Money Lessons I Learned This Year

The end of the year is always a time for reflection, at least for me. I like to take this opportunity to look back on the year thus far and think about the money lessons I’ve learned. I want to share with you some of the things I’ve learned and hope that you can benefit from them as well.

We Can Overcome Setbacks

Earlier in the year, hubby was laid off. It was very disheartening to learn that his employer of over 10 years would let him go not to add that it caused a great deal of stress. We freaked out a little and you know what, it’s okay. I think it’s healthy to acknowledge your emotions instead of bottling it in.

After stressing out a bit, we put a plan into action. We trimmed expenses and hubby picked up side jobs. We were also reassured by having an emergency fund. It wasn’t the ideal situation but it worked. It saw us through the difficult months and until hubby was able to find a new job. I’m pleased to say that we didn’t have to touch the emergency fund but it certainly provided psychological comfort just by knowing that it’s available.

This ordeal really taught us that we are capable of overcoming setbacks. Life doesn’t always progress in a linear fashion nor does it always move in the way we envisioned. No one plans for a job loss. What we’ve also learned from this experience is that while you can predict the future, you can prepare for it.

We have items in our budget that are marked as discretionary spending. These were the things we cut when our income was reduced. We canceled Amazon Prime, Netflix, and HBO Now. Our food budget also received a closed inspection. I have some recipes up my sleeves that are healthy and filling and also low-budget. No, we didn’t resort to eating beans and rice or ramen every day. We survived on soups, pasta, and using meat for flavor rather than featuring it as the main entrée. It’s not fun to suddenly go from 2 incomes to 1 but this experience taught us that we’re resilient and we’re capable of going beyond our comfort level.

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If a Problem Can Be Solved With Money, It’s Not a Problem

I heard this saying somewhere (sorry, I can’t remember where) and at first, I thought it was an incredibly snobby thing to say. I interpreted it to mean that rich people don’t have problems. But, I’ve come to learn that it means if you can make a problem go away with money, it’s not really a problem. In other words, there are issues that no amount of money can resolve and those are the real problems in life.

When things don’t go our way, our immediate reaction is to think oh my gosh, my world is crashing. When we pause to really give it some thought though, we realize that things aren’t so bad.

Last summer, what was supposed to be a routine smog check on hubby’s car turned into a hellish week of us trying to share one car. The shop did something that messed up the brakes. Hubby wasn’t able to go more than 10 feet before the brakes locked up. It was not a good scenario and scary as hell since our house sits on a slight hill.

Hubby ended up having to take the car to a different shop to get the problem fixed and diagnosed. While his car was in the shop and out of commission, we shared my car and carpooled. Sort of. Our jobs are in different parts of the city so we would wake up earlier than usual and hubby drove me to work. He would then leave work early to come pick me up.

It was an annoyance for sure but you know what, we’re fortunate that we had savings to take care of the pesky car problem. It made us realize that our life isn’t so bad! We complain every now and then but many of our “problems” are really first-world problems. There are people in this world who are struggling just to survive so our car issue really pales in comparison. The lesson I learned is to put things in perspective.

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It’s Okay to Enjoy Money

I’ve been on the frugality train for a loooong time. I’m a pretty frugal person by nature but you know what, it’s nice to have a break every now and then. I used to be of the mindset that whatever money that doesn’t go towards paying off debt or living expenses needs to go towards savings. It created a lot of tough situations. I’d be invited to lunch by coworkers and I wouldn’t wanna go because I didn’t want to spend money. Or, I would turn down invitations to get together with friends for fear that it would be expensive.

I’ve loosened up since then and it’s something I’m continuing to work on. Once a month, I review my retirement projections. They help reassure me that I’m doing okay! Going through this monthly exercise allows me to loosen my purse strings a little more.

I’m not going wild and crazy by any stretch of the imagination but I’m learning to enjoy spending money. Money can bring joy and fulfillment when spent on things we care about. I love food so it’s nice to go out to a restaurant once in awhile. We don’t go crazy and put into practice certain techniques to save money even when we decide to dine out. It’s nice to spend money when: (1) you actually have discretionary income, and (2) the money helps you get what you want out of life.

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Be Open-Minded

I’m learning to embrace new opportunities and not be so cynical about everything. Earlier this year, I decided to be a tutor on Wyzant. It was hard to put myself out there and market myself and I had doubted whether I’d actually get any students.

Shockingly, I received multiple tutoring requests! Had I not been open to this platform, there’s no way that I would have connected with the students I signed up.

Sometimes we have to take risks and give things a try even if we’re wary. In this case, the potential negatives for me were quite low so it made sense to go for it. I only agreed to lessons with students who had payment information on file. That way, I was able to protect myself by making sure I always got paid.

O think it’s good to be open-minded and be open to new opportunities. Without trying new things, you’ll never know whether they would have worked.

I’m determined to take this open-mindedness into the new year and be receptive to new opportunities. One area where this might play out is in rental properties. I’ve been thinking about owning rental properties for a long time but have been hesitant because housing prices are rising in Vegas and good deals are difficult to find.

Enter Roofstock. I’ve been hearing a lot about this company lately and it seems to present the solution to my problem. They market themselves as being able to help connect out-of-state investors with investment properties that are already tenant-occupied. I’m really intrigued but it’s something I’m going to continue to look into and perhaps it will be an opportunity I’ll pursue next year.

What money lessons have you learned this year?

It's a good idea to reflect back and think about the money lessons we've learned. They can help us improve the future and avoid past mistakes.