The Devil is in the Details

I’m sure that most of you are familiar with that saying, it’s one of the things that I’ve noticed in the past couple weeks is that it isn’t the big tasks that take up the most time but the little small ones. When it comes to work making sure that the details are worked out is what takes up the most time and these things are the little tweaks.

When it comes to personal finances I don’t think this differs very much. We can get an idea of where our money is at and how we’re budgeting it but we don’t bother with the little details. I think this is where a lot of people’s budgets break down and I know it’s where mine has in the past. To give you an idea how quickly a budget can break down in the details is imagine that you planned to spend $100 for food in a week and you thought you could make it work. Unfortunately you forgot to pack your lunch 2 days in the week (something that can happen when you’re busy) and you buy lunch at the food court twice for $5. Now if you’re not hurting for money you won’t notice the $10 that just left your wallet but the problem is that little detail that you overlooked was 10% of your budget.

The real devil in the details comes up not with the bigger items such as eating out but in how much we spend on groceries. The brands, sales and quantities of products can change our shopping amount drastically. Add these little changes over time, include the unnecessary little expenses and this is where the details can make or break our budgets.

I’ve always been blown away by how much money gets spent not in the $20 chunks but in the $1-2 variety. You don’t think about the small ones nearly as much as you would the big ones. As an experiment try to track all of your spending over the course of a month. A spreadsheet or some form of money manager software works great for this. First off unless you’re already frugal and good with your money this exercise is a challenge, but when you see the results you might be surprised.

The last time I tracked every penny I spent I was shocked by where my money went and I think its about time to start that experiment again. I challenge my readers to try it for a month, are you as good as you think you are at controlling your spending? Once you’ve had a chance to do this and you stick with tracking your money you can budget more accurately by keeping the details of your spending in mind.

[tags]money, spending, personal finance, budget, budgeting[/tags]

The Work-Life Balance

If I were writing this post exclusively about myself I would have to title it the work-life imbalance. For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while I’m sure you’ve noticed my posts haven’t been as regular as they used to be. Why is this? Well the reality here is that my work-life balance has fallen way off the deep end into the work. I don’t like this and I’m taking some steps to correct this. But the idea of this post came to me a few days ago in that when the work-life balance becomes completely imbalanced you start loosing the flavor of life and replace it with stress.

If you concentrate on work for say 70,80, or even 90 hours a week like some people do you might make a small fortune because you’re probably quite successful at what you do. Unfortunately you won’t have time for anything other than work! You live, eat, sleep and breath work. Now don’t get me wrong there are times when something like this is important and you need to do it but this should be the exception rather than the norm.

My definition of the work-life balance is pretty simple it’s the balance between the amount of time you spend on making money working and everything else in your life. You need time to enjoy and spend time with your friends and loved ones as well as time on things like hobbies and yourself. When you don’t do anything other than work you don’t have time to stay current with your hobbies and activities and you begin to resent the fact that you can’t do anything about it (at least I do).

Our lives are complex things that force us and push us into all sorts of different roles and if any one of them starts to monopolize out time we intrinsically know that something is off. Personally I’ve gotten to this point and I don’t like being here; it’s starting to impact all my other roles along with the role that’s taking most of my time. Its starting to feel like I’m spinning my wheels but not getting anywhere which is nothing but a recipe for insanity. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is how I’ve heard insanity defined.

Since this is a personal finance blog I also wanted to tie this post into the cost impact and although a work-life imbalance doesn’t look like it would have too much of a financial impact it does. You become stressed and for as much as we’d all like to deny it the moment we’re stressed we end up spending more money in general. We look for shortcuts and ways to relieve this stress and bring balance back.

[tags]work,work-life balance, stress[/tags]

I’m the Blog of the Week!

Its official I’m the blog of the week at AllFinancialMatters! Thank you very much JLP! His site was one of the first that I ever went on when I started into the world of Personal Finance and still one of the best. A real post tomorrow about the work life balance which I haven’t been keeping in balance lately.

5 Obsessions – I’ve been Tagged

Over at We’re In Debt they got tagged to write 5 things they’re Obsessed with and low and behold they tagged yours truly. I’m just glad this happened recently! And without further chatter, here are 5 things I’m obsessed with:

  1. Money – I’ve always liked money and numbers from the time I was a little kid, not entirely sure why, maybe because we didn’t have a lot at the time. I just like it – not I just have to get more of it.
  2. Blog Stats – I’ve got to agree with JLP over at All Financial Matters, I check my blog stats way too often
  3. Sudoku Puzzles – I like the challenge, they’re fun
  4. Email – This one applies mostly to work, I always make sure to reply to my emails as quickly as possible to the point where I let them distract me from doing my job. I hope my boss doesn’t stumble into here 🙂
  5. My Computers – Only child, don’t like people touching my stuff and that goes mainly to my computers. It’s taken a while to let my fiancé use my computer without wanting to see what she’s doing.

And now for the fun part, I get to tag a few other bloggers out there. I’m tagging :Blogging Away Debt, No Limit Ladies, Medicated Money, and 2 Million

Goals Update

One of the things I wanted to look at when I started writing again was reviewing the goals I had set for myself at the beginning of the year. And needless to say I haven’t been very good with keeping on top of them in fact I’ve been pretty dreadful. On that note I’ve been concentrating on work a lot these past few months and whatever time was left over went to the wedding and just de-stressing a bit. I’m starting to write more regularily again or at least I’m planning to so I think I need to get everything else in order as well starting with these goals.

So here’s my assessment/status of my goals:

Goal #1 – save $7,000 for the wedding – I haven’t managed to save the money but I did manage to get the money either given to me or promised by parents so the wedding will be covered. I was hoping that I’d be able to bring this in without resorting to handouts but there are times when that simply isn’t possible.

Goal #2 – Save about $4,000 for the honeymoon – this one simply didn’t happen at all. We’re still taking our honeymoon but we’re putting it on credit cards and going to use the gifts from the wedding to cover off as much as possible of this. I’m disappointed in myself for this one.

Goal #3 – Read one business book a week and wrote a post reviewing the books – For this one I got so busy with work that my interest in this waned and the goal got derailed. I would like to get this goal back up and running – reading the business books was something I enjoyed and I think I should continue. One of the books that got me going on this site is Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill – I think I’ll reread this one since I find it very inspirational.

I also think I need to review my goals and start some new ones but smaller ones so they’re more achievable.

The often understated importance of Communication

Day in, day out we’re bombarded with people and companies trying to tell us something or sell us a point of view. Many of these people are professional communicators yet their message is lost in the mix. Unfortunately some of the best communications out there are completely disregarded by the public because they are reserved for unimportant messages (I’m thinking of advertising and product sales). Every one of us can think of some advertisement that was extremely effective but how many of us can say wow my boss really communicated that task or presentation effectively? This is why I think that the art of communication is often an understated skill.

To this point yesterday I found an article on Yahoo! Finance by Bill Stein who gave 10 rules about business conversations. The art of expressing yourself concisely and the to the point making sure the other person clearly understood your message is a rare thing. The article pointed out some basic rules about business conversations that he thinks many people don’t know or don’t follow and I completely agree with him.

On a personal note last week and over the weekend I encountered poor communication from my family while they were trying to help with our wedding planning. What did this result in? A lot of arguing and misunderstanding, which was completely unnecessary and lead to undue stress and didn’t need to occur had the message been clear and some thought been taken in the delivery.

Some of the most basic elements of communication (without getting into the theory of the subject) that I think are incredibly important is knowing your own communication style. Once you know how you communicate with others you can start to see how others receive your message which in turn will lead to you being able to adjust your message and how you deliver it so its understood more completely. Knowing how you communicate both through words on paper and verbally will give you an idea of how you might need to adjust what you say so its understood. Having a conversation with your loved ones and friends is completely different than talking to your boss and if you don’t see a difference then you might have encountered some difficulty in your communications.

One of the most important aspects of communication for me is the fact that it’s a two way street, you get feedback from the other person instantly even if they don’t say anything (especially during a conversation). Use this information to your advantage. I’m not suggesting that you need to become a master of conversational details and nuances but you need to pay attention to it or people will simply assume your message, which might be completely incorrect.

Many people struggle with communicating and they wonder why work is so difficult and why they don’t succeed as well as they could in the working world. Communicating and your ability to make money are very closely related even though they might not look like they are. Even being able to sit down with your banker or investment advisor and explain your goals effectively requires communication. Don’t discount being able to communicate, it’s understated and overlooked by many people, it could impact your bottom line more than you could possibly imagine.

[tags]communication, being understood, communicating, conversations[/tags]

Family and Money don’t always mix

This is one of those things you hear about every now and then where families don’t talk to each other because of some money issue. I would never have thought it possible with my parents since they’ve never really interfered with my life nor have I asked for money all that often. But in the process of planning the wedding they’ve started sticking their noses in without asking nor getting our input. This has obviously led to arguments and under normal circumstances this would be the end of it. Unfortunately they started to pull out the trump card so to speak because we asked them for financial help so we wouldn’t have to get into debt over it. The trump card being: “we’re paying for X of this so we want it this way”. Needless to say this went over like a lead balloon and we’ve resolved the issue and asked them to never bring it up or we’d simply not take their money and go into debt and forgo a honeymoon.

My crisis has been averted but it definitely brought to light how quickly a simple thing can turn very ugly when money is held over someone’s head. I know now that it’s a very annoying and intrusive when someone tries to railroad your plans with money as a trump card. In our case it was a minor point that we were able to resolve but that’s not always the case and I’m no longer surprised that so many people have issues discussing money with family – especially if they need it.

Also on a personal note I don’t think I’m going to ask my parents for financial help unless there is no choice (and no credit is available). I don’t want to be in the situation where I stop speaking to my parents because both sides decide to be ornery. I’m also going to try to remember this so when my children (when I have them) need money I don’t hold it over their heads.

[tags]wedding, money, reason to fight[/tags]

Happy Easter Everyone

I know that I’ve been a bit lax with the posting lately but I’ve been tyring to do a lot of additional work on the career front and I’ve been rather successful of late. I’ve had to put in some extra effort into getting ahead of the work at the office even though that’s meant additional time put in. Unfortunately this translates to less time for everything else including this blog. The good news is that I’m starting to get a bit ahead of myself and I’m starting to realize how much I miss blogging on this site.

I hope everyone has had some time with family over this break because when it comes down to family they’re the ones who are going to support you when you really need the support. I hope everyone has had a great Easter break even if you don’t celebrate the holiday.