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Since embarking on my new journey in Dallas and currently working a part-time job, I have been living at a slower pace and really having a chance to enjoy life and all it has to offer. I have been exploring my new city, getting to know and enjoy my new co-workers (whom most of them are just like me, taking a part-time job as they transition into a different phase in their lives), and re-reading a lot of my favorite business and personal development books. Through re-reading 'The 4 Hour Workweek', I came across the story of 'The Tourist and the Mexican Fisherman'. This story resonated even more with me the second time around because of my current life circumstance. Most people have come across this story, in one version or another, but I thought I would re-print it on my blog because it has so much semblance in my life at the moment......

An American tourist was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.

Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The tourist complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, "Only a little while."

The tourist then asked, "Why didn't you stay out longer and catch more fish?"

The Mexican said, "With this I have more than enough to support my family's needs."

The tourist then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

The Mexican fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life."

The tourist scoffed, " I can help you. You should spend more time fishing; and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat: With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats. Eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor; eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You could leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles and eventually New York where you could run your ever-expanding enterprise."

The Mexican fisherman asked, "But, how long will this all take?"

The tourist replied, "15 to 20 years."

"But what then?" asked the Mexican.

The tourist laughed and said, "That's the best part. When the time is right you would sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions."

"Millions?...Then what?"

The American said, "Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos."


My New Life....

I am now officially a resident of Dallas, Texas...well, Irving, Texas to be exact.

To make a long story short, I was miserable in Little Rock, Arkansas. Don't get me wrong, it's a great city with some of the greatest people I've ever met. However, I am just not a small city kind of girl. I moved to Little Rock, after Hurricane Katrina and initially, everything was great because it was new. But, over time as I got to know more and more about the city, the more I learned that the choice of my locale was a mistake. I realized that when you move, as a single adult, to a city where everyone gets married straight out of high school, and definately no later than straight out of college, to their high school or college sweethearts that another relocation is imminent--that is unless I wanted to die alone.

To make matters worse, I was in a job that caused me to dread going to work. I was employed at a local college as a Program Director for a program that prepared high school students for higher education. The program involved a summer residential component that allowed the students to simulate college life for 6 weeks. The job involved exceptionally long hours in the summer, as I was required to be on campus with the students until 10pm when they would report to their dorm rooms for final roll call for the night. Additionally, working with teenagers, while can be rewarding, involves taking a lot of teenage attitude and back talk. Add in the fact that the program was federally funding, which means the salary was not exactly anything to write home about.

I decided that I would have to leave Little Rock, and just like when I desired to leave New Orleans, the prospects for an out of of town job candidate was slim. So, I decided that I would probably have to leave my job to relocate. I could only imagine the flack I would receive for leaving a job in this economy. But given the fact the program is never guaranteed to be funded past the current grant cycles, the state of the federal deficit has forced the future cuts of approximately 300 programs nationwide, and my college was strugggling through re-accredidation issues, I figured my decision to leave was not a huge risk. As a result, I got busy with the business of saving a year's salary.

The current fiscal year for the program ended on August 31st and I gave a month resignation with August 27th being my last day on the job. When I put in my resignation, my plan was to rent my house, move to Dallas and stay in an extended stay hotel until I found temporary employment. Well, a random search on Craigslist under "Education" jobs landed me an interview for a Program Delivery Specialist to target elementary schools in Dallas. The interview was scheduled for the day before my last day at work (perfect timing, I know.) The interview was on a Thursday and my last day on the job the following day on a Friday. Since I had such great luck with the job search on Craigslist, I decided to do a housing search just to see. Low and behold, I found a studio apartment that was being advertised by a student who was moving back home and needed someone to take over his lease. It turns out the rent would would be cheaper than the extended stay hotel.

So, I drove to Dallas early Thursday morning (a 4.5 hour drive from Little Rock) for the interview, waited until the tenant got off from work and looked at the apartment, then drove back home--all in the same day. I got back home after 11pm, then attended my last day of work the next day. Then I went on a one week vacation to San Diego...ahhhh. While on vacation, I got the call that I had gotten the job!!

So, while everyone thought I was crazy for leaving a job in the state of the economy, I followed my heart because I knew I could not stay in a life that was not working for me any longer--especially for a job that was not guranteed anyway. Although the job is part-time, I'm OK with this because: 1. I was burned out from the previous job and need a little break; 2. My low consumption and debt-free lifestyle allows me to be able to pay my minimum bills from the salary; 3. I have no pride and would have taken any job to pay the bills, if need be; 4. As long as the job is in education, I am still doing what I love.

So, that's the story of my new life and also why I have been absent from the blog. I still do not have my internet set up and am typing from the complex's resident business center, which also explains why the post have no picture. As a result, my posts may be a little scarce until the end of the month, so bear with me.

Oh, and so far, so good in Dallas....I start my new job today at 2pm. Wish me luck....

I'm back from my marvelous vacation feeling well rested and renewed. I may post some pictures of the awesomeness that was San of the beach, the beautiful view from my hotel, the wonderful reggae band I saw at Wave House on the beach.... But, now that the vacay is over...

I returned home to find out that a co-worker and great man, died from a heart attack while he slept. On last Thursday, September 9th, I found out that a former co-worker and friend, whose 65th b-day party I had just attended two weeks ago, had died of a massive stroke. These deaths shook me because I had just seen the people and they seemed to be the picture of health. It made me realize just how true the statement is, "here today, gone tomorrow." It also made me hyper aware of the fact that life should be lived to the fullest because we never know which day will be our last.

In my humble opinion, death, while sad, serves as a wake up call to the living. For me, it was a reminder that we are SUPPOSED to be living and enjoying life, not merely existing. These deaths made me grateful for the times I had known these great men, one of which was like a father figure. Also, it made me grateful for the life that I have chosen which embraces financial freedom and minimalism. From my standpoint, these life decisions are allowing me to live more fully and freely because I am not bogged down by debt or worry about not having time to truly enjoy life because I have too many things to care for or pay for.

It is my hope that everyone lives life to the fullest and realizes that our time here on earth is short and we should spend it with the people we love, doing things we love.

I've been missing in action while preparing for and vacationing in sunny San Diego. I will be back shortly and will try to get a few posts in before I get too busy. My life is gonna be really busy and hectic during the month of September; which is all the more reason I better enjoy this vacation!

The True Cost of Debt

"The Great Recession is exposing people." This is a comment I read on a blog post about celebrities who were in debt. The comment was posted by a reader who was referring to the fact that before the Great Recession, celebrities were living high off the hog on borrowed money. Since, the recession, however, a lot of people's credit, including celebrities, is limited and, therefore, they are exposed; exposed for being a poser with a financed lifestyle. But, it's not just celebrities who are living a rented lifestyle.

Before the recession, a lot of people's emergency fund was their credit cards. The fallout from the credit crisis and its subsequent limitations on credit access, has caused a lot of people to question the true cost of debt. The true cost of consumer debt is almost always negative. Some of the negative consequences of debt are:


Debt is stressful because, most times, the amount of debt that one carries feels overwhelming. And despite making payments towards the debt, high interest rates make it appear as if no progress is being made. Additionally, when debt was used to secure depreciating assets, it is not uncommon for one to owe more than what the item is worth. Debt can become a crippling condition that can leave the debtor feeling enslaved and depressed.

Missed Opportunities

How many times have we heard, or even said ourselves, the phrase, "I would take advantage of this opportunity, if I only had the money." How many times has there been a great deal on a great vacation that you would have taken if you had only saved, in advance, and had the money when the deal was available? How many times have you known you needed to start saving for a new car, but didn't because you didn't have the money to spare? Then, low and behold, you see a great deal on a car right as your clunker has kicked the bucket. How many times would you have loved to allow your kid to join the sports league or go to that summer camp, if only you had the money. For many people, missed opportunities are a source of stress and regret brought on by debt.

Marital Problems

It is well documented that money issues are the number one cause of divorce in America. But even for those couples who don't end up in divorce court, how many arguments has debt or poor spending habits caused? How much stronger would your marriage be if you had the money to have a date night, at least, once a month?

Loss of Income

Since the recession and its negative affect on many people's credit, it's more common than ever for employers to run credit checks on employment candidates. Issues such as low credit scores can cause an otherwise viable candidate to lose a job to a candidate whose only edge was a favorable credit rating. The lost of a new employment position is a double blow when the new job would have come with a higher salary, which would have alloted more descretionary income that could have been applied to debt repayment.

Prolonged Retirement Date

Too many people don't take into account how debt will affect their retirement plans until it's too late. Despite the fact that some future retirees may have enough money to afford their life's necessities during retirement, they fail to take into account how much of their fixed income would be consumed by debt repayment. Oftentimes, by the time the person nearing retirement finally analyzes their entire financial situation, their only recourse is to extend their retirement date until they have eliminated all or most of their debt.

These are just a few of the ways debt cost debtor. It's been said time and time again, but the saying still holds true--debt, is in fact, a form of slavery.

Money can buy material goods. Lots of money can buy lots of material goods. Material things aside, we've all heard the sayings before, 'Money can't buy love'; 'Money can't buy happiness.' While I agree with these sentiments, there are a few non-material things that money can buy.

It's not a coincidence that I started this list with the trait of confidence. I realize listing confidence as something money can buy is a bit controversial. There are a lot of people who will say money can't buy confidence because there are a lot of rich people with low self-esteem who only use money to compensate for their lack of confidence. However, when I speak of confidence I mainly mean the confidence to take risks. What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail? If we all were born with silver spoons in our mouths, most of us would have at least attempted to follow our dreams and not followed the path of the straight and narrow because it was the safe thing to do, with minimal risk of failure.

Additionally, I know there are rich people with low self esteem, but, seriously, money does give some people confidence to the point of arrogance; two examples: Kanye West and Donald Trump. Who do they think they're fooling? The vast majority of their confidence/arrogance comes from the millions sitting in their bank accounts.

Having options is a wonderful, liberating thing. Having options means never being stuck--stuck in a bad marriage, stuck in a city you hate, stuck in a job you hate. Money affords its owner the opportunity to choose from a variety of alternatives that could possibly make his life more enjoyable or fulfilling. And if the first option is not a success, money offers him the opportunity to make a different choice and experience a different outcome.

Having enough money to fully fund emergency savings gives one the security of knowing that whatever crisis life throws at you--loss of job, expensive car repairs, unexpected tax bill--you have the financial means to weather the temporary storm. Having adequate emergency savings also means having the security of knowing that in the case of an unforeseen expense, you won't have to possibly swollow your pride and request loans from friends or family. Most people don't like the feeling of being a slave to their lender, especially when they have to see that lender across the dinner table for the annual Thanksgiving family gathering.

Peace of Mind

Money offers peace of mind in knowing that you don't have to live paycheck to paycheck and knowing you have the financial means to provide for life's necessecities, with a little to spare for fun and entertainment also. Money affords a clear mind and a calmer sense of being. Additionally, if the money you have was earned through hard work and sound financial planning, you can have peace of mind that you are passing down the same financial principles to your children.

I don't know about you, but I like these things that money can buy. Can you think of any other non-material things money can buy?

Quirky; Strange; Odd--these might be words some of us may have heard a time or two in our lives as a description of who we are, especially if we are into Minimalism and/or Frugality. Most people consider being calld weird an insult; I know I used to. Now, I consder being called weird a compliment

Nowadays, when someone is called weird, it simply means he is different from the masses. When I take a look at American society, I mostly see a culture of people who have no idea who they are, what they believe in, and, as a result, are living unfulfilled lives. We are, largely, a media driven, mass consumerism, keep up with the Jones society that is waking up to the same humdrum life, day in and day out. If this is what it means to be "normal", then I'd rather be labeled weird any and everyday of the week.

So, the question is: Are you normal or are you weird? If you conclude that you are normal and would like to join us weirdos, I might suggest taking the following steps:

Find a "weird" mentor

Growing up I didn't have any real-life people I looked up to or aspired to be like. Although my grandmother was somewhat of a financial role model, ALL of her views and opinions were EXTREMELY antiquated, to say the least. As a result, I gained my "weird" role models from viewing and reading biographies. My top five "weird" role models are, in no particular order: Mia Farrow, Marc Cuban, Oprah Winfrey, Maria Shriver, and Ted Turner.

Learn to Put Little Value on Other People's Opinions

Some of the best advice I've ever heard came from Oprah Winfrey. She said, 'It is not my business what others think of me." When I heard this statement, I had an 'Aha' moment. Additionally, I would advise you to stop telling people your plans because people, especially "normal" people, are dream killers. When you tell your plans to dream killers, it's in their nature to be pessamistic and you have no one to blame but yourself for subjecting yourself to their judgment.

Take the Necessary Steps to Eliminate Fear From Your Decision Making

We were not born with a spirit of fear. We become fearful because we begin to conform to societal pressure to be "normal". Fear, therefore, is nothing more than allowing other people's opinions influence your decisions for your life. Learn to block out the other voices, while listening to your inner voice and you will find that your fear will begin to dissipate. Do this until it becomes a habit, and your fear will vanish permanently.

When you take the essential steps to be true to yourself and embrace your inner oddball, you'll be surprised at how natural it becomes to be labeled "weird".

How Do You View Money?

Different people view money differently. The book "Your Money or Your Life' defined money simply as what we trade out time for. Others may view money as a means to status or acquisition of material items. Then, there are still those who may have a negative view of money because of the opinions of money that may have been passed down from childhood. I, personally, view money as a tool--a very important tool.

I know it's very important to keep money in its proper perspective. Some people lose sight of this fact due to greed or other selfish reasons. People and relationships definitely trump money. But after acknowledging that people should come before money, I feel it's imperative to also acknowledge the imporance of money. I HATE, with a passion, when people say money is not important. Whenever I hear someone say money isn't important, my response is always, 'If money isn't important, then try living without it. Good luck with your life of homelessness, nakedness and starvation." From my experiences, the people who say money isn't important are usually those who are being irresponsible in their handling of money.

Money is important because it's a tool we use to acquire our basic necessities for life--food, clothing, and shelter. Even people who don't value money, and as a result, are not responsible with it, must use someone else's money to exist; whether it's government, mooching off family and friends or committing illegal acts. This is why I cannot tolerate when people dismiss the impact of money and treat those who have a healthy value for money as money obsessed.

I value my money because I spend a great amount of my life working to earn it. Anything that requires such a great time commitment from me, deserves my respect. Money is also the means by which I build the life I desire. Money affords me a life that is fulfilling to me and brings me some degree of joy; the type joy that comes from things like a comfortable home, a great vacation, or a delicious meal.

I implore everyone to analyze what money means to their life--whether good or bad. If, after examination, it is determined that the money relationship is one that is not in line with one's values, then it's time to make the needed changes. But this change in perspective cannot come without the necessary introspection.

So, have you given the question any real thought? How do you view money?

I will admit that during our depressed economic state, there is enough blame to go around; blame for the auto industry, housing industry, wall street, etc. But when it comes to individual debt, we all must take responsibility for our personal financial state. My participation in the blame game was not about me blaming others, but me taking the position that there was simply no other categories in my budget I could reduce cost. Since coming to my senses, I've gotten rid of cable, adjusted my thermostat accordingly, looked at alternatives to buying (such as borrowing or bartering), reduced the use of my car, and not paying for Internet on my cellphone. These are just a few of the ways I've taken responsibility and reduced my expenses.

However, for some people who are in debt, simply reducing expenses is not enough. For those in extreme debt, desperate times may have to call for desperate measures---like getting a second job, if necessary. I know a lot of people are going to say, 'Yeah right...a second job in this economy?' But, I recently wrote a post about how my sister works two jobs to afford her big house. She acquired her second job about 5 months ago---during our current recession. My point is, in order to take full responsibility for paying off debt, a second job may be the only way to make a dent in the debt balance when cutting cost simply isn't enough.

When I speak of securing a second job I definitely speak from experience because I've had more than one job at different stages in my life. Although I'm not currently working a second job (only because I earn enough money to make sizable debt payments) you better believe I would if my debt balance necessitated it. Putting an end to the blame game and taking personal responsibility, in regards to becoming debt free, means taking the necessary actions, by any means necessary; even if that means sacrificing a few more hours of your personal time and putting in some sweat equity.

So, I'm interested to know, have any of you taken on a second job to pay off your debt or do you feel a second job is not worth the sacrifice? Or have you gone the route of extreme cost cutting?

I can honestly say I don't have many temptations. I am a handbag addict, but even that I don't consider a true temptation. I don't just buy random handbags in ridiculous colors. All of my handbag purchases are well thought out; I comparison shop (usually on the internet); I ensure they can be mixed and matched with other items in my wardrobe; and under no circumstances do I buy a bag that is similar to something I already have in my closet. So, the handbag thing....although I consider it a festish, I, pretty much, have a handle on purchases. So, that still leaves the question, what are my temptations? Hmmm....

I would have to say my temptations are going out to eat and traveling. Both of these things are tempting to me because they usually signal GIRL TIME! When I think about going out to eat, it usually means me and my girlfriends going out to a casual restaurant, sitting on the deck while eating, laughing and indulging in a few drinks. Likewise, because I'm single, most of my travel is with friends. It is SOOO hard for me to turn down an invite for a trip that is anywhere out of state. I love to travel, meet new people, and have new experiences. Additionally because I come from a family where people were content to just scrape by, there was no eating out or traveling for me as a kid. I believe this is another reason why I love these two experiences so much.

In examining my temptations, I have come to realize that my temptations aren't about spending money; rather they're about having experiences with people who are close to me. I guess this is why it is so hard for me to resist. But, because I'm living my life with financial goals, I believe I've found a balance that is reasonable and doesn't leave me feeling deprived--in regards to eating out, that is. The issue of traveling is a whole other story. I'm still trying to find a balance. For now, my solution has been to turn down smaller trips and save for that grand vacation.

So, those are my temptations. What are yours? And have you figured out why these are temptations for you?

I made my last lump sum payment of $819.63 to my Chase Mastercard!!! It feels sooo good to be free of credit card debt! I just need a moment to take that in.....*Exhales*. Now, I'm not one of those people who despise credit cards and preaches how they are evil. I have always known that credit cards are DEBT and MUST be repaid. Therefore, I have always used them responsibly--even when I did carry a small balance here and there. After completely paying my cards of, though, I have a completely different feeling about carrying a balance--I will NEVER do it again. And to ensure I never carry another balance, I'm only going to use my American Express Optima (no annual fee) to ensure that I pay the balance each month. Being free from credit card debt is a WONDERFUL feeling....

On the issue of the doctor's bill...It turns out I did have a credit in the amount of $1100.00. But instead of being transferred to the physician's bill to pay down that balance--which is a little over $1,700.00--only $700.00 can be transferred because my doctor's bill has increased to $400.00 to pay for my first follow up visit after my surgery. So, after the $700.00 transfer, I will owe approximately $1000.00 to the physician. That wouldn't be so bad...but, of course, there's always a catch. My initial follow up doctor's appointment was to test my thyroid levels because now I'm on complete thyroid hormone replacement. I was originally prescirbed 125mg of Synthroid (thyroid hormone), but upon receiving the results of my blood test, it was determined that my thyroid levels were too high. As a result, my medication has been reduced to 1000mg. I have another doctor's appointment on August 18th, for yet another blood test to determine if 100mg is the correct dosage. At approximately $400 a test--after insurance payment--this could get expensive. Of course, I'm praying 100mg is the magic number. After my second follow up doctor's visit and subsequent blood test, my total medical bill will be approximately $1,400.00.

Once the medical bills are paid, the only other debt I will have, besides my mortgage, is my student loan balance owed to Sallie Mae to the tune of $5,526.49. The plan is to have both bills paid off by the end of the year *Keeping fingers crossed and sending a silent prayer that I can make my goal and be debt free by the end of the year*.

Long gone are the days when one stayed with a single employer for 30 years, then retired with their pension and gold watch. Even before the 'Great Recession',many people stopped believing in the term 'job security'. And while many don't feel secure in their jobs, they feel it is better than the alternative. Now more than ever, people are unsatisfied with their jobs, but many are not willing to rock the boat, given the status of the current economy. Because of people's fear and apprehension, they ignore the glaring signs that it may be time to leave a job that is unfulfilling. The following are a few signs most of us have had at one time or another at some point in our careers:

* You dread going to work everyday--I'm sure most of us have felt this one before. Getting out of bed in the morning is the absolute hardest and you seem to be more tired in the morning than any other time of the day.

* You are starting to get sick--I have an online buddy who recently left a job that was literally giving her migraines everyday. She took a lot of flack from friends and family for a leaving a job in this economy, but when a job is literally making you sick...

*There's no room for advancement--Again, we do not live in a society where people stay in the same job their entire work life. Even if a person remains with a company for a number of years, it's usually because he was able to move up and continue to gain new skills. My motto is, "If I can't grow, I gotta go".

* The company is in trouble--Is it worth the stress and worry for a company that may not be around much longer?

* Emotionally Abusive--You are suffering emotion abuse from either a supervisor or co-workers or both.

* You're bored--The job is no longer challenging and the company won't consider you for other positions.

* You're burned out--You are experiencing exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration. And you don't see any other remedy to this problem except to change employment.

* You're underpaid--This issue is not just the underpayment, but the fact that the raise scale is not sufficient, therefore even with annual raises you are still underpaid.

Are you currently experience job burnout or have you experienced in the past? What was your solution? Our current recession is forcing a lot of people to stay in jobs that are slowing draining the life out of them. In this economic climate are you more inclined to stay in a stable job you hate just for the security it provides or are you at a financial stage where you could afford to leave a draining job and ride it out until you find a job that fulfills you?


We have heard it said a million and one times since the start of the recession: "This is the greatest recession since the Great Depression." This recession period has also been called the "Great Recession." Despite the 24 hour news coverage of every aspect of the recession, from the housing bust to the loss of jobs to the Oil Spill, the question that remains in my mind is, has the Great Recession had a permanent impact on how Americans spent their money, save and invest their income and view debt? In other words, will the recession have a positive impact on Americans' spending habits once the recession is over (technically, it's already over, according to the experts).

In my opinion, the recession will have the same effect as a yo-yo dieter; and, of course, everyone knows the symptoms and the consequent effects. There is an event that snaps the dieter into action--for example seeing a picture of oneself at an event and being jolted into the reality of just how much weight has been gained. Next, the dieter researches a variety of diet plans and decides which one fits. Then for months the dieter diligently follows the diet, sees results and vows to continue the healthy lifestyle, eating habits and exercise---and for a while is very successful at maintainance. But, slowly and unbeknownst to the dieter, the healthy habits are practiced less and less as day-to-day life takes precedent and the dieter isn't "dieting" anymore. Before you know it, the dieter has gained the weight back, is depressed again and doesn't even realize how he got back to square one. This is how I view most people who have changed their financial habits as a result of the recession.

Being financially responsible has to be a permanent mindset. It's not something you can just turn on and off or else you will find yourself right back where you started from. Just like I've known people who have lost weight only to gain it back again, I've also known people who have used their income tax return to pay off all of their debt and even go so far as to cut up their credit cards. But, somehow, they always end up right back in debt.

I never had a lot of debt and it was never really "bad debit". Although I would sometimes carry a small balance on credit cards, it was never more than I could pay off with one lump payment if I chose. Any other debt was mortgage and student loans, so, naturally, I thought I was doing just fine. Despite being fine, by most people's standards, in regards to debt, something clicked with me and I felt I needed to change. Instead of wanting to be just 'fine' in regards to debt, I decided to become completely debt-free FOR LIFE.

I still have not identified what my 'Ah Ha' moment was, but somehow, someway I got 'IT'. Whatever 'IT' is, it's what I feel the majority of the temporary, "only financially responsible because of the recession people are lacking. It is that lack of 'IT' that will, more than likely, place them right back into debt when this recession and effects have passed.

Can you identify your 'Ah Ha' moment?

I love the progress I'm making in my life in regards to my financial freedom and minimalism. However, I'm aware of the fact that these two priorities in my life aren't exactly the priorities of the majority of society. I discussed in a previous post how I'm sometimes judged because of my frugality and as a result I have begun to wonder how my lifestyle might affect future romantic relationships.

Suzie Orman always says, 'People first, then money, then things'. And while I definitely share this sentiment, money is vitally important in a relationship. Statistics have reported the number one reason for divorce in America is money problems. I don't have all of the answers, but I feel I have come to realize what is important in life and how I spend my money reflects that. I also must admit that I am also sometimes guilty of judging (mentally, not verbally) people for, what I consider, harmful/wasteful financial decisions.

As a result of my mindset and where I am in my life, I know a relationship with someone who does not understand the true purpose/value of money would not work for me. In a weird way, my approach to and view of money has become a part of my value system. For me, planning a future with someone who still believed in mass consumerism and debt would be like planning a future with someone who didn't attend regular religious services or something of that equivalent. It is that serious and that ingrained in my consciousness at this point. I'm not saying my mate would have to believe exactly the same as I do, that would be kind of controlling and self-centered. But I do believe we should be like minded on most paramount issues that have the potential to negatively impact a relationship. And finances are definitely a huge issue in any relationship.

So, what have been your experiences? For those who are married, did you and your mate decide together to embrace financial freedom or did one have to pull the other along kicking and screaming? Did the relationship survive the change in financial lifestyle? For those who are still single, has your financial mindset affected any relationships or whom you choose to date?

When I began getting my finances in order, I could not have predicted how it would lead to changes in other areas of my life. Financial changes led to Minimalism which led to the question: Does my spending reflect my values?

When I initially began to question if my spending reflects my values it was more along the lines of environmentally friendly items/packaging and no animal testing. But, eventually I began to question, more specifically, how do I want my values to manifest in my life. Of course, after valuing the tangible things such as family, friends, health, and the like, I also value my quality of life. Valuing my quality of life leads me to understand the negative impact debt will impose on my life and those more subtle, intangible aspects of life. This realization begged the question what intangible things will be affected if my spending isn't in line with my values?The intangibles that I value are the following:

* Freedom

* Security

* Peace of mind in regards to finances

* Having new/interesting life experiences (well this is sort of tangible, but...)

In order to achieve all of these things (and I am on the cusp, so close I can taste it) I must make conscious decisions when parting with my money. I have decided what is important to me and if my purchases uphold these values in one way or another---by either supporting causes/products I believe in or by purchasing items that add value to my life in some way or by making money choices that add to my fulfillment of the intangibles.

So, it's your turn to reflect. Does your spending reflect your values; and if not, what do you plan to do about it?

I found this very insightful article on Yahoo Finance, written by Fleur Bradley. I thought it would be of value to post....

If you're just entering the workforce, retirement probably seems like a lifetime away. A million dollars by retirement? That's someone else's dream, right? It doesn't have to be. Here is the millionaire's retirement plan. For these calculations, assume an average annual return of 8%, adjusted for inflation at 3% - a reasonable estimate of average market returns.

Age 25: A Good Beginning

You're 25 and landed that first job on your career ladder - congratulations! Before you start living to your new paycheck's standards, budget your retirement savings. If you have a 401(k) plan that matches your contributions, use it! These matching dollars are like a guaranteed return on investment. If you don't have a matching 401(k), look for a mutual fund through an investment firm with low fees; many now offer target funds, which allocate your investment risk with your targeted retirement year in mind - great for a beginning investor.

Choose a Roth IRA if you can; you don't get to deduct your contributions from your taxes, but you'll enjoy tax-free withdrawals at 65. Plan to start by saving about $200 a month to reach your millionaire goal; increasing this monthly amount by $10 annually as you get a raise or promotion will only speed up your saving.

Age 35: Rolling Along

By now you have saved about $45,000 and you've grown in your career with a bigger paycheck, but often, family commitments like children and a mortgage will seem more pressing than saving for your golden years. Don't make the mistake of slowing down your retirement savings. By now, you should ramp up your contributions to about $400 a month - remember that a matching 401(k) will help you in attaining this amount.

If you have kids and worry about saving for their college, look at it this way: the best way to help them in the future is by ensuring you're financially sound in retirement. Make saving for retirement a priority.

Age 45: Holding Steady

You're mid-career, and things are looking good in your retirement portfolio. Your savings have grown to about $160,000 - not bad, but it still isn't quite time to slow down. Increase your retirement contributions to about $450 a month or more, and you'll be rolling your way to millionaire status by 65.

Age 55: Close to the Finish Line

By age 55, your retirement portfolio should be at $400,000 or so. You can start to see the finish line, but begin to wonder about risk. If you've been investing in a target fund, your portfolio has been adjusting its allocation for you; otherwise, look at adjusting some of your investments to reflect a lower risk tolerance. And remember: your income at, say, age 70 won't be withdrawn for another 15 years - plenty of time to ride out market fluctuations.

At age 55, expect to really ramp up your retirement contributions, to roughly $600 a month, and more if you can manage it. The more you save, the sooner you can leave the nine-to-five behind.

Age 65: Prudent Asset Management

You're at the finish line: a millionaire at 65! Since you have no way to add to your savings now that you're out of the workplace, prudent asset management is vital. Keep a close eye on your portfolio so you can make your nest egg last. Protect yourself against inflation as well as market risk, and you'll be enjoying your golden years without financial worries.

The Bottom Line

With steady savings and smart financial habits, you can retire a millionaire - maybe even before you're 65.

Debt Reduction Update

I am steady knocking out the last of my debt. I only have $800 remaining on a credit card and I'm down to $5,533.52 for my student loan. The plan was to pay $400 for the month of July and August and have the credit card paid off. I was going to make lump sum payments on the student loan and have it paid off by the end of the year. Now the catch...I paid a few dollars less than $2500 for my thyroid surgery, which was supposed to be the only amount I would owe based on my insurance's hospital stay deductible. However, when I called to find out the balance on the account I was told the remaining balance is over $1700.

The $1700 balance is the physician's bill and not the hospital's. I was assured the $2500 I paid went to the hospital and as a result there would be a credit to the hospital portion of the bill, which would be transferred to the physicians bill. This would leave a balance of $0 for the physician's bill. I just have to wait for my insurance company to process the claim. Hopefully this happens, but I'm not the most trusting of insurance companies; so I'll see how it all plays out. I hope I don't have a battle on my hands...but if I do, I'm up for the fight.

Provided the physician's bill is covered as explained, I'm on track to be debt free by the end of the year...or maybe even sooner! I'm so excited that this minor set back can't even diminish my excitement. I can't wait until I can yell, "I'm COMPLETELY debt free! I'm sure it will be on this blog, and Facebook, and Twitter, and Yahoo IM, and....well, you get the picture.

"You're Very Frugal"

I cannot tell you how many times people have commented on my frugality; some meaning it as a compliment and others being sarcastic and meaning it as an insult. For the record, I am never offended by being called frugal. But what I am offended by is the underlying thought by the majority that frugal means self-deprivation.

First and foremost, I'd take frugal any day over the lifestyle I see many others living. But, I wish (or maybe not) I could get people to realize that my life involves no scarcity. For example, I once had a conversation with a friend who is also a co-worker. We were talking about how we spent our extra paycheck (we are on the 26 paycheck pay cycle). She proceeded to explain all of the wonderful things she did and bought with her "free" money, but then she turned to me and said, 'I bet you saved your whole check, right?". To that question I responded, "No, I saved half and spent half". What confuses me is, I don't even know how people develop their opinion of my lifestyle because I never talk about it. The conversation about the extra paycheck was initiated by my girl friend, not me.

Any-who, I do not deprive myself in anyway--which is the main reason why I will never give up my handbag collection. It is my one indulgence and I would feel like "not me" without it. But, I also know the difference between frivolous spending or spending because of peer pressure. I cannot begin to tell you all of the crazy excuses I've heard from friends to justify their ridiculous spending--'But if I use my debit card, I have 'keep the change' and the change goes into my savings account'; or 'See, it was on sale, so I only spent $8 dollars for it (an item she bought solely because it was on sale, not because it would serve a purpose in her life).

Being frugal to me means evaluating whether or not I really need an item, will it serve a definite purpose in my life and how much use will I get out of it. Also, would I be better served borrowing the item if I would have limited usage for it. Additionally, when I do choose to purchase an item I will never spend more than I feel it's worth; whether the cost is $7 or $200. You see, for me, it is not about the cost, per say, but the value. I will definitely pay what an item is worth, even if it's an expensive item (even though I may be inclined to wait for it to go on sale). I've found that most people don't understand this concept--which is fine for them, I guess. But what bothers me (and I will admit I am bothered by this), is the underlying judgment that others have about people who refuse to spend their money mindlessly. It was part of my motivation for starting this blog.

So, what do you think? Do you sometimes feel judged by others for your frugal ways?

Today is July 1 and officially marks the end of my 'Go Green' Challenge. I never anticipated the challenge would be a hard one as I have already gotten a grip on my discretionary spending. What the challenge did for me is force me to plan out my discretionary expenditures at the beginning of the month instead of just using my discretionary cash randomly.

What I've found is carrying cash is not as bad as I thought, despite the times I forgot to take my money before leaving home and was without money for the entire day. Actually, I kind of liked the 'throw back' feel of carrying cash. Additionally, carrying cash stopped me from having to do a lot of calculations in my head in an effort to try to remember what purchases I made so I wouldn't be surprised when I viewed my checking account online. And of course, having cash made me more aware of what I was spending and how much money I would have remaining after each purchased.

What I've learned from the Challenge is that I would like to continue with the cash system for everything EXCEPT purchasing gas each week. Going into the gas station to pay for gas is easily an activity I can live without. Besides, did I mention I'm semi-paranoid? I'm always so fearful that I'll have the bad luck of being caught in the middle of a robbery while waiting to pay for my gas...crazy, I know! But, what can I say...I was raised by an overly protective, completely paranoid grandmother. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, I guess.

So, there you have it...from this point forward I will continue a modified version of the 'Go Green' Challenge.

This journey to Financial Freedom and a more Minimalist lifestyle has fueled my desire to improve in other areas as well. Like most of us, I need to get healthier. I'm not overweight, but I have my problem areas I would like to improve. Additionally, I don't eat enough fruits and vegetables or drink enough water. I've given a lot of thought to what lifestyle changes I can make to improve my health and drop a few vanity pounds without resulting to dieting. Here are the 20 rules I plan to begin to implement on July 1. I feel the rules are fairly simple and painless to apply, given just a little bit of effort. The rules are a combination of my own creations and a few I have picked up from reading about health and nutrition. So here they are, Young Mogul's 20 Rules for a Healthier Eating Plan:

All of the rules are applied Sunday through Thursday (except water intake and multi-vitamin)...on weekends, GO WILD!

1. No eating after 8p.m.
2. Always start the day with a healthy, meatless breakfast
3. Only 10 grams of fat a day from junk food. You can divide junk food into salty/sweet
4. No junk food as a meal (i.e. donuts for breakfast, French fries for lunch)
5. Limit sugar intake (no specific number of grams, just consciousness)
6. Eat a fruit or vegetable with every meal
7. Stop eating when the joy derived from the taste of the food has diminished
8. Don’t eat the same type of food for back-to-back meals
9. Don’t drink calories. Drink only water with meals other than breakfast
10. Drink a minimum of 20 ounces of water a day (more if possible), even on weekends
11. No white flour
12. No deep fried foods
13. Eat reasonable portions
14. Choose healthier version junk food (dark chocolate, skim milk Frappucino, baked chips)
15. Choose lean meat choices whenever possible
16. Limit carbohydrate intake (no specific number of grams, just consciousness)
17. Get a minimum of 20 minutes of exercise (more if possible), ANY five days a week
18. Take a daily multi-vitamin every day, even on weekends
19. Friday and Saturday are “anything goes” days, except for water intake & multi-vitamin rule
20. Post these rules in a prominent place at home and work and review daily

First of all, let me start by saying that I took my debit card out of my wallet on the first day of the month, so I did not use it in this incident. However, the situation is...I went out with a group of friends on Saturday night. It is well known, from my 'About Me' profile, that I am a handbag connoisseur, LOL. So, I own both day and evening handbags. When I went out with friends on the weekend, I took one of my cute, going out, small clutch-type handbags that can only hold my wallet and lip gloss. Fast forward to Tuesday when I went to the service department of my car dealership. I had an oil change and front brake service. Because I didn't know, in advance, the exact cost of the service I had already decided I would simply write a check for the amount instead of trying to withdraw an unknown dollar amount from the bank.

My car service was completed to the tune of $286 and some change. When I went to pay for the service I realized I had not put my checkbook back into my current purse of the day. This was discovered AFTER the service was completed and I was at the payment counter. Although I had already removed my debit card from my wallet for the month, I decided to keep my American Express card, just in case. And luckily I did or else I may have been leaving the service department in a police car--or maybe not, I am a regular. So, although I didn't use my debit card, I still used a credit card--which was also prohibited for the Challenge.

So the question I'm asking is, did I violate the Challenge? You decide by leaving your comment...but before you decide, allow me to plead my case. First, I did NOT use a debit card because I have not carried it with me for the month. Secondly, the purpose of the Challenge was to make the participants more conscious of how we spend our money and not to spend on mindless, frivolous purchases. This was definitely not a mindless or frivolous purchase. Either way, I will still continue the challenge for the remainder of the month.

Did my love of handbags cost me the Challenge? You be the judge...

Does anyone remember that Lending Tree commercial? You know...the one with the middle aged, Caucasian, family man, riding on his mower with the plastered on smile, who went on and on about his big house, fancy cars, etc; then stated that he affords it all because he's in debt up to his eyeballs--all with the same permanent, fake smile on his face? Come on, you know you remember it....

I thought about this commercial when I thought about doing this post. Is it worth it to have the big house and fancy cars at the expense of your happiness/peace of mind? Do you have any of these symptoms:

* Stuck in a job you hate because you can't afford to leave

* You're working more than one job (not a side business) just to make ends meet in regards to your necessities?

* Are you sacrificing free time, hobbies, volunteer activities in the name of working longer and harder?

* Are you sacrificing quality time with friends and family because you are too tired after a very long day at the job?

* Are you constantly stressed? About the career? Bills? Retirement?

* Are you neglecting your health in the name of the Almighty dollar? Are you overweight because you simply don't have the time to cook nutritious meal or exercise? Do you have stress related stomach problems? What about migraines?

You'd be surprised (or not) at the number of people who are living a life of quiet desperation--and most of them earn a great income. We have all heard the saying, 'It's not what you earn, it's what you spend'. There are so many who are sacrificing their life for material possessions. The book 'Your Money or Your Life' calls this 'making a dying'.

So, the question is, are you making a dying?

Since beginning this 'Go Green' Challenge I have encountered an unexpected delightful surprise...I repeatedly find money in my pants pockets and in previously used handbags. Since I am not accumstomed to carrying cash this is definitley a new occurence. It is amazing how little money I find myself spending when I carry cash. As a result, I completely forget that I have cash--until I find it later. During the act of doing laundry or changing handbags, this has happened several times during the last three weeks.

I'm not complaining, keep the found money coming...


I need a vacation so desperately. However, unlike everyone else, I don't get to take my vacation during the summer because of the nature of my job. You see, I am a Director for a college preparatory program that prepares high school students for higher education. During the summer component of the program, the students have a six week residential program which allows them to stay on campus and have the simulated college experience. My summers, for the last three years, have been spent dealing with teenagers (oh, the joy...) and working extended hours. The weeks leading up to the program are grueling, with all of the last minute issues that must be addressed, no matter how much planning is done in advance to avoid them.

Despite my exhaustion and a chance for a short escape before the start of my summer program, I turned down a weekend trip with the girls to Atlanta. I really could have used the get-a-way, but I decided to hold strong to my 'Go Green' Challenge. I will reward myself really handsomely at the end of the summer.

In regards to the spending plan, I am well within my $40 a week. During the summer, my program pays for all staff and students to eat 3 meals a day in the cafeteria. Therefore, my daily frivolous spending has been eliminated.

All-in-all, I'm still on track to meet my challenge throughout the month of June.

Why Me?

I often ask myself why, without any concrete financial role models in my life, I became the financially repsonsible person in my family. Admittedly, I was raised by a grandmother who was not frugal, but cheap. And when I mean cheap, I mean cheap; the cheapest of everything from soap to toilets. Quality was not even an issue for her. For her, it was all about the lowest price. Her motto was, 'If you have a dollar, save a quarter.' And while I never strived to be that extreme and am definitely not cheap (because 'cheapest' comes with its own set of problems that my grandmother learned the hard way), I somehow got "it"; don't ask me how or why because I don't know. My sister, who was also raised by my grandmother, didn't get "it", in my very humble opinion. Don't get me wrong, my sister is financially responsible in her own way. But, she is the type that likes the latest and greatest of most things. She is not in debt (that I know of). But, she is one of those "I work hard, so I deserve it" people.

My sister and I couldn't be more different financially--although, I would say we are the two most financially responsible in the family. I attribute our financial independence on the fact that we didn't exactly have quality parents, hence living with the grandmother. My sister and I both are single, no kids and are both homeowners. My home, although, could have been smaller, is reasonable in size and cost. My sister, on the other hand, has a HUGE house. Based on my expenses I can live comfortably from only one paycheck and save and invest the other. My sister on the other hand, has taken on a second job because she wants to "build up her savings". Here's the catch: Her home is in Hammond, LA, which is a suburb of New Orleans and a 45 minute drive. Her full-time job is from 8 to 5, from which she goes to my grandmother's home and sleeps from 5:30pm to 10:30pm, then goes to a second job from 11pm to 7am. Then, she returns to my grandmother's to change for her full-time job. She does this Monday-Thursday. She never needed to build up her savings until she bought the big house. So, basically she is currently spending her entire life working in order to pay for the big house that she is NOT even living in. When I question her choices, she says the work situation is only temporary.

Every financial decision I've made, I've told my sister about it in hopes that she would get on board. But, needless to say, she has a different mentality than me; which is fine--no judgement. Everyone is entitled to be who they are and make their own choices. For me, money is not about material possessions. Instead, in my mind, money is about security and freedom. I never want to be stuck in a job I hate, stuck in a bad relationship, forced to borrow money, etc because of my financial choices. This is just my own personal logic. But, I often ask myself why do I think this way, but no one else in my family?

I know part of the answer is I've always been inquisitive--about EVERYTHING. As a result, I became a ferocious reader. At some point, I found personal finance books and my journey started. I've always studied successful people, both in real life and from TV and biographies. But, don't most people do this in some fashion, no matter how small?

So, what do you think the difference is between people who see money as a tool/asset and those who view it as a means to material possessions? If you are a PFer, what do you think is the difference for you? I ask because I still haven't figured it out...

I accepted the 'Go Green' Challenge for the month of June. The Challenge began on June 1 and ends June 30th. The jist of the Challenge is that everyone who accepts the Challenge uses cash for all of their daily purchases (not including bills), including casual spending. We use the 'envelope method', which involves putting the cash for all of our major categories in the envelope and using money as needed; but when the money is gone, it's gone. My envelopes include categories for personal spending, gas, miscellaneous, and the money I put aside for my monthly manicure. There is no use of debit or credit cards for the entire month. I already have a spending/entertainment plan which entails $40 a week for frivolous spending ($20 for the workweek, Sunday - Thursday; and $20 for the weekend, Friday and Saturday). So, my update entails what I spent for the first week of the challenge...

The Challenge began on Tuesday, June 1st. I began with the $20 for the workweek because I didn't spend any money on Sunday because Sunday is usually just attending church, then going home for a quiet day of rest. Monday was Memorial Day and, again, I rested and didn't even attend any BBQ's despite being invited. So, Tuesday was my first day of work and my first day of spending...

* Tuesday, June 1, 2010--I brought my lunch to work, but bought a soda and chips from the vending machine for $1.90. For my lunch break I went to Family Dollar and bought a few items that costs $4.56, from my miscellaneous spending category.

* Wednesday, June 2, 2010--I didn't bring my lunch but bought a Backyard Burger Junior and a Sweet Tea from McDonald's for a total of $3.56. I also bought another soda and chips from the vending machine (I know, I know....) for $1.90.

* Thursday, June 3, 2010--I purchased a Caesar salad for lunch for $5.56 and a Sweet Tea from McDonald's for $1.10.

* Friday, June 4, 2010--I spent no money on food (YEAH!!) The reason for that is I work at a college and we have adopted our summer hours, which are 10 hour days from 7am-6pm with Fridays off. So, I spent no money on food/eating out because I did not go to work on Friday. However, I went to a birthday party that night and bought a bottle of Verdi to the party for a total of $6.20, from weekend spending.

* Saturday, June 5, 2010--I had plans to attend a bus ride to Memphis (2hours from Little Rock) on Saturday, but the plans fell through at the last minute, which left me with no plans for the weekend. Therefore, I decided to treat myself to breakfast for a whopping $2.74, and lunch for $6.43...I know, I'm a big spender, LOL. Since I had not spent all of my money from the workweek, I decided to use the remaining money from workweek and weekend spending to buy myself a business book that was on clearance from Books-A-Million for $6.45.

Also on Saturday, I bought a few more miscellaneous items from Family Dollar for $3.37.

My total for the work week was $14.02, which left me with $5.98 remaining. Weekend spending was a total of $22.82, of which the additional $2.82 was remaining from the workweek. My total miscellaneous spending was $7.93.

My total cost in the spending/entertainment category for the week was $36.84 out of $40; my total miscellaneous spending was $7.93, which leaves $22.07 for the month remaining for miscellaneous spending.

All in all, I feel I did OK. I came in under budget, which wasn't hard. But, I would like to bring my lunch more often and be able to save my frivolous spending allowance for other things besides lunch. In my own defense though, adjusting to the 7am workday has been kinda hard. I brought my lunch most days before this new schedule. Also, I started a morning run on Memorial Day, which is from 5:40 - 6am. Afterwards, I have 45 minutes to shower and get dressed, which isn't hard as long as I prepare my clothes overnight--but it leaves no time for packing a lunch. I know, I know, I have to pack it overnight, which requires better planning on my part.

First week complete...

Since adopting a more Minimalist lifestyle, there are a few things I wonder why I ever wasted good money on. Adopting a Minimalist lifestye requires before any new purchase, the following questions are asked: Do I REALLY need this item?; How much use will I REALLY get from this item?; Can I borrow this item, rather than buy it?; Is this purchase in line with my new values?

Given the new consciousness I employ before making a purchase I am more aware of those items I will never waste my hard earned money on again:

* Cable TV--I can watch any television program from network television to cable programming on the internet for free. In fact, a new report released by the Yankee Group indicates one in eight Americans will drop their cable TV subscription before the end of 2010. So, I actually consider myself a trendsetter in this area because I have been without cable since 2008--Yeah me!

* Magazine Subscriptions--I now assign one Saturday out of the month library day. On this day, I read all of my favorite magazines for free, then LEAVE them at the library--no more unnecessary clutter to recycle. This is also the day I check out or return any books I want to read/have already read.

* A NEW car--I will probably never be car-free, like some Minimalist. But, I will certainly never pay full price for a such an expensive depreciating asset again. From this point forward, it is Certified Pre-Owned all the way, baby!

* Home Decor--There are entirely too many consignment stores that sell these items in excellent to very good condition at a fraction of the cost. Why do I need a brand new vase anyway? Or picture frames or lamps?

*Gym Membership--I love running and it is free. Besides, I never got my money's worth because the act of having to drive to the location to work out was just too much of a hassle for me. I used the membership only because I was paying for it, not because I enjoyed it. So, never again.

*A Pet--there are thousands of perfectly good pets at the pound who need a home, especially after many pet owners could not afford to keep their pets due to the effects of the Great Recession. Sure, I'll have to pay to have the pet spayed/neutered and vaccinated, but not for the pet itself.

*Ringtones--they are ridiculous to me. No offense to anyone who has one, but I just don't get it. My phone can have a regular ring like in the old day, circa 2005. This is just another way cellphone companies have found to jack up the cost of the service--and consumers are falling for it hook, line and sinker.

So, that's the short list of the things I will never pay for again. What are some things you will never pay for or never pay for again?

While perusing the blog, Divine and Debt Free, I was presented with the 'Go Green Challenge'. The Challenge is to ONLY use cash (hence the green) for the month of June. Not only have I accepted the challenge, but I've also gotten a friend to participate as well.

As a result of participating in the challenge, I've spent the last couple days making sure I've accounted for every necessary purchase I will need money for during the month of June. Once I made my list, I withdrew $400 from the ATM. I actually only needed $390, but the ATM only does transactions in denominations of 20. The cash will account for the following purchases:

* $60 for groceries for the month ($20 each week, but I already shopped for this first week).

* $60 for hair care needs for the month

* $75 for gas for the car for the month ($25 each week, but I already filled up for this week).

* $15 for my monthly manicure

* $160 for my frivolous spending/entertainment plan for the month ($40 a week spending divided into $20 for the work week [Sunday-Thursday] and $20 for weekend entertainment[Friday and Saturday]).

* $20 for miscellaneous spending, initially. But since I had to withdraw $400 ($10 more than needed) from the ATM, I guess the amount for miscellaneous spending has increased to $30.

So, there you have it--my cash spending allowance for the month. I don't anticipate a problem or experiencing any withdrawal symptoms, LOL. I stopped using my debit card for purchases once I implemented my $140 a month spending/entertainment plan.

A funny story, though...when I initially approached my friend about joining me in the challenge...she thought about it, then agreed. I told her the rules, and since she is a person who swipes her debit card mindlessly, I also told her some of the things she should account for, in advance, by getting the exact dollar amount from the ATM. She agreed. A few minutes later she came to me in a near panic saying, "But, how will I pay for my gas for the car during the month?!" I think it is absolutely HYSTERICAL how convenience-dependant our society has become. Even if she had forgotten to account for the cost of gas, there was a time--before debit cards--when people actually walked INTO a bank and (shocker) actually withdrew money from the teller.

I had to reassure her that she would NOT be destitute without her debit card because if she had forgotten to account for any NECESSARY purchase, she could either withdraw money from inside the bank or (shocker, again) write a check. The purpose of the 'Go Green' challenge is not to leave us stuck in a bad situation if we forget to account for a necessary purchase, but to stop us from swiping our debit cards mindlessly and think about each purchase.

I don't anticipate a friend on the other hand...well, let's just say we may need to keep the morphine handy because she is a junkie and will, most definitely, experience some withdrawals, LOL.

The Challenge begins tomorrow...wish us luck! I'll update you on my and my friend's progress periodically, but like I stated earlier, I don't anticipate a problem.

On Thursday, May 20th at 7:15am I was wheeled into the operating room at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. It was an hour long procedure to remove my thyroid gland. That is the short version. The long version is as follows...

For most of my life I had always kind of felt a little, I had always suffered from insomnia for no explainable reason; always had bouts of constipation; my hair was always a little more course than I knew it should have been. But, when you receive every annual checkup, as I always did, you just tend to think this is the way it is. But a few years ago, the symptoms got worse: chronic fatigue, hair loss, muscle aches, weight fluctuations, swelling in various areas of my body. The hair loss sent me to a dermatologist who ran multiple tests, including a blood test, that diagnosed my hypothyroidism in December 2006.

I spent the greater parts of 2007 and 2008 going to doctor's appointments nearly every six weeks for test of thyroid levels and adjustments in the amount of thyroid hormone I was prescribed. At different points, I was being given too much hormone which swung my condition from hypothyroidism to hyperthyroidism--which comes with it's own set of problems, including heart palpitations. At one doctor's exam my endocrinologist felt a lump in my throat. He recommended I have an ultrasound of my neck...are starting to get a feel for what my medical bills were looking like, even WITH health insurance? The ultrasound revealed that my thyroid gland was covered in nodules. As a result, I had to have the nodules biopsied...while the medical bills continue to flood my mailbox. The biopsy revealed that the nodules were not malignant (THANK GOD!), but I was told that they would be watched and in one year I would have to have another ultrasound....and continue to pay a mountain of medical bills that was getting bigger with each doctor's visit.

In December 2009, the ultrasound revealed the nodules had grown, so the surgeon recommend I have a thyroidectomy (complete removal of my thyroid). The saga ended on Thursday, May 20, 2010.

During the years of 2007 and 2008 I paid in excess of $3,500 EACH year in medical bills--this is WITH health insurance. As anyone who has had a chronic illness knows, each time one visits the doctor health insurance only pays a PORTION of the bill and the remaining portion is passed on the patient. So, in addition to being extremely sick all the time I dreaded going to the mailbox everyday. I don't know when or how health insurance companies are billed, but I would get a bill in the mail in April for a doctor's visit I had in December of the previous year. I was able to deduct a very small portion of the bills from my taxes each year. But, keep in mind, the $3,500 each year was only for the remaining medical bills and co-pays. This did not include the $112 premiums I pay each month to afford the insurance. Additionally, before my surgery I had to pay my $2,500 hospitalization deductible. I have not even done the math on what this illness and surgery have cost me this year alone.

The good news is I feel the absolute BEST I have ever felt in my life. All of the thyroid symptoms were gone immediately after the surgery and now all I do is take one thyroid replacement pill for the rest of my life (I know...). All I can say is thank God for my frugal ways because they enabled me to weather the storm of costs associated with my condition. I also thank God that my diagnosis was ONLY thyroid and not something more serious. During the entire ordeal I could not be unhappy or depressed because I just kept thinking about people, some of whom are innocent children, who go into a doctor's office with symptoms similar as mine and come out being told they are literally in for a fight for their life.

But, what my illness also taught me was that health care reform in this country is essential. Is Obama's plan the answer, I have no idea; but somethings got to give. I am a single woman who was able to make the sacrifice, along with the help of a repayment plan, to pay my medical bills without financial ruin. But what about the divorced mother who may have had to choose between feeding or housing her kids or repaying medical debt?! Medical debt is the number reason for bankruptcy filings in the United States. I reiterate, somethings got to give in regards to health reform. Additionally, we ALL have a responsibility to practice preventative care and avoid those illnesses that are needless.

Off my soapbox now....LOL

I've been out for a bit, having surgery....that's a post that is coming sooner rather than later. Anywho, I'm back to the blog, now. The extreme HIGH cost of getting sick in the US of A made me really appreciate my frugal ways; notice, I said frugal and not cheap. Which brings me to another issue...the naysayers.

There are always those who will criticise us, PFers. We have all heard the taunts, "Oh, live a little", "You can't take it with you", "You only live once", "You could die tomorrow", and on and on.... Like I stated earlier, I never talk about money. I simply set my entertainment and miscellaneous spending plans, buy from Ebay, buy on sale, etc and continue to live my life, thinking no one is the wiser. However, even without me saying a word about my spending habits or being "preachy" to others about their lack of financial planning/priorities, there are always the comments. Case in point, I had family in town visiting. I have a TV that is on it's last leg, and at the time, I was thinking of replacing it. I have since nixed that idea because now I watch most of my TV on the internet. Anyhow, during the visit, I had to hear constant comments about how they know, for sure, that I can afford a new TV and how they couldn't understand why I just don't buy a new one.

At the time, my plan was to save a reasonable sum, watch the sales and discounts, then purchase a TV when the price was right. Upon telling this to my family, they, of course, thought that I was absolutely crazy. According to their reasoning, if I have enough money remaining once my bills are paid, why not go out and by the latest and greatest TV; forget the fact that I don't really watch TV anymore. Everyone has a TV in their home and flatscreens are the only way to go! I basically told them I would purchase a TV when I had saved the money and had to kindly ask them to not bring it up again.

I can never comprehend how people DON'T "get it". If every financially responsible person ran out and made every purchase on a whimp they would be neither financially responsible or have an emergency fund. My method for dealing with the naysayers is to keep my personal business personal, while I allow them to live how they choose and request,kindly, that they allow me to live as I choose. Luckily, I don't have to deal with such inquisitions from friends.

I Don't Loan Money

First of all, I NEVER talk about my finances or my financial goals publicly. I just find that it's easier this way. But, for whatever reason, I have a reputation for being a financially responsible person--especially amongst my family members. Therein, lies the problem. I constantly have a slew of (mostly) family members always asking for loans.

A little background...I come from a family who is content with "just getting by" financially. Witnessing the misery that is "just getting by" is the reason I decided, as a child, to never "just get by". As a result, I never desired the latest and greatest as a teen. So, when I got monetary gifts I always saved most of it. As I got older, the loan request started..... Initially, I would ablige because the request would always be accompanied by a sob story. But, as I get older, I realize that there is a huge difference between a person who is financially responsible, but is going through some financial difficulties versus a financially irresponsible person who feels it is a responsible person's duty to bail him out of every financial crisis he creates for himself.

Therefore, I have adopted the policy that I do not loan money. There are always exceptions to any rule and there may come a time when I know, for sure, that a person has hit a tough patch and sincerely needs my help, but so far, that has not been the case. So, my policy for the last year and a half has been to simply say, "I don't have the money to loan". This is different from saying, "I don't have the money", because I do HAVE the money--just not to loan. The reason for this decision is twofold....

As a child, my grandmother was always the financially responsible person in the family. She worked hard and saved her money--which is not the easiest feat for a black woman born in 1919. But, somehow she managed NOT to pass these financial values down to her children. Therefore, she has six adult children still using her money to rectify every one of THEIR financial "crisis". My grandmother, by the way, will be 91 years old in October. After witnessing this, I vowed to never have to beg anyone for financial help and to pass down my financial values to my future kids. Additionally, for me, money is not about material things, but about freedom and security. I am single, never married (yet) and unlike many of my friends who would be able to turn to their parents in a true financial crisis, I only have myself to sustain me if something were to happen to me.

Therefore, my money IS my security blanket. Why should I loan money to someone else at the risk of my own security? Besides, I have also learned that in any relationship--be it romantic, family, friendship--if the relationship is not equal; if one person is always giving, then that person is being USED--it's that plan and that simple. If I am the one always doing the lending, wouldn't that mean that I am being used? Why continue to loan money to people who CHOOSE to be financially irresponsible and in the case of any financial rough patches in my life, I can't turn to them for the same type of assistance?

I don't know if the sum must be a large amount of money to be considered a windfall or not, but......My employer recently granted our employee raises--retroactive since October 2009. As a result, I received what amounted to nearly a full paycheck, free and clear. To me, any free money is considered a windfall! Needless to say, I am very thankful and grateful.

I have always been pretty financially responsible thanks to my grandmother. If I learned nothing else from her, I learned "If you have a dollar, save a quarter." That was probably the phrase I heard most from her. So, I have always saved a portion of all money I have ever received. When I worked a job that paid 26 pay periods, other co-workers considered this money "free money", but I would always bank at least half of it. Which is what I did with this free paycheck.

I saved what amounted to roughly 66% of the check and used the remainder to get a few things done that I had been putting off. I paid my car registration, got a few clothes altered at the tailor, brought a few clothes to the cleaners and I'm looking to purchase a quality scanner.

All in all, I think I made wise financial decisions with this "found money". What would you do if you received a free paycheck, free and clear?

The final tally for my food cost on the road was $27.06.....not bad. My goal was $25. Initially, I had planned to just go to town and sign paperwork, then immediately get back on the road. But my plans changed and I decided to visit a few friends. I ended up catching up with girlfriend and going out to lunch. The lunch is what put me over budget. However, I had a blast with friends and it was well worth it.

The purpose of this spending plan was to make me more accountable with my money. I will continue to set spending limits and will, most of the time, adhere to the limit. But, I have never felt deprived thus far on my spending plan and did not want to miss out on an opportunity with old friends. I didn't make my goal this time, but this was a special occasion.

The spending plan is still in full effect......

Today I arrived in my hometown of New Orleans, LA. I have a quick turn around trip to finalize paperwork for the renovation of my Hurricane Katrina damaged home. I wanted to fly Southwest, but with such short notice, plane ticket prices were ridiculous. Therefore, I made the seven hour drive from Little Rock, AR.

This is my first trip since starting my spending plan. And because the trip was short notice, I had no time to save the money necessary for the trip. Luckily, I served as a ACT administrator last month and received the $180 check in the mail a few days ago. This check financed my trip. I am looking at about $110 in fuel cost. My American Express card covered my hotel room, so it is free. Because I am only in town today and will have a turn around trip on tomorrow, once I am finished the paperwork, I have put myself on a budget of $25 food cost. I know this does not sound like much, but......

I ate breakfast this morning at McDonald's for $3.89. I packed a Fiber Bar and iced tea for lunch and dinner was my favorite fast food restaurant 'Raising Cane's' for the best chicken fingers in the world for only $6.51. So, far I have only spent $10.40. I only need breakfast for tomorrow, and lunch for the drive home. I think I can make due on another $14.

This spending plan really has me accounting for every penny I spend, but I don't feel deprived at all. On the drive in when I stopped for gas in Jackson, MS, I usually would have spent a few dollars on overpriced junk food also. But, not this time. I was perfectly content with what I packed. I will update on my total when I am back in the 'Rock' on Thursday.

I hope this final step to my home renovation is short and uncomplicated. It's been 4 long years and I am ready to be done with the entire ordeal.

The idea for a No-Spend Weekend came from a fellow PF blogger at Cash Only Living. Ms. Cash Only had an entire No-Spend Week. However, I decided I had to start small, so I chose a No-Spend Weekend. Initially, the plan was to choose a weekend that I had no plans with friends--that was the plan, at least. I set one rule that stated although I had no plans with friends I could not just sit home all weekend--the key was to find out how much temptation I could resist. Friday night, I ended up staying in because of severe weather and tornados in some areas. Saturday, I had to attend the tutoring session that is part of the program that I direct. There was a catch to the tutoring session, however. Tutoring is the first Saturday of each month and I am responsible for picking up the breakfast. I bought the breakfast, but the school reimburses the cost. It is a budgeted expense for the program, so it does not count as me making a purchase.

So, I attended the tutoring from 8am-11:30am and ate all the free breakfast I wanted. Afterwards, I returned home and had lunch. The plan was to go out and explore the city, but by then the weather had turned bad again. It rained for a good portion of the day.

Just when I thought I was in for the night, I got a call from a girlfriend reminding me that I had RSVPed to a surprise birthday for a co-worker a little over a week ago. I was about to say I had forgotten and couldn't make it because I had not purchased a gift---and could not just run out and get one because of my No-Spend Weekend. However, she reminded me that the co-worker's daughter had requested no gifts and instead requested we make donations to one of the birthday guy's favorite charities. The charity information would be provided at the party and we could make the donation by internet--which I must do today. I went to the party and ate all of the free food I wanted; while it stormed cats and dogs outside. The weather cleared enough for everyone to make it home safely then continued to storm the rest of the night.

Sunday was the usual, church, then home. I used the remainder of the day to continue reducing items and decluttering. I really did not have any temptation to spend all weekend--until Sunday night, that is. I was SO ready to give up by 8pm; not because I had an incredible urge to spend money, but because I was CRAVING soda so bad and had none in the home. I decided to fight the craving and used that time to reflect on how I would have just gotten into my car and bought a soda from a fast food drive thru. I resisted and drunk Iced Tea instead.

I left home early enough this morning to run to the grocery store to buy food items for this week to have for lunch. My first frivolous purchase now that I'm back on my $40 a week spending plan: An ice cold, Dr. Pepper from the office vending machine. A Dr. Pepper never taste so good!

Consequently, since I spent no money this weekend--and taking into account I only spent my allocated $20 spending for the week--My grand total spending for all of last week was $17.29.

Needless to say, I am SOOOO proud of myself!!! And a special thanks to Ms. Cash Only for giving me the idea. I think I will try a No-Spend Weekend again when I know, in advance, that I have no plans for the weekend. It was fairly painless.