Author Topic: Mustachian(s) in wait? Or a 'case without a case' (yet).  (Read 2250 times)

PhDifferent

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Mustachian(s) in wait? Or a 'case without a case' (yet).
« on: March 31, 2013, 07:38:58 AM »
Hello folks of the Mustachian variety!

First time posting. (Hello!).
I have been reading the blog and forum for about a month now. I've learned lots and have started undoing the mental 'knotted ball of yarn' that was the financial (not nearly enough) sense part of my brain; a lot of un-learning the things that I grew up with. However, much of the advice here seems to be for folks who have some things sorted out: house/living arrangements, job(s) etc. Are there any 'mustachians in waiting'? Those that are in transition of some kind? (i.e. finishing up school).

Quick backstory:

I'm 30 and in the last year of my PhD (Political Science/International Relations/Security studies are my 'fields'). I'm currently the recipient of a small research grant and I work part-time in a hunting department - I'm a hunter, and it was low-key and flexible enough that it allowed me to travel to see my fiancÚ once a month. I also have stipulations about how much I can work and still receive the grant.  I'm not including a terribly detailed budget as I don't have much coming in, or going out. More trying to get a sense of 'how I'm doing' and what to watch out for and/or keep up once I really get started upon graduation, job, etc.

* More context and events on the horizon:

- I'm getting married next month. My fiancÚ is American and lives in the US, I'm Canadian. We're about 6hrs apart by car, though I take the bus down once a month since I can stay longer as my work is more flexible. We're paying for the wedding ourselves, but since neither of us wanted a big 'to do' it hasn't been a huge cost. We're going to a resort in Jamaica to have the ceremony/honeymoon and it will be just the two of us. We'll have a small dinner with close friends and family once we're back, and we should 'come out ahead' on that one. My dress is something I can wear again (not a traditional dress, and not expensive), I insisted my engagement ring (since he wanted to get me one that wasn't just a simple band) be an aquamarine or other such stone, since I thought it was silly to spend so much on a shiny rock. I think we did a pretty good balance here, since the way I see it - it's not the getting married that's important, it's the being married. And it's sure helpful when you don't start out with huge wedding-debt!

- I'll be leaving my job in two weeks (but, can have it back come August/September when it's closer to hunting season again) to spend a good chunk of time in the US and (hopefully!) be done my dissertation. I need time off to sit and focus and just get it done. I will still have some income from my grant. 

- Immigration: This will cost us somewhere around $1500 (plus moving costs) by the time it's all said and done. I will likely move to where he is, as he has a stable-ish job and I'm the 'blank slate', just starting out. Neither of us have kids and we don't plan on having any, so we're pretty flexible when it comes time to 'get up and go' and move elsewhere. The earliest I'll be moving there will be May 2014 (since immigration takes awhile). Until then I will be taking whatever work I can get and saving/paying down student loan, and hopefully couch-surfing at my sisters place in the city so I can work more.

* Things in the past that have not been terribly Mustachian (all of which happened before finding MMM) and/or could be a disadvantage:

- I have been a university student for 10 years. This has reduced my earning years as while I was in my studies I averaged about $13,000.00/year take-home (so there wasn't much wiggle room for savings), which is about $6000 below the official Canadian poverty line. I took on student loans (see below), even though I worked during both my undergrad and graduate studies.

- I went a little overboard with gifts this year. I 'come by this honestly' as it was common in my family to buy gifts one could just barely afford (which is to say, can't afford!) to show love. I've since realized this mistake and flawed way of thinking and can do better next time.

- Upon receiving part of my grant, I updated my computer (had an 7 year old desktop that sounded like it was going to fly away when I turned it on) and got a Macbook. I do, however, use it for my writing and research (and love Scrivener, which was Mac specific for awhile). Still, I didn't *need* a $1100 computer. A new computer - yes, but didn't have to spend that much. To add another 'punch me in the face' - I also got an iPad 2 (wasn't getting suckered into the 3, or is it 4 now?). I will say - I don't have any games or anything on it, I primarily use it to annotate journal articles with iAnnotate and then email them to the main computer for use when writing. Annotating with a stylus pen on a tablet is easier/more comfortable than on a computer. Still, my learning experience from this has been that I am/was susceptible to 'hey, you have a bit of extra $ now! You haven't for sooOooOoOoo long! You should *totally* spend it on something!'. Again, realized a little late. But, realized nonetheless.

- Coffee and eating out while at work. The little things really *DO* add up! I wasn't able to save as much as I would have liked because of this. Much of it was used as an excuse just to 'get out' of the building. I've since nixed it and will keep this in mind for future jobs.

* Things that are pretty Mustachian:

- Of what little income I have, I've been paying down some of my student debt even though I don't have to, repayment and interest doesn't start until 6mo after the end of studies. The total loan was $34,500.00 (not bad for a decade of school, I suppose) - I will have it paid down to $29,500.00 come September. Worst case scenario (full time min-wage job rather than a better paying one), by March 2014 (when I 'have to' start paying back my loans) I should have it down by another 5G-ish. So, down to $24,000.00.

- I have no other debt. No credit card debt, no car loan...

- Because I don't have a car! I do have a bike (2012 KHS Brentwood). I've been so used to living in cities where I'd walk or take the bus. Currently I'm in a small town where I walk or bike. When I move to be with (then) husband, I may have to get a car depending on where we live/how close to work it is, etc. I'm going to do my best to totally avoid that (since I've been doing well without a car so far!), but if I have to - it'll be an old car bought outright.

- Savings: I currently have $1500 saved. I know, it isn't much. By September I'll have $3000 and, again, worst case scenario by March I'll have closer to $8000. I know I *could* throw all of this at my loan and drop it further, but I want to have some cushion for when I move.

- I'm pretty used to living on a low level of income. I have no qualms about not having cable, going out to eat (since I love to cook, I'm pretty good at it and can stretch a food budget!), and don't spend much on 'lady stuff' (no manicures, minimal makeup, I use a safety razor to shave, I have a years+ worth of oil for face-washing, etc). So, now that I recognize I have to check the 'hey, you have extra $' novelty, I'm sure that I can live on the cheap and get my debt paid off fast and save as well.

* Things that are 'all in my head' but could impact my Mustachian journey:

- Healthcare costs. This is a big one to me, as a Canadian, I feel some sense of dread and fear about wading into that when I move State-side. I'm young and in good health, but this is something that floats around in my brain and would likely fall into the potential to spend more $ than necessary to mitigate an unlikely risk. 

- What will I do? For a job, I mean. The prospects of a tenure-track/tenured professorship are pretty slim these days, no matter the PhD background. So, I have a (what I'm sure is a totally irrational!) fear of ending up at McDonalds. I know there are other things I can do with the skills I've picked up, I know how to live on less and can be rather resourceful. However, I also know this fear can (and likely does) hold me back from fully exploring my options and meeting my full potential. Anyone else experience something like this?

Whew! That was wordy. So - What would you established mustachians say to me, things to keep in mind, how would you 'do it over' if you could (...and if you were me!)?

Thanks folks!

 

matchewed

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Re: Mustachian(s) in wait? Or a 'case without a case' (yet).
« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2013, 07:50:33 AM »
Hi PhDifferent and welcome.

Everyone here is in some sort of transition. We're all mustachians in waiting some are at different points, but make no mistake in thinking that everyone has everything figured out. Take some time in the forum, you'll find tons of people asking for advice on major life decisions. And don't worry too much about doing something differently in the past. Lay out what your options are for the future and what you are doing presently.

From what I'm seeing you have approximately 30k in debt from your student loan and concerns about employment. What do you want to do? What sort of things interest you?

PhDifferent

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Re: Mustachian(s) in wait? Or a 'case without a case' (yet).
« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2013, 08:59:03 AM »
Thanks for the welcome!

Yes, true enough - life is very rarely (if ever!) settled. I suppose what I was getting at was it often seems like while there is much transition and advice around what do do with a current budget, much of that necessitates having employment as opposed to 'just starting out'. Still, you're right - plenty of posts on various big life decisions and transitions. As for my reflections on the past, it was to own-up to some not so great moves on my part and what I've learned from them - which will help with future decisions and options. I haven't punched myself in the face too much over them. Currently - I'm paying down that debt, saving some for the long-term, and keeping other spending low. Not very many exciting things going on there, or areas for adjustment.

You've got the gist of it: -30K and a little unsure of what I'll be doing career wise. What I would like to do? Work! Okay, that's the 'fear of being unable to pay off my debt' talking.
I would like to teach (or to parse it down to its roots - share information, question assumptions and explore why we 'think the way we do' about various things). I do enjoy it and while I was a TA running tutorials (mini-lectures, if you will) I always enjoyed that; and according to my TA evaluations - I was pretty good at it too. However, I also know I don't need to be a university prof to teach. I've done editing work for an academic journal in the past, research assistance, as well as a program officer for a non-profit NGO. I enjoyed those as well. Given my area of study, I'm a bit of a political junkie and would like to be involved in politics on some level: policy analyst, think-tank, local-level politician and/or political aid, or a not-for-profit organization. While it wasn't what I ended up choosing as a dissertation topic, my two areas of 'passionate interest' are health/social policy, and environmental/natural-resources. I think a large degree of uncertainty also comes from knowing I'll be moving to a different country (and different political/policy context, should I want to work in those areas). I feel a bit caught between needing to get done what needs doing 'now' (and thusly putting everything else aside for the moment, so I can focus) and exploring my future options so I can hit the ground running once it's time to get going.

matchewed

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Re: Mustachian(s) in wait? Or a 'case without a case' (yet).
« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2013, 09:26:32 AM »
Okay so you've got about a year until you emigrate to the US. That gives you one year to figure things out.

Given the interests you've listed I'd look into teaching opportunities there. Determine what you need to do at whatever level catches your fancy; you mentioned that you do not necessarily need to teach university, so look at other opportunities within education and find out what you may need for them.

Your experience seems to show that you have some decent skill sets for government work and non-profit work, is the city you'll be moving to big enough where you can explore opportunities in those areas?

Break it up into small chunks just like you said. Figure out what needs to be done now (keep paying down debt while saving for move/wedding). And break the future stuff out (research universities/non-profits/NGO's and other employment opportunities in the city to be). If all else fails McDonald's is going nowhere. ;)

grantmeaname

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Re: Mustachian(s) in wait? Or a 'case without a case' (yet).
« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2013, 09:26:49 AM »
Here's the best advice I've seen for people in our situation:
Quote from: AJ
focus on keeping the "big 5" expenses low (housing, food, transportation, taxes, and insurance...but the last two should be easy for now) and getting really good at your job.