I am a big Marie Forleo fan. I discovered her when I was living in Ibadan, Nigeria and I was wondering what the next step in my life should be. I have kept up with watching her videos every now and then. For some reason, I saw her Facebook post on her interview with David Bach and it stuck with me. I was really interested in watching the interview because of financial curiosity. This interview was really enlightening about finances but the biggest take away for me was at the end. The final segment of the interview covers Mr. Bach’s sabbatical from his job for 18 months. This got me thinking about my own life. Read more
When we think about giving, we often think about billionaires or millionaires who give in such a lot way. Or we think about some big charitable donation. Or some heart warming story. All these are good examples of giving. But if giving scares you because you feel like you can’t make a grand gesture, there are ways to give in bits and pieces. There is no wrong form of giving.
As a child, one of the rituals that my mother built into our journey to school was giving. At the Festac gate, when traffic would trap us, she would extend her hands out and give to the beggars on the street. In my family, quite a few people are known for carrying spare change that is specifically for giving alms. Now as an adult, that is a habit that I am trying to cultivate. A habit of giving not in extraordinary circumstances or quantity but just as an habitual thing that I don’t think about. I have built a margin of giving into my budget.
For me, I have found that one of the easier ways to give is through my pay check. My company supports a charitable foundation whose goals are aligned with my ideals, so I simply have always chosen the option to donate a fixed portion of my paycheck. The other avenue that comes for giving is through tipping. Yes, there are times when I refuse to tip generously because of bad service. However, there are certain services that I have committed a certain level of tips for such as my taxi ride home. There are days when I want to give less but I have learned to give regardless of my circumstances at the moment. I have found that when I give, I never lack; and for that I am thankful.
Giving for is an act of self gratitude. It is a way of recognizing and appreciating my privileges. In the past, I have tried to give through specific organization like Kiva that allow me to give money as a loan and recycle the money. This something that I would like to return to in the future when I can make larger commitments. In the meantime, I intend to keep giving in bits and pieces here and there
How have you cultivated a habit of giving? Tell me in the comment section
#PFSundays: Practice Spending
In the past couple of years, I have pretty much maintained the same financial commitments. I have lived in the same house. Taken public transportation work. Used the same phone plan, etc. Lately though I have been thinking to myself that I want to move closer to the city or at least buy a car. Then I sit down and do the financial maths. I think I can afford to do this. However, there are days when I get scared and I tell myself to thread carefully. What about all of the other savings goals that I have set for myself?
So I have decided that the best way to ascertain if I can actually afford to increase my financial commitment is to act as if I have those commitments already. A few years ago, I was watching a talk show and I think it was Suze Orman who advised a couple to determine if they could afford a bigger house and a bigger mortgage by pretending like they had made the leap. The trial phase helps to figure out how much of a strain making the increased financial commitment would be on a day-to-day basis. It is always easy to make a budget on paper. You cut a little bit of this and a little bit of that. However in real life, your daily happiness quota might just hang on being able to afford that extra manicure every month. Or knowing that you can see a movie on a whim without breaking the bank.
Financial planning, I am learning everyday, should not be about living a miserable life now to reach some happy place later. Financial planning has to balance current needs and WANTS with future needs and WANTS! This is why I think practicing increasing my financial load will help me determine if I am ready or not. Practicing would mean figuring how much extra moving into a new house or buying a new car would cost me monthly. The extra is then deposited into my savings account. In about 3-6 months, I will be able to determine if the extra commitment is livable. At the end of the trail period, I am rewarded with more money in my savings account that I can use to cover short term expenses of either buying a car or moving house.
Do you have any goals that you need to practice for? Tell me in the comment section.
#PFSundays: Reviewing Subscriptions
You may have seen one of those lists that get around on Facebook everyone is a while asking you for random facts about yourself. Or you may have filled quite a few online dating profiles where you have to create an image of yourself that is extraordinary enough to catch someone’s eye, but simple enough not to scare them off. One of the random facts that I always list is my love of the New York Times. I started reading NYTimes when I was 17/18 and living in California. I have read NYTime through my travels and changes in life. I was broke, unemployed and depressed when the NYTimes paywall went up in 2011. I remember being elated when I discovered that Chrysler email offering me a year-long subscription. Then that year was over and I had to find all kinds of cunning ways to read the NYTimes because I just could not afford to pay the subscription fees.
In December 2013, about 3 months after I started my current job, I finally subscribed to the NYTimes. I cried when I paid it. For me, being able to make that commitment to auto-pay for a subscription was a sign of financial stability. Yes, making a commitment to pay less than 20 dollars a month was a dream come true because it was one of the benchmarks of financial success for me. Since I made that commitment to the NYTimes, I have subscribed to other services ranging from gym services with Boston Sport Club to make-up sample delivery service with Ipsy to Netflix, even Skillshare, an online learning platform.
Recently though I had to take a step back and assess my commitments. Were they worth the money I was paying? In the short term, I can justify paying out 10 dollars a month. But in the long term, 120 dolllars a month is 120 dollars plus accrued interest that is missing from my savings account or my 401K plan. So I started canceling subscriptions. I cancelled my gym membership for the summer simply because I realized I was not going. Instead, I started doing fitness videos at home and walking around my neighborhood. I cancelled Skillshare because I never used it.
In the end I was able to make small monthly savings by focusing on the subscription services that added value to my life. I look forward every month to my new make-up from Ipsy and I use to the samples regularly. Also Netflix is something that has filled the void of not owning a television. Now, I am also more discerning in what I choose to pay for. I think I am more likely to do one time payments now than monthly payments simply because I like knowing that payment is finite.
Tell me in the comment sections if you have any subscriptions that you maybe should be canceling. Also, does anyone else have a moment when they realized they had a reached some measure of financial stability? Share it with me in the comment section.
Thanks for reading!
Personal Finance: Living on Just Cash
I have never really been a frivolous spender. Okay, I think what I mean to say is I never thought I was frivolous spender. I was not buying anything outrageous. Most of my splurges were on food items. I am a self-labeled foodie and I take pleasure in new recipes and taking food pictures.
Even with all the spending on food though, I thought I was doing well. My savings account grew and…then stopped growing and would go downhill again. I would do clean outs of the kitchen and find food hiding away that I had forgotten I bought. Somehow, I started seeing all the signs that I needed to put my spending under control and the best way to do that was to say bye-bye to my card.
My beloved debit card is one of my most precious possessions. A quick swipe and I could buy almost anything I wanted. That bag of fancy rice I dreamed of making into a pudding. The cheese that I just had to have for one meal of grilled cheese sandwich to be forgotten later in the back of the fridge. It all seemed okay because it was 10 dollars here. Another 15 there. One weekend, between here and there, I spent 200 dollars and I could not really account for it. This was one of the big red flags for me.
Last summer, while I was in one of my melancholy sessions, I confided in a co worker that my financial future was bleak. I have never been one to stress out about money. I have been lucky to have parents who encouraged me to view my success in life beyond finances. But at the most basic level, I still yearn for things like knowing that I have enough money to see me through an emergency without having to call my father. I want to be able to buy a house sometimes in the next few years, with or without a significant other. I want to dream of vacations and know that they are within grasp. These are things that I know to be only possible if I am financially responsible.
After years of skimming articles and feeling superior because I felt that I had a grasp on my spending, I took the time to read the book suggested by the co-worker. It is called Total Money Makeover. The book advocates for living a cash only life. I read that advice and I thought to myself, “I am good at math, I will just tally up how much I spend and set a limit on my spending.” Then I got a credit card to help build my credit score because I have been smart enough not to have credit cards. But now that I had the goal of buying a house, credit history seemed like a smart thing to build.
I have a very limited balance on my credit card on purpose. Even with the limit, I realize now that I abused that credit card. I would spend money on my credit card against my future income. Then spend my debit card as well. So while I was able to pay off the card every month, my savings account suffered for it.
After taking another look at my savings and realizing I was in the low phase again after a high at the beginning of the year, I went back to Total Money Makeover. I decided to do a cash only lifestyle. I am currently on my second week.
One of the things I did before starting my budget was figure out how much my monthly bills are, how much income I have coming in each month and what my weekly spend is. I wanted to set a realistic budget for myself.
One of the perks of being on a budget is making better food choices. I would rather spend my money on a banana than candy. I am baking cookies at home instead of spending money on the fancy cookies I like. More importantly, I feel proud of myself. I no longer feel ashamed to open up my account each day. Before I would see transactions and wonder what they were for. Or I had buyer’s remorse. Now that I am dealing in the absolute currency of cash, I just don’t buy because I see in my hands how much I am spending. The other day, I calculated what percentage of my weekly spend a bag of fancy cheese represented. Knowing that allowed me to walk away. I am also teaching myself to save for little items as a reward or positive reinforcement for good behaviour instead of just buying.
Ultimately I have learned from saying no to things that I absolutely don’t need all the things I thought I did. I want them and one day I can have them if I remain financially responsible.