Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Millionaire Day (Who Knew?)

I'm late to the party, but apparently May 20 is Millionaire Day. Really, it's an excuse to think about your financial situation and how to improve it.

Some ideas/methods I've used to improve my own financial situation over the past few years:

Automate your savings.  A certain amount automatically gets transferred into my online savings account every paycheck. Whenever I'm able to decrease a monthly expense (see below), I increase that amount accordingly (which also helps to avoid lifestyle creep; meaning, increasing your monetary obligations when your income increases). While Sylvia's isn't automated, the first thing we do when budgeting her paycheck is put 20% into her emergency savings. She's tried to convince me that a broken backpack is an emergency, but I've explained to her that the only times she can use it are: in a medical emergency, in case of job loss or to pay for something she needs for an actual job. An example of the latter: when I needed emergency expediting of my passport application in order to work on the cruise ship. If/when she moves out on her own, I want her to always think twice (and preferably call me) before she dips into her emergency savings.

Pick a monthly expense to decrease. Maybe you can decrease or eliminate your cable bill. Maybe you can look for a better cell phone provider or call your current cell phone provider and see if another plan will work for you. Switching to Republic Wireless cut our monthly cell phone bill by about 1/3 (the catch is you have to buy their phones). Maybe you can downgrade or cancel your Netflix plan or newspaper subscription. I've found the best way for me to decide what to cut is being away of which bill makes me cranky.

Menu Plan. It took me forever to get a handle on my grocery budget. For me, the solution wasn't coupons or driving to three different stores with their weekly sales flyers. It was my itemized grocery budget spreadsheet. After each shopping trip, I update the spreadsheet with the price for each item purchased. When I plan the menu & shopping list for the next week, I update again with those quantities and see if my total is at least a few dollars under my budget. This month, with just one more shopping trip to go, I'm well under my monthly budget and have been for the past few months. Of course, I stick to my list, too!

Budget and Pay No Attention to your Bank Balance.  I check my bank account online every day, but I'm not looking at the balance, I'm looking at what has cleared the bank so I can update YNAB. YNAB does allow for reconciliation using your bank's info, but I don't use that and don't recommend it for those of us trying to improve our financial lives. While automatic bill pay and savings are great, being aware is the first step to changing any habit. Because the first rule of YNAB is to give every dollar a job, it doesn't really matter to me what the total is; it matters what jobs my dollars are doing. That's reflected in my budget, not my bank balance.

Value Your Time Over Money. Pinching pennies isn't going to make any of us millionaires. I've almost finished reading Essentialism, and am finding that I'm already doing many of the things the book recommends. Just as I don't spend time couponing or driving all over town for the best deal on whatever, I'm also not killing myself trying to get to place and events that I'm not excited to attend. It makes those times I do go out even more enjoyable. Having said that, I look forward to purchases that are going to make my life easier or better, like my new recliner :) Makes kicking back at the end of a day so much more relaxing! And what with a new relaxing recliner, really no desire to hunch over scissors and coupon mailers! Allowing yourself free time (or "me" time) also gives you time to dream, as well as make plans to make your dreams come true. (Necessary disclosure: link to the book above is connected to my Amazon affiliate account and you can increase my income - ever so slightly - if you purchase using that link.)

Value People Over Time or Money. As Suze Orman famously says, people first... Sylvia is less than a month away from high school graduation, and I feel like we're both as ready as we can be for that. While her working means she's gone a lot more, we still find time every week to have deep, meaningful conversations about her present and future. A lot of that time, we've talked about money and budgeting, so I feel confident that she has good enough tools to get her started. While she's at work, Riley and I also have valuable conversations about her present and future. She's got big dreams and goals, and we're putting together the best plan possible to get her there. While we all still have our pain points and unproductive times as well, overall, I'm feeling pretty good about where we are and the relationships we have with each other.

My goal, in the end, is not to be a millionaire, but to be financially free enough to pursue activities I enjoy and spend time with people I enjoy. So I guess I can celebrate Millionaire Day today by feeling rich in what I already have! 

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