Thanksgiving was over a week ago, but I thought I’d share a bit about the non-financial goal that I set after the holiday weekend. I bet I’m not the only one to overindulge on Thanksgiving or other holidays (please tell me I’m right)! So for the past week, I’ve been changing my eating habits. Less snacking, less sugar, fewer empty calories, more vegetables!
Good morning! This week, we’re honored to be guest posting at Slowly Sipping Coffee! This is one of our must-read FIRE blogs and one of the very first we found when we started our journey towards financial independence.
Today’s post is all about harnessing the positive aspects of comparison. We all hear so much about how comparison robs you of your joy and keeps you from appreciating your life. But today I wanted to explore some of the great things comparison can do for us when changing defaults.
Click below to read more, and be sure to follow SSC so you don’t miss a post!
Oftentimes we find ourselves able to make real and lasting change if we eliminate choice. Stop considering it optional to work out every morning, for example. Take away the choice of getting takeout food if aiming to eat healthier and more frugally. Don’t go shopping for anything but necessities. Eliminating choice is a powerful tool in our arsenal for positive change.
I’m one of those people who can’t do things in moderation (except for alcohol; half a glass of wine is plenty). I can’t eat just one cookie or watch only one episode of Fixer Upper. Nope, gimme eight cookies and marathon sessions on Netflix. Hence, for me, it’s best to take choice out or the picture when it comes to habits I desire to change. Otherwise, I take a mile when I intended to stop at an inch. (more…)
Hey, everyone! Today I’m excited to introduce you to fellow blogger Sandra Parsons. She’s talking about one of the financial basics that we here at Changing Our Default haven’t addressed yet: the zero-sum budget. And as a fun bonus, she hails from Canada, so I know you’ll enjoy those distinguished spellings. 🙂 Take it away, Sandra!
If you’ve visited my blog A Theory of Change, you know I’m all about finding ways to develop positive habits to make a better life. I believe that a big part of making a better life is getting in control of your finances.
I love the idea of making my money work for me. It’s not enough for me to know that I’m paying my bills on time and more or less living within my means. I want to know where every dollar is going, why it’s going there, and what it’s doing. I want to know that I’m maximizing the value of my money (’cause, you know, I work pretty hard to earn it). (more…)
“Shut the door, change the record, clean the house, shake off the dust. Stop being who you were, and change into who you are.” -Paulo Coehlo
I absolutely adore this quote I found from The Alchemist. Now, to be honest, I’ve yet to read the book, or any of Coehlo’s work (sorry!), but that doesn’t mean you and I can’t benefit from his words. In fact, I’m deliberately not even researching the background of the quote because I don’t need it. I don’t need to know which character says it or what the circumstances are; I just want to focus on the act of changing into who I am.
Our blog is all about what the name says: changing our default. Yes, we mainly like to spend our words on financial wellness, but it’s all within the greater context of changing our normal behaviors to attain contentment. Of course, with my friend’s recent passing, I’m thinking a lot about how to best spend my life. Life is too short to waste being anything other than who you really want to be. So let’s think of Coehlo’s words in relation to the changes we desire in our own lives.
Shut the door.
Whatever is holding you in the past, don’t be afraid to shut the door on it and open up other doors that will serve you better. Is there a major fear that’s held you captive far too long? Put it away in its own closet and shut the door. Do you harbor room in your mind for past disappointments, betrayals, rejections? Close the door on those too.
Change the record.
That same old depressing or discouraging tune that’s been playing over and over in your head for weeks, months, even years? Time to bust out some new music! Sing a new song. Dance to a different band. Let there be a new soundtrack to your days, one that’s life-affirming and daring and exciting. Don’t keep listening to that sad country song where you’ve lost everything. Make room in your playlist for confidence, for hope, for new beginnings.
This year, my “record” is quite different from the past. Where life used to be filled with lesson plans and staff meetings, it’s now filled with dinosaur toys and cartoons and potty training. Where I used to be sad dropping my kids off at daycare, I’m now enjoying a lot more closeness with my kids.
Clean the house.
Mr. COD is the cleaner and organizer of our household. It drives him bananas to see toys strewn all over the house, mail and papers scattered on every counter and table, and dirty clothes on the floor. I don’t love messes either, but I have a greater ability to turn a blind eye to the clutter sometimes. However, the weeks while we were showing our house and still living there, we found out how much better we felt with a clean, uncluttered house. We’re working on keeping a neater house for our own sanity.
Cleaning house literally improves your outlook, your environment, giving you a fresh sensation. When we spring clean, we tend to push open all the windows, letting in all the scents of the outdoors. A clean house means open spaces to let your creativity run wild. It gives you room to breathe and to think and to start something new.
“Cleaning house” might also mean doing relationship inventory. Letting go of toxic relationships, or at least affording them less space in your life. As we declutter our homes, we might also benefit from decluttering our lives in other ways.
Shake off the dust.
In the Bible, Jesus told his disciples that if any place didn’t welcome them and their gospel message, they should shake the dust off their feet as they left. Taylor Swift also sang of this powerful act (haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate…do you hate me now for putting this song in your head?). We can apply this to the changes we need to make. Anything that’s not advancing our progress toward goals, we shake it off and leave it behind.
Has someone damaged you with degrading comments or tried to actively sabotage your success? Have you been carrying baggage from old relationships, failed careers, lost talents? Give yourself permission to shake all of that off.
A big struggle for me is letting rejection roll off me. I tend to let negative thoughts drag me down, and every time I get rejected in terms of freelance jobs, friendships, or anything else, I have a hard time moving past that. Shaking off the bad makes room for the good.
Shall we borrow some words from the first American Idol winner as well? “Take a risk, take a chance, make a change…and break away.” Kelly Clarkson’s debut hit may seem really old nowadays, but it still rings true when I’m craving some inspiration. I need the positive encouragement from songs like that. Sometimes we have to break away from what’s easy or comfortable in order to grow and get to a better place.
Change ain’t easy. We all are well aware that it’s much simpler to keep doing things the way we’re accustomed to, the way that’s comfortable and familiar. Change hurts. It stretches us and bends us and leads us along paths that can seem dark and scary.
I can’t forget this one chapel speaker from my time at Wheaton. Her central message was how to deal with the inevitability of three things: change, loss, and pain. While I’m sure she presented a few useful points, all I can remember is how she punctuated the sentence every time she said the three things. She would count them out on her fingers emphatically: “Change, loss, and pain,” then pound on her chest with a fist and say, “Ouch.” It was so comical; we mocked her rather unkindly afterwards.
But no matter how painful, change (to the right things) is worth it. Whether it’s a change to a healthier lifestyle, a more stable financial future, a supportive relationship, it’s worth every bit of research and time invested. We can break away from our old habits, our old defaults, and create new ones that fit who we are. As said in The Alchemist, we can stop being who we were and start being who we are.
When you look at yourself today, do you see the person you want to see? Or do you have a picture in your mind of who you’d like to be one day? Whatever sacrifices you have to make to become the new version of yourself, they just might be worth it.
A couple of months ago, I blogged about some of the fantastic things we LOVE about our new house and town. Mr. COD and I feel so fortunate to be in the place we are right now in career, location, and life in general. He’s begun his new assistant professor duties and is feeling very positive about it all, and Junior COD just started preschool today! Lots of good stuff all around!
Naturally, no situation is perfect! We certainly have found a few negatives in our new house and region, so to honestly document our journey of changing our default, we must admit the bad along with the good. Without further ado, I present:
NEW HOME CONS
- Our rural road is slightly dangerous. We’re just about one mile off a main highway into town, but that one mile is fraught with several risky corners where it’s BARELY wide enough to fit two vehicles passing one another. We’ve also noticed that other drivers on this road seem to drive recklessly. Hence, we do have to be on alert when traversing the area.
- Along those same lines, it’s not a great location for me as a runner. While I like that traffic is light, I don’t love the blind corners or the crazy, STEEP hills! I run on my own once in awhile, but it’s tough. Dangerous and hard on my wimpy Illinois muscles!
- The rural area, of course, means limited options for Internet hookup. Our neighbor across the street informed us on our moving day that no matter who you go with around here, service can be slow. Plus, she uses AT&T, but when Mr. COD contacted them, we found that our home (just across the road) was out of their service area. Hence, we have HughesNet and it’s costing us a bit more than before.
- You’ve already heard about us meeting a plethora of creepy, crawly critters in our new abode. A large majority of these were prior inhabitants of the house and land who had enjoyed free reign for several months while our house lay empty of human occupants. Thankfully, having us and our feline family members patrolling the premises (and Mr. COD having cut back a ton of the overgrown brush and trees) seems to have largely eradicated the presence of giant spiders in the house. We still are constantly finding new creatures to examine, though. At least one black widow has been spotted (in the garage), several enormous fishing spiders (freakishly huge, but harmless), and just last week, a “cow-killer” (a red-and-black striped wasp that races on foot like a steroid-enhanced ant). Plus side: Junior and Mini COD are getting an early education in the art of not touching any unfamiliar critters without prompt notification of Mom and Dad and a quick Google search!
- Poison ivy. Umm…yeah. Mr. COD had a vicious encounter with this stuff a few weeks ago and is finally starting to get relief from the itching! He admits to not being cautious and wearing appropriate clothing to protect himself while mowing and trimming, but still, it’s caused some degree of misery for his first few weeks of work. Again, the kids are learning what NOT to do! They are sufficiently scared of poison ivy now thanks to Dad’s live demonstration of its evils.
- Coyotes. Guys, these things are SOOO FREAKY to hear late at night! We first heard a pack of them shrieking a couple of weeks ago while our friends from Milwaukee were visiting. Let’s just say, we could definitely tell they were celebratin’ something sinister. Just last night, we heard them getting all riled up again. It doesn’t make me keen on camping in our backyard anytime soon!
- The steep hill of a driveway and yard are a pain at times. Hauling garbage cans up to the road is a bit of work, and there are very few flat spaces in the yard for playing or gardening. We feel a bit better about this when we drive around town and see that flat areas are few and far between, so we’re not alone!
- As far as the house itself goes, nearly everything in it is kind of worn-out or near broken. The house is perfectly livable; it just needs a lot of TLC to get to the way we’d like it. A few examples: paint needs freshening everywhere, the patio door doesn’t function very well, the roof isn’t in great shape, and the main bathroom decor is pretty hideous. However, all can be done gradually as we have the funds and time!
- There’s no Aldi. Shopping at Wal-Mart is far from my favorite thing to do. Boo! It’s okay, though–there’s a new Aldi under construction in our town right now! We’re so looking forward to getting our fave grocery chain back soon.
- Driving everywhere is a necessity, because, again, RURAL. It’s no longer a five-minute walk to the nearest supermarket, so I do miss popping the boys into the stroller to go pick up just a few things. Planning ahead is a bit more important when running errands. Still, Mr. COD is now only a ten-minute drive from work (instead of 30), which is an awesome change for him and us.
- While we love having a bigger house in which to entertain guests (we’ve had a lot of people visiting this summer), more space means more to clean. This is no surprise; everyone mentions this con when talking square footage of homes. It’s still preferable for us to have the room and spend a tad longer cleaning. Totally worth the trade-off!
- Not a good space for kitty litter. One of our cats is on the geriatric end of the age spectrum and has some trouble staying in the box. Unfortunately, the best space for them is in a downstairs open closet, which is carpeted. Hence, we have some gross odor to deal with as long as she’s with us.
- You’ve all heard this one before: we’re farther from our family and friends. It sucks big-time, but we feel the career opportunity for Mr. COD and the other opportunities for us as a family are worth the sacrifice.
- We are very isolated from other people here. At our old house, we even shared a driveway with one neighbor, and it became somewhat comforting to always see them leaving in the morning for their jobs and run into them during the warmer months. Here in this rural area, we can go days without seeing another human being. It’ll require some more effort to get to know people. *One caveat to this: our closest neighbors here have dogs who occasionally wander off into our yard. We love this, as their dogs are incredibly sweet and friendly and our kids adore dogs. Our day is always brightened when Roscoe or Piper amble through our grass for a pat or two. That opens up conversation with the neighbors as well, when they come looking for the pups!
- The amount of space we have is amazing…BUT…the view from our house is actually very closed-off. We’re totally hemmed in by trees on all sides, and it would be nice to see more of the countryside around us. Our plan is to work on clearing out more of the trees and brush that separate us from the cow pasture, so that by next summer, we could enjoy some glorious pastoral sunset views!
That’s about it for the negatives in this new home in Kentucky. We don’t regret the house or the location we chose, but it does have its drawbacks. So far, the pros far outweigh the cons for us! I mean, look at this peaceful little slice of heaven!
Have you ever regretted a move or a house purchase? How did you fix things?
It’s been a year of not working for me. About one year ago, I received my final paycheck from my school district! A year of not setting an alarm. A year of not following a set schedule. A year of freedom to travel during the week with the kids. I find it fascinating how this has changed my views on money; perhaps I never realized how important work is to a person’s identity. While my perspectives on work and money are likely vastly different from those of someone who is not unemployed by choice, I want to explore this topic a bit today.
Whether contemplating stay-at-home parenthood for a period of time or retiring permanently from a paying career, it’s important to keep in mind some factors. Obviously, we’re all built differently, but if you leave your work, these are a few changes you might encounter:
- You find yourself pinching your pennies more than before. Every expense must be more carefully planned for and monitored. Non-essentials may not fit into the budget. Although I was fairly frugal before quitting my job, being out of the workforce has made me think much more before spending any money. Most of my discretionary purchases that were just for me? They’re out of the picture.
- You actually crave the routine and structure of a work schedule. Even though I’m used to having long stretches of time off (yay for one of the only perks left to public school teachers!), being absent from work beyond that typical 10-week summer feels weird. Not following any required routine is always a highlight of vacation time, but I’ve found that it’s lost some of its appeal. Now that a non-routine is actually routine, any kind of motivation can be hard to muster. On some lazier days it feels a lot like being sick (staying in pajamas all day, barely leaving the house, watching the same shows again and again).
- Your definition of a small or large amount of income adjusts. For me, not working a full-time, steady job with a steady paycheck makes me really savor and appreciate the occasional income I make. (Of course, Mr. COD is still working, but I’m referring to my own freelance endeavors.) Side hustles aren’t earning me enough to make a dent in our retirement savings, but they are sufficient to finance the occasional Raising Cane’s dinner out for the fam! While I (obviously) hope to eventually earn more than $20 or $25 for writing gigs, as long as it’s a reasonable trade of my time/effort for the money, I won’t sniff at that pay level. (Sometimes my devotionals only take 15-30 minutes to write, earning me $25. Not a bad rate!)
- Occasionally, you might feel guilty if your partner is still working to support the family. Fully retired folks are not in the same boat, but I absolutely encounter moments of guilt as I think “oh, we could save so much money if I were still working”. While that’s true, I am confident in the choice we made for me to stay home with Junior and Mini COD.
It’s certainly a different lifestyle, not getting up and heading to a job every day. I miss the paychecks and the sense of security they gave, but I can keep in mind that this is only a short period of time. My kids will only be little once, and I want to enjoy this brief sliver of life with them as much as possible. It’ll feel like a blink of an eye, and suddenly my kids will be grown and on their own. As long as Mr. COD is still on board, I can deal with these adjustments to our financial situation. As with most things in life, they are temporary.
Have you ever been out of work for an extended period of time? How did that affect your views on money?
If I had to choose one aspect of our out-of-state move that is the hardest, it would definitely be missing old friends and family. We have NONE close by. Of course, close is a relative term, but for us, we are now between 5-12 hours’ drive from any of our family and friends. I’m enjoying the summer with my kids and Mr. COD, but at times it’s been hard being so far from our loved ones. (more…)
This whole past year of being primarily a stay-at-home mom has provoked a great deal of introspection regarding my career identity. Who am I, apart from my identity as a teacher? It was such an integral part of my being for so long, I almost don’t know how to view myself apart from that identity.
Surprising, how much of what I think about myself revolves around what I do. It’s a development I hadn’t anticipated when I walked away from teaching. Blinded by the thrill of quitting, of leaving a career I only halfheartedly cared about, I hadn’t realized how much of my identity I derived from that label: teacher. (more…)
So to say the least, it has been awhile. In the last year I have taught my first graduate class, or any class, since I taught ELL classes in South Korea in 2004. It was part side hustle and part “Am I ready to move to a new career?”. I really enjoyed teaching the career class to future counselors so much that I decided to explore teaching full time at counselor education programs.
For those who don’t know, counselor education programs are graduate programs which train counselors for mental health, higher education, or school counseling positions. I limited my search to certain locations that met living criteria for my family: location, size of community, not too far from family, etc. Fast forward October to June: 12 applications, 6 phone interviews, and 2 on-campus interviews….say hello to a new job at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky. I really took the changing our default to heart and decided to uproot my entire family.