Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Saying Goodbye and Trying Something New

As much as it pains me, I think it's time to admit to myself that the Not-A-Budget Treasure Map Atlas and Captain's Log isn't going to work out. Cue heaving sigh of sadness at the death of a brilliant and super fun idea.

It's complicated and I don't have the time or the energy (or, apparently, the creativity) to figure out how it works. But I'm sure that it would work if you put your mind to making it work. If you can make it work for you let me know. I will link to you like crazy and point other potential Not-A-Budget Treasure Map makers your way. Hell, I would probably even follow your instructions.

And yes, I did take pictures while I was making my Book and yes they will be posted. Why? Because it's pretty and I want to share it.

So for this paycheck I have decided to try something new. It still technically falls under the Not-A-Budget umbrella of money management techniques, but it's a little 110% more straight forward in how you use it (read: there is only a minimal amount of time involved in making it/making it work). I'm calling it my 3 Column Not-A-Budget Worksheet.

{Painfully Clear} Instructions on how to Make Your Very Own 3 Column Not-A-Budget Worksheet:

  1. Take a piece of paper and fold it into thirds. Or just draw three lines on it. However you choose to go about this step the goal is to end up with 3 Columns on your paper (DUH).
  2. At the top, write down the current amount of money in your bank account. (In the interest of full disclosure I'm going to tell you that I do not have $800 laying around doing nothing in my checking account. I wish I had that much Ahem. It's close.)
  3. At the top of each column write a heading, there are 3 headings total (again - DUH). You can put them in whichever order you want, I put mine in the order in the picture: Need, Want, and then Shouldn't.
  4. In each column you should list things that fall under that category.
    • In the Need column you should include anything that is a reoccurring payment, like rent and any charitable donations you make. Real Life Example: I sponsor a child through World Vision, so I have to plan for that donation every month.
    • In the Want column, write down everything that you like to spend money on but could live without if you really, really had too. Real Life Example: Booze and fast women.
    • In the Shouldn't column, write down the things that you spend your money on and then get home and think "What the hell was I thinking?" or the stuff you just know is a money suck for you. Real Life Example: I need to stop feeling like I have to bring home something from everywhere I visit other than pictures and memories. Not only am I wasting money but I'm also making clutter for myself when I get home. Totally lame.
  5. You might want to make yourself more than one.
    • I made a general one where I listed LOTS of Needs, Wants, and Shouldn'ts. When I got paid I sat down and made another 3 Column Not-A-Budget Worksheet that was specific to the next 2 weeks of my life (like how I should come home with nothing but really awesome memories from this weekend at the lake with Armini and his family).
    • The great thing about having the general 3 Column Not-A-Budget Worksheet was that I could reference it to see what bills were going to be due so that I wasn't taken by surprise (I have a unique talent of forgetting to give people money).
  6. Use the worksheet to cross off bills or money that you owe people as you pay the bill/person you owe money too, write down how much something is going to cost you to see if you can work it into your spending that month. I've been using this system for this paycheck and all I have to say is so far so good.
    • Full disclosure time again: really I've only been using the worksheet for 2 days but somehow I have managed to spend no more than $22 in that time frame which is really good for me.
  7. OH! And don't forget to put saving on your sheet somewhere. Everyone needs an Emergency Fund. Think of it as paying yourself (which means that you can put it in the Need column).
So there. A newer, simpler, streamlined approach to not hemorrhaging money out of my bank account. I think next paycheck I will make mine on some pretty paper, or take the time to decorate it. Just because it's not a Book doesn't mean it can't be pretty.

Oh, and also, I found this post by the Communicatrix (Colleen Wainwright) about her struggles with money (nice to know I'm not alone in the world) and how, maybe - just maybe - the problem should be approached with compassion rather than an iron clad spend no money attitude.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Checking Up on Myself

One simply cannot set goals unless one also intends to keep track of the progress one makes (or is not making) towards achieving said goals. Right?

Right! So, I thought that I would, for your reading pleasure, take a minute and look at how this paycheck has practically vanished before my eyes, I mean ... was spent responsibly.

OK, so this might not be pretty, but no progress can be made unless I take the time to look at the system, identify the problems and then march on. And also, posting it for other people to read and shake their heads at helps too. It's motivation so that one day I can write a blog post about how I made a plan for myself and then stuck to it. And the day that happens will hopefully also be the day that I have $10,000 in a bank account somewhere. We all need to have a dream, people.

Alright, so, here it is. My Almost Mid-Week Goal Check Up #1:
  1. Think of a new word that means the same as "budget"
    • Check. It's my Not-A-Budget Treasure Map. I made it, it's pretty cool. I tried to use it last night. It was confusing and didn't work well. Modifications to the design are needed.
  2. Find a way to stop the money hemorrhage that is my bank account
    • Um ... this didn't happen. Better luck next time!
    • Part of this has to do with money that is sitting in my bank account waiting for a check to be cashed that I forgot was waiting for the check to be cashed, because I didn't have it written down before I sat down to start moving my money around to it's various savings accounts (related: the fail that was goal #4)
  3. Create consequences for overspending; implement them as needed
    • The consequences? I get to have a super lame time while everyone else frolics around with money sticking out of their ears because I seem to be the only person alive who can't stick to a freaking budget.
    • {stops, takes a breath} Ok - so maybe that was an over-reaction.
    • But seriously, if I have no money, the consequence is to spend nothing until my next paycheck (I may or may not have already had to do this).
  4. Determine savings goals; devise a realistic plan to achieve said goals
    • I have the savings goals. It's the realistic part that I'm having an issue with.
    • This is actually the part of the Not-A-Budget Treasure Map that was confusing and caused problems (related: the fail that was goal #2)
  5. Be crafty without destroying my financial house of cards
    • So far so good in this area.
    • Although there is a fabric store that's right next to the apartment and they are having a sale, and everyday I have to drive past the signs that say Fabric Sale in really big, bold, friendly letters that make the very fiber of my being vibrate with thoughts of the beautiful things that I would make with all the sale fabric that I would get (right now I have quilts on the brain. And freezer paper transfers. And quilts with freezer paper transfers on them. Oh the crafting!)
    • When I'm not being a crazy sale fabric coveting weirdo, I've been knitting my sweater and working on the Not-A-Budget Treasure Map Atlas and Captain's Log (although I think my progress is going to have to slow down a little until I figure out how the damn thing works. Because I know it does because I will make it so help me God. I just have to figure out how.)
So there you have it. The picture is pretty bleak right now. But I take comfort in cliche sayings like "It's always darkest before the dawn", "It can only get better from here", "Money can't buy you happiness" and "It could be a lot worse".

And it could be a lot worse, I only have one credit card that I use (care credit for all the vet's visits we've been going to lately. However, I have been working extra hard to not let this balance go crazy), I pay my bills on time, I have a plan to try and make things better, and I'm sure that sometime soon I will get this all figured out.

Friday, June 5, 2009

One Year? Really?

As of today, this little blog is officially "one whole twirl around the sun" old. One year. Wow.

To be 100% honest, I'm a little surprised that this hasn't faded into the background the way that 90% of the things I start do. And for a while there, it did look like it was going to fade. But then ... NO! ... There she is!

It's all very exciting, don't you think?

Also, if you are interested in reading my very first post ever, you can click right here. I don't know what it is about first posts, but I love to read them. I think it has something to do with the "awkward first letter syndrome" that is starting a blog. It's hard to jump in and just start doing it, you know? You feel obligated to write something about yourself, what you do in life, what you want to do with this little corner of the interwebs ...

Chances are, if I have ever read your blog, I have read your first post. And probably I sat there after wards and thought to myself, "Why couldn't my first post have been like that? Why do I fail at life SO HARD?" or something like that.

Wow. That was random and WAY off topic. Anyway. I would like to take a second and just say Thank You to all the lovely people who take the time to read this blog on a semi-regular basis (Hi Taryn and Lisa!). I'm not going to lie, when you guys comment on my posts I do a happy dance. And then I tell Armini all about you and how cool you are and where you live. Then we read your blogs together.

I would also like to take this time to ask you, what would you like to read more of here? Obviously, I am going to be spending more time on the Not-A-Budget Treasure Map idea (update on that nonsense: I think I finally figured out how to work it!). I know that the "ask me and I will tell all" posts seem to be going around the blog-o-sphere like the plague, but I really would like your input. Because I am not above bribing you for comments I value your opinions.

And just to be clear, these are topics you would like me to cover (or cover more than I already have?). Not so much a place to be all like "I would really like it if you could start budgeting and not be in debt anymore", because obviously I'm working on that (helloooo Not-A-Budget Treasure Map!).

And in the coming year, I promise to be awesome your BFF stop leaving the empty ice cream carton in the freezer to work on that "budget thing" and continuing to write stuff where I don't whine all the time.

Super Careo

PS - And also Ashley, even though she has posted like all of 5 times on this thing. I'm sure that she would be impressed with the fact that this blog has been live for a year. Also, just in case you were wondering, she really did end up moving to California (like, 6 days ago).

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Onward and Upward: Tackling the Spring Goals

(Pssst! Don't have any idea what I'm talking about? I would read about it here and then read Step One in my Effort to rid myself of Teh Craziness here)

ALRIGHT! I've done it! I spent some time with myself and I think that I have taken care of Spring Goal #1 (to find a new word to replace the B----- word, since clearly it doesn't do it for me) and have laid the ground work for #2 AND #3 in one fell swoop.

I must say that I am more than a little pleased with myself. I hardly ever follow through with this sort of stuff. But the idea of making the money management thing fun is what motivated me. Who doesn't love fun? Lame people don't love fun. And I am not a lame person. Mostly.

Anyway. Moving on:

Firstly, I would like to say that if you are reading this, and are at all interested in what I read when I'm online (other than your blog, of course!) I think you would benefit greatly if you went over and checked out Havi Brooks (she's @havi on Twitter), her duck Selma and her blog The Fluent Self because honestly ... WOW.

She makes me want to have a duck. And also to be exactly like her. She is my internet hero. The end.

OK - so, the reason I told you that is to tell you this: thanks to Havi and her brilliant blog, I think she may have helped me overcome my money stuck. Or at least has gotten me onto a path that has significantly less stuck on it (Confused? Seriously, read her blog. Then you will get it). A few weeks ago she decided to stop thinking about her team as a team and start thinking about her team in a new way. Havi decided that she wanted to think about her team as a Pirate Crew on board her Pirate Ship.

As a direct result of reading this post (and all her other posts where she talks about it), I decided to think about my Not-A-Budget in a way that I haven't ever before. I didn't wonder about which notebook I was going to keep track of my expenses in, I didn't look online for spreadsheets that I thought looked cool, I didn't try to make my own, I didn't sit down and crunch numbers in order to figure out how much I can spend in what category of my life ... I didn't do anything except try to think of a fun new name for my Not-A-Budget.

This is turning rather ramble-y, and I apologize, I'm just really excited and I want to share everything with you.

So I thought and thought and I couldn't really think of anything that worked well. Nothing that I thought of made me go "Oh, oh, oh! Yes! That's great! And fun!". But today I thought of something that I think could work for me ... my Not-A-Budget Treasure Map.

Yes, maybe, I was influenced a little by Havi the Pirate Queen - even though I am not calling myself a pirate queen; I prefer to think of myself as more like that lucky person in the movie (that I have made up in my head) that finds the beat up old treasure map in the back pocket of her great, great, great grandfather's coat and is compelled to follow it on the off-chance that there really is something to be found. Life altering adventures (and possibly a steamy romance with the first mate of the ship?) will ensue. Kind of like City Slickers II, only with less 1980's and more water. And more steamy, maritime romance.

But the metaphor works great! When you read a treasure map, you have to go a certain number of paces in a certain direction in order to get to the big red X on the map that marks where the treasure is buried.

Well, for my Not-A-Budget Treasure Map, the big red X is a metaphor for what I want to achieve (a plane ticket to visit Armini in China, a new laptop, a super fancy camera, or tickets to DISNEYLAND), the number of paces I have to take are a metaphor for the days of the month and the directions are replaced with months. BRILLIANT (if I do say so myself).

This revelation has come about in the nick of time too because I am leaving to go to San Francisco in about two months to run a half marathon. And THEN Armini and I going to celebrate his last days in the good ol' U.S of A in Disneyland. All of which is going to cost me money and of which I have exactly none of at this moment in time. If there was ever a time that I needed a Not-A-Budget Treasure Map, now is the time.

And just to make it that much more fun, I have a blank book at home that I am going to turn into my Captain's Log/Book of Maps (it's going to be like an Atlas of Treasure Maps, and it is going to be awesome).

I have many grand ideas for it ... AND it is in line with my Spring Goal #5 (be crafty without destroying my financial house of cards) because I already have everything that I need to make this happen in my apartment right. this. second. It's enough to make me go "Arg! Ack! Rable Rable!" and many other manner of noises that show just how impressed I am with the fact that this idea came out of my head. By itself. Mostly.

When I get my Captain's Log/Not-A-Budget Treasure Map Atlas made, I will post pictures. Because I know that you are drooling just thinking about how many levels of awesome it's going to be. I might even go so far as to write a post about how to make your very own Captain's Log/Not-A-Budget Treasure Map Atlas so that you too can make all manner of joyful noises at how crafty you are.

What I do after the Captain's Log/Not-A-Budget Treasure Map Atlas is done remains to be seen.

I have the idea right now, not so much the process. But I'm ok with that! I am fine with getting pumped up about it ... hopefully the "Pumped Up-Ness" will help with the "Sticking To It" part that is pretty vital to the whole "It Works!" part, which is the whole point of doing this in the first place.

And as one final thing before I end this post (that is forever long ... geez. Thanks for reading this far!), I just want to throw out a big, old thank you to Havi the Pirate Queen for just being awesome. And for sharing your awesome with the internet.

It's really nice to read about grown-ups who struggle with the same things that I do (because, you know, technically I'm a grown-up too. I just don't feel like it 99.9% of the time) and that there are also grown-ups out there who are dealing with the problems they have in a creative and 100% different way than what I've been trying. Because it not only helps A TON, it also gives me a little peace and hope that maybe someday I will know what the heck is going on.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Some Spring Goals

As a result of some work related drama, my life feels like it's a little bit out of control. I am in the death grip of Teh Craziness, and I now 100% ready to take the plunge to step up (you know, you've got to get up to get down!) and take control. Or, at least, try to take control (I'm sure you know how Teh Craziness hates to let anyone else drive once it gets behind the wheel; even if it is a really crappy driver). So I am going to be going around my life and tidying things up a bit. I thought that I might start with my money and move on from there.

So, without further ado ...

Spring Money Goals according to SuperCareo
Step One in her Effort to get rid of Teh Craziness
{sound of trumpets blaring and wild applause}

Ahem. Moving on:
  1. Think of a new word that means the same as "budget"
    • Because I can't stick to a B----- to save my life, I have decided that I need to create something totally new, different, and even possibly fun (I know what you're thinking, I'm sure it can be done somehow) to make myself STICK TO IT THIS TIME.
  2. Find a way to stop the money hemorrhage that is my bank account
    • This is, more or less, directly attached to task #1. However, the more I think about it, it's also directly linked to #3 ... and #4 ... and #5.
    • So ... I suppose that what I'm trying to say is that this will hopefully be a result of creating and following through with all of my other Spring Goals
  3. Create consequences for overspending; implement them as needed
    • Which makes me feel like a little kid. Almost to the point that this point is embarrassing to say, er, write so that others can read it.
    • But seriously, the overspending has. to. stop. NOW. And even if it means I'm going to be the DD for the next two months of my life because I overspent and have no money left over for booze, SO BE IT!
    • {note to self: in the Not-A-Budget, create a booze allowance}
  4. Determine savings goals; devise a realistic plan to achieve said goals
    • We all know that I have a tendency to go a little, tiny bit way overboard with my savings goals.
    • The overboard needs to stop. Realistic saving needs to start. Mama needs a ticket to China (maybe January?!), possibly a new laptop (my clunker is many, many moons old), and this.
  5. Be crafty without destroying my financial house of cards
    • This is fairly simple - make crafts with the stuff I already have. THEN make the other stuff once I have saved up a little and can afford it.
    • OH, and also this: when you go to the store to get supplies (yarn, fabric, or what have you) KNOW JUST EXACTLY HOW MUCH YOU NEED. There will be no more "oh, I'll just get X yards, I can put the left over in my stash" thinking. It's wasteful (not just because I'm buying more than I need, but also because {clearly} I'm not using what's already in the stash.)
Seeing this makes me excited to tackle my monetary short-comings and let them know who's boss. Because, obviously, I want to be The Master of my Money! (See how I did that? That is quality writing people. Stick around, it'll only get better from here!)

In honor of these goals, I am going to wipe the Pay-O-Save-O-Meter's clean, re-assign them, and take off. I will keep you posted.

Also, I would like to open the floor for anyone who has an idea for naming my Not-A-Budget.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

New Directions ...

I have noticed, after going back through a number of my posts (mostly the new ones), that my posts are whiny. Really whiny (if you don't want to read whiny posts then I would suggest that you don't click on those links. However, if you would like to bitch about how whiny I have been lately, then click and comment to your heart's content).

And I know that this might sound surprising, but I didn't create Master of my Money with the intention of using it as a place where I could complain. I'm also going to guess that reading a blog where the author mainly bitches and moans about how she has to spend SO MUCH money ALL THE TIME has to get a little boring. Am I right? I mean, if I weren't the one writing the blog I probably wouldn't stick around either, and that's saying something because I think I am the most fantastic writer EVAR.

Plus, the complaining makes me sound all "holier than thou" and I do not think that I am better than you. In fact, I bet that you are like 10 times as awesome as me. Seriously. I bet that if we were friends, we would be BFFs and I would totally be that friend that did whatever you wanted because you are just that cool.

The whole reason that I thought up this blog was to write a sort of trial and error type guide to being financially savvy in your 20's. You know, learning how to make and stick to a budget (or discovering that you can't stick to one EVER and finding another way to not spend all your money on things you don't need like yarn or fabric or booze). Buying big things like a car (something I'm doing right now! Posts to come!), without going on and on and on about how my old car is SO! LAME! OMG!

So [readers, myself, internet] I hereby swear on a stack of ... hmm ... *rummages around in desk*; I hereby swear on this stack of multicolored post-it notes (it's the only thing I have close at hand) that I will stop whining and start writing posts that actually contribute something of value to the internet and to you.

Promise promise.

Friday, May 1, 2009

You've Got to Cut it, Cut It Good

And there you have it. The card that I have talked about more than once; the one that I was afraid to cut up. It's done. I did it. This morning at work (which is why the picture is crappy, I took it on my phone).

What finally pushed me over the edge? I was tired of my WILDLY fluctuating balance. I'm tired of having to hide it from myself and my inability to just say no to things that I want but can't afford. Plus, I accidentally picked the wrong checking account to pay my bill online which created a huge mess of bounced check fees, overdraft fees, and getting locked out of the "bill pay" section on the Citi Card website.

And, as an aside, if you bounce a check while trying to pay your account online, Citi won't let you make another payment online for up to 6 MONTHS after the fact (I found this out, finally, after 3 different calls to customer service). Thank the Lord that I talked to a lovely girl the last time I called got to explain the fact that it was a mistake on my part and she got my account reactivated.

But after the whole mess I took a step back, looked at the crazy balance that I now have on my card as a result of a car repair + the damage that I've done as a result of a freshly doubled credit limit and thought to myself "enough is enough". So I cut it up. And even though I'm a little sad that I won't have it around to charge groceries too on those months when I run out of money, I know that my E-Fund was set up for just those kinds of months and that I will be ok. And I'm fine with the fact that this piece of plastic is no longer weighing heavily on my mind.

I'm also pretty excited about the fact that I am no longer enabling myself. There will be no more impulse yarn/fabric/book/dog toys/gift purchases made unless I have the cash for it sitting around in my checking account.

Here's hoping that it stays empty.