IT Pilgrimage

A Journey From IT to Freedom

Archive for the ‘Finance’ Category

Mrs. Micah’s Single Step Personal Finance Challenge

Posted by IT Pilgrim on July 24, 2008

In acceptance on Mrs. Micah’s little personal finance challange … Here I go. Time to get old Microsoft Money and update it. I have to admit, I HATE Microsoft Money, not for itself, or the software, or anything like that, software is software to me. I hate what it shows me, which is how bad I have been in the past and how much fixing I still have to do.

The Gory Past

  • The Home: I bought my home when I was 18, making minimum wage in retail, but that was not the bad part. I could afford the home, which I still have, but the bad part is that it’s value is on a permanent down-slide. oh well, what’s done is done, time to pay that puppy off.
  • The Credit Cards: Man, oh man do I hate credit cards. I fully recognize that my credit card debt is my own fault, I got complacent and stopped paying enough attention to my bills. I later discovered all their tricky little maneuvers such as moving the due date, raising interest rates for no apparent reason, and my personal favorite, changing the billing address. Somehow I managed to rack up something like 15k in credit card debt.
  • The Student Loans: Still paying for sending Mr.Pilgrim to an expensive private school to finish his degree.
  • Cars: I wish I knew then what I know now! I would have paid in cash.

The Present

Now, I am currently working on making lots of things go away concurrently. I was doing well for a while, but got a little carried away. I thought that if one snowball was good, two were better, right? Wrong. Time to go back to basics and pick one to fix first. Probably going to be that evil credit card that I made myself a whore to, then the car, student loan, and finally that house. I am, as we speak, updating my money so I can see if I have made any progress in the last few months but I have my doubts. As a whole, I feel I’ve done fairly well, down to less than 5k in credit cards down from the high something around a year and a half ago. The house and car loans have shrunk pretty significantly as well.

The Future

In the future, I hope to return to paying things off a step at a time, taking things one month and one bill at a time. I tend to get a little too wrapped up in the big picture and lose the trees for the forest. 😉 In the more distant future, I hope to pay for everything in cash, and maybe sell some stuff and hit the road for a while. We’ll see. OK, back to updating now.

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Posted in Credit, Finance, Frugal Living | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

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.

Posted in Cars, Finance, Frugal Living, Travel | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

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?

Posted in Finance, Frugal Living | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

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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