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May. 7th, 2018

Living on Minimum Wage

Moving Forward With Financial Goals

Back in June, I mentioned that I had 3 savings goals before leaving home for my apartment project. Happy to say I've hit those 3 goals, and I know it's time to move forward with the video series.

But I admit I'm having a little trouble with motivation.

Some of it is tiredness. I'm working full time at my day job, plus babysitting, plus the home business. Part of it is funding. I'm ready for the apartment on a personal financial level, but I'd like to upgrade my video editing software and recording equipment and get a little buzz going. Another part of it is a reluctance to jump into the drama that is YouTube. Fear is the wrong word, but reading up on the flack and threats many other YouTubers deal with regularly puts a damper on the enthusiasm I need.

I've spent the last couple weeks wrestling with my new budget since I hit my IRA goal. Think I've got that worked out and will go into it more in the next post. But I'm not as far along with promoting the video series as I should be. I know other YouTubers have started simple and built their audience over time, but I'm not looking to be Suze Orman or Dave Ramsey. This is a one-year project, and then I hope to move on to others.

I do think part of what I need to do is get back on the blogging horse. The last few months have been a lot of saving and not spending, which doesn't make for exciting blog posts....and that's part of the reason I want to do the video series. At 37, I've already built up a lot of my basics, so hard to show progress in an engaging way.

Jan. 1st, 2018

Living on Minimum Wage

2017 That Twas and the 2018 to Come

I did end up getting a seasonal job in October and added a regular babysitting job in August, but mainly I've just been significantly cutting down my time on the internet to deal with offline projects. There was a longer than intended break from writing and creative projects, which was probably good for my mental health if not so much for the size of my to-do pile.

Just before Christmas break, my day job has asked me to move from part time to full time on a trial basis which is going to help a lot with income goals and probably make that second job unnecessary. Also looking forward to having regular benefits again, at least for a while. On the downside, my vehicle died, but I was able to work out a temporary arrangement to keep getting to my job.

I hit 2 out of 3 of my savings goals, and should be on track to hit the third within 4 months.

So I am gearing up to actively promote my YouTube show in 2018. Hope to be putting out more details on that soon. Basic premise is I will get an apartment with just a backpack full of stuff and go through the process of living on minimum wage: buying food, furnishing the apartment, building a wardrobe, etc.

Aug. 28th, 2017

Living on Minimum Wage

Trying to Figure Out "Healthy"

Just read a click through article of 50 foods you should "Never Eat". A few of these were probably right, a few of them offered healthy alternatives, but several of them tried to turn people off of foods that are probably fine in moderation or with proper preparation. Main trouble with the article is most of them only cited one source, and while these articles quote food experts, they are not written by someone with an expert's level of understanding.

If you follow nutritional studies, a lot of them contradict each other. Or you need to read them carefully. Some foods do interact badly with certain conditions or medications, but if you don't have that condition or take that medicine, the food is perfectly fine.

Had a long debate with someone recently over whether bread and pasta were healthy. She called them "empty calories", and I pointed out that whole wheat bread contained protein, vitamins, minerals, and fibers. After some further back and forth, I found out she had been fed cheap ramen noodles for a significant portion of her childhood. Probably a cheap brand that was popular at my college and I dubbed as "slightly better than starving to death" due to it's lack of any nutrients beyond calories and salt.

Now, you do need salt and calories, but too much is bad for you. You get better bang for your buck if your calories carry other nutrients with them.

For bread and pasta, read labels. Some are nutritionally void, while others can be a healthy part of your diet. You don't have to buy the most expensive option on the shelf. I get most of my pasta from the markdown section at the grocery store. But do opt for something with some nutritional value: higher numbers than zero in protein, fiber, vitamin, and minerals.

Bread and pasta are things that you can learn to make at home if you want increased control over what goes into your food.

P.S. You don't have to cut ramen out of your diet entirely. But don't eat it all the time, opt for lower sodium, and do add vegetables and proteins like eggs or lean meat to give the meal some nutritional value.
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Jul. 24th, 2017

Living on Minimum Wage

When the Price Is Wrong, Point It Out

I recently received a bill from my dermatologist for $125 dollars for a biopsy. However since I had already received a bill from the pathology group that does their biopsies for $103.55, this did not seem right. It was possible I had let the bill go long enough that my dermatologist had needed to pay it and was now charging me for that bill and their additional time, which would have not been entirely unreasonable.

But I didn’t want to pay for the same biopsy twice, so I called in to ask what was going on. Later that afternoon, I got a message on my voicemail that billing had already marked the charge as an error, and not only did I not owe them any money but should expect a $39 refund in the mail.

I have been to this particular doctor enough times that I have no reason to think they’re malicious in their billing. But doctors and billing offices are human beings and make mistakes. Unfortunately, some are regularly sloppy. (Not an accusation I’d hurl at this particular dermitologist, but my father has changed doctors before due to consistently sloppy billing.) So if there’s something hinky on your bill, don’t be afraid to point it out.

And yes, I will be paying that pathologist bill today. Late fees in this case would be my own fault.

Less dramatically, while buying candles for my sister’s birthday cupcakes, I noticed the candles I wanted had been left on peg labelled $0.99, and I know enough about retail to know it was the wrong sign for the product. All the comparable products around it were $1.99, and the barcode was wrong. But I pointed the sign out to the cashier, and the manager gave me the $1 off on my purchase. Hopefully it helped the store fix the sign, so other customers would not be misled.

Jun. 26th, 2017

Living on Minimum Wage

Still Waiting...

Have you liked the Living Single on Minimum Wage Facebook Page?  I've been slightly more active there, sharing articles and thought pieces that I hope are relevant to low income singles.  (Sharing the facebook page with others is one way to help support this book/blog.)

Otherwise one of those "I'm not dead" updates.  I've been sticking to the savings plan that I set up in January.  Been doing a lot of little home organizing projects, including trying to cook through the food in my pantry, since I'm trying to leave a minimal amount of clutter behind at my parents' home and not planning to take it with me for the YouTube show.

I'm setting some personal savings goals before I leave home.

EF $5000
Checking $500
IRA $5000 (and preferably moved to an investment fund(s); currently it's basically in a low interest savings account).

Hard to say exactly how long those will take.  After I get a list of to-do items caught up, I'm planning to take on a second job, so how soon I do that and how well it pays (and how long my vehicle survives without a major breakdown) will determine how quickly I hit my goals and can move forward.

I've done reasonably well staying on budget, and the business is creeping forward financially but still has some goals to hit to move forward.  So I hope you'll keep Amoeba Ink in mind with your summer shopping.  For readers, we're offering 50% off the Tomato Slices ebook until July 31st.

Apr. 26th, 2017

Living on Minimum Wage

Mainly Musing

We were prepping for a yardsale this weekend, but weather put us on a 2-week delay.  Hoping to use that time to encourage my family to squeeze out more dust collectors or forgotten things in boxes for the sale.

I want to try starting a Patreon to help support the blog and YouTube series, but I'm at a loss for rewards.  I know a lot of bloggers do additional content, but I feel like I'm pushing it just to keep up a basic blogging schedule.  So I'm definitely open to suggestions at this point.

Most of what I'm coming up with are challenges and maybe an "ask me anything" segment.

My personal finances (funded through my day job) are doing okay, but the business could use a boost so I can get some current projects off the back log.  Any purchase or promotion of Amoeba Ink products: http://www.amoebaink.com is helpful.  I've got 3 or 4 paperbacks which need ISBN numbers, cover art, and an initial print run, before I can really turn my full concentration to the 2nd edition of Living Single on Minimum Wage and the YouTube series.

I am also looking for someone who might be willing to work on commission and promote/sell the company's fiction work.  Would prefer someone local to Nashville, but would probably consider anyone in the U.S.

Less dramatically, I'm planning to go through old posts to fix typos and hopefully merge some tags.

Apr. 10th, 2017

Living on Minimum Wage

When To Hold On

I am much better at not buying new things than letting go of old ones, so a lot of my organizing posts tend to focus on purging rather than stockpiling items. Also this is a blog aimed at minimum wage earners who often have to move frequently and usually have less storage. So minimalism is often financially beneficial.

However, as you settle in life, the assets you have slowly acquired can be a great benefit.  Something as simple as owning a broom, means you don't have to go buy a broom.

If you know anyone who grew up during the Great Depression, you may have noticed they tend to save everything, sometimes to an extreme, but during times of great economic distress holding onto items and repurposing them is an important survival skill.

Things You Should Hold Onto:

Detailed tax records that are less than 3 years old.
(Click here for more detailed advice from the IRS for individuals and here for self-employed individuals )

Receipts for non-consumable items within return date.

Warranties (until they expire)

Instruction manuals for things you may need to take apart or maintain/troubleshoot.

Clothing for next season (If you haven’t worn it in 3 years, it’s probably safe to let go, but there’s no sense in a new wardrobe every six months.  A spacer saver storage bag may be a good investment if space for winter clothes is a problem.)

Deeply sentimental items. (If you’re someone who is sentimental about everything, work your way to minimalism by letting go of the things you care the least about but allow yourself a few representative items which are most precious to you.)

Everyday items that are useful in the long term. (A set of stainless steel utensils may outlive you if you take care of them.)

Useful scraps (any crafter knows this can go overboard, but if you have a ½ foot of wrapping paper left, you can save that by rolling it up with other large scrap pieces and securing with a rubber band, and use this collections for wrapping smaller gifts.)

Useful used items (recycling plastic bags is good, but you can also save them and reuse them as liners for small trashcans.  Unless they're in bad shape, save gift bags for reuse.  My best friend and I sent the same bag back and forth between us for several years.)

A set of tools and extra screws (you don’t need to be a handyman, but you should be prepared to do some basic repair work and/or furniture assembly by yourself. A dollar store bead sorter will give you a place to safely store odd nails and screws which are likely to come in handy at some point.)

Things that are likely to be important for major life goals, particularly within the next five years.

Exactly how much stuff you should save depends a lot on your available space and how frequently you need to change locations.  This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but I was beating myself pretty badly for holding on to certain items last weekend.  And then I took a step back and realized I was holding on so tightly because these things were still important to my vision of the future.  Because my family does have adequate storage space, it was still more cost effective to hold onto these things than get rid of them (and replace them later).  I did still purge some less important items, but giving myself permission to hold onto the important stuff made that easier.

Apr. 3rd, 2017

Living on Minimum Wage

Organizing Your Assets

If organizing your house or apartment does not seem to have anything to do with budgeting, it’s because you are not thinking of your things as assets.  Organizing allows you to take better stock of and access your assets.  Let’s start with defining an asset:

Asset - a useful or valuable thing, person, or quality.

What counts as an asset to you as individual will probably be a little different than how businesses count assets, but the underlying concept is the same.  Stuff isn’t always an asset.  It could be a liability.  Liabilities are debts, but they have a second definition more relevant to personal items:

Liability - a person or thing whose presence or behavior is likely to cause embarrassment or put one at a disadvantage.

Basically stuff that helps you is an asset, and things that cause problems are liabilities.  “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” applies here.  An item may be potentially useful to someone else but not to you (or useful to past you but not current you).  These are items which are good to sell or barter and turn into a useful asset like cash.  If an item is not sellable, it may still be donated or recycled, or trashed if it’s beyond redemption.  While you might not gain money from recycling, you do regain space and have less to maintain or move around, which could save you money.

Since my parent’s have a full basement, I’ve held on to more childhood toys and apartment items than I would otherwise.  But space is a bit of issue at our house, so I’m in the process of organizing and reorganizing what I’ve held onto.  Letting go has always been a bit hard for me, but I’m trying to use the measuring stick of whether the items are likely to be useful over the next few years or are simply taking up space.

In addition, I’m trying to better group and label the items I’m holding onto, so when I am ready for it, it’s easy to find.  I found some things that I forgot I had or thought I had gotten rid of.  Facing what you’re holding onto can be emotionally exhausting, but it’s worthwhile and allows you a chance to evaluate your goals and progress towards them.

Most of the things I’m getting rid are going into my yardsale pile, and we’ll have a sale later in April.  But a few items will go to ebay.

What’s your favorite way to sell off stuff you no longer need?

Mar. 27th, 2017

Living on Minimum Wage

And Now We Wait...Also Timing Your Money

So last month, I set up a fresh budget, and this month I've pretty much stuck to it.  Spent a little extra on some clearance priced food, but it wasn't more than my padding can cover.  And I believe it will help me reduce spending for next month.

I did set up that separate emergency fund savings account.  My tax refund covered a business trip to a convention where I was a guest/panelist, but I stuck the remainder into my emergency fund, so I was able to open the account with $2000.

I have a lot of my finances automated, particularly with my business.  Money goes into my checking account through direct deposit and now moves to my new savings account at a set amount ($350) once per month.  I may reverse that at some point in the not too distant future, but at the moment, it helps me avoid any monthly maintenance fees on my checking account.

On the business side, I have several automatic payments staggered throughout the month or on an annual basis, which helps me avoid late fees or periods where I'm not covered.  However, I am careful to stagger the dates, so I can be sure the account doesn't get overdrawn.

Back in the personal realm, I've staggered my monthly outflow as well.  I normally get two checks per month from my day job on the 5th and the 20th.  (I get one from my home business as well, but it's super tiny.)  After the first check on the 5th, I pay my parents and put $100 in my IRA, and I have an automatic transfer scheduled to move money to the emergency fund on the 23rd (which gives me a few days to cancel if something goes wrong with my direct deposit on the 20th).  I tithe based on each check, and on a weekly basis I get $40 cash from the ATM for general spending.

The point isn't that you have to schedule your money the same way I schedule mine.   Do what makes the most sense for your situation.  But I do think timing bills, payments, and transfers so they don't all hit at the same time can be a good way to give yourself some breathing room to figure things out.

The next thing I'm working on is some more concrete goals for savings before I make any significant life changes.  This blog was a lot more engaging when I had my own apartment and food budget, etc.  As my nephew is getting older and I have a job in walking distance of several apartment complexes, I'm looking at doing a YouTube reality series of sorts that will focus on budgeting as a low-income single in an apartment.  However, that won't let me save at my current rate and has the potential to be a money hole (I need better editing software and possibly a system upgrade).  So trying to balance life/project goals with responsibility to my financial future and my family.

Absolute earliest this could start is June, but I need to finish up some other projects before committing to a new one for a solid year.

Feb. 27th, 2017

Living on Minimum Wage

Making Your Own Lunch Kits


My nephew is in love with Lunchables, pre-made lunch kits marketed at kids which come in several varieties and have generic immitators, but crackers+meat+cheese+cookie is the general formula.  They're wonderfully simple and convenient.  But they are generally more expensive than assembling the same foods yourself, generate trash, and cookie/candy without fruit or vegetables is not the best lunch routine.

So I've started making "lunchables" for my nephew in the morning for his lunch that usually look like what I've pictured above.  Since they're only stored for a few hours instead of potentially weeks, it's not important to separate the different foods with dividers.  That's 8 Ritz Crackers, 1 slice of swiss cheese folded and broken into four pieces and stacked on top of four folded thin slices of turkey.  I usually give him fruit in a separate container as well.

I'm bringing this up on a blog for single adults, because you can make adult versions of this.  Reusable divide containers help:

Kind of looks like a meal of party leftovers, but it hits 4 out of 5 food groups.  I had two slices of chicken left, so I used 2 different meats, 2 or 3 different cheeses, and fresh grapes.

Crackers (or other dry sliced bread) + cheese + meat + fruit (and/or veggies)= meals you can prep in advance and grab quickly in the morning.

Vegan version is subsituting the meat with hummus or nuts like almonds or peanut butter, and a calcium rich vegetable like spinach (or something else from this list: "33 Vegetables High in Calcium").

If you compare the price on the adult premade lunches and snack kits, the savings become pretty obvious.

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