Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Makeover 1: Finances

Even though my life isn't currently a hot mess, I feel there's always room for improvement. So in this new year, I'll be focusing on several areas and figuring out practical ways to make them better. Feel free to chime in with what's worked (or not) for you.

First up: money.

I'm not really a big spender. My friends can attest to how much I hate shopping for clothes and shoes, but I am wasteful in other ways: paying way too much for services I rarely use (I detest you, Cablevision), buying produce and constantly letting them go bad, eating out instead of turning on the stove (there goes another useless utility), impulse buys here and there, etc. When I started working at the magazine, I saved every cent I could from my entry level salary and accumulated $5,000 in four months' time. That money was untouchable. Then I used it to move out of my parents' home and never put another dime back in. I wasn't struggling, but I was making just enough to be comfortable without leaving much cushioning. I was doggy paddling from month to month hoping nothing major would drown me out the blue.

And then I got laid off. No more guaranteed paychecks, no more health insurance and surely not enough in my savings account to hold me over for too long (aim for at least three months' worth of living expenses, guys). Before, I'd balance my checkbook several times a week. Nowadays I practice a little thing called "Ignore it and pray." Changes surely need to happen if I'm going to make it through this stretch.

Enter A. - a recovering consumer - and his recent post on 8 Habits for Reclaiming Your Finances and Your Life. The man temporarily lost his job early last year and used that experience to give his expensive habits a major overhaul. He even went ahead and sold most of his crap! (If you knew what hoarder I am, you'd understand why this was shocking to me.) I like my stuff. I never use most of it, but I always think, "Someday I'm going to have a question and the answer will lie in page 49 of that dusty book I haven't opened in five years." I mean really.

But now I'm tempted to sell some of these Things (my shelf currently holds 173 books), just suck it up and get rid of Useless Expenses and keep track of where my money goes (A. suggests Mint.com). I really need to minimize and lessen so that the little money trickling in can last as long as possible. Then I can focus on generating more income and bulking up that savings account once again.

Image: uwe.ac.uk

14 comments:

  1. I hope things are able to turn around for you soon. Good luck in the process.

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  2. I swear, when I ever get a job again, I'm setting it up so that $20 a week goes directly into my savings account. Automatically.

    I'm already a bit of a tightwad, but I know I could have saved up a lot more while I was employed.

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  3. I also decided to give the finances an overhaul. My issue? I AM a spender. Coffee, new shoes, cute shirt, iTunes, etc. While I may be a clearance rack shopper, I also am guilty of spending too much. My plan? Not to spend any money in 2010 on anything new! Big task? Yes. But I need to do it because I too am guilty of "turn a blind eye and pray" on the check book.

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  4. You need to seriously think about what's worth keeping, and what's not. Yes, the items you get rid of may come in handy "one day" but if you kept everything that "might" come in handy "one day" then you wouldn't be able to move for junk. Think about it... If you get rid of a few of those items that are just gathering dust, then it may give you a bit of money, will give you a bit of space, and may provide someone else with something they've been trying to find for who knows how long. Look at it that way, and maybe it wont be so hard to clear out the clutter. :)

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  5. I'll buy anything you're selling for free, thanks.

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  6. Looks like A. is good for you in a lot of ways... :)

    Hope you make your deadline today!

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  7. This is something I'm really working on too. I created a budgeting spreadsheet that I'm trying to keep updated. I haven't made any changes to my spending yet, but I'm using this first month to see exactly where my money goes so that I can determine what needs to change.

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  8. I'm right there with you! Without a steady paycheck it can be stressful, but I am hopeful and think things are going to get better soon.

    For me, getting laid off has given me time to travel. I think you will find some good in the situation and then hopefully we will all go back to work (soon)! I can't wait.

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  9. Thank you for sharing. Also you may wish to check out my 'Best 25 Blogs of 2009' here: http://www.cricketwife.com/2010/01/25-best-blogs-of-2009-part-1.html

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  10. I second Mint.com, it's a really great program. I probably don't use it to its full potential though...

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  11. Yup, I thought of you because I remembered you'd used it last year!

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  12. If I haven't used it in a year, it is out of here... unless of course it has sentimental value lol. And looking around my overcrowded place, I'd say there is a lot of sentimental value going on! Good luck with your story.

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  13. I really hope that you are successful. It's so stressful to be worried about money, and I should know. I've spent most of my "adult" life doing it. Just when you think you're making headway...BAM. You get hit with SOMEthing.

    I've learned how to cut some corners, but having a hard time letting go of others (tv, for example). I love my sports too much. :(

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  14. I wish there was something I could suggest. However, I'm a 3rd generation (at least) horder and I'm married to a horder who's ancestors were the same way. The worst of the bunch being his mother. We live ok, but really do spend beyond what we should but we could never part with a single thing if we tried because you never know when you're gonna need that one item you're giving up!

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