Renting out your home for a couple of weeks a year is an easy side hustle and you can do it without paying any taxes.
Last week brought us #GivingTuesday. A few years ago, I suppose in an effort to jump on the bandwagon of wallet-emptying that is Thanksgiving-Black Friday-Small Business Saturday-Cyber Monday-Whathaveyou, charitable organizations decided that the Tuesday after Thanksgiving would be a great day to solicit most of their donations for the year. Did I give? Yes. I contributed to a friend’s Facebook campaign for his nonprofit and also threw some money at ESI Money’s matching contributions campaign. However that wasn’t all or even a significant portion of the money I’ve given to support good work in the world this year.
In keeping with my primary financial goal of 2019, I have increased my giving immensely. In fact, as of this writing, we have given 513% more to organizations we believe are doing good and individuals in need than we did last year. That sounds impressive, but my giving is still not where I’d like it to be. However, it is much closer to what I wanted than it was before! Funny how imperfect action leads to more progress than perfect inaction. We have increased our charitable giving while continuing to reduce our debt, even though it would make more mathematical sense to have sent that money to our debtors first and give more once out of debt. But personal finance isn’t always just about math.
Let’s acknowledge the elephant: Giving can be a difficult topic to write about in the personal finance community. Regular folks, like my husband, think you are bragging if you write about the money you give. Giving often puts you on the receiving end of large quantities of solicitations for more giving, which can feel a bit odd. Didn’t I just give you money? Clearly I know how to do so. If I want to, I will contribute in the same way I just did. Sheesh! To further complicate the issue, people interested in personal finance tend to be very good at conserving their financial resources. This tends to manifest in excuses not to give in two ways: 1) they convince themselves that they are more efficient with their giving if they amass as much as possible and then give later and 2) they often get caught up in chartiy analysis paralysis want to know everything about an organization to which they are sending hard-earned cash. Finally, giving, like personal spending, is very, very personal and should be connected with your fundamental values–your politics, spirituality, and beliefs. If I promote a charitable organization, you know something meaningful and vulnerable about me; something most bloggers would rather not share for fear of criticism of that dearly-held part of the soul.
Look, I’ve been there with all of those emotions and feelings around giving. I’ve always been generous with my time and told myself I’d give “later,” when we were in a better financial situation or found the “perfect” charity. How much good is my money really doing, I would wonder. Penny has written eloquently about the doubts you might have when giving or writing about your giving. But in the end, I’m inspired by others who make giving a priority, even as they build wealth. I was raised by people who gave generously of their time to others, resources to family, and served the public good through their work. I have generally done the same. Now, I’m also all about giving money, too. Even as we pursue debt repayment.
Of course, the reality is that we have more than enough and can easily build giving into our budget. This year, I just up and called “bullshit” on myself and started to give. Not a lot–mostly $5-$25 here and there–but enough that I started appearing on “donor” lists and was even featured as a donor on the public library’s social media campaign in September. Over the course of the year, those little bits here and there can make a big difference to small, community organizations. It’s tempting to spend a lot of time analyzing where to put your funds, but I think it’s more important to just start.
I found some great benefits to my health, finances, and spiritual life through giving that I’ll share:
- Giving helped me feel in touch with my values and community. I let go of a lot of guilt because I’m confident that I’m doing what I can.
- Giving helped control mindless spending. I was very intentional about choosing to donate rather than buying a lunch out or a shiny bauble.
- Giving shifted my mindset to an abundance mindset. We have enough. We have more than enough.
- Giving made my money more purposeful. Nothing makes you feel quite so aimless with your money as you are when you are paying off debt. I already purchased and did the things I borrowed for. However, giving felt more immediate.
- Giving helped me manage complicated emotions about terrible situations in the world. I got angry a lot this year. About friends who died too soon. About homelessness in my community. About political changes to immigration and abortion policies. About children who were born in the wrong zip code, country, or family to ensure access to food, medical care, and education. Giving to an organization doing the work to make it better helped more than ranting on social media.
Here is every organization we gave to in 2019:
- Frederick County Public Libraries
- Frederick Community Action Agency
- Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick
- Frederick County Animal Control (in memory of a friend who passed)
- Maryland Ensemble Theater
- YMCA of Frederick County
- COIPP (Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership)
- I Believe in Me
- Able & Willing
- United Way of Frederick County
- Community Foundation of Frederick
- Frederick County Public Schools Lunch Debt Fund
- Frederick Classical Charter School
- Walkersville Elementary School
- St. Mary’s College of Maryland
- Walkersville High School Track Team
- Mental Health Association of Frederick County
- Community Crisis Services, Inc.
- The Salvation Army Intermountain Division (through ESI’s matching)
- Flint Child Health and Development Fund
- Immigration Legal Resource Center
- Freedom For Immigrants
- Immigrant Families Together
- National Organization for Women
- Alice’s Kids
- Polaris Project
- Reach Out and Read
I also donated goods, time, and services to several other organizations through work, etc. We also gave to GoFundMe’s/private fundraisers for medical emergencies/family tragedy, as we always do. I wouldn’t give to all of these organizations on a regular basis, but they all do good stuff. Mostly for our community, but some more worldwide.
Finally, giving this year has served as a reminder for why we so badly need to get out of debt. We want to be able to give more while still saving responsibly for the future needs of our family. I encourage you to consider your plan for generosity and giving as you work towards your financial goals. Do you give? Feel free to reply in the comments.
It’s been a while since I’ve updated you on our Mortgage Pay-off progress. I was recently taking a good hard look at the numbers to see how we want to progress while still finding room in our budget to explore the world through travel or enjoy other experiences we’ve put on hold for quite some time in order to get ourselves out of debt for over a decade.
It’s hard to believe in 2009, we were in a far different place. We were right on the cusp of our first major financial meltdown, with a second meltdown to come a few years later. Despite all of that, I stumbled upon the notion of frugality and now here we sit about 10 years out from our first ruins and are in an amazing place far from where we were at that time.
We don’t use the typical cell phone plans. We keep our utilities to a minimum, and we’ve increased our income through side hustles and having multiple sources of income. We do 90% of all home improvement projects ourselves (sans roof replacement and HVAC), plus we do all of our home maintenance.
Not only do we have a nice home now, but we have two children and two crazy dogs as well. We drive newer cars that we plan to run into the ground, and we are able to save for retirement, save to pay off future goals, and also save to travel or expand our learning.
Children aren’t inexpensive, but we’ve found a way to bring in extra income in the past decade that’s helped us reach our financial goals a bit sooner than we thought possible. We’ve made it work well with increases to our food budget to include kiddos + my health issues with going gluten-free and incorporating as much organic produce and organic meats into our lives.
With the mortgage, we did not throw as much money at it the past year as I had originally hoped. We kept our regular additional payment to a minimum and didn’t put anything extra at all toward it. Instead, we saved up money to purchase a new hybrid car for Chris (he has long commutes) and cover the cost of travel this summer for two major trips. In addition, our Emergency Fund was tapped out at the start of 2019 due to replacing our roof AND our furnace and air conditioner that decided to go on us at the same time.
So far, this year wiped out a hefty chunk of change, but I can’t even believe we had that kind of capital even saved up! It still amazes me.
It’s been quite the most expensive year in our marital history, but in the end, we’re still coming out above the fray and able to fill our IRAs in January, plus continue to rebuild our Emergency Fund back to healthier levels.
In the coming year, I’ve decided to increase our regular principal additional payment each month to somewhat force a faster paydown than making that additional choice each month for what to send to the good ol’ bank. With this monthly increase, without paying anything additional, we should be done with our mortgage inside of eight more years. If we choose to add extra, that’ll drop that number of years significantly. Worst case scenario, I’ll reach our mortgage pay-off goal by the time I turn 45 years old. Best case, we’ll hit it sooner.
This simple plan to put more in our regular payment takes out the deep thought about savings vs. investing in that debt. It also makes our mortgage end up finishing up around the 15-year mark by choice. Plus, it allows us a little more freedom to still pay-down debt, while we decide how to use other income to travel, update our home, or send it to the mortgage.
So far, I feel confident this uptick will make a difference. In the past year, we’ve dropped down around $10,000 extra on our principal balance without tossing too much additional at the bill. In the coming year, we’ll drop the balance by almost $20,000! Each year, as the principal balance drops so does interest and it’s history
By this time next year, we’ll at least hit one of our next mortgage goals to get under $160,000! That’s a win.
Hey friends! It’s an exciting time of year with Christmas right around the corner but also because this blog is turning 5 years old.
It’s kind of crazy that 5 years ago at this time I was playing around with the idea of starting a blog, getting my hosting set up, and drafting blog posts.
It’s exciting to see where this journey has taken me and how it’s uncovered my passion for personal finance and helping people use money as a tool to improve their lives.
In honor of 5 years, I thought it would be fun to highlight my top 5 most-viewed blog posts, 5 of my personal favorite posts, and 5 things I’ve learned about money and life these past few years.
Top 5 Posts
- 75 Free Things To Do This Weekend
- How to Eat Well With a $300/month Grocery Budget
- How I Raised My Credit Score By 150 Points
- Frugal Wedding Series: How to Afford Your Dream Day
- 80+ Extra Income Ideas That Don’t Suck
My 5 Favorites
(Definitely hard to narrow this down!)
- My Journey to Defeating Poverty
- How I Started Living Intentionally (Without Even Realizing It)
- Reflections on Paying My Student Loans Off in Less Than 3 Years
- 30 Frugal Ways to Spoil Your Spouse
- Why I Took a Debt Payoff Break
Be sure to enter my blog anniversary giveaway. I’m giving away some extra holiday cash to one lucky person, along with 3 t-shirts from my new collection.
Here’s How it Works
You’ll have the rest of this week to enter. Do as many tasks as you can add more entries which will increase your chances of winning. On Monday, December 16th I’ll announce a winner and give out the prizes.
5 Tips on Money and Life
Finally, I’ll leave you with 5 tips I’ve learned about money and life. I always find it interesting to learn from other’s experiences and borrow from their wisdom. Whether you blog or not, have debt or not, these money and life lessons will likely still apply to you.
1. Your goals will change…and you should expect them to
We’re all growing and evolving. This means our goals will change. My financial goals have changed so many times. I still prioritize getting rid of debt but I’m also focused on doing so many other things with my money and adjusting my goals to fit my family’s lives and all the changes we’re experiencing.
With this blog, I’ve set plenty of goals as well that have changed over time. I think it’s important to be firm and work diligently to reach your goals but it’s also okay to pivot and make wise adjustments as well if you feel you should shift your focus.
2. Comparing yourself to others makes no sense
No two people are alike so it really makes no sense to compare your journey or success with someone else. There have been times when I compared myself to someone who’s in a similar boat and started to beat myself up over the things I wasn’t doing better or ‘right’.
I realized that when you’re truly focused on living in your purpose and making moves, there’s no time to compare dwell on what someone else is doing. That time that you spend feeling inadequate can be better spent doing something productive.
3. Daily habits matter
I’m still working on this one, but it’s a fact I realized that is crucial to anyone’s success with money and life. To get that exciting end result, you have to focus on daily habits and the small steps you take throughout your journey.
4. Time is more important than money
It’s true. You can always make more money but you can’t make more time. This is why I’m working hard to use my money strategically to create more time.
I don’t want to be working all day long and I’m sure you don’t either. Get financially savvy and make your money work for you!
5. Fear can really hold you back
We all have fears. That’s the point. The key is to not let fear control you or hold you back. I just launched a YouTube channel today and getting in front of a camera used to be something that terrified me. I still don’t have the perfect camera presence (if that’s even a thing).. but I’ve learned to face my fears so I never have to say “what if I would have done _____” It also helps that I’m not taking myself too seriously.
I’m going to have moments where I mess up or miss the mark but that’s all about growing and a natural part of life.
Plus, if the moves you’re making don’t secretly scare you, what are you even doing?
Whether you’ve been reading for years or just found this blog, please feel free to comment below and let me know one thing you love about visiting this site or a topic you’d like me to cover in a post or YouTube video in the near future.
Speaking of which, my YouTube channel went live today! Subscribe and check out the channel here, or you can view my first video below
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The post My Debt Epiphany is Turning 5! (Holiday Giveaway Details) appeared first on My Debt Epiphany.
I have guest post today, its Nate Matherson from LendEDU. He will discuss about the benefits graduating from college debt free and how much you save from the compounded costs of student loans. It shows that graduating with no student loans gives you freedom on not having the burden on having some sort of repayment […]
Yeah, getting turned down for a credit card isn’t a good feeling.
It doesn’t matter that Lisa and I each have credit scores of over 800. It doesn’t matter that we have plenty of credit cards already and don’t really need another.
We also have more of an unused credit line spanned across all our cards than we’ll never need. And then, of course, there’s that little piece of info that we’ve saved up enough money that we never have to work again – we’d be very low-risk to default.
But it doesn’t matter.
It still sucks when you get turned down for a credit card. When the online application screen changes and tells you’ve been declined, it’s a small punch in the gut… ouch. Then do that four times and see how it feels.
So let’s talk a little bit about what transpired and why it’s not the end of the world.
Chasing travel rewards
In early 2018, after realizing the benefits of travel rewards, I put us on a path we’d never been down before. I proposed to Lisa that we strategically apply for credit cards in an effort to take advantage of the sign-up bonuses.