The True Cause of a Spending Problem

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

Do you have a spending problem? Are you someone who just can’t make ends meet? Have you found that no matter how much you increase your income, you can’t break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle? Do you find yourself shopping when you are stressed or tired or sad? Perhaps this post is for you.

It may not be what you want to hear, but the truth is this:

A spending problem is the result of not knowing who you want to be, or where you want your life to go.

Emotional spending occurs because a void needs filling. Unfortunately, more often than not, the spending itself fails at solving the problem. Rather, it extenuates it by creating a loop cycle that enlarges the void and brings us further from our true goals.

For example, have you ever tried to treat your stress by shopping online? At first, it felt good, but after a while, regret starts to sink in and your newfound purchase falls short of delivering lasting happiness, not to mention instantly decreases in value. Does it sound familiar to you? Because it sure does to me.

Not knowing who we want to be or what we want our life to look like makes it difficult to know what is worthy of our time and money. If we do not have a clear purpose, goal, or ambition, then it becomes easy to fall into the cycle of spending our resources on what people around us promote, rather than what we need. Because what we gain was never truly for us, it doesn’t fill the void at all, resulting in spending again, and again, and again.

If you want to treat a spending problem, my financial advice is to start with you. Define who you want to be and where you want your life to go. At least, that’s what we did and it worked for us. Because I used to be like you, too. I had $30,000 in credit card debt. I had more than half a million dollars in student loans. I went shopping every weekend in my early twenties and bought avocado toast while I was in dental school. I had a serious spending problem, until I realized who I was and what I wanted.

I am a simple person. I enjoy reading books and baking bread. I find joy in quiet time and yoga. My mind is healthiest when I am outdoors collecting rocks on a beach. I wanted a life of financial freedom. I wanted to be able to choose a job to my liking. I wanted the autonomy to work in a way that is aligned to my values. I want the freedom to call my own hours, to choose days of rest, to pursue other passions, and I understood that I couldn’t do that if I chose material stuff, trends, and status symbols. That’s how this all started.

I was lucky enough to find a financial advisor in my early years who delved deeply into what I wanted for my future. It was only then, when I saw the big picture, did I have the motivation to get rid of my spending problem. And if I am being honest, without a clear picture of where I wanted my life to be, I would just as likely have reverted back to my previous ways. It was the clarity that kept me going.

The true cause of a spending problem is not being intentionally clear enough about your life.

Here are good places to start:

Related Posts:

Monthly Goals: November 2020

This month’s goals come at a very interesting time for me personally.

The reason being, I have decided to quit my dentistry job.

I have decided to quit dentistry for many reasons.

  • I have lost meaning in my daily work.
  • I felt under-appreciated by a changing health-care system that prioritizes customer service over health itself.
  • I felt that I could not balance the expectations of my patients, the expectations of my workplace, and my own personal expectations.
  • My values are not aligned with where I am currently working.
  • I wanted to spend the holiday season with family and focus on the people that matter to me.
  • I was feeling burnt out and knew that if I did not give myself a break, I would grow to resent what I do for a living.
  • I want to live an intentional life, which means curating out the things that do not bring me joy.
  • We have made the lifestyle choices (invest money, spend less, own less, avoid having kids, avoid a large mortgage) necessary to avoid job dependency.
  • We have created the boundaries necessary to ignore social expectations and pressures, thus giving us freedom to live how we want.

Despite this freedom, I still have goals. But without the job identity, the goals have shifted slightly.

I think that quitting was very cathartic for me. I admit feeling stressed the last few months, mostly because I was holding on desperately to something I should have let go many months ago. I was fighting an internal battle, one between the past self and future possibility. Finally turning in an official resignation letter did just the trick.

It wasn’t very easy. I felt depressed for a few days, afraid of what I had done, anxious about the future. It’s like any ole break-up. It feels easier to run back to what is familiar and feels safe, even after you’ve outgrown the past. It takes a lot of reserve to not turn back. Luckily, the sadness and fear did not last long. After I sat through my emotions, I started to really notice a shift in my personality.

  • I sang songs randomly, after years of refusing to listen to music in case it over-whelmed my mind.
  • I smiled more frequently, and was more open to socializing. I connected with a high school friend, decided to make time for my grandma’s birthday party, and even drove to East LA on a Friday evening after work to grab tacos with my mother-in-law at a stand that she used to eat tacos at when she was my age.
  • I picked up old habits, like learning about photography, doing art, and playing guitar.
  • I connected with my husband more, rekindling our dumb banter from the college days.

For November’s monthly goals, I am sharing with you a TIME OFF BUCKET LIST. Even though my time off doesn’t start until November 19, I have decided not to wait until my last day of work to start living life to the fullest. This bucket list contains a number of goals I have always wanted to accomplish but have put on pause in order to partake in an American Dream.

As some people already know from my Instagram, we are taking a few long trips over the course of three weeks from November to December. I have lived in California since 1998 and I have yet to actually see it. I find that a shame.

It’s got me thinking, how much of our life are we actually wasting away doing things that don’t really matter in exchange for stuff that don’t really make us happy?

Not that I have the answers.

Just that I am trying to figure it out.

TheDebtist’s TIME OFF BUCKET LIST

  • Create Spotify playlists for different occasions and moods
  • Improve Photography Skills
  • Learn French
  • Improve Guitar Skills
  • Explore California National Parks
  • Visit old friends
  • Write a book – and self-publish it
  • Create more courses
  • Get into artwork again
  • Visit a Japanese spa (because we can’t go to Japan)
  • Go to a butterfly sanctuary
  • Go birdwatching in the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Explore tide pools for hours
  • “Live” on a farm – milk a cow or extract honey from a beehive
  • Learn recipes of my homeland from my mom
  • Hug a Redwood tree
  • Tour a lighthouse
  • Learn to make alfajores
  • Bake someone’s wedding cake
  • Do a cold bath dunk
  • Bake the following from the Tartine Book: Gingerbread Cookies, Spiked Cocktail Nuts, Brownies, Chocolate Pots de Crème, Devil’s Food Layer Cake, Lemon Meringue Cake, Pastel de Tres Leches
  • Eat Pho for the first time (yes!)
  • Learn how to make ramen from Mike
  • Master a few advanced level yoga poses
  • Learn how to sit on my hands

I add the last one, because just like anything, I always dive headfirst into something new, including this “mini-retirement”. Supposedly it’s a chance for me to figure myself out. Somehow I have to balance that with living life to the fullest. Like I said before, I’m still figuring it out. But honestly, thank you for joining me on this wild ride.

If you have any other bucket list ideas, do share! Who knows when my next mini-retirement will be.

The Ever-Growing List of Ways to Earn Extra Income

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

There are two paths to growing wealth: spend less money, and earn more money. I have already addressed the former in my Ever-Growing List of Things I’ve Given Up in the Name of Frugality. It’s about time I address the latter.

I am ALL about the side-hustle. I have spent the last fifteen years of my life working multiple part-time jobs and creating side hustles. I had three jobs in Undergrad at the same time, and worked after school in dental school. Job titles that I’ve held include Jamba Juice worker, Jamba Juice Training Mentor, Banana Republic Visuals Specialist and Retail Associate, Dental Assistant, Private tutor, Tutor at a tutoring company, University Librarian, Rover Dog-Sitter, Baker at Rye Goods, Owner of Aero Bakery, Dentist, and Blogger. I have earned extra money writing entire websites as well as guest-writing for people, being a “lab-rat” for all sorts of University research studies, baby-sitting, baking treats for parties, and other random title-less positions.

I know COVID-19 has caused many people to lose their jobs. I hope this post finds you, somehow. There are endless ways to earn money. There is no reason to stick to what your degree or license is on. Many jobs require very little experience, and honestly most of what I did I learned along the way. I had no culinary degree and yet I reached out to a bakery via Instagram and asked for work. I took the only shift available (the early shift from 2am to 6am) and balanced it with my 5-day-workweek as a dentist. From there, I learned how to open my own bakery and manage that from the comforts of my home.

Likewise, I had only lived with my family dog for four years, but I deemed myself good enough for dog-sitting. I simply applied on the Rover App which only required a few lines of information and a few essays as to why I would be a good fit.

I have never changed diapers in my life but I sure as heck volunteered to babysit. I used to dabble in writing and somehow, I was paid to write all of the content of an entire website at the age of 20. No one gave me permission to create a blog, or be on podcasts, or half of the other things I ended up doing. But I did them, and you can too. All you need to do is throw yourself out on a limb, ask people around you how you can be of service, and give yourself the permission to try, and fail, and grow. You need to be vocal, confident, and trusting of your skills and talents. I believe every person has a long-list of things to contribute, and by offering to do so, we not only make ourselves richer but those around us richer too.

Onwards with my ever-growing list of ways to earn extra income.

  • Start a blog. I use WordPress as my hosting site and I started this blog for free. I first learned I could earn money for this blog through this course: Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. I then turned the blog into a business site which costs a yearly fee, but the money you earn from your blog can easily offset that fee. I would highly recommend growing your e-mail list via ConvertKit so that you can reach even more people.
  • Create an E-Course. I created my first E-Course called Mastering A Budget. My course is FREE but for those looking to sell their courses, I highly recommend Teachable. It is such an easy program to use, and I know many people who have earned hundreds of thousands of dollars via Teachable. Write E-courses on things you care about or know a lot about. Trust that what you have to teach people is valuable!
  • Save electricity. We participate in OhmEvents and shut down our electricity during high-usage times. The first month, we earned $80. The second month, we earned $70. You can earn over a thousand dollars a year saving electricity. It can even pay for your utility bills for the year! Sign up using my affiliate link to OhmConnect and start earning now. If you use my affiliate link to sign up, you will automatically earn $20!
  • Pet-sit. There are many apps from which to pet-sit, but the one I use and recommend is Rover. You can choose to dog-sit either at the pet’s home or your home, walk dogs, or just swing by and check up on dogs! Getting paid to play with pets is the best!
  • De-clutter your stuff and sell them on Poshmark. I recently discovered Poshmark and have had high success selling my things on this platform. I make about $50 a month selling things on Poshmark. It’s also a good place to shop responsibly and frugally (see my previous post here).
  • Baby-sit. There are many parents who need baby-sitters. Especially now that WFH is more common. Over-whelmed, over-worked, and over-extended parents need a break! Guess who can offer their services…
  • Clean Homes. If you know how to clean, then you have gold on your hands. I know many people who hire others to clean their homes for them on a weekly basis. If you don’t mind getting on your hands and knees and you like to work in solidarity, then perhaps cleaning homes is the right gig for you. Plus, nowadays, professional cleaners are much needed! Turn on a Spotify playlist and get to work.
  • Drive for Uber or Lyft. After your day shift, drive in the evening for one of these companies. I heard that certain nights and weekends are popping. My brother did this for a while during his year between undergrad and dental school. He mostly drove around the city that he already lives in. It’s a great gig for night owls.
  • Deliver food via PostMates, GrubHub, or Amazon (Whole Foods). Food delivery has become increasingly popular and there is prestige to becoming a Whole Foods delivery person (I hear there’s a daily waitlist!).
  • Create Websites. Know a little bit of code? Understand the basics of websites? It’s okay. I didn’t either but look at me now! I am not tech-savvy. I have problems when my phone updates. And here I have built this space from scratch. Offer your services to someone who is just starting their business. I am sure they have a lot of other things to worry about. Create their website, learn along the way, take their feedback, and keep tweaking.
  • Be a photographer or videographer. Nowadays, almost anyone can turn these hobbies into a real job – that earns decent income! You can sell your pictures online so that others can print them and frame them around the house. Or you can shoot for events or companies. Just ask around. There are many people who need professional pictures. It is the digital age, after all.
  • Tutor. I used to tutor high school level math, Spanish, biology, and chemistry. I do think that everyone has something to offer. Tutor music, dance, finance, basic life-skills. Hold virtual classes via Zoom. Do something fun, like teaching a class on how to make a latte. Or how to tend to plants. Do a workshop of calligraphy – and make it a series! The word is at your fingertips.
  • Lead Yoga and Gym Classes. My best friend is a yoga teacher for CorePower Yoga. And although gyms are closed now, you can always make yoga videos on Youtube and get paid after a certain number of views. Or you can host a Zoom meeting and have people tune in. Charge them a registration fee and give them access to your Zoom room after they’ve paid. It doesn’t have to be a work-out class in person.
  • Be a professional de-clutterer or home organizer. People are stuck in their homes. They have turned their attention to long-ignored spaces. (I know I have). The de-cluttering craze has gone viral (was it not already?). But many people give up half-way through because of the rigorous process and the overwhelm. I have a friend who started a business that helps people de-clutter their homes. Consultations via Zoom or Facetime are easy to set-up. Help people create the ideal WFH spaces.
  • Work Part-Time at a Grocery Store, Bakery, Restaurant, Hotel, Coffee Shop, Retail Store, etc. This one ends up being the hardest gig to land in 2020. Who knew? But as the economy reopens, be prepared. Keep an eye out. You’ll likely have to play the numbers game and apply to as many opportunities as you can, but don’t give up!

Over time, I will add to this ever-growing list. Feel free to chime in!

Related Posts:

The Real Reason Doctors Can’t Pay Down Their Student Debt

I was sitting at work once (and many times after), talking to colleagues of mine who were all in their early thirties – fairly young by doctor standards. We were talking about student loans (what else?) and how steep the price has become to get an education (in this case dental, but it applies to education in general). We were going through our numbers and they were going through their excuses as to why it was impossible in their situation to pay down debt. Of course, me being me, I gently stated the obvious which was that the real reason doctors “can’t” pay down their student debt was because they thought they deserve more than everyone else.

This statement may hurt many doctors’ feelings, but actually, it’s true.

For example. I had one person complaining about drowning in student debt. He blamed it on the kids and the fact that he is a single income household. Fine. But he also just bought a brand new Tesla SUV. He gets a nanny to watch his kids so that it’s easier on his stay-at-home wife. He gets help (did he say $100k a year??) from his in-laws that is budgeted for the kids. His dining out bill is $800 a month. But he can’t afford his student debt.

Another person also bought a brand new car after graduation, enrolled his 6-month old in Montessori private school, took wild vacations (without travel hacking!), and bought a grand house for their family of three.

Yet another person owns two medical-grade massage chairs in his home, bought his girlfriend a Tesla, and drops $10k on trips around the world.

What if I told you that this story is repeated many times over? I have spoken with my fair share of indebted graduates, especially after releasing my own personal story with ChooseFI.

They all wish to banish their student debt. They also don’t wish to do the work.

Here’s the thing I see most often with doctors. They work very diligently to get through school. They do anything to get to their dream career, including taking out a huge sum of moolah (hell, I did too).  They sacrifice the best of their young years. They put off buying a home, earning money, and settling down. Then graduation hits and they think, “I’ve made it.” For a brief second, they breathe a sigh of relief thinking it’s all going to be worth it.

So they buy a new car to celebrate. Then they buy a home or a practice. They go out every weekend for food. Sometimes they dine out a few times a week! They want to live in affluent communities. They want to go on vacation. They throw themselves a dream wedding. They buy nice clothes and expensive Figs scrubs. But more than all this are the little purchases. They want the daily coffee, the trinkets from the $5 section in Target, the happy hour events, the spin class – you know, the harmless stuff.

They become obsessed with the high-life and quite quickly, they refuse to give it up. 

And if you think I’m being extreme, I’m not.

Because when I graduated, I wanted all these things, too!

The most excruciating part about facing my student debt, the part that nearly killed me, was realizing that after every sacrifice and sleepless night, after giving up the best of my youth, after working three jobs during school, after wracking my brain on ways to extend $40 for another week, after being a model student, the good daughter, the most loyal employee, the most valuable I could be to the community – the work was still not done.

And when I tell new grads coming to me for advice on making loans disappear that they have to use their beat-up high-school ride, possibly move-in with their parents or take on a roommate, cook dinner every night, manage a budget every week, wear their same scrubs from dental school for five more years, and try their darndest to travel for FREE – well, their faces fall and I can see the disappointment plain as day scrawled on their furrowed brows.

Only thing is, I can’t tell if the disappointment lies in the fact that they have to continue living like a college kid for ten more years or if the disappointment lies in me – because I wasn’t the magic genie they wanted that would grant them their wish.

I can tell you how to repay your loans. You just might not like it.

99% of graduates with more than $350k of debt choose to stay with loan forgiveness. Probably because it hurts the human psyche too much to know that everything you’ve done thus far is not enough.

Becoming a doctor does not end the day you graduate. Not for me. It ends the day everything you need to become a doctor is behind you. Loans included.

Not everyone thinks this way, though. Many people truly believe that the hardship stops the day you get the degree. Ahhh, time to sit back and enjoy the benefits of all our hard work. But how can that be when you don’t even know what a hard-earned dollar looks like?! What makes you better than the rest of ’em?

I know I’m making enemies here but I must pose the question. If not I, who will?

I don’t blame the docs. They were merely children when they signed their lives away for a chance at the American Dream. I blame our upbringing for creating the expectation that a doctor’s life is a rich and easy one. I blame the institutions that are set in place that allow universities to charge this much money to get educated. I also blame lending companies who are handing out loans this large. Child robbery, that’s what I call it.

I implore to all the existing doctors that make it seem like being a doctor is easy. How will we ever change the trajectory if we keep implying to young ‘uns that pursuing this career path will mean they won’t have to work hard for the rest of their life. How will they realize and make an informed decision when the time comes?

I know the real truth.

That behind the facade of wealth is an increasingly long list of medical professionals patiently waiting 25 years for loan forgiveness to hit. Behind every confident thrust of the credit card is an avoidance technique that makes life a bit easier to live. Behind all our heroics and saving lives lies a coward afraid to face our social responsibility to pay back debt that we chose to take out. And behind every accomplishment lies a lifestyle creep that is avalanching too fast out of our reach, propelling doctors further forward towards an unsustainable way of living.

The real reason doctors “can’t” pay back student debt is because they won’t.

They choose not to work hard anymore. It isn’t burn-out, although that stuff is real too. It’s the social expectation that a doctor’s life is breezy. The mindset to pay back debt just isn’t there. Many cannot accept that graduation is not the end-game. They think they already won.

There will be excuses. I don’t buy any of it.

There will come a day when I will finish my loan repayment journey, and people will think it’s a miracle. They’ll think I was one of the lucky ones, rather than a penny-pinching maniac. Perhaps the stars aligned and the pandemic gave me this “unique” ability to pay back loans faster because I was not being charged interest for six months. My parents must have helped me out. An investment strategy probably worked out for me but not them. I can’t wait to see the excuses they make. But none of that will be true.

My current car is a high-school ride that I’ve had for 13 years. The passenger’s rear-view mirror doesn’t match, because when someone broke it (probably to re-sell it), I didn’t want to pay an extra $60 to get one that was white when the stock color was black. Mike even helped me put it on the car myself because I didn’t want to pay a service fee at the auto shop. My neighbor came out of his garage this past week and looked at me funny when he saw me physically hand-washing my car. He said, “That’s … nice…” and walked away slowly.

I sometimes have to wipe graffiti off my windows, because I chose to live in a lower income neighborhood so that I could buy a business storefront AND a dwelling at a very low price. Last Friday night, it was getting ratchet at the club next door since they moved the party outdoors due to COVID restrictions. I’ve had to run away from my own home before when the riots first started and they fired fireworks at the cops.

I spent a third of last year working midnight shifts. I still wear my USC scrubs that I was forced to buy upon entering dental school in 2012. I run with the Nike’s that my husband bought me as a gift when I was attending dental school so that I could “be cool”. They used to be orange but now they’re mostly black. I sell my de-cluttered stuff on Poshmark. I research heavily in order to travel the world for FREE. I come home from work to work. I still actively budget every week. I aim to spend only $200 a month in groceries for the two of us and $150 a month in dining out. I created a lifestyle where my job is three blocks away, to reduce the gas I have to buy. TO REDUCE THE GAS I HAVE TO BUY. I spent my last birthday repainting our bathroom. We spent Mike’s birthday picking up birthday freebies. Heck, even our cat was free.

Do you know the real reason THIS doctor can pay off student debt?

Hard work and a willingness to.

It’s not rocket science.

Related Posts:

 

Finance: Financial Independence is for times of COVID

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

There are circulating rumors that this pandemic has deemed the FI movement dead. Articles in mainstream media have been claiming that people who are in the midst of attaining FI are now struggling to live. As a FI defendant and warrior, I would like to say that the opposite is true. In fact, this pandemic has shown our little family that the path to financial independence is strictly for times like these. Not saying that I ever expected any of it to happen. I mean, there’s no way I could have predicted this and I certainly did not wish it upon the world. But the financial independence journey is the reason why this pandemic was so good to us. Here’s why.

Why FI is for times of COVID

FI is built on a number of different life-hacks that enable one of my life’s core values: freedom. The word independence itself is crucial to the term FI. Many of the principles in the financial independence community center around independence from other things such as your job, the market, societal expectations, debt, and of course, money. All of this was affected by the pandemic.

Those who are following the FI principles are more likely to have embraced job independency through side-hustles, entrepreneurship, self-employment, or simply creating multiple income streams. Many FI families had an emergency fund to carry them through times such as these past few months. If you’ve taken my course, you also know that mastering a budget is a super-power. If you’ve truly mastered your budget, you would have control of your spending, created a savings, and also planned for the spending a few months ahead. Most FIers lack debt. I, of course, have a huge student debt, one that I’ve also worked diligently to free myself from (see the progress here!). But even this single choice to aggressively pay down my student debt has helped me significantly during COVID-19! I mean, who would have ever predicted that you could get six months of 0% interest rate on student loans? Nobody, ever.

Meanwhile, the market is crashing and FIers with money reserves in their mastered budget can invest at low rates. They can buy rental properties due to their stellar credit history. They can survive off of an emergency fund in case of a layoff. Better yet, they can use their additional income streams or refocus their money-making to their side-hustle business. I’m not saying this is the time to brag, but perhaps it’s the time to pivot.

How COVID helped our financial journey.

Perhaps the reason why people think that the pandemic will negatively affect FIers is because not many of us have been sharing how it has helped. I can’t speak for all FI families, but for us, here is what happened.

  1. Mike had wanted to pursue coding for a while. We decided to sign him up for a course in January and paid the tuition upfront and in full, which we were able to do thanks to our great budgeting and savings (Our entire budgeting method is compiled in this course that I wrote, if you’d like to follow in our steps). In February, about a month before the March 15th California lock-down, Mike offered to be laid off from a company that was down-sizing by forty percent, in exchange for a severance pay that would help with the transition into coding. After the severance pay ended in April, he qualified for EDD due to the lay off and got an additional $600 a week that the EDD was paying out to those who just found themselves unemployed, thus easing the transition even more. In fact, we had expected to receive $1800/mo from EDD prior to COVID 19. Due to the additional $600, Mike gets “paid” $4200 per month to study a course. What does this have to do with FI? Well, we wouldn’t have been able to pay for the course upfront without a savings. We wouldn’t have felt comfortable with Mike switching careers without a stable financial background. And we wouldn’t have been so non-chalant about the lay offs without a back-up plan (which is our other income streams).
  2. I have multiple income streams. I own a corporation as a dentist and pay myself. As a dentist, I work at two different offices which also increases my chances of always having work. I also owned a bakery which I closed a week before the COVID shutdown (for real! What timing…) but which I considered turning back to if both dental offices remained closed (they didn’t). I also had a dog-sitting business on ROVER, as well as this blog wherein I make commissions through affiliate linking. I was out of dental work for a week and a half wherein I spent most of my time writing about it. I then went back to work (three days a week, half the amount of time I usually worked) and poured more time into this space. It has grown tremendously the last two months! All of this to say, I had options in terms of career.
  3. All public student loans got reverted to 0% interest until September 31. This means that any student trying to pay down debt aggressively has a chance to make the money snowball go faster! Of course, I paid only the minimum monthly requirement for these COVID months just to keep cash liquid in case of emergencies, but now we’ve found ourselves sitting on a big chunk of change that we could use to buy a rental property. This gives us choice. I could drastically reduce the loan repayment journey to 2.5 more years, or I could invest in more long-term passive income.
  4. We house hack which means we have someone living with us which helps us pay mortgage. I would count this as an additional income stream for us.
  5. Speaking of mortgage, we refinanced our home. Due to our great credit, there was no hitch when we decided to refinance. The refinance gave us an additional $500 a month to put towards something else!
  6. We paid off Mike’s car in May, therefore paving the way for quickening the loan repayment journey now that we can funnel those would-be-car payments into student loans.
  7. We used COVID related benefits for health professionals and medical doctors such as retail discounts. Some of these benefits continue until the end of 2020.
  8. We got free food when fast food places. I think we made use of free tacos on Tuesdays from Taco Bell four times. Mike got a free meal from Cafe Rio. Mike’s dad and grandpa live in a 55+ community and they received weekly boxes of nearly-expiring groceries. They picked what they wanted and Mike and his sister (and me) benefited from the rest, which then reduced our grocery bill.
  9. COVID inadvertently reduced our monthly spending. Our cleaner couldn’t come for her bi-weekly cleaning which saved us $200 a month. Why would she when all three of us were home to clean, anyway? Mike had no work so there was no need to commute. He took online courses at home, which saved us $100 a month in gas. The aforementioned free food from Mike’s dad and grandpa saved us $100 in groceries per month. Since the yoga studios and gyms were closed, Mike and I had to replace our new-found love for yoga with running outdoors, thus saving us $250 a month.
  10. COVID prevented us from traveling. All our trips got cancelled, which made us quite sad but at the same time, it saved us close to $10,000. (Between March and July, we had trips planned to Japan, Maldives, Hawaii, two trips to Norcal, one to San Diego, a bachelor party for Mike in Colorado, a bachelorette in SD…). We had two weddings that were also sadly cancelled.

Let’s add this all up, shall we?

During COVID, the following things changed in our monthly budget:

$4500 from EDD for Mike’s work transition
$500 per month savings from the home refinance
$585 per month savings from paying off the car
$200 savings from not having a cleaner
$250 from not having a gym membership
$100 gas savings from not having a commute
$100 from the food box donations
$1400 a month of interest that the government isn’t taking from my student loans

That’s $7,635 savings per month due to COVID. Multiplied for the two months we’ve been in this lockdown.

Plus the $10k that we saved from not traveling.

I would assume we have saved near $25,000. Plus the liquid cash I kept from only making the minimum payments for student loans ($16,500).

Now you know why we are looking at a second home.

The FIers are not going to suffer from COVID. If anything, they are likely the least to suffer. I know of FIers who have bought one rental property a year for 15 years straight. Most of them make passive income from real estate or intellectual assets. Many are entrepreneurs, self-published, self-employed, self-sustaining. Most don’t have debt and they ALL have funds to rely on. On top of that, they have a well-balanced investment strategy that is mostly hands-off which protects them from panic-selling during times of market volatility. We are frugal, make use of opportunities, are in the know of life-hacks and benefit from financial situations such as these. That’s what FI is about. And everyone can become FI. Even though the media and the general public would like you to think otherwise. Just like they tried to tell me the loans would be unwise to pay off.

Is FI for you?

If you’ve recently lost your job due to the pandemic, perhaps it’s time to create a space for yourself. There are many pros to being self-employed. Even something semi-self-employed such as creating contract work under your name is a great option. Additionally, now may be the time to chase a dream of yours by picking up a side-hustle. Do something you love, and make money doing it. I did that with this blog, and if that interests you, perhaps you’d like to learn more about how to do that here. If you want to make money dog-sitting, apply to Rover today.

If you felt the crushing loss of a job and didn’t have an emergency fund, then the last few months may have been difficult. The EDD stipend of $600 a week to those who are unemployed has helped many, certainly, but really, having an emergency can also alleviate that stress. Start by mastering your budget. It’s the first step to all financial independence journeys.

If you have a lot of debt, it’s time to start paying it off. Student loan questions in particular? Now is the time to talk to a professional. Our recommendation is Travis Hornsby of Student Loan Planner. Schedule an appointment through my affiliate link, here.

It’s never too late to start. Trust me. I started from the bottom. Negative $575,000 bottom.