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I made an audacious goal to save $12,000 in 12 months. Like any good goal digger, I had specifics: 3K in travel, 3K for sinking funds, and 6K for the Roth IRA in 365 days. 

I didn’t have anything else. 

I knew my biweekly pay would do a bulk of the lifting and outside of that, I hoped that if I didn’t get the full amount, I’d be closer to it than never trying.

Being right is my favorite. I should put that date on the calendar to commemorate being right about something important and reminding Mr. BuLL, often. 

I saved so well, that I saved $12,523 by December 31st. So, the question began to ferment long before December. What would I do with an extra $500?

I completed the grand savings slam by leveraging little and big habits. 

Last year, I made less than 40K, or at least that’s what social security claims. I still had utility payments, groceries, gas, and a mortgage like everyone else in the 21st century. 

To leverage saving and still pay for life as I know it, I:

  • Ratcheted down spending. No spending sprees were common (still are!)
  • Rarely ate out (maybe 1 to 2 times a month)
  • Enjoyed free hobbies
  • Sold stuff
  • Accepted alternative income streams like dog sitting or paid surveys
  • Volunteered for overtime and holidays
  • Used receipts for cash-back apps
  • Cashed in credit card rewards
  • Churned credit cards
  • Ditched debt 

All that to say, I used whatever was available to make money and avoided spending it. Sometimes it involved fabricating barriers like on weekends, only leaving the house for one day to do errands. Sometimes there were physical barriers like working weekends and evenings to prevent shopping.

The best way to save money is to earn money and then, not spend it. The details are where it gets interesting.

Sometimes success can be a tight fit.

Toward the end of the year, I predicted through careful calculations that I would have an extra $500. 

I was giddy with possibilities.

I could put it towards one of the three savings accounts and prepare for the next year like a normal, functioning adult.

Maybe I’d blow it on a luxe treehouse in Montana and spend the night in a luxurious yet creaky accommodations. 

Or, I could dump it in a brokerage account in a market that was “on-sale”. 

But, something was lurking in the recesses of my mind. I didn’t want to think about it because I wasn’t a good human and an even worse friend. Yet, my mind continued to return to the memory like a drunken goose again and again.

Finally, after mulling over the possibilities, I decided to donate it and try to correct a decade-old wrong.

The past won’t change, but the present is a gift.  

Hark back to a younger me with fewer wrinkles, wisdom, and moral compass. 

Most of the time, I was spot on when picking the right choice, not the easy one. 

For the few times I picked easy over right, I regret it including one day that started icy and blustery. 

I was driving around in my bestie’s car. She was kind enough to let me motor around without her. 

The day was chilly with snow tucking in and turning roads slick, I went from an average driver to instant sitting sweats. As I drove across town, likely getting fast food, I followed a sedan too close.

When he made an abrupt righthand turn, I made an abrupt visit to his bumper. 

Luckily, his vehicle had no damage, unlike my friend’s bumper, which looked like it had been making out with a parking lot pole.

So, I drove back to the designated parking area and parked the car. 

I returned the keys and said nothing of the damage. 

Instead of telling the truth, paying for the damage, and rinsing my soul, I lied. I pretended to have no idea about what happened to the chewed-up bumper. 

On the scale of human atrocities, it’s meager. The world won’t be stained by the blood of my lie, but my consciousness was. 

It festered over time, eventually it would split open, and reveal its infected parts. I found the best way to bring closure to this wound was to speak with the individual I offended and try to make amends. 

Up to this point, prior apologies included asking for forgiveness from my sisters for being such a snot when all they wanted was a big sister.

To clean out this expensive self-inflicted wound, I had to speak with my bestie and give her a remittance. An extra $500 was gifted to pay down old debt and scrub my soul.

Time to pay, no more delay.  

I contacted my old friend and asked her about a preferred money transfer (PayPal and Venmo), and we ended up on Zelle.

I sent her a test amount of $1. Then when I ensured she got the correct amount, I sent $499 of its friends. 

Having such an amount deposited prompted an immediate phone call bursting with questions. With little choice, I had to tell her why I was depositing $500. 

I was forced to explain, in detail, what I did and the human I became when I did it.

If I’m better than that, I need to act better than that.

Initially, like the shining light of humanity she is, she didn’t want it. 

She felt it was too much. 

However, after explaining the heavy weight of lies on my heart and how much it meant for her to have it, she accepted. 

Turns out, she needed it more than I did. Relief and gratitude saturated my being because I was able to help a friend’s finances in their time of need. 

There are times when I know I’m doing a good deed and then there are times when a simple act can change a life.

Our money is only as valuable as what we choose to spend it on.

When given a chance to spend or save an extra $500, I did neither.

I opted for something different. It began as a way to right a wrong and it ended as one of the most powerful things I’ve done financially.

I’ve doubled my net worth in three years and maxed out my Roth IRA, which are wonderful accomplishments, yet this felt more powerful. 

As I grow financially, I’m starting to see that I can have an impact even when it feels like a small beginning. 

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