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

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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.

Shaking Off the Rust

TWO MONTHS LATER…

Blogging regularly on here (or elsewhere) is like taking a cooking class; it always sounds like a good idea, but I never seem to get around to it. Judging by the lack of recent posts on this blog, I assume that I’m not alone in this struggle. At least we’re all failing together (hurrah for collective failure!).

I’ve been working on becoming more disciplined lately. I’ve focused on basic things like making my bed daily, keeping up on laundry, washing dishes immediately following a meal, etc. These are all small things, but they add up over time (particularly if one doesn’t keep up with those menial chores). Listening to podcasts like the Jocko Podcast (particularly the episode with Jordan Peterson’s interview) have helped fuel my desire to stay disciplined. And while I’ve been able to keep up with those basic tasks, I haven’t yet moved on to the work I actually want to do regularly: writing.

In addition to not writing on this blog, I haven’t been writing much elsewhere. The energy to write regularly has been gone for months now. This is partly caused by working at a highly repetitive job that leeches my soul away every weekday; it’s also partially caused by me being totally “out of shape” with writing. I haven’t written regularly in years. Going to college and working full-time stripped away a lot of free time and energy that I used to have in abundance. Now, I have to make time to write. Creativity follows no schedule though, and it’s exceedingly rare to find a time where I can write and I feel like writing.

I think the key to getting over this variety of writer’s block is to simply keep writing regularly. I gotta shake the rust off and get back to the base level of writing fitness I had back during the twentyeleven days.

Please forgive me in advance for some less than stellar posts that might come out at the beginning of this endeavor (including this one). I promise that they’ll eventually get better, but it will take time. Your patience is greatly appreciated.

Look for another post from me on here by Tuesday.

-Will

And Now…..

It is me, once again. I missed this.

I was going to write a bunch this last month, but I wanted to have something interesting to write about. Now I feel that I do.

I just got back from the first paid vacation I’ve ever taken, which coincidentally was also the longest time I’ve ever been away from home, (aside from taking care of my mom in Seattle while she was dying-not-dying from cancer, which really should not be counted as vacation.) I left Friday, September 8th and drove to Bozeman, spent 10 nights and 9 wonderful days with some of my favorite human beings on this earth, and woke up at the butt crack of dawn this morning (the 18th) to pack up and drive back to Billings for work. Ever since I started visiting Bozeman on weekends roughly 5 years ago, I’ve found it increasingly more difficult to leave each time I go. It doesn’t have as much to do with the company I keep there, so much as it is just the feeling. There’s no gross refineries, you’re completely surrounded by mountains and mountain air, it’s a nicer feeling town, it’s smaller; (granted more densely populated during the school year, which does not bother me at all) and don’t get me wrong…. I do quite enjoy the people I go to see when I’m in Bozeman, but I would still be excited to go every time, even if I didn’t know a soul. There’s a feeling of elation that washes over me as soon as I enter the Bozeman Pass, and it passes just as quickly when I leave. I think it could maybe be the anticipation of what I always know will be a fun-filled and happy weekend, whether it entails drinking games and going out and laughing til I cry, or just vegging out and binge-watching whatever series we’re into at the time and lobbing creative insults at each other. I’ll let him fill you in on our week together.

Will and I have been dating for nearly two months now, and absolutely everything about it just feels right. Every single tacky love song I hear walking around the grocery store or in a restaurant makes me restlessly giddy. I can’t shut up about him. He’s my very best friend, and I still cannot believe we are together. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to it. I never would have thought this could happen. Ask me one, three, six, eight years ago if I thought I’d end up with him, the answer was no way, he’s just my best friend. And each time I’ve said that, that’s what I’ve meant. Back in high school when there was a sliver of a chance of us dating, that was all I wanted. As soon as I realized that wasn’t going to happen, I decided I’d kill him if we ever dated, and we should just be friends. We’ve always had a very comfortable line of communication; we have always been able to say anything to the other knowing there’s zero judgement. My family loves him, my friends love him, everyone’s reaction to the big news has just been “Oh, Finally! I was wondering when you two would do that.” I cannot imagine my life without him. He is as constant as oxygen and water. Getting to kiss him and all that gushy shit is just cherries on top. Anyway, enough about the stupid boyfriend stuff. Back to ME.

I currently live downtown with a close friend from high school/college. This is the first time I’ve ever lived with someone who isn’t a parent or a boyfriend. It is the best thing for me right now. We have so much fun together, we cook and clean together, we go out with our respective groups of friends, and we’re both the kind of person that isn’t afraid to say “Hey, maybe clean up your shit?”. Our apartment is a perfectly mixed combination of our two styles. It’s comforting to feel at home for the first time in a very, very long time. I’m not tiptoeing around trying to stay out of anyone’s way, this is our spaceour beer fridge, our collection of nail polish on the coffee table carefully obscuring the cover of ESPN magazine’s Body Edition.

This lease will not last forever, in fact it will be up next May, which is far too soon for me to be ready for the next step. The next step is finally, FINALLY moving to Bozeman, which is something I should have done upon graduating high school. As Frank Sinatra says, That’s Life. It struck me last month that I should probably just go to school and do something with my life, lest I let my brain atrophy while handing out 20s to angry retirees. I like my job, and there’s nothing too much wrong with it, aside from the mind-numbing boredom/stress that comes along with doing the same 14 things on auto-pilot all day, with a couple minutes’ worth of crippling panic when/if something goes wrong. I’ve decided I am interested in pursuing a career in Plant Biology, a PhD if I make it that far. I can’t really describe in words why it’s so important to me, but anyone who knows me knows that I’ve always been obsessed with anything that grows in the ground. I want to do that for a living. I want to be in a field that I actually really care about. I hope that if I can’t do anything super important with it, I’ll at least be satisfied with myself for not wasting my chance and not trying.

Let’s see, what else? I started running more (again), I only got sunburned twice this summer, I am working on writing/refining a stand-up set that I’m hoping I’ll have the guts to perform in front of strangers only by perhaps this spring, I am teaching myself to establish savings, I am teaching myself to be a more organized and neat person, I am teaching myself to recognize distress and confront it before it manifests in more toxic ways, I am back to reading at least two-three books a month, I am teaching myself to approach cooking as a creative process instead of a mathematical formula, I am attempting to learn Italian (again), and I am telling people who I love that I love them whenever I can.

Maybe one of these posts I’ll get around to talking about the last six years of my life. Maybe I never will. Stay Tuned, Y’all.

Love, Kelci