White car with dark spots on it from a bad paint job

Six Steps to Saving Money by DIYing Everything Like a Bad-ass Engineer

In my freshman engineering seminar, there was one phrase forever drilled into my head: “Engineers Solve Problems (ESP™).”

ESP was the one thing that brought all the disciplines together – from six sigma-ing industrial engineers to code monkey computer engineers (engineers can be super cliquey).

So how can you be like an engineer? You guessed it – by solving problems. Why would you want to? Oh, man, because engineering is cool? No? Okay, how about saving money, time, and sanity? Yeah, I thought so.

Step 1: Destroy Mental Barriers

“But everyone solves problems,” I hear you groan, “What makes engineers special?”

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5 Lessons in Happiness from My Dog

Happy International Happiness Day! This is a preamble into an upcoming article on hacking happiness with actual numbers and charts and graphs.

And, as always, this is also an excuse to show off adorable dog pictures:
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Fluffster with money on snout

Letting It Rain for a Good Cause

It’s not like we have never donated to charities before. We’ve sent the Red Cross the odd donation, and we’ve donated on behalf of coworkers running for charity. We’ve even pitched in for a couple Go Fund Me’s for friends in tough situations. It was just never a lot – $200-$300 a year at the most.

This year, we’re 10Xing that.

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How I Made $0 In 13 Months of Blogging

And you, too, can be just like me!

In all seriousness, that is my actual earning statement after officially blogging for 13 months (well, more like -$99 due to hosting and domain name). I’m writing this post for two reasons:

(1) It is insanely easy to glamorize the lives of your favorite bloggers, or to envy those that actually make a living at this; they make it look so easy. When you think, “Hey, I have ideas, I want to blog, too,” it’s disheartening to see what appears to be everyone else, except for you, succeed.

This is called survivorship bias. Lots of people fail or struggle, you just don’t see it. This post is me showing the world (okay, the optimistically nine people who regularly read this blog), that I have tried and failed at generating any kind of “side hustle” income from this blog. That I have spent easily over 100 hours of just writing for negative financial returns. We so rarely publicize and try to learn from failures.

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Diving With Octogenarians and Not Worrying (So Much) About Money

These past 6 weeks have been crazy busy. Three work trips and a 10 day vacation totaling $5883 (over five months rent!!).

The work trips were actually pretty great in their own rights. I was able to get in some sightseeing, meet up with family I haven’t seen since I was literally a baby, and grow friendships. I’ve always been fairly friendly with work colleagues, but now I’m building more honest-to-goodness friendships – the kind where we would actually keep in touch if I quit work tomorrow. It’s pretty awesome.

And that vacation? Best ever, hands down. Me and Fergus, my 80-year-old grandparents, and two of their “retired” friends spent 10 days in the Cayman Islands full of sting rays, sunscreen slathering, and scuba diving. Yes, scuba diving. Continue reading

Not Quitting?

It has officially been just over a month since my last post. Part of the reason has been working slightly longer hours and exercising more, both in a good way. I’m contributing more and feeling needed, and I’m feeling better in general because of basic taking care of myself.

The larger issue has been fully working out what is going on in my head – what it is I want out of life.

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Montreal and New Straw

We went on vacation to Montreal earlier this month! During a snowstorm! And it was fun!

We live in the Boston area, meaning we’re about a five hour drive away from Montreal. And yet, in our years living around Boston, we’ve never visited Canada. A foreign country, with a foreign language (in Quebec province), right there, close enough to take Fluffster along for the ride. Granted, most people there speak English, but I still got to order a croissant in French.

At this point you might be wondering why “straw” is in the title, much less “new straw.”

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Lazy Grocery Shopping at $300/mo

We do not take extensive inventory of the fridge or the cupboards before heading out, and we certainly do not go in with shopping lists. We practice lazy, but frugal, grocery shopping. On a typical month, we spend right around $300/mo on groceries, and when we used to really cut back, we spent slightly over $200/mo on groceries for the two of us. For context, the USDA “Thrifty” food plan for a two adult family is $386.40 as of April 2016.

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The Power of Financial Freedom

Strangely enough, practicing frugality can enhance both your earning power and your workplace satisfaction. Knowing that we live below our means and could easily live off only one of our salaries gave me the courage to step away from a job that was emotionally draining and unfulfilling.

The Situation
It was a fine job, really. No one yelled at me, the pay was decent, with good benefits and a fine work/life balance. Expectations were low, and I could spend as much time as I wanted slacking off on personal finance forums. And that was the problem. There was no sense of accomplishment, no sense of fulfillment.

Right out of university I started off bright-eyed and idealistic, thinking I could help make the world a better place, but the culture did not reward that thinking. When I did what I considered to be “good work,” it was not recognized. I had honest conversations with management asking for feedback and guidance on how to get promoted and grow in my career, but every year the answer changed.

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Financial Freedom

When we first forayed into the world of financial blogging as content consumers, we were introduced to a lot of new terms. For the early retirement community, the most common are Financial Independence (FI) or Financially Independent and Retired Early (FIRE). There’s a reason (besides alliteration) that we use “Financial Freedom” as opposed to FIRE: Words are powerful.

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