When a move to the big city took Nicole W away from a life of big cat conservation, she felt that something was missing. She decided to start a Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) program to help control the population of feral cats in Brooklyn. Nicole uses Simple to take the worry out of managing her finances so she can devote her time to doing what she loves: helping the city’s unloved pets. Here’s how she saves money (and kittens).
All creatures great and small
Animals have always been a huge part of Nicole’s life. At a young age, she could often be found collecting frogs from swamps, and was working at a petting zoo by the time she reached high school. Nicole was drawn to study pre-veterinary medicine at college, but after attending a lecture on animal conservation, she shifted focus. For six years, she organized animal conservation meetings around the world for the Wildlife Conservation Society and Panthera. She has fought to save lions in South Africa, tigers in Indonesia, jaguars in Panama, and more.
After a while, organizing projects and meetings began to make Nicole feel separated from the conservation work itself, so she made the decision to pursue another passion. She opened a roller skate shop in New York City, and redirected her energy toward her sports team, Gotham Girls Roller Derby.
Moving away from a career—and a guaranteed paycheck—to set up a retail business is a daunting process, one that Nicole admits had an impact on her finances. Looking back, she doesn’t regret her choice.
“There was a time when I was making more money, and I remember not having to worry about where everything was going. Now that I don’t make as much as I used to, I feel like I have to work harder at my finances.”
A purrfect work/life balance
Nicole refocused her energy on skating, but looking after animals was never far from her mind. When a downstairs apartment became available in her building, Nicole, her partner, and their brood of pets took over the space, which included a yard. This new space opened up a new opportunity for Nicole, and she seized it.
“One day, I was visiting my local pet store during a cat adoption event. The people there were about to go cat trapping for a TNR [trap, neuter, return] program. I was already certified in TNR, so I went along for the ride. I decided to put a shelter for cats to use in our backyard, and that’s when neighborhood cats started to visit.”
While the main goal of TNR is to reduce breeding, it can also help reduce spraying and fighting. Stray cats also help with a city’s rat problem. “I’ve never seen a rat on my street,” says Nicole. “In urban environments, that’s their biggest advantage.”
While there are no financial rewards for running a TNR project, Nicole says the initiative has given her a new lease on life.
“TNR was everything I wanted out of my old life in conservation. Doing TNR is really satisfying because I feel like I’m the one making the impact on the ground, while still being able to live an urban life that I’m enjoying. It filled a void that I didn’t even realize I had.”
Between running a skate shop, playing a sport, and running her TNR program, Nicole doesn’t have a lot of spare time, or money. That’s why she uses Simple to manage her finances. Here’s how she uses Goals and Safe-to-Spend to live a fulfilling life while trying to make it in an expensive city.
1. Understanding costs
Nicole uses Goals and Safe-to-Spend to track her expenditure.
“For a long time, I kept track of my money on spreadsheets, and had to remember that certain money in my account was set aside. In my Simple account, it’s easy and helpful to separate out my money for different purposes.”
2. Goal setting (and forgetting)
Nicole and her partner are saving for a house by paying lump sums into a Simple Goal. Nicole says they’ve changed their money mindset to avoid temptation. They now pretend the money doesn’t exist at all.
“I’ve been taking any extra income and putting it straight into the house-fund. I’m at a point where I don’t know how much I have in the house fund right now, because I don’t look at it.”
Set a Goal for a down payment here.
3. Making room for emergencies
Nicole highly recommends keeping an emergency fund, especially after she found herself in a tight spot with her dog Freddie, who needed emergency back surgery last year.
“We were really lucky, because a crowdfund was organized for us to help us pay for the surgery. Thankfully, we’re now in a position where if Freddie needed surgery again, we could dip into our savings.”
Nicole’s story is a good reminder that financial emergencies can happen at any time.
“If there aren’t savings there to pay the balance, it’s going to go on your credit card,” she says. “Then, you’re going to carry a balance, and it can get away from you from there.”
Set your own emergency fund Goal here.
4. Working hard, and doing what you love
Nicole often finds herself busy with the shop, sport and TNR—three projects that she often does more for love than money. While it can be time consuming, she knows that she has to work hard to keep all three projects working for her.
“I know I have to be mindful with my money, and I’ve found Goals to be really helpful with that. And if I ever get the chance to talk about finances with my friends, I suggest Simple as a good option, because it has made such a big difference in my life.”
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