How’d I Get Here?
How’d I get here?
Meaning… how did I, personally, get to the point in my life where I’m not struggling to make ends meet, I’m able to feel comfortable and confident in the money I’m bringing in on a regular basis, and I think I that I have enough useful information in my brain to want to share it with all of you.
The answer? Hard work.
Meh. Maybe that’s a cop out.
I will admit that I’m a fortunate person.
I was raised in a loving family. They afforded me the ability to do well in school and secure an almost full ride to the liberal arts college of my choice.
That education allowed me to meet and network with folks who provided me with invaluable mentorship and friendship over the last decade.
I met and married a man who shares many of the same values that I do and works with me to create a wonderful life for the both of us.
He worked just as hard as I did so that I could go to graduate school without taking out any student loans because we are a team.
- All of those things helped me get to the place where I’m at today.
- I’m in a secure(ish) full-time position in the field that I studied in undergrad and graduate school. I can use those skills to also work a part-time job earning extra income.
- Combine that with a partner who holds important the same things I do and considers it important that we save for our future together and I am in a really good place.
Now… neither one of us just started out making a great living right out of college. The only people I know who just hop on the money boat after school are doctors and finance folks.
Instead, we worked steadily to get to the place we are at now.
Out of college, my first full-time job paid $37,500. I thought this was SO MUCH MONEY, you guys. SO MUCH.
My husband made about the same amount of money right out of school.
We purchased a small, 600 sq. foot condo (that eventually sank to the bottom of the ocean. Figuratively, guys. Jeez).
But neither one of us was completely satisfied with where we were.
I almost immediately started going to grad school.
My husband decided to study to become a realtor.
We both realized that while we currently felt very rich, we had other goals we wanted to achieve.
I’ll admit right now, that many of those goals were materialistic. Buy a new car! Buy a bigger home! Make more money!
But we were young and probably (definitely) foolish.
We spent a few years saving up for an actual house, we helped rescue dogs, we worked towards those “milestone markers” that so many people are convinced you need to hit in order to be successful.
Finishing up grad school allowed me to pick up my second job and that’s when things started to come together for us.
The realtor thing never popped for my husband – mostly because the bubble burst on the housing market. But it turns out that he enjoys accounting very much. After college, he landed at a small, family owned company where he had a really wonderful boss. This company was committed to helping their employees grow and he was able to take advantage of their tuition reimbursement to continue his education. He grew his salary pretty steadily during this time.
(Side note: if your work offers any type of tuition reimbursement YOU SHOULD TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT. Guys, this is free money and it will only help you out in the long run. Seriously).
My work didn’t offer any such reimbursement, hence us paying for it ourselves. But once I did have that advanced degree I was able to negotiate a pay increase (very necessary thanks to the recession and the stagnant wages many people faced), secured that side-hustle, and I became a lot more marketable to hiring managers in my field.
That allowed us to move out of our condo and into a larger home, it afforded us the ability to save money for new cars for the both of us, and it really was what helped us get some breathing room financially.
We never really spent more than we could afford and we never really picked up too much consumer debt, but at this point we were able to save actual real dollars and start focusing on retirement savings and the like.
But it wasn’t until I changed jobs (and got a HEFTY pay raise commensurate with my advanced degree) that we started focusing on retirement in a big way.
I was making nearly 30% more than I had been previously, but we had bought our house based on our previous salaries. I started hiding that extra money in savings accounts and in retirement funds so we wouldn’t be tempted to spend it.
(FYI I am always tempted to spend it).
Setting up this automated retirement savings was probably the smartest thing I’ve ever done.
I had always been the person who handled the money in our house. (Yes, my husband is an accountant. Yes, I still handle the money). And this was about the time that I started to realize I was letting lifestyle creep set in. If I hadn’t set up that automation, I would have spent all that extra money without even being able to tell you where it went!
After I changed jobs, we bought the third car as a treat to ourselves. I started replacing our perfectly good appliances with new ones just because we could afford to. And because my new job came with a lot longer hours than my previous one, I let things like grocery shopping fall by the wayside in favor of grocery delivery and those kind of conveniences.
I mention this in the about me section of this blog, but it was when I started trying to convince my husband we needed to put in a pool (and new deck, and new shed) that I realized I was seriously letting lifestyle creep take over.
It was time for me to go back to the basics. Make sure we were putting enough away for retirement. Set realistic savings goals for house projects (the pool can wait until we’ve done a few other more important things first). Prepare for the future. That sort of thing.
I took a hard look at my spending habits – which are, admittedly, way worse than my husbands – and spent some time trying to figure out just where our money was going. Food. Clothes. Impulse buys.
That’s when I decided to start this blog. I figured, I could not be the only person who was doing well financially but could be doing better with just a little guidance.
I’ve made some changes to our finances. We’ve cut cable. I’ve started brewing my own iced coffee. I’ve squirreled money away where it’s being saved for a specific purpose. I focused more on actually budgeting.
All of that has helped us understand, number one, what is really important to us. But it has also helped us understand and appreciate our financial situation a bit more.