Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Financial goals

First a little on why I worry so much about me and money....
When I first finished my Ph.D I was lucky enough to start my first postdoc not long afterwards. I started on a much higher salary than I'm on now (because of the cost of living).What did I do....I went wild after years of using my credit card to tide me over to the next pay check and blew all my money. I ate out all the time, I shopped, I basically bought whatever caught my fancy, within reason. 
All of those little things add up. As I've gotten older the desire for a house of my own and kids have become stronger and I appreciate the effort my parents put into paying their mortgage off early, never having car loans and never owning credit cards etc, despite not earning much money.

Eventually, I caught hold of myself and started to slowly cut down on spending and started to save a small amount. I moved to the US and the cost of living dropped. BUT wait I moved here with 2 suitcases...I had nothing. Suddenly after paying for travel, with a car to buy and a house to furnish, managing the money I had seemed impossible. 

Between two of us we bought the cheapest second hand car (after two months) we could find, new beds oh and got the internet. Living in a pretty much empty house for months will remind you that we actually don't need much! All I wanted was a bed, my computer and an internet connection to skype my friends and family. Initially all our furniture came from thrift stores and then IKEA(which I've realised is actually cheaper than good quality used furniture) and liquidators (beds and sofa). Couponing was all the rage for us for a while and anything small we bought was on sale.....and thats exactly how we both made it through the first year here. Even now coupons and sales mean we get great deals on finishing touches, like picture frames, for the house.

This year has been easier and harder. I've saved money for an emergency fund e.g. I lose my job and have to move home or someone at home is sick and I have to get there etc. etc. I was super proud of my little nest egg and began to think about putting together a really good deposit for a house. Two things hit; health stuff and the damn car. 
Somewhere along the way my sub-conscience has been eating away at me about getting checkups. I'm by no means an annual checkup person for anything but there is always a good time to start. A lot of prodding and poking later and I know I don't have cervical cancer and soon I should know if all my blood work looks normal. To find that out has been surprisingly expensive (and painful), I see why medical debts bankrupt people here if simple blood tests/exams run into the hundreds of dollars (see below).

                                                                                                                       Total Cost   Out of pocket
Dentist (2 crowns, 5 fillings, cleaning)                                                             2956               2331         Ob/gyn (annual exam + smear)                                                                         341                166
Preventative health screen (full blood panel + Tyroid hormone check)            250+              25
Add the cost of a downpayment on a new car (+loan payments every month now) and a new phone and you can very quickly see why savings is such an issue.

What would I have done without my savings? 
Put everything off. After the dentist the other checkups would have been off the list. Thats the honest answer.
  •  I've gotten so much dental work done in the last few months that I wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise. I probably would have managed a crown or two but it'd be a struggle.
  • I also wouldn't have a working phone.
  • Maybe the old car would be fixed but most likely not and most definitely there would be no new one.
Isn't that a sad little reality that <$7,000 can really affect the quality of your life that much. 

The truth is if I could I'd live the high life I would. I like nice (aka expensive things) things, gadgets and nice food.....combine all that with the face that I'm a very impulsive shopper and you can see how I'd very easily get myself in trouble. 
After moving here two things hit me 1.) All that stuff I'd spent my money on in the previous few years really didn't mean much and 2.) with out the little savings I had then I would have had to borrow money just to move to the US. The value of money was suddenly about more than stuff.  Now I try to think about my purchases and weigh up the cost versus the long term benefit. I'm not complaining but trying to keep myself conscious of the future!!!!

So my nest egg has taken a big big hit. My dental insurance is maxed out. What are my goals for the next year?
  • The car loan is going to be paid off early, extra money is going on top of every payment.
  • Other than that nothing but saving until January. I want to save enough to pay off another crown, deep clean and maybe a wisdom tooth extraction so that I start with a clean slate from February onwards.
  • I still have enough money (+ a bit more) to fly home if needed, but no more dipping into this emergency fund.

1 comment:

  1. I've been there during and after graduate school. I had thousands of dollars of dental work done, and it put me in the whole for a long period of time. I wish there were better financial options for the dentist. It's frustrating. It sounds like you have a great plan for saving and being more mindful of money management. Just writing this out and sharing your goals is a good start.