Author Topic: Dealing with big setbacks and little victories  (Read 4418 times)

grantmeaname

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Dealing with big setbacks and little victories
« on: August 17, 2012, 07:58:09 AM »
[angst]

What do you do when you've got a week filled with tiny victories and huge expenses? I'm super grumpy this week, because I'm having this totally atypical time with expenses I can do nothing about! By the end of this month I'll have spent well over a third of my (miniscule) net worth. Boo!

I've got a handful of little two dollar victories, like moving for only the cost of gas (and owing friends major brownie points), deciding to make laundry detergent this year in the new place, being able to keep the AC off all week due to cool night temperatures, a challenge not to go out to eat more than once in four months, and some free nice furniture from my parents. We'll be eating less meat this year, and we're making a bunch of changes like that to trim the tiny budget even further. Great news, right? No.

On the other side of the balance sheet, there's $800/semester of new fees due to studying in a different college at my university. There's one professor's insistence on assigning a book released a month ago with mandatory publisher web portal access, and another's insistence on using an OSU-only version of a textbook, which together mean I've spent more this month on textbooks than my entire undergrad career up to now as I can't use any of my textbook hacks. (Maybe the 2010 edition and the unmodified edition used at every other university are hopelessly out of date now and inadequate, respectively. Or maybe the students' best interests aren't the only consideration. Hmm...)  My hopes to travel overseas for Christmas with my girlfriend's family are being flustered by plane tickets going up over $100/person the day we planned on buying them after we tracked them for two weeks with no change. (And in the two weeks we've been waiting for a change since then, they've stayed about the same. Maybe we should just pull the trigger...)

These are little problems compared to the budgets of people who make more than minimum wage, but with my peensy Americorps salary (which I won't miss), $800 is nearly a month's pay, or two months' savings at a 50% savings rate. Intellectually I know I'm on the right track, but I'm just so agitated about it all! Do any of the more experienced Mustachians have tips to keep me from pulling my hair out?

[/angst]

cparlette

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Re: Dealing with big setbacks and little victories
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2012, 08:31:20 AM »
I think for the books and education-related expenses, if you're doing what you can to save money, maybe try to think of it as necessary expenses for bettering yourself and improving your career?  I know that's easier said than done, but for both of your big things, spending money on education and family seems like 2 very good uses of your money.  If you save what you can when you can, then having to spend a little more on those categories seems like you've got your priorities in the right place, even if it was unexpected.

That may not help much right now, but I think you might look back on these as areas where you spent on things you care about, rather than just wasting money.  Hope this helps!

JohnGalt

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Re: Dealing with big setbacks and little victories
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2012, 08:52:12 AM »
Just keeping looking towards the future, because that's what you're spending on.   

I would assume that, after you finish school, your income will increase significantly.  So, maybe $800 is 2 months of savings right now - but when you're done with Americorps (other than the pay, how do you like that by the way?  I've considered Americorp/Peace Corps a few times - might still do Peace Corps after I hit FI to let my 'stache grow another couple years before I start touching it) and school and are earning more (assuming you keep similar expenses), that $800 might be more like half a month's savings that you actually spent on getting towards that higher income level.

grantmeaname

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Re: Dealing with big setbacks and little victories
« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2012, 09:10:32 AM »
for both of your big things, spending money on education and family seems like 2 very good uses of your money.  If you save what you can when you can, then having to spend a little more on those categories seems like you've got your priorities in the right place, even if it was unexpected.
That's a really helpful way to think about it. Thanks!

(other than the pay, how do you like that by the way?  I've considered Americorp/Peace Corps a few times - might still do Peace Corps after I hit FI to let my 'stache grow another couple years before I start touching it)
I'm pretty cynical (one of the only big things MMM and I differ on), so the appeal to 'community' that's central to Americorps is pretty cloying for me and not an idea I fully subscribe to. The corps I'm a member of is run by a history museum, not a social service nonprofit, so it's been a really fascinating opportunity to evaluate a potential type of work in my field (I was an anthro major studying Ohio archaeology and now I'm anthro+accounting), as well as observe the nonprofit sector and see how a history organization partners with other parts of the sector and makes the case for itself as an engine of economic development. That's been fascinating. In the meantime, it's been my first experience working in a cube (instead of a restaurant or a museum's collections facility), and I've spent a lot of my time on professional development, so it's been a real resume booster. If I did Americorps a second year, I would likely work for Habitat for Humanity because it's fun, a water-quality corps in southeast Ohio's strip mine regions, or a rural financial literacy corps across the state.

If you do Americorps, you could think about finding a way to take out $5500 in student loans first- get a 1-year culinary or auto maintenance certificate, or something. You make just under $7 an hour but at the end of your service you get a $5500 lump sum to use for educational expenses or paying off student loans, which brings the pay up from $12.1k to $17.6k, or from $7 to $10.35 an hour. There's also healthcare and childcare benefits, but they try and be so bureaucratic that you can't take advantage of them, which I find more than a little scummy. The $7/hr regular stipend is enough that even a moderately-mustachian person can save some of their income (I'm not impressive and I manage it), but my coworkers and colleagues are really feeling the squeeze with their iPhones and clubbing.

Quote
that $800 might be more like half a month's savings that you actually spent on getting towards that higher income level.
This is especially true given that my higher educational expenses come from studying accounting instead of anthropology. Because accountants are the kinds of people who have jobs.

spider1204

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Re: Dealing with big setbacks and little victories
« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2012, 10:42:50 AM »
Even as the most frugal of college student's there's only so much you can expect to save, especially if you aren't getting help from parents.  Your obviously know that your on the right track but have decided there are a few things that are worth doing right now that will set you back a little bit, but probably won't be that significant compared to what you will make after graduation.  Also, traveling with your girlfriend overseas is definitely an awesome experience that will be worth every penny.

arebelspy

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Re: Dealing with big setbacks and little victories
« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2012, 11:06:16 AM »
Do any of the more experienced Mustachians have tips to keep me from pulling my hair out?

Perspective.  Taking a look at the big picture.

Right now the savings you do will be mostly minuscule.  If you come out of college debt free and with (say) 10k in the bank, that's awesome, but it's fairly small potatoes compared to what you will be doing. That 10k that took you your whole college years to save up (along with, you know, paying for college and living expenses and not getting into debt) will be maybe 2-3 months' salary soon.

What you are doing right now is not saving a bunch of money, but forming a habit.  By having these expenses annoy you, instead of brushing them off and charging them (along with some expensive consumer item to make you feel better about the spending you had to do), you're setting a long term Mustachian attitude.    That's the win.  These minor setbacks are irrelevant in comparison.

Now all of that helps you (hopefully), but only because of the stage you're in right now.  Here is, I think , the crux of your question the applies to every Mustachian, not just the ones whose current expenses are minuscule compared to future earnings:
What do you do when you've got a week filled with tiny victories and huge expenses?

And at that point, those huge expenses are a lot bigger numbers.  Maybe not 1/3 one's net worth, but a few month's salary can be a lot more money at that point. 

Again, the answer (for me) starts the same.  Big picture, and perspective.

I tell myself that these expenses are infrequent, things break, etc.  Sure, several things may come up at the same time, but it's not a big deal as they're so infrequent I won't be having to deal with them again for a long time.  Getting upset about it doesn't help.  Having a more stoic mindset sure does.

Probably my favorite poem ever is If, by Rudyard Kipling.  Every time I read it, a different line stands out to me.  The poem list all these ideals to try and live up to.  One line in particular came to mind while readingthis post and typing this reply:
Quote
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same

It's tough sometimes, but perspective makes all trials seem small.

(Also, I absolutely agree with spider, the overseas trip will be well worth it.  But I think you can wait longer on tickets for Christmas time, I'd bet they'll go back down.)
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Perpetual_Student

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Re: Dealing with big setbacks and little victories
« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2012, 11:13:53 AM »
As for the textbook, look at the publisher site and see if they sell online access separately.  Often that comes with an electronic copy of the actual textbook.  I have saved myself a lot of money that way.

Or if you NEED a physical copy, share one or use the one on reserve in the library.  Just buy online access.  $$ BILLZ

And of course sell your textbooks back.  If you want the best $$, do it yourself online instead of selling back to the bookstore.

tannybrown

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Re: Dealing with big setbacks and little victories
« Reply #7 on: August 17, 2012, 11:34:12 AM »
I'll echo what arebelspy posted.  It's a problem of perspective...I'd just look around at other students in similar situations and compare your financial muscles to theirs.  Then proceed to feeling awesome.

If this helps in that regard, I was a Bonner Leader in Americorps back in my undergrad days, and the only thing I left college with was debt. :(

kisserofsinners

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Re: Dealing with big setbacks and little victories
« Reply #8 on: August 17, 2012, 01:51:17 PM »
Your education in an investment...Hang in there.

The plane tickets might have a loop hole for you. I was able to get a refund when the tickets for my vacation dropped a few weeks after we bought them.

Kriegsspiel

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Re: Dealing with big setbacks and little victories
« Reply #9 on: August 17, 2012, 03:36:38 PM »

Or if you NEED a physical copy, share one or use the one on reserve in the library.  Just buy online access.  $$ BILLZ


Bam!  I never bought the textbooks if they were available in the library.  Second stage, I would go halves on one if I knew someone in the class.  And I even got a book stipend from the Army!