“Tanks” for the Memories: Justifying Large Expenditures

My Father-in-Law (Bob) celebrated his 70th birthday earlier this year and since we see it as a milestone birthday, so we wanted to do something special for him. We thought about a lot of different things we could get him, but he has pretty much anything that he needs or wants. So then we thought about some experiences we could look into for him. He has had some back and neck issues the last few years, so even those adventures would be limited for what we could do. Then, Mrs. SSC came across a website that we thought would not only offer a great present but also an excellent place to make memories. (not an affiliate link by the way, I wish, lol)

It’s Tank time! German Leopard we drove and I rode on in the turret.

Bob has been a pretty big WWII history buff and has read a lot about that time period so we thought this could incorporate that passion of his as well. What did we stumble across that would fulfill this passion, while providing a great gift and awesome memories? Ox Ranch, a place where you can literally drive a tank on one of their designed tank courses. They have over 18,000 acres, most dedicated to exotic animal hunting, but a large part is also dedicated to tanks and machine guns, because, Texas. They also offer you the chance to shoot the tank if you want to spend that kind of coin, we didn’t. Plus, there are options to shoot almost any type of WWII machine gun if you choose. We offered if he was interested, but Bob didn’t take us up on any of those options, whew… We had an excellent time and even got an upgrade on the tank we got to experience due to a delay caused by the History Channel shooting on location that day. Woohoo for little wins!! Even though we try to be frugal in a lot of areas in our life, this was one thing that we could justify paying for a memory making experience.

Why You Should Never Settle.

Recently I have had some interesting discussions with Mrs. SSC, friends, and even people around the office. I asked them a fairly straightforward question, “If you could go back to your high school self and let them know where you are today, how would they respond to the news? Would they be surprised in a good or bad way, or nod knowingly and say, “Yep, that’s pretty much what I expected to happen?” Would your highschool self even think that you might have not tried hard enough and just settled for the easy route?” The answers have been pretty varied.

Mrs. SSC is of the opinion that her high school self wouldn’t be too surprised about her situation and would fit into the “yep, that’s about what I expected would happen” category. Meaning that she was pretty driven during high school and college and that drive to excel is what got her to where she is today. She might be more surprised at leaving a megacorp oil and gas job for teaching, but not once she explained to her younger self that at some point in life, happiness trumps making more money. Overall, the trajectory of her life seems to follow the path she set it on at a young age. Mine however, couldn’t be more different.

If I was able to tell my high school self where I was right now at 40, with family, education, career, and what shape our finances are in, first I don’t think he’d believe me. After I convinced him that this is legit and we really did “make it”, he’d be ecstatic. High school me would jump up, give me a big hug, a high five and hop around screaming, “F*** yeah, we did it! We DID it!” Quite honestly, even now I have to take a moment to reflect on where I’ve come from and really appreciate being in the spot I am today. I know that if I had been able to write a successful life story for myself back when I was in high school, I would have set the bar so low that I wouldn’t have achieved anywhere near where I am today. I would have settled for a way less comfortable and successful lifestyle in SO many ways.

Time for Thanksgiving!

Hey guys, it’s that time of the year where we get to hang out with family, relax, maybe watch some football, and cook some good food. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I’m taking this week off from writing a thorough finance related post. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because of the focus around spending time with family and coming together around food. I like to do a lot of the cooking at our house, and I enjoy doing that for everyone. Having loved ones around to get to share a meal or three with makes that much more special for me.

My favorite pics of the kids!
The rest of the family!

Hopefully you also get some down time to spend with your family or loved ones, and you have a great holiday. That’s what we’ll be doing around our household.

Until next week, I hope you have a great Thanksgiving and stay safe!

Guest Post: “Harnessing the Power of Comparison” from Changing Our Default

I’m featuring a guest post from Mrs. COD who blogs at Changing Our Default. She is a former teacher turned stay at home mom, freelance writer, blogger, and more. She and her husband blog about their path to Financial Freedom and the changes it requires in attitude, mindset, and the habits you build up over your life. Today, Mrs. COD is talking about the double edge sword of comparison and the journey to FIRE. Take it away Mrs. COD!

Everyone knows we’re not supposed to compare ourselves with others. Comparison is such a rotten thing. It leaves you dissatisfied, jealous, joyless. Right? We shouldn’t compare our marriages, our jobs, our salaries, our possessions, our families, to anyone else’s, or we’ll resent what we’re missing.

“Love your life, not theirs.” -Rachel Cruze

Watching my kids interact provides daily evidence of the truth that comparison can indeed steal our joy. Junior COD can be perfectly content with a toy until he notices Mini COD equally content with a different toy, and suddenly, it’s ON. He wants what little bro has, and whatever he’d been playing with before pales in comparison. I mean, the other day at the pumpkin patch, they both got a tiny plastic bug toy as a prize, but they fought the rest of the day over who got the ant versus the beetle. Seriously?

I may deride these kids’ immaturity in my mind at times, but in all honesty, how different am I from them on any given day? I can be totally content with my lot in life until perusing social media and seeing something I’m missing. Even though I have a cushy life by most standards, it doesn’t always feel like enough.

In general, I totally agree with the idea of not following everyone else’s path and not being swayed by peer pressure to buy or do or think a certain way. Comparison can drag you down, for sure. It can be depressing. It can be discouraging.

But today I’d like to turn the discussion to the other side of the comparison coin: motivation. Comparison, if we use it well, can be an incredible tool in our arsenal, spurring us on to bigger and better things.

Personal Finance Win at Work!

I’ve made it no secret that I like talking finance at work and my co-workers know that. I try hard to not be a pest about it and pay attention to the conversation dynamic, so that when co-workers get the 1000 yard stare, I reel it back in. This constant talk of finance has finally started to get some good results. For instance, I’ve had a co-worker ask me to figure out whether or not paying PMI was worth it. We worked it up in ~10 minutes on my whiteboard and figured out that she’d be paying ~$13k over 4 yrs to PMI versus putting that same amount aside towards a down payment. She’s still saving for the 20% mortgage down payment instead of pulling the trigger on buying a home a year ago.

Other wins have been handing out 5 copies of the millionaire next door to younger colleagues, and getting good feedback on it after they’ve finished reading it. I’ve also been compiling an ever growing word document (for download below) with links to different blogs, investing sources, investing definitions, savings art links, etc… I keep the master and delete and add links as needed to cater to whatever question I get at the time. I’ve sent it out to my team, one of my supervisors, and more. It’s gotten positive feedback each time, so I just keep growing and editing it.

Yesterday came the biggest win of all so far! I mentor a younger person at work, and while we do talk a lot about work related things, one of the other things I keep talking about is investing now to give yourself choices later in life. I hadn’t felt too much success at any of this talk making any impression on my mentee, so I’d backed off on it and only offered advice when asked. I was super excited when I was recently asked about 401k elections and starting a taxable account outside of their 401k.

I Found My Tribe! FinCon 2017

Man, last weekend was amazing! I got to go to my first FinCon in Dallas, and I was a little anxious about what it was going to be like. I’ve been to conferences before and they can be hit or miss, but this one was definitely a hit. I got there early in the afternoon on Wednesday and got checked in. After attending a few sessions and not seeing anyone I recognized, I thought that I should go for a run before things really get started. I ran into Kara from Bravely Go and then I started seeing more people I “knew”. It was a little overwhelming at first with the amount of people that were there, but I was able to take a breath and start introducing myself to everyone. I met new friends, like Chris at Keep Thrifty, Jim at Route to Retire, Vicki at Make Smarter Decisions, I Dream of FIRE, Mr. and Mrs. WoW from Waffles on Wednesday, Claudia from Two Cup House, Miss Mazuma, and SO many more. I also ran into “old friends” like Chris at Eat the Financial Elephant, Maggie from Northern Expenditure, Bob from Tawcan, Jillian at Montana Money Adventures, Mrs. BITA from Bayalis is the Answer, and Mr. PIE from Plan Invest Escape.

Preparation Helps but Expect the Unexpected

For 5 months this year, I’ve been training for a single race, the Kemah Olympic Triathlon, and this past weekend I completed it! Woohoo! It was scheduled to be run in April, however, due to some poor planning and lack of knowledge of TX DOT’s paving schedule, it was rescheduled only 2 weeks before the event. Yes, 2 weeks before the race, they moved the date 6 months later. I had been training for it for about 2.5 months at that point, and I was pretty frustrated to say the least. I looked for a similar race nearby so my training wouldn’t go to waste and I was able to sign up for the Texasman Olympic Triathlon just north of Dallas. While I was able to complete both races, they both had unexpected issues pop up that I had to work around. It reminded me that whether you’re planning for a race, for FIRE (Financial Independence/Retire Early), FFLC (Fully Funded Lifestyle Change), or anything else solid preparation is good, but being able to deal with adversity is key!

We’re almost a year away from starting our FFLC journey and we feel pretty solid with all of our planning. Since we don’t know for sure how that planning aligns with reality, we are going to spend 2018 test driving our FFLC budget and see if we hit any unexpected bumps in the road, like I have in my races. Like race prep, training is essential to make sure you’re ready, but the mental aspect accounts for a lot as well.

Weddings and Finances – Perspective Changes Everything

This past weekend we attended my brother-in-law’s wedding at the Isle of Palms in South Carolina. All the planning had been done by “Jill” (now his wife) so that she could cut costs where necessary and still keep the wedding affordable. We got our flights booked early enough that they weren’t exorbitant. We also split a house with Mrs. SSC’s parents and Aunt to defray those costs. As a bonus, on the weekend of the wedding I found out that the father-in-law offered to cover the housing cost. That news was a nice surprise indeed! While I was expecting a nice, modest sort of ceremony, reception, etc… because of so much talk of “keeping the wedding affordable” man, was I surprised how this “affordable wedding” fit my version of a really nice wedding. It reminded me that you see the same differences in perspective of affordable and extravagant, whether you’re talking about planning a wedding or planning for retirement and financial independence.

Summer Look Back and More!

This summer has seemed to fly by. We spent the first part of it researching and meeting with different homebuilders for our Canyon Lake property. That was followed by a month long road trip for Mrs. SSC and the kids, and I got to catch up with them for the last half in Montana and Idaho. I even got to spend a day solo exploring Seattle on my way out there.

The blown glass museum was awesome, the pics don't do it justice.
The blown glass museum was awesome, the pics don’t do it justice.

I even met up with a reader who was kind enough to let me pay homage to one of my childhood idols, Bruce Lee. Thanks again for the ride, Max!

I watched SO many of his movies over and over as a kid
I watched SO many of his movies over and over as a kid

We didn’t escape the heat of Texas, but you can’t match the beauty of Glacier NP anywhere in Texas I’ve seen yet. Coeur D’Alene was beautiful too and we spent almost a week there as well.

So hot, even in Glacier Nat'l Park!
So hot, even in Glacier Nat’l Park!
Lake McDonald - Glacier Nat'l Park
Lake McDonald – Glacier Nat’l Park

We were home just a short time before heading out to San Destin to spend a week on the beach.

Awesome week of boogie boarding and excellent waves!
Awesome week of boogie boarding and excellent waves!

With one of the kids in school, our vacation is now timed with every other family with school aged children. Sigh… On the plus side, we were able to not have either kid in daycare/preschool over the summer and that saved a lot of coin. Woohoo! Our spending was good for most of the summer, even including the big road trip and beach vacation, but man was August spendy! We had a lot of big expenditures hit as we are starting to prep the house for sale in a few years. Why start this far out? Well, we want to enjoy some of those things as well and not just make improvements immediately before moving out.

One More Year Syndrome is Legit

I used to think that One More Year syndrome was due to people not really wanting to retire or not having anything to retire to. Lately, I totally understand why people would get caught in the One More Year cycle. It’s not about having enough money, it’s more about the psychological traps that come along with leaving a comfortable work environment and lifestyle, to venture into the unknown. A situation that’s new, possibly uncomfortable, possibly more stressful, and definitely more challenging than the known present situation. It makes it hard to envision the potentially stressful or uncomfortable retirement scenario as a “good” scenario. Especially when you’re like me and you really like your job and corporation (minus the rare bizarro meeting).

“Give me one good reason why I should never make a change?”
George Ezra

Well, I have lots of reasons why I should make changes, but it’s the big 3 that I keep reminding myself about and that’s the wife and kids.

There are a lot of things I can focus on that could go wrong with our plan and I have. Working on solutions and getting comfortable with the level of risk associated with those uncertainties is what I have to come to accept. I think Abe Lincoln said it better than I can.

“Determine that the thing can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way.”
Abraham Lincoln

We determined that our Fully Funded Lifestyle Change (FFLC) can be done, and now we’re just convincing ourselves that we’ve found the way to make it work.