Getting back on track part 2 – Identify the issue

The biggest issues besides laziness that made me get off the path I was on was

  • Getting another Credit Card – Yep I applied to get one for gas purposes and what did I do on the very first weekend of owning it? Took my significant other out of state and spent money I didn’t have. Making me pay more for expenses that I otherwise wouldn’t have done.
  • Reduced hours - Somehow or another I never did increase my hours after my Fall semester ended and now that it’s started back up I’m lucky to even get 18 hours in a week. This has caused my income to go way down making it harder to pay more on my new Credit Card.
  • Not sticking to a budget - I used to have an alright budget and I’ve totally thrown that down the drain. I don’t even have enough money coming in because of the above to even meet all of my budget categories. Which had I sicked to my budget me getting a credit card wouldn’t have mattered in the slightest.

So now that i have identified the issues I need to find a way to correct the issue for both the short-term and the long-term. Short-term I need to correct my income problem and long-term I need to stick to a budget.

Paying for College pt. 2

With the $300 extra dollars I mentioned earlier I decided to leave it in my business, earmarked for ether a bad month, or for college expenses come Fall 2013. I feel like this is the best choice as it pushes my business reserve to the one-month worth of pay and advertising expenses. Plus by the time college starts I should have enough in my reserves to at least pay for half of a class and two months, hopefully more but I’d rather be realistic.

I have decided to make a new website live. I plan on posting several guides and just general information about programming topics and once I get it build up I’ll start to monetize it, all in the hopes of paying for my college first. Plus it is a subject I am passionate about. I’m hoping that by doing this that Western will be more in my reach.

Here’s my only goal in terms of generating money for college, to not take out a student loan to pay for it. If I can make enough to at least do a Payment Plan (where I pay through the semester) then I have succeed in my goal. Which I am going to try to set more money back from my business, just for college, serving double duty while hopefully being unused.

Well I better be wrapping this article up. I have a 11 am class I need to be getting ready for. I feel excited and nervous at the same time, hoping that this will work out. But I do suppose that at the end of the day, every little bit can only help.

The Value of Stuff

I’m not sure if it’s just from me reading to much of The Minimalists or if I’ve just been slow to realize how much stuff I have that I’ve valued wrong. I have several items that I once spent a lot of time and energy on that are now unused. I remember the Summer of 2004 saving up for the Nintendo GameCube and I’ve not played it since 2010 at the latest. Needless to say it’s on my list to sell.

I’ve even been purging myself of items I was holding onto just for memories such as my childhood blanket and school projects. Which has alarmed my family and my better half into fear since they believe I’m getting rid of my material possessions. Yet it has nothing to do with that. I want to simplify my life and make it easier, and have stuff with a true value.

Just this past week I got rid of last year’s copies of PC World, why I held on to old issues is for the mindset I might want to re-read an article. But I’ve grown to see my flaws and I’m starting to apply this to other items. The same can be said of books, several months old and not even once have I opened a few books.

Instead I’m starting to value just my day, life, and health. Which along with simplifying means I should think twice before making a big purchase. The last Amazon book I bough was purchased to improve a money-making skill. Same with furniture, last purchase was a file cabinet to hold my growing records. Both items only add value to my life.

As I age and get older I may revert back, but at least for now I’m learning to value my stuff better. Which some of the stuff I’m getting rid of (my GameCube for one) I’m selling in order to go toward my fund for Western. Other items I just want gone as they have outlived any use to me. Which I hope by the end what I do have is stuff I feel like is worth it, not just some piece of crap junk that will be thrown out.

Planning for Big Purchases

As you may know from my earlier articles I am a college student and I was talking about the cost of books in the last post. I have since bought the last text book only to receive my car insurance bill in the mail. Which had me thinking on how I should purchase costly items in the future. Which I consider anything over $150 a costly purchase cause I am paid $500 every month.

Currently when I make a big purchase I look at all my accounts, even my business ones. Then I decide if it’s really worth the cost. Which in most cases I end up paying myself extra to cover the price. Making me wished I didn’t do that or that I would pay myself more. Each time I will get the thought of just being like everyone else and using only what I have personally, only to keep on doing this.

So where I want to be is a point where I have enough money in my (personal) account to cover the purchases I know I will be making. One purchase I know is coming up soon is Christmas gifts, even though there’s still another three months I know now I need to make these changes.

  • Keep to the budget, keep to the budget, keep to the budget – I cannot express how lazy I’ve gotten on budgeting. I used to set one each month but here lately I haven’t set down and actually created one.
  • Have a minimum balance of $100 in my account before I pay myself - I used to have this, until recently. Now by the time I’ve paid myself it seams like half of it is gone since I will delay filling up my tank (~$50/$60) along with funding my E. Fund and other expenses I transfer out. (sometimes $65, other times $25). Which I’m lucky if I have even $20 in my account before payday.
  • Set aside money for fun/gifts - This will be new because I haven’t ever set aside money for gifts. But I have had fun money ($15/mo) but I haven’t had a set amount in months so it back fires now since I no longer track it. So when I see an object I want I just check my accounts like I said above and buy it, without thinking if I have any bills or transfers coming up.
  • Increase my efforts of paying off my Student Loan - This doesn’t fit here but I can’t help but think about it when I see how much interest I have accrued in 2012 that I have yet to pay back. It’s in the $200 range right now, and the last thing I would want is for it to be capitalized.

So these are the things I need to start doing and change to better be ready for big purchases, with a few goals mixed in. I am going to start working extra on projects I subcontract on and divide the differences between the goals I have listed. I figure that having an extra $50 here or $25 there that I can throw at any of the goals will be a start.

Removing Clutter

As I type this post I sit at a desk with papers covering it. I look across my room and see a table with junk in it. Then past the table is a stack of magazines that’s been there since 2008. Lots of junk that needs to be stored or thrown out. I debated on attaching a picture but felt like we could envision that instead.

Often when one thinks about clutter we visualize just physical clutter. All those receipts in my “to file” box and all those papers and empty containers just laying everywhere. Even my significant other has commented on it. But what about clutter elsewhere in our life? Let me give a few examples:

  • Money Clutter - I consider this to be when your money and financial life isn’t in order and it’s over complicated. I.e. you have no idea where all your money is going or how money flows in and out. Kinda like where you spend a lot and you do not track it and you get a bunch of bills in and they just accumulate.
  • Task Clutter - I have several items on my to do list and it seams crowded. Instead of just setting one project a week to do, I try to fit in several. Which I hardly manage to get just the one done. But had I just set the one project to be done I could have focused all my attention on it and marked it off my list. Else it’s just “cluttering” my list up.
  • Emotional Clutter - We should all have a good idea on what this is. We commonly refer to it as “emotional baggage” or some other term that just means past feelings that were bad or painful for us. This one is a bit harder to get rid of, but never the less it holds us down.

I’m sure you get the where I’m going with this. It is very important that you keep your life uncluttered as much as you can. This week my to do list is to remove some physical clutter and hopefully remove the table that sits in the middle of my room.

Off-topic:

Just an update on the trying to only use $20 cash for the weekend, it failed since I went out to eat with family. But it was less then $40 so at least it wasn’t double.

Progress on Emergency Fund

If you remember from my 2012 Money Goals article and from the first quarter update I stated that I wanted to start saving back in my Emergency Fund. Since I have posted that I have yet to re-start the “E Fund” as it is labeled. The question I ask myself is why?

Is it because I’m to lazy or because of money issues? Do I not worry about if something bad happens what am I to do? Yes, and no, it is actually a mixture of all these. When I first started the E Fund I would put every little bit of extra money in my account. I had hardly any work to do and time was on my side. When I would go out to eat I would round up all transactions and move the “change” to my E Fund. I would get an extra check for my birthday or etc and I’d go put it into my E Fund. So what happened to the great progress?

At that point over a year ago I got a car, work reached a slow period and I just stopped rounding up and moving the excess. I started to use my extra money to buy myself a new monitor, a new cell phone, and more. I just let the account sit idle not even throwing a single penny into the account since I last touched it. Instead I started to take from the fund to pay my bills, while wasting my real income on unneeded expenses such as going to the movies and eating out.

So starting today I am going to change that, I just signed up for automated transfers on the 15th and end of the month. I will start out with just $10 each time. I would like to eventually increase this amount, but for now this is better then nothing. I am also setting one up for $15/mo just as a start for a place to live.

Which reminds me, I should start working more to increase my income which will let me bump it up. Which I have a week and a half before my summer classes start. Lets see where I stand in the next few weeks.

2012 Money Goals, 1st Quarter Expenses

Expenses

As you can tell, March was expensive (Created in GnuCash)

  •  My Car – You should be able to tell that March was a bad month car wise. At the beginning of March a bad storm came to where I live at and it threw a plastic lid through my back windshield, and side window, and busted out another one. In addition I pay my insurance in 3-month increments and March was the month. In February you see a good month, less then half spent on my car, which is what I try to do.
  • Drinks/Snacks – This also include food along with when I go out to eat. Which I try to spend less then $60 on, but sometimes it doesn’t work that way since I’ll overspend.
  • Books – I am a college student and for the Spring 2012 term I bought all but one off of Amazon, but that was in December and a few didn’t ship until January.
  • Phones/Cellphones – Right now I pay around $50-$60 a month for my Prepaid Phone. In the past there was times I paid $70 and other times I would pay $20. But now it’s pretty predictable.
  • Other(s) – This is just a catch all for misc. items and to make the graph easier to read.

Budgeting

I used to be on a budget and part of it was savings. As you can tell from the last post, I haven’t been keeping up with that goal. Which the goals I had set are going to be the basis of my budget. I want to try to keep Drink/Snacks down to $60 along with trying to pay off my debt and increase my saving. But that will be a topic for another day.

2012 Money Goals, 1st Quarter Savings, Debt, & Income

Savings

  • Emergency Fund – As I said earlier I have yet to start back on saving in my Emergency Fund. It currently sits at five dollars.
  • Taxes – I just recently paid Estimated taxes to the tune of 450, with about another hundred still in the account. Only time will tell if this was enough.
  • Slush Fund – Need to set this up. By next quarter I hope to have an account established.
  • Place to live – here’s the really dumb part on my move. I have 3,750 but it’s mostly from Student Aid that I have managed not to spend.

Debt

  • Student Loans – The original loan was for $5,500. The current principal is  $5,299.77. Which mean $200 is paid off of the $750 goal. The only bad part is I have about $60 in interest that I have not paid yet.
  • Credit Card – I only have a $200 credit limit and my last bill was for $0 and currently I only have a $3 balance from Saturday. So on using it less I am making progress.

Income

  • My business which is Computer Repair and Programming seams to be on track. After doing the quarterly book work it’s at $4,505.67. Which my goal is $20,000. So it’s almost a quarter of what I expected. Yet the last two/three weeks have been slow and may explain why it’s not $5,000. But I can live with that.
  • Passive Income – Have yet to establish any, I have been reading blogs, books, and listening to shows on that topic. Lets see if I can get this going soon.

Noticeable Quarter Events

This quarter has been an interesting one. First time I’ve installed a security camera system, which was a good learning experience. Always wear dust masks when working with ceilings and walls. But onto some bad events. The beginning of March there was a bad storm which busted out three windows on my Ford Explorer. The repair bill was around $700 but my parents chipped in, which helped a lot. Had my parents not chipped in and with virtually no Emergency Fund this could have been much worst.

Now you may be asking me, where’s the expenses? I haven’t had much time to analyse my expenses yet but I can say more was spent on my Explorer then any other category. I will make a new post when I’ve done that.

And as always, feel free to comment below. I want to hear your comments and suggestions. If you like this post make sure to subscribe to the feed at the bottom of the site. Thanks and I hope to hear from you soon.

- Zack

Also, on a side note, today I’m 19. With the extra money from gifts I hope to not blow them. I would really like to pay off some debt and/or save but I need to at least make sure I don’t blow it on food and stuff I never use. Finally I am expecting a slight increase in one of my Subcontracting Job and I plan on using half of the excess to pay debt and the other half to fund savings. Which should amount to about $50 for each category per month.

2012 Money Goals

With the first quarter of 2012 coming to a close, I will be sharing with you my financial progress report. But first, I should explain what my goals are. Listed below are my simple goals for 2012 organized by category.

Savings

  • Have two months living expenses in a savings account. I.e. an Emergency Fund. For me this would be about $1000. In the past I’ve had a much smaller E. Fund, but my income was to low one month and I have yet to build it back up.
  • Make sure I am setting back money for Taxes, I am learning this the hard way on my 2011 Taxes. My goal on this for 2012 is to owe less then $100.
  • Have a slush fund of sorts – I have a few expenses I always forget to plan for (Oil changes, web hosting, etc) My goal for 2012 is to get the big offenders out of a slush fund.
  • Finally, I want to have money saved up for a place to live. From my last post you can tell I would much rather start small and pay for the house outright. But at the moment it looks like I may have to rent until I get enough saved.

Debt

  • The only debt I have currently is a student loan. I hope to have at least $750 of the principal paid off by the end of 2012. I really wish it would be paid off by December, so I may throw some extra money into it.
  • I do have a credit card, but it’s a secured credit card with a $200 limit. It gets paid off every month if I use it and in 2012 I hope to use this card less. When I first got the card I placed $120 on it and since the start of 2012 it hasn’t been over $60.

Income

  • I own a business and I really hope to have it take off this year. In 2012 my business grossed about 10k or 11k. Almost half of that is from subcontracted services. In 2012 I want to see my business pass the $20,000 in gross sales mark.
  • I also want to diversify my income and for 2012 I want to start having passive income. I am not sure what I’ll do yet, but I would like to set a goal of having $250/mo by the end of 2012.

Expenses

  • I plan to sit down at the end of this quarter and examine all the money that I paid out and find ways to reduce it and to make a budget. I used to follow a budget but then I got a car and it just went out the window.
  • This is in relation to savings also. But the money I don’t spend on an Item I want to start saving away. I used to buy snacks and pop often and I would like to add to my savings every time I get the temptation, instead of buying.

Well that’s my 2012 Money Goals as of right now. Make sure you check back in Mid April for my first quarter financial report to see how much or little progress I have made.

 

Ideas for Staying out of Debt 3 – Don’t use credit

In Ideas for Staying out of Debt I plan to cover my ideas/plans on how to stay out of debt.

First off, let me say that I am not talking about the people who are able to pay off credit cards in full. I am talking about such topics as car loans and store credit aka Buy Here, Pay Here.

Buy Here Pay Here

Example of Store credit, with Photo by Hugo90

When most people think about debt they associate it with numerous items, Credit Cards included along with various loans like car loans and student loans. I would like to believe in the idea that besides a house one can live life without debt. Yet the only way to have no debt is to never use credit and/or keep a balance. For many people I can understand this being hard. I myself simply didn’t have the cash when it came time to buy books, so I took out a loan, wishing now I never did.

What would it mean to not use credit? For me it would have been to not accept the loan. While to others it could mean delaying the purchase of a car. Yet to others it can mean even more things. But not using credit has an almost negative view in society. It is almost expected of you to go into debt at some point in your life. Yet who benefits from this? Almost any company offering loans/credits generate income from providing this service. Take most loans, your charged interest on the amount you pay, which is extra income to the business.

Had you used the advice in the previous post about savings you could have waited a few months and paid with money you had. Which while in savings it could have made you a little bit of interest, which to be fair is less then 1% for most banks at the moment. I’ve read numerous posts on other personal finance sites about this topic and if possible I say save up and pay with the money you have. if you follow the classic saying of not buying what you can’t afford, then you can’t get into debt.

On a side note, what do you the reader think this site should discuss. Also I hope to get a logo up by the end of the month and we’re on Facebook now.