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.