The Power of Negotiating

Have you ever wondered what’s negotiable? The simple answer is everything is!! Yet not everyone uses the power of negotiation to get what they want or what they deserve.

Some of the most common areas that negotiation comes into mind is for a job salary, or maybe for major purchases like a car or house. But not everyone may realize other things you can negotiate, so I’ve compiled a list to give you some ideas and to get you thinking on creative ways you could negotiate these items.💡

1. Electronics

2. Furniture

3. Medical bills

4. Fees such as interest rates, overdraft, late fees, etc.

5. Job title

6. Job benefits package

7. Real estate

8. Renovations

9. Income tax

10. Services of any kind

11. Food

12. Education

13. Credit card debt

Now that I’ve got your wheels turning, I know there are really 3 types of negotiation tactics to consider.
1) People who believe they cannot negotiate or quietly take the first offer fearful of missing out.
2) People who aim high and believe in splitting the difference to come to terms.
3) People that are ready to speak up with valid points to support what they want and are not afraid to stand firm or walk away if needed.

The 2nd option is great for someone who is new to negotiating, however, option 3 is what you should be aiming to reach. Your first few will always be a little rocky, but as you practice and win a few, you will start gaining confidence and figuring out your personal negotiation style.

Then you can start coming to the table with 2-3 facts clearly outlined to support your side. It’s very important to master the art of knowing when to present them and then knowing when to stop talking, sit quietly, even with awkward silence, and wait for their response to your request. The worst that can happen is they say no. Which a no is your opportunity to be prepared to thank them and walk away. No usually means not right now, but you will be surprised how many of these “no’s” will turn into “I’m listening now” in a few days or weeks time, when the other side realizes your offer was strong and they will respect your ability to stand firm. Mindset is key because if you don’t believe you deserve it then nobody else will believe it and they will see right through you, so start by always knowing your worth and never compromising on it.

Keep in mind also that not all negotiations involve money either. For example, sometimes time may be on the table, such as in real estate. I was able to make a lower cash offer because I also knew that I was able to close in under a week, which made my offer strong. Time is also something that can be negotiated in a benefits package if you are offered a certain amount of time off in a benefits package..you can always ask for more!

One of my most random negotiations included 8 month pregnant me at a car dealership with a craving and making sure they added a pizza on top of all the other items I wanted on my SUV. I am a believer that if you aren’t asking, you could quite literally be leaving food on the table.🤰🏼🍕

One of my favorite recent wins was the $12k below asking I was able to negotiate on our recent home purchase. I used time as my offering instead. I knew he had an offer above what I put in by $2,000, but I told him I was able to close quickly. Turns out he wanted the guarantee of a quick close (in 4 days) more than the $2,000 and waiting for that other person to gather their funds and possibly not being able to.

Share your negotiation wins with me!👇🏼👇🏼

My Debt Free Year In Review

Let me start by saying that losing $165,000 in debt FEELS REAL GOOD..like REALLY REALLY GOOD. This may be one of the top reasons that I keep shouting about the debt free community and trying to recruit all of you to join me. Believe me when I say that a debt free head just hits the pillow different at night.

So I’ve now had a whole year to reflect on my decision to get out of debt and wanted to share three things from my reflection with you. So keep reading to learn why I got out of debt, how I got out of debt and how I have and will continue to keep the debt off.

THE WHY-YOLO..so that was my mentality back in my late teens and twenties, but I interpreted it wrong. I thought it meant that I should party it up, buy what I wanted when I wanted it, and just be making minimum payments for a lifetime..the American Dream. Pay for everything on credit and work until my mid sixties and make jokes with everyone else along the way about how “I will never pay these student loans off” or “At this rate I will be working until I die”. Looking back, YOLO now means to me that you in fact only live once. So live the life you want and not the life society tells you to. Figure out your own path and your own way to to make a living.

THE HOW-I contribute 3 things to my how. One being a mindset shift. If you don’t first believe that you can be debt free and that you also deserve the freedom of a debt free life, then no budget or even a large sum of money will be able to help you. The second was zero budgeting during the payoff. This just means that I literally took every additional penny that I had and put it to work for me paying off the debt. I turned down a lot of stuff during this time, including eating out or going on a bunch of trips. I got dramatic with my expenses and cut them down to the bare minimum. (or so I thought) Then I woke up one day and realized that I was making excuses for some expenses that weren’t necessary, such as two newer cars that we didn’t need, and an SUV that sucked down the gas. I was also still budgeting for clothes, hair and makeup. When I cut down to the ACTUAL needs..I found out that none of that stuff was included. Actual needs are just that..basic food, shelter and transportation are it…period. So once I got rid of all the excess through a No Spend Year and getting rid of the cars, things really started to accelerate. The 3rd item that helped was the debt snowball method. Every single extra penny went towards the smallest debt, paid that off, then rolled that into the next smallest, and just kept going. When I got towards the end, I also dabbled with the debt avalanche for a student loan that had a high interest rate.

KEEP IT OFF-I have come across a lot of temptations now being debt free, including getting an itch for a new car occasionally or to upgrade in other ways. I think it’s human nature and it’s hard to deprogram from a lifetime of consumerism and instant gratification. It would be very easy to get led right back down that dirt road to debt. But I’m proud to say we haven’t. I ultimately switched from zero budgeting to value based budgeting. So now, if it’s something I value, such as my family, health, or education, then I will spend the money on it. When you know your values and align your spending with them, then you will notice that most of the items that require consumer debt don’t fit anywhere in the budget. The occasional big items, like upkeep for our family home, just require me to save up until we can pay cash for them, and we keep that emergency fund for the unexpected. The rest, like family and education usually are worth the most yet cost the least to add value in my life.

So as you can see..no get out of debt quick scheme or magical inheritance or lottery winner over here. Just some boring stuff that paid off in our current lives and will continue to do so over the long term as we head down a trail we are blazing on our own that builds wealth.

No Spend Year Update

So as you may remember, I successfully completed a No Spend Year for 2019 with only purchasing sunglasses and nail polish off my banned items list. It was so effective in resetting my financial values, that I decided a second year would be an amazing idea.

So here we are, just about five months in, and I am wanted to give an update. Almost 18 months without buying any clothes, shoes, accessories, makeup or haircuts/dye has been life changing for me and really helped me better understand what I truly value. I’ve noticed something else lately though. Things are different today compared to my decision in January to sign up for another year of this. To be honest, I think this is one of the best things I’m seeing come out of this whole pandemic stuck in your house for the rest of time thing. It seems people I never would have imagined have stopped buying stuff and things. I’m seeing people not wearing makeup and also am starting to see the home haircuts and dye job pics showing up in my social media feeds. While I’ve been doing all of that for a while now, I get that my No Spend Challenge was a choice and others have had the choice made for them. With stores and hair salons being shut and stay at home orders put in place it’s forced people to not buy these items or services, but I’m thinking and hoping there may be some changed people after all of this is over.

So I think now would be a great time to declare a No Spend Challenge in your own life through the rest of 2020. Especially since there’s still so many uncertainties with how long all of this will last, may as well set a goal to see how long you can not spend money on certain items and what you can do with that money instead. You may also find that cutting your own hair isn’t so bad, maybe even rewarding, and I bet nobody has left your house and never returned over seeing you without makeup. Also, the clothes you have are getting a break right now, so they will be like brand new clothes once you get out of those pajamas when this is all over. Who all has changed their spending habits during the past month already?! Who’s ready to commit to doing it for the rest of the year?!

6 quick tips on budgeting

Man..it’s crazy to me that it’s 2020 and there are still folks running around rogue with their finances, thinking it’s not going to catch up with them. Several recent studies show that only about 40% of people are living that budget life. 😱

I have personally been living with a budget for over a decade, and I can promise you that this is one of, if not the biggest contributing factor to my current debt free and wealth building chapter of my life. I would definitely still be living beyond my means without a budget.

There is no better time then right now to put the money you make to work..and that money isn’t going to get to work without your help. So do me a favor, and if you are in the 60% of people who don’t currently budget, then make a pinky swear to yourself to start ASAP…after reading my quick tips of course. 😉

Tip 1-Live off of a zero budget. That’s a fancy way of saying that every single penny you have incoming should have a home for where it needs to go. The key to this is to assign your money jobs BEFORE you’re eyeballing that delivery menu on an empty stomach or you’re clicking on that BOGO sales ad that just landed in your inbox. So a few days before the month starts, you can sit down and map out your incoming vs outgoing. Mind that gap with some investing and savings. Which brings me to my next point.

Tip 2-Have a goal you are working towards. Whether it’s building your savings up, paying off debt, or investing in index funds to work towards financial freedom..you will be more successful minding the gap if you have short term and long term financial goals in place. Don’t let lack of planning cause you to live with a YOLO mentality..it’s true..you only live once..so get your shit together already. Nobody wants to keep hearing your “I’m broke and just barely getting by because they don’t pay me enough” talk, yet you’re driving a new car, eating out, constantly getting new clothes/AmazonPrime packages and texting your money problems on the latest IPhone. (sorry for being a little harsh..but seriously..someone had to say it)

Tip 3-Speaking of planning..plan for the unexpected. I’m talking about having enough in your savings to cover a bigger item, like a new transmission, your HVAC suddenly breaking down, your car insurance deductible from an accident, or taking your dog to the vet after they ate something crazy again. I don’t have time to get into details here on what’s considered unexpected, but if you have to ask if it’s an emergency..it’s not. Also, stuff that is recurring, like personal property taxes or Christmas gifts are NOT unexpected. You knew all damn year they were coming up..you should have separate money you’re putting back to plan for these annual recurring expenses.

Tip 4-Check for trends and opportunities. For example, if you are noticing a large chunk of your money is going towards gas, then it might be time to explore a more fuel efficient ride. If you are spending over $100 each time you hit up Target, then it might be time to keep your ass out the store. Luckily, there are other ways to shop now, including carryout or delivery, so that could possibly help keep you to the items you need vs want. Also, if you find yourself doing a great job, like going two weeks without eating out..then celebrate. Rewarding yourself (within reason) for good behavior is a great way to train yourself on new spending habits.

Tip 5-Give yourself a cash allowance. Let’s be honest..little things come up and having some cash on hand is a great way to take care of these little things. For example, if you slept like crap and really NEED a Starbucks latte..go get yourself one. Or the neighbor kid hits you up for buying some Girl Scout cookies, and nobody can say no to those Caramel Delights, nor should they say no. Much like crash diets, budgets don’t work if they are so strict that you feel deprived, week after week, month after month. This will make you more likely to fall off the budgeting bandwagon, so plan to allow a little flexibility sometimes.

Tip 6-Make it easy. Budgeting is a long term wealth building strategy..not a get rich quick scheme..remember that as you set things up. Keep it simple and keep evolving as you and your needs change. Setting up autopay on everything is about as easy as it gets for your fixed expenses. Also, for tracking, I used a paper check register up until last year..lol. BUT it was easy and worked for me. Now I have a word doc that lists out all my recurring expenses, along with an app called Spending that tracks all incoming/outgoing expenses. Don’t get so caught up in trying to figure out the details to a point where you don’t ever start. Any way you track is better than not tracking at all..so get to it already.

You know I am happy to share my tracker if interested and answer questions, so ask away.

The Debt Epidemic

🚨Keepin it real rant ahead🚨

This is us..this is America..scary huh? What if I told you that we are all responsible for this culture of debt and living above our means and we all have to contribute to putting an end to this. It’s hurting us, our kids, our health, our planet, it’s an epidemic and I wish more people were feeling terrified about the topic. It just keeps getting worse each year, small credit card purchases, car payments, student loans, slowly adding up to over $13 trillion. 💳

Who’s ready to break the cycle?? And I don’t mean just pay off the minimums and maybe a little extra to continue to be a slave to debt for the rest of your life. I don’t mean to just do a debt consolidation or home equity loan or line of credit to pay off..because debt is still debt..whether it’s paying ten different people or paying one. And now that you’ve consolidated, guess what, you’re probably just going to add MORE debt now that you’ve freed up those credit cards. 🤷‍♀️

Your past will continue to haunt you if you aren’t ready to take a long hard look in the mirror and realize that YOU created this mess, and YOU have to do the hard work to not only get out of it, but STAY out of it. You have to STOP talking about how you don’t make enough money, you’re just barely scraping by and don’t have any extra to pay, maybe once you pay off the car or once you get that tax return you will, or once you get a raise you will, you are lying to yourself. STOP playing the victim and STOP making excuses for your spending habits. You’re only hurting yourself.

Also, those student loans, yeah those suck just as bad as the credit cards, but you CHOSE to go to school and you took them out, so guess what? You owe it..so PAY that shit back already!

YOUR kids SEE you living that lifestyle, and they HEAR you fighting about money, and they FEEL your stress at the end of the month when there’s not enough paycheck to go around. They see you treating yourself “because you earned it”, and they are learning that shopping makes everything better..new stuff will take away that rough week..only it wont.

Harsh words, but let me ask again..who’s ready to break the cycle??

No Spend Year Update

Brief recap of the one decision that I made back in January that has literally changed my life. It has created a snowball effect and has really helped me reset, basically like a “financial cleanse”. I made the decision to not buy certain things for the entire year of 2019, including clothes, shoes, accessories, purses, makeup and also gave up hair dye, products and haircuts.

I was doing REALLY REALLY good with it and staying strong and not missing anything and in fact finding myself in the process. (mainly by avoiding stores and unsubscribing to all the emails) Lately though, I have definitely been struggling to stay motivated and the consumeritis can sometimes feel contagious. 😷

I know I justified and bought sunglasses a few months back when mine broke, and if we’re being real honest, I could have worn one of the random cheapo pairs lying about my house, like the ones I got at a conference with built in bottle openers on the sides..lol. I also caught myself borderline begging my husband to tell me it’s ok to buy some used earbuds from a neighbors garage sale. 😂 Then there was this past weekend at Target where I was getting a few toiletries and a new nail polish jumped into my cart. 💅🏻

See below..they are both cute and will last me for years to come. 🤷‍♀️

It’s not about the $14 collective dollars that I’ve spent this year that if you want to get all technical..are totally on my banned items list. It’s more about me losing my way and my why in the process.

Life has been throwing a bit of a difficult season my way, and it’s easy to fall back into old ways and “things” to make me feel better. But I still ultimately know it’s only a temporary feeling and it’s a VERY slippery slope. The long term mindset shift is more important to me than the temporary gratification followed quickly by buyers remorse. So I’m committed to getting back on track, especially knowing that we are entering into the biggest spending season. Since it’s my first one on my new path, wondering if anyone has any tips on how to get through it without buying all the things. 🤔

Be a Goal Getter

I don’t care who you are..you need goals. Think of the old cliche saying that totally applies here..how are you supposed to get where you’re meant to go if you don’t know where that is? I firmly believe that if you take everything else out of the equation, mindset and goals are the biggest drivers of if you will or won’t do something. It also doesn’t matter if you’re on a different path than me and think I’m crazy for my recent FIRE movement 🔥, you still need goals and the right mindset for whatever your movement is, whether financial, personal, professional, relationships or health related.

Don’t be a flake and say something vague like “I want to pay off my debt” or “I want to lose some weight”. If that’s your goal, then you may as well replace it with “I don’t want to accomplish anything ever” and just get excited about carrying around those extra 15 lbs and all that consumer debt for the rest of your life. We wouldn’t have paid off all of our debt and bought our first rental by being flaky..period.

Instead, set yourself some SMART goals for whatever you are trying to achieve. Stop and brainstorm your life, past present and future state. I know everyone is “busy”, but sometimes you have to make it a priority to stop and reflect. Think about tomorrow, end of the year, two years from now, and maybe even think even farther, like 5-10 years from now. With us being halfway through 2019, it’s also a good time to look back on the past six months. What do you see? Do you like what you see? What will happen if you continue the way you are? Will you get where you want to go?

After you think about your path and your big picture, which will be different for all of us, think about 3-5 micro goals over the next 6 months that will help you get that much closer to your big goal. Get all high tech and write them on a post it and put them on your fridge…where you see them every day. 👀 (bonus points if they fall off all the time so you have to look at them even more when you pick them up off the floor)

As you can see, I have crossed out and updated a few of mine when my priorities shifted and opportunities came my way that altered my original timeline. Be ready to adjust as life comes at you, but even when things don’t go as planned, don’t ever give up. Remember to set your goals high enough to push you while making sure they are also attainable with some focus and hard work.

Don’t forget to stop and celebrate your successes as you hit your goals. Then make sure you continue to set new micro goals to get you that much closer to where you want to be! We need to think bigger and get some new goals since we’ve already paid off the student loans, currently looking for our second rental and also pretty sure we have increased our net worth by $25k just in the past few months. So I’m curious..what are some goals you have crushed and what are some that didn’t go so well?

Net Worth Tracking

I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I never really thought about or paid much attention to our net worth until about 6 months ago. I didn’t really understand that it wasn’t just for “rich” people, and that everyone should at least have a general understanding of where they stand and where they are headed. But it’s also probably better that I didn’t, because my net worth was in the negative and that could have been very discouraging.

Now that we are almost done with our student loans, our final liability (minus our mortgages), I’m going to start using net worth as my new way to set goals and measure success and/or failure. It’s so easy to take your assets and subtract your liabilities from them.

With getting rid of liabilities and adding a few assets, we have seen a significant increase in our net worth in the past 6 months. It’s crazy how setting goals, taking action, being consistent, tracking progress and thinking about and sharing with others can really help accelerate success.

Does anyone else geek out on net worth or am I the only one?! 🤓

Curious about your own net worth?

I found a cool free app that is easy and also curious what others use to track. WealthPlus Net Worth by Little Appshttps://itunes.apple.com/us/app/wealthplus-net-worth/id933534901?mt=8

Follow me @my_semi_basic_life on Instagram if you aren’t already, and tell a friend or two if you like what you’re reading. 😉

We are officially landlords!!

It all started in December. The choice to live a more minimalist lifestyle with the No Spend Year I challenged myself to. Turns out I had a lot of extra time and money once I stopped shopping. 🤣

So I started listening to the BiggerPockets podcast, and a few other FI podcasts, along with reading a bazillion books for 60 days and kept penny pinching away. After talking to my husband, and getting him sold on my crazy ideas (besides the selling our house and living in a van down by the river idea), we set a goal to buy our first property by March 2020. Except this may surprise some of you..I’m kind of inpatient. 🤷‍♀️

We then went and looked at several places and decided to put in an offer on a single family home because we loved the location. We discussed doing short term AirBNB, but found out the city is pretty strict, so went with the long term rental strategy instead.

Closed on my 36th Birthday on 3/26 for $103k with 15% down and walked into $10k of equity right off the bat. We put a few hundred bucks on paint and new screens, trim touch up, etc. and put some weekend sweat equity in to get it rental ready.

If you remember from other posts, we recently got rid of a car payment and daycare, clearing up $1100 a month of outgoing expenses. So we have decided to pay the $700 mortgage out of our own funds, and take the $900 rent and put it in our investments account for a down payment on the next one. (We actually got a really great tenant who signed a two year lease AND paid $10k for the first years rent in full). We are going to use that rent towards our next investment and are currently in the market for a multi-family if you know of one. 👀

It still feels a little weird to say we are landlords. We dreamed about and talked about owning real estate for around five or so years. But we were so strapped with debt and were scared because we didn’t have any real estate background, or solid goals or plans put in place. Didn’t realize it was as easy as picking up some books and listening to other investors tell their stories to educate ourselves. It’s exciting to see our years of hard work and sacrifices starting to pay off now though. Only regret is that we would have taken action sooner. Next step is continuing to build our net worth and getting a little closer to financial independence every day!!

Credit Cards and why I will NEVER carry a balance

I can almost see 18 year old, broke, irresponsible, partying, college kid me opening my first credit card offer like I had just won the lottery. Wait..you mean to tell me you’re going to GIVE me access to $2,000, and in return, I only have to pay you a minimum balance of $25?! What?! Why are you so nice and how did I get so lucky?! I was so impressed with your timing and that it was almost like you really KNEW me and were there for me with a credit increase when I was at my lowest..what would I ever have done without you?! Now I didn’t have to worry about that new phone I wanted, that dinner out, that new outfit, etc. Then you even told your other credit card company friends, and they also wanted to give me credit cards?

Fast forward to 24 year old me, who didn’t end up getting her degree, and had spent the past 6 years racking up $15,000 in credit card debt. I kept spending and they kept increasing my limit (I’m starting to figure out at this point they weren’t doing this to be nice). I was paying their minimums and it wasn’t even enough to cover the interest and was affecting my credit. I remember the exact moment where I thought that bankruptcy was my only option and feeling so overwhelmed and thought I would never get out of the hole I had dug.

I was on my way to a job interview for my first job in the insurance industry. I literally had to use two different credit cards for gas in my gas guzzling Durango to make it to the interview (insert whole other soapbox on the car). I was so broke and my cards so maxed out that I could barely even afford to make it to the interview.

Luckily, I got the job that started a very rewarding career path for me. I also got introduced to Dave Ramsey Financial Peace through a coworker at that job, and this was a totally new concept to me. I just thought everyone lived this way and walked around with debt, and honestly had no idea that there was any other way. I read that last sentence over and over, because I fancy myself a semi-intelligent person and it just sounds so stupid..but it’s the truth and a reflection of me being a product of my environment (also for another day).

I then met my husband two weeks after that and we knew right away that we were going to get married. Unfortunately for him, that meant marrying a smart, pretty, hilarious woman..who just happened to have a lot of financial baggage. 🤷‍♀️ I’m not even going to discuss the $30kish of student loans because that’s for another day.

Apparently my brilliant personality won him over, and he decided to hang out in his moms basement with me for 18 months to help dig “us” out of that debt. Talk about sacrifice. But we made it work and paid all of that credit card debt off, got pregnant with our first human, and saved up a down payment for our first home.

I think back to that $15k once in a while and wonder..what if I had never opened that credit card offer. What if I was able to pay my student loans off sooner, or what if I could have put that in a 401k, or as more towards our first house. And you know what? I do have regrets, but I learned a very valuable lesson that I will carry with me and pass along to my kids. It changed the way I view money, and things and debt. Looking back, I was not living within my means, and because of that 18 months of sacrifice and a rough start to our financial future..I will NEVER carry a balance again. If I can’t afford it..then I don’t need it. Plain and simple. I haven’t carried a balance in over ten years and it turns out I am just fine. What are your thoughts on credit card debt and has it affected you negatively or positively during your financial journey?