Ways to Make Landlord Life Easier

Whether you’re new to the business or you’re an experienced landlord, managing property is a challenging occupation, to say the least. It requires a serious commitment to protect investments, constantly stay up to date with all regulations, and stay on top of the potentially dozens of tasks that need attention. To put it simply, it’s not a job for just anyone. It has to be treated like a business in that one must create systems to run things smoothly, improvements should be made to the model consistently, and customer (tenant) service must be taken with the utmost seriousness to maintain a good reputation. As daunting as managing properties can be, there are some great tips to make things easier.

Proper Tenant Screening

This one may seem a bit obvious, but even some experienced landlords can get in such a rush to fill a vacancy that they fail to screen the potential tenant as well as they should. Credit scores are pretty much always checked, and it’s generally agreed that a score under 600 is bad. However, no matter how badly one might want to fill a vacancy, there are other things to check.

Having a potential tenant provide proof of steady employment is of equal importance to the credit check. After all, someone with poor credit and a job is still in a better position to pay rent than someone with good credit who is currently unemployed or not making enough to afford the area. It’s a good idea to collect rent references as well. If they have a good word from previous landlords, one can rest much easier. Taking the time to collect as much information as possible about a potential tenant can save a great deal of future headaches.

Strategically Increase Revenue

It’s likely that any landlord’s absolute dream come true would be to keep great tenants who take care of the property, pay rent on time, and who stay long term. Unfortunately, this is not a possible reality. Turnover will happen, and this can leave a landlord with unknown repair expenses and, of course, vacancies. Because of this, it’s necessary to figure out ways to increase revenue.

One way to do this is by offering additional services to tenants (things like landscaping, laundry, and easy parking services). Some tenants will be willing to pay a bit extra in rent for the convenience. Making regular improvements to the property can both entice tenants to stay and allow for increased rent. It’s important to be careful about renovations, though. Thorough planning and research should be done to ensure the expenses of the renovations don’t outweigh their long term worth.

Let Technology Do the Work

Thankfully, in the digital age, there are many options for software programs that can do much of the work typically left for landlords. Even better, there are ways to obtain free landlord software, and the benefits are tremendous.

One of the greatest benefits of landlord software is the fact that it can handle most of the marketing stress. With the simple upload of property details, landlord software can post properties across rental sites focusing on the property’s location, so nearby potential tenants will be aware of the property and its advantages.

This software can also be used to keep timely communication with tenants. Rent can be paid through the software, and direct conversations with tenants about potential issues will be possible even if the landlord isn’t onsite.

Of course, possibly the biggest benefit of all, is that landlord software can create a backup of all tenant information, insurance information, and important documents in one location with a user-friendly interface. While no automated system can or should totally replace separate research/marketing efforts or physical storage options, it is one of the best possible tools to make day-to-day operations run smoothly.

Why I Don’t Use the Phrase: “We Can’t Afford That”

I spend a fair amount of time talking to my children about money. I tend to begin the conversations when we are trapped in the car together. I find a captive audience is often an attentive one.

Once, on an hour long drive to my parent’s house, I introduced my five-year-old son to the concept of mortgages and credit cards. The next day I sat on the couch depicting graphs with variable interest rates. It sounds ridiculous, but he was mesmerized to see how quickly debts can rise.

My son has always been mathematically advanced and because he is capable of understanding complex numbers I take every opportunity to teach him about money management. The way I see it money makes the world go round and like it or not our civilization is dependent on the transfer of currency from one person to another. As long as you need food and shelter you will need to find a way to pay for them.

Some of my friends believe I am teaching my children too young, but the truth is children are inquisitive little creatures and if you ignore the topic your children will most likely create their own misguided dialogues about money. In a time when credit cards are used more often than cash the waters of money management can become quite murky in a child’s mind.

If you don’t believe me here is a perfect example. When my son was four he loved turning our house into a grocery store. One afternoon he arranged a bunch of fake plastic food along the couch cushions and instructed me to buy whatever I wanted. He handed me a reusable bag and off I went adding plastic carrots, corn, blueberry muffins, pancake mix and chocolate chip cookies. When I reached the checkout line he began to ring up my groceries.

That Christmas my son received a cash register from his grandparents and he was so eager to scan my groceries like a “real cashier.” The cash register had a little button on top and when he scanned each item it beeped and audibly announced its price. When his pretend conveyor belt was all clear he pressed the total button and the register reported the amount I owed. “That will be $40.32,” he said. I pulled the fake money out of my plastic toy wallet and counted out $40.32. That’s when my son said, “mom just use your credit card then you don’t need any money.”

“Well,” I told him, “I don’t need any money now, but I will need to pay the bill later.” His puzzled little face stared at me for a moment. Then he explained that credit cards were magic and that no payment was ever necessary. Sure enough he passed that toy credit card through the register’s slot and my balance magically turned to zero.

Of course, it makes perfect sense that my son would think this way. At the store he sees me pull a shiny, rectangular piece of plastic out of my wallet and voila my groceries are bagged and we walk out to the car. He doesn’t watch me log in to my bank account later that month to pay my credit card bill.

So many monetary transactions occur behind the scenes that it’s no wonder children don’t understand much about money. I remember going to the bank with my dad to cash his checks or going to the ATM so he could retrieve cash. Now banks automatically deposit our paychecks and just about every establishment I frequent accepts credit cards. My children rarely see dollar bills or coins in my hand.

I try my best to be honest with my children and when it comes to finances I share as much as I can about our own successes, trials and tribulations. This includes talking a lot about past jobs, the importance of education and just as importantly how and when to spend money.

When my children ask for something I avoid the phrase “We can’t afford that” for a number of reasons. First, my children know that my husband earns a high wage. They are aware that their dad is a software developer and that he is highly compensated for his skills.

When my children ask for something I could very easily tell them “we can’t afford that,” but in most cases that would be a lie. To date we can afford everything they’ve asked us to buy. Instead I tell them that we all have to make important decisions about how to spend the money we earn.

Instead of saying “I can’t afford that” I say “Let’s think of other ways we might want to spend our money” or “I have other plans for our money.” Then we discuss the options or plans.

Say my son wants to purchase a toy. Before placing the desired object into the cart I might ask him “would you rather have a new toy or spend an afternoon with your brother at the pinball arcade”? Or “would you rather take a friend bowling or sign up for karate lessons?”

We can also talk about using that money to pay for something that benefits the entire family rather than purchasing a toy that only benefits him. Should we defer buying toys and games right now so we can save our money for a long term goal like a snowboarding trip or quite simply keep our money in our pocket and refrain from buying anything at all.

When I leave the decision in my son’s hands I find he often makes the choice to defer spending. By pausing to consider his choices he is less prone to senseless splurges.

This also helps my son recognize the difference between wants and needs. In a store he might want to buy something he saw on the shelf, but after we leave empty handed he will either forget about the item or decide he didn’t want it after all. New items look awfully shiny, but once he returns home he decides he doesn’t need one more toy.

It’s important to note this is not just about saying “no” to my kid. If my son mentions a toy or experience multiple times after that initial visit we will talk about it. We won’t immediately drive back to the store though. Instead we search online together for a lower price, wait for a sale or even check out second hand stores for cheaper options. We will also say no when it’s appropriate.

That four year old who thought credit cards were magical is now seven and while he doesn’t understand everything about money his decisions to save and spend are carefully considered.

Every summer he runs a lemonade stand that earns roughly $100 from generous friends and neighbors. With three summers under his belt, and one or two stands each summer, his savings now totals $400. He can now afford many of the toys he covets, but interestingly enough he rarely spends his money on new things.

If my son is skilled and lucky enough to become successful in a high paying occupation I want him to remember these early conversations about money. We’ve all heard stories about high income earners who needlessly blow their money. I want my son to understand that just because you can buy something doesn’t mean you should.

If, on the other hand, my son maintains a job with a lower salary I still want him to refrain from saying “I can’t afford that.” I want him to consider his options, reflect on the items or experiences before him, and remember that by mindfully spending he can align his purchases with his long term aspirations. It may take him longer to save for the things he wants but every time he avoids negative self talk and impulsive purchases he will find himself one step closer to his goals.

Financial Empowerment: Encouraging Women to Become Financially Literate

I’ll be honest. I think a lot about money. In fact, I think about money more than anyone else I know. This isn’t a new phenomenon for me. It’s just the way I’ve always been. Many of my earliest and most vivid childhood memories involve rolling coins, keeping my brother away from my stash of cash or feeling inadequate and disappointed by a lack of money.

As a woman who has been interested in the finer points of finances for my entire life I am intensely saddened by my married female friends and family members who claim to know little to nothing about their finances.

I feel downright sick to my stomach when I read stories about women who scramble to learn about their finances after an unexpected death in the family. These stories are all so eerily similar. A few weeks after laying her husband to rest a grieving wife finds unpaid debts or finds out that her husband never applied for life insurance. As bills pile up this poor woman cannot find the checkbook or log in to her husband’s bank account to pay them.

No one should be thrust into the world of money management this way! No one should receive their first money lesson while staggering through a crisis!

So why does this happen time and time again? Why don’t women know the basics about their own personal finances? I really don’t know the answer to this question, but I’ve gathered a few ideas after polling many friends, family members and coworkers over the years. (If you have other thoughts please provide them in the comments below.)

Some women tell me they don’t have a knack for numbers. They tell me their husbands are simply better at math. Better at math?, but managing your personal finances requires little more than addition and subtraction. I promise! You don’t need to understand algebra and calculus to project your income and expenses. Please don’t let the fear of math prevent you from learning about personal finance or anything else for that matter. I swear the math is simple and there are plenty of online calculators available to help you.

Some women believe they don’t earn enough to justify a seat at the financial table. This is pure hogwash. Just because you stay-at-home with your children or earn less than your spouse does not mean you should have less say in your overall financial picture. As a married couple both spouses need to be on the same page to succeed financially. After all, even if only one spouse earns an income, both will need to manage their expenses and spending. Both will also need to make investing decisions so the money they save can grow. Don’t allow your lack of income to make you feel inferior and don’t discount the important non-financial roles you play in your household.

A number of women told me their husbands prefer to manage their household finances and that one person should be in charge of the day-to-day money management tasks. I’m not going to argue with this notion as long as it isn’t a reflection of the “I’m not good at math” mantra or that you live in a patriarchal marriage where the man controls the money solely because he was born with an extra “Y” chromosome.

I think it’s perfectly fine for one spouse to handle the majority of household transactions and your husband can certainly choose to accept those duties. One person can be in charge of paying the bills, deciding when to refinance the mortgage and ensuring that your income covers your expenses. One person can also be in charge of buying stocks, bonds and mutual funds, although I will point out that choosing investments is a very slim piece of your overall personal finance picture.

I’m not arguing that your husband cannot be in charge of putting your financial decisions into action. What I’m saying is that you don’t have to manage your finances in order to understand them. You don’t have to push any buttons or make any phone calls right now, but if the need arises you should know how to perform all necessary actions.

Take a deep breath in. Now breathe out slowly. Listen carefully to my words. I’ll repeat them again. You don’t need to act now. You just need to know how to act if the need arises. Does that help eliminate the stress of it all? Does it help at least a little?

You won’t be pressured to pay bills, choose insurance options or move money between savings and checking accounts. Right now you just have to focus on learning how to do these things and why they should be done.

So what can you do to learn more about your money?

First, ask your husband to sit down with you to review your finances. (If you are a married man offer to review your finances with your wife.) Ask to see an overview of your net worth as well as a breakdown of your accounts and statements. Find out which financial institutions hold your money. Many of us have retirement accounts like 401ks in a completely separate bank than our checking and savings accounts. Know where your checkbook is stored inside the house.

Make sure you understand how to log into your bank accounts to view your current balances. Try logging into websites to view your credit card bills and mortgage details.  Know which bills are paid directly through ACH withdrawals and which you need to physically pay via bill pay or check. Learn how to pay your bills.

Other facts you should know. How much life insurance would you receive if your spouse died? Where can you find the policy numbers and contact information?

Write down all of this information and keep it somewhere safe.

Understand your basic household figures. How much is your average credit card bill? How much do you spend on housing? How much do you and your husband earn? Does your income cover your expenses? These are numbers and facts you should be able to recite without more than a second’s pause. Heck you may find that your husband doesn’t even know the answers to these questions. You may need to investigate together.

Once you gather the basics move on to other topics. Review your paystubs and your bi-weekly deductions. Figure out how much you spend on medical insurance and dental insurance. Do you or your husband have access to life or disability insurance policies through your employer? If so, do you take advantage of them? If not, why not? Make sure you understand the implications of these decisions.

Set aside time each month, quarter or at a minimum a couple times a year to review statements, plan for short and long term financial goals and discuss all money matters and concerns. I find a lot of women are concerned about their financial picture, but fail to voice their concerns. Simple, straight forward conversations could alleviate those fears. Speak up and ask questions. Ask lots of questions and don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed to ask them.

Some women find it easier to talk to other women about serious topics like finances and money. Try starting simple conversations with other women or research books written by female authors. Search online for blogs about personal finance and contact the bloggers who write about money if you have questions. Don’t pay anything to gain an understanding of your money. All of the information is available for free now. Search for a mentor who can guide you.

I was blessed with an amazing money mentor: my grandmother. She was born in the early 1920s but she controlled the finances in her home. She taught me the importance of saving up enough money to buy the items I coveted, to think carefully before spending, to bargain shop and to wait patiently for sales and deals before spending my hard earned money. My grandmother focused on the importance of education. She knew it was important to maximum income while simultaneously decreasing expenses and living within your means. When she died at the age of 94 she left a small inheritance for her children. She lived frugally throughout her lifetime to ensure her financial legacy could be passed on. I feel eternally grateful for the wisdom and strength my grandmother instilled in me. She was an incredible female role model for me.

If you have young girls talk to them about money and let them see you speaking to your spouse about money too. Let them know that money conversations don’t have to take place behind closed doors and that women can be a powerful force in the household even if they don’t earn money on their own. Money management should not be solely controlled by the spouse earning the highest income. Highlight the ways in which mindful spending can make a difference in your spending and saving.

If you are knowledge about your finances speak out loudly and clearly to the next generation of women. Let them heed your words so they can gain confidence with their money.

What are your thoughts? If you aren’t knowledgable about your finances what is holding you back? If you are knowledgable do you have any ideas on how we can come together to create a community of confident, financially savvy women?

Note: This post is about inspiring confidence in women. Having said that I believe men should be equally knowledgeable about their finances. This post is not meant to exclude them. In fact, married men play a pivotal role in helping their spouses gain knowledge. Couples are often more successful when they forge a path together. Fathers can also teach and inspire the next generation of financially competent women.

Why Do We Yearn to Escape From Our Lives?

I’m an easy going girl with simple tastes. I don’t have an enormous bucket list filled with far-away destinations and extravagant desires. I have friends who want to visit every continent or touch their fingers in every ocean, but I don’t have such dreams. Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly places I want to see, but if I never get to travel to those spots I won’t consider my life a giant disappointment.

I feel the same way about food. While some might dream of delectable and decadent meals in five star restaurants I often feel just as happy cooking a delicious meal from my very own kitchen. When the burners are lit I turn on music, light a few candles and crack open a beer. I typically snack while I cook, because the scents and aromas make it difficult to wait for the meal I’m preparing.

If you’ve read any piece of personal finance advice in the last decade you know that it’s imprudent to waste your money on material possessions. Let’s be honest we’ve all been told it’s downright stupid to spend money on things, right? It’s much better to blow your wads of cash on experiences that will provide a lifetime of memories. Give up clothing and fancy cars in exchange for cruising, flying around the world, skydiving, race car driving or any other activity you can imagine. Then you can spend your days talking about the sights you’ve seen, the musical venues you’ve visited and all of the amazing adventures you’ve experienced.

Don’t get me wrong. I wholeheartedly believe in a lifetime filled with enriching experiences. After all, who wants to wake up day after day putting on the same pair of pants, backing out of the driveway, driving to an unfulfilling job, wasting eight hours and then returning home to slap some food on the table, take a shower and go to bed. Repeat this same series of actions for days, weeks, months and years and yes you will most likely regret the time you’ve wasted here on earth.

But why are there such extremes in actions and desires? Why do we either have to do the same thing day after day or devote our lives to searching for exciting experiences? Is it just me or does it seem like the majority of people are searching for happiness in far away locations?

I’m not suggesting that you live a monotonous, joyless life, but rather that you find joy, adventure and enlightenment closer to home. Rather than dreaming of spending money on so many fabulous activities can you find happiness, for much less, every day?

Take food for example. Can you enroll in a local cooking class and learn to create culinary masterpieces in your very own kitchen? Can you search for a delectable, (perhaps even gourmet recipe), and make an adventure out of searching a new market for tasty ingredients? Can you gather up some of your favorite people, pour a few glasses of wine and enjoy the company of those who live close to you? Can you make the every day action of preparing dinner on a Saturday night a little more exciting?

One action does not discount the other. You don’t have to avoid restaurants and only cook at home, but I bet you can create a memorable experience within the confines of your primary residence. Rather than searching for out of the ordinary experiences why don’t we all devote a little more time to making every day activities a little more enjoyable?

When I read other FI and FIRE blogs I am always fascinated by those who wish to escape the monotony of their lives. So many bloggers want to escape the every day in search of some, alternative life full of fun and adventure. I completely understand the desire for more, but I also wonder why so much focus is directed outward to drastically changing one’s current course of action. Why isn’t that same focus turned inward to change the course of every day life?

If you’ve reached the end of this blog post I encourage you to search for happiness and joy in the actions you perform every day. Listen to intriguing podcasts on your ride to work, fill your life with friends and family who are willing to forgo fancy meals and extravagant vacations in favor of backyard barbecues, bonfires and s’mores. Learn to enjoy the food you prepare, after all, you have to eat at least two or three times a day. Watch movies that make you laugh or even better find yourself some friends that make you chuckle. Stop trying to escape from the life you live and instead find happiness right where you are.

Make Your Journey To Financial Independence Your Own

Although you will find common themes among those who have reached financial independence you will also find many differences. Millionaires come from all walks of life. You will find men and women both single and married. Some will focus on advancing their education to the highest level while others will drop out of college or never attempt it in the first place. Career choices vary greatly as well. Doctors, lawyers, bankers and software engineers may be common but so are entrepreneurs and those who take the less traveled paths in life.

Some millionaires were guided by their wealthy parents, while others are the first in their family to make more than minimum wage. Some are born savers who can delay instant gratification in favor of long term goals. Others earn enough to live for today while still putting a whole lot of money away for tomorrow. There are those who focus on spending as little as possible and those who believe in the power of earning more.

The truth is: Every journey to financial independence is unique.

When you begin your quest for financial enlightenment you may search for mentors and gurus to guide you. The first time you read about the power of compounding interest or how to save half of your income you may become giddy with excitement. You may dream of saving with no goal in mind or immediately envision leaving a job you hate. Perhaps neither of these are your focus. Maybe you simply want to enrich your life and soul in a way that seems incompatible with a 9-to-5 job. Thanks to the power of the Internet you will search for voices and words that echo your excitement and encourage you to reach your goals.

When I started this blog I was twenty-eight years old and already well on my way to becoming a millionaire; I just didn’t know it. At the time I didn’t calculate the value of my primary home in my net worth calculations. I wanted to be a millionaire in bank figures only. Although in theory I knew the value of saving money and watching it grow I suppose I wasn’t convinced it would really happen for me. I may have run the calculations but a large part of me didn’t believe the numbers would grow so large or so quickly.

When I was scrounging to save money and build my career I hung on to the words of other personal finance bloggers. I would read a post and think “that’s brilliant”, “that’s amazing”, “that’s such a good idea”, but in reality I didn’t often change my course. At the end of the day I stuck to my own beliefs about money.

This strict adherence to my beliefs has often been a source of contention for my husband and I. He believes primarily in earning power. Coming from less wealthy parents and watching my mom spend very little on herself or our home I stuck to my beliefs about frugality. While my career grew and my salary quadrupled I still focused on clipping coupons and saving small amounts of money. Through some very hard life lessons I have landed in the middle of these two ideas.

At forty years old I now realize the weight of our decisions are less about money and more about time. Do I want to waste time in a job I don’t enjoy or waste it standing in line to save $1? The truth is: I don’t want to do either. I hope that the money in my bank account ultimately ensures I can make better life decisions. Better decisions about my time and my money.

A recurring theme keeps popping up in my head as I read personal finance blogs. Rather than seeing the similarities in stories I am beginning to discover just how personal every story is. Your fortune will be earned in a completely different way than my own. While I can provide guidance on how I achieved wealth it is not very likely that you will reach it through the same means.

Maybe you receive a nice “early-retirement” package from work. Perhaps you invest in real estate, own a small business or sell your blog for a hefty chunk of change. The odds that we will reach FI in the same way are very unlikely to be one and the same.

So what does all of this mean. It means that you should follow your instincts to the best of your ability. You should focus on earning money and trying to save. But the nitty-gritty details of how to accomplish those tasks should be all your own.

Do you want to create fifteen bank accounts each with a separate financial goal or can you plow all of your money into one account and divvy it out when needed? Do you want to use the cash envelope system or do you trust yourself with a credit card that earns rewards? Do you need to save 50% of your income and work a miserable job or can you find enjoyment in working fewer hours at your day job while simultaneously starting a successful side-gig? Do you need to clip coupons and watch over every penny or can you spend wisely and thoughtfully? Only you can answer those questions.

From today’s vantage point I can view many things that I could not see clearly in my youth. Not everyone will become a millionaire, but with focus, determination and a fair amount of earning power you can build yourself a solid nest egg. Take the advice you read with a grain a salt. Pick and choose the pieces that make sense to you and leave the rest behind.

Your story is unique. Your journey is your own. Figure out what works for you and your family. If you love to watch sports then don’t cut your cable. If you love to travel then cut spending elsewhere so you can afford your airfare free and clear. If you are tempted to shop then stay out of stores and unsubscribe from emails. What works for you may not work for someone else. That’s fine. Take hold of your destiny. Do what makes the most sense to you.

Start your journey, choose your path and heck change it half-way down the road. Very few things in life are set in stone and it’s okay to let the winds sway you into different directions from time to time, but stay true to your beliefs and values and look for those who are walking down similar paths to your own.

When I began saving I knew little to nothing about financial independence.” I saved for the future, for the unknown, for the possibilities that money might afford me. Perhaps you need a different approach. If it helps to narrow your focus to a more specific goal then do so.

As you travel along in your quest keep in mind that money is important but it isn’t all that matters. The greatest gift of financial independence is the recognition that time, energy and enjoyment are just as important as dollars and cents. Of course, that clarity is easier to see once you reach FI. If you haven’t reached that point yet you’ll have to trust me.

Why Do You Tell Your Story?

A lot of non-bloggers, and bloggers for that matter, question the motivation of those who write blogs. And these days with the invention of Google ads and affiliate marketing it’s easy to see why. If a PF (personal finance) or FI (financial independence) blogger encourages readers to save 50% of their income than why are they simultaneously inundating those same readers with affiliate marketing offers that cost hundreds of dollars?

The same can be said of bargain blogs with names like “Money Saving” or “Save Your Dough” that “help” readers spend less of their hard earned money by providing affiliate links for incredible deals. It’s great to spend less on Christmas gifts and children’s toys, but these same posts may lead readers to buy more than they ever intended. Oh a deal just popped up on Legos maybe I should buy those for my son’s birthday. Oh, I see cookware is on sale it’s time to buy new pans. Remember that you aren’t saving money if you are spending it.

I unsubscribed from bargain blogs because I was tired of spending money on things that I really didn’t need. As a result of unsubscribing my spending on toys and clothing dropped dramatically. How can it be a deal if I didn’t really need the object I found myself buying?

Every time a reader clicks on one of those links or buys one of those “bargains” the blogger is compensated. Are bloggers profiting too much from these “deals”? Is it hard to swallow the ideas being spouted when you know that the creators of these blogs are being compensated for their posts and words? Would it make you feel better if these types of posts including links without kick-backs? It was certainly hard for me to read posts encouraging readers to save in between posts that linked to hundreds of stores.

I think it’s natural for a PF or FI blogger to monetize their blog. For the most part those who are interested in saving and/or financial independence will search for ways to earn more money. Heck, these days I read more posts about earning from side hustles than actually working hard in a primary career. Why? For one reason, it can be a whole lot easier to spout a bunch of stuff on the Internet then it is to figure out ways to make your work environment better or to ladder up in your career. Blogging can feel like an easy way to put money in your pocket without a whole lot of effort. But the truth is quality content is hard to come by and those who have a knack for telling their story will succeed where tons of posts with affiliate links will fail.

So why do you tell your story? Does the intention of the blogger matter?

This blog was originally called One Lucky Girl. I started it in 2006 after a major medical crisis left me stuck at home on short term disability. I faced a near death crisis and I was “lucky” to find medical help and survive. I was in my mid-twenties, home alone, frightened and insecure. I wanted a way to tell my story, which at the time, had absolutely nothing to do with money.

As the months progressed I wrote more about my personal finances, because I’ve always focused a lot on earning and saving. Back then I didn’t actually intend for anyone to read my words and I certainly didn’t plan to make any money off my blog. I just loved to write and was trying my best to get my mind off my worries.

Over time I found like-minded readers and bloggers whose mindsets were similar to my own. I wanted to connect with others who were searching for ways to build their bank accounts and manage their careers. I also found insight from those bloggers who wanted to downsize their lives and leave smaller footprints on the world.

When I first started blogging I thought of money in a completely different way than I do now. I thought about all of the properties I could own and all of the stability money would afford me. As the months progressed into years I began to view money as a key to financial independence, as a way to break away from the pieces of our lives that we don’t love.

If you can write quality content that inspires me to think in different ways or to consider options I’ve never considered before then it shouldn’t matter if you make money off your blog. After all, if you wrote a book you would certainly be compensated for your words.

But I do think it’s important for bloggers to ask why they write and for readers to question a blogger’s intentions. Why are bloggers telling their stories?

Is it strange for bloggers to believe in the importance of saving and reaching long term goals while simultaneously providing links to products they don’t believe in? Do the blogs you read add links to irrelevant posts and keep sponsored posts off of their blogs or at least out of their RSS feed like I do?

Like everything else on the Internet it’s tough to know what to trust. In my experience there is so much free information out there that it is rarely worth paying money to learn more. Keep that in mind when you click on links and pay for online programs. Remember a key step to financial independence is weighing your purchases and deciding when NOT to spend your money.

To Retire Early You Must Work Hard Now

Do you feel like you live in a get rich quick kind of world where people want to earn the most money for the least amount of effort? Do you listen to friends who dream of winning the lottery? Do your coworkers inundate you with multi-level marketing scams? Do you know someone who wants to start a blog, cram it full of affiliate links and wait for buckets of coins to fill her bank account?

If you are reading this blog you probably aren’t trying to do any of those things, but just in case you have wandered here from the other side of the Internet I have a secret for you: If you want to earn a million dollars you’ll need to work hard.

Most of us will achieve financial independence the old fashioned way with a 9-to-5 job. Yup, sorry to break the news to you, but it’s true. Give up a decade or two of your time in exchange for a paycheck. Save as much of that money as you can and wah-lah you too can become a millionaire.

Here’s the truth. The majority of us will reach FI through steady paychecks. It may sound awful and boring. You may think, holy heck I have to slave away five days a week for ten to twenty years before my pockets are overflowing with cash? The answer is yes, yes you will.

So if you have to work every day stop dragging your feet about it. Make the most of your career and figure out how to be good at what you do. You don’t need to be better than everyone else, but you need to convince the people around you that you put in your best effort every chance you get.

When you are young, (without a spouse and kids), you can throw yourself into your work. Remember you have a goal to save money, so now is the time to put in the gas to get you there. You have energy and passion that’s hard to muster after you start a family. Especially when your beautiful newborn baby wakes you up at one, three and five o’clock in the morning.

Whether you are just starting out or have been working for a decade your job is to look around your workspace and ask your coworkers how can we make this better? If you want to get noticed start asking “What can I do for you?” Stop complaining about work and start listening to the people around you.

You may find out that your coworkers need better training, your business partner thinks no one cares about deadlines, your project manager is running on fumes and your boss is inundated by a workforce that lacks needed skills. You may think you are too young or inexperienced to help, but try your best to think outside the box. Figure out ways to increase the communication between team members. Get the right people in the room to make decisions and help your boss see the problems without complaining about them. With a fair amount of effort you can create a satisfying work environment. When you put in the time to make the situation better it will get better and if it doesn’t start looking for a new job.

You may not want to work that hard. If you just graduated from college you may want to hit every happy hour and go out with your friends every other night of the week. Guess what, I don’t think you should do that.

If you want to reach financial independence early you need to adjust your expectations. You need to search for friends who want to spend a quiet evening with a home cooked meal and a glass of wine. You want to walk, jog and rock climb. You can meet up at the gym for kick-boxing, but make sure it’s the least expensive facility you can find in your area.

Does that sound like a bummer? Does that sound like something old thirty and forty somethings do? Probably, but if you want to reach a large savings goal you have to adjust your lifestyle. If you want to rest on your laurels you’ll have to wait a decade or two to do so.

At the end of the day we trade our life energy for cash and if you must go to work then learn to be good at what you do. Learn to be successful. If you aren’t sure how to accomplish that task search for mentors that can guide you.

For years I worked beside a coworker who came to work, put his feet up on the desk and read the newspaper. Can you be happy with yourself if you put in the minimal amount of effort each day? How can you feed your soul when you are unproductive and unhelpful to those who work alongside you?

Find a way to be competent. Search high and low for ways to be helpful. When your teammates are happy you will inevitably be happier too. Remember that your job might not feel like work if you find the work that’s right for you.

If you want to succeed at FI you can’t expect to take it easy. Hard work will lead to raises and promotions and ultimately to a more satisfying existence. Do you want to put your feet up and read the newspaper or do you want to put in your best effort to achieve a greater goal? If you want to watch your bank account grow you’ll need to do the latter.

Put in the effort to achieve financial independence while searching for satisfaction in the work you do.

Book Review: Rainbow In Her Pocket by Amanda Jayne

Book Description:

Have you ever seen a sheep standing tiptoe on the ears
of a very tall giraffe while a crowd looks on and cheers?
And have you seen an owl helping them to tug
a rainbow from the sky, like a multi-colored rug?

This is the story of Mala the rhino who can’t help feeling blue after her friend moves away. Her friends, an owl, a sheep and a not-so-humble giraffe get together with sun and create a crazumptious plan to show Mala that blue is as beautiful as all the other colors. This colorful story of friendship, love and loss will delight children while encouraging them to embrace their emotions in a healthy way.

My Thoughts:

Okay. I know it may sound a little cliché to say, but I absolutely love this book! Discussing emotions with adults is difficult; discussing emotions with children can feel almost impossible. Last year my son’s teacher created a feelings chart using the colors red, green, yellow and blue. While some of the children couldn’t read they knew that green was a feeling of peace while red represented feelings of anger. My son could read all of the words on the chart and he found himself walking over to the feelings chart multiple times a day to express his emotions.

When he felt at peace with his friends and classroom he moved a little picture of himself over to green. When he was angry that a friend wouldn’t share his markers or refused to pass the scissors he’d move the little picture of himself over to the red region and when he felt left out he would move his picture to blue.

I love how the author uses the color blue to denote the rhinos feelings of loss. The rhino is sad, but doesn’t want to be overwhelmed with despair. Children are very aware of their feelings but cannot always talk about them. This story does a great job of representing loss through color. The other characters recognize their friend’s sadness and ultimately help her to realize that blue is an important and beautiful color.

At the end of the day we do not want our children to deny their feelings, but rather to accept and embrace them. The little rhino’s friends help her to see the value in blue and all of the other colors of the rainbow.

What an incredible empowering story for children. It talks of friendship, loss and ultimately the recognition of a child’s feelings and the importance in embracing those feelings rather than casting them away.

Beautiful illustrations too!


About Amanda Jayne:

Description Rainbow In Her Pocket by Amanda Jayne

Amanda Jayne is a teacher, heart circle coach and a holistic health practitioner who is finally getting around to writing those books she has always wanted to write. As a child, Amanda found safety, comfort and a gateway to imagination in the books she read, and the desire to create this for others is what led her to begin writing books for children.

In an effort to help young readers see the magical pictures and colors she imagines, she decided to have a go at illustrating them herself.

In the past, Amanda Jayne worked in the mental health field and in 2009, after gaining her masters in Spiritual Psychology, she became passionate about the importance of emotional and self-cultivation in the midst of a world filled with overwhelming mental stimulation. Amanda has a love of travel, exploring other cultures, trees, art and eating dark chocolate.

‘A Rainbow In Her Pocket’ is Amanda Jayne’s first children’s book.  She is also the author of a travel adventure book, ‘Close Encounters Of the Traveling Kind’. .After living in Bolivia, Japan and the USA, she now lives in a quiet corner of Kent in the UK.


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Avoiding Misery By Balancing the Desire to Spend and Save

When making financial decisions you probably weigh the impact to your wallet, but do you ever question the impact on your emotional wellbeing?

My house was built in 1950. The bones of the house are solid, but from the moment we moved in there was a lot of ground in dirt that could not be removed. It sat in between the teeny-tiny tiles on the bathroom floor and discolored the black and white foyer that was really more beige than it should have been. The fixtures were old and outdated and the furniture that filled the rooms were all hand-me-downs.

When we moved in we brought two cats with us. One was a sprayer who mercilessly covered our house in urine. Despite numerous trips to the veterinarian we could never figure out how to make him break this habit and so every day I came home and cleaned the walls, the floors and a couple of times the TV. Our other cat loved to jump on the banisters, dig his claws in deeply, and scratch all the way down to the floor.

At some point rainwater leaked into our basement. As new homeowners we didn’t know about grading the dirt and so the basement flooded. The second time we forgot to clear an outdoor drain that filled with leaves. The rainwater loosened the glue on our basement tiles and every week or so another tile would become detached from the ground.

Around 2001 we installed ethernet cable all over the house and electricians cut giant holes into the ceiling to give them better access between the joists. We didn’t patch these holes once the work was complete. We just avoided spending any time in the basement and stuck to other parts of the house as often as we could.

We could have tried to fix the house, but in those post-graduation years we spent the majority of our time at work. We spent very little time at home so I felt like I could turn a blind eye to the aspects of my house I didn’t love. In fact, sometimes I was simultaneously embarrassed and proud of my frugality.

Keeping outdated furniture, scratched railings and dirty tiles kept money in our bank account. With the money we saved we put down 20% on a second home. We used our income to propel our passions and enjoy other aspects of our lives, but over time the house began to make me miserable. I didn’t realize exactly how despondent I felt until more than a decade later.

In my youth I didn’t care as much about the aesthetics of our house. Although my husband and I bought our house in our early twenties I treated it more like a shelter than a home. Our cats made it impossible to keep a well maintained residence. The best I could hope for was a place to keep me dry from the rain and warm when the weather turned cold. What was the point of hanging beautiful artwork or covering the floors in brightly colored rugs when my pets were destroying everything in and around my feet? I don’t regret having pets, (I loved them immensely), but looking back I realize that as with everything in life one decision had great impacts on others.

I’ve made many great financial decisions in my lifetime and some that certainly could have used better judgement. By keeping our expenses low at home we were able to save an extraordinary amount of our income and with that healthy cushion I felt financially confident to leave the workforce and become a stay-at-home parent.

But sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t have searched for a greater sense of balance between saving for the future and enjoying today. Can you feel happy when you can’t open the windows to let in fresh air? Can you feel happy when you have to walk across broken tiles in your basement to reach the laundry room? Can you feel happy when you stare at cracked walls?

When our goals had been met and our fifteen year old cat passed away we dumped a bunch of money into fixing up our house and my mood instantly lifted. I no longer live in a cramped kitchen. I can open my windows easily and no longer bother with single pane glass or broken screens. I feel a sense of serenity now that I haven’t felt since buying the property over seventeen years ago.

Now I often wonder why I waited so long to spend money on our home. While my bank account is well over seven digits I lived in an unhappy situation for much too long.

As a twenty year old I was willing to let my house go in favor of other pursuits. As a forty year old I feel much differently. I’m not materialistic. I could live in a big house or a teeny tiny one, but I want it to feel clean, hospitable and beautiful. On the flip side I might have lived in a beautiful home, but spent my days slaving away at work trying to pay for it. I suppose I could have made worse decisions.

These days I’m aiming for somewhere in the middle; a sense of balance between saving and spending. I don’t need to live as though I’ll never live another day, but I don’t need to keep it all locked up in the bank either.

My Thoughts on Blogging – Blogging Over A Decade

I bought my first house at age twenty-two. When I bought my second house at the ripe old age of twenty-seven I didn’t tell a soul other than my parents and my in-laws. I didn’t tell my brother, my friends or my co-workers. I didn’t want to sound like I was bragging and most importantly I had plenty of friends who were struggling to pay their rent and grocery bills. I wrote about my purchases on this blog, starting in 2006, but in the real world I remained quiet about my financial victories.

I was twenty-eight when I began to write here, which is a long cry from the year 2018 where I now sit and type this in my early forties. These days the Internet is full of boastful stories and social media is ripe with so called “friends” sharing their success stories.

In 2006 most bloggers didn’t start a blog to make money. Blogs were simply online journals that allowed us to connect with others who had similar ideas. Get Rich Slowly was the first personal finance blog I started to read and like most readers I connected to J.D. Roth because his stories were so “personal.” When J.D. sold Get Rich Slowly I stopped reading it.

Many of the new writers lacked soul in their posts. They wrote about the dollars and cents of saving, investing and earning, but they failed to highlight the human insight and psychology of money. The Internet is such a powerful bridge for bringing people together, but as we all know it can also disconnect us from the real world.

When I was a kid we only had one phone in the house. So when I wanted to talk to a friend I picked up the phone, waited for it to stop ringing, listened for the “hello” on the other end, asked my friend’s mom if my friend was at home and then finally started talking. If that is, they were actually home. When I graduated from college I would call my friends and chat with them on their cell phones. Now we send quiet text messages that can be ignored and misinterpreted.

When I was a kid I never would have dreamed about earning a living while sitting in my pajamas staring at a computer screen, yet I spent many days of my twelve year career doing just that. Waking up and writing software from the time I woke until the time I went to sleep nearly a full day later.

In this day and age we can earn money in ways that simply didn’t exist a few short decades ago. The invention of online advertising makes everyone believe they can type words into a computer and earn a healthy living and as a result there is a lot of dribble on the Internet. There was dribble before advertising but I suppose it’s authors had purer intentions.

I recently signed up for a newsletter on a personal finance blog that promised I would earn gobs of money from blogging. Every day I received an email with a link inside. That link sent me on a wild goose chase of pages that ultimately landed on an affiliate link for some product I could buy that might actually teach me how to earn money. I thought the first day or two might be a fluke, but nearly two weeks later I was still receiving emails with links that led to nothing more than affiliate links. Ugh.

Sure there was a lot of dribble before the invention of advertising, but back then it was just an every day Jane and Joe sharing his or her thoughts with the world. I felt like I knew the writers of many of those early PF blogs. Like I could meet them at one of J. Money’s happy hours, (which by the way I never made it to), and start chatting immediately about their kids, their lives, their careers and their savings.

A few years ago I stopped blogging. I began to accept sponsored posts and wrote book reviews but otherwise I stayed silent. To be honest I was out of ideas to write about. Readers stopped leaving comments and many of my favorite bloggers left the blogging landscape for similar reasons.

I attribute part of my financial success to writing this blog. I didn’t earn much money from it, but thinking and writing about the dollars and cents kept me focused on the prize of earning and saving. I started this blog as One Frugal Girl and ended it as One Millionaire.

The landscape of blogging has changed a lot in the last decade. These days I have to search a whole lot harder for quality content, but there are a lot of new faces coming on to the personal finance scene and a couple of older personalities are returning.

This blog felt like a book without a final chapter. When I started this blog I was searching for financial freedom. Just over a decade later I can say according to most people’s definitions, (not my own), I’ve already reached it.