Called on the Carpet

Published / by Annie / 4 Comments on Called on the Carpet

The other day I was scanning a customer’s items at work when one of my managers approached me.

“You’re due for your break now, aren’t you?” she asked.

“Whenever!” I chirped.

“Would you mind coming to the office before you clock out for it? We have something to discuss with you,” my manager asked.

“Um, sure.” I watched her block off my line, intrigued. The last time I had been called into the office had been to share that we did indeed have contactless payment options on our registers. My register had spit out an unusual slip so I had showed it to them and asked questions about that being a possible reason.

The faces of my two main managers were serious when I knocked on the door. “Have a seat.” They positioned a chair in the “hot spot” –an area directly between their two desks.

I frowned at the unexpected gesture. We aren’t normally invited to sit down in the office; we’re usually too busy. Had they discovered that I was looking for another job? I wondered. Glancing at the looks on their faces I reasoned that the conversation was not going to be a pleasant one as I waited for my managers to explain what was going on.

“First off, we want to thank you for all of the hard work you put in,” my manager began. “We really appreciate everything that you do.” She paused to give the other manager a look.

I began making a list of jobs I could apply for fast and quick in my head. Conversations that begin like that usually don’t end well. Something very not good had happened, I was certain. I didn’t know what it was, but the odds of me getting the axe were growing stronger the more my managers talked. Serious talk, on payday no less? I was fired. I didn’t know what I’d done, but I was definitely fired I realized.

I nodded politely, compiling my lists in my head, berating myself for allowing myself the luxury of running my bank account lower than normal while calculating the financial changes I’d have to make until I scored another job. The gears in my head were spinning so fast I’m surprised that I didn’t create a breeze.

Finally my boss dropped the bombshell. “…as a result, we’ve been discussing your performance with the owners for several weeks, and we’ve finally gotten permission to give you a fifty-cent raise. I’ll turn in the paperwork for it on Monday.”

I blinked. I had to replay her words in my head three times for the information to click. I looked between the two managers in surprise, certain I’d misheard.

They were both smiling.

I tossed my mental lists aside and smiled. “Thank you,” I responded quietly. “I hadn’t been expecting that.”

I was bemused as we finished up the conversation. I shook both of their hands formally in gratitude at the unexpected windfall and left to take my break.

That fifty cents doesn’t seem like much but it’s an extra $12.50 on a normal week before taxes. I can do a lot with $12.50. If I pick up extra shifts when people call in and hustle on this blog, I can make it when the kid moves out. It might be tighter than I like, but I can make it.

I’ll even be able to invest a little.

Let this be a lesson, folks. When times seem rough, when you don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel, something positive is invariably around the bend. With this pay increase I no longer need to worry about actively searching for a full-time position. I can use the time instead to focus on this website and my studies.

Life is good.

Have you received any positive news lately? Please share your stories in the comments below.

 

The Fear of Being Wrong

Published / by Annie / 2 Comments on The Fear of Being Wrong

I ran my bank account a bit lower than I like at the end of August. It was a deliberate choice; not only did I want to give my daughter one last, really nice birthday in light of the fact it may be the last one I spend with her, it was the last time I would have free trading on my investment account. That said, at the end of the month I took my book royalties, chipped in a bit more from my checking account to round it out, and sent the money to Merrill Edge.

And I choked. I completely choked. I didn’t break down and sob like a baby but I had to force myself to sit back, close my eyes, and breathe for several minutes to slow my heart rate before I made my monthly stock purchase.

I mean, what if I’m wrong? What if the criteria I’m using to invest is completely incorrect? What if I lose every penny of the money I’ve scrimped and saved? I’m blinking tears from my eyes right now as I think about it. I don’t know if it’s just hormones. I don’t know if it’s simply the fear of doing something new. I don’t know what is causing this.

All I know is that, right now, the thought is scary.

But I’m not going to stop. I’ve started this path. I’ve set my goal and by golly I’m going to see this through to the bitter end. If I lose it all I’ll just start over. If I don’t do this, if I don’t at least try I know for a fact that I will be doomed to working a public job for the rest of my life, and I don’t want that. What’s the point in struggling so hard if you don’t have at least the hope of a better life in the future?

There is no point if I don’t have hope. I am going to do whatever it takes to achieve financial freedom.

Regardless of my demons.

Investment Update

Published / by Annie / 2 Comments on Investment Update

The other day I closed out my books for the month of August. Here are the numbers:

Beginning Balance: $1,340.61

Dividends received: $20.46
Personal Investment: $286.00
————————————————

Total Invested in the stock market: $1,647.07

August was a tight month. I had to set aside some funds to celebrate my daughter’s 19th birthday. Since this very well might be the last chance that I have to spoil her I wanted to do something memorable, so in addition to her birthday gifts I treated her to a meal out and consented to get my nails done with her. She’d never had her nails professionally done before and didn’t want to go through the experience alone.

It was a first for me as well. Never in my life have I splurged on those fancy nail coatings so while I choked on the $35 fee it was worth it, not only to make my daughter happy but to see what all of the fuss was about. As long-time readers are well aware, I’ve always been a bit vain when it comes to nail care. It didn’t hurt to try it once, especially since it made my daughter so happy.

Even with the birthday splurge I was able to chip in a bit more than just my book royalties towards my investment goal. It wasn’t much but every little bit counts. As soon as the funds hit my account I will make my next stock purchase.

I am looking forward to it.

Maybe one of these days I’ll be able to get my nails done without having to choke at the price. I’ll have enough money coming in on a regular basis so that I can afford to treat myself to the occasional manicure. Who knows? Regardless, it was a fun experience to check off of my bucket list.

In the meantime I only have $58,352.93 to go in order to attain my goal of investing $60,000 into the stock market. I am quite pleased with my progress.

Did you make any progress towards your goals last month? Please share your stories in the comments below.

The Art of Definite Action

Published / by Annie / 17 Comments on The Art of Definite Action

As I mentioned in a previous post I am concerned about my finances for the upcoming winter. Rather than allow the fear to eat at me I decided to take some definite action and meet the concern head-on.

Up the street from my home is a gas station that happens to be hiring, not only for cashiers but for management as well. The work is full-time. Cashiers start out at $9 an hour so while I’ve no idea how much management earns it is safe to say they make even more.

I turned in my resume the other day. Should I receive just the cashier’s position at their starting wage I will have increased my weekly income by close to $100 a week. It will go up even more should I net a management position.

I will have to make some adjustments if this comes to pass. I’ll be working at least 15 more hours a week at a public job than I do currently so I will have to reduce my posting frequency. That said, based on my monthly expenses here I should be able to invest close to a week’s wage every month towards my goal of financial freedom even during the winter months in addition to investing my book royalties. That will cut down the amount of time needed to save up $60,000 by over half.

If other jobs come available within walking distance to my home I will apply for them as well. Something will come up. While I’m not thrilled at the thought of going back to full-time, the thought of gaining my freedom is driving me forward. I am going to do whatever it takes to achieve financial freedom again. I want the option of not having to work, whether I choose to exercise it or not.

What steps are you taking to work towards your future? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Chilling Encounter

Published / by Annie / Leave a Comment

It was Sunday, September 10, 2017. I was working the closing shift when I greeted my next customer. “How are you tonight?” I asked cheerfully.

“Not too well,” he replied. He went on to explain that he was having relationship problems. I responded sympathetically. I hate when my customers are having a rough time so I try to comfort them the best that I’m able.

“It doesn’t matter,” he responded to my overtures. “It’ll all be over tomorrow anyway.”

His expression and tone of voice rendered me speechless. He sounded like one of those nutters who prophesy the end of the world from a street corner.

“Well, tomorrow is 9/11,” I replied when I recovered from my surprise.

The man’s head whipped around and he caught my gaze with widened eyes. “Yes, it is 9/11 tomorrow, isn’t it?” His voice was thoughtful as he gave me a considering look. I nodded.

I handed him his change and told him to have a nice night.

“You be careful tomorrow,” he told me as he put the money away.

“You too, sir,” I replied. “There’s a lot of crazy things going on in the world, so stay safe, okay?”

He gave me the slow smile of a man with a secret. “I will,” he promised.

I shook off the encounter and went on with my shift. He wasn’t the first odd duck I had dealt with over the years.

The next afternoon the customers arrived with news. The schools were all on lockdown. A shooter was on the loose. He had shot down a helicopter and tried to kill the police who arrived on the scene.

I was a nervous wreck. My daughter was at school and I wouldn’t be able to check on her until I took my break.

My daughter and I spent the rest of my shift playing phone tag. I called on my break to check on her while she called the store number to check on me and relay updates. They eventually allowed the kids to go home as police continued the search for the shooter.

School was cancelled the next day. The man was armed, dangerous, and still on the loose. No one wanted to take a chance, so people living in that area of the county were advised to stay home and lock their doors. Eventually they caught him.

During the frightening event I recalled the strange encounter I had the night before. Remembered the confidence in his voice when he declared that “everything would end” on Monday. I wondered if it was the same man. Surely not?

And if it was, did I give him any ideas when I reminded him that Monday was 9/11?

I eagerly awaited video footage once the man was captured. I wanted to see this man, hear his voice, to determine whether or not it was him.

I watched him carefully in the video the news agencies eventually released. I see so many people during the course of a day; while he looked familiar, I couldn’t be absolutely certain.

I played that video repeatedly in search of clues. His voice finally clicked.

I’m still not sure what to think about that.

Regardless of whether I waited on him the night before or not, the legal system will dole out their version of justice and life will go on. Still, it’s an amazing thing when you work with the public in a small town.

You’re liable to meet anybody.

Wisdom of Uncle B-Bob

Published / by Annie / Leave a Comment

Meet Uncle B-Bob. He was the husband of my beloved Auntie. He died from cancer a few years back but his words live with me to this day.

He was always busy but he would never fail to spend time with us kids anytime I came over to visit. Memories of riding in the back of his pickup truck as he drove us to the fishing hole are among my fondest memories.

Uncle B-Bob was a soft-spoken man who was wise beyond his years. I remember him telling us kids that if we started saving money when we were 18 and started working that we could retire by the time we reached 40.

He said that he wished someone had told him that when he had been younger.

Of course, none of us really paid attention back then. We were too busy fishing to think much of it. I filed the memory away and went on with my life until my Auntie reminded me of his words the other day. My 20-year goal was so similar to his advice that she is convinced he is behind the idea.

Regardless of the truth in that, I can see him in my mind’s eye nodding sagely, saying “you can do it. Just get to work. You may not make much progress at first, but you’ve got to get started.”

Time to get back to work.

Winter Worries

Published / by Annie / 10 Comments on Winter Worries

The kid will be moving out this winter. She plans to get married once her fiancée graduates BASIC training and move on base with him once he gets things sorted. Here’s a picture of him in training:

The demon Fear has raised its ugly head since I’ve received this notice. She will probably move out mid-winter when the bills are at their highest. Should this come to pass I might have to suspend my investment plan until spring returns just to survive.

Sometimes working for minimum wage sucks.

I’ve gotten rather spoiled with her sharing our household expenses. As a result I’ll have to limit my spending just to make the bills. Since I only bring home about $600 a month from my public job I’ll have less than $100 a month to buy food and supplies while I wait for spring to come back around. I might have to use my book royalties to make things easier, at the cost of my future.

I don’t like that thought. Every penny that I invest takes me that much closer to achieving financial freedom. I miss my freedom. I also don’t like the thought of having to tighten my belt once more. The memory of those two lean years still haunts me.

But that’s okay. I know I can make ends meet regardless. It might be tight but it’s not impossible. Some way, somehow I’ll not only scrape through, I’ll figure out how to continue investing at least a little bit towards my future.

One bright spot: I’ll be able to sleep in a bedroom for the first time in over seven years once the kid moves out. I’ll even be able to rearrange a bit to make this place more usable.

Look on the bright side Annie. 

Maybe I’ll stumble across a way to increase my income so things won’t be so tight. Who knows? Anything can happen. In the meantime I am thankful that my daughter is on the verge of a brand-new adventure. I am also thankful that I know how to live extremely cheap. It allows me to survive in situations that would make the average person choke, so despite my fears I know that I will be just fine. I just have to ride the emotional wave.

How do you encourage yourself when fear raises its head? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Bedtime Routine

Published / by Annie / 4 Comments on Bedtime Routine

Time is the one thing I never seem to have enough of. Between my public job, caring for my home, and writing I never seem to have enough time to pursue my self-education goals.

While I read on my days off and on my breaks at work my progress was annoyingly slow. It took weeks to finish a single book and I watched my reading list grow longer with frustration.

One evening I collapsed into bed, exhausted from my shift at work. It was one of those nights where you desperately need sleep but your mind refuses to allow you the luxury. I snagged my current book off the shelf in hopes of settling my mind. As I snuggled down to read a memory from my childhood surfaced.

While I was in the second grade I ended up with a copy of The Wizard of Oz thanks to the local RIF program. I adored that book. Every night I would snuggle in bed and read several chapters before I fell asleep. I probably re-read that book a dozen times before I moved on to another.

Filled with warm fuzzies from the memory I read a couple of chapters in my current book before Morpheus began tapping on my shoulder. I ended up dozing easily and woke up refreshed the next morning.

Since then I have altered my bedtime routine. Instead of checking my email and trying to write a bit more before bed I now turn on some relaxing music and snuggle up with my current book. My reading progress has skyrocketed as a result.

Not only have I managed to increase the amount of reading I do my sleep quality has improved with the change in routine. Instead of tossing and turning restlessly, I now fall asleep easily and wake up refreshed.

Do you have a bedtime routine? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Frugality and the Pareto Principle

Published / by Annie / 2 Comments on Frugality and the Pareto Principle

According to the 80/20 Principle, 20 percent of actions will provide 80 percent of results. This is especially true when it comes to frugality.

When you break it down the majority of money I personally save falls into two main categories: housing and auto. By renting a one-bedroom house in a less than ideal area, I saved $200 a month back when I first moved here in 2011. Since rental prices have went up slightly since then I’ve saved even more.

By allowing my daughter to become my roommate instead of simply encouraging her to move into her own place I increased my savings even more by halving my already low expenses. While this also has the added benefit of providing my daughter with a safe place to live at a price she can definitely afford (while teaching her how to manage money), that is simply an added bonus.

Eliminating my vehicle saved me another thousand dollars a year. While I didn’t have the burden of a car payment (or the cost of the full-coverage insurance that comes along with it), that savings has added up as well.

I manage to save $5,000 a year on just these two expenses alone. The other little frugal decisions I’ve made pale in comparision. To be blunt, I would either have to take a second job (I would need to work an additional 34 weeks a year at my current $150 a week public job income) or locate a position that paid twice the hourly wage that I currently earn if it were not for the money I save in these two areas if I didn’t want to reduce my standard of living.

If you are serious about saving money I urge you to give these numbers serious consideration. While eating out less, eliminating phone service, cancelling subscription services, and other things do save money, you will receive higher savings if you focus on just these two areas of your life.

Running the numbers has shown me that making your own laundry detergent and simply living on less is not enough if you want and need to save serious money. It’s the big expenses that really destroy your budget. However, if you are interested in paring your expenses even further, I urge you to check out my books The Shoestring Girl and The Minimalist Cleaning Method.

Have you ever analyzed where the bulk of your money goes? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Why Bother Saving Money?

Published / by Annie / 4 Comments on Why Bother Saving Money?

A common question I receive from family and friends is “why bother to save money?” Their reasoning is that, if they can afford it, they should enjoy every penny they have to spend.

There’s nothing wrong with this logic on the surface. We’ve been trained to believe that we no longer really need to save for retirement or for protection in the event we become seriously ill or injured. Social Security was created to take care of us in those cases.

The truth is far different. Social Security was designed to replace only half of our earnings. My $600 a month employment income translates into roughly a $300 Social Security retirement benefit. While programs like SSI are in place to raise your monthly income to a more livable wage, in order to qualify you can’t have much at all in assets like money in the bank. For instance, a family member was recently informed that she had X amount of time to spend down the $5,000 she had managed to save before she would lose her benefits. She had been so proud of her savings! She had scrimped and saved in order to afford a down payment on a house but the government didn’t care. She was forced to give up her dream of home ownership and bought a car with the money since she couldn’t qualify for a mortgage with such a low down payment in her area.

If you are injured it can take years for you to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits if you qualify at all. The odds of being able to survive financially during this time are slim without extensive support from friends and family.

This is the reality that we live in. The safety nets we have been taught to believe in are not as safe as we believe them to be. As a result, we need to save money not only to survive while we recover from an injury but to supplement the limited retirement benefit that Social Security provides.

It is not always fun to scrimp and save when everyone around us spends money like mad. It’s not fun to turn down invitations to spend time with friends or catch their condescending looks when they show off the things that you know you can’t afford.

It’s not fun being poor, period. If your assets and finances are so low that you qualify for public assistance people judge you for every move that you make. I cannot count how many times I’ve heard someone behind a person on food benefits remark negatively about the fact that a mother purchased snacks for her kids or bought some microwave meals to eat at work, and I’ll never forget the time a worker at a dental office commented on my daughter’s brand-new shoes.

They were the first pair of brand new shoes my daughter had owned in years.

I’ve lived an extremely frugal life for over 20 years. I deliberately worked lower-paying jobs and saved my money so that I could take periods of time off and savor the fleeting childhood of my children or be home for them when they got off the bus after school. While I have no regrets, I didn’t always enjoy the experience.

So why save money?

You need to have money to live on in the event you get hurt. You need to have money if your roof springs a leak or your car needs repaired. You definitely need to have money saved up when it comes time to retire unless you want your income sliced in half.

Most importantly, you need to save money if you want to have any hope of escaping poverty. There are a number of ways to invest your savings that will help you climb the financial ladder but that option is completely closed to you if you don’t have any money to invest. While you may have to hit the books in order to learn how, it is possible to escape poverty by learning how to invest in precious metals, the stock market, opening a small business, or other areas. You might not get rich but you’ll end up making a lot more than you would by leaving the money in savings at current interest rates. Ask Chris Gardner if you don’t believe me. He was homeless when he started out.

If you want to survive in this world you need to save. If you want to improve your lot in this world, you need to save. If you want to have any hope for a better future, you definitely need to start saving.

Starting now.

If you are new to saving money, check out my book The Shoestring Girl. I’m one of the few frugality experts who actually knows what they’re talking about when it comes to saving money

The Magic of Time

Published / by Annie / 2 Comments on The Magic of Time

I moved to this house in April 2011. In the fence row of the front yard was a little sapling beside my front gate.

My friend Mr. A wanted to chop it down. I told him to leave it; it would grow into a fence post eventually. That sapling was so insignificant that I never even bothered to photograph it. I finally located a photo of it I snapped a year later when we acquired Lilly. You can see it on the right-hand side if you look closely. It’s growing alongside the post that the front gate is attached to.

I’ve never really thought much about that sapling over the years; it was just there. A few neighbors have commented on how shady my yard stays, how private it is now but that’s about it.

Until this morning.

I woke up, and as is my habit I brewed my morning coffee and sat on the porch sipping the first cup while my dogs had their morning sniff/potty break.

That was when I finally saw it, I raced inside to grab my camera:

That tiny little inconsequential sapling is now a luxurious tree.

A small insignificant incident in my life culminated in this moment. More than anything that has happened in the seven years I’ve lived in this tiny home, that tree represents the changes I’ve experienced in my life.

It wasn’t the only sapling I saved over the years. I propped up the tiny survivor of a hollyhock bush on the left corner of my yard after the local water company decimated the primary bush in my neighbor’s front yard. A year or so after that a child of that bush appeared near the area where I keep my trash can. A sapling I preserved that doesn’t appear in this photo grew into a mulberry tree. The squirrels are grateful for that one since it feeds them. They hop from the branches of the one I photographed into the branches of the mulberry tree whenever they want a snack.

Maybe this is why I’ve grown so attached to this little house over the years. I’ve established roots. For the first time in my life I can sit on my porch and say “that tree was just a sapling when I moved here.” For the first time in my life I can look out and actually, physically see the fruits of my labor.

The magic of it is that I really didn’t do much. I just let it grow, and now look at it!

There is a lesson in that tree. Small actions can have a huge impact on our lives over time. A blog I created on a lark developed into a business. A book I wrote for my aunt became another and another until the royalties grew enough to support us for several years.

The royalties from those books, as I invest the money, will support me again in the future as my hair continues to grey.

Baby steps. It works.

The College Path

Published / by Annie / 2 Comments on The College Path

Last year a friend of mine decided to attend college. He wants to increase his education so that he can get a better paying job. I’ve encouraged him in this endeavor by assisting him with technical difficulties when his computer messed up and by acting as a sounding board when he doubts his ability to continue.

He stopped in at my job the other day filled with news about his latest semester. I listened, happily enraptured at the sheer excitement he displayed. His eyes sparkled, his voice resonated; his whole being reflected a new power and confidence as he shared his journey with me that day.

“You should go to college too,” he finally admonished me. “You’re not dumb yet you’re wasting your life for minimum wage. You can do so much better than that. Just think of the job you could get with a degree!”

I gave him a secret smile. “I might not be in college but I am increasing my education,” I shared. “However, my goal doesn’t require a degree at the moment. If that ever changes, I’ll definitely give it some serious consideration.”

What my friend doesn’t realize is that my goal is a bit different than his. While he wants a better paying job, I simply want financial freedom. I’ve worked out a way to achieve that and started taking definitive steps in that direction. He’d probably be surprised if he discovered that my personal course of study includes college textbooks such as these:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have no issues against going to college; I feel that it is a very laudable goal to have. I’ve even written here that I’d like to graduate college at some point in my lifetime but the fact is that I prefer to achieve my freedom more.

I can do that without an official college education.

I am very thankful of the fact that my friend thinks enough of me to actively encourage me to better myself. While I wish that he understood that I’m already in the process of doing just that (by taking a different path), his concern warmed my heart as I finished my shift that night.

Do you have any friends who care for you enough to encourage you to better yourself? Please share your stories in the comments below.

The Art of Staying Motivated

Published / by Annie / 4 Comments on The Art of Staying Motivated

The other night I came home after an exhausting shift at work. I plopped down in front of my computer to check my emails before engaging in my nightly habit of reading a bit before I went to bed.

As I sat there I thought “what’s the point?” What was the point in reading more when I was so drained? It’s going to take years for me to achieve my goal, so what would be the harm in skipping a single night?

That’s when I realized I had a problem. I was losing my motivation.

It’s easy to lose motivation when all you can make are baby steps. When you have to wait days and weeks before you can take another step forward. But that is the reality of my life. I can’t afford to plunk down thousands of dollars and then wait to reap the profits. I have to invest in stages while working to increase my knowledge during my downtime. While I know that every few months I will receive a small payoff in dividends it is a cold hard fact that this project is going to take a while to really begin to pay off.

So how do I stay motivated? What can I do to encourage myself to move forward on the nights when I’m too tired to think, much less move?

With a heavy heart as I considered this I skipped my nightly reading and went to bed. I’d have to find a solution soon or risk giving up.

A few days later I walked to the store to purchase supplies. On a whim I headed to the school supplies section, thinking that a new pencil or ink pen would be a treat. I didn’t need one but sometimes it’s the little things that encourage us to continue moving forward. I found this:

Meet my new Goal Journal. I photographed it with the little piece of inspiration I carry with me daily, one of the silver rounds from my very first investment.

On the very first page I wrote down my goal. I wanted to see it every single time I opened the notebook.

Once that was completed I was stumped. Do I use the journal to chronicle all of my thoughts or to keep track of specifics? I decided to dedicate a single page each month to a cold, hard summary of my progress. I’ve decided to share it with you now.

I didn’t tell you at the time but I began this journey on my birthday earlier this year. I was hesitant to share because the idea sounded stupid even to me. Seriously, an old woman working part time for minimum wage who wants to enter the financial ring with the Big Dogs? The idea was laughable! Who the hell do I think I am, even considering this? Because of my inner demons I kept quiet until I became comfortable enough with the idea to have the courage to share.

The next month I decided to jump in with both feet. I scraped together every single penny I could spare from my book royalties and my income tax refund, took a deep breath, and kissed that money goodbye. I knew that I didn’t know much; I could very well lose it all, but I had to at least try, you know? Wishing wasn’t going to get me anywhere without definite action:

I managed to score free trading from my brokerage until August 8th. Sometimes it pays to ask plenty of questions. I took advantage of the blessing to make a few experimental trades so that I could figure out just how this stock market thing worked. I was completely clueless and I knew it. To my surprise I did pretty well. Not only did I manage to profit from my trades, I even received my very first round of dividends. I was chuffed!

July was the last full month that I qualified for free trading. I’m sure I drove the workers at my brokerage batty with all of my questions that month! I discovered the difference between exchanges, the fact that my brokerage will not allow anyone with a balance of less than $25,000 to trade on certain exchanges “to protect them,” and lodged a formal complaint about not being allowed to invest in the real “penny stocks” — those whose shares trade for literal pennies. A worker there actually called me to apologize personally for the limitation after that stunt and he helped me figure out exactly what I was allowed to invest in through the brokerage. I modified my search criteria appropriately, albeit grudgingly. As I explained, the five or ten bucks I’d planned to toss towards those particular purchases would not be near enough to budge the stock prices and I was well aware of the risk I was taking. By this point I was literally kissing my money goodbye as I transferred it to my brokerage account, and I STILL feel that my brokerage should eliminate that limitation.

When August is over I’ll add another page to my journal as I continue to chronicle my adventure. This will allow me to look back and see a visual reminder of just how far I’ve come. Due to the fact that I don’t require much to live on I’ve managed to accomplish quite a bit over these past few months. When you add the money I invested in early August I’ve managed to top $1,500 invested in the stock market–most of which came from my minimum-wage day job.

I’m not sure if I should be proud or terrified at the fact that I’ve hit it so hard. Fifteen hundred dollars isn’t exactly chump change for me. That’s three months’ worth of living expenses in my world. I guess time will tell as I continue this journey. In the meantime I have a physical reminder of my progress for those nights when I wonder why I’m even trying.

In addition to my goal notebook I carry that silver round in my pocket as I move through my day. Whenever things get tough at work I dig it out, turn it over in my hands, and repeat my goal:

I will do whatever it takes to invest $60,000 in the stock market.

I hope it’s enough.

What do you do to keep motivated about your goals? Please share your stories in the comments below.

A Goal of Freedom

Published / by Annie / 9 Comments on A Goal of Freedom

With all of the work I’ve put in to learn about investing and the stock market I’ve allowed one important piece to fall to the wayside. I need a concrete long-term goal to focus on in order to not only have a measuring stick of my progress but to inspire me during the dark hours.

I woke up this morning with that question burning in my mind. Just what do I intend to accomplish here? It’s not that I want to become rich, though to my current mindset it certainly feels that way. Studying the financial markets, investing in the stock market–those are actions that rich people take when viewed from the eyes of the poor.

And let’s face it: I’ve been poor my entire life. While there have been times of both feast and famine, overall I’ve spent my existence hanging out at the bottom of the food chain. There’s no sin in that but it does color my perceptions.

With the question of my goal in mind I sat down with a cup of coffee this morning. I turned my lucky coin over in my hands as I considered what I want to achieve here. I think I’ve finally figured it out.

I want to achieve financial freedom. I want to get to the point financially where I can work if I want to but I no longer need to in order to make ends meet with some money to spare. The taste of freedom I experienced for those years I lived on my book royalties was beautiful and I want to recapture that. More importantly, I want to do it in a way that can be duplicated by others who want to achieve freedom as well.

The next question is: how do I measure my goal? I can’t just say I want to achieve financial freedom and leave it at that. I need something concrete to work towards and in this case I need a number with dollar signs in front of it to aim for.

I know for a fact that I can live on $500 a month but to be honest I want to aim higher than that. To be truly comfortable living on my own I would really like to have $1,000 a month in passive income but that’s where I run into a problem with my mindset. Every time I run the numbers for the amount I have to invest to achieve that return I choke. It is simply too much money for me to comprehend having personally at this point in my life.

I need a number that I can actually visualize myself being able to achieve within the next twenty years–the time I would like to completely retire. A low number, one that I can actually conceive of to use as a starting point. I can always aim higher later.

If I am able to receive a 10% return in the stock market (which is doable if I’m careful with my investments), it would take a minimum of $60,000 invested to receive a $6,000 annual return.

That’s a number I can work with. Sixty thousand dollars is the price of a nice house. I can conceive of $60,000. I can’t conceive of how I’ll come up with $60,000 at the moment but that’s okay. I know I’ll reach that number eventually if I just keep doing what I’m currently doing–invest my book royalties and any extra money I can afford to invest. I have a workable plan with simple steps to focus on as I move forward.

I’ve currently managed to invest $1,500 into the stock market so far this year. Due to my mis-step with the one stock I’m not up to my 10% return yet but that’s okay. There will be times that I hit, times that I miss, and times that I stumble upon a stock that doesn’t currently issue dividends that is too beautiful to pass up. It won’t be an exact science, especially as I’m learning and I’m comfortable with that. I have no doubts that I’ll work out the kinks as I focus on acquiring that initial $60,000.

I’ve got $58,500 to go. Not bad when you consider the fact that I’m bringing in around $600 a month from my minimum-wage job and under $100 a month (average) in book royalties. It looks even better when I point out to myself that I only started this project in May of this year and I’m not even factoring in the dividends I’ve reinvested so far. While not a huge amount, it’s still a start.

Now that I have a concrete goal it is time to work out the details. How in heaven’s name am I going to come up with $58,500 more to invest in the next few years?

I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

Frugality is Essential for Success

Published / by Annie / 2 Comments on Frugality is Essential for Success

Everywhere you turn these days one can find ads touting this investment or that business as the way to “get rich quick.” Just buy this course or whatever and money will flow into your life like a raging river.

Bull crap. There’s no such thing as “get rich quick.” It’s all a scam to part us with our hard-earned money.  Study the success stories of others and you will discover the truth: it can take years for one to achieve success.

After doing a lot of research I decided to invest in the stock market in order to increase my wealth and financial freedom. This avenue appealed to me because it doesn’t care about your race, your gender, your education–or even how much money you have to spend.

You can literally start from anywhere in the stock market.

The hardest part to any type of investing is acquiring the money to invest. This is especially hard for those of use who live on minimum wage. How can you save up any money to invest if you’re living at your financial limit?

The truth is that you can’t. If you want to buy a house, invest in the stock market, or just save up for a rainy day you must live beneath your means.

Frugality is essential if you want to improve your financial status. You need seed money in order to save or invest; the only way to get that is to live on less.

You can save money no matter what your income level. So far I’ve managed to invest around $1,200 into the stock market and I make less than $800 a month between my royalties and my day job. If I can do it, you can too. I managed this by watching my expenses like a hawk and making savings my primary goal because I know that, in time, I’ll be able to loosen the purse strings a bit as my investments start to pay off.

In summary, know that you don’t have to be wealthy in order to save and invest. You can start right now with what you have. Financial Freedom is accessible to all of us if we learn how to play the game.

If you want to learn how I personally save money read the older posts on this website or buy my book The Shoestring Girl.  I don’t want to bore you here by repeating myself.

Lazy Yet Productive

Published / by Annie / 2 Comments on Lazy Yet Productive

My days off were split up this week so instead of resting the first day and working on my house the next I was forced to get creative.

My challenge was made even worse when I woke up on my day off feeling lethargic with a scratchy throat. I’ve pushed myself far too hard these past few weeks and my body was paying the price. I still had stuff to do, however, so I decided to power on.

My first order of business was to eliminate distractions. I turned off the Internet and disconnected my gadgets. I did not want or need the temptation to go online to distract me.

My next order of business was to create my task list. I noticed with a tired sigh that it was a long one. I’ve let things slide around here lately.

I picked one small item on my list and did it. I still had a bit of energy left so I knocked out a few more of the simpler tasks. Satisfied that I had made some progress, I read for a while and then took a short nap.

I repeated the process all day. Complete a couple of tasks, read, rest, repeat. I made the deliberate decision to postpone several energy-intensive tasks but I accomplished quite a bit nonetheless. Even better, my slow, deliberate pace allowed my body to recover a bit while teaching me an important lesson:

It is possible to be both lazy and productive if you use your time wisely.

While I didn’t tackle the physically intensive tasks on my list I was satisfied with my progress just the same. I could have powered through and worked through the entire list but I would have suffered for it the next day. I see no logic in being deliberately stupid. I have to pace myself.

Have you ever had to force yourself to slow down? Please share your stories in the comments below.

I Hate Modern Furniture

Published / by Annie / 8 Comments on I Hate Modern Furniture

I detest modern furniture with a white-hot passion. I’d rather set my money on fire than to buy the worthless crap that they call modern furniture these days. When I was a kid, you bought a piece of furniture with the knowledge that it would outlast you. My parents bought used furniture back in the 1960’s and 1970’s that would still be here today if a flood hadn’t destroyed it. I’ve still got an old coffee table that I salvaged from that flood and it’s still going strong!

Modern furniture isn’t designed to last. Unless you buy hand-crafted furniture from the Amish or at a flea market (or can afford an artesian piece), the rest of it is all mass-produced, composite-wood crap. It’s more glue and plastic than anything!

I’ve spent the past few months in a continuing debate with some friends over my furniture preferences. They posited the argument that I would be better off (and have nicer-looking stuff) if I allowed them to take me to a furniture store to search for a new bed or another couch to replace the one the kid traded me out of since my current bed sags in the middle.

I grew madder and madder as I examined the selections at this “high end” store. Every single piece was cheaply-produced garbage that wouldn’t hold up for a year, much less a lifetime, and these idiots wanted a fortune for it!

Metal bed frames? Forget it. The metal was so thin it would warp if my kid jumped on it or more than one adult sat on it. Wood was a complete joke. The pieces that used “real” wood used wood that was so thin I could snap it over my knee. There is no way in hell that crap would survive more than a year in an active household and I told them as much.

The salesmen were offended but I didn’t really care. I didn’t even feel bad for my friend. It was her idea to go there to prove her point–and her point failed miserably upon examination. I had tried to explain in advance that I’ve purchased modern furniture in the past but she wouldn’t listen. It was gorgeous when you first put it together but if you actually try to use it you will watch your hard-earned cash go to waste when it starts to sag or breaks entirely.

I’ll never forget the two-hundred-dollar chest of drawers I purchased for my kids back in the day. In less than six months they had it destroyed, while the used chest of drawers my parents gave me during my childhood is being abused by my grandson to this day. It is being used by a third generation after miraculously surviving a flood while I owned it!

I’ll never forget the $1,500 sectional my cousin purchased a few years back. She was so proud when she had it delivered. It was going to be the last couch she ever purchased.

Four months after she bought it they heard a loud snap as one of the kids sat down on it. A piece of the frame had broken. She tried to keep using it but it continued to deteriorate until she was forced to replace it. Fifteen hundred dollars straight down the drain.

To my friend’s immense annoyance her trip proved to me that I was right in hating modern furniture. I’ll just go to a lumberyard and have a thick piece of plywood cut to the size of my 1960’s-era Roll-Away bed frame. It’s not only cheaper but it will last a helluva lot longer than the furniture on the market today.

Do you detest modern furniture? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Missing the Boat

Published / by Annie / 2 Comments on Missing the Boat

One of the first stocks I researched happened to be the company that originally owned the store I work in. Since they had sold my company off I decided not to buy, but since the owners of my franchise happened to also own another store that was involved in the company, I set up some news alerts just to keep abreast of how they were doing.

The other day my inbox started buzzing. The trading volume on this stock was insane! I loaded a live chart of the action and watched the price of the stock climb higher as new 52-week highs were reached. This stock that originally traded for around $13 in March at their 52-week low was now selling for over $20 a share and going higher!

By the time it was done the company in question had been bought out by another company at over $32 a share. If I had purchased 100 shares of this company at its 52-week low, I would have netted a $1,900 profit.

But I missed the boat.

So what have I learned so far with these two experiences? I’ve learned to always wait to make sure that a stock has bottomed in price before investing. I’ve learned that, while cutting dividends to pay down debt or grow a company may be a good thing that investors don’t agree and the price drops drastically as a result.

I have learned the value of patience and research.

I’ve also learned that I am on the right track. I can invest in dividend-producing companies at their 52-week lows (after checking into why the stock dropped to make sure it is a good investment), hold onto the stock until it reaches a new 52-week high then sell at a profit, receiving dividends while I wait.

I’ve also learned that there is an odd chance that I might get very lucky and make a mint like the one I lost out on. I’m not going to count on that, however. Stumbling upon a coup like that is kinda like winning the lottery, in my opinion.

I’m finally starting to form a game plan. The proof will be in the pudding, however. It will take about a year before I learn if this method will work or not.

I can wait.

A Stock Market Ouchie

Published / by Annie / 3 Comments on A Stock Market Ouchie

While I was digging through the bargain bin at the Stock Market I stumbled across a company with a LOT of potential. This media company, while it has its fingers stuck in traditional media sources like television and radio stations, not only creates its own content but has been slowly transitioning to embrace the new way people receive media. I dug through their financials. They had a lot of debt but were otherwise doing okay. Even better, they had realized that the times were changing and, unlike other companies I’ve researched, they were adapting.

Due to the significant dip in their stock price, the dividend was very attractive, enough so that I continued digging. I realized that this company had something in the works to not only reduce its debt but to continue the transition that I’d discovered. I didn’t know what the plan was but I decided to buy in. I scrounged up every penny I could and bought 191 shares, planning to round it out to 200 shares as my finances allowed.

This stock was trading around $5 a share. I ended up investing close to $1,000 in it. Satisfied, I sat back to see what would happen next. Considering that this company, in the years it had been on the exchanges rarely traded for less than $9 a share I figured I could hold it a couple of years and then sell for a tidy profit while receiving dividends for my trouble.

I woke up one morning a couple of weeks later to discover the stock price completely tanking. My pulse went through the roof as I stared. What the hell? I hit the news feeds. As I had predicted, this company had taken some drastic steps to reduce its debt. It had not only written down the value of some assets in order to save money on taxes by reporting a loss for the quarter, it had used that legal jiggery-pokery as an excuse to slash the dividend payout. The money saved would be used to aggressively pay down its debt.

Oh, the financial reporters were screaming! I could almost see them shaking with rage as they ranted against the dividend cut online. This stock had been considered a staple in dividend portfolios yet the company had the nerve to actually slash it–how dare they! Retirees had been counting on that dividend!

As I watched the value of my investment tank I ran the numbers on the new dividend amount. At the price I paid for the stock the return was still a reasonable 5%, yet people were ditching the stock in droves. I watched as the value of the stock dipped lower and lower, debating. Should I sell and then re-buy when it finally bottomed? I’d already lost over $150 in value when I’d discovered the mess. What should I do?

I sat back, took a deep breath, and let it fall. When last I looked the stock was trading at $3.49 a share. It has lost almost $250 in value since I purchased it. I’ll finish up my lot and perhaps buy even more once it hits bottom, if only because I can tell even now that the company is a scrapper. They are paying down their debt while they work out the best way to navigate the challenging media landscape. While I’ve no idea how this will pan out I’ve got faith.

I cannot believe that I am taking this so calmly. Maybe I have what it takes to be an investor after all.

Making Changes

Published / by Annie / 2 Comments on Making Changes

Life has been a whirlwind since I made the conscious decision to stay in this little house. The past seven years had been a holding pattern so I hadn’t invested much of anything into making this house look more like a home. There wasn’t any point in spending the money if I was planning to move, after all.

Along with the changes my old friend fear has raised its ugly head. Every single time I purchase something it rises, screaming at me to stop. What if you spend too much money? You’ll be broke! and What if you decide to move after all or get flooded there? All of the money you spend will be wasted!

I’m dealing with it. There is no point in shoving it to the side or burying it deep. I have to own it in order to move on. I’ve made the decision to live here, period. At most I’ll end up moving perhaps one or two more times for the rest of my lifespan; there is no sense in doing without the things I love and miss if I can afford them.

The first major task was to reorganize my computer area. It took up far too much space in my living room for the amount of storage it provided. I searched long and hard for a computer desk, one that would serve my small-space needs and be durable enough to last the rest of my life.

That was a bust. The commercially-available computer desks were either made of cheap composite wood that would fail in a few years or die miserably in a flood. The metal options had glass tops that would not hold up to long-term abuse…or my rambunctious grandson.

I decided to get creative. I located a wire metal pull-out shelf that could be mounted on my current wire shelf for sixty dollars and went to work. I pulled everything off of my gigantic shelf, rearranged the shelves, and converted it into a computer desk.

It’s absolutely perfect. My CPU is close at hand but out of danger and I now have space for my router and those annoying piles of paper that I allow to build up until I get around to scanning them for permanent storage.

Even better, I can shove my keyboard and mouse out of the way when I want to write something by hand.

Once that was complete I ordered a corner shelf to make up for the lost storage space. I made a mistake with that one; instead of ordering the heavy-duty NSF shelf that I intended I accidentally ordered a lighter-duty version of the shelf I wanted. It works but it doesn’t match up exactly and definitely doesn’t hold as much weight as I like. Since it was my mistake, I plan to use it until it dies and replace it with the shelf I originally intended to purchase. I see no point in returning something I ordered when it was my fault for not paying attention.

The kid decided she wanted a larger bed so we decided to save a bit of money in that area as well. Instead of the kid buying a full-size bed we just swapped out the sofa sleeper in the living room for her twin-sized bed. She gets to have a larger bed, and I get something new to sleep on. I placed one of my shelves at the head of it and plan to use it as a makeshift daybed/chaise lounge. In time I’ll locate some of those pillows that support you while you sit on a bed, but that will be farther down the road. In the meantime the kid gave me a few of her extra pillows since she has quite a collection. I pile them behind me when I want to sit up and read.

new bed

I’m rather exhausted at all of the changes so I’m currently taking a break. I’ve yet to clear off the table that I had used as a desk for many months. Since the table is smaller than the big plastic table on my front porch I gave the big table away so that I can shift the smaller table out there.

It will be nice to have more space on the front porch.

I’ve one more major purchase that I plan to make in upcoming weeks. I’m going to invest in one more shelf to hold the library of books I am rebuilding. I’ve missed my library so by golly I’m getting it back. I can’t count how many times I’ve kicked myself for eliminating it when when I minimized my possessions. While it made sense at the time (I moved six times in four years, after all) I miss it terribly. Ebooks and Internet sources cannot compete against just pulling a book off of a shelf to look up a word or reference something you’ve read in the past for this old-school girl. While I intend to limit my library to what I can comfortably store in the space I will assign to it, I’m getting it back. Period.

I’m including some pictures on this post to show my current progress. I am so thankful that this place is finally shaping up. I’ll be glad when I finsh with the big purchases, however. Despite the fact that I’m buying for long-term use, I really hate spending the money.

What changes have you made in your home lately? Please share your stories in the commenbs below.