New Life Resolutions

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It’s nearly the end of the year and you know what that means! Christmas? God, no, it’s time to clean up the finances! Jk, that’s been going on since January 1.

This year has been full of positive changes for the Warckens, mostly wrought on by negative impacts on our lives. My stepdad died of pancreatic cancer, but not before I attempted to straighten out his and my mother’s finances. Greg and I both injured our backs, I re-injured my hiking shoulder, and we sold our souls so I could work three back-to-back nursing contracts. Finances positive, sanity negative. You show me an ICU nurse who loves their job and I’ll show you one who either works part time or has just submitted their resignation.

I’m not sure anything makes you reevaluate your life like death and injury. Thankfully our back injuries were/are just strains and nothing more, but they suck(ed) and made us both very aware we can’t keep up our current professions for the rest of our lives. I had to call in for two nights of overtime because of mine and I about lost my mind over it. If I lose money because of my back that means I can’t contribute to our financial freedom, and we can’t go on adventures, and I can’t help others, and I go crazy and I get mean and I take it out on my husband and that’s not happening. #lifeplan

And I’ll tell you what else, mister, nothing, and I mean nothing will inspire you to get your own finances in order like trying to sort through someone else’s at the end of their life. I went from a quiet, safe ‘We’ll put aside 15% of our incomes in hopes that we’ll retire at age 65’ to a loud, desperate ‘SCREW THIS, we’re not working until we die’.

Before this year I knew very little about investing outside of retirement accounts. Thanks to Dave Ramsey, I opened a Roth IRA at the ripe old age of 23, and while the amounts I’ve contributed have varied over the years (remember that 15% b.s. from two seconds ago?), I pride myself on having contributed every year since inception, and on my ability to set it and forget it.

After coming to the conclusion last year that we are, in fact, not going to work until we qualify for a national park Senior Pass, this year I hit our finances hard- devouring books, blogs, and podcasts, delving into taxable investing, and joining the ranks of future FIers. FI= Financial Independence, and what we’ve unknowingly been striving for our entire adult lives. There’s a whole community of people out there who feel exactly the same way we do and I had no idea!

I don’t know why it took me so long to discover taxable investing; I suppose because no one I personally know ever told me about it. Hello, if you’re reading this, you probably know me so you know I LOVE answering financial questions so DON’T HESITATE TO ASK. I remember after Greg and I were married our financial advisor told us we had too much cash and should consider investing in a taxable bond index fund. I dismissed him because I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, and I wasn’t comfortable with the risk (hardly any), so instead we continued to put all our extra cash into high (minimal) interest savings accounts, and invest our measly 15% into retirement. Good things to be sure, but I was ready to do better.

My reading list for 2017 includes, but is not limited to:

How To Retire Early

Retire Inspired

The Little Book of Common Sense Investing

Financial Peace

Smart Couples Finish Rich

The 4-Hour Workweek

The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing

Living Large in Lean Times

The Simple Path to Wealth

Early Retirement Extreme.

I have listened to dozens and dozens of episodes of ‘The Money Tree Investing” (one of my questions was featured on a show! Eek!), “Mad FIentist”, “Fire Drill”, and “Choose FI” podcasts. I’ve read more “Mr. Money Mustache” blog posts than I’ve ever written myself. I have wrapped myself in a warm, cozy blanket of financial independence, and I couldn’t be more content. At least until we’re truly financially independent and I’m writing posts like this from a cabin on 400 acres in northern Minnesota while Common Loons call across our lake and a Red Crossbill visits our feeder and a Snowy Owl hunts our feeding ground. There’ll be a wood-burning stove, and a sauna, and Greg will harvest a deer every fall to keep us fed all winter, and we’ll have apple trees and red maples and paper birch and in the spring the warblers will fill our trees and in summer we’ll paddle our lake and in fall we’ll watch bull moose fight outside our picture windows and in the winters we’ll ski and snowshoe trails we’ve lovingly chainsawed ourselves and our lake will freeze and we’ll have a clear view of the northern sky and I wonder if Isle Royale is for sale? New financial goal.

This year I realized how much I love being around people who are willing to change, and how I despise dislike can’t appreciate just really don’t understand people who aren’t. This is YOUR LIFE. If you’re unwilling to change it, why would you possibly expect someone else to? Oh God, should we talk about ICU nursing again? I’m a work in progress, a kid under construction (maybe the paint is still wet?), and I’ll never stop trying to improve. I love that about me. But enough about me, let’s talk about me. This year:

*We stopped buying Ziploc bags. I don’t remember the last time I bought any anyway, but I realized this year how insane resealable plastic bags have become. First off, pretty well any food product you buy now comes in its own resealable plastic bag- from bacon, to beef jerky, to almonds, to cheese, to you get it. They’re everywhere. And they’re insanely wasteful and detrimental to our beautiful planet. Which, if you haven’t witnessed her lately, you should get out more and do so. She’s amazing. And humans suck for her.

*I started lifting, bruh. Back strain, mack sprain. It sucks when your body betrays you. I went back to PT for my bum shoulder, and I had some independent craniosacral therapy done and that gal was like, “Let me get this straight: you never work your back and shoulders out, then you wonder why when you throw a 50 lb pack on for up to 20 miles/day it hurts real bad.” Yeah, when you put it that way it sounds real dumb. One of my brothers made me a workout and I started running again and I haven’t skipped a day since I started. That was yesterday.

PSYCH! It’s been over two months.

*I started a hand-written financial journal. It features such exciting entries as “Monthly expenses out of $Mkt” and “Added J as AU on G’s Gold”. Riveting.

*I started an every day regular journal. It’s handwritten and I’m terrible at it but I do love reading back over our every day lives. I wish I wrote more like Ernest Hemingway.

*Sorry, fellow night nurses. You’re some of my favorite sarcastic, perverted a-holes on the planet, but after three contracts in a row, I have vowed to never work another night shift. I love seeing Greg at breakfast and dinner, I love going for walks after we eat, I love reading together in front of our fake fireplace, I love sleeping in the same bed at the same time. You know, LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE.

*I started an ongoing list of ways to be even more frugal, only I spelled ‘frugal’ wrong, so now we’re the Frygal Warckens. Which is super fitting.

*We’re switching all our household products to earth-friendly, biodegradable ones. After we use up everything we have now, obviously. I haven’t done it in the past because we’re too cheap for all natural but when we park our camper at the light pole every autumn, all our greywater literally runs into a hole in the ground. I’m so, so sorry MoNa. Our long-term dream is to set up a greywater filtering system that will drain into a solar-heated bird bath, but that’s for a more permanent residence. For now I’m going to make what I can- laundry detergent, dish soap, shampoo, conditioner, household cleaner, etc.- and try to make amends with my favorite goddess.

*We started investing outside of our Roth IRAs and our 401ks. It was ‘How To Retire Early: Your Guide to Getting Rich Slowly and Retiring on Less‘ by Robert & Robin Charlton that did it. I read this book when we lived in Montana but I was like “I’m simple and this sounds scary and I never learned to read” so I put it out of my brain until I saw it for $5 on Amazon and decided to give it a go last December. They’ve got charts and graphs and facts and figures, it’s simple, it’s well-written, and it’s super inspiring if you want to work less and/or retire early. They inspired us to open our first Vanguard index funds, and what a year to do it. The 500’s YTD average return is 20.45%. I might? Be able to lend it to a Kindle? I tried it before and it didn’t work, but I’ll give it another go. Let me know if you’re interested.

*We joined the future FI community. They just don’t know it yet. We have a 15 year plan because someone could retire with flight benefits at that time, but I plan on getting to true financial independence much, much sooner. p.s. True FI is when your investments earn more than you can spend every year. Spend less, save more, get there sooner. I suppose this means I should go back to work soon.

*I’m now J. Warcken, RN, GCO (grain cart operator). I got to help farm for the first time this year! And I freaking loved it! Literally, one night I cried because I was so happy to be one of the men. That was the night the Northern Lights came out, and I cried again.

*I already told you about the podcasts. Running, mowing, grain carting, driving across North Dakota. They’re my best friends outside of Greg.

*We started donating $10 to The Nature Conservancy for every 5 hours we fly. Of course we keep track until TNC offers a donation match. 🙂

*I recently got my hair cut and colored by a professional and I realized: I’m never happy with a cut anyway, so why waste my money when I can be unhappy for free? No offense to the professional, but you’re up, Greg! He agreed to cut my hair from now on. Important side note: This agreement does not include bangs.



*We gave up gift giving. Again. Last Christmas and for our birthdays Greg and I agreed to buy each other gifts and all that did was stress us out and add things to our camper that we didn’t have room for in the first place. That said, we are loving Greg’s gift to me- Parks and Rec in its entirety. Yes, you can borrow it when we’re done.


*We put our old tv in the camper. It’s huge (32″- can you believe that?!) and we hate it. After P & R it’s going on Gregslist.

*We decreased our allowances by 75%. After looking back over 2017’s spending and starting a new FI life plan, we decided we really didn’t need all that money just for ourselves. Okay, I decided and Greg agreed. What does he care? He hasn’t bought anything in years.

*I put myself on a clothing and cosmetics freeze at least through the end of 2018. I had already started a policy to get rid of something anytime I bought something new, but now I’m just not going to buy anything. And yes, that includes perfume, which I’m obviously most upset about. Like any good American girl, I have more makeup than I know what to do with, and more clothes than any three people should own. And we’re minimalists! The more I think about clothes the more I think “Why should I possibly care what I look like to the general public? I’m head over heels for the man of my dreams, and he prefers I don’t wear any clothes at all.” So what if I wear the same soft pants and Cubs shirt and fleece pullover every single day? SO WHAT. To be clear, I’m not giving up makeup. I know lots of women who are absolute stunners without it, but not me. I’m like Death. Death who hasn’t slept in about three years. So when my makeup runs out, I’m making my own.

But seriously, if you have any perfume you don’t wear anymore please think of me.

*Of course I didn’t dream of shopping Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales. Instead we gave to our favorite charities (for 100% matches of course – free money) and unsubscribed from the multitudes of emails that try to entice us to spend our hard-earned cash on crap we don’t need. Looking at you, REI, Backcountry, Bath & Body Works, Sierra Tradi… you get the point.


I’m just so glad to have a partner who agrees with me financially and accepts my frugal insanity (I’m not kidding, I really do reuse toilet paper), and who acknowledges and encourages and shares (most of) my dreams. He won’t see Taylor Swift with me (wasn’t invited), but he will drink yesterday’s coffee to save money. 2018 is going to be a great year.

Other posts you might be interested in:

70+ Easy Ways To Spend Less This Year

40+ Ways to Travel More This Year

20+ Ways to Work Less This Year


Anyone have any big life changers they’d like to share? What about perfume? Anyone have any perfume?


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