled to a pension, and I will hopefully still be able to collect Social Security, I want to make sure that I can retire well, cover my expenses, and most importantly handle the lifetime of needs that comes with parenting a child with special needs.

So this year I have begun to reset my relationship with money.

I have prioritized saving what I can.  Starting on the New Year, each Monday I have a hundred bucks automatically withdrawn from my bank account and sent to my brokerage account.  This way, I don't have to think about it, or wrestle with excuses for not saving.  It's not a lot of money, but it's a start. And it's generally a good habit to master - and an amount that I will increase every September when the new school year starts.

What I need to do next is tighten up the wallet a little more.

I don't spend a lot on big ticket items.  My car is 14 years old, rusting away slowly yet consistently, but runs well and I will likely have it at least three more years.

With the big stuff, I'm ok staying the course.

We're not going to be selling the house this year.  Keeping residency in our town is a priority because my son is in an out-of-district placement and we do not want to risk nor disrupt that.

It took a lot of work to get that accomplished and the short term pain of high mortgage payments is nothing compared to the peace and knowledge that comes with having him placed where he is.  That is priceless to our family.

I am going to be finishing up my second graduate degree in May.  When I began the program last year, I had a nice little side gig as a tutor and was able to generate about $800 a month through tutoring.  I would love to be able to tutor again and make even a quarter of that - it would go a long way to boost monthly savings or tackle the grocery bill.

But, with that degree, I'll be looking at a raise of about 10% of my salary before taxes come September.

I already know that the best thing that I can do is pretend that the increase does not happen, and bump up my automatic savings so that I don't even see the added income - and get used to living without it.
Finally, I will try a little harder to make conscious decisions to slow spending in other ways, and to keep track of the times that I decided not to waste a few bucks here and there.

Instead, I will try to funnel all of that into savings and report back from time to time as to my progress.

I do still go out with the boys once a week.  After our weekly social run - yeah, I'm a member of an adult running club which makes me not very cool, probably - we hit the local dive bar for wings and beer.

That does add up over time, especially if too much of one or the other leads to another food stop before we head home.  In April,  I will try to be a little more disciplined in that regard and see where that leads.

And throughout the month I will try to identify reasonable ways that I can start to further live a bit below my means.

So, I need to take a hard look at where I can plug some little money leaks.

And stop them.

Hopefully this finds you well.  Please feel free to comment below and share your stories about when and how you finally reset your relationship with money.  Thanks for reading!

Here is a look ahead to April 2017

Here is my March 2017 mid-month review


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