1. It’s so incredibly difficult to have kids and, simultaneously wrestle with new childcare/food/kid costs and a lower income. We went through that hard core when Junior ThreeYear was born, I stopped working, and then Mr. ThreeYear was laid off. Fun times.

    It’s discouraging, for sure. I remember when we began the journey to max out Mr. ThreeYear’s 401K. We started with 7 measly percent, and it felt like we’d never get to the max. But only three short years later, we did it. The little bits do add up over time, even if they don’t make for compelling headlines.

    Hang in there, Penny! The days are long but the years are short.

    • 7% doesn’t seem measly! My husband did point out that we both put just about 10% of our salary toward our pensions every year. So I guess there’s that. Funny what you lose sight of!

      And nothing is more true. The years are so short. I’d trade all my money for more time.

  2. I just think there are seasons of life when it comes to money. Sometimes you need to spend a little more, then the leaves change and you can save more. Like I wrote in my last post, life is about the long game. I think we all want fast results and that just makes us feel restless and impatient. It’s good you’re seeing if from a different perspective.

    • You are so right, Tonya. I can get so restless, but I can’t rush this. I just have to put my head down and keep going. Thank you!

  3. I think it’s fan-freaking-tastic that you’re continuing to make so much progress. It might not feel like it, since you won’t see those 403(b) dollars for 30-some years, but even that tiny $100/month will add up into the 6-figures as your career progresses.
    And here’s the good news on that mortgage: by paying so much early on, you’ve blazed through the early years when mortgage interest accrues the most, and is most painful to your progress. I don’t have to tell you that every little bit helps… I see that with every post about a decluttering sale.

    • And it my pension ever shows up, cue the happy happy dance! I’m honestly hoping that finding a reasonable option for my 403(b) will be the hardest part and that I can just keep adjusting the number upward!

  4. Great topic Penny. Truly I think all of us have a problem where we will give up all progress just because we can’t hit the 100% progress goal we would like to. I am certainly guilty of this.

    But if we gave in to this feeling, nothing would get done. All the impactful people in our lives or society would have given up and life as we know it would be ridiculous. Thomas Edison famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. I know he is using a bit of a different viewpoint here, but what if he had hit his roadblocks and because he wasn’t making the progress he would wanted, he quit…

    We’ve got to keep pushing and being gritty! I’m happy that you are doing something, even if small to your 403(b) and mortgage. Rome wasn’t built in a day!

    • I love that Edison quote. Thank you for posting that! This is such a great reminder that grit is something we can all aspire to have more of!

  5. In this life you are either moving forward or you are moving backward. There is no standing still (except in death). If you are inching forward you are still building momentum in the right direction. Today’s inch forward is tomorrow’s inch and a half, and they day after’s two inches. Over a decade those inches add up into something amazing. Don’t get discouraged and don’t stop moving forward. You’ll get where you are going.

    On the issue of whether money brings happiness. I can tell you it does not. The lack of money masks the things that are truly making you unhappy or unsatisfied. The need to pay the bills just gets in the way and makes you think that it is the source of your unhappiness. But when that is no longer the case, you realize that lack of money was not the source of your dissatisfaction. Figuring that out and dealing with the actual underlying causes before you reach your financial happy place, will make retirement all the sweeter.

    Keep it up Penny. Your voice is singular in the community and I do love reading your posts.

    • I must admit that I do find myself hoping for an Oldster comment every time I write! You spoil me so. Thank you, friend!

      You are probably very right about money being a mask. A tool and a mask. Hmm. That’s a post in and of itself, isn’t it? 🙂

  6. I really struggle to be ok with only putting pennies into my retirement/TFSA accounts. But, that’s what has been required lately. I understand the mindset of why bother when it isn’t a significant amount of money. Somehow, it doesn’t seem noteworthy enough. Obviously, I recently pressed a serious pause on our tiny house plans and that was probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. But, it wasn’t a pause on savings (though, the amount has been significantly reduced), it was more of a pause on the mindset. I had to get to a place where I was ok saying goodbye to a good chunk of money that was earmarked for the tiny house and be ok putting it into the downpayment on our house. Like a lot of money things, mindset is almost as important as the actual money.

    • The mindset side is the hardest part for me, hands down! And it’s really frustrating when I read all of these posts and all of this research about just being positive. I am positive, darn it! I do think that I am very optimistic. But this is a different kind of psychology, I think, that requires more than positive thinking.

  7. Badger

    Stuff happens. You are doing the best that you can. Children are expensive. Most people don’t realize how expensive. Stay the course. It is likely that something good, no matter how small, is going to happen.

  8. Kim Domingue

    We just came out of a two year economic slump in my husband’s field of work. We had a lot of discussions during that time period about money, projects, retirement, etc. We saved some, we spent some on things like a patio and roofing the house. The house was a necessity, the patio was a long put off want. We went ahead with the patio anyway. At 58 and 60 we’ve more years behind us than ahead of us and we wanted to be able to enjoy it before we were dead, lol! But with the economic slump over, we’ll be socking away as much as allowed in his 401 and our other accounts….but still leave some money free for doing some traveling and enjoying the present. It was frustrating to not see his 401 growing in leaps and bounds but sitting and fretting over it is fruitless….doesn’t change the economy. We cut back on some things, spent on others and rode out the slump. Money seasons go through cycles just like seasons of the year….the season of rearing children is a slow money season.

    • You are the second person to remind me of the seasons. I think this is a really important reminder to savor what’s going on instead of wishing my way through it. I have a feeling that when there is more money in our budget, I will be willing to trade away all those dollars for more of this time!

      • Kim Domingue

        Oh Penny, we’ve been to do many funerals in the last ten years or so and not all of the deceased were old….from the funeral of a two year old (the saddest funeral I’ve ever gone to) to the funerals of people in their prime. The hubs and I have been forcibly reminded that we are not promised a tomorrow. We will continue to save and be frugal in our day to day lives but we no longer putt off (frugal) traveling or a dinner out with friends because it’s cheaper to eat at home. I still thrift shop for most of my clothes but I’ll spend the money for a good fitting pair of jeans that make me happy every time I put them on. We buy the black cherries instead of making ourselves buy the bananas because they’re cheaper. Our patio? Man, we sure have hosted a lot of get togethers and barbeques with friends and family since we built it….lots of memories that we wouldn’t have had if we’d continued to put it off. Have a thought….lots of thoughts…..about the future and plan for it and save for it but also spare some thought for enjoying today….because we’re not promised a tomorrow. Sigh. (steps down from soapbox) (attended a funeral this morning)

  9. This is such an important topic, especially when we see those clickbaity headlines and compare our own progress to what seems like a miracle. I feel like my own progress has been inching along for the past year or so, and I’m ready to start sprinting thanks to receiving my forgotten pension and the end of car payments and timeshare responsibilities. But whether it’s a tiny step at a time or a giant leap, the important part is that it’s forward progress. Just because you can’t hit fast forward right now is no reason to hit pause!

  10. I don’t just apply this idea financially; I think committing to doing small steps in my personal life is so helpful too. I get easily overwhelmed and telling myself, “Just do X” helps me gain the ability to do bigger things.

    Make the steps that you can make. 🙂

    And also, YES teachers are preyed upon with these systems.

    • I was actually thinking the same thing when I was writing, Mrs. Picky Pincher! This is my charitable giving strategy. I used to feel really bad that we were giving hundreds when it seems that so many people give thousands each month. Now, I’m just really happy to say that we’ve been consistently giving for three years!

  11. Yep, I’ve been through seasons where my progress slowed to a crawl. And while I was eventually able to get extreme in my debt pay off, it didn’t start out that way. When I first became ready to recognize my financial mess, I also knew I had to focus on some deeper rooted things first.

    I am a bit of an all or nothing kind of person so I totally get your statement about giving up or hitting the pause button for 5 or 10 years. BUT, progress is progress be it slow or quick. Plus I could not think of a better reason than a baby to slow things down 🙂

    How do I remind myself that a little is better than nothing at all? Hmm, I like time blocking and lists. When I cross something off a list, I feel satisfaction so I tend to make a lot of little lists.

    • I am so glad you said this. I totally feel you on the all or nothing aspect. Moderation is harder for me than giving things up entirely (I’m looking at you, soda and dairy and sugar!). So maybe that also explains why doing a little bit financially doesn’t always sit well with me. Hmm.

  12. Yes! Such an important and timely post. It’s easy to get hit by the progress of other PF bloggers and think a little doesn’t matter. But it does! Even if it is mostly to make you feel like you’re making progress because you’re at least paying a little more than the minimums.

    Last year, a few months after I got this contract, I was on fire reading about Mr. Money Mustache and all the other awesome gateway drugs. I was so ready!

    Then a tiny comma mistake made Mr. E. got hit by a MASSIVE tax bill in August and September (they were kind enough to split it in two…), and all progress made a full stop. We did the math and calculated that we would make it. We had just enough for the rent, electricity, our cheap phones, the tax bill and rice and beans for the next two months.

    He did get most of the money back about half a year later, but boy. Those two months were no fun at all. At least we knew it was only for a while.

  13. This message was so needed today. My husband and I are facing our 4th unemployment in 4 years. It seems like every time we get settled in and start to make progress, the rug gets pulled out from under us. Again! But we are still paying our bills, chipping away at the debt, and we have our emergency fund, too. I wish we could throw big piles of money at everything, but that’s not to be right now. One day at a time…

    • I am so sorry to hear that you are facing another hurdle. I have to tell you that perspective is funny, though. Because in my mind, the fact that you and your husband have faced four unemployments head on in four years is HUGE! I know it’s not the progress you want, but yours is definitely a story that we need to share widely. That is some real grit and determination, Jennifer. Here’s hoping that you are able to hold steady with progress and pick up the pace again in due time.

  14. Hannah

    I think the choice to slow things down is a great one, at least for a few years. If you pay attention to your finances, eventually circumstances will change. Rob and I mostly treaded water the last two years as we paid for home renovations, child care, and I cut back to freelance income. Now our circumstances have changed. Rob has a big income and great benefits, so we can start saving a lot again (and maybe live in a house that isn’t constantly being filled with construction dust).

    My sister and her husband are really similar to you and your husband. They are teachers who have two boys with lots of medical issues. But with frugality, they’ve managed to mostly avoid medical debt while contributing 10-15% to retirement. They’ve also managed to refi from a 30 year to a 15 year mortgage which will allow them to have a paid off house by the time their boys are off to college. Even better, their oldest is now off to full-day school, so their childcare bill is almost cut in half.

    If your steps are headed in the right direction, it doesn’t totally matter how big the steps are.

    • “If your steps are headed in the right direction, it doesn’t totally matter how big the steps are.” Put this on a mug, Hannah! I need it! 😉

      Thank you for sharing this, friend. It was exactly what I needed.

  15. This is such a good post. When I got married, my financial situation changed drastically–in some ways, for the better, but in some for the worst. I graduated in April, and so my student loans are still in their grace period, but from January to April, I was able to put anywhere from 700-1000 a month towards them. When we got married, we stopped contributing for a few months to get ourselves settled. In those few months, I watched my goal to put 10k towards student loans slip away. And it sucked. It left me super unmotivated. We’ve finally started paying them back again (our grace period isn’t over yet, which is nice, but I want the suckers GONE), but we’re only able to contribute about half what I was contributing before, and it’s hard. We’ll probably only hit 5k towards loans this year, instead of 10k, and I’m learning to be okay with that–especially because I know that a lot of my friends aren’t even in a financial situation where they can do that. Anyway, just keep trucking. It’s hard, but it’ll be worth it when we’re finally DONE with our loans.

    • It sounds like you’ve arrived at the right conclusion, Moriah Joy! I am so glad you shared how difficult it was for you to adjust. Sometimes, I wonder if it is just me. The fact that so many of us are making progress like this is really something to share and something to celebrate, isn’t it? It doesn’t feel that way now, but I think we are all going to be smiling big in the future!

  16. Yup. Paying for our expensive daycare (can’t risk leaving and losing a spot) while unemployed hubs looks for new work while we wait to pay looming bills for daughter’s recent hospital stay.

    Trying to remind myself to focus on the many positives. We are VERY lucky to still have my solid income and good benefits in the meantime. Many in our situation could be at the precipice of financial disaster and we are not.

    • Wow, JP. Just wow! I will be thinking of your family. I wish your daughter good health and I hope your husband’s job search ends well soon. You are right. Your story could be vastly different, so that is for sure something to celebrate. Congrats on being able to make progress during such a difficult time.

  17. Forward progress is still progress! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with shifting priorities as life dictates, and you have a very adorable reason why your finances had to take a minor slowdown. You’re still killing it Penny, and are an inspiration to the rest of us.

  18. I’ve been building a shed from scratch (well, shed/ cottage, the thing is a lot bigger than those tiny backyard sheds). It’s been hard, physical labor that we’re doing around the rest of our lives, weather permitting. I hate it… but I also love having built it by ourselves. Our current goal is 100 shingles a day. We have to break it down into these little components or we’d go crazy. But the 100 shingles a day will add up to a finished roof, and progress is still happening.
    It’s the same with words- I just tricked myself into finishing an article 100 words at a time.
    Congrats on making it work! Recognizing you can do “a little” is definitely a money win!

  19. It is so tempting to turn my eyes from the debt and do whatever I’d like since it is enormous. But one small thing at a time is a viable option, ZJ and Penny.

    • Nope. It’s not negative! It’s a good point, Jan. The fact that we are able to do anything with our money (especially when our bills are mounting) is a good reminder of what a good money place we are in.

  20. I’ve totally been there, the all-or-nothing ultimatum. After two almost back to back maternity leaves + some costly renovations, I felt like things had stalled and had to do a similar mental exercise to realize that this is a long game. Every step count, even the very slow ones! Also glad your husband knows you so well ;). I always love to see this type of team effort of balancing out worries and adapting the plan to what is going on in life. It is so great to have this dynamic especially in those crazy first years as parents!

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