What Does Slow Money Look Like?

February 10, 2017

What Does Slow Money Look Like?

Once upon a time, in the not so distant past, this blog was titled Blonde on a Budget. Do you remember those days? I used to share weekly spending reports, projected budgets and final numbers at the end of each month. I even shared my net worth a couple times! There is a long list of reasons for why I don’t publish those things on a regular basis anymore, but if you met me in person, you would see I’m still the same girl who tracks her spending and tries to save wherever she can. It’s been a long time since I’ve talked about money on the blog, but it’s been consuming my thoughts lately… so if it’s ok with you, that’s all we are going to talk about here this month!

In fact, because it’s been consuming my thoughts lately, I decided my second slow living experiment for the year would be “slow money”. If you search that term, you’ll find a lot of information about a non-profit that invests in small food enterprises. Actually, the work they are doing is pretty interesting, and certainly impacts local economies in a good way. But, of course, that’s not what I’m talking about. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m making a lot of things up as I go, with these experiments! As I mentioned last month, I’m not using the traditional definition of “slow” living (sustainable, local, organic and whole). I’m strictly focusing on the pace at which I live and breathe.

So, what do I mean by slow money?

Essentially, even though I track my spending and update my net worth every month, I recently realized that it’s been a long time since I’ve done a proper check-in with my finances. This has been somewhat of an issue ever since I became self-employed in June 2015. My income is different every single month, and the amount I save and invest changes just as frequently. I can tell you how much I earned, spent, invested and set aside for taxes in 2016, for the year as a whole! But becoming self-employed and earning irregular income meant my old budgeting and investing strategies had to go out the door, and I’m not entirely sure I’m happy with what I’ve replaced them with.

It sometimes feels as though all I’m doing is staying afloat. Not in the literal sense. I still have $10,000 sitting in my emergency fund that I haven’t touched, plus a large cash buffer ($5,000-$10,000) in my chequing account at all times. And my net worth grew substantially last year. So, I’m not worried about money, per se. But I have been feeling like I’m at a bit of a standstill. Money comes in, money goes out, money gets saved. Again, this isn’t a bad thing… in fact, it’s kind of a great thing. The problem is I don’t feel like I’m working towards anything. My system is (almost) on autopilot and things are happening. And yet, sometimes it feels like nothing is happening at all.

I’m beginning to see that my somewhat-nomadic lifestyle has been partially to blame. I’ve been paying rent while spending weeks, and even months, on the road. And while I don’t regret anything I’ve done in the past few years, I also have this sense that things are shifting for me. Honestly, at the end of last year, I thought I would spend most of 2017 experimenting with slow travel – going all over the world, and staying in one place for a month or two at a time. Now, I have this intense desire to settle in, find a community and build a life somewhere. This is something I haven’t experienced before, but the thought of what it could bring excites me on a whole new level.

So, things are shifting for me… which means my goals will shift, too. Since becoming self-employed, I feel like my only financial goals were to make enough money to live, pay my taxes, save for retirement and travel a bit. I’ve done that, felt good about it then and am happy to say I did it. But now that I see my life going in a bit of a different direction, my goals (and my money) need to follow. This month, I want to spend some time really honing in on what it is that I want to do in 2017, and figure out how I can make it happen. For me, slow money will include a lot of reflection, planning and implementing of new strategies. Here are my intentions for February…

Experiment #2: Slow Money
  • set new financial goals for 2017
  • track my spending / make sure it aligns with new goals
  • change my budgeting strategy
  • change my investing strategy
  • analyze / find ways to reduce business expenses
  • bonus: file my taxes (or at least input all the numbers)

While the goal of my slow morning experiment was to simply enjoy the first few minutes of each day, this experiment is a little more action-oriented. My hope is I’ll get to the end of the month and have a clear vision of what I want to do in 2017, as well as new systems in place to make it happen. And since I haven’t talked about numbers in a while, I’m going to get super specific and share those with you too.

Ultimately, this slow living experiment should serve as a reminder of how important it is to hit pause on whatever you’re doing and question if it’s still serving you. If it doesn’t align with your goals and values anymore, it’s important to figure out what actions will. After all, that’s the very definition of intentional living, my friends. It should be a great month!

Do you have any financial goals this year?

54 Comments

  • Reply Hanna @ minimal marathoner February 10, 2017 at 6:22 am

    I had no idea “SLOW” was also an acronym!

    I think your shifting goals also illustrate why slowing down, in a general sense, is so important. We just never really know when we are going to have a change of heart in life. It’s so easy to think that we’re always going to feel the same way and want the same things as we want right now, and then just blow through life according to those desires. Having some “slow” time to regroup, think more critically about where we are headed, live in the present and turn off the noise so we can pay attention to our true feelings is so important! I look forward to your slow money month.

    We are trying really hard to not spend money on unnecessary things this year, most especially we are trying not to eat out so much. With weddings, vacations, and possible house-buying on the radar, we have really got to keep the rest of our expenses in line!

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 10, 2017 at 11:52 am

      I didn’t know either, until I started looking into all of this! Read up on the “slow movement” and you’ll find out more. Also, just wanted to say I like that you understand the “why” behind why you want to eat out less. Working towards a financial goal (in your case, weddings, trips, possible house) helps it feel like you’re not depriving yourself, but rather setting yourself up for the year you want. :)

  • Reply Fritz @ TheRetirementManifesto February 10, 2017 at 6:38 am

    LOVE the concept of taking slow time for reflection, important to let your life goals direct your money goals, and insure they’re aligned. You can’t do that without reflection, and the “slow” approach for Feb sounds like exactly what’s in order! Looking forward to see where this leads for you!

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 10, 2017 at 11:53 am

      Thanks, Fritz!

  • Reply Vanessa @ Achieving Freedom February 10, 2017 at 7:01 am

    I’m also taking a step back this year. After being priced out of Vancouver my partner and I are moving to small town BC at the beginning of March where our money will go ever so much further even though we’ll be making a bit less. As a reward we are getting a slower life, better work life balance, and more of the outdoors (we’ll be living right by an amazing ski hill). As a financial goal, I really really want to buy a house. But that will depend on a lot of things, such as me getting a job once we’ve moved (my partner already has one) and making enough to get a decent mortgage. We have more than enough saved for a good 20%+ down-payment so I’m excited to get going.

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 10, 2017 at 11:55 am

      This all sounds so exciting, Vanessa! Also, I can’t help but be curious about where you’re moving to. Sad we won’t cross paths, but wish you all the best in your new town! :)

  • Reply Amanda @ centsiblyrich February 10, 2017 at 7:01 am

    Looking forward to following along. I love that you added tracking spending and making sure it aligns with goals and values.

    Isn’t it interesting how those shifts happen!? In my life, they happen after a long period of sustaining the status quo, even if it is a good status quo. My goals are shifting as well and, though it’s not completely comfortable, the possibilities are exciting.

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 10, 2017 at 11:57 am

      I’m excited for you, Amanda! And yes, I hadn’t really thought about that, because it’s been a long time since I’ve felt like I was doing anything for a “long period of time”. But I suppose I have spent a good chunk of the last few years travelling around, and do feel ready for something different. :)

  • Reply Mrs. Picky Pincher February 10, 2017 at 7:20 am

    Yeah, it’s got to be a challenge to budget with irregular income. My first job out of college was like that. I won’t lie–it was hard. But I basically had to live *as low as possible*, and any extra income at the end of the month was something to be saved and celebrated. You have your feast-or-famine cycles and it makes it so hard to know what’s going on with your money.

    But bravo for trying to find a new system! It’s all about creating something that works for you, after all. I look forward to reading all about it!

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 10, 2017 at 11:58 am

      It’s a challenge, but a first world one at that. :) Saving/investing is probably the biggest challenge, and is something I want to do differently this year. Will talk about that more soon!

  • Reply ChooseBetterLife February 10, 2017 at 7:43 am

    It might be a shift, though it’s still consistent with your overall message of being true to yourself and your values (which are bound to change as we grow) instead of those of the media and the masses.
    Wishing you nothing but the best as always!

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 10, 2017 at 12:01 pm

      Thank you, friend! When are you guys going to plan a trip to BC, btw? ;)

  • Reply Ashley February 10, 2017 at 7:45 am

    Thanks for this post! My financial goal this year is to finish paying off my student loans! I’ve been working really hard at that last year and will finish this year and that’s exciting, but I’ve wondered what I will do after that is all said and done. So that is another financial goal for me this year is to come up with a plan for what I will do with my money once I’m completely debt free!

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 10, 2017 at 12:02 pm

      Yes yes yes, definitely have a goal/plan in place for when that day comes! I did not, and it resulted in me wasting a good chunk of money in the first year that followed. But yay for being debt-free this year!

  • Reply Sylvia @Professional Girl on the Go February 10, 2017 at 8:04 am

    Like Hanna, I didn’t think “slow” was an acronym. When I saw slow, I was thinking more like gradually building your income. I am really trying to track my spending to ensure I am spending money on things I actually need and double my net worth.
    Good luck on your journey!

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 10, 2017 at 12:03 pm

      Ahhh, nice! Those sound like great goals, Sylvia. I don’t really have income goals, but might consider setting a net worth goal this year.

  • Reply Lindsay @ Notorious D.E.B.T. February 10, 2017 at 8:11 am

    It’s funny how your goals change over time as you make progress towards existing goals and develop new ones. I was somewhat unwillingly forced into full-time freelance work just recently, and I was NOT prepared for it (nor for the $3,000 vet bill from my cat getting sick a few days ago). At this point, I’d be ecstatic if I could just make enough money to meet my current obligations, let alone saving some money. One day that’ll change though, and I’ll have a new goal once I’m able to achieve that.

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 10, 2017 at 12:04 pm

      Oh gosh, that sounds like a rough start, Lindsay. You are right, however, that once you achieve that first goal, you’ll want to start working towards something else. It never ends! :)

  • Reply Amanda @ My Life, I Guess February 10, 2017 at 8:15 am

    Now that I actually have money again, I’ve been extremely mindful about how I spend it. When we were living paycheque to paycheque, we were only spending money on the essentials. It didn’t require a lot of thought – always by what’s the cheapest/best value. That whole experience taught me a lot, and I still want to cling onto every dollar! Every purchase I make that isn’t a basic necessity I think about for probably much longer than I should. I shop around. I wait for sales. I go without until I can no longer go without. I know I can loosen up a little bit, but I’m more focused on getting back on track than I am acquiring new things.

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 10, 2017 at 12:05 pm

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking time and not buying things until you absolutely need them! But it did take a long time for me to switch out of the fear mindset and start feeling more abundant, and I will say it feels better to have that mindset now. Hope you experience the same, as time goes on. :)

  • Reply Jill February 10, 2017 at 8:34 am

    This year, I intend to actually make progress in paying off our debt. We have already had to purchase a new car this year (our old one had 319,000 miles on it, so we got our money’s worth), so that is going to reduce the amount that I can use to target debt each month. However, I intend to re-evaluate how I am paying down debt, so that I can make better progress. I WILL get it done this year!

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 10, 2017 at 12:06 pm

      Sounds like you know exactly what you want, Jill! I have no doubt you’ll move the numbers around to make it happen. Also, 319K miles… holy heck. That’s 514,000 kms for us Canadians. It definitely served you well!

  • Reply Chris @ Mindful Explorer February 10, 2017 at 8:44 am

    Very relevant post for me to read Cait. As I move towards my goals of going full time towards my freelance work and blog which involves leaving work I wonder how the future will be. I do know that slow will be one of the most cherished parts as I determine the speed and frequency at which I work and keep connected. I always look to you for guidance hiding in between your sentences. I look forward to continuing this journey with you.

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 10, 2017 at 12:10 pm

      “Guidance hiding in between your sentences.” I don’t know why but that made me smile, friend. Look forward to our next coffee!

  • Reply Alyssa Fischer February 10, 2017 at 8:54 am

    I love this! I’ve been analyzing a lot of things in my life lately to figure out if whether or not what I’m doing is benefiting my goals and plans for the future. So much of the tasks I put on my plate don’t really need to be there, but it’s been hard to find a good balance.

    I can totally relate to the “staying afloat” concept without actually worrying about staying afloat. For me, it’s almost as if I’m just stuck in a rut.

    Thanks for sharing, and glad to have you back :)

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 10, 2017 at 12:12 pm

      It’s kind of interesting, isn’t it? I don’t necessarily feel like I’m stuck in a rut (in the negative sense)… but I do sometimes feel stuck. Like there’s no real momentum or something. More to think about, this month!

  • Reply FullTimeFinance February 10, 2017 at 8:56 am

    Life is ever changing as are our wants and needs. In my management training class we had a concept, go to the balcony. The idea is you must occasionally take a step back and see the bigger picture. Evaluate and see where you want to go. Otherwise you can be distracted from the forest by the trees.

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 10, 2017 at 12:13 pm

      Well that visual gave me a whole lot more to think about. Thanks for sharing :)

  • Reply TJ February 10, 2017 at 9:01 am

    This is a very timely post for me, because I completely relate on the shifting. if you asked me 5 months ago, I would have said I want to take advantage of time off from work TO SEE ALL THE PLACES and DO ALL THE THINGS…but now that it’s time to actually take a break from work….that’s actually not what I want to do. The slower pace is incredibly appealing. I think taking it slow is exactly what might prevent feeling burned out from being “on the road”. I have already booked a 2nd month-long stay…which i didn’t think I was going to do, but the price was right in Cedar City, Utah….a convenient home base to explore the Southern Utah national parks at my own pace….with a comfortable bed to sleep on at the end of every day.

    If for some reason I get bored or find that I don’t actually need that much time in that location….I have a new town to explore, a bed to sleep on and “cheap rent”….or I can always just “leave early” and move on to the next place.

    Like you though, setting a foundation and building a life in a community is becoming super appealing to me. I’m realizing that I won’t be able to fulfill that desire with a solo nomadic traveling life. So the question is just how long do I really want to be solo nomadic? It started as a year on the road, then it was “nah, it’ll probably be 6 months on the road”…now….well I have accommodation booked through the 2nd week of May. After that? I’ll just have to wait and see. :) Can’t wait to see how your experiment goes.

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 10, 2017 at 12:16 pm

      And *I* can’t wait to see where YOUR year takes you, TJ! If I could guess, I would imagine there will be a moment where you’ll know when it’s time to go home – and settle in, wherever that may be and whatever that means for you. I remember the morning I woke up in San Francisco and felt like I’d gotten everything out of my trip that I’d hoped for and more. I didn’t see all the places on my list, but that was ok. I was ready to go home and get back to regular life. And now, I want a new regular life… if that makes sense, haha. Anyway, 2017 will be an interesting year for us both!

  • Reply Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life February 10, 2017 at 9:12 am

    Do you have a specific kind of change in mind for your budgeting and investing strategies?

    My original plan for our money was maintenance this year, but the neighbor thing has crapped on that plan so we’re moving forward with another huge change: moving! And in the Bay Area which is comparable to your most expensive cities so I leave you to imagine my horrified expression as we navigate this real estate market! Nevertheless, we prefer to be safe and away from toxic people and that’s going to have to be worth the time, trouble, and money.

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 10, 2017 at 12:19 pm

      Re: the strategies, yes! Specifically, going back to budgeting monthly, switching some accounts and setting up automatic investments (something I’ve been scared to do since earning irregular income). And ugh, I can only imagine what navigating that real estate market would look like… but it will all be for the best, like you said. Sending down my good thoughts, as always, friend!

      • Reply Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life February 10, 2017 at 6:27 pm

        Good! If anyone can impose monthly order on their money even with irregular income, I know it’s you. <3

  • Reply Calee Spinney February 10, 2017 at 9:17 am

    Lots of financial goals for this year! Looking to pay my student loan debt down to a certain number, to save to a certain number for a new car, a number I want to get my investments to, and finally with all that… finally get my net worth into the black! I also have a trip to Paris booked and I’m going to be really careful there to not spend any more than I have saved.

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 10, 2017 at 12:20 pm

      I love how specific your goals are, Calee! Will help you work towards them, and cross one off at a time. :)

  • Reply zolar February 10, 2017 at 9:39 am

    Relax and steady.. I think you need to go travel outside your country for a month..

    For my financial goals this year is to settle car loan and find a low cost property and I will rent it..

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 10, 2017 at 12:21 pm

      Those sound like great goals, Zolar!

  • Reply Shannon McNay February 10, 2017 at 9:44 am

    So, by settle down, you mean in NYC, right? ;) <3

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 10, 2017 at 12:21 pm

      Haha, if you can bring the mountains to NYC, we can talk.

  • Reply Mad Money Monster February 10, 2017 at 10:43 am

    I am so envious of your slow year. I feel like nothing in my life is ever slow. I had a co-worker tell me to slow down in the hallway yesterday. I feel like, if I’m not moving at a lightening pace, I’ll never get everything done on my plate. I must tell you though, just reading your posts give me a sense of calm. It radiates through your typed words. Thanks so much for that :)

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 10, 2017 at 12:24 pm

      Well I’m glad the posts help! I will say, I don’t have a magic formula for any of this. I still work too many hours some days, don’t take enough breaks and go to bed utterly exhausted. I pile too much on my plate and then freak out but have to get it done. So, I’m not perfect! I just know I want things to be different, so I’m continually working towards that every day. :)

  • Reply NZ Muse February 10, 2017 at 11:27 am

    For me, I’ve been feeling not so much blah for being on autopilot as such but being blah because I haven’t been keeping on top of by $ as I normally would/should. I’m checking in a lot more, being lot more engaged with the #s as I want to hit a certain net worth, and make sure we save to redo the kitchen this year.

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 10, 2017 at 12:48 pm

      Well it sounds like you know exactly what you’re working towards this year! That’s the best place to start. :)

  • Reply Ella February 10, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    I’m really looking forward to hearing more about this, Cait, and good luck with the refocusing! I always find that when income changes it’s a good opportunity to reassess where things are at. I’ve been really inspired by your budgeting posts in the past and they’ve helped me to work on getting an emergency fund set up – I’m going to reach my goal in the next few months!! Knowing that I’m going to achieve this goal now opens up an opportunity to decide on and work towards another goal. I’ll also be moving into a different job with different income so I’ll also be doing some planning and rearranging of my finances this month. Really looking forward to hearing more about how you’re doing it in line with the ideas of slow living! E

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 10, 2017 at 3:45 pm

      How exciting that you’ve almost reached your emergency fund goal, Ella! Do you have any idea what you want to put your money towards next? :)

      • Reply Ella February 13, 2017 at 7:05 pm

        Thanks Cait! It is very exciting as it’s been a few years in the making. Next I’m planning to work on my more regular savings goals of monthly amounts towards travel, health and retirement. I’d love to save for an apartment but, like many Canadian cities, where I live in Australia is very expensive to buy so I haven’t dared to go beyond dreaming yet.

  • Reply Rob February 10, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    “Do you have any financial goals this year?”

    Not so much now that my wife and I are both retired, Cait. We generally are now just monitoring and tracking our investments. That said, however, the way that we’ve got things set up results in our investments being automatically rebalanced on a regular basis and our generated dividend earnings being automatically reinvested. Thus our income flows are more than sufficient to meet our daily needs.

    That’s how it is is for us today but, back in the day, when we were young and starting out in our careers and married life, we handled things a lot more proactively. Not only did we carefully budget, save, spend, and invest but we also set (and adjusted, as required) both our financial goals as well as our lifestyle goals.

    It’s one thing to set financial targets but one must also think about what you plan to do over time with the money saved – save for a house, pay off tuition, buy a car, save for a trip, plan on taking more courses, plan for kids later on (and their support), plan on having the money available to replace when things wear out, and the list goes on. All that is important – not just having a short term plan but also a long term plan, along with the awareness that things can (and probably will) change and affect these plans. All that along with time management. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say. All of the above takes time, patience, discipline and persistence to accomplish. So in a way, that’s our way of looking at slow money gradually working to meet our life’s goals as we travel through life.

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 11, 2017 at 7:57 am

      I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, Rob, but I always love the stories about how you and your wife manage your finances – both in how you set yourselves up for retirement, and what you’re doing now. And I like your definition of slow money at the end: gradually working to meet life’s goals as we travel through life. :)

  • Reply Cindy February 12, 2017 at 11:47 am

    2017 is our year to slow the bleeding our bank account has been subjected to since we bought a single family home in August. If anyone buys a home for the first time I recommend a condo or townhome-we’ve owned both and the SFH house has been by far triple the cost of everything! Also, expect that first year of home ownership to be expensive! We didn’t even buy an old fixer upper, but still the costs of updating, buying supplies, and maintenance improvements were shocking. We refinished wood floors, bought new garage doors and openers, etc, etc. Anyway, it was in the school district we wanted and it was the nicest home for what we could afford. It was the cheapest home in a very expensive subdivision, so the money we put into it should ultimately maintain or increase the value of the home. We have saved and saved by living way below our means for over 10 years, so while we had the funds for the move, the bigger mortgage, and all the improvement projects, I still like to see the massive spending subside sometime in 2017. We’ll see, were expecting our 3rd next month(total surprise), and we will need to replace a car to accomodate all the toddler/infant car seats by then too(not a surprise). And when these kids are all done with school the plan is to move right back into a condo or town home!!!

  • Reply Go Finance Yourself! February 13, 2017 at 4:39 am

    I like the concept. I have a hard time slowing down and being present in the moment. My mind is always geared towards accomplishing something in the future. Meditation helps with this, but it’s still a challenege.

    My financial goals are to keep growing my after-tax portfolio so I can reach FIRE. My goal is to eventually save 50% of my after-tax, after 401k money. I should get to over 40% this year and will press forward to 50%.

  • Reply Primal Prosperity February 13, 2017 at 6:54 am

    This is a great post. I think I feel similar to you, in that I’ve achieved my financial goals and they are on autopilot, so now I want to shake things up a bit. I have a few ideas.

    Also, I know you made it clear that in your post, you weren’t really talking about sustainable, local and all that, so this is really an aside. But, I was aware of the Slow Money movement you linked to above, and while real, whole, sustainable food is really our most important need in the short term, I think that more people would get involved in slow money if they looked at it from a broader economic perspective. I am friends with a local economics professor who is active in this movement: steadystate.org.

    Anyway, I thought you might really enjoy it!

  • Reply Annie February 13, 2017 at 7:31 am

    My financial goal was to save more money. I bought your Mindful Budgeting planner and it’s a great tool. I love that the spaces for daily/weekly reflection are small so I don’t feel overwhelmed at having to fill a whole blank page. It has really opened my eyes to my spending habits which I thought were under control. January was a revelation, February is going much better and I feel more confident I can reach my goals. I would suggest that maybe it be made in a spiral format so it will be easier to hold open as one writes in it, and a small pocket inside the cover to hold receipts as sometimes I don’t get a chance to log them until a day or two later.

  • Reply Buddhist NextDoor February 13, 2017 at 10:09 am

    Autopilot is not a bad place to be, and certainly I can think of at least 5 times in my life where the money picture absolutely could not be left to autopilot (it would have ended in a fiery demise). But at the same time I identify with the need for mission and a cause, whether it’s with my money, my time, or my passion for making the world a more peaceful place.
    Good luck to you with the new experiment!

  • Reply Linda at Brooklyn Bread February 16, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    Funny how things almost seem like they get “in the water” at a particular time. This is where I am right now. After getting out of debt this year, I was feeling great about money. But I spent so much since the holidays and really feel a sense of needing to step back, slow down and pay attention. Maybe it is something about this time of year. I haven’t gone backwards, but I haven’t moved forward. Regrouping seems like a good idea.

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