Break the Cycle

As I mentioned a few posts back, I’m working on becoming more disciplined. I have been posting on here regularly, shooting for a goal of at least one post every two-days. I was doing well at the beginning, then Thanksgiving weekend hit.

I don’t do well when it comes to blogging whilst travelling. Finding the time, motivation, and will to write up a post somewhere other than home is difficult for me. I am working on this, and I’m going to overcome that stupid issue when I leave for my next trip over the holidays.

Missing a few days wouldn’t have been too bad, but it’s now been over a week since my last post. I let myself fall back into the cycle of not writing. The inertia of not doing something is difficult to overcome vs. the inertia of actually doing something. In other words, it’s way easier to continue not doing something than it is to continue doing something. The key is to recognize when you’re falling off track, and correct it as soon as possible. The further you drift away from the path, the harder it is to get back.

I’m back on track, and I will continue posting regularly. I appreciate your patience and understanding over the short break. Look for another post here next week.

In the meantime, feel free to post in the comments any tips or stories you have about getting back on track after a setback. What do you do when you feel yourself slipping away from your goals? I look forward to reading your comments.

-Will

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Attaining Financial Discipline

As I mentioned on my post last Sunday, I am working on becoming more disciplined. Part of this journey includes becoming more disciplined financially. I’ve never had issues with paying my bills on-time, but in the past I’ve felt like I wasn’t handling my money as well as I should. I have never been much of a saver, and I didn’t use a written budget to keep track of my spending. Without a budget, cash tends to go out as fast as it comes in. The paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle is stressful, and, unfortunately, very common; 78% of full-time workers in the US currently live paycheck-to-paycheck.

Lack of financial discipline is both a personal and cultural problem.

So how do we break the cycle of being constantly on the edge of financial ruin? I’ve been listening to the Dave Ramsey Show Podcast, and I am currently reading his book, The Total Money Makeover. The advice he gives can be broken down into a few short steps:

  1. Get on a written budget. Write out all your monthly expenses & income at the beginning of the month. Allocate spending for every dollar of your income BEFORE you spend it.
  2. Save $1000 ASAP. This is for your starter “Emergency Fund.” It’s a small buffer between you and any unforeseen expenses. (Later, after paying off all consumer debt, you expand your Emergency Fund to equal three-to-six months of expenses.)
  3. Pay off your debt. He recommends using the “Snowball method” wherein you pay off your smallest debt first (making minimum payments to service your larger debts), then moving on to the next larger one, and so on. Your payments will compound as you eliminate smaller debts, which will give you a sense of progress as you pay off your debt.

There is additional advice on investing for retirement in the book, as well as other tips for eliminating debt and improving your financial health (ex. if your car is worth more than half of your annual income, you can’t afford it). The book is a little cheesy, and filled with a lot of cliches, but the advice is sound. It’s an easy read, and there are forms at the back of the book for help with creating a written budget. If you have little knowledge about personal finance, it’s a good place to start. I would encourage seeking out additional books and information on investing after getting rid of debt ad building a solid emergency fund.

I feel a lot more in control since establishing a budget. I’ve already paid off a credit card, and I have a solid plan to make quick progress on my other debt (including my student loans). I’ll feel better when all of this debt is gone, but it’s nice to see it beginning to shrink in the meantime.

I hope sharing this advice helps those seeking to gain more control over their money. Look for another post here on Saturday.

-Will

Avoid the Drift

Life is funny in the way that it ebbs and flows. There are times of incredible stability, where everything goes as planned, and times of radical change, where nothing seems certain. Since the twentyeleven project, things have been less certain. I think college and twenty-something life is fraught with ambiguity most of the time. Distant goals and dreams exist, but the path forward is rarely ever clear. A vague notion of moving in a certain direction is usually all one has to guide them.

Amidst all this change, it’s easy to lose your sense of direction. Without something to move toward, you end up drifting aimlessly. The drift can feel pleasant for a short while, as simply floating along requires little effort. Eventually, the lack of anchors and solid ground will leave you feeling hollow and hopeless. Floating isn’t nearly as pleasant and carefree as it sounds; it is an ocean of anxiety, despair, and listlessness.

Post-college (and after any other period of focused effort toward a specific goal), it’s easy to lose your bearings. Whenever you feel lost, don’t lose hope. Find your anchors again, and point your ship back in the right direction. Despair will melt away, and a sense of purpose will return.

Keep moving forward, my friends.

-Will

P.S. Look for another post here by Thursday (11/16). I’m committed to posting on here regularly for the foreseeable future.