Looking on the Bright Side of a Tough Financial Situation

After my Eeyore post from Wednesday on the reasons I’m experiencing financial ennui, I thought it would be nice to kind of give myself a kick in the butt to try to re-energize about our finances in a minor way while we’re still here in Durham. In this post, I’m going to list the positive things we have done in our finances since our defenses last summer, however small they may be, and some tiny goals.




Good Financial Moves


1) Kyle has stayed continuously employed and increased his income.


A couple years ago when we were looking forward to leaving grad school, we had to keep in our minds the possibility of either of us being unemployed for a time during our transition. Thankfully, Kyle and his boss have a great working relationship, and Kyle was able to transition from being a grad student in his lab to being a postdoc (increased his income) on a one-year contract, and he has the option of renewing that contract this summer. Since we now know that he will be able to stay with his current employer until he switches to his next employer, the only break in employment will be the time it takes to move and possibly take a vacation. We shouldn’t even have to extend our health insurance. Awesome job, Kyle!


2) I have developed multiple income streams.


Chiefly, I now earn money through a single contract job, at which I can sort of ramp up or down my workload as I like. I also applied today for a part-time remote job that would last a few months.

But I also have other up-and-coming income streams:

  • public speaking: I am officially a professional now, and am working on getting bookings for the fall.
  • writing: I am a staff writer at one website and was approached by a second this month about possibly writing for them as well.
  • EPF: This blog is (gently) monetized. Though I don’t often push to make income here, I appreciate it when readers take my recommendations and I receive a small commission. Mostly this goes to pay the blog’s expenses.

These other streams are quite small now, but since these taps are open, I may be able to increase them.


3) We have stuck to our percentage-based budget.


Even though the last 9 months have been very financially challenging, we have kept our principles of giving and saving a minimum percentage of our gross income (10 and 15%, respectively) as well as properly preparing for taxes (in fact, we created a self-tax refund). Although we have ended up drawing down our cash reserves many months, we are still treating our income in the way our principles tell us we should. That’s what the short-term savings is there for!




1) Increase my contract work income to $1,500/month.


I’ve been saying that my goal is to earn $1,000 per month from my contract job, but recently that has not been a stretch goal. I have been able to earn that much every month that I haven’t had a full-time job since November 2014. A stretch goal for me now is to earn $1,500 per month. I don’t think I can achieve it, but trying to do so will surely net me more than not trying!


2) Keep all regular variable spending to 2014 levels.


We had a budget in 2014 and the regular variable categories (groceries, restaurants, electricity, gas) were at slightly challenging but not unreasonable levels. To meet all these budget categories, I have to be pretty careful to not buy unnecessary food and keep electricity usage to a minimum. To achieve this, I need to firm up some of my favorite frugal practices like hang-drying our laundry, not eating out alone, using ceiling fans over A/C, turning out lights when I’m on the other floor, and spending less at the grocery store. This week, I even made a food substitution I’ve been reticent to in the past: instead of eating meat with my lunches, I had eggs. I still ate meat with dinner and some breakfasts and snacks, but it’s a start. 🙂


I desperately want to write a goal here of ‘live within our means every month,’ but I know that is not realistic. We can do that in months when we don’t have irregular expenses pop up, but that happens almost every month – like this month we attended an out-of-town wedding. Since we are going to pay those types of irregular expenses no matter what, I just need to keep my focus on what I am willing to change: income and frugality.


What positive (large or small) steps have you take in your financial life recently? What are you working on to better you finances in the future? What frugal tactics do you turn on and off depending on the financial pressure you’re under?


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Filed under: budgeting, frugality, goals, income, side income · Tags: , ,

4 Responses to "Looking on the Bright Side of a Tough Financial Situation"

  1. Cheer up Emily, I believe in you that you can bring that determination and commitment you once have. You can do and focus on it. Good luck!

    1. Emily says:

      Thanks, Jason! I love your positivity.

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