Monday, February 25, 2008

The Money Plan

Weight: 332.2
Total loss: 17.8 pounds

I've always been bad with money.

It's funny, too, because both my parents are, like, household finance wizards, and my mom especially always tried to instill those skills and values in me. I really don't know how the disconnect happened, or when. All I know is that once I left the house for college and got my first credit card, it was all downhill from there.

On January 17th, it was the day after payday and I found myself several hundred dollars in the red. Here again, I wasn't sure how it happened but it was really upsetting. I felt like total crap, a complete failure. A loser. You name it. However, I turned that terrible day into something positive. I said to myself, "Self, this is bullshit. What are you going to do to change this part of your life and gain control, once and for all, over your finances?"

So along with my diet, I decided to go on a budget, too. Or at least start educating myself and making changes to my lifestyle to assure that I would never see red ink on my bank account ever again, and to stop making so many foolish mistakes about my spending.

I've been meeting my first goal since then, which is to have money left over from paycheck to paycheck. I get paid every two weeks, and since I dug myself out of my deficit (it took a whole pay cycle to do it, but I did it!), I've had some money to carry over.

The other immediate goal was to change my bill-paying habits. I have this weird aversion to paying bills, even if I have the money to cover them. I think I am afraid to leave myself with nothing, which I suppose is a valid fear, but if I keep chugging along as I have, I will have a cushion to fall back on and not have to worry about that anymore. I prioritized: First, I caught up on my household bills (I just have my gas bill to finish fixing up, which I should be able to do this week), and set my mind to use the "get the bill, pay the bill right away" technique, rather than tucking bills away to be forgotten about until I start getting collection calls. How novel!

I also have some credit card debt that I am working on, but I wanted to at least get my household stuff taken care of first. I also have to finish paying my car off, and then there is my student loans...

But I digress. I took care of the urgent items and, using an online tool (I'm trying out BudgetEdge, but may eventually migrate over to Mint), I am working out a budget to find out exactly where my money goes each pay period and to figure out where I can cut expenses. In addition to that, I am keeping detailed notes each time I spend any amount of money, and keeping that list in my wallet. I have enough data now that I need to actually compile it and analyze it, but even without all that it has really helped me to become a more conscious consumer.

Finally, I have found some really great personal finance blogs. Like weight loss blogs, I really enjoy reading about other people's experiences and how they improved their lives. So far, I have checked out The Dough Roller, Millionaire Mommy Next Door, and a few others that I will add to my links as I go along.

I'll probably be writing more about my weight loss here, but be assured that I have a lot to say about my finances too. Things have improved in just a few weeks, so I feel confident I will have some successes to share about the green stuff, too.

'Til next time,


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