LIVING THE FI KINDA LIFE

Meditation, gardening, minimalism, fitness, and everything else that keeps us healthy, happy, and on our road to Financial Independence!  Here you will find stories about our lives. You will also see some of the cool things that you will be able to do if you stick a FI lifestyle!  Lots of people think that they would have to give up so much in their daily lives to achieve financial independence, but that’s not true!  We have loads of fun on the road to freedom!  The trick is balance!  So let go a little, have some fun, and see how you can have both!

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Sometimes people see a personal finance blogger striving for financial independence and think that we must have grown up with well-off or financially savvy parents. Well, that isn’t always the case. I’d classify my parents as lower middle class and let’s just say I didn’t learn any positive financial skills from them!

I know that a lot of people had things way worse than me. It’s also true that I got extremely lucky with a few of my choices; and a lot of people who make similar choices may not have the same luck. However, I think it’s fair to point out that you don’t have to come from rich parents who are good with money to get on a quest for financial independence (though I’m sure it helps!)

Growing Up Lower Middle Class

I honestly don’t know what my household income was when I was younger. My parents owned a home in the South suburbs of Chicago, we always had food to eat, we got nice Christmases, and we went on vacation (camping) a few times per year. Seems solidly middle class, right? However, we did live across the street from some pretty terrifying apartments that had cops patrolling more often than not.  I’m also pretty sure our neighbor across the alley got busted for dealing LSD. It wasn’t the best neighborhood, but it was far from the worst. We could play outside without fear as long as we stayed away from the apartments, which is a luxury a lot of kids didn’t have.

When I was very little, my father worked as an insurance agent. He sold insurance in Chicago’s terrifying ghettos (shameless plug, but he wrote a fictionalized account of his experiences, Check it out on Amazon!). This job didn’t make him well off, but he made enough money to support the family. 

 

Dad Loses his Job

Unfortunately, when I was still in grade school, my father lost his job with the insurance company. My parents turned to delivering papers to make a living. My siblings and I had to do paper routes three days a week after school to help them make ends meet. For the first few years, this was unpaid labor. At the time, I didn’t understand why I was being forced to work for free, but I get it now. They needed the free labor to keep up with the bills. We were working to support the family.

To my parent’s credit, they were able to take what they learned delivering papers for someone else and make a business out of it. They started hiring more neighborhood kids to deliver papers for them, and they started paying us for the work that we did.

No Savings

Unfortunately, even with running their own business, there wasn’t a lot left to save at the end of each month. Or maybe my parents prioritized vacations and nice Christmases over emergency funds and retirement accounts. Either way, they had no savings.  They spent most of the money they made each month and allowed us kids to do the same. If we wanted something super expensive, they would tell us that we needed to save up on our own for it (my brother was obsessed with getting Scottie Pippen shoes, so he was the best about that!) but that was really the extent of our lessons in savings.

A Divorce

My parents got divorced when I was in high school. My dad kept the business and was able to rent a home from his sister while my mom basically had nothing. After our family home was foreclosed on she had to go live up north near her parents. To be honest though, their divorce kind of worked out in my favor. It’s way easier to get loans for college if you are a child of divorced parents with low incomes.  I got enough financial aid money to pay for my entire college education (via loans and grants, mostly). I didn’t use all of it, because I decided to join the Reserve Officers Training Core (ROTC) when I got to college, which helped pay for a lot of my schooling (My first great financial decision!)

15 years later

Even now, neither of my parents is good with money. I don’t think either of them has a retirement plan or a solid emergency fund. They both work, and I think both of them plan to just continue working until they can’t anymore.

My siblings and I learned very different things from this upbringing. My brother learned that he can get by with working until he dies. He doesn’t worry about saving money and values spending everything he earns on making sure his kids are happy (Just like my parents did). My sister was the same for a very long time.  She valued appearances and expensive things, because she didn’t want to feel poor.  However, in the last few years, through my obsession with financial independence, I have helped her learn the value of saving money for the future. She wants to pursue FIRE too!

I went the opposite way. I saw that my parents were just barely keeping their heads above water and decided that wasn’t what I wanted for my future. Therefore, I took it upon myself to learn financial literacy. I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way; but I think I’m getting there.

Financial Literacy

The point of this story is that learning financial literacy is not easy, but it can be done. It isn’t really taught in school (at least it wasn’t in my school!), and if you don’t grow up in an environment where it is practiced every day, it’s hard to grasp. However, that doesn’t make it unattainable.  It would have been great if my parents could have given me a head start on this, but they couldn’t. What I learned instead was the value of hard work, and that I didn’t want to be destitute in the future. These were valid lessons too, and I’m glad I got them.

What did your parents teach you about money? Let us know in the comments!

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Honeymoon Phase

As most of you fabulous readers know, I started seeing someone new about a month after Jonathan and I broke up. Well good news! The relationship is fantastic so far! We are super compatible and have a great time together. I’m definitely enjoying the Honeymoon Phase of this new relationship and loving my life in general.

Problem

This is the problem. I am actually happy! And I want to spend all my time with my new guy. This really isn’t a problem for my life, but it is a problem for the blog. It makes it harder for me to find the time to write. I also am struggling to find time to promote and market the blog. I’m doing the best I can to juggle all of these priorities (I’ve even managed to mostly stick to my Thursday and Sunday posting schedule, woot!) but having a happy life has to come first.

Yes, we met on OKC!

 

Why wasn’t this a problem before?

I was able to throw all of my free time into blogging before because I wasn’t happy. The blog was all I had. My relationship sucked, but I felt stuck. He was cool with the blog, so I could get away with focusing most of my time on it. It made things at home easier too, because I was able to do something and not have to deal with him. Blogging was an escape. It’s way harder to focus on the blog when I’m enjoying the company around me so much. First world problems.

Related: The Worst Financial Mistake of My Life

Why not drop the blog?

I still love it! And I believe in it. I love the concept of Partners in Fire, and I love all the friends I have made in the blogging world. I love the Personal Finance Community on Twitter, and I also love the blogging community. I don’t want to give any of that up!  Also, I’m a realist. I know that this is the honeymoon phase, and that honeymoon phases don’t last forever (it would be kind of nice if they did though, wouldn’t it?).

Who remembers being in a new relationship?  Its so much fun and so exciting that you want to spend every waking moment just hanging out and getting to know each other. But then, after three to six months, as you get more comfortable with one another and start sliding into each other’s lives; things kind of settle down. You fit into each other’s lives and it just becomes right to have them around and also do your own thing. Maybe I’m the only one this happens to, but it seems completely normal to me!

What’s Next?

Moving forward, I’m going to be happy. I’m going to focus on blogging, because it makes me happy; but I’m also going to focus on my life and my relationship because they make me happy too. I have a lot of balls in the air right now to juggle, but I think with a little effort and a little less tv I can learn to prioritize them all and regain a sense of balance in my life. Either way, I’m going to enjoy myself while I do it!

Who out in the blogger sphere has advice about juggling new relationships, blogging, life, and a full-time job? I could use your tips!

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It’s hard to be transparent, even with strangers on the internet. So it’s hard to discuss the worst financial mistake of my life. Its not something you would typically hear…I didn’t by a house in the bubble or charge hundreds of thousands of dollars to my credit cards or lose big in a casino. I lost big in love, and it cost me.

What was the worst financial MISTAKE of my life?

The worst financial mistake of my life was getting involved with an alcoholic. And then staying with that alcoholic for over five years. I kind of consider it one big never-ending mistake, since it was the mistake that kept on giving. I was stupid, I didn’t know how serious of a thing alcoholism was, and I thought that I could help a friend.

I didn’t move Jonathan in with me with the intent of having a relationship with him. He was an old friend who was going through a tough time, and I thought I could help him get back on his feet by giving him a place to stay far away from his hometown. I didn’t know the extent of his alcoholism (I also didn’t know about his bipolar disorder).

Eventually, our living together turned into a relationship. I really did care about him, so much.   Maybe that is why I turned a blind eye to the alcoholism at first. Maybe that’s why I let him treat me so poorly for the first few years. I had built up this amazing image of him in my head, and when that didn’t coincide with reality, I made excuses.

My first mistake

So here’s where the financial disaster comes in. Jonathan didn’t work for the first few years we were together. I paid for all of the bills, all of our living expenses, and I even supported his beer habit. But he always had an excuse. It was a bad economy. The area we lived in wasn’t conducive to him getting a job. He wanted to start his own business. He couldn’t compete in the job market. And I, being stupid and naïve, believed him. I let him get away with it, again and again.

Unfortunately that wasn’t the extent of my stupidity.  I gave him money for the business he was trying to grow out of the garage. He collected video games, he’d buy them at garage sales and off of craigslist for low prices and resell them (but not on Ebay, that was too much work, so he sold them to another dude who sold them on ebay). I would help him make a deal occasionally (more often than I’d care to admit) and he’d always promise to pay me back with the profit (sometimes he did, more often he didn’t). Usually he had enough money to keep his small business going and to keep himself in alcohol and cigarettes. He never paid a dime towards living expenses.

Related: See how Partners in Fire is moving forward from this break up

Having a job

J eventually found a decent paying job with our neighbor’s company doing office work. He actually had to get up and go to work every day!  He worked from 6 am to 2 pm, and he was usually drunk by the time I got home. Sometimes, he wasn’t home when I got home, and I’d find him at the local bar, blowing his paycheck on shots (usually he stayed home to drink). Even with this job I didn’t see any money, but I was just glad to not be paying for his habit anymore.

Enough

I finally had enough in January of 2016, when he decided that he’d rather drink than go to work. It wasn’t good before this point by any means, but I was holding things together.

Him deciding not to work was the first last straw for me. We broke up. He promised to try and do better. He would stay sober for a week, then a few days, then another week. But every time he would go back to drinking. It seemed like he would do just enough to get me to stay with him.

By June of 2016, I had enough again. I ended it again and told him the only way I’d stay with him is if he went to rehab. He found himself a rehab facility that would take him (I paid for him to get on a health plan through the affordable care act – another huge waste of money) and off he went.

He stayed in rehab for about 60 days. I was so proud of him! He quickly became a team leader and helped other people stay in rehab too. He was ready to rejoin the real world and give up alcohol!  Woot!

After rehab

Unfortunately, his new-found sobriety only lasted for four days after he got out of rehab. He made up some story about why drinking was ok because he was holding himself accountable (they always have an excuse).

For the next six months, we were very on and off. I’d break up, he’d claim to try, I’d give him another chance, and then we’d be right back at square one. Then he confided that he knew he could quit drinking, he just had to face and overcome his biggest fear – a DUI he had gotten back when he was 20. He was terrified that he would have to go to jail over it.

Another mistake

I helped him (yet again). I lent him two thousand dollars so that he could get a top DUI lawyer. He promised he would pay me back a month later when he received his tax refund check. By this point, he had already siphoned about 10 grand away from me, so I didn’t want to give him the money. I didn’t trust him to pay it back. But, he really needed the lawyer to overcome this one last thing, and if he waited he might not be able to get him. So I lent him the money on the strict condition that he’d pay it back as soon as he got his check.

Well, he got the check and he gave the money to a friend of his who was “in a bad situation” instead of paying me back. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. This was the point where I lost any trust that I ever had in him. Looking back, this was the point where our relationship truly ended. This is what I still can’t forgive him for or recover from.

He did actually get the lawyer though, and he was able to avoid jail with community service (which he completed!). But that didn’t stop the drinking. 

 

Still trying to make it work

I still stupidly tried to make the relationship work. I thought he could get better, even after all that, and even after I knew I could never trust him again. When I got the transfer to Savannah, I told him that this could be our chance to start over. We would be in a new city, where he had opportunities!  He could make some friends and move forward with his life!

Unfortunately that didn’t happen. The first few months in Savannah were a nightmare. But of course, I was to blame for it, because he didn’t have any friends. He couldn’t get a good job close enough to the house. He had nothing and no one in Savannah, so his only option was to drink.

I ended things with him again in October. I set up a Tinder profile and started dating other guys. J realized he was on the verge of losing me and started actually trying. He got a bus pass so he could get around town and signed up for a temp agency and found a decent job. I didn’t give in right away though.  I continued going on dates with other guys; and I told him that I wouldn’t even consider getting back with him unless he was sober for over 30 days. I also told him that if he drank ever again, it would be over. However, I was driving him to and from work at this time; because it was far away from the bus routes and he really needed the job.

One last try

He actually made it the 30 days. He kept his job, started paying for some house stuff, and offered to do some hard tasks around the house as a way to start paying me back. Was he turning over a new leaf?  Was almost losing me for good the catalyst he needed to turn his life around??

I hoped so. I stopped dating other guys and decided to give him one more chance. But I wasn’t done making terrible decisions!  I knew that there was one major think limiting him, and that was his ability to get around. He was relying on either me or a less than reliable bus system. If he was really going to make it, this was unsustainable.

And One More Mistake

So, I told him that for Christmas, I would help him get a car. I meant that I would put 500-1000 towards a down payment or a beater. However, his credit was terrible. There was no way he could get something financed in his name alone. He fell in love with this used Kia, and although I felt uncomfortable co-signing; I let him pressure me into it. He absolutely promised that he would pay and he would work and that he would change and he wouldn’t screw me over. I didn’t exactly believe him, but I realized he didn’t stand a chance without reliable transportation, so I tried to believe him.

From December until our final breakup in January things were shaky. He didn’t keep his word about not drinking, but I was terrified that he’d just leave with the car and screw me over so I didn’t break up with him. Actually, I did breakup with him and he threatened to do just that. He used the financial disaster of the car as a way to keep me with him.  

It’s really over

But a person can only take so much. I finally decided that I’d rather ruin my credit than let him hold me hostage over the car. I broke up with him and promised myself that I wouldn’t let him manipulate, threaten, or guilt me back into a relationship. In addition,  I started seeing a therapist who helped me identify his manipulative behavior. And, amazingly enough, I ended up meeting an amazing man who makes me feel like I’m the only woman on the planet.

Although looking back, I’m deeply ashamed that I let myself be used for so long; I’ve been so happy since he moved out. I feel free. I feel like I can be myself again and that I can relax in my own home! This past month of freedom has been indescribably amazing! 

And for anyone in a similar situation – Get out. Get out now. They won’t change. They will say whatever they think you want to hear so that they can continue doing what they want. Take care of yourself first. You deserve better.

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As I mentioned all over Twitter and in my third month update, J and I are no longer together. We broke up for good in January, and he finally moved out towards the end of February.

Breaking Up

Breaking up was hard for both of us, but it was a long time in the making. I couldn’t forgive him for all of the things he did to me while he was drunk or having an episode. There were a lot of things that I wanted from a relationship that he just wasn’t able to give me. I stopped caring, and I stopped trying, even when I promised him I would try.

There wasn’t really a final straw. I just got to the point where I was over it. I told him I wanted to start fresh, but he kept pressuring me into acting like we were in a good six-year relationship. He didn’t understand the concept of starting over. I’m glad he didn’t though, because with him being gone, I feel freer than I have in a long time. I’m actually happy. I feel comfortable being at home. I’m excited for the future. These are feelings that were missing when I was in the relationship.

Partners in Fire

Lots of Partners in Fire articles mention our relationship, and usually in a positive light. (seriously, read the article about our New Year’s Goals!) I’m not going to edit those. But I will say that much of that was written to keep the peace in the household rather than because it was true. J wanted to be a part of Partners in Fire, even though he had absolutely nothing to do with the household finances. He would get upset if I wrote in the first person. He insisted that we were a team, even though I felt alone the majority of the time. So I acquiesced, and made the website more about us than about me.

Moving Forward

Moving forward, I’m going to be doing the writing for Partners in Fire. At first, J said he still believes in the website and the idea, and he wanted to be involved in the future. He wanted the website to track both of us and follow our individual paths to fire. He thought it would be cool; because our routes are totally different. I agree that would be pretty cool, but I didn’t know if I want to work with him in that capacity, especially in the beginning. But we recently got into an argument over Instagram, and he decided that he didn’t want anything to do with me or the website again. Maybe time will heal some of these wounds, and maybe they won’t.

Social Media

J also insisted on keeping the Instagram account. He started it, he built it, and he got it to where it is, so that is only fair. It’s the one thing he actually worked hard on for this blog. He also said he wants to do it because he feels like he owes me for all of the bullshit that he put me through over the years (and money he cost me).

Unfortunately, he tried to use it as a way to keep in contact with me and keep my attention on him even though I’ve asked him to leave me alone and give me space on numerous occasions. Because of this, I took the Instagram account back (this is what we got into the argument about…he was not happy!) I will continue running all of the other social media accounts as well.

The Real Mission

Partners in Fire is moving forward from breaking up, but the mission remains the same. Partners in Fire is about all of us partnering together to achieve our dreams, whether that be early retirement, financial independence, or some other financial win. We are all in this together, and my goal with this blog has always been to help others see that they can achieve their goals and live life on their own terms. Let’s do it together!

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