My side hustle is running my own horse training business and last week I was at a competition with 6 of my students from Wednesday through Sunday. I used vacation time from my regular job and Mr. PoniesandFIRE planned a week of vacation at the same time, to get some stuff done around the house and be home with PoniesandFIREjr.
I was dreading going a little bit, mostly because it’s a long time away from home and long hard days. I always enjoy it when I’m there, I love working with my students and seeing them and their horses progress, but the days before I always feel like not going.
Funny enough, it seemed like I blinked and was already back on the road home. Today I’m working on my billing and, while it’s not a lot of money if I were to break it down hourly, I’ll be about $1,000 richer once my clients pay. Sometimes it’s hard, but I have to keep reminding myself that the long days of extra hours of work do go by so fast.
I have three more weekends of horse shows before another day off, which is a little rough, but the nice weather and possibility of making some extra payments on the truck by the end of June has me pretty pumped up. I’m feeling like there’s going to be good progress made in June!
On my post "25 Ways We’ve Tightened Our Budget and Saved Money " (https://www.poniesandfire.com/blog/25-ways-weve-saved-money-and-tightened-our-budget), number 16 was unplug unused electronics.
Prior to this spring, we were rolling along with a pretty high electric bill. We run a dehumidifier in our basement and our pellet stove (main source of heat) runs with an electric auger. We also left tons of things plugged in 24/7 even when not in use, like cell phone chargers.
I was skeptical that unplugging things like our coffee pot and PoniesandFIREjr’s nightlight would make much of a difference, but I decided it certainly couldn’t hurt and got on board with taking the time to unplug.
Through the winter, our electric bills were $120-$130, on average. When we received those audits from the electric company on how we compared to our neighbors, we were always at the top of the average or higher. Ouch.
It finally warmed up enough to turn off our pellet stove a few weeks ago, which I know is the main reason our recent bill is lower, but I have to think my diligent unplugging has also made some difference too!
Our bill came in yesterday and was $88.16! Over $30 below the previous bill! I can’t wait to see if I can get that even lower this next month. Once the spring rain is over, I’m thinking we could probably use our dehumidifier sporadically, rather than 24/7. I’ve also got to stay on top of air drying rather than using the dryer. We were a little lax on that this month.
The only thing that could derail this newfound low electric bill would be the air conditioners. We have two window units in our bedroom and PoniesandFIREjr’s bedroom for when it gets super-hot while we’re sleeping. Our house is 118 years old and the insulation upstairs isn’t fantastic, so it’s cold in the winter and warm in the summer. I’m hoping we can hold off as long as possible this year though.
Goal – below $80 on our next electric bill…
Theodore Roosevelt said it, “comparison is the thief of joy.” Dave Ramsey has his own version when he rails against keeping up with the Jones’. I try and drive it home with my own riding students, when I discuss with them that there is always a better rider with a fancier horse somewhere, but that takes nothing away from your own journey and experience in the sport.
It’s human nature to compare. I find myself comparing our financial journey with others. Part of it stems from a feeling of fear, wondering if we are on track or doing enough. I have to remind myself, to quote my dad, that “there is more than one way to skin a cat.” Terrible phrase, but applicable.
Our journey isn’t perfect. Our journey isn’t going to match anyone else’s. That’s ok.
Everyone has their own financial struggles, strengths and goals. We each have different priorities in our lives and, as long as we are aligning our dreams and goals with our actions and making steps forward, we are all succeeding.
These are three questions I ask myself when I start to compare someone else’s life to mine:
1. Is there something in my life that I want to change that this is highlighting for me?
a. If so, what am *I* going to do about it?
2. Does this take away from my own accomplishments to be happy for their success?
3. Does more people finding success and happiness build a better future for everyone?
I typically find that when I take a moment and think through those questions, I end up with genuine and sincere appreciation for the other person’s success. I can take a moment and revel in someone else paying off their house, even though I know we are years from that point. I can cheer on someone reaching FIRE, even when we’ve had a bad financial month. Neither situation changes anything in my life, except encouraging me forward, that this FIRE plan can work, because see?!? It just worked for those people!
Present day PoniesandFIRE is way more in control of her finances than a few years ago.
We have a decent net worth, retirement savings, a plan, no student loans or credit card debt, yet some days I still feel overwhelmed. The financial goals we have set seem impossible at times and the desire to hit them ahead of schedule is often on my mind. I want to reach FIRE and I want it NOW!
When that feeling of being overwhelmed by the tasks in front of us takes over, here are a few things I’ve started doing to help.
1. Review our monthly financial snapshots. Every month, I write up a word doc with some basics of our financial situation (debt, retirement account balances, 529 balance, cash savings, etc). We have almost two years of these now and it is so empowering to look back where we were 1 or 2 years ago and see the progress we’ve made.
2. Find something to list for sale on FB marketplace. The idea of selling something and having extra unplanned money in the budget is a huge mental boost.
3. Make a list of small actionable items I can do that week or month to help move the needle. I’m obviously all about lists, so this is actually fun for me.
4. Use Dave Ramsey’s investing calculator to play around with how our timeline changes in the future when things like daycare costs go away and we can raise our investments.
5. Play outside with PoniesandFIREjr, enjoy the sunshine and stop thinking about finances for a while!
6. Plan a free or cheap family activity (hiking, fishing, camping in our backyard, etc) and embrace the fun of where we are at now in life.
7. Schedule a little “me” time. I am terrible at overscheduling between my job and my side hustle and when I start to feel overwhelmed, it often means I need to dial it back a touch for a day or two.
8. Exercise. Those endorphins from a good workout are no joke and sometimes my best ideas come during a run.
9. Gather up all the spare change from our cars and house and deposit it! Those few dollars might not be a big step towards our goal, but they might be enough to feel like I’ve made some progress that day.
10. Listen to a financial podcast or re-read one of my favorite financial books or blogs. Hearing about other people’s struggles and successes is hugely reinvigorating! I always end up thinking, if they can do it, so can I!