My financial plans for 2019

Earlier this week, I lamented the fact that my net worth plunged by more than 15% in 2018. Although much of this was due to accounting quirks (buying back this website and remodeling the house, neither of which get tracked by my personal net worth) and larger economic forces (the stock market declined by 6.2% last year), some of the problem is that I’ve allowed myself to succumb to lifestyle inflation. I’ve been spending more than I used to.

As a result, I’ve resolved to make some changes.

I’ve already trimmed nearly $500 of recurring monthly costs. (This number will increase to nearly $750 once a couple of contracts end.) But that’s just the beginning. Over the past month, Kim and I have discussed other steps I can take to cut costs. It’s time for me to get back to basics.

Back to Budgeting

Because I track every penny I spend, I have a pretty clear idea of where my financial weaknesses are. When Quicken shows that I spent $4675.56 dining out last year, that’s clearly an issue. (And that doesn’t even count what Kim spent!) When it shows that I spent $2820.39 on iTunes downloads, that’s clearly an issue too.

Analyzing my spending summary for 2018 allowed me to find several ways to curb my spending.

  • I’m going to cut back on groceries. To start, I’ll give HelloFresh a trial run. Kim and I enjoyed a free two-week taste of this meal-delivery service last spring. We liked it. It seemed a little expensive but not outrageous. (Here’s my HelloFresh review.) Because my grocery spending continues to be higher than I’d like — primarily due to impulse spending in the grocery store (beer! juice! fancy cheese!) — we’re going to use HelloFresh for three months to see whether this actually cuts costs. If not, fine. We’ll try something else.
  • I’m going to build barriers between me and “frictionless spending”. Big companies like Apple and Amazon make it easy to achieve instant gratification with one-click shopping. I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff. I spend far, far too much on the iTunes store, for instance. Back when I was trying to get out of debt, I deliberately avoided bookstores and comic book shops because I knew they’d tempt me to spend. Similarly, I’m now going to deliberately avoid browsing online stores. If I have a need and want to order from Amazon, great. If Kim and I decide we want to rent the latest Marvel movie from Apple, great. But I’m not going to kill time by browsing.
  • I’m going to move from tracking my finances casually to tracking them seriously. For the past two years, I’ve used two tools to manage my money. I use Personal Capital to keep tabs on my accounts, to get a sort of overview of my financial situation. And I use an antiquated desktop program (Quicken 2007 for Mac) to manually enter my earning and spending. These habits won’t change. What will change is how carefully I use the tools. I’ll monitor Personal Capital daily. I’ll be much more accurate about how I enter expenses in Quicken.

These are the big changes I’ve already begun to implement. There are plenty of smaller things I hope to do, as well.

For instance, Kim and I want to spend less on dining out. Last year, I spent about $400 per month eating in restaurants. My gut feeling is that I spend about $50 every time we go out, which means I’ve been buying eight restaurant meals per month. (Kim probably pays for another four restaurant meals per month.) I want to aim for $200 per month in restaurants instead. Dining out once per week is a perfect treat.

I’ve also gotten out of the habit of using the public library. Back before my divorce, I enjoyed walking to the library and carrying home a backpack of books a couple of times per month. It’s been a l-o-n-g time since I regularly made use of this resource, though, and that needs to change. My local library isn’t in walking distance, but it’s certainly on my way home from various errands. Or from the box factory.

Which brings up another big change, one that I’ve hinted at for a couple of months.

Back to Boxes

My cousin Duane is dying of throat cancer. I recently took three weeks to travel Europe with him, yes, but I’m also exploring the idea of taking over his job.

Long-time readers know that my family owns a small business here in Portland. In 1985, my father founded a company that manufacturers small runs of custom boxes. For many years, I was the company’s salesman. I hated it. Also, I sucked at it. I quit my job in 2008 (much to the relief of my brother and cousin) to work on Get Rich Slowly full-time.

Well.

Duane manages the office at Custom Box Service. He answers phones, pays bills, and processes payroll. He takes care of anything related to the financial operation of the business. (My brother Jeff is in charge of the rest of the company’s operations. He quotes prices, enters orders, and schedules production.)

With Duane’s time on this Earth dwindling, the company needs to find a replacement. We could hire somebody new, it’s true. Or maybe another family member could take on the job. But for a variety of reasons, it seems to make the most sense if I assume the position. I know the company. I’m emotionally invested in its success. I’m good with computers. I like managing money. Plus, Kim has been urging me for years to find some sort of job so that I get out of the house.

So, we’re exploring this idea.

On Tuesday, I spent three hours learning how to process payroll. Today, as soon as I finish this article, I’m driving down to the box factory to learn how to do year-end bookkeeping. Next week, I’ll spend several days learning other aspects of Duane’s job.

My return to the box factory isn’t a for-sure thing yet, but it seems extremely likely.

Obviously, it’s far too early to know how this will effect my financial life. Will this be part-time work? Full-time work? Will I get a retirement plan? Health insurance? How much will I earn? When will I find time to do my work at Get Rich Slowly? And how will I adjust to having a work schedule after a decade of doing whatever I want, whenever I want to?

Back to Basics

As I contemplated these changes during the past few weeks, I realized I’ve grown lazy. Complacent. Inattentive. No serious damage has been done, but I don’t want to continue down this path.

Because I have a sizable nest egg, it’s easy to let my guard down. I have a big safety net! What does it matter if I spend $400 per month on restaurants? What does it matter if I buy every movie I want from iTunes? Well, it matters.

I’m a vocal advocate of conscious spending, especially for people who are in the process of building wealth. If you want to reach your financial goals quickly, it’s vital that you make deliberate decisions that are aligned with your purpose and direction. When you don’t do this, you’re essentially wasting money.

The same principle applies even to those who have built a nest egg, those who have retired early or achieved financial independence. Just because you’re reached an arbitrary financial milestone, that doesn’t mean you can relax your vigilance. If you want to keep your nest egg, you have to actively maintain it. You have to continue making smart financial decisions that help you pursue your purpose.

That’s what 2019 is all about for me. It’s an opportunity for me to revisit the lessons I learned while digging out of debt a decade ago. It’s a chance to practice skills I once honed but have since allowed to atrophy. The bottom line? This year, I’m getting back to basics. I’m going to be a money boss once more!

70 comments

  1. Good to see renewed focus! I can relate. Not in the FI sense yet, but my wife and I have been on auto-pilot for a long time with finances. Not anymore. 🙂

    My wife and I are pretty sure part-time work, at an office, will be with us for a long time. I actually enjoy some of the routine.

  2. Most libraries also offer a service to check out audiobooks/ebooks over the computer so you don’t have to stop in. It looks like you also have a service to stream some movies and comics (although the newer Marvel releases usually require placing a hold on a DVD copy).

    For groceries, you may also want to look into grocery store delivery for a lower price than Hello Fresh but keeping a reign on the impulse items.

    Thanks for keeping it real and good luck regarding your decision on the box factory.

  3. The return to basics is great. I’m with you. Focus on what we can control, enjoy life, live within our means.

    To a healthier and happier 2019

    Sam

  4. Serious question: How did you manage to spend almost $250 per month at iTunes?

    I live in a glass house and can’t cast stones, that is just so far outside my experience I don’t understand it. What do you get for that kind of money? Is that like nightly movie rentals plus music subscription?

    1. I’m curious too. My guess is that he buys books from iTunes? I’m pretty sure JD’s talked about the various music subscriptions he has, so if you have an Apple Music sub, I don’t think you buy additional?

      If it’s books, my method is to use a Firefox plug-in that is tied to my county library system. It tells me if they have e-books or regular books for this title. Makes it easier to avoid buying. If I’m using my work pc (where I wouldn’t install a plug in), I just put it on a “wish list” so I don’t forget to go back and take a look. I can also scan the list quickly to see if one of the books I’ve placed on the list is on sale. I’ll allow myself to buy if it’s $1.99 on sale. Buying books at full price is very rare…usually a few authors a year that I really really admire or respect.

      JD — good luck back at the 9-5 (or whatever it ends up to be). With your flexible lifestyle, I will be very curious how that change will be!

      1. My Firefox plug-in is for Amazon. So I can look up a book on Amazon and on the right side of the browser it will tell me if my Library has it.

      1. Not to poke a bruise, but do you watch them all? Or is it more of a “I like that movie and want it in my library”?

        Once again: not judging the purchases. If just knowing one has something makes them feel good I don’t condemn (though if it’s compulsive you definitely want to get control). I’m just picturing spending that much time in front of the TV/computer and can’t picture it. Honestly, I think that’s more of a reflection on my life. Life is busy and most of my entertainment is either taken in small doses (eg, books I can pick up and put down at 10 minute intervals) or via earphones while I do other stuff.

        1. No, I do not watch them all. It’s very much “I like that movie and want it in my library”. Here’s a for-instance. Recently, iTunes had a sale on the Criterion Collection films. I wanted many of them. It was with very great restraint that I limited myself to purchasing only Akria Kurosawa films. I’ve watched Ikiru so far, but not any of the others. Like I say, it’s an issue.

          1. We all have those. I give you credit for putting it out there for us to poke at. There’s a reason some of us have low online profiles.

            Mine aren’t as much about money. But the important thing about life is to do our best to stay in that zone between striving to be better versions of ourselves (and often falling short) and forgiving ourselves for not being that person yet.

          2. JD, a new book recommendation for you: Goodbye, Things. It’s the book that makes Marie Kondo look like a hoarder.

          3. @Pete me too, but it’s an order of magnitude smaller. Do you have 750 games in your steam account?

    2. If you play a gatcha game, you can spends hundreds and thousands without realizing it. I have spent thousands on a single game. I have friends who have spent hundreds of thousands on mobile gatcha games.

  5. It’s so easy to let lifestyle creep occur. I guess that’s why they call it “creep”… it sneaks in while your attention is on other things.
    I really enjoyed reading this post and I think that you’ll enjoy the structure of the box factory work. Kim’s right – one good thing about a job is that it certainly gets you out of the house!

  6. Before I got to the part about a possible job I was thinking some of your spending might be boredom. I was thinking, maybe he needs another job. Going out to eat and spending money is something to do and provides a little boost in feeling good. One thing we did to really get our spending down was to ask ourselves this series of questions: how long can we go without it? can we borrow it? If not, can we rent it? If not, can we buy it used? If not, then consider buying new. It has helped a lot with all our purchases. Before dining out we ask: do we have a prepared meal in the freezer? can we make something in five minutes at home? If not, can we get something quick at the store to make? Majority of the time we find a way out of dining out. Just thought I would share our methods. Love the site.

  7. I have a theory about people who dole out financial advice or set themselves up as financial gurus. I truly believe that the best financial geniuses come from people who have gone completely bust and then managed to build themselves up once again, sometimes to millionaire levels. Those people, who successfully recovered from the bottom and catapulted back to the top, know, IMHO anything about proper money management. Sorry. But that’s how I feel. You can go to any Ivy League school you want but it’s the experience that truly educates.
    You may have gotten yourself out of debt, but I don’t think you ever had to worry about where your next meal was coming from. Nor do I think you ever had literally only fifty cents left to your name. Suze Orman recovered from zero. And so did David Bach. As did Dave Ramsey. These are true financial experts. They know what they are talking about. Been there. Done that.
    Anyone who states he/she lost $250,000 for the year, while also stating that the amount also includes money used to fix up a home or re-buy a business understands nothing about the category ‘investment’. You made an ‘investment’ in your home by fixing it up for a future sale. It’s not a loss. It’s simply the cost of doing business. Said amount would be used against the eventual sale and any profit would be calculated against it then going forward. Ditto for your re-buying your own business back. It’s not a loss. It’s an investment. Big difference.
    “Quicken shows that I spent $4675.56 dining out last year, that’s clearly an issue. (And that doesn’t even count what Kim spent!) When it shows that I spent $2820.39 on iTunes downloads, that’s clearly an issue too”. This is your exact quote. So, what’s your solution going forward: you’re going to cut down on buying groceries and order more from Fresh Direct or whatever rip-off meal planner has to offer. Really? That’s your solution? You should be buying MORE groceries, preparing your own meals and eating out less. DUH? And there is no, no reason whatsoever to buy anything off of iTunes since you can get any music you want, for free, from Spotify.
    Double Duh.
    Lastly, you track your spending with a 2007 version of Quicken. You do realize that that software is 12 years old, right? Why would I take any financial advice from a person who uses twelve year old software? Would you take financial advice from a CPA that uses 12 year old software? I wouldn’t. I want a financial wiz who knows, uses and understands the latest and the greatest.
    The fact that you still have trouble with iTunes and preparing your own meals means, to me, that your head is still in your comic book world. These aren’t problems of an adult. These are childish, moronic problems! You’re still not an adult. You’re still not a grown up. So why would I, an adult, ever listen to what you have to say? Aren’t you 50 years old or something?
    What a huge disappointment.
    I may sound harsh and I apologize profusely for it. But money management is a very serious thing to me. I didn’t go bust just once in my life. I went broke twice. And until you feel the pain of losing all your money and until you understand the difficult path it is to scratch and claw your way back up to the top, you (meaning anyone) don’t know dick! When you’ve lost all your money, trust me, you won’t be buying the latest rap song on iTunes!
    At least you are aware of your status. That’s hopeful. I wish you luck. But IMHO, you do not have the drive nor the ambition to change your ways nor do you have the experience to dole out any financial advice to anyone. I think subconsciously, you realize that too.
    I’m moving on.
    Best of luck to you anyway.

    1. I agree. It’s a fact that most millionaires have gone broke before they acquired their wealth. It’s only after you have done lost your money doing stupid things that you acquire the wisdom to do the smart thing.

      1. I wouldn’t say that exactly. It’s just means that those people now realize how easy it is to lose it all. Sure, they’ll be clawing back really hard but it’s partially because they realize they want it back.

        I know plenty of millionaires who never lost it all, know how to manage their funds, and are doing just fine. And I happen to appreciate their advice, too.

    2. Sorry to see you go, Cindi, but you’re probably right. From your recent comments, Get Rich Slowly may not be right for you.

      You’re right that I’ve never struggled as an adult (except with debt). My time in poverty was when I was a kid. It was my parents’ poverty. I’d like to point out, though, that I’ve never pretended to be Suze Orman or Dave Ramsey or David Bach. I’ve never tried to set myself up as some sort of guru. I’m just a guy sharing his journey with money, both the good and the bad.

      Because I’m a regular person, I make mistakes. I do dumb things. They’re not the same dumb things you (or other readers) do, so maybe they seem crazy sometimes. That’s fine. I disagree regarding my drive/ambition, though. I think it’s clear that I’ve made changes in the past and continue to make changes in the present.

      1. Having seen comments by Cindi on other blogs I read, this is her modus operandi so it’s good to see her go. Having read you from the beginning, I, too, disagree about your drive/ambition, JD. Thank you for being honest. Wish we had more of that today.

      2. JD,

        What I (and many other people, I suspect) like about you is your willingness to be humble and transparent about your struggles and your journey. Your honesty is refreshing and appealing. So keep being you, and we’ll keep reading.

    3. Was this supposed to be a mic drop? I’m sorry, but this was unfair, uncalled for, and unproductive.

      I have been reading J.D. since almost when GRS started. He has always been gracious and humble, especially about money. If anything I’ve been frustrated with him for not calling people on clearly bad decisions and letting them justify it to themselves.

      I see the value people get out if poverty. But experience is only one way to learn a lesson, and also the most painful. I have a ton of respect for addicts that get clean. But I don’t have to shoot up to learn it’s a rough life and figure out how to avoid it. Saying the only way you can really understand the right decisions is by making really bad ones is backwards. Some of us learned how to build wealth without having to bounce off the floor.

      Maybe J.D. doesn’t have the hunger to be a zillionaire. Most of us don’t. What he does have is a nice house, a very solid nest egg, a small business that’s in the black, and a now a job prospect. Yet you fault him for not experiencing enough “hunger” to overcome this long term issue he has been up front about for over a decade that, in the grand scheme, isn’t that big of a problem. And how you set it up, there’s no way to remedy it. He can’t go back and make worse decisions to get the experience you seem to think he needs.

      I hope a break relieves your frustration and you find what you’re looking for to satisfy the itch that GRS isn’t scratching.

    4. You have probably already signed off so this is me spotting off my thoughts rather than responded to you directly. I never thought of JD as a financial guru which is the charm of this site. He is a normal guy who takes us on his financial journey in life. I personally use this site as a barometer for what I do and don’t agree with. I love reading about peoples individual perspectives as it either gives me a new way to look at something or confirms what I was already feeling.

      I agree to an extent that loosing it all can give you a perspective in life that others might not be able to see. Does that mean someone is not able to give financial advice because they haven’t lost it all? I have saved diligently and the “millionaire next door” is how I live life. I focus on living a modestly even if my income goes up because its what I feel is prudent. I have not lost it all so you could argue that I do not fully understand the psychology behind someone experiencing that perspective, but that does not mean my perspective on finances does not have value and the same goes for JDs. The fact that he talks about his finances so openly allows us all to gain a perspective on an alternative way to look at finances and I am appreciative of this site for it. If someone truly wants to read the mass media blog posts of what to do with your finances like the Dave Ramsey and Suzy Ormans then they are still there along with the hundreds of other blogs that post the same material. I started that direction after graduating college, but quickly realized the information is all the same and repeated over and over again. It was a place to start and helpful when I was reading that material, but this site and its community provide me with a more real perspective that I can’t get from those gurus.

    5. Oh La La! IS this the pot calling the kettle black without really knowing the kettle’s background?
      I’ve been reading Get Rich Slowly for many, many years. My only break was when JD sold it. Saying that, I have never felt that he represented himself as a person who has all of the answers.
      He, very openly, struggled though his many phases- not unlike finding yourself making unwise investments and then having to pay to get out of them. Personally, I do not feel that a person ever has to get so low as to have to declare bankruptcy or have your family impoverished in order to have ideas of how to get going in a positive direction. But that is me.
      What I enjoy is that JD is very open about how and why he got into a situation and how he is going to make a plan to get out of it. My observations are that he follows the plan for an extended period of time, not until he gets another 0% credit card offer. He has a good, working relationship with all of his family- a totally solid son. He is good about looking for advice from others (I remember well the interviews with the millionaires next door). He has learned what his Achilles heel is and works hard to heal once it begins to ache.
      JD- wow! Back to the box factory? Is there a way you could do it for a six month period and then review if you want to stay? Seems to me-many years ago- you were really unhappy there. You are a great writer. You know how to bring people in to solve problems. Do you really think you will be happy on the phones with no real control? No pressure and no control…tough stuff for me.
      I have to admit I have considered returning to the classroom more then once. My thoughts are that I would be even better next time. The reality is that schools are still the same and my ability to change them extremely limited. The infusion of cash would not really be worth the head banging.
      Just being a bug in your ear- no real response needed.

      1. BTW- I have used a composition book for our budget and balance. If the method works for you, why pay to change it? No WAY would I do it all on line.

    6. Wow. Mercy. Maybe this isn’t the place for you, maybe JD isn’t the right voice. I am not sure that bracing critique is really necessary as a goodbye. A gracious, quiet exit might have been better.

      JD, I’ve read Get Rich Slowly for years. I never comment, but I read. I’ll say I appreciate your honesty. As a person who has their own share of stupid and moronic problems, it’s what draws me here and keeps me coming back.

    7. There is so much to take issue with in Cindi’s comment, including the overall tone and mean-spiritedness of it, but I’m guessing most people can see that for themselves.

      But seriously, would anyone really judge someone for using 2007 software to track their finances? It’s not like tracking money is rocket science or something. In fact, as JD has shown us over the years, most of the principles of money management are timeless. I would consider myself pretty good at managing my finances and I’ve never used anything more sophisticated than pen and paper.

    8. J.D., have you thought about doing any of the following?
      -Going broke. I hear it’s good for you.
      -Taking a class to properly understand the word “Investment”.
      -Stop buying anything. It’s a sharing economy, dammit. Only dumb dumbs try to buy things like underwear these days.
      -Listen to people when they tell you what you -should- do. (btw – telling people what they -should- do is noticeably absent from your blog – thanks)
      -Please replace your clock radio. It’s from 1992, and although it does the job perfectly well, I’m uncomfortable with asking you for the time knowing that you use it.
      -Stop reading comics. It takes away from Playstation Time. When you’re 50 years old or something you’ve only got a few years left anyway.
      -Please go broke so you can “know dick”. That will also allow you to stop buying more Eminem and Kanye. Trust me.
      -…and finally, get some drive man. I mean, what have you done with your life? What do you have to show for it? Have you thought about educating yourself on topics you’re interested in and then sharing and discussing that knowledge with others? You could do that in written form. Maybe even a talk or two. I know a guy that’s been doing this a long, long time and has owned multiple sites (multiple times!). Maybe he’ll let you do a guest post or something.

      On a more serious note, tell us more about your thought process for Hello Fresh. Are you thinking it’ll just help cut down on spontaneous purchases at the store? While I know it’s marketed as a cheaper alternative to eating out, I think most people just use it to replace grocery shopping which seems to me like an expensive idea. I’m all ears.

      As for the new job, I get that you might be a “good fit” for it, but do you actually WANT to do it? I understand it’s a good way for you to help out, but will you be happy doing it? Personally I’ve been doing some soul searching and landed on my local Humane Society. I finished my first day of volunteering yesterday, and even though it only entailed laundry and dishes I look forward to day two of it!

      1. On a more serious note, tell us more about your thought process for Hello Fresh. Are you thinking it’ll just help cut down on spontaneous purchases at the store?

        Yes, this is the primary motivation. Kim and I don’t usually eat in any sort of planned fashion. (I never have!) As a result, grocery shopping includes picking up items from our list, yes, but it also tends to devolve into “ooh…I want to buy this and that and this other thing too”. I realize that there are other approaches I could take, including deliberate meal planning, but she and I both enjoyed our HelloFresh sample last spring, and we want to try it again. We think it’ll help us eat more diverse meals.

        I’m not convinced this will be a perfect solution, but I’d like to give it a try for a few months just to see what happens.

        RE: the job. I kind of do want to do it, you know? At least for a trial run…

        1. Deliberate meal planning is really the only way to solve this. This can *include* Hello Fresh (or something like it), but picking a day of the week to plan really is step one. We do it on Sunday mornings before we make our trip to the grocery store. We try to get to Friday with meals at home (we never cook on Friday nights). We ALWAYS include (or have on hand) quick meals that can be used if we have to “bail out” of cooking the more involved meals. It can be as simple as a “nice” frozen pizza or “nice” soup and sandwiches, but even if you have a meal delivery service for ALL your at home meals, you are going to get to a point you’ll not feel like cooking it. Even planning a trip to the grocery store to pick up a roasted chicken+salad bar is going to get you out of cooking and cost you about $12 (at least where I live).

          1. Agree that deliberate meal planning for at least some of your meals will be hugely helpful. If impulse shopping is a problem, you may consider having Safeway or some other grocery store deliver your groceries. You just place your order online the previous day (they save previous orders so it becomes faster after a few attempts). Safeway charges $7 for a 4-hr delivery window where I live, which isn’t bad if you’re spending more than that in impulse shopping.

    9. J.D. – I have been following your blogs (GRS and Moneyboss) for a few years and they have inspired me. My own retirement began 5 days ago – and you are one of the people to thank for that. It helped that you shared your problems with everyone – we all have our own failures and it helps to understand that you’re not alone.
      It’s sad that there are people like Cindy, trolling FIRE blogs with her mean-spirited, self-important posts. I’m sure I’m not the only one to be happy to see her go.
      Looking forward to new articles from you in 2019!

    10. Damn, Cindi! What an unkind and unhelpful comment. Unlike others who think you won’t see their replies, I’m going to reply because I know you WILL. People who make comments like yours don’t disappear afterward – they come back to see the responses they’ve generated. Some of what you wrote is illogical, and others have addressed most of those points. Within your comment are some good points, but they will be completely lost because they’re buried in vitriol. A class in effective communication might be a good investment for you to consider.

      My impression from some of what you’ve written is that you haven’t been here long or read much about the totality of JD’s journey and how he has always represented himself as not being an expert, but just a guy on a financial journey that he’s sharing with us so that we might avoid mistakes he’s made (and admits he continues to make.)

      You wrote this in your comment:
      “But money management is a very serious thing to me. I didn’t go bust just once in my life. I went broke twice.”
      If someone with your attitude applied the logic in the rest of your comment to that statement, they would conclude that you didn’t learn anything from going broke the 1st time. You certainly didn’t become a financial genius if you went broke a 2nd time. They might conclude that you’re a bit of a moron. That would be supremely unkind. You may have had health issues yourself or a family member might have become gravely ill, and that played into what happened to you. I have no idea, really, what circumstances caused you to go broke twice so I won’t judge. What I do know is that JD hasn’t gone broke – he stopped himself from going broke the 1st time, and he’s kept an eye on himself since he dug out of debt so that he never gets back there again. I’d like to avoid going broke *ever* so there are valuable lessons to be learned here.

    11. Your post is unduly harsh. Although I agree, as does J.D., that his spending was a bit out of control in 2018, your post and tone is completely unnecessary. I, for one, am glad you’re moving on to other sites.

    12. Cindi I hope you come back to at least read the comments.

      As for your examples they are bad and hand-picked to make your argument fit. I only really know Dave Ramsey and you lumping him as some type of financial guru is crazy.

      He has good advice that works for most people but, most of his advice especially on investments is some of the worst advice there is. Not to mention the whole funneling people to advisors where it was subpar service and he got kickbacks. That is one thing I like about JD. I think if he got an product he got a kickback it would be in the article.

      Also the whole rant about having to go broke is untrue as I am almost positive Warren Buffet didn’t go broke. I would at best call Dave a budget expert, finance is a large topic and I doubt many of them have solid understandings on investing and the whole space of finance.

      I will say calling most of the losses an investment is correct and is valid points of criticism.

      As far as cooking vs going more meal prep that depends which one is better. Cooking is better if your whole goal is to save money. However, sometimes saving time is better. If you had read his brother is sick and he may take over some of the day to day from the family business. This is completely about opportunity cost if cooking say takes 20-30 mins a day*3 and grocery shopping takes 1hr. That is eight hours a week(note: I know there is some time still required on meal prep and I know that you could maybe cut this down by doing different strategies cooking larger batches.) if JD can earn more in the time it takes to cook then it does for meal prep he is making the best financial choice(also note here that unless you got an basic economics course you wouldn’t understand this principle sometimes experience helps more sometimes it doesn’t). Not to mention his brother is ill if he can spend an extra hour because he isn’t having to get grocery’s it is worth it. He will never get his time with his brother back he has a long time to make back the difference in cost. Im pretty sure he has a good amount of wealth and I know I doubt on my death bed I am going to wish man I wish I saved 20-30 dollars rather then spending time with my family.

      Who cares he is using 2007 quicken. I doubt anything with budgeting/accounting has changed in the past 12 years especially for a personal one. I bet I could track my budget using 2000 excel because I don’t need any of the things they changed. Using CPA is bad because the tax laws constantly change. On that note why don’t you buy a car every year? Because the basics are the same it gets you from point a to point b. Now maybe eventually you should upgrade as the features may help or be needed (ie it may stop working with computers.)

      The personally attacks really detract from the valid points of itunes spending being high and eating being high. iTunes sells more than just music. Also, this is why it is called personal finance. While I think buying Itunes and eating out is wasting it may bring about the best marginal utils (economic measurement of happiness). I am sure there are things I spend my money on that you would go that’s a waste and I bet I would do the same.

      The idea is to constantly improve and challenge yourself and some of it depends on your status. If you make min wage you may have to cut out the nice to haves until you earn more. On the other hand someone with more disposable income can afford to spend more on things that will make them happy. Though they should constantly be asking is it worth what I am getting and am I saving enough for retirement.

      If it only matters about the numbers I should never have kids, live with my parents to cut living costs down, only eat rice/beans, and not ever go out with friends. At the end of the day I would be sitting on my death bed alone with millions that will go to nothing wishing I had done more things.

      Numbers arnt the only thing in the equation. Lastly I almost don’t trust anyone who went broke most of budgeting is regurgitated knowledge and those people generally make money off the people they help(ie steering them to bad products where they get a commission). Also, with the internet you should be able to learn how to budget and have a low chance of losing it all. I know I didn’t fall into traps because I was raised on how to budget which is an enormous advantage. I am constantly reading different books on budgeting investing and blogs like this.

      My final point the reason I think most come to this site or at least why I do. JD is real and he will bring up articles that are different or even challenge view points he has. He also post about his journey and will show us his mistakes. This makes him appear more like us someone who doesn’t put a false façade claiming he is perfect, and his way is the only way.

    13. I’m just going to address one part of this as it’s so ridiculous that it’s worth pointing out. Everyone else has addressed the rest in better ways than I could.

      You are really going to complain about how he spends his money but then ALSO demand that he spends money on the latest and greatest software? I have news for you, accounting hasn’t really changed much in the past 12 years. You want him to pay extra for an updated interface with some new features that maybe allow him to do some things a little more efficiently but are exactly the same math? THAT’s one of your big complaints?!? So in other words, he can spend money…but only in the ways YOU deem most admirable?

      You are allowed whatever opinion you want I suppose, but the hypocrisy is dripping from that statement.

  8. Nice honesty, JD. I’ve just started HelloFresh too and think it’s great. I don’t think it works out any more expensive than doing the shopping ourselves as we always inevitably have some wastage of fresh produce when we do our regular shopping/cooking, and having the exact ingredients in the HF box eliminates this. $2800 on iTunes? Whew!!

  9. J.D…..these are two terrific columns reminding me to get back to basics in the new year. Your honest writing and perspective are much appreciated by your longtime readers.

    We too have had lifestyle creep—-we made our target number and then some, and we got a little soft of late. So in the next couple months, I’m digging into expenses and trimming, simplifying. It’s like my garden—every once in a while, I look around and say, agh! while I was busy working on that other corner, some weeds have sprouted up, and even the trees need to be pruned!

    You are using Quicken for MAC? Ugh x 1,000. Terrible program with built in bugs for MAC users, AND, if I read you right, you have to input expenses? No, no and no!

    My friend, you need to try Banktivity (formerly called IBank). It’s lovely. Like all programs, it has its quirks. It’s made for MACs, and not terribly expensive.

    I pay the very modest annual fee that means when I log on, the program automatically links to my 2 bank accounts and my 2 credit card companies and instantly uploads all my latest transactions. It also tags the recurring expenses with my preset, designated codes (utilities, insurance, groceries, etc.). All the categories are completely customizable. For non-recurring expenses (let’s say a business trip), I simply go in and click to code it. At the end of the year, voila, I print out income and expense reports for my CPA, and I can instantly analyze my spending in any number of categories. I also auto-coded Taxable and TaxDeductible of course, since we file Schedule Cs. It’s really, really neat, and I’m not a tech nerd.

    You can use Banktivity to keep track of investments too, but I don’t. I have so simplified my investments, in three major buckets, that I’d rather keep track of those by hand on my old quarterly spreadsheet which goes back about fifteen years and gives me a lot of perspective.

    So, while you are re-jiggering your spending, you might want to give Banktivity a shot—oh, unless Quicken is an advertiser on the site—I hadn’t considered that! 😉

    Happy 2019.

  10. I love the library, I’ve read over 100 books in the last 2 years. Since they come to my kindle I don’t even have to go and I think having them for a limited time encourages me to read them before they are deleted. Between Netflix and Hulu I have access to more excellent content than I can watch. But then I adore tv and almost never watch movies. I rarely rewatch or reread so there is no utility in ownership.

  11. What if you only allowed yourself to buy something if you’ve watched everything you already own?

    You buy dinner out 8x per month and Kim 4x? That’s like 50% of the month! I thought moving to the country was supposed to be a barrier to eating out?

  12. Your candor over the years is why I’ve followed you from blog to blog. Thank you for sharing your story; it’s helped me understand my own impulses when it comes to spending and eating and other ways we distract ourselves from our purpose.
    I’ve been tracking my spending carefully since I was laid off and went freelance two years ago, and it’s fascinating month to month how the dollar amount of outgoing expenses doesn’t change that much, but the categories of where that outgoing money goes do change. I’ve started tracking my emotional connection to the money to understand where I can break the pattern of unhealthy spending.

  13. You are the most honest financial blogger out there (and I read many) and most willing to share your vulnerabilities, and that I why I have been a loyal reader for so many years.

    I am a very disciplined spender. Like crazy disciplined. That has its own downfalls (my poor husband and kids!), but there are so many other areas in my life where I am not as disciplined and struggle then succeed and then struggle some more (a healthy diet! time management!) Everyone has their stuff. It is all in the journey. Don’t spend too many hours at the box factory because I enjoy reading yours.

  14. I think taking on Duane’s job at the box factory is a good idea…for the short term. Kim is right that getting out of the house would be good for you. And like someone else mentioned, boredom may be contributing to increased impulse spending. But I think most importantly, it’s a way to honor your cousin in his last days by helping the family business in a time of need. As you said, you already know much about how the business works and you’re good with numbers and computers. The learning curve would be minimal. Your contribution would keep the business going. It would also allow time to carefully search for someone to take on the position permanently rather than hiring in crisis mode. Takes a lot of pressure off of everyone.

    For the record, I’m a long-time reader but infrequent commenter, and was delighted when you came back to GRS as both owner and writer. As several other people have said, I’m a reader because you keep it real and honest. I can relate to you in a way that I can’t to the Dave Ramseys and Suze Ormans. I have a profound distrust of them and their like. Follow the money is my mantra. Who benefits? In my opinion, financial “gurus” are completely focused on hawking their overpriced wares along with questionable advice.

    My best wishes to you and your family in the coming, challenging year, JD.

  15. I’ve been finding it hard to find any motivation or impetus to curb spending or fight lifestyle inflation. In a month where we lost six figures in the stock market, what does it matter if I spent $400 eating out? On a day where we gained five figures of that back, does a hundred or two on theater tickets really matter?

    I do feel some pangs of regret for not putting in the time and effort to find a used vehicle vs. buying the new one I got last year. But if I only buy one vehicle every decade or so, even that could be considered only a medium sized rock.

  16. What’s so helpful about you, JD , is that you share yourself in the middle of the story. We get to see how you think about issues and work toward things, but you include the flaws and the hope vs reality that we ALL live in. No one brings their A game to every day and most of us have areas we struggle with long term. Many people when they don’t make progress, give up or pretend they are ok with where they are … but you keep self improvement on the table but never pretend things are better than they are in your own behaviors. This is very valuable and I feel affected by it almost every time I read your blog. Thanks !

  17. Keep up the good work JD. I too, have been reading for years. Good luck with your new plans for 2019 and keep us posted. We all learn together.

  18. JD I think it might be very interesting for you to spend some time at the box factory at this point in your life.

    But, I think it would be a mistake for you to go back there full time, Mon to Fri.

    Personally I think you’d be much better off negotiating a more flexible schedule, and agreeing to do certain tasks rather than spend X hours there per week.

    Once you get the hang of it, you can do some of it from home, and you will go faster.

    I would suggest offering to go in 3 days a week (on average). It will probably be more often end of month/end of quarter (at least at first) but that would mean it could be less at other times.

    I think per Kim’s comment you may well benefit from the structure of working out of home, but I think FT would be a struggle for you after all these years.

    Best of luck to you.

    1. I have the same curiosity about JD going back to the 9-5. Lack of flexibility is truly the biggest downside of traditional jobs/careers.

      But I think the part about “offering” seems odd to me. Doesn’t the role have a known quantity in regard to hours required? Shouldn’t there be years of data as to what this role does, which things can be given to others (if at all) and which will remain with Duane’s replacement?

      I can think of nothing more off-putting to those already working full time than to have someone “offer” to have a plum role at the company dictating their own hours. If JD is just a transition between Duane and the eventual role-holder, then sure.

      1. There are different ways to do things. While Duane worked there FT, and was perhaps happy to do that, or never questioned it, that doesn’t mean that JD can’t do Duane’s tasks on a different schedule, or differently, or (sometimes) remotely.

        I am American but I live in Europe and here there is generally more flexibility about working PT or working from home, as long as one gets the work done.

        I do agree that JD stepping in may indeed be off-putting to someone who might have been hoping to move up, but it’s not a huge surprise if you’re working in a smallerfa mily company.

        1. I agree. My viewpoint is from someone who IS a 9-5er (ha! if I had only had those hours). Equity in opportunity and perks is important. That was really it.

  19. What about the puppy? Will she be OK home by herself for long periods of time? (I can’t be the only one worried:))
    PS -I’ve worked for myself for 20 plus years. I know I am most productive when my days are filled with meetings and I have to be scheduled. Finding that drive to produce when you have nothing on the schedule is hard. I can see why you might want to step into something more structured for awhile.

    1. Good question! The answer is: I have turned into one of THOSE dog owners. The dog goes with me nearly everywhere I go. That means she’s going to work with me, where we’re trying to socialize here with her “cousin” (my brother’s dog). Tally is great with people, but not with dogs. Also, she’s pretty good at home by herself. She gets bored, yes, but she can do it.

      1. How old is Tally now? That is one thing I wish we’d done better about socializing our dog (she’s 7). She’s actually great with people we encounter while walking her and good with dogs in most neutral settings. She is not great about going into other places. She’s not a big fan of slippery tile-like floors (and wasn’t a huge fan of us replacing almost all our carpet with hardwoods either lol).

        I always wonder if it’s too late to get over the hump with her so we can take her to public places more easily (stores that allow dogs, breweries, etc)

        1. Tally is nearly three. She got TERRIFIC socialization from age six months to eighteen months because we lived right next to a dog park. Plus, we were vigilant about using positive reinforcement to build her trust of other dogs. But once her hound instincts kicked in, things went downhill. She likes to dig. When she digs, she’s protective of her holes. She’ll allow her closest dog friends to come around sometimes, but usually she just snaps at every other beast. She’s also protective of her food. And her bed. And her space. Basically, she’s a resource guarder, and we haven’t been able to break her of the habit. It’s just IN her. Taking her with me to work (as I will in about an hour) is an exercise in getting her used to my brother’s puppy (four months old). Tally feels like she owns the office, but she’s going to have to learn to share.

  20. Stepping in to help family… that’s the true mark of a man JD. Sure it’s probably not an ideal job but we only get one family in life. Kudos brother.

  21. J.D. – longtime reader and infrequent commenter here. I’d simply like to add my voice to the chorus of readers cheering you on and saying “keep it coming, man!”

    I’m sorry you took such a hit financially in 2018, but I know that you grew in many other ways – financially and otherwise – last year too. And I also know that you will for sure be able to dig yourself out of whatever hole you feel you’ve gotten into, and both you and all of us readers who enjoy your site so much, will come out the better for it.

    I feel like you’re getting back to the old days of GRS circa 2006-2010. That’s cool. Haters gonna hate, you should just know that you’re doing great work which benefits a lot of people like me in the world.

  22. I would be interested to learn how much packaging you get if you do HelloFresh for 3 months. I tried Blue Apron for a while but I just couldn’t take all the plastic and boxes and allegedly disposable freezer packets. (They said it was okay to dump the contents of the freezer packet down the drain but I am not willing to risk my pipes on that!)

  23. Good work JD,keep it up.You are the most honest financial blogger out there (and I read many) and most willing to share your vulnerabilities, and that is why I have been a loyal reader for so many years.Keep focusing on what you do.Good luck with your new plans for 2019 and keep us posted. We all learn together.

  24. I doubt Cindy is for real. Anyway, about learning, I would like to bring up that putting money on your home isn’t so simply an investment. It took me long time to understand this. It’s so easy telling yourself that paying for stuff and mark it up as improvements is a great idea financially. I like Bodo Schäfer’s argunents and distinctions of investments, speculation and obligations. With best wishes from Stockholm.

  25. I’m sorry to read about your cousin’s health battle. With that being a deciding factor in your return to the family business, I find it interesting that you have come a full circle. What did you learn along the way? Was the ‘other side of the fence’ as great as you imagined it would be? Will you find that a return to your original ‘roots’ is more … you? My own personal observation is that it’s quite fine to do what I want when I want with no accountability to anyone other than those directly affected by my choices. I was once a big earner but dropped out to live a simpler life because that suits my personality better!

  26. Wow, this is so exciting to hear you potentially back in the box world! Having read GRS and MB and remembering our old blogger meetups, I’ve loved following along your journey. This sounds like such an interesting twist and I think that Kris is right in that maybe a job to get you out of the house for a bit could be a good thing! Especially since it’s your family’s company. I look forward to seeing how the year treats you!

  27. Hi JD – Thanks for your candid update. Rarely is anything in life linear and the twists, turns, and corrections are all part of a life and self improvement. I think you are correct to focus on meal planning – not only will it save you money you will be eating much healthier. I would highly recommend skinnytaste.com she creates healthy weekly meal plans and shopping lists. The food is excellent and it will really help you get organized on the food front. Ordinarily I would consider Hello Fresh a big waste of money, but if you are really struggling with meal prep and planning this could be a good tool for getting you in the habit and testing out recipes. You can recreate those recipes after the subscription is over.

    Also, I agree with one readers assessment that going out to eat may be a result of boredom. It is difficult working from home. I try to meet friends for walks to get out of the house, enjoy some conversation, and get some exercise. This can replace meeting someone for a meal out.

    Good luck!

  28. There is one issue I see over and over with your writing and planning (especially in the last few posts, though I have read you since 2007ish). You track your spending, you realize your spending is an issue and you realize you want to reduce your spending/expenses…but there doesn’t seem to be a clear connection to a plan to SAVE your money. When you had a plan to reduce your debt, the debt reductions was a form of savings.

    But when you received your windfall by selling your website, there doesn’t seem to have been a new plan for saving put into place which would move beyond debt reduction to increasing capital through saving future income, reinvesting stock dividends, etc.

    From my experience, identifying and tracking a spending problem cannot be solved without a plan to SAVE money you will realize through reduction in expenses. If there isn’t a plan to save, money gets reallocated and spent in different ways (comic book store trips become iTunes browsing, for example).

  29. JD, your honesty is the best part of your blog. I was a regular reader for years, but stopped reading finance blogs for a while. (When you pie chart your wife’s coffee habit spending, you know you have gone over the edge!) Your old habit is now my habit, comic books. But I have them insured, so when I decide to sell, I will re-coop most of the money. Hopefully, if I ever sell, (wife laughs at that statement). Keep moving forward.

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