In honor of Thanksgiving, The Lady in the Black lists the financial things she’s most grateful for. Spoiler alert: it’s not all about the money.
As background, it’s probably good to remind my readers that in February 2016 I was essentially homeless.
I was fired from my job, living in a state with no nearby friends and/or relatives, no car, and you guessed it, no money. It was around that time that I promised myself to never put myself in such a vulnerable place ever again. It was around that time that I also got serious about my personal finances. I dreamed of one day being debt-free and financially responsible.
Just short of 2 years later, the changes in my life have been both profound and pretty remarkable.
I credit the empowerment I gained from finally taking control of my personal finances in becoming a more self-actualized human, living a profitable life.
Here’s the top 10 financial things I am thankful for.
The Lady’s Financial Thanksgiving List
10. Itsy Bitsy Prius
As I mentioned, I lived without a car for two different periods in my life. The most recent was for 10 months. Yes, I lived in 3 different states within that 10 month period and will say that California is by far the most difficult to navigate without a car.
With crappy credit, I was shopping sketchy used car dealer lots for a cheap reliable car. It was scary. During a walk around my neighborhood, I spotted a cute little Prius at the nearby Audi dealership. I called. I applied. I drove it home a few hours later.
Now, it’s true that I got reamed on my interest rate but I’ve never been so in love with a car in my whole life. Her name is Itsy and she’s part of the family now.
Itsy is my freedom, my independence, and I’m honestly grateful to her everyday.
9. My Own Private HSA
As a self-employed freelance copywriter, I miss out on some key corporate perks; most notably, medical insurance. I pay for my own medical coverage. In order to keep my premiums down, I selected a high-deductible PPO.
The biggest thing that I did to help myself was sign up for a private health savings account (HSA) with HSA Bank. As I auto-deposit pre-tax dollars, it also helps reduce my taxable income. While I don’t fully fund this account to the max benefit, my contributions more than cover any out-of-pocket medical expenses for me and my daughter.
Having that money there, just waiting to be used for a medical appointment or emergency, gives me a huge sense of security.
8. The Kid’s College Fund
Being a mom is awesome. Being a mom who has to pay for a college education for her kid is not awesome.
I feel guilty that I haven’t been more aggressive about saving for her education. However, I am grateful that I started last January.
I recently moved the little seed over to a high-interest 5-year CD with Ally so I couldn’t (for any reason) touch it. The way I figure it, it’s not my money at all and I refuse to steal from my child.
In 9 years time, I might not have the cost for a full ride to college but I’ll be able to hold my head high when I turn over what I saved. My parents weren’t in a position to help me. I’m super proud I am doing something to help my kid pursue her dreams.
The kid’s college fund is love, love from a mother to a daughter (and I just made myself cry writing that so you know it’s heartfelt.)
7. My $2,300/Month Apartment
It’s come up recently that there may be a few Browncoats out there. And if that’s you, you know why I might call my apartment (and my wireless network) Serenity.
After spending just over 3 months crashing at my friend’s house while I got back on my proverbial feet and saved some money, I was grateful that my rental application was approved. Honestly, it’s not an awesome apartment. But it is 895 sq. ft. of comfortable living in Los Angeles county with parking and two pools on property. It’s on a hill (I prefer to think of it as an urban mountain) and my view is a large tree with the mountains in the distance.
My apartment is expensive and I might move…but not now. It has what my daughter and I need (our own bedrooms and bathrooms) and every item in there is mine…and placed exactly where I want it.
Having my own comfortable apartment is a luxury that I’m grateful for. Serenity lives up to her name.
6. The Emergency Fund
Of course, when I started out on this road to personal finance improvement I ran into Dave Ramsey. While I didn’t always love his tone, I’ll admit he does making getting started pretty easy. Baby step one, right? And I suppose I have him to thank for my $1,000 emergency fund.
Now, nearly two years later, I understand that fund is woefully small for a self-employed individual. I do plan to bulk up that account to 6 months worth of basic expenses but that will take a while.
In the meantime, the emergency fund is mostly symbolic to me. It reminds me that I started this journey and that it was (and is) possible for me to save money.
For a woman who never had a savings account, my emergency fund is inspiration with 3 zeros.
5. My Vintage 4S iPhone
Yes, it’s small and outdated and may die any moment. I don’t care. I love my phone. I got it primarily to text with the man I was dating at the time…and for the camera.
Since then, my phone has become a go-to point of comfort for so many things. When I need a little pick-me-up, I scroll through the photos or peek in on my investments. I Facetime with daughter and text my friends. I read blogs and flirt with boys.
My 4s cost me $100 and I’m on my friend’s plan (from years ago) because it’s still the best deal.
My $100 iPhone keeps me connected and, yes, is priceless.
4. The Secret STASH
Man, I love STASH. The easy-to-use app was where I first dipped my toe into investments and my current automated investment strategy.
I’m currently STASHing $40/week across 5 different ETFs. Because the fees (under $2,500) are only $1/month, my unrealized returns are pretty decent.
One of the fun little functions built into the app, is a “potential” calculator. I do love sliding those things around and seeing what’s possible 1, 5, and 10 years down the road.
STASH might very well turn into the down payment to my dream house. For now, let’s just say that STASH represents my ability to learn and grow.
3. My Fun Little Stocks
After dipping my toe into investing, I quickly advanced to experimenting with individual stocks.
I kinda went a little crazy at first but wisely slowed down so I could fulfill my primary mission; to learn more about investing.
I’ll say that I found the whole thing fascinating. So much is happening that I have NO CLUE about but it’s all an education. Unfortunately, because I’m a bit clueless, the trading fees have severely impacted my bottom line. Eh. Whatever. I have nearly $2,000 invested and love watching it jump around.
I’m grateful to my stocks for making money fun.
2. My J-O-B
Technically, as a freelancer, I should call it my G-I-G but since I’ve had this gig for nearly 2 years, it’s my job.
Although I may lose patience on occasion and act the temperamental artist (only once in a while), the fact is this is probably the best gig. It suits my skill set and my lifestyle. The best thing, however, is the pay.
At 47 years old, I finally made it to a point where my skills and experience earn me the big bucks. With the invoice I just submitted today, I broke the six figure mark. Now, mind you, I have to pay my own taxes out of that. For my loyal readers, you know what a challenge that is (and has been) for me.
It’s a good gig with even better pay. My job has allowed me the quick influx of cold hard cash that I need to start anew and the continued income to not only sustain myself in one of the most expensive locations in the country but also to pay off a considerable amount of debt AND save/invest.
My J-O-B is the fuel for my profitable life.
1. Little Ol’ Me
Even with all my quirks, flaws, and failures, I’m thankful for my inner strength each and every day.
When people ask me how to get started on their personal finances, I always say “with a strong and positive mental attitude.” I pride myself for my intellect but acknowledge that resiliency has a key role in my financial progress to date.
My life isn’t different from yours. It’s riddled with tragedy and heartbreak. There’s also a tremendous amount of comebacks and defiant acts of triumph. Financial success is a statement about your spirit, not your bank account. I’m grateful that when I was down, I wasn’t out.
The Lady has long legs and a strong mind–and damned if she doesn’t look good in black.
May your house be packed with loved ones, your tummy be full of turkey, and your heart be overflowing with gratitude.