Finding my way

Our Advent spiral, December 21, 2020

It’s almost a year since they sent us home. It is impossible to sum up how much the world has changed in this past year. But I think that’s okay, because you already know.

For me, this past year has brought a lot of exciting changes, including the biggie:

I got a full-time permanent job with a pension and benefits!

I worked my butt off for 3 years, and it paid off in a great job that I love!

This was the first time in my life that I:

  • set a long-term goal,
  • identified the steps I needed to get there, and
  • crushed them one by one.

It took 3 years of hard work to get here: pep talks, staying the course, pushing myself into uncomfortable territory again and again, plus a lot of luck and, yes, privilege.

Another major part of my job journey was finding the direction I wanted to go.

I had really been lost for years, ever since I had to stop homeschooling and enter the workforce. Even before that, I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.

But the moment I stepped behind the circulation desk at the library, I knew:

I was home.

That feeling — that deep feeling of rightness — gave me the clarity I needed to start working single-mindedly toward my goals. Once I knew, I KNEW!

I dove headlong into everything I figured would help me along my path:

And now, here I am: Grad School Mom, working full-time, with a teen and a pre-teen, a beautiful cat, and the priceless feeling of rightness, deep in my bones, that I am on the best career path in the world.

There is a huge amount of privilege at work in every success story, and it can seem invisible if one chooses to ignore it.

I know at the same time both how hard I worked to get here, and also how lucky I am to be here. I don’t believe that if someone is struggling it’s because they haven’t worked hard enough.

I come from university-educated parents who were able to help me out financially so many times and in so many ways throughout my life. I don’t even know how many doors my whiteness has allowed me to pass through, but I know it’s been a lot. And being cis-gender and straight-presenting has also made my journey easier than it would be for so many.

I’ve spent a lot of years feeling guilty about my privilege, and I am still not comfortable with the position I hold.

I can only say that as an aspiring librarian, I am going to fight for justice every chance I get!


No-Spend Month: September 2018

“2013_04_18” by Dennis S. Hurd on Flickr

We’ve launched our latest no-spend month in the 30 days between back-to-school season and birthday/Christmas season. It’s a well-timed effort, aiming to prep us for the gauntlet of birthdays that starts in October and runs all the way to early April (amidst which Christmas just happens to fall smack in the middle). What’s a frugal gal to do?

This being our third or so no-spend month, the rest of the family is well-trained now to know what to expect. No special treats at the grocery store. No runs to the corner store for chips or pop. No pizza lunches. We wait to get that movie at the library. I still buy groceries, pay for the kids’ lessons, and of course would fund any medical needs that arose, but we strictly limit “extras”.

From past no-spend months we have learned some skills and mindset hacks:

  • we enjoy home-popped popcorn–and sometimes even buttered steamed rice–while watching movies instead of chips
  • we make lemon-flavoured sweetened iced tea, or home squeezed lemon juice instead of pop
  • we have lunch in the park or a walk with friends instead of grabbing a coffee together
  • my partner started walking home on his lunch hour instead of buying lunch or snacks downtown
  • we are generally all home-bodies, and the no-spend month is no different, but during the month we make an extra effort to do more special (free) things all together like family walks, family basketball, family disc golf, puzzles on the living room floor, and maybe learn a new card game

(Plus I am trying to generate joyful chore routines that teach the kids some skills while enjoying our time together. So far: it’s kindof a chore, maybe not so joyful . . . yet! But it sure is nice to walk into the dining room later in the evening and see a clean table, with the leftovers safely stored in the fridge instead of sitting out getting dodgy.)

The not-so-fun Money talk

When I first introduced this round of no-spending, my partner was bummed. We had a conversation, and it didn’t go so well, though he was still willing to see it through for the month. He said it made him feel really restricted and sad to not be able to just grab a coffee or something at the corner store when he wanted it. And when I thought about it, I could really understand where he was coming from. I mean, he’s not the one with the blog about frugal living. This is MY nerdy thing, not his–for him, it’s just restrictive.

I thought about what he said in our conversation, about how this kind of extreme cutting back made him feel, and slept on it. The next day something I was reading inspired me, and I introduced a second conversation. I really tried to see things from his perspective, and then I asked him what financial goals he could see for us in the next couple of years.

It’s all about goals

Despite all of my blogging about saving money and living frugally, we have had surprisingly few conversations about our financial goals. Maybe he’s been afraid our goals would not line up with each other; maybe I’ve been afraid our they would not line up with reality.

But despite our fears and our silence, I pointed out that so far, we have achieved every single financial goals we have set:

  • we bought a house
  • we paid off all our student loans
  • we have set aside a growing chunk in our kids’ education savings plan
  • we got out of consumer debt, and have managed to live consumer debt free (apart from our car & mortgage) for many years
  • I was able to stay home with the kids and even homeschool them for six years
  • we have weathered several bouts of unemployment
  • I am now able to work part-time

Our incomes may seem meagre, but looking back, we have been able to achieve so much!

The best part of the conversation was when he told me he appreciated all of my work on the family finances. It’s not every day you get told you are appreciated! Believe me, it made me feel pretty good about all the work you see me post about, plus all that gets done behind the scenes.

Talking about goals can be a bit scary, but I think we were in a good place in our conversation because we were able to come to three goals for the next short term:

  • save money to get our roof fixed (the shingles have seen better days)
  • finish paying off our car (a 0% loan with just one more year left)
  • save for a trip to New York City!

All of these are reasonable goals, and the vacation goal makes it a bit more fun and motivating for everyone. Who knows–maybe we can divert some of the birthday/Christmas money into that pot and move that goal to the top of the list!

I would love to hear how others talk money with their spouses and family members. Do you have any tips to share for keeping everyone on the same page financially?

Words & resolutions for 2011

I love New Year’s resolutions. I know most of us break them, even on the 1st day of the year, and that so often we have the same ones over & over. But I love having this moment where I can feel anything is possible. The slate is wiped clean. I can enact some changes in my life.

So, what are my personal themes and resolutions for 2011? Here are some, in no particular order:

– SIMPLIFY. This includes de-cluttering, streamlining some routines, cleaning out my email and Reader subscriptions that I never actually read. I’m hoping that by threshing out the chaff, I will get to the grain of what I am passionate about. And unlock reserves of energy along the way.

– Keep FLYing back to Flylady.

– Stop reading parenting books and just focus on being true to what works for my family.

– Bring us closer to NATURE. Have more nature adventures. Play outside every day if we can. Get the right footwear and wet weather gear to be decently comfortable outside in most types of weather (and I don’t mean going crazy at MEC!).

– Re-focus on our next financial goals: paying down our last student loan, and returning to more restrained spending.

Judging by this little list, the word that keeps coming up is FOCUS. On simplicity, on nature, on my goals, on our family goals, and on what works for us. What are your themes and resolutions for 2011?