Can you live in a 90 sqft studio?

Felice Cohen has… for three years. Compared to her studio, I live in a 700 sqft mansion.

[via the Tiny House blog]

Thoughts on: The War on Work

I actually read this article when it was published at Get Rich Slowly two weeks ago but I haven’t gotten around to discussing it until now. It’s called The War on Work, and in the article we’re shown a video of a speech given by Mike Rowe, the host of Dirty Jobs. The speech is a bit long, and Mike goes off on a few tangents throughout, but I found his perspective on work to be very interesting and just different. Here’s a little summary from the entry at GRS:

Rowe notes that a lot of people say that you ought to “follow your passion”, and that if you do then things will work out. But that’s not always the case. Millions of people chase their dreams but never reach them. Meanwhile, millions more do work they’re not passionate about, but which brings them fulfillment (and sometimes riches) anyhow.

In his speech Rowe says that there are casualties in this War on Work, just like in any other war, and that there needs to be a change for us to be able to secure our future.

For one, the U.S. infrastructure is a shambles. To make matters worse, trade school enrollment is dropping fast, meaning we won’t have enough workers to rebuild that infrastructure. In order for this to change, we have to stop marginalizing work and start talking about the benefits.

This makes sense. Less people are going after jobs that require labor and studying for jobs that have them sitting behind a desk or making the big decisions. I don’t think anything is wrong with that, but there needs to be a balance and it looks like there won’t be one for long. The article goes on to list some benefits from work, all which are very logical, but that’s not what interested me about this speech.

What interested me about all of this is that Mike has a very realistic view on dreams, reality, and choice. Sometimes our passions don’t carry us through. Sometimes our dreams don’t come to fruition. And sometimes we will fail. So what is there to do? Give up? Settle? Try something else? Mike says that’s exactly what people should do, and in a way I agree with him.

Life is not perfect, and things don’t always end up like we want them to. Everyone knows this. There have been many plans I’ve made that never worked out, dreams that I’ve had to put on hold, and expectations that I’ve had to change to move on. Do I think people should go after their dreams? Of course. Should people pursue their passions? Definitely. But if neither of those work out, there should be a Plan B, just in case. Because you never know, that back up plan could be the dream job you never thought you’d be able to do. Maybe it’s destiny. Maybe it’s okay to fail. Maybe that’s the only way it’s going to be alright.

Have you ever had a dream that you couldn’t achieve or a plan that didn’t work out? What did you do?

Site Updates 10/01

I  have made some changes to the Budget page since I received news today that I landed a new job! It’s been a very exciting day today for me. I’ve been waiting for news about this job for about a month now!

I drafted a tentative budget because I don’t know 100% how much I’ll be making an hour (all I know is that the lowest amount is $9.18) so I just used the lowest possible numbers I could for now. I also changed the layout because I needed a bit more color around these parts! Have a great weekend everyone :)

My Life List

The inspiration for this entry came from a post in the Sustainable Life Blog. Basically a Life List is a list of things you’d like to do if you had extra money laying around. It’s been a few years since I’ve done a list like this, actually. I don’t even remember the things I had in my old list but I’m sure I’ll repeat myself at least once or twice here.

1. Travel. This is one of my favorite things to do. I’d like to visit at least 10 states: New York, Tennessee, Montana, Oregon, California, Texas, Hawaii, Alaska, Nevada, and Colorado and tons of other countries: Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, Australia, France, Sweden, and Greece.

2. Invest in properties. If I had a ton of money, this is one of the first things I would do: invest. The real estate market is obviously not in its best shape right now (in the United States, at least), but I still think real estate is a great investment. Whether it’s buying homes, condos, or a duplex to rent or purchasing a commercial property for leasing there’s good money to be made.

3. Purchase a home (or two). I like the idea of having a home already paid for on my own land and being able to sell it off if I ever needed to. It’s a great asset and one less thing to worry about.

4. Pay off my parent’s home. My mother is well on her way to doing this on her own, but if I had the money I would definitely do this as soon as I could. It would be one less stress on my parents and a nice little retirement gift on my part.

5. Donate to charities. This is one of the items on the Sustainable Life Blog, and I couldn’t agree more. Some charities I’d like to donate to are the Conservation Fund, Green Corps, Scholarship America, Second Harvest, and Habitat for Humanity.

With the exception of paying off my parent’s mortgage, I can definitely see myself completing all of these before I get old and gray. That just makes it more exciting. What’s on your Life List?

Sacrifice, Attitude, and Perspective

A few things have been buzzing around in my head this past week: patience, sacrifice, and perspective.

Paying off debt–really paying it off–is not easy. I know, I know, understatement of the century. If paying off debt was an easy task, a lot more people would be debt free. Every month I inch closer to the Big Day it feels like it gets harder and harder. It’s because this process takes time. It takes dedication. It takes balls to tackle the challenges that come with this process towards freedom, the main one being sacrifices.

In order to put more money towards paying down my debt I’ve had to let go of some things that I’ve always enjoyed:

  • Going to the movies
  • Dining out
  • Shopping for clothes, accessories, and beauty items
  • Being able to drive to more places without worrying about gas
  • Taking weekend getaways

I miss all of these things. While they didn’t add anything substantial to my life, they were nice to have. I’ve also had to postpone certain plans as well. Getting a newer car, for example. Furnishing my new apartment. Building an emergency fund. Traveling. These are all things that I wish I could do (or have) right away. I need to be patient, while trying to stay positive and hold my head above water, but it’s not always easy. I’m not perfect, I’m only human after all, and I do have my bad days like anyone else.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from this process is this: it’s all about attitude. Your attitude can make or break you. It can propel you forward, allow you to tackle challenges productively, and more importantly, it can influence your perspective.

So I try to keep that in mind. When I think about being debt free, and what that means for my future, the little sacrifices I’m making now don’t seem so bad. This isn’t going to be forever, but it will take some time. Being patient, keeping myself focused, and sacrificing things for the bigger picture will pay off in the end.

It’s this perspective that keeps me grounded and positive. And those are things I’m going to take with me even after I’m debt free.

Thoughts on: The “Perfect Salary for Happiness”

According to an American study, $75,000 a year is the ideal salary for the average American:

The magic income: $75,000 a year. As people earn more money, their day-to-day happiness rises. Until you hit $75,000. After that, it is just more stuff, with no gain in happiness.

[…] “Giving people more income beyond 75K is not going to do much for their daily mood … but it is going to make them feel they have a better life,” Mr. Deaton told the Associated Press.

The Wall Street Journal

I don’t know what anyone else thinks (I haven’t really read any other entries or articles on the subject), but I personally find this ridiculous.

Of course I understand that a lot of Americans might feel that more money equals more happiness, but I just don’t get this at all. $75,000 a year brings in about $6000 a month. For a single person, I think this is more than enough, in fact, I think this is twice as much as a person really needs. For $6000 I could live for three months very comfortably on my own. How can someone possibly need to have three times what I would need to feel happy and comfortable?

What are people spending this money on? I made a sample monthly budget with exaggerated numbers for one person to see what I could come up with:

  • Mortgage – $2500 (A two bedroom home)
  • Utilities/Cable/Etc. – $1000 (Cable package with the works, water, gas, electricity)
  • Car – $500 (This pays for a nice luxury vehicle)
  • Car/Health Insurance – $800 ($400 for health insurance that covers pretty much everything, $400 for car insurance if you somehow can’t drive or have gotten into car accidents)
  • Gas – $200 (For tons of driving around town)
  • Food – $400
  • Entertainment/Dining – $300 (Weekly movies, dinner out a couple of times a week, activities)

Total: $5200

Leaving a person with $750, which I imagine would go towards their debt, or savings, or anything else. Of course you could say that $6000 wouldn’t go very far for a house in California or New York, but I think this is an excuse. If I can afford a three bedroom home in Tennessee and only a one bedroom condo in L.A. for the same amount of money, I know where I’d rather be. The article doesn’t mention this though, so I’m going to skip it.

Now the budget above is for someone I feel has more than enough and spends a lot of money for basic things. I, for example, could live in a nice one bedroom condo for $1000, could drive a nice car for $300, could spend less on entertainment and eat in a lot more, could get cheaper health insurance by driving carefully, and certainly don’t need $400 a month to feed myself. After all of this I wouldn’t feel like I was missing all that much or was depriving myself of a nice lifestyle, and I would only need to make $2500 a month, which is more than half of what the average American feels they need to make to live.

The study doesn’t mention $75,000 for a family of four or a married couple, which leads me to believe it’s $75,000 per person, which makes me sad.

Of course, I think it all boils down to what a person feels is good enough. A new car a big house, and eating out a few times a week might help someone feel happy and successful. But I wonder if, after making all of this money and having all of these things, would they still feel the same three years from now? Five years from now? Why do people feel the need to attach self-worth to the things we own and the stuff we can buy?

If you took it all away, would that mean the end of happiness? If I make $35,000 a year, is happiness out of my reach? I definitely don’t think so. But apparently, I’m in the minority, and that’s the scariest thought of all.

Declutter Mini-Project #2: Pantry

I’ve finally finished the second mini-project: the pantry! I wish I had a Before picture of the pantry in our old apartment to show you. It was easily four times the size of the one we have now and it was about 70% full. It had two mirrored doors on one wall that opened on both sides (something like this but wider), and we filled up 70% of the right side with food and the other 30% had random things, appliances, linens, etc. It was ridiculously huge.

We knew that the new pantry wasn’t going to be big enough for all of the food we had already, so we gave most of it away, leaving us with two boxes of food (that was the first big decluttering project for us!). Giving that food away was the best thing we could’ve done. Most of the things we had in the old pantry hadn’t been used for weeks and was likely never to be used again, which is wasteful and makes me a little sad. It was a lesson learned, though; I put a lot more thought into what I buy at the grocery store now. We’ve done a couple of thoughtful shopping trips in the month we’ve been here and the pantry is being used regularly–something I’m very proud of.

Alright, that’s enough pantry talk! Now for the big reveal:

Ta-da! It’s a tiny pantry, isn’t it? I actually like that about it–it keeps me in check :) It’s not very organized, except for the last little shelf down at the bottom and half of the second to last shelf. Those hold all of my sister’s baking goods (she’s a pastry student). I’ve put the items that I use sparingly in the back, leaving room for those that I reach for the most in the front. That’s about it, as far as organization goes. I’m curious to know if anyone else has a ‘system’ they have in place?

This mini-project was a work in progress since we moved in, and we’ve been slowly adding things as we go. Right now it holds everything we need with space for more. I believe it’s the perfect size pantry for two people, and it works great for us.