A Me Update

I haven’t done one of these posts lately and since I’ve been a bit lax in posting last week I figured it would make sense for me to give an update to my readers. Over the past couple weeks things at work have gotten really busy and some big new projects have landed. Since it’s my job to make sure they’re planned out and resourced I’ve in turn been busy myself. This is going to be the way that it is for the next couple months most likely but the good thing is that its good for the company and I believe I’m going to receive some additional compensation for this.

Other than that because I’ve been so busy at work I haven’t had the opportunity to spend nearly as much money as I normally do on food and going out which means that I’m saving some money (or at least paying down the debt a bit). If I manage to keep this up for the few months before the wedding I think I’ll be in pretty good shape once it comes around. Though I did spend a $100 on a pair of shoes yesterday, I know, extremely expensive but I’ve been having such a hard time finding a decent pair of shoes for a reasonable price that it was simply time to buy a pair. The good thing is I did buy these at one of the cheaper stores; its too bad Payless Shoes around us have been useless when it comes to men’s shoes.

I’ve been busy lately which means I’m going to be taking a slightly different approach to writing for the site, I’m going to take an hour or two when I get home tonight to write a few posts to get a bit ahead of myself so I don’t miss posting days. Not the most glamorous approach but otherwise these posts might end up nothing more than ideas on paper.

Wish me luck with all of this extra work!

[tags]Me Update, Work[/tags]

Big Results = Time + A Little Effort!

From the title of this post you would think I’m going to talk about compound interest but I’m not! It’s the same idea or at least a similar one with one small twist; it not only applies to how quickly your money grows but to everything. A little bit of effort continued over a long period of time will make a dramatic result. The reason I wanted to write about this is I’ve been seeing the results of this at home. I’m not a neat freak by any stretch of the imagination but I’ve been making an effort to keep the kitchen clean. Initially I was spending maybe 15-20 minutes in the mornings cleaning up but this small effort has been kept up and now that 15-20 minutes is spread over the length of the day and not only is the kitchen regularly spotless other parts of the house have started staying cleaner for longer periods of time. You might think it’s a good thing that I’m cleaning up after myself and staying tidy but the effects go far beyond that. Since I’m not a neat freak having a few things on the dining room table doesn’t bother me but the general tidiness that has crept into the place has had a very calming effect. I’m no longer stressed out about having to clean and tidy up when things get a bit messy.

It’s a small effort that I’ve been doing but the effects have spread and the lack of stress when it does get a bit messy are gone. Suddenly I have one less thing that can add to the general stress of the day. It got me thinking what if I was to make a similar small effort in other areas of my life? What would the results be? Being that I’m a bit of a numbers person I decided to do the math. If I were to spend 30 minuets a day on something that I haven’t had time to get to because of the daunting size of the task where would I be in a year? Very quickly 30 minutes a day translates to almost 23 8/hour days. That’s like spending 4.5 work weeks on something. I instantly translated this to spending it on leaning something, if I were to spend 4 weeks at work learning how to manage my money or invest or even buy real estate I would have a basic understanding of the topic. By no stretch of the imagination would I be an expert but I would know what I’m talking about. This is the entire idea that I’ve stumbled upon.

The little things make a huge difference over time, just like compound interest they add up very quickly to a huge amount. Even if that 30 minutes per day was spent at the gym I think the benefits over a year would be staggering. Which makes me questions why I haven’t applied this theory before? Well it’s just so easy to watch TV for half an hour rather than read a book on investing. Now don’t get me wrong there’s nothing with watching TV to relax and chill out after a long day but spending even that extra 30 minutes a day on something that’s important will translate into dramatic results.

This also holds true when it comes to saving money which is what all the investment books say, start setting aside money it’ll make a big difference when you’re ready to retire. Setting aside $25 per week doesn’t amount to much in one month and not a fortune over a year (only $1300) but put that amount over 25 years and you’re all of a sudden looking at a significant number (and this is without any form of interest). For those of you who like to crunch numbers imagine if you were setting aside more since $25/week isn’t a lot of you’re making a decent wage; imagine what it would be if you set aside $100/week over 25 years? Now add interest! That’s the monetary example of what something as simple as 30 minutes a day applied to a task will result in.

If you look at more things from the small point of view and break them down they’re much less daunting and all of a sudden achievable. I think that this little, pardon the pun, discovery is something I’m going to start applying a bit more in my life; I think it’ll produce big results.

[tags]effort, results, money, impact, personal growth[/tags]

March Break

Most of us will fondly remember the days in March where we didn’t have school for a whole week and could do whatever we pleased. This week off is something of an institution in North America which I believe dates back to times when children would be needed in the fields at this time of year. I don’t know the history of the week off but it occurs for many of us most from about the age of 5 till we’re in our early 20’s in some way shape or form. The funny thing is it doesn’t occur at the same time for everyone though I believe that this week is when a significant majority of people have it.

What does March Break mean to parents? Costs, headaches, stress and often time for a family vacation; regardless if I were a parent I would dread this time of year to a certain extent because of the extra costs associated with it. Being a parent comes with a lot of responsibility and part of that is covered off by our children going to school. When they’re not in school we need to keep them occupied and supervised (or taken care of). Daycares and babysitters must be enjoying the week because of the increased revenue.

Needless to say because this week off is such an institution I don’t think it’s going away any time soon (think canceling Christmas – kind of hard to do). So do we plan for this week where vacations to Disneyland are a staple for many? I would say a lot of us don’t and seeing all of the potential costs and stress associated with ensuring the best for our children would definitely make me plan for this week all year long. The extra costs for babysitters or even driving the kids to the grandparents for the week would be very much on my mind from Christmas on.

I’m still baffled by why we need this week off? University students have reading week or spring break (often in February) and they can use this time to get caught up in their homework and assignments; but high school and grade school children? I don’t know if I could justify the collective costs associated with this. But then again this is just my opinion.

[tags]march break, costs, vacation[/tags]

Writer Un-Blocked

A couple days ago I posted saying I was suffering from a bout of writers block and I’m now over this. And what managed to get me out of my writing funk was sitting down with a beer at a restaurant having some lunch. Not what you would normally expect to solve a writing problem but what I did during that lunch is to start writing out anything and everything that I could come up with regards to writers block.

The moment I started to write down some ideas it was as if the floodgates had been opened. I could barely scribble down my ideas fast enough. So this morning as I was sitting down to write this post I decided to do a bit of research to see what the web had to say about writers block and the definition on wikipedia even offered some suggestions on how to get over it. As it turns out by going and making some notes as I was having a beer was partially one of the solutions that were suggested (writing someplace different).

This whole little episode lead me to thinking how much do our regular routines hamper us in our every day lives. I would guess that most of us look at our finances in exactly same way – what would happen if we stopped with our regular routines and try a fresh approach? I don’t know if this would make a huge impact to me or my finances but I think it might be a good approach try thinking outside of the box and see what ideas come out.

[tags]writing, writers block[/tags]

Writers Block

I have this very distinct urge to write but unfortunately the only thing coming out of my brain this morning is static. Maybe it’s the time change that is sending my brain into all sorts of fuzzy conniptions. I apologize that there’s no personal finance related post but nothing seems to be coming out of my brain today.

Hopefully something will inspire me later on in the morning.

Luxury Goods

I was thinking about luxury goods this morning as a couple really nice cars drove by as I was having a smoke (yes I know I should really be finished with this by now) and it struck me: When is it a good time to start buying some of the finer things in life? This is a completely loaded question since the answer in my opinion is all time within reason. I am a firm believer of treating yourself once in a while as long as it’s not going to be putting you into debt. I know there are some Personal Finance bloggers who will read this and want to scream at me and they are right to some extent. My argument isn’t that you should run out and buy the Porsche that you’ve been eyeing your whole life but for the smaller things, the little luxury items such as a nice dinner once in a while.

If you go through life without any niceties then you really have nothing to look forward to which is why I like the idea of making sure you treat yourself. I like the idea because it gives me motivation, it motivates me by letting me partake in an activity or buying an item that lets me see what it would be like if I had more money. A fancy dinner every two or three months lets me enjoy the ‘good life’ that I would like to have more frequently if I had the money. This doesn’t mean that I want to go out and have this type of dinner every day but there is a certain lifestyle that goes with being able to do this and that both motivates me and rewards all of the small sacrifices that I do each day to get myself out of debt.

Most people take vacations about once a year, even mentioning the word vacation will bring thoughts of palm trees or ski resorts to many people’s minds. This is exactly the type of reward I’m thinking of (but on a smaller scale). The same list of people that take these vacations contains lots of people who can’t afford that vacation but they would be able to afford going out to dinner once in a while. It gives you a break from the life that you have and lets you enjoy yourself as it you had the extra money just begging to be spent.

When it comes down to it we all have to be able to enjoy our lives, to have fun and to be able to say we lived. The idea of being forced to eat Mr. Noodles watching TV every day for 20 years because we’ve got a mortgage that we can’t afford makes me shudder. Don’t forget to live, the small luxury goods remind me that I’ll be able to do more of this when I get out of debt and really start going after acquiring wealth.

[tags]luxury goods, spending money, life[/tags]

Do you talk about money?

When you’re with your family and friends do you talk about money? This is a topic that is often considered taboo like religion and politics because of the emotions it invokes. People will get either fired up about the conversation or they’ll get scared, defensive and hide in their own shells so to speak. I know that talking about money and your financial situation isn’t an easy topic for everyone. It’s also not a topic you should be conversing about with everyone but it is an important one when it comes to the people your finances impact. We’ve been conditioned to not talk about money in any situation and that it’s a bad thing and that only greedy people talk about money.

I try to talk about money with my fiancé when it’s important. I say try because I’m not the only person in that conversation and sometimes hearing what the other person has to say takes me out of my comfort zone and this isn’t something I’m used to (hence the comfort zone).

I think conversations about money are that much harder when you don’t have enough of it around. When you’re struggling with money and specifically the lack of money talking to your significant other or some friends might help you find some possible solutions rather than force you to carry the burden on your own.

Talking about your financial situation in general is both hard and important at the same time. Even if you have a very liberal view of the topic and are comfortable talking about it the other person you’re talking to might not and might not take the conversation anywhere. I know my parents rarely talked about money and I saw them argue about the topic when in reality there wasn’t ever any need to fight over it.

[tags]money, conversations[/tags]

Communication: The Importance of Listening

I’ve been reading a book called Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott and one of the things that this book made me think about is the importance of listening. When you have a conversation with someone do you listen, do you really listen? I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I don’t listen nearly as well as I could. I’ve noticed myself doing a bunch of things that weren’t very conducive to a good conversation such a trying to get my points in, steering the conversation to something I want to talk about, or just letting my mind wander (what’s for dinner might be important but not necessarily at the time of the conversation). The net result is I’m often hearing the words but not the message that they carry; I’m not really listening.

Listening, actively listening is something that I don’t think happens nearly enough. I’ve started listening more since I began reading this book and I’ve discovered many things both about myself and about the conversations around. For example I’ve discovered a few things at work where people are unhappy with items of the environment but they were afraid to say anything. Until it became aware that people were listening, and I mean really listening, they weren’t willing to bring the subject up. Now that I know about these issues I can keep the conversation going as well as try addressing them. Listening will make the work environment much better for these people as well as indirectly for the whole team, where can it help you?

By taking the time to listen you can catch more of what’s being said and you can slow the talking down making sure that everyone understands each other and pays attention. I’ve noticed a few things about what I do in conversations because I slowed down to listen: I want my point out, I want people to listen to me just to name a couple. Really stopping and paying attention to the other person can often times be hard. But making that effort is important in my opinion because you start hearing what the other person is saying, sometimes these things are crucial and I’ve discovered these things at the office and at home. Making some small adjustments can solve problems before they become big. And by far the biggest benefit to really listening: People will appreciate it and take the time to listen to you more as a result so you can be heard when you have something important to say.

[tags]conversation, listening, importance of listening[/tags]

March Goals

March Goals

I think I’m back on track mentally to start saving some money and getting myself out of debt and I’m going to set my March goals to try reflecting this a bit more. The biggest challenge for me right now is going to be making sure I question my purchases not with can I afford this but why am I spending this money, do I need this? So without further adieu here are my goals for the month of March:

March Goals

  • Pay all my bills on time and get everything caught up
  • Start automating my bills (and see if it’s possible to get them to line up to my pays)
  • No credit card usage (other than for the wedding)
  • Increase my net worth by 5% (to $12,415.32)
  • Start an emergency fund (using an online bank)
  • Review sources of possible extra income
  • Pack a Lunch 3-4 times per week
  • Eat breakfast at home 5 times a week
  • Start tracking my expenses again
  • Ask myself why before every purchase, make sure its for the right reason

The list is slightly different than my usual list but not by too much. I think this set of goals is completely achievable and if I start tracking my spending in detail again I can single out and reduce expenses that are there for wrong reasons. Wish me luck folks.

[tags]goals, monthly goals, planning, money, finances[/tags]

February Assessment

Well I took a really long hard look at my spending habits this month including the how’s and more importantly the why’s my spending. The results were a bit scary for me since I saw a bit behind the senseless spending that I’ve done in the past and now I’m trying to move past it. I pulled some of my mutual funds in an effort to get ahead and start being smarter about my spending. I thought this would have a drastic impact on my net worth but in the end it really didn’t because I got an updated statement regarding the value of my pension fund.

The biggest impact this month will have will be in my goals over the next few months and in my spending. I have needed to be more careful about this for nearly as long as I remember, now there are no excuses. Here are my February goals and the results

February Goals

  • Get my net worth over $10,500
  • Get both my credit cards below their limit
  • Don’t use my credit cards at all (unless I need one for ebay to sell stuff)
  • Pay all my bills on time
  • Get my finances in order finally and start planning ahead a bit rather than struggle from pay to pay
  • Set up some realistic goals for the next couple months/quarter
  • Finally start selling some stuff on eBay
  • Start tracking all of my expenses again

February Results

  • Net worth is up to $11,824.11
  • Both cards are below their limits
  • Used one of the cards sparingly but still used it
  • Got caught up on most of my bills – there’s still a couple out there
  • Spent time thinking about my spending habits and I think it’ll help me in my overall finances as a result
  • Have some goals in place for March that should be achievable
  • Reviewed what selling some stuff on eBay might net me and it wasn’t worth the hassle
  • Haven’t started tracking my expenses yet though I think I’ll add it to my March goals

Net worth

Assets
Mutual Funds $543.83
Cash $310.32
Stocks $729.53
Car(approx value) $9,000
Boat(approx value) $3,500
Pension Fund $39,500
Total Assets: $53,039.85
Liabilities
Credit Card #1 $6,436.71
Credit Card #2 $4543.93
Line of Credit $15,103.10
Car Loan $13,844.86
Overdraft $1,287.14
Total Liabilities $41,215.74
Net Worth $11,824.11

I’m not happy that I no longer have as much money in my mutual funds but getting caught up on my bills was far more important in my opinion. I think the little exercise I went through to help understand why I spend money the way I do really opened up my eyes and now I can affect some change and start forcing myself to think about my spending honestly.

[tags]net worth, monthly planning, goals, accomplishments[/tags]