IT Pilgrimage

A Journey From IT to Freedom

Posts Tagged ‘Saving Money’

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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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 »

Save on Cooling Your House with Blackout

Posted by IT Pilgrim on June 14, 2008

Here’s one quick and easy tip to save a little energy, and thus money on your Air Conditioner. All you have to do is block out all of the light from windows. A few years ago, wandering around a fabric store, I came across Blackout. There are several versions of it, some are called thermal suede, which is almost as good, and there is usually a cheaper version of blackout. The best part is that it does not cost too much more than covering your windows with tinfoil, and looks 100% better.

Buy the cheap stuff, its just fine as long as you don’t dry it in the dryer on high heat (it will shrink). Just get you enough blackout to cover all your windows. The best part, is even if you do not know how to sew, you can install this stuff. Just cut it a little bigger than your windows and pin or tape it up. If you’re going to do that, you may want to consider hiding it behind your curtains and no one will be the wiser.

One thing to be aware of is that it does truly block out all the light. Unless you get the thermal suede, which is meant to block heat not light, there will be no light coming in or out of your windows. This means that the neighbors cannot see if the lights in your house are on at all. That can be a plus or minus depending on your situation. It also works quite well for keeping out the light of pesky security lights, especially in apartment buildings. The payoff is huge! Even the non-light blocking thermal suede is rated to keep your house 10-15 degree cooler in the summer, and it has the advantage of keeping cold out in the winter. Give it a try, I would love to hear if anyone else has used it.

Posted in Finance, Frugal Living, Home Improvement | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Credit Cards, The Root Of All Evil?

Posted by IT Pilgrim on June 5, 2008

Are credit card companies really the root of all evil. These days it seems popular to believe that banks and credit card companies have cause all of our problems. I am including the sub-prime mortgage mess, and the more recently decried credit crisis. Well, I am going to go out on a limb here and voice what will probably be an unpopular opinion here. We have don this to ourselves. That’s right, I am claiming responsibility for my own mistakes. Do I have a home that’s now upside down and un-sellable, yes. Do I have credit card debt, yes. And its all my fault.

We, as the American public have caused ourselves this problem by not taking responsibility for our words and actions. Is this insensitive of me, I would say probably, yes it is. Its time to draw that line in the sand and step over it. By we, I mean as individuals and as corporations, all of us. We buy things on credit that we cant afford, we buy bigger houses in nicer neighborhoods that we cant afford, and the list goes on and on. Rather that waiting for someone to save us, I believe its time to make a stand and start digging ourselves out. All I can hope for is that at least one person hears my rally cry. So where do we start?

Step One: Take Inventory
Its time to take an inventory of your life. Walk around, write down everything you have and everything you owe. I personally like to separate the things I have into two categories: need, and don’t use. Have some extra clothes laying around? Toys, Dvds, etc? Sell them on Ebay, have a garage sale, just get rid of it before you change your mind. Have a gym membership that you don’t use? Get rid of that too. Stop eating out, even if you have to eat cup of noodles every day for a year, its still cheaper than eating out. Stop paying for and get rid of everything humanly possible.

Step Two: Start Digging
Now that you know what you have and what you need, its time to get to work. This is where the expression, no free lunch comes in. Can you get overtime at work? Do it, work overtime until your hands and eyes fall off. 70-80 hours a week, its totally do-able. One word of caution however, try not to work more than 100 hours in a single week. I have found that somewhere after that point you get tired enough to start hallucinating, I do not recommend it. If you cant get overtime, than get a second job, even if its at a burger joint, or greeting people at the local superstore. Work night, work weekends, work lunch hours if you have to. If you’ve read The Millionaire Next Door, you’ll remember that many of them sited working weekends as their big break.

Step Three: Pay It All Back
Making a little extra money now? Good, its time to start filling in that hole you dug. Even if it seems insignificant, $5 or $10 can make a difference. The usual personal finance wisdom is to pay down the smallest debt, or the one with the highest interest rate. I found however, that sometimes, at least to start with, it helps the most to pay off the debt that you hate the most. Whatever that may be for you, be it the credit card, the mortgage, whatever, just pick one. Use every dime of your extra income towards it and make that sore spot go away.

Step Four: Install Some Insulation
Debt paid off now, or at least have your head above water? Beautiful, now its not quite time to quit that second job yet. Now its time to start taking some of that extra income and stashing it (preferably in something bank-like and not in the mattress). That way, when your radiator blows from working so many hours, or your car has trouble you have a little something to absorb the fall. Even if you only stash $25 a month, its more than you had before and a good start.

Step Five: Keep it Small
Now, at this point, hopefully you have made that hateful debt go away and have built yourself a nice little emergency fund. At this point, if you really want, you could probably quit that extra job, but you might want to consider one more little emergency fund. I like to call this, my “take this job and shove it,” fund. That way, if I decide I hate my job too much to come in on Monday, I don’t have to. I would recommend somewhere between two to six months salary, depending on how much you make. The higher paid you are, the harder it may be to find a job, so you will need more.

So, where am I you might ask. In the interest of full disclosure, I am hovering somewhere in step 4. I work two jobs, and take on any little extra way to make money I can find. I have one credit card left, (the one I hated the least), and I am rapidly catching up to that despicable mortgage. I expect them both to go away by the end of this year. I have had a few brain melts and haven’t taken more than 3 days off in near on 4 or 5 years as I am saving that as my reward. I tell you that, just so you can see that it can be done. Statistically, we are one of the hardest working nations in the world, hours-wise, its time to have something to show for it. Anyone with me?

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