We were watching Brooklyn Nine Nine (great comedy!) last night and the main character (Detective Jake Peralta) had to face his own financial self. He’s 33 years old and doesn’t have a penny to his name - six massage chairs and DJ equipment – but no money. I’d call that the low end of the financial health scale.
Financial Plot Points
Jake’s apartment was going co-op. So all of the tenants had to show that they were approved for loans or have enough cash on hand to buy their $430,000 apartments by a certain date. Well, Detective Peralta spends more than he makes and definitely doesn’t have enough money to buy his apartment. But his coworker and childhood friend, Gina, lived cheap for years and had enough to buy the apartment and even offered to rent it to him.
He realizes in the end that it’s not a good situation when the admin at the police station is doing better than him. In the end, she buys the apartment and lives in it (Jake’s suggestion), and Jake sublets her current, cheaper place. It’s a win-win for everybody.
What Could We Afford?
This episode got me and Mr. BFS talking. If the place we loved had to be bought all of the sudden for $430,000, could we do it?
A quick look at our assets will tell you that we are betting on a long future. A bunch of our net worth is tied up with our two homes. The rental income from the first one is an ongoing “passive” income source (as you may know, rentals aren’t really very passive). Then we have a large percentage of our savings socked away in retirement accounts like Roth IRA’s and my old 401k, so we can access it at 59 1/2 to live off of or use it to buy an annuity like Annuity Buyer Cashinyourannuity.com if we felt like we wanted a monthly allowance instead.
So, what we’d be left with is our cash on hand and what’s invested in individual high dividend yield stocks. If we sold our current home for the equity cash and used all of our cash and stocks on hand, we would be able to put enough down to get approved for the loan for the rest of the $430,000.
That’s a little odd for me to think about. I think we are doing amazing, but we could sell, trade-in, and cash in everything we have and still not have $430,000. $430,000 is a lot of money.
In the big scheme of things, my husband and I are financially healthy and on track for financial independence eventually. This makes me truly feel for anybody that is trying to do the same around $430,000 basic apartments.
What do you think?
My husband and I found Downton Abbey through Netflix and jumped in about a week ago. It’s general plot follows along with an Earl’s family in Britain in the early 20th century. The character development is enticing to me and the historical and political intrigues keep it from feeling like a simple soap opera. But as the personal finance geek that I truly am, I just couldn’t help zeroing in on the money aspect of it all. It’s showing that all of the money in the world doesn’t give a life purpose.
During World War I in Downton Abbey, everyone assisted in whatever ways they could. But after the war was over, that purpose seemed to vanish for a few of the main characters. This family has true wealth and power, but the end result is still that everyone is just looking for their life’s purpose. Money provides options. Money provides comforts. But money doesn’t provide a person with the meaning of life. That is up to us.
So for today, I’m putting aside my conversation about my consistent pursuit of financial stability. Let’s talk about what drives us…
Helping Each Other
So, how do we all find our purpose(s)?
I don’t have the answers. I try to follow my gut. Generally, helping others makes me feel “right”, so I make sure to make it a part of my life. This blog gives me a place to talk with you all and a way for some of you to reach out to me, so I consider it a priority. Laughing with friends and cuddling with Mr. Pug also feels right. So the purposes I strive on may not seem grand, but they can lead to sustainable contentment. That’s my main goal.
I seem to write out my thoughts for the day, hit publish, and then reply to those of you who add your 2 cents. But let’s really help each other out. For today, please feel free to chime in below to each other. Let’s really look into ourselves and share. If you have something to say to another commenter, reply. If we all bounce ideas off of each other, maybe someone who feels lost can be supported. If we can all use this space to simply help, maybe this can be a refuge of sorts to find ourselves. Or at least to make a human connection, which can be tricky occasionally.
Have you found your purpose(s)? Still searching? Any advice to the rest of us?
My husband and I actually like Valentine’s Day. Yeah, it may be a “Hallmark holiday”, but we like the reminder to just spend some time spoiling each other. And you aren’t forced to make it Hallmarky…
Our Free Valentine’s Day
Since Valentine’s this year is landing on a Friday, we are not even leaving the house. Too nutballs out there. We’ve decided to go cheap and stress-free.
First, we’ll be going to a sit-down restaurant on Thursday instead of Friday, and we’ll use the gift cards we still have leftover from Christmas. So we’ll be going to Chili’s, Macaroni Grill, or Papadeaux. We have enough on the gift cards to cover the entire meal. We usually end up catching each other up on how we’re feeling and joking around at restaurants, so that seems like a good goal. :-)
Then we’ll head home and throw in the next two DVD’s of Downton Abbey that we’ll have from Netflix. We’re using a one-month free subscription to their 2-at-a-time DVD plan for all of February. Even though we used to have their DVD plan before it separated from the streaming-only plan, they are still letting us take advantage of trying it for free again. Check it out!
As for our selection of show, neither of us had seen Downton Abbey before…it never sounded that great to us. BUT, we started it last week and are both hooked. He likes the politics of it all and I’m rooting for my favorite staff in the house to be happy. Who would have known that a fake, British, wealthy family in the 1900′s could be so interesting? :-)
We’re going to end the evening by trading off massages before bed. Yep, can’t go wrong with absolutely free time together just connecting.
Other Cheap or Free Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas
If you don’t have gift cards or Netflix, here are some other cheap or free Valentine’s Day ideas:
- Picnics (indoor picnic away from the kitchen if the weather sucks)
- Board Games or card games
- Video Games with two controllers
- Movie night at home. Either snack on what you already have or splurge $4 on some popcorn at the grocery store.
- Walk in free parks. We have a free botanical garden 10 minutes away.
- Enjoy an activity. We like Disc Golf and already have discs and there are free courses all over the place. But you may each enjoy something else like hiking, bike riding, bird watching, star gazing, etc. Heck, hug your inner child and see if hide-and-seek, freeze tag, or even dodge ball with your friends still seems as amazingly fun as it was before…
- Make s’mores over a fire
- Take advantage of your jet tub together (or your hot tub). Not everyone has one, but people who do sometimes forget to enjoy them…
- Go to a local karaoke night
Honestly, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to celebrate a relationship. If you aren’t in a romantic relationship, do some of this stuff with other friends in the same position. A single’s party for Valentine’s can kick butt if everyone is in the mood for fun. The overall point is to simply have a great time. This can be for Valentine’s Day or ANY day. Just have fun!
What are you doing for Valentine’s Day or just for fun?
We hosted a Super Bowl party last year, but it ended up being a fractured group. Many of our friends don’t actually watch football, so it ended up being a board gaming party with a little football thrown in. That’s not exactly what we had in mind. So this year, we are changing things up again.
Super Bowl 2013
At this time last year, we’d been in our new house for less than 4 months. We had a brand new media room setup with a projector, 100 inch screen, a couch, two-three chairs, and floor space. We thought we’d be able to host the best Super Bowl part ever!
But if you don’t have many friends that actually watch football, then you don’t get a group in front of the tv. Most of our group of 20-30 people played board games and only 5 of us ended up in the media room. Everybody had a pretty good time.
But as the hosts, we mingled instead of getting to enjoy the Super Bowl experience…you know, laughing at the good commercials, mocking the bad ones, and watching the game while hoping that the end-of-the-quarter score matches one of the squares you claimed on the game board.
Super Bowl 2014
Before last year, we had been going to my in-laws for the big game. They host a classic Super Bowl party – finger foods, dips, desserts, and football! So we decided to join in their fray of 15-20 people with our closest football-loving friends. My husband, me, and our 3 friends are carpooling to my in-laws house and the costs will be minimal:
- $5 per person for the squares game
- $5-$10 on food. We’re bringing chicken nuggets like always.
Having a classic Super Bowl party experience for $15 total is a great deal to me. We could do it for nearly nothing at our house, but we’d only have 5 people instead of a crowd…not sure if that is the ambiance we’re looking for. :-)
What do you think? If you had a media room with a projector but only 3 friends that wanted to watch the game, would you host it at your house or go back to the bigger party that you already knew about? Do you think the crowd improves the experience?
A couple of our friends came by some free tickets to a Houston Rockets NBA game last week and invited Mr. BFS and me. A double-date sounded fun, so we cleared our Monday night and headed downtown. It was a blast!
The Rockets and Me
I only followed the Rockets closely way back in 1994 when they went all the way. I’ve honestly never watched a whole game since then. Much has changed…
I didn’t recognize anybody on our team, which isn’t much of a surprise 20 years later. I did notice a bunch of players palming the ball and never being called on it – that was annoying. But I also watched some really great plays including great shots and superb screening by the Rockets and the Trail Blazers. The Trail Blazers had been on a 5 game winning streak, but the Rockets didn’t seem to mind the odds at places like https://www.bwin.be/fr. They kept a solid lead throughout and won handily at 126 to 113.
Other than nasty traffic on the way to downtown Houston, we had a great night! Our friends made parking waits fun. We made super silly remarks about all of the bad drivers, pretended we were looking for a secret entrance to Narnia while searching out the correct parking garage entrance, and even joked around at the amazing wait to leave.
In the stadium, we were like excited children. The seats were EXCELLENT. We all could see perfectly and chat during down times. Even the commercial breaks were fun. Our host caught a t-shirt from one of those sling-shots that the mascot was using. I caught our host before he fell over the seats in front of us, lol. A man at the end of our row made it onto the Dance Cam. It was just a fun environment!
The view from our seats was stellar!
We also grabbed a delicious and healthy meal at a new-to-us cafe on the way home. The broccoli cheddar quiche I ordered was excellent, but their simple salad really blew me away with some super tasty vinaigrette. Mr. BFS said his turkey burger was almost as good as the ones we make at home – that’s pretty amazing since the ones we make at home taste just like real burgers…
I guess that whole evening was proof that the people you are with matter way more than what you are doing. Watching the game was fun, but the company was the show stopper.
Have you been to a professional sports game recently? What do you think?
We’ve all had a really bad day…heck, weeks or months can stink too. It could be anything – money problems, relationship problems, illness, etc. How to you handle rough times? Specifically, how do you spend your time?
Spending time on others while the rough times pass can be amazingly cathartic. When I first graduated from college, I immediately got married, moved to a new apartment soon after, and all of our college friends moved on with their lives while we did the same. My husband was my best friend, but spending all of our time together was driving us both a little nutty.
I decided to stop feeling lonely and started volunteering at the Houston SPCA. I spent 3-4 evenings a week walking dogs and helping them get adopted. It was way easier to put my own life into perspective while I was cuddling with the big dogs and picking up their poop.
Even after we moved away a year later, I kept up the charity work through fostering Pugs, that was followed by Meals on Wheels, and that has been followed by Big Brothers Big Sisters. Volunteering your time can make a world of difference for you and the ones you help.
Hobbies and Play
Maybe you can keep your mind off of the rough times by spending your time doing other stuff. I have friends that find hobbies to throw themselves into when things aren’t great. You can consider anything – knitting, reading, video games, blogging, potlucks, movie nights, or you could even play bingo online at Paddy Power. I’d suggest budgeting your fun money for whatever you choose so you don’t cause yourself any financial problems. The activity itself should be something you enjoy that can keep you busy.
If the rough times can be worked through, then a hobby may allow you to focus better to achieve whatever it is you need to do. If the rough times can only be healed with time, then the hobbies can help you pass that time quicker.
You may be someone that can throw themselves into work. In some ways, the extra time could help you succeed. It can be used like a hobby to help you spend time concentrating on something else. I would just warn you not to use work or anything as an avoidance method for too long. If you just need some time, great. But if you need to be handling an issue, avoidance won’t help.
When I’m handling too much or am just waiting out a crappy period of life, I keep up with my commitments as necessary but throw more time into charity and hobbies/play. Helping others makes me feel better quickly and friends help me put things into perspective. I use reading, tv, and movies to help me feel in free time where I just need my brain to turn off a little. That combo seems to work for me.
What works for you?
I didn’t want to completely bore everybody with a step-by-step breakdown of our latest cruise, BUT we met a few great people and had a fantastic time. So here are the January 2014 cruise highlights!
You won’t believe me, but extrovert Crystal usually shuts down completely when she’s surrounded by people that she doesn’t know. The Financial Blogger Conference doesn’t seem to bother me at all because those are my people, lol. But I usually keep to myself in crowds.
This time though, I made sure to get involved. I chatted up everyone that I thought was pretty cool. That means that I got to know our evening waitstaff better – Manuel, Mauro, and Jimmy. Mauro and I even talked about his 8 month contracts on the ship for the last 4-5 years, and what that means for his 4 year old daughter back in Peru.
Hubby and I chatted up the close-up magician, Barman (Sourav Burman), who seems to truly want everyone to simply be happy. He got his work visa out of India about 7 years ago by performing for the government officials that were asking about his motives. That means for 10 minutes in Calcutta, one of the visa offices shut down while the staff and those waiting all gathered around Barman to have their minds blown. I know he impressed the crud out of me and Mr. BFS. His sleight-of-hand skills are beyond amazing. We had to get this photo with him too:
This is the close-up magician, Sourav Burman (aka Barman), when he stopped by our table at dinner. And yes, that is Mr. BFS on the right. :-)
Lastly, I even went out of my way to meet Edge – a comedian juggler that seemed like a pretty cool person. He would fit into our board gamer/potluck group really well. He’s sarcastic yet full of sincere moments where he just connects with you. He’s just a lonely geek like so many of us…one with the skills to juggle pretty much anything (sometimes without even looking). In regards to his skills, he was the best show we saw in the main theater lounge. He was equally talented as he was funny…which is to say that he was freaking awesome! :-D
Activities on Board
The Carnival Magic is an extremely nice ship. As always, our main activity seemed to be eating. Not only was there the nice evening dining experience every day, but there was also a Mongolian Wok, a burrito bar, a deli, and an Indian food buffet. I ate the ship.
Every evening, we ran to the Southern Lights dining room to eat all sorts of awesome stuff. Mr. BFS, our friend, and I were at a table with a cool group (a brother and two sisters) from San Antonio. It was fun!
I also very much enjoyed the Sky Course – an area where you get placed into a harness and then roam around an obstacle course suspended over the putt-putt holes. I even dangled over one of the edges a few times as we left Grand Cayman to drink in the view.
Speaking of putt-putt, their 9-hole course was well kept and fun. We played 3 rounds over the week. It was relaxing the two times we were alone. The last time was a little stressful because a couple of small children kept running across our holes…I had to move fast to keep from whacking them with my club or the ball. I had several naughty moments of thinking that I should stop catching myself in time.
The rest of our time on the ship was spent at the two-slide water park, the Serenity area with hammocks, the pools, the hot tubs, the outdoor movie theater, and the different areas that we played trivia. Thanks to our friend’s steel-trap mind, our team actually won 3 different trivia challenges. My husband also came in second out of nearly 20 people in a bean bag toss competition about half-way through the trip.
The Underground Rivers Once Again
In 2010, Mr. BFS and I went on an excursion to Xcaret in Mexico. It’s a natural park-turned-theme park with 3 spring-fed underground rivers. We only made it through two on our first trip, and we wanted to go back. We did on this trip!
We successfully made it through all three underground rivers this time. It was PERFECT! They start you out in a pit of water leading into a cavern. Then you float from cavern to cavern through gullies and tree roots. At the end, you are spat out in the open and swim to the exit. Each river is 1500-2500 feet long. We spent 2.5 hours in the water.
At one point, I was even swimming on the other side of a show enclosure and realized right at the last moment that there was a manatee on the other side! I just sat there staring through a small window at the manatee that was lounging less than a foot away. I was giddy!
Here were some pictures from that day:
Yep, that’s me floating through a gully in one part of the first river.
My favorite part of the underground rivers is when they pop you out among these tree roots. Mr. BFS is pointing out a small crab in the rocks.
While floating through the second river, you are at one point going through a hollowed-out room with this amazing stained-glass ceiling. It was eerie and peaceful at the same time.
While we were walking between the rivers, we saw these flamingos being led from one enclosure to the next. They are so regal!
- Two cruise tickets – $1100
- Two excursion tickets – $210
- Parking – $50
- Tips (mandatory and the extra I handed to our favorite staff) – $205
- Picture from the ship – $15
- Souvenirs – $50
- Gambling – $70
- Onboard credit – $100 off of our final bill
- Total Cost for the 7 Day Cruise – $1600
Yet another great cruise and what a value for our money!!! We’re looking into booking another one later this year. :-D
What has been your favorite vacation?