Category Archives: Philosophies About Money

Philosophical musings about money, as well as some strategies to improving your money habits.

Debt Free by 50

I’ll be 50 in the year 2020.

I currently owe over $100,000 to various places with the biggest debt in the house that I own. It’s a nice house and I enjoy it, but owing banks is a yoke that I don’t want to have.

Today is October 3, 2017

$76442.04 – Mortgage
$18154.97 – Credit Card
$10462.01 – Car

$105058.12 – Total

That’s a difference of $4687.22 for those of you who are keeping track out there. I would love to see more money put toward the car just to get it paid off even sooner, but right now we’re still doing pretty good. We’re working on reaching a happy medium between work and play – necessity and fun.

Today is May 29, 2017.

$77,118.58 – Mortgage
$21,176.91 – Credit Card
$11,449.85 – Car

$109,745.34 – Total

Holy gerbils! That’s a lot of cash! And, while I’d like to think of myself as being different and unique, in this case… I’m pretty average. There are a whole lot of people who owe a whole lot of money to folks.

My goal is to be debt free by September 2020.

In this blog, I’ll be talking about the strategies, concepts, and wiggly bits that I used to get to the debt free mark. You’ll find some ideas and thoughts from other folks in here, too.

Some of the subjects that I’ll cover:

The one thing that saved my bacon more times than I can count
Debt-busting strategies and experiments
The psychology of money and getting to 0
Side hustles to get debt-free

The Conversation Continues

We are a consumer-based society. That much is clear. At some point, there were some statistics about how we’re exposed to at least 5,000 brands in a day. The question is, are we paying attention to them?. But that’s not my point.

The point is, we’re surrounded by all types of marketers who are screaming at us to buy buy buy. And these messages add up – to the point where I don’t really even know what I want, but I know that I want to buy something. Today, I recognized that we needed some meat and spent $65 at Ingles on meat, potatoes, and other groceries.

May 20 – May 26
$63 – Aldi
$20 – Whole Foods
$13 – Mediterranean restaurant
$65 – Ingles
$161 – Total

I’m worried about the food, primarily because that’s the most controllable expense, but there are others that I need to be worried about. The debt is going to eat me if I let it, but I’m not planning on letting it. So, remember that $692 that was in the business account?

Yeah. Nope.

$270 went to car payment + replenishing $20 in house account
$300 went to the newly replenished emergency fund.
$50 went to his account
$72 went to the credit card to hopefully bash it down a little bit.

Everything that’s normally due is still on the table with the exception of the car payment which isn’t due until I think the beginning of August. I have the feeling that billing is going to be kind of light for the 1st of the month but really sweet on the 15th.

I’m doing my best to turn these big debts into small.

All the Best Made Plans

My parents didn’t talk to me about money. We’re taught that it’s a taboo subject around the dinner table, though many kids had the experience of getting to hear their parents fight about it. Now, it’s been a while since I’ve been a kid, and I’ve been managing my own money for a long time, but there are times when I forget that it’s a completely psychological thing.

We wrap our value up in the money that we earn. We ‘invest’ in ourselves when we take a course or spend time doing whatever we do. So, those who are not earning money or feel that they’ve been getting the short end of the stick are considered ‘worthless’ – entirely a money term. While our net worth is literally wrapped up in the money we make, our self-worth is something different.

Our self worth is wrapped up in what we’ve done, where we’re doing, the ideas that we’ve had, and a whole manner of things. It’s not just how much money we made. Compared to Warren Buffett, for example, I’m lower than a dimple on a ladybug… but I still consider myself to be pretty darned important in my world.

I did what I said I’d do yesterday by paying for the car payment and replenishing the money used for medication. I got an invoice out to the client who will pay by the end of the week, so now this week is generally cleared. There may be another $40 coming in, but that won’t hit til next week. With freelancers a lot more than 9-5ers, it’s usually just a whole lot of little things adding up to the main cash flow.

I paid $80 to a doctor’s appointment, and instead of going to a grocery store, I spent $13 on eating at a decent Mediterranean restaurant which had cruddy service. I think that it’s because I’m female that I got bad service, but the food was good. I won’t be going back, but I won’t disparage the food. Babaganoush and lentil soup. Pretty darned tasty.

Oh! I also spent a total of $6 on getting two pictures done on Fiverr. I should be getting those by the beginning of next week – I want to get a few more (for a total of 5) done before I spend around $50 to get a few decks of cards made. I think I have a reasonable idea of what I want, and I think that 5 picture cards will make a great MVP. It’s perfectly okay to spend only around $100 on a project, right? I hope so.

Decisions and Mindfulness

On the 20th, we made the decision that all of the food that we eat shall be from the grocery store or from the garden. It’s a challenge, I believe it’s called the no restaurant challenge. We spent about $62 on groceries at Aldi that day and around $20 on groceries at Whole Foods on Tuesday. The Whole Foods food was somewhat cheating because we got meals from there which were fairly fast – I got sushi and he got hot food from their buffet table.

The real challenge is going to be tomorrow. Tomorrow, I have an appointment in Roswell where I’ll be away from the home for an extended period. I’ll have all kinds of fast food choices available to me, and have even kind of made up my mind that I want to spend $20 on a meal at the Indian restaurant that I found last week. There’s another part which says that it’s too easy and that I should resist.

The biggest factor that plays into my spending is convenience. Going to the Indian restaurant would be all about convenience. It wouldn’t be because I’m craving Indian food, nor would going to the Japanese buffet be all about the sushi. I have to convince myself that I have higher goals than that and when I do decide that it’s time to eat out that I should make the most of the experience by going out with those I care about.

In other money happenings, I have $692 coming in tomorrow and $240 most likely coming in on Friday or Monday (she said that she would be taking care of it this week). Next week, I bill out around $900 for the regular clients, and might pick up another $100 or so from another client. Next month is going to be a lot more fun on the money front because I’m expecting one client to come through bigly on June 22.

Assuming that the $240 comes in, I’m going to take that and the $692 and put in a mortgage payment ($650) and a car payment ($250) to clear the slate for next month.

I spent $20 today on medication. That stuff is non-negotiable. I spent $46 last week on it, and about $20 at Whole Foods picking up some arnica and some Tiger Balm.

The point of all this is that I need to be accountable for my own money situation. $20 here and $20 there have added up to hundreds and even thousands of dollars… and it’s money which could have been spent paying off the financial obligations that we have. Right now, I’m looking at the car with the hope that we can get it paid off early.

The Only 9 Tips You Need to Save Money on Everything

Ramit Sethi said that there’s only so much you can save, but you have an unlimited earnings potential.

Dave Ramsey is all about using what you have to save and become debt free. Make the most out of your future.

The Minimalists talk about minimalism and essentially treating your real world like an editor is supposed to treat an unruly manuscript: take out everything unnecessary so you can appreciate what’s important.

What happens when you take it all and smoosh it together?

The beginning of a game plan.

This blog has gone through some changes. In the beginning, I wanted to list every way you could save money on whatever thing that you wanted to save money on. Want to save money on games? Here’s a post. Want to save money on washers and dryers? Here’s another post. Want to save money on video games? Yeah, that too.

I realized that the solutions were pretty pedestrian and repetitive.

1. If it’s a *thing* that you won’t need more than once, check with your friends.
For instance, we need to clean our gutters and to do that we need an extension ladder. Instead of running to Home Depot to pick up a $200 extension ladder, we’re hitting up a friend who will most likely loan one to us. The same works for video games, appliances, and other things. A whole LOT of saving money relies on groups getting together and pooling their resources.

2. In most cases, food stuff is always going to be cheaper if you shop at the grocery store.
Restaurants are cool. Restaurants are neat. Fast food is cool and neat as well. And, you can get baby hamburgers and tacos and stuff for $1.50 per, but you’re going to win out with volume if you go to the store and spend the cash. You can spend $20 at the grocery store and get a whole lot of tasty, tasty tacos.

2a. If it’s not cheaper, you’ll have a better idea of what’s in it from the grocery store.
You have a magical trade-off when you buy all of the ingredients and make your own food. You know what’s in a dish, which means that you can add things and erase them at your leisure. With that kind of control, you can make them healthy or not healthy. Making it at home is going to be the most cost effective option in most cases.

3. MOST things are just as functional used as new.
For realz. Video games. Tires. Computers. Appliances. Cars. Clothes. If you need these things to survive, you’re probably going to be better off getting them used. If you’re hard core, you can make your own clothes (which sometimes costs a LOT more than simply buying at Goodwill), but it usually doesn’t come to that. If you want something which will get you by, used is the way to go.

4. If you have to have new, save up for quality.
Darn Tough socks cost between $15-20 a pair. You can get 6-packs of socks for a LOT cheaper, they’re not going to feel as good or be as effective as regular socks. they are darn tough and they are incredibly comfortable. Their guarantee says that if they are not the most comfortable, durable and best fitting socks you should return them for another pair. Forever. There are things in every imaginable category that represent long-lasting quality.

5. If you’re not using it, minimize its impact. If you are, maximize its use.
We live in 2 rooms of the house. Only one room of those two have air conditioning. The rest is a sauna in the summer and an ice box in the winter. If you have 2 cars and use only one car, If you’re running the dishwasher, washer, dryer, or other random appliance … try not to use it for less than a full load or run. That way, you’ll get the most out of it.

6. For goods and services, always do your research.
Research it. Look around. Comparison shop. See who offers the best value and go with that one. If you’re unsure about it, ask your friends. This works for anything – the universal truth of saving money and making the most of what you’ve got. If you need insurance, check around and find the best one for you. If you need phone service? Same thing. Different strokes for different folks, and remember to shop on value, not price.

7. If you’re not using it, get rid of it or profit from it (or both).
Remember that profiting from it doesn’t necessarily mean making money from it – you could give it to friends who need it, get the warm fuzzy of giving it to Goodwill, etc. If you’ve got a spare bedroom in your house, get a porch troll. If you’ve got lots of books you don’t need, turn them in for credit. If you’ve got video games you don’t want, get store credit or sell them off. Get rid of it, profit from it, or both.

8. Make sure you need it
I have a bad habit. When I get an idea for a business, I want to buy the domain, start creating tons of content, come up with a marketing plan, and go full steam ahead. Two weeks later, my drive for the site has evaporated and I’m stuck with this domain that I own that I don’t know what to use it for. Something always happened and the drive went away. Fast forward to now… and I’ve got a lot of domains that are collecting dust.

It’s called a two-week obsession. I’d spend upwards of $200 on something and do all the things, then have it peter out just as quickly as it came on, leaving me out $200 with a ton of product on my hands. Some things I come back to (canvases and paint don’t go bad, for instance). Some things I don’t. But I’ll spend the money for it in the blink of an eye and the urge vanishes.

So, if you want to try something out but you don’t know if it’s the thing, find someone you know who does the thing and see if you can borrow their old stuff. That way, you can find out if it’s the thing for you. Use your current resources to do the thing – like, if you have a website laying around and gathering dust, use that to work your new idea. It doesn’t really matter what the domain name is right NOW. And, stuff’s easy to transfer over. If you want to try mixing teas, see if your circle of friends has any spare herbs that you can play with. It will save you a ton of money in the long run.

9. If you need it, have the space for it, and it doesn’t go bad, buy it in bulk.
Bulk will almost always get you a better deal than buying it individually in the grocery store. If you spend $20 at Costco on the super mega jumbo toilet paper hoard that will last you 6 months as opposed to the once in a while thing that costs $20 for infinitely less rolls, go for the mountain of TP. You know you use it. It might not be NOW, but you know you do.

Don’t go crazy with this, though. If the space that it takes up interferes with your daily life, then don’t get it. Yes, you might consider yourself cool having a Kinko’s worth of paper in your closet, but if you’re NOT going to use it and it’s taking up too much of your space, then don’t get it.

Buying toiletries in bulk will most likely save you a lot of money in the long run.

When I discovered these ideas, I realized that the rest of the blog became a moot point. Each of the posts that I made was just piling on and piling on, so it became boring to me. Boring and predictable. And while boring and predictable is great in some cases, I wanted a little more.

I made another realization, too. Spending money… the choice to use the money you earn whether as an investment in futureYou (savings) or nowYou (giving your money to others) is made in the blink of an eye. It’s like a light switch: it takes no time or effort to spend money. There may be mental gymnastics to justify what you’re spending it on, but the actual act should be painless.

Sometimes, the decision is actually made on autopilot.

Your brain chunks events together really easily. If you do something at a specific time and place for more than a few times in a row, it becomes easier and easier to do it. So, if you stop at BoJangles on the way to work every time for a big ol’ picnic size order of Borounds and a large tea for four days in a row, that fifth day you’ll have to truly think about it to NOT do it.

The same works if you stop by QT to pick up coffee, or always go to the grocery store on Wednesdays, or what have you. This is where mindfulness comes in. It takes *effort* to break the habits that you have because the brain is super lazy. If you’re mindful, you’re aware of what’s going on and aware of the patterns that you’ve created at any given point in time.

Breaking of those patterns, breaking of those cycles… that’s actually more fascinating to me than the ways to save, because psychological stuff and cycle breaking is generally more fascinating. Break the cycle with money, and you can break the cycle with a whole LOT of things. You can literally develop a personal system of bad habit and bad cycle breaking.

Money management programs are nice for the aftermath, but what’s there when you’re in the trenches and fighting your own brain?

Why I Left Textbroker

I was a 4 star (out of 5) writer on Textbroker for over a year. I stopped being a writer for them for many reasons, but it’s still a reasonable service for those who can overlook their flaws. Here are some of the reasons that I left writing for Textbroker, and moved on to some of the other ‘content mills’ for my piecework.

Before I begin, let’s start with looking at the positive aspects of Textbroker.

Pros of Textbroker

1. They Pay on Time

For a freelance writer who’s looking for a few extra bucks, Textbroker pays on time, every time. This is where they have an advantage over single shot clients, and you can be assured that when you request the money, you’ll get it.

2. Many 2 star and 4 star Articles

There were always 2 star and 4 star articles of sufficient variety to write. The 2 star articles don’t make very much money, but for topics that you’re intimate with, there’s probably something in there just for you. It’s a matter of judgement between the money you’re making and the time it takes to research the topic.

3. Huge Company

This is a large, well known company. Most people who write for content mills have heard of Textbroker, and see them as a reliable company. As such, they receive plenty of free advertising from writers, and have a steady stream of good work in their stable.

4. Excellent Community

While I didn’t extensively participate in their community, they have a large one with which to work. You can receive feedback on your articles, as well as learn new tips and tricks about how to navigate the content mill world.

5. No Experience Necessary

With Textbroker, you do not have to present a resume for consideration. You can take up the reins at any time, and really make your impression on those who need some content. You can learn all of those tips and tricks necessary, and can choose your battles. This was an excellent learning experience.

6. You Are Not In Competition

With places like eLance and Helium, you are in competition with a lot of other candidates. This can be quite intimidating. With Textbroker, you can pick and choose the writing that you’ll do, whether it be a little or a lot. Simply pick the article and run with it because you’re not writing for nothing.

There are several more great things about Textbroker, but it wasn’t the great things that drove me away from them. There were too many irritations as far as writing conventions and feedback which drove me away.

The Bad Stuff (or, why I left)

1. Pay is Too Low

This is a criticism of many online writing establishments. The pay is too low to justify the time and the energy that it takes to create top-notch content. For 2 star writers (the lowest), you can expect to be paid under a penny a word. The five star writers will get paid more (of course), but the hoops that you have to jump through are incredible. The average of 3 stars will get you a penny a word, and 4 stars will get you a little over a penny, but under 2 cents a word. Make your judgement on whether the time is worth it.

2. Very Few 3 Star Articles

Most writers will start out at 3 stars, and there are very few of them to write as a result. The competition is high enough so there might be times where there are no three star articles to write. This doesn’t work for those who are trying to get their own sustainable income streams working, as it’s difficult to live on a single article a day.

3. It takes forever to be graded

Your ranking depends on the ratings that the Textbroker team gives you. While they are reasonable with returning feedback on the demo article and okay (within several days) about getting back to you with answers to questions, you can count on several weeks passing (sometimes up to 2 months) before you receive feedback on articles which you’ve written for their clients. Since your money is in their hands, this becomes an unacceptable amount of time.

4. Commas

Here’s where I admit that I’m an elitist. I’ve come to terms with it.

The serial comma is essential to convey the meaning of a sentence. The lack of it can completely skew the meaning of a paragraph or even an entire piece. One of the more common examples of this is ‘I would like to thank my parents, Ayn Rand and God.’ The way that it’s stated means that the author’s parents are Ayn Rand and God. If written with the Oxford comma, the meaning becomes clearer (and closer to what the author intended) ‘I would like to thank my parents, Ayn Rand, and God.’ See the difference?

Textbroker will ‘ding’ you when you use the serial comma, because they use a writing style which does not believe in its importance. To me, this was a great oversight, and they should lose every writer who has a love for the English language as a result. I did not realize that I was so passionate about this particular comma until I was forced to write without it. I would become angry because they were muddying up language by excluding a simple punctuation mark.

5. Ratings are Company, Not Client, Driven

While the client may love your work and move mountains to get you as a writer on their staff, if your piece doesn’t fit the Textbroker standards, you will be downgraded. A client should have the ultimate issue in the matter, because the client is the one who has to deal with the piece. They should be the ones who are responsible for your rating, not a company who has a proven track record of taking forever to get back with you. This is one reason why other companies get my vote.

For the beginning writer, Textbroker is an excellent company for which to write. Their community is excellent, they pay on time, and they can help you hone your craft in the writing business. You can get started immediately with their services, and get some experience (with no request for qualifications) in the writing business. For someone with experience who enjoys immediate feedback and using the Oxford comma, it might not be the best solution.

Picture courtesy of Leland on Flickr. Used under the Creative Commons License.

Are there any places that you’ve left because of the little things? I’d love to know!

As a result of my ranting about Textbroker, I found a book about success on Textbroker. It covers all of the tips and tricks to really make your work shine. Here’s a link to the book titled Textbroker Success