"Six week hiatus"

 

Welcome back, Partner’s in Fire!  As you probably noticed, we took a six week hiatus from blogging. It’s unfortunate that we had to take this time off right at our 6-month mark and when we were experiencing a steady increase in readership, but alas, sometimes life happens. So what happened that made us take this long break?

Visitors

I love my friends and family. So, when I had nearly six weeks of continuous visitors, I made them a priority. I actually did try to blog for the first week or so, but between working a full-time job and prioritizing my personal relationships, it just started slipping through the cracks.

It was well worth it though, because I spent time catching up with an old friend I had not seen since college. We went out for a few nights on the town, hit up the famous cemetery, checked out some local beaches, and just all around enjoyed hanging out with each other.

I also had the opportunity to visit my favorite cousin, who I haven’t seen in about a year. She was stuck in Jacksonville on business, about two hours away from my house (she’s usually about 12 hours away, so this was quite a change!).  I had to take a weekend to go see her!  We had a great time too, catching up, gossiping about family, and visiting the Ripley’s in St. Augustine. Great times.

The majority of this time off was spent with my boyfriend’s daughter, who lives out of state. I spent a lot of time getting to know her and building a solid relationship with her. We even took her down to Disney World, an experience that I’m sure she will never forget. We had a great time and she even took to calling my mommy! *swoon*. I hope to be her step-mom one day so I consider this time incredibly well spent.

Exhaustion

I’m not going to lie though, the visitors weren’t the only reason for my hiatus. The second reason is that I’ve just been feeling so tired lately. On the few days I had to myself these past few weeks, I haven’t had the energy to do anything; I just wanted to veg out in front of the tv. Yes, I know how terrible that is, but I was just so tired!!  I’d go to bed around 9 or 10 and wake up at 630, still feeling tired. I could manage to make it through my work day, but I didn’t have the energy for much else.

I wasn’t cooking healthy meals, I wasn’t working on my side projects, and I wasn’t doing anything to better myself. At first, I thought I was just tired from all the activity that was going on around me. However, most of my friends convinced me that my level of exhaustion was not normal in anyway. I’m also notorious for being cold all the time, so two of my friends recommended that I try an Iron supplement.

I tried the supplement, and my energy is through the roof! I don’t eat a lot of meat, so I guess I wasn’t getting enough of this important vitamin. I’m happy to report that I feel fantastic now, and I hope that was the only problem.

Related: Partners in Fire is 6 Months old!

I’m back!

So now I’m back after a six week hiatus, and unfortunately (though obviously) my readership has suffered. I will write a 7-month update to go along with all my other updates, but it will be short considering I hardly did anything to support my blog during the seventh month.

But you know what, sometimes you have to take care of yourself first. And sometimes you have to sacrifice some things to build and maintain relationships. I don’t regret my hiatus, even though it probably erased some hard won gains. I’m happy with where I am.

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move in together

My boyfriend and I have decided to embark upon one of a relationships greatest journeys: moving in together. We had a long weekend apart when I went on my girls’ trip to Vancouver, and to make matters worse we couldn’t see each other for a few days after the trip due to our conflicting work schedules. That sucked!  So, after a whole lot of adult conversations; we decided that it would be best if we moved in together.

Reasons to Move in Together

There are plenty of reasons why couples decide to move in together, ranging from the practical to the hopelessly romantic. Our main reason for moving in together is at the bottom, but I’m not going to lie, the money part is a huge bonus (In case you haven’t noticed; I kinda like saving money).

Money Money Money!

One of the main reasons couples decide to take the plunge and move in together is money. Maintaining two households is expensive!  It’s not just rent either. There are two power bills, two internet bills, two water bills; not to mention the cost of gas to commute to each other’s places!  Consolidating that all into one household saves everyone money!  This savings is a huge bonus, especially in an economy with little job security (or for those perusing financial independence!).

Related: Our Path to Fire

Living conditions

Raise your hand if you moved in with a partner to get out of a shitty situation. I bet a lot of hands are raised!  Whether it be controlling parents, a bad roommate, or an uncomfortable circumstance with an ex; moving in with someone else can be the quickest and easiest way to get out of a bad situation.

Fortunately, we didn’t have to take this into account in our decision to move in together; but I’ve been there before and I totally understand why people do it. If you are considering moving in with someone for this reason, I would caution you to be sure that you aren’t putting yourself in a similar (or worse!) situation.

Getting out of the Parents House

This is similar to moving because of bad living conditions; but sometimes kids want to get away from perfectly reasonable loving parents. I get it, you want your independence!  I moved in with my first boyfriend because I wanted to get out of my dad’s house. He lived in the middle of nowhere and I had no car; so I couldn’t find a job. In hindsight, he probably would have let me use one of his cars if it was job related; but he kind of hated my boyfriend (and by kind of, I mean with a passion), so he wouldn’t let me use a car to go see him.

I really showed him!  My boyfriend and I rented a place in the nearby city and he had a car that I could use to find work. We lasted about a year; and towards the end of that relationship I literally had to sneak out of the house to see my friends. I guess dad was right about that one!

 

Life Happens

Life sure can throw you a lot of curve balls. Maybe you got an amazing job opportunity on the other side of the country!  You don’t want to do the long-distance thing, so you decide to move together. You are starting on a brand-new adventure together!  Or maybe you are having a surprise bundle of joy; a totally different type of adventure!  Consolidating households when a baby is on the might make it easier to transition to parenthood.

 Unfortunately, not all of life’s curveballs are positive. Life can be a jerk sometimes.  You may have lost your job and have no other options but to consolidate households. Or Perhaps you have to start caring for an aging parent. Life can throw us in many different directions; and sometimes moving in with a partner can make those transitions smoother.

Timing

Well, the lease is up. Should I sign a new one or no?  Sometimes couples just fall into living together because a lease is up and seems silly to renew it.  I like to think that when this happens, the couple is truly ready (see below!) and they were just waiting for the right time.

The Best Reason to Move in Together

If you decided to take the plunge and move in together for any of those other reasons, I get it. Life can be hard and it’s a tough economy out there. However, I think the best and most important reason to move in together is that you love each other and you see a future with each other.  My boyfriend and I love each other, and we are both sure that this relationship is moving towards marriage. That’s why we decided to move in together. If we can make living together as easy as the rest of our relationship has been, we will know that getting married is the next step.

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Making the Decision to Cut the Cable Cord

Making the decision to cut the cable cord was a long time coming. We hardly ever watch anything on cable (ok, we had Direct TV satellite, but it’s basically the same thing). The only two shows we religiously watched on cable were Supernatural and The Walking Dead. We’d sometimes throw on reruns of the Big Bang Theory or Family Guy, but that was really just background noise. Is it worth one hundred dollars a month to watch two shows and occasionally have some background noise? I don’t think it is.

I want to Quit the Gym

Of course, like any good company, Direct TV wouldn’t let me off the hook so easily. They tried to offer me discounts or offer me a package change. At one point they even tried to take off the additional movie package that I was paying for (even though I had already called two months ago to get it taken off; somehow it was still on there). They used high pressure sales tactics to try to convince me to stay and to bundle my phone with them for even more savings! But I declined all these offers. I wanted to quit cable (or satellite, same thing) and I did! 

(Bonus points if you get the “I want to quit the gym” reference!)

CANCELLATION Fee

Of course, nothing is ever free. Apparently, I had entered into a two-year agreement with Direct TV, so I couldn’t just cancel. I had to pay a $150 cancellation fee. I did the math, and as it turns out, $150 is much cheaper than $100 per month for 12 months (which most likely would have increased after the first 12 months to who knows how much!) So, although I’m not a fan of paying stupid cancellation fees, I sucked this one up and paid.

Related: Bad Investments for Beginners

What will we do now?

I’ve had some type of cable for my entire life. I’ve never envisioned life without it. That’s why, although I rarely use it, I struggled with the decision to cut the cord for good. My biggest worry is finding a way to watch Supernatural when it returns in the fall. It’s on a network, so I should be able to get one of those converter kits and I should be able to watch it for free (like before we had cable when I was a kid!). But if I have to wait a year for the season to get to Netflix, I can do that. It will suck, but I can manage.

My other reason for keeping Direct TV was NFL season ticket. I love my Chicago Bears, and I live in Falcons Country. That means the networks will rarely be showing Bears games. But the Bears have been pretty terrible lately, and I can always go to Buffalo Wild Wings or Chili’s to watch any important games (which will probably be cheaper than paying for Direct TV all year anyway!)

Other Options

We already have Netflix, Hulu, HBO on the Go, and Amazon Prime. We can watch pretty much everything we want on these four platforms. And, these four platforms combined are cheaper each month than our direct tv was!

                                                              

It’s Done

The cable (satellite) cord is cut. I’m done paying $100 for a service I don’t ever use. I’m going to put that extra $1200 per year in my savings/investment accounts and watch it grow rather than squander it!  Talk about an easy way to increase your savings!

Have you cut the cable cord yet? What was your experience with it?  And if not, what’s holding you back? 

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Blog Growth Strategies for our Sixth Month

Partners in Fire is officially six months old!!  That means we’ve met the basic requirement for being a real blog!  This is a super exciting milestone for us, so let’s see how we did!

Readership

We ended our sixth month with 477 users, just 23 users shy of our 500 users target. I’m actually really happy with that number. As I wrote in my 5th month update, I knew May was going to be rough. There was so much going on in my personal life that I didn’t have a lot of time for blogging. I meant to only skip three posts, but my sickness lingered longer than I thought it would and the SCUBA classes were way more time consuming than I anticipated (But definitely worth while!). I was only able to write and publish four blog posts this month!! That’s half as many as my target, and I still managed to get 477 users!! I’m going to call that a huge win!

Where are our Users Coming from?

Direct Hits

A little over half of our readers for the month of May were direct referrals. That usually means that someone sent a link over email, or someone directly typed in the URL. Most of them were on my post the Worst Financial Mistake of My Life, so I’m guessing a lot of these views are the residual affects of being featured on Rockstar Finance. I would love to find a way to learn for sure where these direct hits are coming from though (and if you have any ideas on how to find out, please share in the comments!)

Social Media

Social media was the second biggest driver of traffic to Partners in Fire this month. We had 187 referrals from social media during our sixth month.

Pinterest continues to be the biggest driver of social media traffic, with 139 users. This is only 35 less than last month, which I think is fabulous considering I only posted half as much. Twitter was second, with 26 referrals; which is not a lot at all, but again, I hardly posted anything.

Monetization

It’s difficult to include a section on monetization each month when I’m not succeeding at monetization, but I think it’s important to discuss the challenges with the blog in addition to it’s strong points.

Monetizing a new blog is hard. Getting readers to a new blog is hard. Getting subscribers is hard. A lot of things about blogging are hard, but a lot of big bloggers won’t tell you that. Hell, a lot of the smaller bloggers won’t even tell you that. You have to love doing it first, and I do. The money part, if it ever comes, is just a bonus.

What’s Next?

Although summer is going to be super busy with all the visitors and vacations that I have planned, I’m going to attempt to stick to my blogging schedule. I think I would have destroyed my goal of 500 users this month had I actually posted the full eight times. I’m going to try harder to do that this month.

One of my limitations right now is a bit of writer’s block. I do have a few article ideas that I’ve been kicking around, but not enough. Sometimes more come to me, and sometimes they don’t. I think that overcoming this small amount of writer’s block and coming up with good ideas for the blog is going to be my biggest challenge in the coming months.

What strategies have you used to help grow your blog? What are your biggest challenges? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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By now, most of you are familiar with the concept of FIRE and the various types: Lean FIRE, Barista FIRE, etc. (if you aren’t, you can read about it here). But I’ve decided that none of those definitions of FIRE really speak to me correctly. Therefore, I’m coining a new FIRE term: Bougie FIRE.

Bougie

Bougie is a term that comes from the French word bourgeois, which means upper middle class. According to Urban Dictionary, it means aspiring to be a higher class than you actually are. It’s also a lot of fun to say.

Bougie is typically used to mean that someone is too good for something, like “she refuses to shop at the thrift store, she’s so bougie”. I’m taking some liberties with that definition, but hey, it’s not like it’s from Webster’s Dictionary. It’s just slang.

Bougie Fire

Bougie Fire is being financially independent while having a nest egg big enough to enjoy bougie adventures. It means that you don’t have to work anymore, but you can live. You can spend that year learning to surf in Costa Rica. You can go on SCUBA adventures to the Red Sea. You can live your life to the fullest! But because you are just bougie and not rich, you have to sacrifice material things to get there.

Bougie Fire vs Fat Fire

I know lot of you financial independence pros are thinking “there’s already a term for this; it’s called Fat Fire”.  However, there are some key differences. First, it’s way more fun to say Bougie Fire than to say Fat Fire. But more importantly, Fat Fire is about being financially independent while living off 100K or more. It’s also about living well while pursuing financial independence. Generally, those who are reaching for Fat Fire have pretty high incomes and plan to maintain their standards of living. Physician on Fire wrote an awesome article on it if you are interested.

Viator 

Bougie Fire, on the other hand, isn’t about the amount of money you plan on spending yearly. Bougie Fire is all about the adventures.  If you spend a lot of time in a low cost of living country (like, Costa Rica for instance) you can do the Bougie Fire thing on the cheap. If your bougie adventures take you to Monaco or Switzerland, it’s going to be a lot more expensive. It’s also about sacrificing some of the finer things so that you can have the fancy adventures.  Some of the Fat Fire folks enjoy their expensive dinners out, nice cars, and large homes. There’s nothing wrong with that!  The Bougie Fire folks give up these things so that we can have adventures. It’s all about what you prioritize, and neither is better than the other.

How I came up with Bougie Fire

I first thought of the term Bougie Fire when writing my post about how crazy expensive it is to have adventures.  It was a tough pill for me to swallow, because I really want to be frugal. But my main reason for pursuing Fire is so that I can live life to its fullest, and part of that for me is to experience all the things. So I said screw it and went for it.

Then I realized how bougie I am when it comes to having adventures. I will eat tuna and ramen for a week so that I can afford my plane tickets to Europe. I haven’t had my hair cut in over a year, I don’t get my nails done, and I rarely buy makeup. But I’ll drop a grand on getting SCUBA certified like it’s nothing! So bougie.

What are your thoughts on my new Fire term? I’d love to hear from you!

 

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My top life goal is to live my life to it’s fullest. I want to have adventures! I want to climb mountains, dive oceans, go parasailing over white sandy beaches, ride dune buggies through rolling deserts, trek through jungles…you get the gist!  The problem is that stuff is expensive. The cost of having adventures is outrageous!

My Latest Adventure

My most recent attempt at having an adventure was learning to SCUBA dive. The world is incredible and vast, but 70% of it is underwater. I want to explore that part too!

I’ve always wanted to SCUBA dive, so when my coworkers asked me to sign up to take classes with them, I eagerly agreed. But SCUBA lessons aren’t cheap! It was $300 to take the first portion of the class; which included the testing and pool training. It’s another $260 to take the final open water certification (which includes 4 dives). But wait, there’s more!  You also need equipment!  The class includes all the hardcore SCUBA stuff, but I needed to come prepared with fins, a mask, a snorkel, and booties. The beginner’s SCUBA package cost me an additional $160. That’s over $700 just to get certified!!!  Insane!!

Are you about to go on an Adventure? Book your flights on Skyscanner! 

SCUBA Adventures

After my initial investment, you know I’m going to want to use this skill!  So now I either have to buy real SCUBA gear (which can cost close two grand for starter stuff) or rent gear every time I want to dive (at about 80 bucks a day). Yeah, this is going to be an expensive hobby! I think I’m just going to rent gear at first, that way I get to see if I like it and determine how much I really will go out there for a smaller investment. Also, I’ll have the opportunity to test out different types of gears before buying, which is always a plus!

The Cost of Having Adventures

This isn’t just about SCUBA though. All the fun adventurous things I want to do cost boat loads of money!  I want to zipline in Costa Rica (starting at $110), ATV in Peru ($45), Trek to the Everest Base Camp ($1150), Deep Sea fish off the coast of California ($150), Paddleboard on Vancouver Island ($25/hr) and so much more! I want to do all the things!! Those prices may seem reasonable, but they don’t include travel or lodging.  My idea of living life to its fullest is expensive!  

Viator

Balancing having adventures with FIRE

Unfortunately, these costly adventures don’t jive well with trying to FIRE.  Sure, I could spend my life living on a small ranch, growing my own food, and getting enjoyment out of simple things like bike riding and reading, but that’s just not what I want for my life. I’m not knocking anyone who does want these things, those are perfectly valid life choices. But that’s not the lifestyle I envision for myself, and I’m not pursuing financial independence so I can have that.

Related: Check out My Path to Fire!

 I want to spend my life having those bougie expensive adventures. I’m working towards financial independence so I can have them. I know it will take me longer to achieve bougie adventure FIRE, but I’m ok with that. I’d rather work a few extra years to ensure that I will be able to build the life of my dreams than call it quits too early and not be able to do all the things I want to do.

So bring on all the bougie expensive adventures!  I want to hear about your adventures and how much they cost in the comments! Let’s find a way to make being adventurous more cost effective!

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"Destroying my credit"

I’ve been nostalgic lately, thinking about my past, my upbringing, and some of the wonderful financial decisions I made when I was a teenager. I’ve written about my middle class upbringing and about my stellar education on taxes. But there was one more area of my financial life that I really messed up in when I was young, and it took me a very long time to dig my way out.

Destroying My Credit

My parents never really taught us about the dangers of credit card debt. When I turned 18 and started getting offers for free money, I took them. I don’t know why it was so easy to get credit as an eighteen-year old with no credit history, but man, it was.

I had three regular credit cards and three store cards before I turned 19. Why wouldn’t I get an Express credit card? I even signed up for an Abercrombie card despite never ever shopping in an Abercrombie in my life!  Free money is free money, right?

Not All Impulsive

Yes, I was a stupid teenager buying all the things with fake money. But I did actually make one legitimate purchase that I couldn’t afford!  My dog, Shadow (I miss him!) had a problem with his nose. It always looked like the skin was peeling off. Since he seemed healthy outside of that, my parents didn’t take him to the vet. Well, I wasn’t going to let my lack of money prevent me from taking care of my pup, so I took him myself and charged it. I think it cost around 500 bucks if I remember correctly (this was a long long time ago). Either way, I didn’t have the money to pay. That was future Melanie’s problem.

Related: Managing Your Money All-In-One For Dummies – Get it on Amazon! 

But Mostly Bad Purchases

The rest of my purchases were stupid. The hottest trends in clothing, stupid toys, long distance phone calls, things I can’t remember. I had a lot of fun destroying my credit!  Unfortunately, I was thousands of dollars in debt by the time I turned 20. And I had no money to pay it. I did manage to make the minimum payments for the first few years, but that barely covered interest, and before long all the cards were maxed out. Even the minimum payments became overwhelming for a poor college student. Most of the debt went to collections, and I effectively destroyed my credit.

Digging Out

I finished college and realized that if I ever wanted to have a decent job and a decent life, I needed to fix my credit issues. I was able to settle with a few of the collections agency for less than owed, and I payed off other balances in full. It took a lot of saving, budgeting, and negotiating to dig my way out, but I made it.

Having numerous charged off credit accounts had lots of negative repercussions for many years though. It takes about seen years for those things to fall off your credit report, and life was hard for those years. It was hard to rent a nice place with such a poor credit history. I had to pay higher interest rates on any loans I tried to take out.  I couldn’t even consider buying a home.

 

Helping Future Melanie

I’m glad that I finally dug my way out and that all those negative statements are off of my report.  I currently have a healthy credit report, and a much healthier relationship with future Melanie. Instead of thinking “well that’s future Melanie’s problem”, I think “How can I help future Melanie?” and life has been much better.

Have you had problems with credit in the past? I’d love to hear your stories!

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"Blog Growth"

Blog Growth Strategies for our Fifth Month

Readership

Wow our readership exploded in month five!  But only for a day really haha. We ended the month with a whopping three thousand users!  It’s a new record!

How did we get so many users?

Partners in in Fire was lucky enough to get featured on Rockstar Finance this month!  Our article The Worst Financial Mistake of My Life was featured in Rockstar Finance’s April 10th Features! I’m not really sure how it was chosen, heck I didn’t even realize it at first!  I thought something strange was going on when I kept getting legitimate comments on the article.  So, I did some online digging, and found my post on the Rock Star Finance main page! Super Exciting Stuff!

After an amazing day of lots of page views, we were also featured in The Financial Diet’s weekly round up!  What an amazing week for Partner’s in Fire!

Posting

I did an excellent job of sticking to my posting schedule this month. Unfortunately, I got sick during the last week and skipped posting on the last Thursday. I even had everything drafted up and ready to go, I just didn’t have the energy to do all the social media posting or to proof read, so I decided to wait and post it next week. Sometimes life happens, and that’s ok.

Social Media

Obviously, the majority of our users this month came from Rockstar Finance and The Financial Diet (Thanks again guys!). But we did pretty well with our social media platforms as well.

Our Pinterest referrals are really picking up steam. We had 174 referrals from Pinterest this month, almost 100 more than last month!  It outpaced Twitter for the first time ever! I think that Tailwindaccount really is starting to pay off. It hasn’t led to monetary conversion yet, but page views need to come first.

With 96 users, Twitter was our second biggest social media referrer this month. We didn’t do as well on Facebook this month as we did last month, but I think that is because I skipped sharing a few of my posts on Facebook. I didn’t want anyone to take offense at things that weren’t meant to be offensive, so I decided not to share.

Monetization

Affiliates

Though being featured on some major Personal Finance sites led to lots of page views, it did not lead to lots of affiliate clicks or sales. We did have a handful more clicks to Amazon than in previous months, but it did not generate any sales.

Our other affiliates, such as Flex Offers and Clicky Homes, still haven’t generated much interest. I think the reason for that is because I refuse to sell products I don’t believe in, so I’ve greatly limited the types of campaigns I will run from Flex Offers. Clicky Homes is a great program, but it is only useful to a small subset of the population (realtors). I’m ok with both of those things though, I know that if people visit my site and actually click through to an affiliate, it will be useful to them. That’s more important to me than making money.

Ads

You’d think that with over 3000 pageviews, my ad revenue via Adsense would have increased. That was not the case. I think I only have Adsense ads on a few of my pages, and those were not the pages that got the views. According to Adsense, I only had about 300 pageviews during the last month. This was not enough to make a dent in our earnings.

I don’t want to destroy any user experience I have, so I’m not going to change the way my ads are laid out. However, if you are interested in monetizing via google ads and notice a discrepancy between your Google Analytics pageviews and your Adsense pageviews, this may be something worth looking into.

What’s Next?

I totally destroyed my goal of getting 500 users for this period!  But I know I got super lucky with that amazing feature, so I don’t think 3000 views every month is sustainable. Partner’s in Fire did get a few extra subscribers from that though, and I’m getting better and better at Pinterest, so I think getting to 500 without any special features is totally doable this next month.

I am keeping my expectations low though, because I have a lot going on in my personal life this month, and I know I won’t be able to stick to my posting schedule. I have SCUBA lessons next week which are going to take a ton of time (but will so be worth it!) and I have a girl’s trip to Vancouver coming up, so I won’t be posting at all that week. Can I get to 500 while skipping three posts?? That’s the goal, so we shall see!

What strategies have you used to help grow your blog?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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my mom taught me about finance

Last week, I came across an amazing post by Lean Fire ATL called “A Man is NOT a Retirement Plan”. This post really resonated with me for a lot of reasons, but the number one reason is my mom.

Mom’ s retirement plan

I love my mom. She’s sweet, she’s caring, and she taught me to be kind to animals and those less fortunate then us. She didn’t have any real goals outside of motherhood, but she was a great mother.

My mom did what a lot of young women in the late seventies/early eighties did. She got married and stayed home to take care of the children. Unfortunately for her, being a mother doesn’t pay anything, and her story is one of the main reasons why I decided to strive for financial independence.

Mom’s story

My parents got married and had their first child at relatively young ages. My dad was 19 and my mom was 22 when they had my sister.  They had my brother and I shortly after, so they had three young children before they turned thirty.

They did alright for themselves despite having kids so young and not having college degrees. My mom was a stay at home mom while my dad sold insurance, and when they started their own flyer delivery service my mom chipped in with that. Things weren’t perfect, but we were a family, and that’s all my mom ever wanted.

Related: From Lower Middle Class to Financially Literate

Divorce

Then one day, seemingly out of nowhere, it all fell apart. My father had an affair. He moved out of the house when my mom found out. He stopped paying the mortgage and focused on running the business (which was in his name). My mom wasn’t able to keep up with the mortgage. She was a stay at home mom the majority of her life, and she had no marketable skills. She got a job cleaning out kennels at a pet store, but that paid barely enough to keep the lights on.

 

My mom was able to stay in the family home for quite a while the bank went through the foreclosure process. She tried to find a way to stay close to us kids in Illinois, but it was too expensive (Before anyone tries to chastise my mom for not staying with her kids, my sister was 20, my brother was 18 and just started college, and I was about to be a senior in high school by the time she moved. She knew I was going away to college after senior year). Her parents lived in Northern Wisconsin and offered to help her buy a home if she moved up there. With no other options, she packed up and moved up North closer to her parents.

Moving on

After about 20 years of being miserable and lonely in Northern Wisconsin, my mom decided she had enough. My sister helped her move to California. She currently lives in the Mojave Desert and works part time. She likes that it doesn’t snow, and my sister is able to visit her about once per month and help her with things around the house. She’s planning on moving to the East Coast with my sister next year.

What my mom taught me about Finance

My mom didn’t directly teach me anything about finance, but her story served a valuable lesson. I learned that the only person I could ever depend on is myself. My mom thought her marriage would last forever. She depended on my dad to handle the finances. She didn’t realize that he sucked with money, or that he had a more fleeting view of marriage than she did.

I know it’s a cynical view to take, but I learned that even if I get married, I have to look out for myself first. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why I haven’t gotten married yet. I have a hard time trusting a guy to do small things to take care of me, like cooking me dinner (which probably stems from this, now that I think about it). I can’t even imagine putting my financial security and my entire future into someone else’s hands. My mom got screwed because she trusted the wrong person with these things. I learned from her example to do not the same.

What valuable money lessons did your parents teach you?

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In my last post, I described my lower middle-class upbringing. I mentioned that my parents were terrible with saving money, and that we weren’t really taught to save either. That isn’t entirely true. We did have one person that tried to help us save money. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out the way she wanted it to. 

Grandma’s Help

We got a small bit of help in learning to save from our Grandmother on our mom’s side. When we were born, she convinced my parents to open a savings account for us. She gave us a check on every birthday and Christmas with “for deposit only” written on it, so we would be forced to deposit it into our savings accounts. We had the option to deposit the rest of our birthday money as well, but we rarely did.

My grandma didn’t have a lot of money, so she was only able to give us each $25 on special occasions. Over time, that does add up, and by the time I started working for my parents, I had about $800 saved up. That’s a lot for a fifteen-year-old!

I Learned about taxes the hard way

Unfortunately, the savings account didn’t work out the way my Grandmother intended. You see, when my parents started paying us for delivering papers, they set us up as independent contractors rather than wage employees. That meant that no taxes would be taken out of our paychecks. We didn’t make a lot of money, but as we all know, that doesn’t matter. The IRS still needs to get their share.

When tax season rolled around that first year, my father did our taxes for us. We each ended up owing the man around $700. My parents took us to the bank and drained our savings accounts so we could pay our taxes. They said we should have known better. We should have been putting money aside each pay check to pay. How we were supposed to know the subtleties of the complicated tax code at age 15, I’ll never know!

 

Making it worse

Unfortunately, I didn’t learn my lesson. I continued working for my parents as an independent contractor, and continued spending all of each pay check. When tax season rolled around, I just ignored it. I did the same thing the following year. Eventually, I stopped working for my parents and got a normal part time job. Unfortunately, by this time, I already owed the IRS almost two thousand dollars. Even worse, my father accidentally switched mine and my brother’s social security numbers on our tax returns, so we didn’t even know who owed what!

Digging out of the hole

I was a senior in high school when I realized how big my problem with the IRS was. That’s when I decided to take steps to dig my way out. Surprisingly, it was super easy to get the mess with the social security numbers straightened out. But what was even more shocking was that they were really nice about helping me set up a payment plan and get the tax debt straightened out. They are super willing to work with people who are trying to do the right thing!  It took me about a year to fully pay off my debt to the IRS, but it felt good to make that last payment.

 

Lessons learned

Learning about taxes the hard way had some advantages. I learned to always think about how taxes will work with any job, so I don’t get surprised with a giant bill at the end of the year. I also learned that the IRS isn’t as terrible as everyone thinks they are. One of the reasons I waited so long to call and get it taken care of is that I was terrified of calling them!  All I ever heard was horror stories about going to jail for tax fraud and IRS agents being super rude to people. Maybe it was my age that helped, or maybe it was the fact that I was actually trying, but every time I called, the agent was super nice and helpful. I never had a bad experience.

One final thing I learned is to always check over all the important forms.  One little mistake can cause huge complications down the road (on the plus side, I still have my brother’s SSN memorized, because I thought it was mine for so long…devious, I know!).

What lessons did you learn the hard way?  I’d love to hear your stories!

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