The end is nigh. The end of the year, that is. And thus, The Resolution.
There’s no doubt my spending goals have slipped throughout the year, but things come and go, and you’ve got to stick with something in good times and bad in order to make any real gains. Ultimately it will still be my most financially efficient year ever, and still likely my least expensive year in terms of spending money as well. I am determined to reset the The Resolution in The New Year and apply what I have learned.
Something Good – There’s always next year.
One of the simplest, most powerful little secrets there is is that fact that if you change your mind, you change your life. It’s all about how you choose to view things. Learn to see challenges and setbacks as opportunities instead of roadblocks and personal attacks by the universe or its inhabitants, and you’re well on your way to one hell of an amazing trip.
I spent a lot of money in November – $4,124.75 (CAD) to be exact – and it has completely shot my budget for the year. Most of this is due to some ‘unexpected’ truck repairs, yet another reminder that our vehicles are easily one of the most expensive things in our lives and can become a giant money pit (the kind you don’t come out of, not the Scrooge McDuck kind – that was more a vault).
As you may know, my current goal is to spend $1,500 CAD per month, or $18,000 per year. By exceeding my goal in November by $2,624.75, I am now on track to finish 2018 with a budget deficit of $5,267.88, having spent $23,267.88 dollars in 2018.
We will see how December goes – perhaps I can claw a little bit of that back – but the problem with trying to operate a tight budget is that if you do happen to ‘go over’, it can be hard to make up that ground as things are already, well, tight. Nonetheless, that’s still not a bad year for spending, and if I can keep my holiday spending spirit in check somewhat, I should be able to finish under budget in December, which will mean I will have completed half of the months in the year in the green.
And then I’ll get a whole new shot at it next year where I can apply my reduced budget and all the lessons learned failing this year! You either win, or you learn. So, as the fans of any perpetually bad sports team is known to say (and trust me, I’m one of them), ‘there’s always next year’.
Something Bad – Credit Card Rewards Programs
I recently figured out (yes I know, I should have known this sooner) that there is a 2.5% Foreign Exchange charge on credit cards. I decided to check the currency comparisons after using my rewards card in Mexico to purchase gas, my largest day-to-day expenses by far, it defeats the purpose of the rewards card with its annual fee of $119.
Especially when one considers there are a ton of built-in rules to all of the benefits most of them offer, it just doesn’t seem to add up to me how many bloggers go on about their ‘travel hacking’ abilities by using credit rewards cards to their advantage.
Ultimately, I would like to do a more thorough post about this and take a much closer look, but here’s what I now isn’t said much in most travel hacker posts:
The benefits of rewards cards were much better 10 years ago when banks were trying to lure us back into their debt traps to help pay for their crawl back from the brink. Also, they require you to spend quite a lot to earn any significant rewards. This may work for families or small businesses, but in most cases you’d still be much better off spending less, and that’s not to even mention the risk of falling into their trap again and actually using the balance they’ve given you (we can’t all be perfect all the time). In theory you could then spend even more on travel without all the built-in rules.
Granted, it is better in America than in Canada, but still, this should be considered carefully, especially for single people without children who are focused on spending as little as possible in order to invest it in their freedom and their future.
The entire setup is rigged to take advantage of human psychology to draw you into using money you don’t have and then collecting fees (i.e. interest) from you for life. Even with awareness and strategies, it can be hard to stick to our best selves always and forever.
Personally, I don’t want to be making sure I meet my 1-year cancellation date to get the benefits of my new card for free while living off $10 a day out of my truck in South America for a time (hypothetically).
Something Learned – Life is Precious, spend it living, but be grateful for your opportunities to earn.
When I arrived to work in late November, I learned that one of the members of our small crew wasn’t in because he has become sick, and had just learned for certain that day that he has a serious form of cancer. I haven’t heard more regarding his prognosis since, and am hopeful for the best outcome of course, but even if he becomes well again, at about 65 years old it’s hard to say if he will ever come back to work. In any case, it will certainly be a while.
Life only starts to teach you things when things start to get tough. I’ve definitely learned that for myself. When things are cruisey, it’s easy to, well, cruise. It’s even easy perhaps to start to become ungrateful for what we have – like people, natural environment, time, and opportunity in all its forms – and focus on what we feel we are missing – like more money and things.
The FIRE and PF community is somewhat (ok, very) esoteric. Most of my following and those that I follow on Twitter are other FIRE bloggers. Some have a lot of reach outside of the community, but in many cases we are just writing for each other – preaching to the choir. We all spend a lot of time focusing on ditching work. And I still agree that one should not simply toil in a job they can’t stand simply for the paycheque (ahem, glances in the mirror ashamed) unless they absolutely have to. Taking less pay in exchange for more meaning and fulfillment is almost always favored, especially in the long run.
In this little bubble it is easy to forget that a lot of people simply have to do what they have to do, and we are all so very fortunate just to have a job that allows us to get by let alone to save for the future and even consider retiring early. We like to pat ourselves on the backs for our ‘frugal’ ways but in reality still have a long way to go to reach environmental and social sustainability, even if we have found a path to financial stability and a way to consume less and invest more than a lot of our modern 1% brethren.
We all know about Yemen* (if not, simply search for “Yemeni Girl Photo” – she is now dead), but none of us really know what it is like to have no hope for the future, no hope to generate even the slightest bit of personal wealth and instead, simply struggling to survive. Hope is what keeps the human spirit lit. Without it, it quickly burns out.
So even as I struggle to find meaning in my work and would prefer not to spend half of my life so isolated, I continue to inch towards my financial goals and still intend to be financially independent in 2019, and that continues to give me hope.
And I continue to hold onto hope that my co-worker simply has the opportunity to earn again himself, should he so choose to do so, because if there is anything worse than working, it’s not having the option to.
*8-14 million people in Yemen are on the brink of starving to death due largely to a lack of jobs following a long, protracted and ongoing war between The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Ansar Allah, or The Houthie Movement. This may be the worst famine in almost 100 years. Even with all our crafty strategies to becoming wealthy and, more importantly free, I haven’t found a lot of FIRE bloggers that do an “Annual Charity Donations Update” post (instead it’s more weekly net worth updates).