Pitfalls of the Climb

It’s interesting how just about the time a person thinks they are standing on solid ground and can breathe for a moment, the ground falls out from underneath their feet. That’s been our experience over the past few days.

'No. . . this isn't the fiscal cliff.'

 

Many companies do biometric screening for insurance credits as an incentive to keep employees healthy and well. It’s good for the employee, who can get a decent bonus to stay in shape; and it’s good for the insurance company, who doesn’t have to pay as many claims to employees who are staying well and away from the doctor. Such is the case with my company. Let’s just say, I wasn’t healthy enough to make the cut. It’s something that I am now making a full-time project and has lit a fire under me to change my habits, routines, and diet so next year the wellness credit will be mine. In the meantime however I found that the lack of said credit is more than likely going to eat up the money I save in carpooling, so there’s that.

Another challenge we’ve run across is a balance that has come due for my college course work. It was not a charge I was expecting to pay as I expected the Pell grant and student loan would be covering it. I received a refund not long ago for the amount of the balance due, so I assumed the balance was paid over and above and that was the reason for the refund. Turned out the opposite was true, the refund check they sent us was actually supposed to pay the balance that is now due and we simply had to “pay the refund back” as the good folks at the bursar’s office so eloquently put it. My eyes couldn’t roll back in my head far enough to accommodate the frustration I was feeling. In the end, we had to pay the balance due from our meager savings.

Ah yes, and to add insult to injury, my son’s “pay as you go” phone comes due every 30 days. Not every 31 days, every 30 days. Meaning that the amount is taken from our account a day earlier every month than it was from the previous month if the month had 31 days in it. Since there are several months that have 31 days in it, when that bill comes due is basically a moving target, this month it debited our account in the negative by $10.

I was hoping at the very least to have a positive balance to report once we were paid on the 15th….

cliff

I must admit, a couple of days this week I wanted to throw my hands up, stick my head in the snow and ignore it all, or freeze to death of hypothermia. I grab the rope, ready to repel, or just jump off the metaphorical cliff face in frustration, harness or no harness (a bit mellow dramatic I know).

All of these things are annoyances. Pitfalls on the journey up the mountain. Nevertheless, we have to keep going, at a slow pace, even trudging if need be. IT’S GOING TO BE SLOW GOING. Pay more attention to billings, get out the paper, write it all down, and build the budget again. Hammer another stake in the cliff face and pull ourselves back up.

 

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Staying Sane Through Saving

One of the problems in life is the perpetuity of it. We all have routines. Those who brush their teeth twice a day will continue to do so twice a day. If you chew with your mouth open when you eat, chances are it will take an act of God to keep you from noshing with annoying noises. Non-morning people have a hard time getting happy before 9 am, while morning people can’t stop annoying non-morning people. The circle of life seems to spin at a dizzying rate, while we continue to do the same things we’ve always done day in and day out. It takes conscious effort to change.

Karen and I woke up to this fact. It took emergencies to kick us in the butt and realize that one more and we were down to zero. So we changed our mind about the way we spend money on not only non-essentials, but also the essentials. It was time to trim any fat hanging out, and there seems to be plenty. An emergency won’t look so forlorn while trying to do something different. Doing the same things over and over got us into this mess, so we started looking at bills that didn’t have to be the same over and over.

Gas: it’s been the bane of anyone who has a forty-five minute to an hour commute or longer every day since 9/11. There just doesn’t seem to be any getting out of spending the same amount of money on gas week after week if you commute quite a distance between home and work. Or is there? Better gas mileage is what I need!

Many of us start thinking more efficient gas mileage means getting an oil change, or maybe a new car! It’s crazy how we can justify it, but we do. For some reason people think getting a new fuel-efficient car justifies the car payment; as if the $60 savings in gas every month will eventually pay the $230 car payment every month, but it doesn’t..the math doesn’t work. That’s probably an entry for another day.


Why not cut the gas mileage in half on a car I already own by car pooling with someone in my neighborhood? I’m not sure why I’ve never taken the idea seriously before, but I haven’t. “I don’t want to bug anyone.” I think to myself. FYI, if any readers out there want to bug me by telling me they can help me save $720 a year, feel free. By the way, that’s a calculation I figure I will be saving carpooling between me and my sister-in-law, who works across the parking lot from my office. I literally can throw a rock and hit her office window from the parking lot. We both need extra money, she gets off the same time I do almost every day and it helps take a whole extra car off the road (for all you environmentalists out there). I had to think really hard to find a reason NOT to car pool. I have to get up a little earlier, but I probably should be anyway. I’m one of those non-morning people.

Next up, phone prices. Yeah, if you have AT&T or Vorizon, you know what I’m talking about. They have good service, but they’re proud of it, and you’re paying for it. When my phone bill is higher than some car payments I’ve had in my life, there’s a problem. So my wife and I looked at some of that precious data and decided that we would be able to get by on 2 GB less. Shared data of 3 GB for us will save about 20 bucks. Since AT&T have put out a new promotion for no more overage charges, we are happy to let them help! So, multiply that by 12 months and we’ll have saved about $240.

Between the two, I’m looking to save almost $1000. This will meet the first of Dave Ramsey’s baby steps for us. Have a thousand dollars for emergencies. It will mean scraping up and NOT SPENDING the amount that we save, but it will be there. I’m starting to get used to the idea that it will take a while, but I also know that it will be here before I expect it, because good behaviors like this will compound and have ripple effects. It won’t just be all the money we save, but the integrity we receive by continuing the fight this fight. To some, $1000 isn’t much, but for those who feel we are sacrificing our privacy on a ride after a long day, or a few pictures or videos of our favorite media, for normal people – like my wife and I, it will be well worth the saving.

Staying Constipated…I mean, Consistent!

Certainly constipation is what I would call my cash flow right now. It’s not going up, but most importantly, not going down. Part of what I’m learning through this fairly new process is that it’s going to be slow going. VERY. SLOW. GOING.

My problem is I’m too impatient. I mentioned in a previous post that my wife and I have been through Financial Peace University. Props to Dave Ramsey I give of course, his program was an answer to a prayer I had years ago. Again, I’m too impatient. K (my wife) and I were talking the other day, and I found that a big part of my problem is I want this hard, painful, not knowing what to do next part to be over. It feels like we’re starting all over again and we should be so much further than where we are right now. I’m finding the only thing I can do now is sit and wait on the next paycheck to come in so I can pay more bills, and try to maintain what I consider the meager balance that is in the account. Sitting around does little for one’s patience.

I have found that I am a highly analytical person, I find it difficult to move on to one task when another is left unfinished. A task unfinished, for instance, is not having enough saved in my checking account to cover an emergency if needed. I get stuck, and I pour over it and worry over it until it drives me crazy. So occasionally, I have to step back, sometimes I have to break down, or work out, or go running, or just have a good blubber on my wife’s shoulder. Stress relief I’m finding is a must these days, so I decided to write a blog about it.  It helps me analyze the situation and sets in concrete accountability to whoever may be reading this. It sounds like an analytical solution to me.

We do of course, in the midst of discouragement, have to move on. One cannot sit in the dark and pout, or drink, or take pills, or eat, or do whatever escape one craves. Life must be lived, money or not. So I have tried to start developing some habits that people who do have money have developed. Besides writing about it, another habit is to read or listen to some kind of instructional wisdom or advice, at least 30 minutes, or 10 pages, every day. It’s a habit developed by wiser men than I. A presidential hero of mine, Teddy Roosevelt, was hardly seen without a book during his administration. Dave Ramsey talks about reading nonfiction books consistently on his radio program. Even Mark Zuckerberg has set a goal of reading a book every two weeks according to Business Insider. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me. The most recent book I have found is an audio book I listen to by Darren Hardy. It’s called “The Compound Effect.”

img_1821The premise of the book is that small, minute, almost minuscule good habits done consistently enough times over the course of time will lead to a person’s ultimate goal. Small steps like avoiding vending machines, not buying the kids McDonald’s for the fifteen hundredth time, and spending less than you make will eventually lead to a trimmer waistline and wealth. While if you did those same repeated habits negatively over the course of a lifetime, it could leave you fat…and broke. I’m closer to the fat, broke guy right now with my habits.

The catch for me: It takes a long time. It takes work that no one sees until it’s suddenly just there, but it takes a long time for that to happen! I’m impatient, remember?

This whole situation feels constipated, like nothing’s moving, “icky” as four year old daughter might say. Consistency, that’s key. I’m willing to take another rich guy’s word for it. My bad habits have gotten me where I am today. If I want out of the situation of living paycheck to paycheck, I have to do things differently. I have to start making better decisions and forming better habits to start building some kind of wealth for my family’s security and our dream of not only living well, but giving well. I have to do a mental flush if this constipated time of life is ever going to end.  Until then, I’ll just have to live life consistently well, maybe bloated, but consistently, for now.