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Emergency fund

May 26th, 2007 at 04:54 pm

Happy to say I am still working on this number one goal of $5000 in emergency fund, despite tinyness of income. I am now at nz$3340. If I can keep it intact until I get a decent earning job I will be very happy. When everything seems to go on bills it's easy to get blue.

For those who are still struggling to pay off debts, I found in my case that it helped to be working on a positive savings goal at the same time. Obviously not have 000s in the bank that could be used to reduce interest paid on loans, but maybe put spare change towards a weekend away or a new car or whatever tickles your fancy. I just got too discouraged thinking everything fun had to be put off till the mortgage was paid. It is important to establish the savings habit immediately, IMHO, or you may wind up like so many people who pay off the credit cards and then run them up again because they haven't learnt good habits. I think David Bach calls this the "bury the past, jump to the future" approach or something like that. Rather than argue over whether every extra dollar should go off the loans or be stashed away, I take a 50/50 approach.

Tithing (long)

May 9th, 2007 at 01:47 pm

There is a thread on the forums about this so if anyone is interested in my POV...

When I found myself unable to work and facing medical bills, I sat down with my minister and the treasurer and we worked out a budget for me. When it was clear that I didn't have an income big enough to live on 90%, my minister said that part of the original use of the tithe was to help poor people. As I was now officially poor, I should not pay the tithe - in fact the church should be helping me. Which they did, with food parcels and the building team helped with home repairs and tending the garden.
I am now at the point where I am able to pay a portion to my church; when I get work I hope to be able to gradually get back up to 10%.

My church always provides financial counselling for people who are having difficulty, and will alleviate the tithe if there are genuine difficulties. If it is just bad money management, they are expected to tighten their belt and make a plan to pay off debt while continuing to contribute to the church. The ideal is:
80% bills and debt payment
10% tithe
10% savings

If this cannot be done, then they may start by saving and giving as little as $5, and gradually increase it to a percentage. Our minister insists that no one should compromise their future (retirement savings) for the sake of giving to the church, as they will wind up a burden in their old age. Nor does he insist on the full 10% being given to the church; most people give 6 or 7% and support charities of thier choice with the rest.

I do not think tithing is a "magic key" unless it is accompanied by good management of the 90%, and the churches' responsibility is to teach this. I agree it is disgusting when a church demands tithes from poor people and the minister lives in luxury while the congregation struggle - I have seen this happen with a church that had a lot of people on welfare. A few found their situation got better and gave glory to God; most wound up walking away in despair, their faith shipwrecked.

ETA: I was responsible for ds at the time. The key verse given me was "If any provide not for his own, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." My minister said he couldn't think of a better way to turn a child into a heathen than to have the parents giving to the church while not meeting the child's needs. (needs, not wants)

Another verse to bear in mind is: "Children should not lay up for their parents, but parents for their children." That is where the saving for retirement comes in. It is wrong if people give to the church all their life and wind up dependent on their children. In those cases the church should pay back the tither by helping them out.

So in a situation of real hardship don't feel bad if you can't make the tithe; remember - "if the eagerness to give is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have."

Happy memories

May 4th, 2007 at 01:59 pm

I haven't blogged for a while, i know. It's been a bit of a struggle lately, and I'm rather depressed about having so little money to live on. It's nice catching up with you guys, to know I'm not alone and see everybody working so hard toward their goals.

Today I had a job interview, which i think went well. The interviewer asked me one question - what was the achievement I was proudest of? I suppose I should have said something work related, but the first thing came to me: I'm really proud of the fact tho I had nothing after my relationship breakup, I managed to buy a house for myself and ds - and get it paid off in 15 years.

Well, he WAS impressed. He said, "that's amazing. I'm 55 and I'm scared I won't get my mortgage paid off before retirement." I didn't say I only had a little cottage, and he prob has a huge mansion, but I went home feeling much happier. I remember when I got the final letter from the bank, I threw a mortgage burning party. It felt like a great burden had been lifted off me to be debtfree.

Since then I've been drifting a bit I guess. I was so focused on that goal, i wasn't sure what to do next, and the idea of saving up 00s of 000s for my retiremnt seemed so enormous, it was hard see progress. But now I'm motivated to get started again. When you're a bit down it helps to remember past victories.

Bright Ideas(long)

April 8th, 2007 at 03:29 pm

Ooo pretty new colors. Somebody's been very creative. Me like.
Was chatting with a friend yesterday who is forever coming up with new schemes, but never acts on them. She's been stuck in her job for 20 years and hates it, but always finds a reason for not getting a new one. She is a very arty crafty type in her spare time, and many of her ideas revolve around setting up her own small business. Well, that certainly works for some, but you need good business skills and strong motivation to carry it out - and I don't think she's got them. I guess she knows in her heart it's all a dream and she'll never do it; she's what they call an innovative thinker but not strong on carry thru, and doesn't pay enough attention to detail.
Lately, she has got it into her head that instead of looking for a job, I should become self employed as well. She keeps coming up with all these bright ideas for me whenever I do something a bit creative. "You knit beautifully; sell your work to craftshops." "You give great speeches at Toastmasters, become a public speaker." "You do good writing, you could be a bestseller."
I think she overrates my skills and underestimates just how hard it is to make a living on these things. Even if I started making some money on them, I would probably need to continue working a regular job to have a regular income until I became sufficiently rich and succesful. Most self employed start out as parttime hobbyists. It's not that I dont' play with the ideas sometimes; it's that I'm not sufficiently interested in doing them to put in all that time and effort. Call me lazy. Or maybe it's that I prefer the security of a regular income. And I like my laid back daily routine. Like the proverbial Mexican fisherman who refused the offer of a well paid business job so he could work hard for 20 years, make a bundle, and then retire and go fishing in Mexico. He was doing that right then. We hear so much about work/life balance nowadays; I think I'm pretty well sorted on that one the way I live now.
The one idea that really appeals to me is the last one. I enjoy writing in my spare time and I'd like to have a book published some day, even if it never becomes a bestseller. And writers are often asked to do public speaking.
Here's what my friend said when I floated the idea: "Write a book on knitting! There's heaps of them being published right now. You could be a best seller!"
Um, I personally think a lot of the new knitting books are terrible and I could certainly do a better one; but there are also some brilliant ones by real experts. How do I make mine stand out? I need a creative approach.
Second suggestion from my friend. "You're really good with money. Books on money sell well. And you've just lost weight. Diet books sell well. If you write a book that talks about both money and weight loss you'd make millions!"
Bingo! I'm off to write the Accountant's Diet. See you on Oprah in 18 months.

Debt Down Under

March 18th, 2007 at 02:21 pm

There was an article on the news today about increasing bankruptcy in New Zealand. Bankruptcy rates have gone up 22% in just ONE year. Stunning. Interestingly, the main causes are given as unemployment, health problems and divorce. In other words, people took on debt they thought they could handle, then life pulled the rug out from under them. In the same article, the bank workers union has called for changes to be made to their bonus scheme. They are not happy about being paid extra for selling more credit cards, as they don't think people should be encouraged to get into debt. Sadly, most of our banks are now owned by overseas financial interests, so policies are not being made with New Zealanders interests in mind, but to make profits that will go offshore. My own town has one of the highest bankruptcy levels. I think this is due to the fact we have low income levels combined with skyrocketing property prices - which is now starting to bust; the number of mortgagee sales is increasing. It is all very sad when you think we were founded 160 years ago by thrifty hard working Scottish pioneers. We seem to have lost our traditional values in the last generation.

Preapproved credit

March 12th, 2007 at 01:42 am

Being committed to debtfree living, I have done quite well without a credit card for the last few years. I guess not running up debts is a good way to avoid credit card solicitations, for I seldom get them. So I was surprised to recieve in the mail this morning a preapproved credit card offer with -gasp!- a limit of $nz4500. It took me all of 2 seconds to realise that this is the Westpac bank I have $18000 invested with, so they were likely banking (sorry for the pun) on grabbing my assets if I default. They obviously don't know the smallness of my income. Up until recently in NZ you had to have a decent sized income to apply for a card from a bank, but they have become much pushier.

The presentation was ridiculous, with blather about my star sign and how they'd matched me in heaven. It wasn't all that great a deal either, with an initial 6 month offer of 6.99%, going up to 12.65%. Fees of 32.50, and 13.95% on cash advances. I did have a credit card when I travelled overseas, but I already had the money saved up and paid it all off at once. I will say, if I had a spare $4,500, I would travel to visit ds in England, but I'd be looking for a card with plenty of airpoints.

Actually, I'm thinking that maybe the best thing to do is take my CD money, and invest it in Westpac bank shares. They must be making a huge profit.

No spend Day

January 27th, 2007 at 01:48 am

A warm breezy day so I hung the laundry on the line to dry. I called on a friend and we went for a drive to the harbour. We sat and watched the windsurfers and ate the peanut butter and banana sammies we'd brought. It was so peaceful and I was thinking of all the millions in the world who would love to change places with me. Of course there are all the people in starving wartorn countries, to whom it would seem a millionaires life: but also there are high earners driven by a desire to make millions so then they can afford to retire and live a laidback life in a lovely place like this Smile. When I first came back from India I got very annoyed with people who are always complaining about how hard up they are. Don't they realise that in the game of life, they already won the lottery? But I guess when they don't know how to be grateful for what they already have, they'll always be wanting more and never have enough.

More than Money

December 29th, 2006 at 11:12 pm

It has been a sad end to the year. On Thursday I went to the funeral of a very special friend who passed away just before Christmas. D was born brain damaged and much of his life was spent in an institution. The great desire of his life was to be free of the authorities, and in the end he managed this, with his own little house and a gardening job.

His needs were few and simple; he loved to chat with his church friends and take an occasional bus trip. He was cheerful, honest, and he enriched the lives of those he met by his efforts to overcome his challenges. Goodbye D, we'll miss your enjoyment of life - and your never failing readiness to provide chocolates.

The other thing I had to do this week was visit a friend in the psychiatric ward, and I am quite sure that debt played its role in her breakdown. She was a single mom who, after having the courage to leave an abusive relationship, tried to compensate her children by giving them everything. There was nothing she wouldn't do for them, but, in spite of warnings from family and friends, she couldn't see that the lifestyle she was attempting to provide was beyond her means. When I talked to her, she was in complete denial, and her paranoia was an final attempt to avoid reality. I don't know what will happen now; I guess she will go bankrupt and lose everything. But when you get to the very bottom, there is no way to go but up, and I am hoping that now she will be able to cooperate with the help she needs to work her way out of this mess.

Financial Independence

December 26th, 2006 at 11:48 pm

Someone in these blogs linked to violentacres.com and I've just been reading her. Her manner is not calculated to win friends and influence people, but what really resonated with me was her idea of buying freedom by not buying stuff. Not being tied to having to do what the boss says - how wonderful! I know some people think that beneficiaries get money without having to work for it, but being forced to dance to Income Support's tune is no joy either. I don't know any unemployed people who are happy with their situation.

The classic route to Financial Independence - what violentacres did - is to work like crazy for a number of years, climb that career ladder, mazimize your income, and invest that surplus until you have enough to live on. THEN you retire and do all the things you've been putting off because you didn't have time or money. I'm not happy with that. For one thing, my health just won't let me work all that overtime. I was exhausted doing 30 hours a week and had no energy to do anything else. I'd like to start cutting back on work NOW and having time to do the things I enjoy, spend time with friends and family. That work/life balance everyone keeps talking about.

Still, fewer hours means less income, so I'm going to go all Buddhist and start reducing my wants. The less I need to buy, the fewer hours I have to work to bring in the income. After all, there are people in this country who meet all their needs by casual work a few months of the year. I will still be creating a surplus and saving, but it will take me longer to reach the Classic definition of financial independence.

Today I recived my last week's pay along with some holiday pay; total $429.67. I'm putting $200 of this into Bonus Bonds. My emergency fund will stand at $1920.

Happy

November 25th, 2006 at 12:03 am

Today I decided to clear up my files and put all my papers in order. While I was sorting them out, I came across the letters stating that my mortgage and my student loan had been paid off. I got happy all over again remembering I am debtfree. True, things have not gone so well in the last few years, but I haven't been forced to borrow again, plus the value of my house has gone up. I have had the security of knowing my roof is secure and I have been able to cope on such a low income.

To all you working so hard to pay off debt, keep at it. It really is worth while. You are going to feel so proud of yourself.

Good luck

November 15th, 2006 at 09:36 pm

I've been reading a book called "The Luck Factor" by a British professor of Psychology who has been doing research into why some people are lucky and others aren't. Basically it's a question of how you look at things. Lucky people are optimists and unlucky are pessimists. One of the things he gets people to do to become luckier, is to keep a journal where they record lucky things that happened.

I guess this is what I'd like to do with this blog - concentrate on the positive. Each little bit of progress helps me feel more prosperous. So here's the good news for today:

I found 90 cents.
The only money I spent was at the support centre - a 20 cent donation for a cup of tea.
The manager asked me about my long term plans and dropped a hint I may be asked to stay on as a permanent worker if things stay busy.

Size of income

July 22nd, 2006 at 11:39 pm

I read somewhere that the size of your income is related to that of your friends. Your income will be the average of the five people closest to you. So I totted up my closest friends income, divided by 5 and guess what? That's about how much I recieved last year.

It makes sense i guess. When I was working most of my friends worked and our income was about the same. Now I have mostly friends who are also on disability and our incomes are lower. I guess the way to increase my income is to get me some rich friends!

One of my friends just announced she's having a baby. I have a ton of yarn in my stash but no baby wool. So I will have to buy some to knit her a pair of bootees. I had hoped not to buy any until I'd used up all I had. On second thoughts, maybe I will use my scraps to knit a blanket.

Down to minimum

May 28th, 2006 at 12:18 am

Last night I found another $1 outside the theatre, and this morning I found 5 cents on the way to church (I dropped it in the plate)

The play last night was about some climbers tramped in a hut, and there were some interesting observations about the kinds of things we think we can't do without. It got me thinking about how much i would be able to cut back if there was a real crunch. So I am going to try it for a month, just spending on the bare essentials. I wonder if I can get it down to $NZ500.

I'll be keeping the Internet connection, as email really is essential for me to keep in touch with my family all over the world. Now I'm thinking toothpaste? Cheese? Plenty of people all over the world manage without all sorts of things. However as it's coming on to winter here I don't intend to do without electricity for heating, and the local council would take a dim view of my walking to the reservoir with a bucket on my head and helping myself to water.

So it will be a basic Western amenities existence, but no frills like dining out, movies, and buying knick knacks.

Hard to cook?

May 10th, 2006 at 02:02 pm

I have been laid low for the last 10 days, so have been watching more TV than I usually do. There is one ad that bugs the H@#$ out of me. This chef tries to make pumpkin soup for the family, but makes such a mess that he has to buy a can of Campbell's soup. Yeah right, it's so hard to make pumpkin soup that we have to buy expensive convenience foods instead. I was cooking entire dinners and baking bread when I was 12 years old. No wonder people are broke when they lack basic skills and have to buy everything. What do they do with the time they save? Watch more TV? Go shopping? Work harder so they can have enough money to pay for all the conveniences?

Hmmf, reminds me I have a whole pumpkin sitting in the frig. I'm off to make me some soup (and cheese scones - can't buy those in a can)

Buying with Pleasure

April 23rd, 2006 at 04:53 pm

i decided not to buy the bangle. I figured I can only spend each dollar once, and when I haven't got so many, I need to get the maximum bang for a buck.

I can spend a dollar 3 ways.
I can buy something beautiful because I want it and get a good feeling.
I can buy something useful and meet a need.
If I'm really smart I can buy something that will increase my net worth and bring me the most benefit in the long run.
So I decided instead to stock up on energy saving light bulbs which are on special this week.

Generally, people seem to get most pleasure when they think they have free choice over wehther to buy something. They don't think of taking pleasure in bills they're obliged to pay. When I was in India things were extremely cheap for Westerners and I bought a lot of stuff. I wound up paying excess baggage and when I got back home I gave most of it away. (Come to think of it, my main reason for buying was to show off to my friends). But when i got back home, things I really appreciated were things like reliable electricity and hot water, safe roads, relatively noncorrupt officials, free hospital care and education for all. I don't mind paying things like phone bills and taxes now, because I appreciate the service I get for them. (Tho natch, I don't pay any more than I have to.)

Wish list

April 21st, 2006 at 06:43 pm

I have been living in the same house for the last 16 years, with a child, a dog and a cat, so much of my furniture is definitely the worse for wear. I also spent most of my spare money paying down my mortgage as quickly as possible, so I promised myself when I was debtfree I would replace it with decent stuff.

So I drew up this list of what I wanted and stuck it on the frig, and as suitable bargains come along I replace my old stuff. Last month it was the frig itself; this month I found a good condition innerspring mattress for $45. BIL knew I was looking for a computer desk, so when a business he knew went into liquidation, he bought this great desk for $40. Friend also knew I wanted a new garbage can, and bought me one as a present. The old one was still serviceable, but so grungy it drepressed me to look at it. Seems funny to be happy about a new garbage can, but I'm happy with mine.

I know some people claim to be above material possessions, and don't care what their stuff looks like, but if I'm going to have to live with my possessions, I'd like them to give me pleasure to look at as well as when I'm using them. I read somewhere a quote about artists: they are people who are able to make the useful beautiful. I am being a creative artist in gradually transforming my home into a thing of beauty on a budget.

Spending Money

March 9th, 2006 at 11:54 am

Today I went to lunch with a friend. I spent $7.20 - and I don't intend to feel guilty about it. Saving money is not about depriving yourself of things that give you pleasure, when you can afford them. There should be a balance between putting money aside for later and enjoying it now.

I had a relative, born in the Depression, who had a mania for saving every possible cent. Not only did he manage to alienate his family, when he finally got to old age, he was unable to relax and permit himself the things he'd promised himself he'd do when he retired. Although he was practically a millionaire, he lived like a renunciate in a cave. Finally when he died his children inherited his money and spent it all on things like trips which he would have enjoyed, but could never bring himself to do.

There is a difference between being frugal and being a miser.


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