#FinCon19…The Good, The Bad & The Could Have Been Ugly

This weekend marked my third year attending FinCon.  I wasn’t sure if I should write a new post because I didn’t think I would have much more to say after my first one…

I was wrong. 

#FinCon19 topped all the others for a variety of reasons.  Here is a quick glimpse behind the scenes of the last 5 days that most likely cost me a month off my total lifespan due to lack of sleep, dehydration, and mass quantities of pizza.

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The GOOD

First off, my Caboose Crew friends and I landed at DCA an hour prior to the Single Mingle I was hosting.  We were already walking zombies from 3 nights of limited rest plus an early morning wake up call, so the time crunch certainly added a facet of insanity to the agenda.  Nothing like starting FinCon off in a frenzied rush!!

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#70kChallenge Update & Invite

At the end of last year, I proposed a challenge to Mrs. 1500.  She had mentioned she wanted to start being more active and I knew I needed accountability to stay on track.  The challenge was to walk 70k steps a week for all of 2019.  If one of us fell short for the week, we would owe the other $5 to be paid up at the end of the challenge…you know us frugal people hate to part with cash!!  Once the rules were all set, we thought it may be fun to let others join in so on January 1st of this year, I wrote a blog post introducing the #70kChallenge and opened registration to the first 8 people to respond.  Within a few hours our #70kChallenge team had swelled to 13 (we just couldn’t say no!) and we had to start turning people away.  Rules were explained, a Twitter DM group and Google spreadsheet were set up, and the challenge began.

 

In the first couple of weeks, we had 2 people drop out.  One due to time commitments, the other due to seriously high numbers.  He had never tracked his steps before so he didn’t really know what his daily steps were.  Turns out, it was DOUBLE what everyone else was stepping so hitting 70k wasn’t much of a challenge.  As the weeks wore on, we lost a few more folks, mostly due to other priorities trumping this one.  Currently, 30 weeks in, we are down from 13 to 8 members deeming this less of a challenge and more a walking version of The Hunger Games.

Reflections from the past 30 weeks are as follows:

  • 52 weeks is a loooong time to run a challenge
  • 70k steps a week is sometimes hard to get when you factor in illness, injury, travel, and other things that pop up in the course of a year.
  • $5 is difficult to part with for a personal failure – no matter how much money you have…
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But the best reflection of all…

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Red Rover, Red Rover, Send All Your Dogs Over!! Lessons & Tips From My Dog Sitting Side Hustle…

Moving to Denver last year came with many financial changes, the worst of which was higher rent, but the hardest was paying for a dog sitter.   Up until that point, any time I worked or went on vacation I always had Bubba taken care of by either my mom or a string of friends.  In return, I often watched their dogs when they went out of town.  It was nice to be able to leave her in the hands of someone I knew would love her like their own.  Moving to Denver changed that.  I had to start relying on people I didn’t know and people who didn’t know Bubba.  On top of that, the price tag wasn’t cheap.  I paid $35/night and $16 a walk every time I had to go to work as well as any time I traveled.  I love my dog, she was and is worth every penny, BUT IT STILL ADDS UP!!

In August of last year, I decided to offset the cost of hiring a dog sitter by becoming one myself.  I already take Bubba out, feed her, and walk her on the daily… why not add another set of paws to the mix?

Now, Denver is a city FULL of dogs and unfortunately, dog walkers, but I realized I could probably steer a few clients way by undercutting the competition.  I joined Rover (More info & Tips below), an easy to use dog walking/sitting app, and set my prices $5 under anyone who lived within a few blocks of me.  I didn’t have any “real” reviews (you can have friends and family write in reviews but they don’t count as “verified” stays) so when creating my profile, I made sure to make it as lengthy and detailed as possible, adding a bunch of pictures with me and other dogs.  It wasn’t long before I got my first client, Tex, a 60lb 4-year-old German Sheperd mix.

It is important to point out that while living in Denver, I was also living in a tiny home.  A tiny 230 sq ft home with very little space to break up a possible dog fight that might ensue with territorial pups.  I asked the owner to meet Bubba and me at a park to ensure our dogs would get along.  Tex danced around Bubba while she sniffed the grass and ignored him completely.  Within 5 minutes it was clear that neither dog would have an issue with the other.  I booked the client.

Tex, the Squirrel Chaser

A few days later Tex was dropped off at my house.  He came with a crate, toys, food, and treats as well as directions NOT to let him roam off-leash.  My dad happened to be visiting that week so after the dogs got settled in the yard and house, we took them on a walk to the park.  All went well until Tex spotted a squirrel and took off dragging my dad behind. Clearly, that leash rule was a necessity!  After a few more squirrel encounters we headed back towards home happy not to have caught any squirrel trophies.

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A couple days later, Tex’s owner picked him up and a few days after that I had $48 deposited into my account.  Tex became a bit of a regular and I quickly got used to walking him and avoiding his triggers.  (Side note – Tex was also featured in my recent Marketwatch video.  Not bad for a rookie!)

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Replacing The Beast & Love For The CarMax Return Policy

It’s been over a year since The Beast went belly up (see obituary below).  I have been hesitant to write this post because I know many of you were attached to her and, well, it was just too damn painful.  But a lot of lessons came out of her passing that I thought the best way to honor her would be to share with you her replacement story.  After all, this alone saved me from what would have been the second biggest financial mistake of my life (you can read the first HERE).

First, a few words of advice…

When replacing the love of your life a car that you have had for many many years that has seen you through thick and thin and everything in between, don’t just go with the size or type of car you had before without reexamining your needs. You’ll want to reevaluate your current vehicle requirements before taking the plunge.

Examples:

  1. Have the kids have grown from their car seats?  Maybe a third row is no longer necessary.
  2. Not off-roading any time soon? Ditch the Hummer you bought to look cool and get something more realistic and emission friendly.
  3. You’ve decided you no longer need 8 cup holders in your automobile when 5 will suffice?  Downsize said cup holder requirement.
  4. Are you about to have a kid??  It might be time to upgrade from the 2 seater Smart coupe to a more comfortable 4 person Prius.
  5. One kid about to start driving?  Maybe it’s best to revisit the new car idea in another couple of years.

The last one, I didn’t have that option.  The Beast was dead before I actively started looking for her replacement.* But I did have an idea of what I wanted. My personal list of requirements for my new used car included:

  1. 4 Doors
  2. Air conditioning
  3. Cruise Control
  4. 4 windows that worked
  5. Gas mileage better than 18mpg (which is apparently what a lack of compression does to a 17-year-old car)
  6. Less than 90k miles
  7. Under $10k

Things I wanted but weren’t necessary:

  1. Option to build out another sleeping platform
  2. Silver in color – I’m fancy like that.

Pretty standard.

Knowing The Beast was on her final miles, I had already been preparing mentally for what her replacement would be.  Buying a new car was a big deal for me!!  I had been with The Beast for 15 years and she was EXACTLY what I wanted when I got her.  I was hoping for the same clarity when purchasing this next car and eventually narrowed my choices to the Honda Fit.

I searched Craigslist and Honda dealers for weeks before finally focusing my sights on CarMax. I found exactly what I was looking for.  A 2016 silver Honda Fit with everything on my list….except the price.  I originally thought I would buy something 5 years oldish but, as sometimes happens when shopping, I lost my thrifty superpower when I found this car.  It happens.

CarMax Purchase

Buying at CarMax is a simple transaction.  You see the car, you like the car and if it is in the store, you can buy it that day.  If not, they will ship it to you for a nominal fee.  There is no wheeling and dealing or negotiating.  You just go, buy, and drive.  I realize for most frugal folks this may seem like a loss – we love to haggle and get the best deal, but in this case, I didn’t have the mental capacity to sit in an office with a sales manager going back and forth on price so he/she could find a way to come out ahead.  I just couldn’t do it.  Instead, my friend John and I went in, bought the car (I financed it with the intention to pay it off in the next few months with no early payment penalty fee), and soon after I drove off with new plates, tags, insurance, and a smile plastered across my face.**

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Intentionally Left Blank

~ A quick THANK YOU to all who commented, emailed, text, and called in response to this post.  Hearing your stories and how this post impacted you have left me verklempt.  I literally do not have the words to express how much it means to me – to not only hear your words of encouragement but also for you to share your vulnerabilities with me.  I hold them dear.  You have restored my purpose in writing and sharing my life stories which is invaluable to me at this moment.  Thank you, thank you, thank you. ~

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A couple months ago I was interviewed for a feature on Marketwatch and a few days ago a woman emailed me to follow up with some questions. I had no idea what was coming (I should really start asking for those questions in advance) but I figured the usual mainstream FIRE related mumbo jumbo like tips for beginners or how did I get here.  Most of these questions I have answered before.  With confidence.  No hesitation.  Almost always saying too much because, you know, I can’t help myself.  But this time was different.  This time I stumbled on almost every question asked.  I found myself searching for words that should not only be at the tip of my tongue but should easily fall off of it.  And they didn’t.  By the time she got to the “What do you want to do when you retire?” question – I was an internal mess.  So what happened?

I mentioned my crazy year in the last post but what I didn’t do is explain that most of that moving around was due to a relationship that no longer exists.  And though everything is fine, we are friendly, life will go on blah blah blah, the end of that relationship also signifies the end of what I thought the last 1.5 years would lead to.  That is the tough part to reconcile.  Because when I think about my FIRE journey and what comes after retirement what I thought, at least for the past 1.5 years, is no longer my future.  Turns out, that part of my life was temporary.  But that alone didn’t throw me, it goes deeper.  This year, despite everything else, I also reached FI.
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