The Next Chapter…

As you may have noticed, Money Spruce hasn’t seen many updates lately. After quitting my job in May 2012 and becoming a full-time freelancer, there’s just been less and less time to write on here.

Today, I’m announcing the launch of my new business: Content Strategy for Do-Gooders.

CWAM is a one-stop shop for content strategy and creation for social mission-driven businesses and organizations. CWAM’s focus is to help these businesses amplify their social impact using effective content to tell their story, find more followers, and develop a loyal tribe of supporters.

Why am I making this change? There are a few reasons:

1. Social missions have always been close to my heart. After finishing my master’s degree, I passed up jobs with starting salaries of $60,000+ to work as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer. I served at a nonprofit in New Haven, Connecticut for a year, living on a stipend of  $1,100 a month and supplementing my earnings with food stamps. I learned so much that year as I lived closer to poverty than I ever had before.

After, I was hired as a full-time employee at the same nonprofit and continued to work there. I focused on helping my nonprofit update newsletters, refresh content, and simply do more to leverage online content to bring in more donations and stay in touch with past donors.

2. I’ve become much more than just a “freelance writer.” While writing is still a large part about what I do, it’s still just a piece to the much bigger puzzle of developing a strategy that works for the organizations I serve. In addition to writing, I spend hours strategically deciding what kind of content to develop and incorporating that into a larger content strategy. This strategy includes effective call to actions, email capture, lead nurturing through email, social media, blog posts, static content, and more.

3. Socially-minded businesses are perfectly suited to gain the most from an effective content strategy. Effective content is really about telling a great story. While many brands do a good job telling a story, fewer are actually “story-doers,” to use a term from this article published in the Harvard Business Review. Preliminary research from this study shoes that story-doers may be much more effective businesses than story tellers.

Social businesses like TOMS Shoes and many great others have amazing stories to tell. It’s these stories that earn them a large following of supporters. Supporters are really more than customers. They’re brand advocates who want to make a difference in the world, too.

My BIG goal: help more businesses and organizations harness their own powerful stories to gain more followers and increase the impact of their mission.

Thank you

Thanks so much for following along on Money Spruce. My life would be incredibly different right now if I didn’t start this blog and hear from all you loyal readers.

If you’re still hungry for more personal finance and other money-related articles, my friends Carrie, Mr. Money Mustache, Paula (and many more) are among my favorites to read for a steady stream of interesting and informative posts.

Wishing you all the best and brightest future,

Jeffrey

P.s. - If you or anyone you know may be interested in my services,  I’d be really grateful if you’d send them over to this page. Here they’ll be able to get my free report “10 Steps to Maximizing Your Cause’s Impact with Content.” Thanks again for all your support!

Updated: How I Used Free Frequent Flyer Miles to Get $9,000 Worth of Airfare — Twice!

Update: I just booked another trip using frequent flyer miles. This time I’ll be flying to Japan, India, and Nepal — for just $120! The real cost was just 80,000 miles that I earned from a couple of credit card offers.

For those who missed it last year, here’s my strategy that I posted in October 2012. Enjoy!

I’m excited to share how I’m spending a month traveling to Paris and Bangkok – and spending only $140 on airfare (just the taxes). How? It was really easy, actually: Free frequent flyer miles.

No, not the kind you earn from flying around from flights you paid cash for. And I don’t spend a ton of money on credit cards, either. Here’s how.

Earning Free Frequent Flyer Miles

For me (and many others), the best way to earn frequent flyer miles is to apply for credit cards that offer big bonus miles for opening a new account. I routinely earn anywhere from 30,000 to 100,000 miles for each new card I open.

To earn these rewards, you’re basically only required to spend $500-$2,000 within the first few months of activating your account. Most cards have an annual fee that’s waived for the first year, too.

Of course, the most common question is: “Doesn’t this hurt your credit score?” But, like many others have reported, the answer for me is “No.”

Using Credit Karma, you can see my credit score (from TransUnion) has been pretty stable the past 2 1/2 years. I’ve bounced back and forth between 740 to 765, but I’d hardly call that much of a change.

(Update: Since October 2012, my score as actually INCREASED to ~759. This is despite opening several new credit card accounts while closing several other credit cards, too. Lesson: there are many myths out there about your credit score and opening and closing new accounts, so beware.)

While I don’t normally endorse credit cards, I feel this can offer a lot of value to people like me that:

  1. Always pay off their balance in full
  2. Want to travel, but don’t have thousands of dollars to do it (hence the need for the free frequent flyer miles)

If you meet both these criteria (and ONLY if you don’t have credit card debt problems), check out CreditCards.com to find some of the best cards for travel. You can do this easily by going to their “Airline Credit Card” page.

Again, you’re looking for cards that offer at least 25,000 miles to sign up. Make sure you can earn at least this much without increasing your spending in any way.

Redeeming Miles for Great Value

Earning the free miles was the easy part. But when I wanted to book a trip, I honestly had no idea how to go about it.

So I emailed my buddy, Mike, who runs IFlyWithMiles.com where he literally takes your miles and desired destination and sets up the entire itinerary for you.

I just told Mike “I want to go to Thailand. Can you get me here?”

Mike said, “Sure. But why don’t you stop in Europe for free on the way?”

My reply: “Um, what?!”

Thanks to Mike’s knowledge of how redeeming miles worth, I tacked on 3 nights in Paris to my journey at no extra charge.

Mike’s next piece of advice “Would you like to fly into Chiang Mai, Thailand and fly out of Bangkok? It will save you an extra trip between the two cities, and it doesn’t cost any extra.”

Of course, I said “Hell yes!” to this, too.

After settling on this, Mike worked his magic and came up with an itinerary for me that told me exactly which flights to book. His trip gave me  3 nights in Paris followed by 3 weeks in Thailand.

I went ahead, following Mike’s instructions, and booked by entire trip. Right before I booked, United asked: “Would you like to book your travel with cash instead? Pay $9,000.” I said “No, thanks” of course.

Instead, I paid just $140 in taxes and 65,000 United MileagePlus miles.

I would note that redeeming miles for domestic flights almost certainly won’t get as much value as going for international trips like this one. This is totally fine for me since I’ve been eager to make my first trip to Asia.

So to get started earning free frequent flyer miles, you’ll need to sign up for credit cards that offer great rewards, such as ones offered here on the Airline Credit Cards page. Then check in with Mike at IFlyWithMiles.com - he’ll even give you a free email consultation!

Note: Mike agreed to provide me his $80 service for free for this trip and post about it. However, I would definitely recommend his service so much that I’ll gladly pay him from now on. This post also contains affiliate links, but these are services I use myself and recommend to others.

What Should Your Net Worth Be?

scrooge-mcduck-wealthA problem I struggle with, especially as someone that’s a long way from retirement. I’m sure I’m doing better than most people at my age. I have no debt and have a decent amount invested, too. But comparing myself to others seems like such a poor yardstick to use, especially when so many people aren’t ready or on track to retire with enough money.

So what should I have saved? And how do I stay on track? Here’s some of what I dug up.

Benchmarks

A general rule I’ve heard a few places is this one, which I found published on The Simple Dollar:

Multiple your age times your realized pretax annual household income from all sources except inheritances. Divide by 10. This, less any inherited wealth, is what your net worth should be.

According to this calculation, I’m actually pretty far behind. But looking at the number, I’d be surprised if many people my age have actually hit this goal.

Other goals

As I wrote about before, investing in retirement isn’t my top goal right now. If I was, I’d probably have an engineering job where I could sock away half my salary or so.

It sounds crazy, but I’m more focused on building a business. I know this will have to change at some point, but I feel like I’m doing well enough right now that it’s okay.

While this may sound irresponsible, I’m always focused on living a good life now AND in the future. I don’t really believe in big sacrifices just to be happy later. Don’t get me wrong, I’m far from a “YOLO”-type and I don’t make dumb decisions. I’m just trying to stay balanced.

I’m still depending on this paying off in the long run. Of course, I’m hoping to see changes come sooner rather than later.

Key areas of focus

I know some action needs to be taken. This problem isn’t going to solve itself on its own. Here are some areas I’m going to start working on:

  • Save some money, no matter what. There’s really just no substitute to saving and investing money for retirement. Even if I just put aside $1 a day, that’s much better than nothing, especially if my investments can grow for close to 40 years.
  • Check back on investments. I look at the bottom line on my investments a lot, but I don’t do much when it comes to adjusting my portfolio. I know I need to check in more often. Perhaps I need to move more money to lifecycle funds if I don’t want to actively manage my money.
  • Keep going. It’s a little disconcerting to feel like I’m so far behind. But rather than throw in the towel, I know I just need to keep going.It’s certainly possible for me to make it, I just need to put in the effort to make it happen.
  • Get help. I don’t really use any professional help yet other than an accountant, which is mostly because I run a business. Listen to the experts from time to time – Michael Derin from Azure Group regularly gives out genuinely insightful tips for entrepreneurs and people like myself to plan their finances better.

Aside from what I’m focusing on, I’m also wondering if net worth it the best metric I should be using. Should I consider something else instead?

Do you look at your net worth? How do you feel about it?

(image: Sam Howzit)

Beyond Money: How to Find Happiness in Your 20s (or Any Time)

find-happiness-ThailandI spend a lot of time thinking about how to be happy, and I think I’ve finally cracked that code.

Sometimes I even spend more time thinking about how to be happy than anything else, including my business. Why? Because that’s what matters most. We don’t really want to just have more money, more friends, or more freedom — we just want each of these things to make us happy.

Whether you’re struggling with money, a job, or just surviving daily life, here’s my best advice for being happy no matter what.

Don’t wait – choose to be happy now

I truly believe that being happy is a choice. Maybe it’s not 100% of the equation, but for many people, there are a lot of changes they can make when they’re unhappy.

Too many people are waiting for a change in their life to make them happy. I’ve been there. While quitting my job and moving to Portland was exciting and my dream, that alone wasn’t enough to make me happy. I had to take a more active approach, especially when life gets hard.

I hear others say “I’ll be happy once I make more money/find a boyfriend or girlfriend/get a better job/discover my passion.” The truth is that just might not be the answer, and you’re setting yourself up to be let down.

This may sound like I’m being negative, but what I’m actually saying can be a good thing if you look at it the right way.

Choose to be happy right now, no matter how hard life is. Anything that improves your life later is just a bonus.

Be grateful – every day

Do you think your life sucks and you have nothing to be happy about?

You may be going through a tough time where you’re feeling depressed, but there’s always someone or something to be grateful about.

I had a lot of fun with this on my Letters of Gratitude project. I wrote letters to 57 people so far. Not only has writing the letters done a lot for my happiness, but the gratitude that others have expressed back to me has been phenomenal.

If you’re struggling, think small. Take a moment and write down five things you have to be grateful about. Maybe you had a delicious breakfast this morning, or a friendly fellow driver waved you through on a commute into work. No matter how big or small, find things to be grateful for every day.

To make this easier, use a service that sends daily reminders to be grateful like Happy Rambles or the Random Gratitude Journal app.

Give all you can

Since quitting my job, I stopped making regular donations. The reason was half and half between just putting giving on the back burner and feeling a little tighter for cash. But giving just feels good, and I can’t skip it any longer.

My goal is to give 10% of what I make to charity, no matter what. I’m not saying this to brag, I just think it makes sense and it makes me feel good at the same time.

Spend money, but only on what you love

I’m not the most frugal person you’ll meet by any standard. I’d probably rate myself a 7 out of 10 on the frugal intensity scale (that’s a made up measurement, by the way).

That said, there are plenty of things I enjoy spending my money on. I’m a bit of a beer snob, and I get restless if I don’t go out to eat at least once a week. I even bought a $400 ski pass this year.

But don’t get me wrong: my spending is very calculated and for good reason.

There are some things that others regularly spend on that I don’t find value in. I almost never go out for lunch during the workday because I don’t enjoy the food enough and would rather spend my money elsewhere. I have no plans to own a car any time soon because I don’t like all the expenses that go with it. I could go on, but you get the point.

Spending money does bring happiness when you do it right. Step back and think about if how you’re spending your money is how you want to or if you’re just following others’ scripts.

Let go of fear and trust that things will be okay

Fear is one of the hardest things to deal with in your 20s. Some might not realize it consciously, but the way they’re living their lives is based largely on what would happen if they did something differently.

I haven’t completely conquered fear, but I’m okay with that because it’s the fear that motivates me.

Other times, it helps to focus on what we’re actually afraid of. For example, what if you quit your job but go broke when the business you launch fails? To most people, this is terrifying. But what would actually happen to you in this situation? If you’re in your 20s, you’d probably move in with family temporarily until you figure things out.

Those in their 20s should be most afraid of the decisions they don’t make. One of the top regrets of the dying is “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” Think about that for a second and how it relates to your own life. What decisions have you made not on your own but because that’s what others expected? Spend time doing what you love, and you’ll have far few regrets.

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How have you found happiness in your life?

Why I’m Writing One Letter A Day to Thank 365 People

Today, I’d like to announce a new project that I’ve been working on and keeping a secret for over a month now. It’s called “365 Letters of Gratitude.”

The concept is simple: every day, I spend a few minutes writing a letter to a different person whom I’m grateful to have in my life. Usually it’s just a few paragraphs detailing why these people mean so much to me and the ways they’ve affected my life, large or small.

It’s been hard, but I’ve kept it going for 45 days now. And I’m so grateful that I’ve done that, too. While reminiscing, I’ve laughed, I’ve cried (a lot), and mostly just been really happy for everyone in 26 years of life.

Here’s more on the project.

Why am I doing this?

There are a few reasons why I created this project:

  • I wanted to be and feel more grateful. In the past, despite always feeling like I live an awesome life, I’ve felt like I’ve wanted or expected more from life. This is my way of calling “bullshit” on myself since it makes me think every day about who and what I’m glad to have in my life.
  • I’m terrible at expressing my thanks to others. There’s a lot of times I’ve wished I could say something to someone in person, but I just never find the right words to say it. By writing a letter, I can put my true feelings out there. So far, it’s worked as I haven’t really been afraid to say anything in letters I’ve written.
  • I wanted to do something challenging yet fun and rewarding for every day for a year. Truth be told, I just thought this would be an interesting project to take on for a bunch of reasons. I’ve already wondered if I could do it every single day (and I have, for 45 days and counting). I’ve also thought: How am I really going to come up 365 people? That’s definitely going to be a creative challenge to tackle. For now, I just wanted to get started and concentrate on taking it a day at a time rather than getting overwhelmed with the details.

Where’d the idea come from?

In September, I caught a talk by Noah Scalin who created the skull-a-day project. He challenged everyone listening to be creative and make something new every day. If you know me, you’ll know I’m much better with words than I am visual art, so 365 Letters of Gratitude was born the next day after hearing Noah’s idea.

What you can do

Just like Noah challenged me, I’d like to challenge all of you to do something like this. It can be really simple and take just a few minutes, but the idea is to do it every single day. Some of the other crazy ideas out there:

If you don’t want to commit to a full year, try doing something for just a month. See how it makes you feel, and maybe you’ll find you enjoy it enough to keep going for another 31 days.

This has been an amazing experience for me so far, and I truly believe I am more grateful and happy with life now. I know I have a long way yet until I’m done, but I’m loving the journey to get there.

If you’re curious about my project, you can read all the letters on 365 Letters of Gratitude. You can read more about why I’m doing this and some of the FAQs by checking out this page, too.

How You’re Lying to Yourself Every Day About Your Spending Priorities

I’ve heard a few great arguments made lately about how we make liars out of ourselves all the time with our so-called “priorities.” Many of us say “Travel is DEFINITELY a priority for me” or “I’m serious about getting in shape.” But are these things really priorities? And does the time and money you spend on these things really back up what you’re saying.

JD Roth of Get Rich Slowly first brought this to my attention at the World Domination Summit 2012 when he said “It’s not what we say is a priority, but what we actually DO that’s a priority.

Then Steve followed it up nicely on Nerd Fitness by pointing out how messed up we are when we claim we don’t have time to do something that many of us claim we value – exercise.

I found that the same is true for money: How we spend shows our true priorities, not how we hoped we would.

Find Out If You’re a Liar

But how do you know if you’re lying?

Ramit challenged readers to try this exercise::

Write down the following:

  1. Where do I think I’m spending my money?
  2. Where do I want to spend my money?
  3. Where am I actually spending my money?

Look at your results. Many of us claim that we have certain priorities in life, but we make liars of ourselves all the time.

Maybe you don’t even know the answers to some of these questions – and you’re likely wrong about #3 if you never track any spending (trust me, I’ve tested it with myself and friends). It’s stupid easy to get fantastic data on your spending with Mint, so get on it.

Once you’re able to figure out the “how” of what you’re spending money on, see how that matches up with where you want to spend money. For most people, my guess is it doesn’t match up well.

Many of us would probably say something like “Travel is a HUGE priority for me.” Well, how much do you actually spend on travel? How does it compare to what you spend each month or year compared to alcohol, restaurants, cars, rent/housing, entertainment? Now that you look at at,It’s probably pretty low on the list, right?

No one is going to be perfect on where they prioritize their money. But are you getting closer to where YOU want to be with your spending? Or are you moving further away from what you think is most important to you and spending it on what society/others tell you is supposed to make you happy?

What’s the Fix?

It’s definitely a challenge that takes some work to get spending in line with what you consider your priorities. Don’t fool yourself by thinking you’re going to go from spending $300 to $0 a month of restaurants witha  snap decision.

But think about how you would spend your money if you truly had no limitations or bills that you consider necessities to pay each month. Seriously, write it down. Now, start working towards that TODAY.

How do you make changes today? You could focus on earning more, but I like starting with spending differently.

Spending less and mixing up what you’re used to doesn’t mean you have to go hardcore frugal. The point isn’t to cut out everything you love spending money on. It’s really about moving the funding around to other stuff that you just enjoy more.

Example: I HATE just about everything about owning a car, so I don’t own one and devote exactly $0 to cars.

If you’re not thrilled about buying lunch every day at work, don’t do it. If driving around in your brand new car isn’t part of what gets you most excited, sell it. If you’re living somewhere but know that you could pay less for another apartment and be just as happy, move.

Then take the money you saved on these things and put it towards what you care about. If you want to take a trip to Europe, save and buy the ticket. If you love eating sushi every week, find the money and make it happen.

When it comes to making sure money gets spent the way you want, here’s a trick for saving money for travel and other things that aren’t consistent expenses: Automatically put money aside savings. It works!

Just set up a new savings account on ING Direct and have a certain amount taken out of each paycheck to go towards travel or whatever it may be. It doesn’t have to be much – maybe just $20 a week. In a year’s time, you’ll have $1,000 for vacationing.

Once you have this money set aside for a certain purpose, it’s harder to make the same mistakes and excuses that you had before. If it’s in a separate account, you’ll consciously have to remove it and make yourself a liar on spending priorities.

What do you wish you could spend more money on? What’s stopping you from doing it?

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Thinking of Quitting? Self-Employed Lessons, 2 Months Deep

That first two months after (finally) quitting my job definitely flew by! I’ve had a successful move from New Haven, CT to Portland, OR! Life has been memorable in a gazillion ways, and the fun is just getting started.

Today I bring to you lessons I’ve already learned and that you’ll need to watch out for or can look forward to for yourself.

Self-Employed = Awesome!

So far, 99% of the time has been freakin’ fantastic. You’re probably thinking I’m exaggerating, but I can honestly say I couldn’t be happier with life right now, and I’m committed to doing every possible to keeping it that way.

I’ve gotten to meet a ton of new people out here in Portland, and not having a job to hold me back has definitely helped that. Friday afternoon Dark Knight Returns showing? Sure! Sunday bar crawl? Why not?

It’s possible that I’m still in the post-job haze, but I’m just eating it all up for now until my feelings tell me otherwise.

Having Some Income is Better Than None

Initially, I was going to make the jump from my steady income from job to zero income at all. I planned to save all along, and I ended up with about $7,000, strictly for making the transition to self-employment. But, a few weeks before getting my job, I came across a position that fit in nicely, allowing me to write freelance part-time and still be able to work on projects that I wanted and do other things that I just love to do.

While it would be nice to be 100% free to do whatever I please, having a small income that still covers most of my living expenses has been a huge relief. It’s expanded my time horizon for when I’ll run out of money if my other endeavors don’t bring in cash as soon as I hope. Right now I’m looking at least 6 months of expenses in the bank, so I’m not concerned for that any time soon.

So, I’d recommend: Unless you have solid financial backup, consider being a part-time quitter. This can even work if you don’t have much savings at all but desperately want to leave your job. Freelancing is always an option, but there are some decent part-time options, even some that offer health insurance.

Don’t Forget New Expenses

Speaking of health insurance, you’re going to need to pick up coverage for yourself and potentially your family. I went with eHealthInsurance, and I found a decent plan for about $100 a month. Yes, it’s pretty bare bones with a $5k deductible, but it’s not much worse than what my previous employer offered. Plus, I’m young and happily healthy :)

Also, once you have self-employed income, you have to remember to set aside money for taxes. For now, I save 30% which is hopefully a conservative amount ( and I’m overdue to meet with an accountant!)

Advice to ya: Don’t forget to factor these things into your budget before you leave your job, like health insurance and additional taxes, to get a more realistic picture for what your monthly expenses will be like.

You’re Probably Going to Freak Out At Times

I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t doubted myself already. I know it’s early, and I have momentum going for me, but the long-term path still isn’t clear and likely won’t be for some time. I’ve had a few moments of agony, for sure, although none of them had me regretting that I quit my job.

For me, the biggest tool for taking on this one has been positive thinking. It may sound silly, but I’ve gotten amazing relief telling myself “I am awesome, I can do this, and I refuse to fail.”

According to a recent talk I attended at WDS by Brené Brown, it’s our psychological inclination to believe that when things feel good, they can’t last and we wonder “Okay, I feel great, but what’s going to go wrong here? Something has to.” Thinking like that is total bullsh*t, and I’ve been doing all I can to fight any of those feelings and keep being happy.

Do this: Do your best to stay level-headed. It’s okay to use some discomfort to push you forward, but freaking out isn’t going to help you be productive.

Find a Routine as Quickly As You Can

I remember always sitting at my desk job and thinking something like “If I can just get out of here, I can easily add 40 productive hours a week to my freelance work, blogging, and other projects! I’m gonna be banging out blog posts like a boss!”

Fast forward two months: It hasn’t quite been the productive paradise that I imagined. 

Month One (June), I was pretty committed to doing the bare minimum and chilling out (had to catch up on How I Met Your Mother somehow, right?).

July, which was almost entirely in Portland, has gotten better work-wise. It hasn’t been perfect by any means, but I’m slowly discovering how and where I can be most productive.

I’ve finally put the tools from Zen to Done (a simpler version of Getting Things Done) to work to organize my weekly and daily tasks to be more productive. Creating systems has definitely been a key for me, and I think it will set you up for success much better than just randomly trying to conquer your work.

For you: Whatever you need to do to get in the working groove, find it as soon as you can.

Diversify Your Income, and Don’t Work for Peanuts

I already had one slight scare that I’d lost all my freelancing income. It was a terrifying moment (and luckily it was just a quick one), but I’m determined not to wait around for it to happen for real.

You, too, should be thinking about how you can earn your income from more than one source. To say the very least, it’s reassuring to know that your entire well-being doesn’t rely on a single job.

While you’re at it, don’t get desperate and devalue your time and your work. Sure, I’m looking for more freelance work, but I’m not going to jump at just anything, especially if it pays less than my time is worth. I’ve turned down a few opportunities already because of this. I’m not greedy by any means, but I’m not going to work for minimum wage, either.

Have questions about being self-employed? Or is something standing in your way? Let me hear it in the comments!

Note: This post does contain affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you click on and buy from those. But hey, I recommend these products, and I appreciate your support! 

I Did It! I QUIT My JOB!

This is the post of I’ve been waiting to write and, after 9 months in the making, it’s now official: I quit my job! It feels like a huge relief to finally be done and to move on from New Haven, too.

Why I Quit

There are a few reasons I decided to leave my job:

1) I was bored and unhappy. While my job wasn’t stressful and my boss was great, I was bored at my job. I felt like I wasn’t going anywhere and wasn’t making a difference in the world on a daily basis. I’m sure I could’ve just coasted along for some time, but that’s just not my style or desire.

2) I need to give self-employment a shot. I’ve always been entrepreneurial-minded and I even attended Babson College, the #1 ranked college for entrepreneurial studies, before I decided to transfer out. I’m not sure that I’m born to be an entrepreneur, but I know I need to find out before I’ll ever be content with going back to a desk job. Now is the best chance I’ll ever have in my life to go for it. I’m not scared of failing at this, and even the worst case scenario isn’t bad enough to stop me.

3) I wanted out of New Haven. I moved there with my girlfriend, and she just graduated from Yale. Neither of us planned to stay after she finished school. I had a great time there and enjoyed the people I met, but New Haven just isn’t the place for me right now.

How It Went Down

I’d love to excite you with a dramatic story with how I quit my job, but there isn’t one. This is totally fine since things were’t emotional and there was no animosity whatsoever from my boss or coworkers. I left completely on my own terms. My boss actually knew way in advance that I’d be leaving May 2012, and I gave her official notice of my last day about a month ahead of time.

On May 25th, I walked out the door for the last time and never looked back.

The Money Question

As you may have guessed, how I’ll earn money to continue living is one of my largest concerns, and one that many others ask about, too.

Remember my Quit My Job Fund? I saved $7,000 in that. It’s a little less than I hoped, but I kept blog and freelancing income separate and haven’t cashed any of that out. I also have other savings to fall back on if I need to.

More importantly, I do have part-time income from both writing and SEO. I’m now staff blogger at HatToss.com, where I write 3 posts a weeks for money issues related to college students and recent grads. It’s a dream topic for me, as I can definitely relate to some of the money highs and lows of the younger crowd.

I’m really enjoying writing right now, and I’m confident that I’ll pick up more clients when the time allows. I’m hoping to eventually have 2-3 more consistent clients so that I can earn a real wage that allows me to save some money, too. This is the path I see myself going down right now, but who knows if that’ll change? It’s exciting to think of the possibilities out there for me now, and I certainly don’t want to rule any of them out.

In all honestly, I haven’t been looking around at all yet since I planned to take this time of transition slowly. I currently work about 15 hours a week with a flexible schedule and work that I can do from anywhere with internet. For summer, that makes me happy.

In a couple weeks, I’ll be moving out to Portland, Oregon for the summer. Once there, I’ll attend the World Domination Summit in Portland in July as well as the Financial Bloggers Conference in Denver in September (looking forward to seeing all my friends there!). I’m excited to explore the Pacific Northwest a bit while I’m taking it easy on the money making side.

Shoutouts to My Favorite Quitters

I just want to say “thanks” my favorite Quitters and to those who have supported me and helped me along the way.

First and foremost, I have to thank Sean Ogle for putting this whole idea in my head. A year ago I would’ve had no idea how to make this leap. But through Sean’s Location Rebel course as well as inspiration from Sean’s blog have helped answer some of the questions and overcome just about any fear that I’ve had.

I also want to thank Caleb from Pocket Changed for his support along the way. We had some fun plotting this date months ago.

Tom at Leaving Work Behind has had some awesome advice, and I actually got my first freelance writing job thanks to a link in one of his posts!

I also think back to reading some posts from Tyler at Advanced Riskology and Jenny at Life After College about their journeys.

Of course, everyone at Yakezie has been huge along the way, too.

My family and friends have been fantastic in supporting me. I feel blessed that everyone trusts in what I’m doing and has offered encouragement along the way.

Thanks to everyone else I forgot to mention (you know who you are!). Even if it’s just been a short comment or blog post you’ve written and I’ve read, it’s been a part of this amazing journey for me.

Final Lessons

I’m not writing this to prove a point or rub it in anyone’s face. I don’t think jobs are stupid (and I wouldn’t rule out going back to one myself). Besides, my life problems are far from solved, and I know I have some big challenges ahead.

The one thing I will challenge everyone reading this post to do is to change whatever it is in your life that’s making you unhappy. There are always options out there. They might not be easy at first, but you have to take action.

I look forward to sharing more with you on here as the next few months progress. You can follow me on Twitter to get all the updates not only on Money Spruce but my work in other places, too.

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Life After Quitting – A Few Quick Updates

I know it’s been a few weeks since I’ve given any updates, but I’m working on a big post about quitting my job (which I did 2 weeks ago). Look for it soon.

In the meantime, I’ve also been writing weekly for Hat Toss, a site with money, career, and health tips for college students and grads. Here are a few of my recent posts up there. I’d love it if you’d stop by and Like or Tweet the posts:

Your First Paycheck! What to Do Before Spending It - Just as it sounds, this post has advice for what to do when you get your first big paycheck from your first job after college. As you can guess, I don’t propose spending it all on gadgets :)

5 Ways to Travel on a Budget – As you know, I try to travel as much as I can (even though I don’t have a ton of money to do it). Here’s some of my best tips for traveling, especially for recent graduates that might be faced with the tough decision of traveling and going into credit card debt to do it.

That’s it for now. Thanks for stopping by!

Travel When Retired? No! Travel Now!

I just don’t buy into the whole “travel when you’re retired” thing. It seems like such a waste to wait my whole life to travel (and, not to be morbid, but assuming I make it to retirement age).

I just got back from my latest trip to Montreal, which was fantastic. It was my first visit, and it definitely won’t be my last.

Despite the cost $400 and the fact that I’ll soon be jobless, I took the trip on my own for a few reasons:

1) I really wanted a getaway from New Haven and

2) I wanted to test out traveling on my own.

I definitely cut back on spending in some areas

  • I stayed at an AirBnB rental for $30 a night
  • I ate homemade sandwiches for lunch
  • I travled by bus (the least-expensive option by my calculations)

But I didn’t sacrifice on everything. I had a couple of nice $30+ dinners (including one awesome vegan meal with cheesecake for dessert). While I’m all about frugal trips, I do like to live it up a bit, especially while I still travel only infrequently.

Although I’m only a few weeks from quitting and with a smaller paycheck, I’m still glad I took the time and the money to travel. Even though I could probably use that $400 much more once I lose my full-time income, travel is a priority right now (at age 26) whether I have a ton of money or not.

Travel at age 26 does not equal travel at age 65

It’s highly unlikely that I’ll be able to travel at the same cost and with the same flexibility that I can now as when I’m 65. I definitely can’t imagine staying in the same accommodations that I did this time. It just wouldn’t make sense as an old man.

Plus, I walked over 15 miles this weekend, including up and around Mont Royal Parc (see the photo!) While I’m optimistic that I’ll still be in good shape at my old age, the average retiree probably have that level of endurance.

Finding balance

I always wonder: What does saving for retirement really mean? Am I trying to save up so that I can just sit on the couch or play golf every day? Or spend winters in Florida? Or travel in a tour group of retirees? Those things hardly sound exciting to me.

But the answer can’t possibly be to do the things at age 65 that I wanted to do at age 26 but that I chose to save for retirement instead. That doesn’t make sense to me.

Obviously, I’m not advocating depleting every dime of my savings and funding travel with a credit card. But, I hate the idea of not going anywhere exciting right now.

It’s hard to say how much to spend on travel now and if I should sacrifice retirement savings, so I’ll just leave it at this: Travel all you can afford now. Spend wisely in trips. Don’t go into debt.

How do you feel about travel? Do it while your young, or save for it when you retire?

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photo by: me!

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