Essentialism: The mindful pursuit of quality

It's been quiet around here for the past few months. Generally when things go dormant at Get Rich Slowly, that's not a good sign. It usually means that I've sunk into the depths of depression, the pit of despair.

I'm pleased to report that in this case, that's not the issue. In this case, the opposite has happened. Lately, life is grand. During the past three months, I've been diligently working to eliminate the net negatives from my life while also emphasizing those things that are essential. To that end, I've:

  • Recorded, edited, and published nearly 50 YouTube videos. These are rough, and I know it, but I'm learning from them — and having fun.
  • Given up alcohol. And recently, I've given up pot. I'm experimenting with complete sobriety for a while.
  • Lost nearly twenty pounds through simple, sensible eating (and calorie counting). This morning, I weighed in at 186.8, down 17.4 pounds since I started on July 28th.
  • Cleaned and organized nearly every space in my life, "editing" my belongings in an attempt to cut back to the essentials.
  • Worked hard in the yard. I've built a fence with one neighbor and am starting another fence with a second neighbor. Plus, I've continued our landscaping projects.
  • Begun reading again for pleasure. Yay!
  • And much, much more.

I've had a busy three months. And while, yes, I've had a few bouts of depression, they've been minor and brief. Mostly, I've been happy and productive.

Not much of that productivity has been directed at this website, and I'm okay with that. I know there's plenty of personal finance inside me ready to be shared in due time.

Meanwhile, it's been rewarding to devote so much time to essentials, to the core concerns of my life.

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GRS Insider #92: Racism is not a political issue. Racism is a MORAL issue.

Yesterday, as I do most Fridays, I sent the GRS Insider to folks who subscribe to the Get Rich Slowly email list.

The email was unusual. It was more like a blog post than a simple summary of recent articles. I've had several people request a version they can share with other people, so -- this one time only -- I've created a stand-alone web version.

Parts of this have been edited slightly to account for the transition from email to web.

If you've been reading me for any length of time — or if you know me in person — you know that I hate conflict. I hate hate hate it. Some people seem to thrive on it. Not me. I shirk from it.

This is one reason I've steadfastly kept my financial writing politically neutral. I don't want conflict.

It helps that I'm neither liberal nor conservative. I'm some strange mix of the two. But mostly it's because I think financial advice is important for everyone regardless of political persuasion. It's rare that I take a stand on something political.

Because of who I am and what I believe, Get Rich Slowly will never become a political platform. (It'll touch on politics occasionally, but politics will never be a driving force at the site.)

That said, I'm mad as hell about not only the recent bout of racism in the U.S., but also the long history of racism that underpins our society. Something's gotta give. The current protests are 100% justified and they're not acts of terrorism. They're a call for action. What sort of action? I have no idea. I don't have solutions. But the problem is plain as day and it must be addressed. We, as a nation, must — at long last — deal with our history instead of sweeping it under the rug.

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January 2018: By the Numbers

I've been waiting a year for this day!

At the start of 2017, because I was worried about lifestyle inflation, I began tracking my expenses for the first time in years. Using a rusty copy of Quicken 2007, I resumed updating the same budget database I've been using since February 2004.

After three months of tracking every penny I earned and spent, I had enough data to draw a conclusion: As much as Kim and I loved where we lived, our fancy neighborhood was costing us a small fortune. Our mortgage-free condo took more than $1000 per month to maintain (between HOA, insurance, and taxes). Meanwhile, I was forking out $500+ per month for groceries (and Kim was spending some too!) and $500+ per month for restaurants.

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Linchpin habits: Minimum effort for maximum results

A few weeks ago, I set a few goals for 2018, one of which was to run at least one mile every single day. Last week, that goal got derailed when I was diagnosed with pneumonia. The doctor ordered me not to run for at least ten days -- perhaps longer.

That's the bad news.

The good news is that I'm doing well with my other goals. I'm eating more plants. I'm reading for pleasure. And my alcohol consumption is way down.

You see, I had started to worry about my drinking. Over the past few years, alcohol has become a larger and larger part of my life. At the start of the year, I resolved to drink fewer than 500 servings of alcohol in 2018, which averages to about 10 drinks a week. This seems like an awful lot to some people, but trust me: It's a sharp reduction. It's less than half what I drank in 2017.

So far, so good. Through 23 days, I've consumed 22 alcoholic beverages (including eleven days with zero drinks). That puts me on pace for 350 drinks in 2018.

How have I managed to make such a drastic shift to my drinking habits? In reality, I've made only one change: I've stopped drinking beer.

I didn't realize it when I made my vow to give up beer for ninety days, but drinking beer is -- for me -- a "linchpin habit". Changing this linchpin habit has had a positive ripple effect throughout my entire life.

Beer taster platter in northern California

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More on the value of negotiating

Earlier today, I shared some tips on salary negotiation. Learning to negotiate your salary is one of the best ways to boost your income -- not just in the present, but over the course of your entire career. In fact, one 2010 study found that failing to negotiate on your initial salary can mean missing out on over half a million dollars in your lifetime.

But negotiation is a skill that can be used for more than seeking a higher salary. In the words of master negotiator Herb Cohen, "You can negotiate anything."

For a variety of reasons, a lot of folks in the U.S. hate haggling. They don't want to negotiate. If you're one of these people, that's fine. But you have to understand that by failing to negotiate, you're paying more than you need to.

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My 2017 year-end review

Hello, and welcome to 2018!

What a long, strange year was 2017. And what a perfect example of just how tough it can be to predict where life will take you.

Twelve months ago, Kim and I were firmly ensconced in our penthouse condo in southeast Portland. We had recently returned from our 15-month RV trip across the United States. After a long stretch struggling to re-acclimate to every day life, both of us had developed routines. She was working regularly at several local dental practices, while I had found my groove writing at Money Boss.

Hard at work with MMM in the condo

When I sat down to do my 2016 year-end review, I found that I'd earned $4233.36 in revenue from blogging. My goal for 2017 was to triple revenue. I also wanted to write 120 articles -- about one every three days. Lastly, I intended to track every penny I earned and spent during the year, and to report about my financial habits for everyone to see.

As regular readers know, things didn't go as planned.

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A Home Owner’s Guide to Refinancing Your Mortgage

mortgage loan refinancing

Low mortgage rates unleashed a massive wave of refinancing that was a windfall for millions of consumers, but what will happen once those unusually low mortgage rates are gone? Will refinancing mortgage loans effectively be sidelined as a financial resource for home owners?

While the opportunity to lower your interest rate may be the most compelling reason to refinance, it is just one of several. Refinancing can accomplish different things for different people, and the more you are aware of what refinancing can do, the more likely you are to be able to use it to your advantage.

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5 Ways to a Lower Mortgage Payment, According to a Realtor

lower mortgage loan payment

Are you buying a home soon? If you are, then you probably want to get the most for your money at the lowest cost, including your monthly mortgage.

Since mortgage loans are the way most people buy homes today, it's important to know how to get the lowest mortgage payment possible.

5 Ways to a Lower Mortgage Payment, According to a Realtor

What many home buyers may not understand is that until a mortgage is finalized and closed, most home buyers have some control over what their monthly mortgage payment will be.

Shop Around for a Mortgage

Lenders tend to look at a lot of similar factors when they consider a home loan application. They examine your income, assets, debt, employment history and credit record to decide what kind of candidate you are for a mortgage loan.

However, you would be mistaken to assume that every lender will offer you the same loan terms. Many would-be home buyers seem to make this erroneous assumption, 77 percent of borrowers only apply to one lender.

If you want to know what is the best loan you can get, invest the time and a little money into researching and applying to a few different lenders. You may save thousands by getting a loan with a lower interest rate, or other more favorable terms.

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11 Years On: Why I’m Still Glad We Bought Our Mexican Home

A photo of a road with a jogger

In 2005, my husband and I bought an old house in the center of Guanajuato, Mexico. I wrote a post about it for Get Rich Slowly at the time.

The benefits -- some of which we didn't foresee when we bought the house -- are many: having a stable investment during economic uncertainty in the U.S, especially the 2008 downturn; a potential future home if I'm widowed; enhanced fitness simply by walking everywhere; a community of both Mexican and expat friends to broaden our outlooks; and access to a world of home-exchange opportunities as a result of having an attractive home in a beautiful city.

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