IT Pilgrimage

A Journey From IT to Freedom

Archive for June, 2008

Save Money by Not Spending It

Posted by IT Pilgrim on June 30, 2008

Poor Over-Used Wallet

Funny how easy saving money is on paper, and how difficulty it is in practice. I ran across an article this morning on the Motley Fool site, which is mainly an investing site but is also great entertainment. Their authors all seem to have a talent for presenting financial material in a humorous and engaging manner.

Well, anyway, the article is about how to spend less money. You always see tips for spending less money, and rather than beating an already deceased animal, the answer seems to be simple and universal. Just don’t spend it.

One easy way to do this…go somewhere where you cant spend it. Spend a weekend at a farm, or camping. Go somewhere where all shopping is far way, inconvenient and the internet is not available. Live out in the country, not the suburbs, way out there. You know the kind of place, the one where when you name the town, everyone looks at you funny ’cause they have no idea where it is. Give it a try for a week or just a weekend, give your wallet a holiday this Fourth of July.

Photo by telethon via Flickr

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Why You Should Not Care About Gas Prices

Posted by IT Pilgrim on June 27, 2008

It seems like everywhere we look these day, someone is complaining about gas prices. If its not how to find cheaper gas, its about how to save gas. While all that is admirable, heck, we’ve all done it, and I’ve completely changed the way I drive to save gas, does it really matter in the grand scope of things? Is your life really changed drastically by gas prices or is it just an emotional response for us all? I tend to think it is and I am sure that people will let me know how wrong they think I am, but let’s take a look at the numbers here.

Gas prices have risen yes, and for the sake or this example, let’s say they have risen from $3/gallon to $4 a gallon. OK, so that’s $1 a gallon. Let’s say your car takes 10 gallons (just a simple number chosen since my math is less than stellar). That’s an average of $10 a tank. Let’s go with two tanks of gas a week. that’s an average of $20 a week, or $80 a month. That is a couple of hours of overtime, or a few hours at a second job, a couple of lunches a week, or a dinner out. Is that really life changing? I am going to go out on a limb here, and say that if it is, you have bigger problems and you need to take control of your expenses.

What can you do about it? Well, for one, you can worry about it, but that is not going to change anything. You can complain about it, and most people do, but that also doesn’t change anything. I say its about choices. All life is governed by the choices we make, good or bad. I know some people like to say they have no choice, but I am saying that we always have a choice. It may not be the best choice, and none of the options may be good, but its still a choice, even not making a decision is still a choice.

So what can you, as an individual do about it?
1. Take a bus.
2. Carpool
3. Hypermile
4. Get a job closer to home
5. Ride a bike or walk to work.

Bus
Some of these choices are hard. I hear a lot of people say that they cannot take a bus to work, and I say that rather, they choose not to. For example, I could drive or bike the 8 miles to the nearest park and ride, get on the bus, and take the 2 1/2 hour ride to work, then bike to my office. Is it a good choice? No, its not, so I choose not to do it, but is it a choice, yes, always.

Carpool
Carpooling can be difficult, and inconvenient at times. Since I work in IT, I often keep weird and crazy hours and stay at work for 12-16 hours at a time, not good for a carpool, so I choose not to do it. It could be done and I think a lot more people could do it. Have you ever looked around in traffic and taken note of how few cars have more than one person in them?

Hypermile
This is my personal choice. Bare feet, rolling up to lights and all that. I like that I have direct control over how much gas I use and have been able to cut down from filling up twice a week to just once, and that with driving over 300 miles a week.

Get a Job closer to home
This is a little more difficult, but again, its about choices. I am considering taking a job at the same office that my spouse works so we can carpool. It would involve a paycut to do so, so that’s a choice I have to make.

Ride a bike
Riding a bike to work can be hard. Cars don’t respect bikes on the road and all that makes it even harder. Again, it’s a hard choice. I could choose to bike the 32 miles to work and the 32 miles back each day, or ride the bus one way. I choose not to because I am too fat and lazy to make it, but I think its time we take responsibility for our choices.

We all choose to do what’s easiest or most convenient for us. I have seen neighbors who drive 25 miles to work at a fast food joint when there is one only 5 mile away because they like their co-workers. So I guess what I am saying is that its time for us to stop complaining. We made our bed, with our big trucks and SUVs that you cant even sell nowadays, its time to lie in them.

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Preventing the Fall

Posted by IT Pilgrim on June 26, 2008

Have you ever hit rock bottom? Hmm… Perhaps I should ask, has anyone not ever hit rock bottom. In response to GLBL’s post the other day, what would have prevented the fall? I too had to hit rock bottom before the realization that money doesn’t grow on tree really sank in. I woke up one day, got ready to go to work and realized that I had almost no groceries and wasn’t too sure how I was going to get more before payday, and this on a nice fat 80-hour work week income. Why we all do this to ourselves, I don’t know, but if only we had a time machine where we could communicate with our former selves…

Rather than getting a second job to bail myself out, it would have been nice if I had realized one simple principle, budgeting. I am not much of a budgeter at this point, preferring to keep a running tally in my head, but back then I had no idea where my money went. So if I could tell myself one thing, it would be this, Track Expenses! Oh how much grief I could have saved myself with those two little words.

If I had tracked expenses, perhaps I could have paid off my credit card each month, or better yet, not have used credit cards in the first place. I now even know when it all started, on a vacation where lots of unexpected expenses cropped up all over the place. I would go back and warn the old me before taking that particular vacation.

The grand irony of it all is that just before I hit rock bottom, I started getting daily collections calls, but not for me. Seems some esteemed family member likes to put my home phone number on all their credit applications they don’t intend to pay so I get all their collection call. Its like an ice bath to get one of those calls, afraid that its for you. The fact that it is not is not really much of a relief, the fear has already kicked in at that point.

So, in the interest of simplicity, just track your expenses. How can you ever know how much you have if you don’t know what you’ve spent?

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Getting Rich Quick

Posted by IT Pilgrim on June 25, 2008

Seems like everywhere you look today, on tv, in magazines, even in the newspaper, there are plenty of get rich quick schemes. What I don’t understand is, why does everyone want to get rich quickly or easily. If something does not take some blood, tears and sweat, is it really worth having? How do you value something that you didn’t have to work ling and hard for?

Case in point, seems like a lot of lottery winners quickly, if not immediately lose or spend their winnings and then are right back to being perpetually poor. Or equally as bad, the trust-fund kiddies who blow all their parents or grandparents slaved away to make. Does anyone ever value anything they didn’t work for?

It seems to me that perhaps the better thing to wish for is to get something at least remotely proportionate to the amount of effort that you put into it. I am always getting told to not work so hard, to stop and smell the roses, but I don’t want to smell the roses, I want to plant more. You can almost bet that if I have a few minutes, I am going to try to find something constructive to do.

Have you ever know anyone who valued anything that they didn’t work for? I think it all goes along with you don’t know what you have until its gone that you don’t value what you didn’t have to work to get. So what is the attraction to getting rich quick if you wont enjoy it? Perhaps its that we all want the easy life, and I have to agree there that it would be nice, for about a month. So why get rich quick? I say perhaps instead that we should have rich momentum so by the time you get rich you will value it. What say the peanut gallery?

Photo by distinguish

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Soft eyes. Hypermiling Skill of the Week

Posted by IT Pilgrim on June 24, 2008

See the Forest for the Trees
Here’s a quick hypermiling skill for your Tuesday morning, it’s a method I like to call soft eyes, a technique often taught in some sports and martial arts. This will allow you to see the forest among the trees. I have noticed recently, that most people, when they drive, focus intently on the car in front of them, occasionally glancing to the side, but mainly focus on those taillights in front of them. This is really tunnel-vision, and limits your options as well as contributes to tension headaches. Instead, try to use soft-eyes, meaning don’t focus on anything unless necessary to achieve a blend of details and peripheral vision that allows you to see the big picture around you.

At first blush, that seems a little scary, and it takes some time to get used to it, but its not about not paying attention, its about not intently focusing on one particular thing. Instead, relax your eyes and face and let your eyes scan around you. If you are trying to hypermile, at all, you really need to be looking at least a half mile in front of you anyway so you can try to anticipate traffic. You need to be seeing the cars on both sides of you and a little behind you as well. The goal is to stay calmly aware of as much of your surroundings as possible, mainly taking note of motion, or red lights.

How to get there:
First spend a few days practicing using your peripheral vision, I highly recommend you do this somewhere other than traffic if you have not done it before. Without focusing on anything in particular, look straight ahead and as you do this pay attention to what you notice simultaneously off to both sides . Try not to look first to one side and then to the other , at least not at this stage. The goal is to not focus on one single thing. Instead you are trying to look straight ahead, without moving your eyes from side to side, while noticing what is off to both sides of you.

Focused, or Foveal Vision
In general, very few of us actually need to practice this, but its helpful to do just to get an idea of the difference. Spend a few minutes every few hours, pick one particular thing and focus on it exclusively. One warning though, I also would not try this in traffic, or for too long as it’s a quick way to give yourself a headache or miss some joker cutting you off and slamming on their brakes.

The End Result
After practicing peripheral vision and focused vision for a few days, it’s fairly easy to graduate to using soft eyes since this is merely a blend of both skills. Remember, the goal is to try to notice everything occurring around you without focusing on it. This will take practice, and again, I suggest trying it somewhere else first, such as walking down the hall at work.

Soft eyes is a useful skill, not just for driving but for everyday life. Most people find it much easier to talk to you and you will find that people will not avoid your eyes as much as if you look too sharply focused. The trick however, is that you must learn to notice when someone else has made the first attempt at eye contact. Try it in the hall at work, or across the table at meetings, however, since it makes it difficult to see what you are looking at, some people will think you are not paying attention and have spaced out so be prepared to show that you are paying attention. Give it a week and let me know how it goes.

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