Don’t cheat yourself when you treat yourself.

Don’t cheat yourself when you treat yourself.

We really did this one right.

We splurged on a nicer hotel that had both prime location and the most perfect pillows. We saw a Broadway show from mezzanine seats that were front and center. We had Thai food, cheesecake, and late night pizza without the guilt because we walked over 25K steps in 24 hours.

Less-is-more is an excellent concept to keep you grateful and present. Cheap-is-more is not the same thing. We could’ve spent less on the tickets, but we didn’t want to squint and strain to see the stage. We could’ve stayed in a cheaper hotel further away, but that would’ve meant a tighter schedule, a worse nights sleep, and yet another vacation leaving us wanting to take a vacation to recover.

I’m proud of how my money stories are evolving. A former version of me wouldn’t have been comfortable spending the extra bread. Current me defines “comfort” differently, prioritizing rest. Time. Space. I’m not at a point where I’m doing more than window shopping on Fifth Avenue, but I’m also not eating rice and beans in an effort to have my finances in order “one day.” I’m saving for tomorrow without cheating my choice to live now because life is short.

Who would’ve thought THIS mentality would help me crush a five-year debt pay-down goal in half the time?!

I’m not saying you have to do things the way we did, but I do hope you don’t settle for less than you deserve.

Take a stand for your worth; take responsibility of your experiences; take charge of how you do this thing called life;

And start living today.

GRATITUDE: The Ultimate Budgeting Tool

GRATITUDE: The Ultimate Budgeting Tool

October is here, which inspired Anders and I to jump into something called the #Last90Days challenge.  The premise is to fight against the urge to throw your hands up on the final three months of the year with the promise that you’ll “do better” once the new year rolls in.  In committing to some simple (though not always easy) habits, the hope is that we’ll hit January 1st at the top of our game.

There are five things  (“Five to Thrive”) we’ve committed to doing everyday these next three months, one of them being to list ten things we are grateful for each day.

This practice has been a game changer.

At first, listing ten seemed a bit…annoying.  It’s like getting a ticket from a red light camera. You’re typically fined an amount that doesn’t completely break the bank, but is excessive enough to be a plain ol’ pain in the ass. (You know…so you’ll more careful next time.)

So really…ten?  You’re serious about that? How about…three?  Okay…five?  Nope. TEN.

But then someone doing this same challenge shared a quote that helps her bring a lot of intention to listing her gratitude:


It’s a question that snapped me to attention, like a bitter wind in Winter that takes your breath away.

That question, mixed with having only ten spots to fill (yes only…see how quickly things shifted!) intensified this like crazy for me.  Before using this question to help me focus me for this task, I was adding some things to my list simply to fill the blank spots left on the page: my Reef sandals that are clouds on my feet; a favorite podcast that helps commute time pass quickly; my oversized Bethany Beach hoodie that feels like a hug.  Don’t get me wrong – I love these things! But only having ten coveted spots makes filling up said spots with “things” seem…foolish.

Suddenly…my list is full of people. Moments in nature.  Memories of loved ones and overwhelming appreciation for time spent with them.  A list of intangibles that can’t be bought, but rather cultivated. Created.  Home grown.


Suddenly…I’m reaching out more to connect with people I swear I care about, but seem to only make an effort to connect with when it’s convenient.

Suddenly…I’m not feeling the urge to spend money on the things I’m usually inclined to buy.  I think to myself, “What would I swap on my list to make room for this?”  The smart-ass in me sometimes considers crossing out a brother.  The human in me sometimes wants to erase a dog (or two) due to the obnoxiously rude 4:00am wake up call.  (And by sometimes, you know I mean about .02 seconds.) But the bleeding heart in me never lets that follow though.

Could it be that gratitude is the ultimate budgeting tool?

Anders’ job has him primarily serving the elderly. As is expected, they often feel the need to impart some wisdom on the strapping young man before them.  The overarching theme is always the same: the thing they cherish most in their lives are their relationships.  “Spend time with the ones you love,”  they tell him. When you’re nearing the end of your life, it seems as though that’s all that counts.

I sure as hell believe it. Do you?

The lesson this daily gratitude is enforcing is to keep the important stuff – and I mean the real important stuff, not what your circle thinks is important, not what society is trying to tell you is important – at the front of your mind.

Live your life and spend your time (and money!) focusing on what truly matters.


This post is dedicated to my grandmother, Cleo, who passed away four years ago today. 

What will it cost you?

What will it cost you?

You can almost predict it.

You get some good momentum going.
You’re in control.
That crazy goal you set suddenly seems possible.

And then…


Something happens that knocks you off our feet, and sometimes completely off course.


I took my (fur) boy in for a follow-up vet appointment.  A month ago, a blood test revealed some levels to be a bit on the high side.  The doc prescribed a pill for him to take for 30 days, and we were now waiting to see if that magic pill helped.

It didn’t. In fact, most of his levels doubled. And the sucker punch? It cost me $80 just to find out this news.

But, I think deep down…I knew.

You see, I first found out something was up with my pup about nine months ago.  A routine procedure was bypassed because of the sudden presence of these high levels. I was given a list of possible causes and a list of possible tests we could run.  I chose a few…ones that would likely prove what the doc thought was most likely the underlying problem, and ones that wouldn’t break the bank.

Unfortunately, these tests didn’t clarify anything.  They just left us with more questions.

It was suggested that I do another test, but the cost of it made me hesitate.  Rather than spend $500 on a test that wasn’t guaranteed to provide answers, I opted for the occasional $15 test to monitor those pesky levels, which, over time, slowly started to decrease.  This, mixed with the fact that my pup wasn’t acting any differently or showing any signs of something wrong, left me I feeling okay with my decision.

Until last week, when the doc told me what I needed to hear:

He isn’t showing any signs of something wrong on the outside…yet.  But trust me, with numbers this high, something is brewing in there.

He suggested we run that same test I’d been avoiding.



A pit formed in my stomach.  Sure, I had been making good progress paying off my debt and this was most definitely going to slow that down, but spending the money wasn’t what had me feeling sick; it was the fact that I had focused more on the cost of doing the test than the cost of not doing it.

For one, to avoid doing that one test, I did several other cheaper tests that ended up costing about the same overtime anyway.  It’s like when you’re craving a brownie, and you eat no less than eleven “healthy” snacks to avoid eating said brownie.  You would’ve probably ingested less calories if you  just listened to your gut in the first place, right?

But secondly, avoiding the test could have potentially cost me more time with this furball.  In pains me to think even delaying may have taken some time from us.  The dog mom guilt is thick right now, but it is reminding me of a truth I’m seeing a lot lately as Anders and I make steps to design a life of our choosing:

So often, we avoid doing something because of what it will cost us…in the present tense.  Fear of the unknown is paralyzing.  We’d rather put up with the beast we know and mumble “it is what it is” than risk everything we have for the chance of seeing what could be possible.  We fear losing it all so we end up stopping short of taking action.

But what about what you could possibly be passing up?

The life you could be living?
The dreams you could be achieving?

What if you come to the end of your life and all that you could have been is revealed to you?

Is that not more terrifying?

Is that not worth the risk?

Friends, I’ll get my debt paid off…but I’d much rather be in debt with dog breath here than out of debt with nothing but his memory.

So the next time you wonder what something will cost you to dive in, take the money aspect out of it.  Instead, ask yourself…what’s will it cost me if I don’t jump?


Hint: if you simultaneously want to pump your fists in the air as you let out a rebel yell AND pee your pants and hide…you’re on the right track. KEEP GOING.

Is your gut pointing you in a direction you’re afraid to follow?  Tell us about it in a comment!

Crushing Goals (Counterintuitively)

Crushing Goals (Counterintuitively)

Nothing about it made sense.  There I was, treading water in a sea of credit card debt, considering blowing my Christmas bonus on life-coaching (of all things!) instead of putting those extra funds towards that looming bill.

Isn’t this kind of behavior what got me in this mess to begin with?  Didn’t I realize that this was just another self-help gimmick? In what parallel universe would anyone consider (let alone find ways to rationalize) spending money as the answer to solving their debt problems?

Nothing about it made sense, and yet, as my current binge read by Andrew Sean Greer says it best:

The brain is a liar.

I knew my move.

When we find ourselves frustrated by the situation at hand, we often exasperatedly shout, “I’ve tried everything!” But do we ever call ourselves on that?  Have we really tried everything?  Have we ever sat down and made a list of everything we’ve tried, and then shown it to someone else just to prove it?

I hadn’t tried everything, and I was more inclined to give something new a shot than to give up all-together.

Eight months later, with the help of my (incredibly talented, rock-star-of-a) life coach, I started a new job, cut 100 miles and therefore the “long-distance” clause out of a two-year relationship, and am now only four payments away from kissing that credit card debt goodbye.  


I divulge all of this not to sell you on getting a life coach – though it helped me! – but rather to let you know that the parallel universe I mentioned exists, and that I got there in roundabout ways I never considered.

So just in case you feel like you’ve tried everything, let me share with you the rather counterintuitive ways I made progress towards my goals.

Expect Failure, Not Perfection

How often to have you set a goal, created a grand plan as to how you’re going to achieve it, and then had everything happen according to plan?

(It’s okay, I’m not raising my hand over here either.)


How many times have you spent a Sunday afternoon prepping healthy meals for yet another diet-starts-monday attempt, only to find yourself throwing half of that plan out the window because you overdid it at a working lunch on Tuesday, found yourself eating ice cream straight from the carton Thursday, and decided (once-again) to treat the upcoming Monday as a clean slate because you clearly failed to stick to the plan this week?

(It’s okay, I’ve lost count, too.)

Wait a minute. Clearly failed?  Are you sure?  Let’s assume you’re eating three meals a day, so 21 meals in a week, right?  If you only fell off plan the two times mentioned, that means you stuck to the plan 90% of the time.  Last time I checked, that an A- on the grading scale. Not bad at all, right? Yes, the calorie count of each overindulgence may matter a little more here than I’m implying. I realize it may not be perfect, but it’s progress, and progress of any kind is important when you’re trying to reach your goals.

Don’t Focus on Your Goal

Wait, what?  How am I going to reach my goal if I don’t focus on it?

Hear me out!

Let’s say you want to write a book.  A rather predictable plan to achieve this goal would be to write daily, right?  But what if writing a book wasn’t one of your goals, and you still had a daily behavior of writing?  At some point, whether you planned for it or not, you’d have a book on your hands.


I heard a man tell a story about how he found himself running a marathon, a daunting task that was never one of his goals.  It was a goal of his wife’s though, and in an effort to support her as she trained, he laced up his sneakers and ran with her.  Again, no goal to run a marathon himself, but he didn’t mind getting the exercise! Two weeks before the race, after all that training, his wife twisted her ankle.  Rather than let the registration fee go to waste, he ran it in her place. He was able to do this by focusing on the system in place for the goal, rather than the goal itself.

Let Go of How

Remember that debt goal I mentioned above?  I made a goal to pay it all off within the year, despite by current payment plan projecting that it would take up to four times as long.  Based on my timeline, I calculated the amount of additional income I would need to bring in each month, and then figured out how that translated into actionable work for my current side hustle.

Truth? Not once did I hit those additional income goals.

So how do I find myself in a position to still pay off my debt before the year is over? 

New job.
Not only did I find myself a job with a higher paying salary, but my former employer paid me out for my unused vacation days.  At first, while I was happy to discover I had the extra money to put towards my debt, it felt like I just got lucky. It didn’t feel like I had earned this newfound cash I could put towards my credit.  However, after shifting my mindset, I realized that I had earned it by working hard and not taking all that time off over the years.

New home.
My recent move forced me to downsize, and downsizing resulted in me selling about 75% of what I owned. (Side note: I don’t miss any of it.  Purging can be quite freeing like that.) Taking the long-distance out of my relationship with Anders saved me plenty of money on travel.  (Tolls alone for that 200 mile drive cost $24 round trip!)

Now, in the name of full disclosure, I’ll let you know that we are living together in his parents’ house…and that, once again, made me feel like I was cheating my way to achieving this no-debt goal.  I felt like I wasn’t truly earning it. But I was earning it, or more so, we were earning it.  Living together wasn’t a simple decision for us, and there were a number of fears we had to address.  It was going to require me leaving a job and city where I spent almost a decade establishing myself. We also had to roll up our sleeves and talk about some important things between us that we had yet to address.  (You know, be grown ups and what not.)

It was work.  It is still work, but we’ve found that doing the work not only has us content with the current living situation, but thoroughly happy.  And you know one of the upsides of being this kind of happy? You find the company you’re with fills your cup more than the lure of the classic money-spending traps. (Retail therapy, anyone?)

Oh, and I also got all of my security deposit back from the apartment I was renting…Cha-ching! Being a good tenant pays off!

New habits.
The measure of whether or not I’m on track to meet my debt goal is the bottom line in my bank account.  Makes sense, right? My means of helping that number grow was by putting more money in my account, but later I realized I was also helping that number grow by keeping more money in my account.  As a way to prepare for what our finances will look like when we live on our own, Anders and I have gotten into the habit of tracking everything we spend.  It’s brought some serious awareness to our habits, and that awareness has us saving a little more each month. Picking up a snack at the gas station or walking through the $1 Deals section at Target (my goodness, the voodoo at work there!) might not seem like it’s hurting your bottom line, but don’t underestimate the summation of these small purchases.  It’s referred to as the latte-factor, and these little things can add up to quite a latte…I mean, a lot.  By being more intentional with our spending, we are helping our bottom line to grow by keeping more money in our accounts.  I’m getting to my same goal, but in a different way.

In the end, my original plan to have my side-hustle pay down my debt didn’t have much of an impact on my goal. So why did all of this forward progress still happen?

Because you get out of this world what you put into it.


If you declare you are ready for a change, and then show up to do the work, in one way or another, each day to make that change, the Universe (God, Forces of Nature, whatever you want to call it) will have your back.

Yes, maybe that sounds a little woo-woo, but if what you’re currently doing isn’t working, maybe a little woo-woo would do you some good.

Letting go of how you are going to get there keeps you open to possibilities you may have initially written off.  What if it isn’t about Plan A or Plan B. What if it’s about Plan A, B, and Q that you had never even considered.

Either it’ll work, or it won’t…but that’s life, right?

If you try any of these counterintuitive approaches, let me know the result in a comment below!

3 Pros & Cons of Shopping at Thrift Stores

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After a recent visit to the local Value Village, Anders and I were both blown away by the number of quality pieces we came home with for very little cost.  

I know people who swear by thrift store shopping, and others who turn their nose up at it. For me, quality is the name of the game. I’m also very aware of the old adage “The cheap man pays twice.”  That being said, if I can find something of quality at a cheap price…? Yeah, this girl is gonna snatch that up in a heartbeat. BUT…only if it’s something I could actually use.

“The cheap man pays twice.”

This is all part of my inner dialogue when shopping at thrift stores, and one of the many reasons why I fall somewhere in the middle with my enthusiasm for them. But rather than keep the rest of those reasons to myself, I’ve detailed them for you below.  

From my own experience, here are 3 pros and cons of shopping at thrift stores.

PRO #1:

Deep Discounts

Obvious.  This Coldwater Creek shirt (which I am socking away for a Christmas gift) was only $7.  A similar shirt is listed on their website on sale for $24.95, down from an original price of $49.95.  That’s over 85% off original price!

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Listen, if you can pay (or choose to pay) nearly $50 on a thin t-shirt like shirt, go for it…but I feel much better spending less than $10 if possible.  And with a quality brand name like this? This shirt was a real steal.

All in all we took home six items in this haul for a grand total of $31.25.  This included the shirt listed above, as well as two brand name mens dress shirts: one from Banana Republic and the other from Brooks Brothers. BOOM.

*Bonus Pro from Anders: “I really like shopping for dress shirts at thrift stores because you don’t have to go through as much hassle as department stores to try them on. I hate spending the time taking a shirt out of the package and removing all of those push pins only to find that the shirt doesn’t fit anyway.”

E7AD7016-A0A9-43E9-88C2-7D9BAAD4EB7ACON #1:

The Skeeze Factor

We all have our limits, so this is personal for everyone.  For example: Anders has a thing about second-hand shoes, so you won’t find him bringing those up to the checkout line.  For others, it might be hats (for good reason).  And while growing up with all brothers leaves little room for anything to gross me out, I doubt I’d ever be able to buy pre-loved undergarments.  (Yes, it’s a thing.)

PRO #2:

Rare Gems

There was a girl in my high school that always had the coolest shoes.  They weren’t some well-known brand name, nor did they look like anything I had ever seen before.  They were bold, funky, and one-of-a-kind. We all thought they were from an artsy downtown boutique, but it turned out that she often got them from our local discount store, Gabriel Brother’s.  

If you are patient (see con below), you might be able to find some cool, exclusive finds.  Worried of showing up at the party wearing the same thing as someone else? Forget splurging on something custom-made and go digging at a thrift store.  Talk about buried treasure.

But hey, this doesn’t just pertain to your wardrobe! Need to spruce up the home? If you’re cool with a mismatch of unique pieces, you can sometimes find some good quality furniture at thrift stores, too.  Furthermore, if you’re handy, you can fix up a piece of furniture to make it look the way you want. And if you’re not handy? Give it a go anyway! If it doesn’t pan out, at least your initial costs were low, right?

CON #2:

Digging Takes Time

Yes, we scored big this time around, but it wasn’t a quick stop.  Finding a diamond in the rough can sometimes be…well…rough. Furthermore, it’s not like this everytime we go.  Sometimes you win some. Sometimes you lose some. Better to not go into it thinking you’re going to find something.  Hey, low expectations mind leave you pleasantly surprised! (Or not.)

PRO #3:

Purge Perks

Many thrift stores will accept donations, and then reward you for them.  Some will offer you discount coupons to use in store. Others like Plato’s Closet or Uptown Cheapskate may actually buy some of your items from you.  Give your local store a call occasionally to see what kind of brands and items they are looking to acquire.  It might be a great way to make some extra cash when purging your closet.

CON #3:

Getting Suckered Into a Sale

YOU GUYS.  I’ve fallen for this trap for most of my money-spending life.  I’ll justify buying something simply because I’m getting a good deal on it, NOT because it’s actually something I need. Buyer beware, friends.  Buyer beware.


This last one really hits home for me, and as I’m making an effort to be more financially fit, it’s become a major area of growth.  For some bonus material, here are a few tips to keep you from getting suckered into the sale trap:

Fight against the impulse by asking the right questions, and go beyond the common Do I need this? question.

Truthfully, you probably don’t, but there’s a fine line between hard core save mode and limiting yourself from enjoying the fruits of your labor.  If you’re going to treat yourself, better it be with a cheap (yet worthwhile) purchase than an extravagant one, yes? Otherwise, in my experience, if I limit myself too much I later find myself surrounded by shopping bags and packages wondering what the hell happened.

And let’s be real – you can likely justify a reason for buying anything if you really want it, right?

Me, too.  So instead, try asking yourself some of these questions:

  • Do I have anything like this currently in my closet?
  • How many different items can I pair this with?
  • Can this work for both day and night? Work and play?
  • If I saw a friend wearing this, would I compliment them on it or ask them where they got it?

Other tips:

  • Have a rule where you can only add an item to your closet if you evict something else.
  • Try it on and ask someone for their honest opinion.  If you partner doesn’t love it on you, maybe put it aside.  
  • If you’re partner isn’t the best at giving you their honest opinion (either because they’re indifferent, swear everything looks fabulous on you, or are afraid to say the truth), ask a stranger by the dressing room.  Not being emotionally invested in a relationship with you may allow them to give a more real response.

What are your thoughts on thrift store shopping?  Do you ever find yourself in any of the situations I mentioned?  We’d love to hear about them in a comment below! Bonus points if you drop your favorite places to bargain shop!

Sporting one of my thrift store finds ($3!) while talking a stroll around Baltimore with Anders.

The Backstory


Welcome to The Penny Drop!  We are Anders and Meghan, partners in crime against society’s rules, ‘the box’, and working hard to make a living at the expense of missing life.  Nope. We just won’t stand for it.

Our blog got it’s name from an informal phrase used primarily in the UK; in a nutshell, to say that “the penny dropped” is another way to say something was suddenly realized.

“She looked confused for a moment, then suddenly the penny dropped.”

That couldn’t more perfectly describe the a-ha moment that happened to us.  We were brought up to believe there was really only one way to “successfully” go through life:

  1. graduate from college
  2. get a good job
  3. work really hard for 40+ years
  4. retire
  5. die

What’s that?  This sounds eerily familiar?

Anders and I have had very different experiences thus far in the working world – which I will share about in a later post and then link back here – but we’ve both come to realize that we don’t want to be tied to a job out of necessity.  This is not to say that we hate our jobs – not true at all! – but rather that we would like to have the option: the option to take a trip at a moments notice; the option to be present for future tee-ball games and dance recitals; the option to be able to move miles away to take care of sick loved ones if need be…all without worrying about where that next paycheck is coming from.

So with that, financial independence became our goal.

Let us be clear – we are not money hungry.  We don’t want a mansion in the hills or a different car for each day of the week.  We aren’t on a quest to be rich, but rather to be wealthy.

What’s the difference?

The way we see it, being rich is about having money, but being wealthy?  Being wealthy is about having time.


This used to be just silly talk.  We used to think there was no way – that the world just didn’t work that way.  A pipe dream.  Our heads in the clouds.  You name it.  But then we got hip to others, some even younger than us, who have learned how to make their money work for them as opposed to the other way around.

And that’s when the penny dropped.

Why can’t we do this?  Why can’t we create the life we want?  Who says we have to do things the way generations have done so before us?  Who makes these rules?

You guessed it: we do.

We’ve been doing a lot (A LOT) of research and prep work, and as we make our next move in this process, we thought it was only fair to share what we feel is vital information someone should’ve taught us years ago.  So we invite you to follow along with our journey, learn from our mistakes, and hopefully become inspired to put aside making a living in an effort to make the life you want.

Stay tuned!