Thursday, February 14, 2008

The joys of being a manager

Sorry that I've been a little slack recently with writing. Work has been picking up and I'm feeling so overwhelmed with all the new stuff and I'm almost done with my third week so I'm not going to be able to say "I'm new and don't know" for much longer.

My current project is going okay and the two guys who work for me are nice enough, but one doesn't have much of a clue, but is very good about being consistent, and the other is smart but a spolit little arrogant Emo kid. I can't be much older than him, but he acts so immature. The funny thing is that he's got no clue what's wrong and too big of blinders to really listen. He has this problem with not bothering to show up to work until 1 and then immediately going to lunch. We have new core hours where people have to be at work from 11 to 3. Lunch goes in the middle there at some point (usually). He said that he doesn't think that it will work with his schedule because he likes to stay up until 4 or 5 in the morning! I was just so galled. Who says that?

Yesterday he managed to make it in at 11:20. It's not perfect, but it's a huge improvement so I was pretty happy. He only works 4 days a week. I like helping people grow so hopefully I can work with him and help him develop into a great programmer. He's a nice enough kid and his heart is in the right place.

Some people ask me how to get into management, because this is a great way to increase your pay rate and more money is a great way to get on track financially. I think that it's both a little bit of luck and a little bit of skill. But what is luck but opportunity meeting preparedness? (I'm not sure who said that initially)

Just like most things, the only way to get a job doing it is to have experience. But, you don't have to have experience because of your job title, but only because of what you have actually accomplished. Take initiative at your current job to pick up extra work a little outside of your job description, but go out of your way to make your boss look good (you don't want to worry your boss that you will take their job). Approch your job and your boss like they are your client. I call this a "service-oriented attitude". Honestly, everyone down the line is there to make the person-above-them's life easier and to make them look good. That's the whole reason you have a job--to help your boss meet his goals so he can help his boss meet her's. Go out of your way to do that and get them what they need no matter how you feel about them personally.

Promotion from within as a direct result of hard work is nice, but getting management-like experience by stepping up to the plate and taking work off your boss's shoulders and then using that to get a better job is always a great idea, too. Google for professional organizations in your career field or one like it (or that you would like to go into). Make business cards for yourself if you don't have any at work so that you can hand them out to new people that you meet. You can buy printable business cards pretty much anywhere that you can buy computer paper. Get the clean line type, not the perforated ones. It's a little bit of an investment, but not too bad and will pay off greatly in the end.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

My Battle with Debt

Up until the past few months, my financial situation was not quite as nice as how it is now. At least, I think it's nice in comparison to the situation I was in two years ago.

I personally never ran up any debt, but my hubby came with a lot. 39k to be exactly. At the time we were both only making 35k. As you could imagine he was a bit overloaded. This was between 11k in credit cards, 15k in car loan and 19k in student loans. It took us two and a half years to get from that point to this point. My main concern was not wanting to get married with all this debt hanging over us.

First, I took a contracting job doing software development with TD AmeriTrade. It was in Omaha, but paid very well and made for excellent resume fodder (aka--direct result of my current job by being able to work on the projects I did there). I worked extra hard for the 7 months I had this contract and I paid down our debt, saved for our wedding, and started to put a little more away so that we could have enough for closing costs on a condo.

I hated being away from Pete for that long, but I knew that we needed the extra money to get to a better place. In the meantime, Pete and I decided that we wouldn't be able to get good paying jobs where we were so we decided to move to Chicago to find better jobs. I also supported both of us while he was job hunting. He then supported me after the contract while I was job hunting for something in Chicago. We also traded in the cars to get one cheaper car with better gas mileage (a Honda Fit, which I highly recommend to everyone because it's awesome).

Taking a less desirable job and missing my hubby (fiancee at the time) as well as deciding to move away from all our family and friends was very hard. But, it's why we are no longer overwhelmed by our debt. We actually now have a positive net asset situation. We owe a lot on our mortgage and still have a lot on the car, but for both, we owe much less than they are worth. Unlike the accord which Pete was $1000 upside down on. Pete still has a lot of student loans left, but it's much less than it was and is balanced out by the savings we have started to build.

There were lots of fights over the money situation since I had to work so hard to get him out of debt, debt that I didn't get to have the fun of bringing up. We do still argue about it from time to time, but I'm getting better at not brining it up. I did feel fairly resentful about the whole thing at the time, but we got through it.

I just wanted to mention this because many of the blogs I read and comment on are dealing with where I was two years ago. I know many of them couldn't take the lifestyle down grade, the time apart or the move to a better job opportunity city, but that was our journey from the bottom. I actually think sticking to a budget and being frugal was much easier when we were paying down all that debt. Verses now where we have extra money and just have to save it up. That's really the point I am at and why I am help me with this next phase of our financial lives and to help me stay on track.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Offical Feburary Budget

So I forgot yesterday when I was doing the budget that February is a bit off since I am only going to get one half of my first paycheck--so I'll get 75% of normal.

I really don't like how I get paid every other Friday. Everything else is months based and it's so much easier to budget when your paycheck is too. I think that we are going to keep everything in this month's budget about the same as the normal budget just sans savings. Next month is a three paycheck month and we will put 100% of the first paycheck to our emergency fund since we aren't putting anything into saving in Feb.

We are however, still going to pay over by a grand on the house (which is slightly lower than target) and by $300 on the car, so I'm not being a total slacker. I don't want to cut the decor fund because I have rooms with nothing in them and feel that it's silly to spend all this money to live in a nice place that is empty. Another major expense is that the car insurance for the year is due this month. We pay once a year to make it cheaper.

Today I went out to lunch, but had no I got it half right. I've been working through lunch almost everyday at work and am new so I don't want them to think that I am anti-social. I'll probably go a couple times a week at least at first to be a part of everyone.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Stage Orange--Working with our budget

So we know how much we spend--and we know what our goals are. Now we need to figure out a way to combine our dreams with reality. This is the first part of Stage Orange.

1) Make a general budget.
1a) Take out the list of all expenses
1b) Next to each recurring/fixed expense write down the monthly price. This is the money that you have promised to pay or owe each month (cell phone, mortgage/rent, cable--anything you get a bill for)
1c) Calculate how much you have left.
1d) This is the tough part...figure out what's the least you can reasonably spend on your variable line items. (food, gas, etc) Write that down.
1e) Write down the rest between your paying down debt or savings goals.

2) Review the budget
2a) Look at your savings and debt payments...are they high enough to reach your goals--and be honest, both in how much you can put towards it and how close it is. This needs to be accurate because we are going to remove that amount from our accounts and put it towards their goals BEFORE we pay for anything else. This is paying ourselves first.
2b) If it's not close enough, which it never is, right :), you need to look at ways to save on your variable expenses (for example, eat out less) and to lower your fixed expenses (get rid of cable). This is the step that Stage Orange revolves around.

Each month on First Friday Financial we will go over our general budget and make adjustments for the upcoming month--typically minor. This may include action plans to lower our fixed expenses or ways to save on our variable ones. We will also look at the previous month's budget and see how we got. I will also update my networthIQ graph at the time.

We gave ourselves some variable spending cash as a compromise between P and me. I'm not sure how it will work out or what we get to do if we go over/under . The decor fund should only last a few months--probably until Thanksgiving when it will turn into our Christmas budget. The "Other" line item is there to make the balance come to equal and in case we mess up by a little bit.

P gets paid twice a month. I get paid every other week. We know how much P makes after his 401(k) and our health insurance comes out. I had to guess how much I will have after taxes, but I think it's pretty close. I assumed two paychecks a month for each of us and put the post tax at the bottom. In March and October I will have an extra paycheck and we will put that towards retirement in an IRA. That's not shown in this budget. Also, in two months I'll start having 401(k) coming out. I'll take away the retirement line item at that time.

Hopefully we can stick to it!

Item Budget
Mortgage Base 2360
Mortgage Over
Assessments 144
Condo Ins 25
Gas 50
Electric 60
Car Payment 550
Car Insurance 85
Car Gas 150
Car upkeep 75
Public Trans 40
RCN 40
Cell Phone 100
Student Loans 140
Entertainment Both 250
Yacht Club (Dues, Events, and Food) 200
L’s Allowance 200
P’s Allowance 200
Day Food L 100
Day Food P 100
Gifts 75
Grooming 30
Household 50
Food 300
Gym 25
Sadie 66
Other 120
Decor Fund 1000
Travel Fund 200
Emergency Fund 1000
Retirement 200
Total 9175

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Stage Blue--My Goals

Here are the goals that P and I set for ourselves at our First Friday Financial meeting. I put the goals next to my motivators. Not all motivators have savings goals. They will come more into play when deciding how to spend my money on my budget in Stage Orange.

When you create your goals, don't worry about how you are going to do it, just make goals and then we will figure the rest out, including time lines, later.

* Create a larger emergency fund of 10k & put it in an online savings account to get higher interest and also to make it harder to be tempted to access outside of an emergency
* Purchase life insurance
* Pay down debts using Dave Ramsey's Debt Snowball
* Pay off car
* Pay down the condo to get out from under PMI t
* Pay off the CC (only have new table purchase which is same as cash until Jan 2009--which means that if we don't pay it off by Jan 2009 that we have to back pay interest. We will pay it off well before that to avoid problems, but want to keep the $1200 in our savings account to earn interest until probably December...we will put it with our emergency fund so that we don't touch it)
* After emergency fund is created, we would like to start investing, but that's a long way off so we don't know about the specifics.

* Start a travel fund so that we can visit Europe in 3 years

* Save money for retirement--> P is already doing his 401(k) at 3% salary, which is his company's max match...I won't have mine start until mid March after my probitionary period is up. I would like for us both to have 4 or 5%, but we have to look closer at our budget for that.

* Consider buying more organic food, if it is in the budget. See what other food expenses to cut to make this possible. Also, eat less frozen/prepared food in order to cut down on the salt content. I would like to make a food budget, but P is not on board with this idea. More to come about that later.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

First Friday Financial

The first Friday of every month the hubby and I are suppose to meet together over pizza to discuss how much we spent on the credit card (we charge everything to it and pay it off at the end of the month so that we can get points), how much more we want to pay down on the condo and how much we have in savings. We also discuss our savings goals.

The reason why we picked the First Friday of the month to go over all this is because all the bills have been paid and all the pay checks have come in. As good of an idea as I think it is (and I'm just biased because I came up with it and it has cool alliteration), we typically don't make time to do it. However, we have resolved to do it every month in 2008 and last night was the First Friday for February.

Before I say the number, I wanted to point out that most of the charges were from the first part of the month, before I had resolved to get my money under control. This was really my main "Stage Pink" day of looking at how I was spending. I guess it gives me a good point to go from.

I was shocked to discover that we had spent $4000 this month--not counting the new dining room table or the mortgage! I just don't understand where it all went. I mean, we looked at everything so I see it, but I still don't understand how easily two people can blow through 4 grand! Admittedly, about a quarter of that went to decorate our Great Room, which I think looks really nice. I also bought some stuff for my office (new desk) and a few random things for P's office. Also, it's a big month for birthdays in my family. So i know where it went and most of it was "one offs" so it's not like I would normally spend all that. But still...we didn't eat out hardly at all for the 2nd half of the month and I drastically cut back on the Starbucks habit so the figure is hard to look at and makes me wish that I had started this whole getting money under control thing at the start of the month rather than the middle of it :-P.

Don't get me wrong, it's within our means. Or would have been if I hadn't lost my job. I had a week gap between jobs where I wasn't working. We are post paid by two weeks so I'll get a half paycheck mid-month. The end of next month I will start getting my new normal size paycheck. With the increase in pay, the three week's worth will actually equal out to only a little under what I used to get at my old job.

It's just sad because we ended up having to use $600 from savings to cover our differences, but that's exactly what we have a buffer for. I guess it just goes to show you why we need an emergency reserve. If the job thing hadn't have happened, we would have been putting money into savings instead of taking it out which does make me feel a little better.

Maybe I should just look on the bright side. At least my paycheck didn't bounce, which I was a little worried about! :-P

I'll talk about the goals that P and I set up when we talk about general goals tomorrow.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Stage Blue--What Do You Want?

Now that we know what is important to us from yesterday's activity we can try to figure out how to use our money to fulfill those values/ideals instead of spending money to fulfill bad motivations.

So my motivations are:

Family (humans and my dog)

Some of my motivations may encourage me to spend money that contradict my other motivations (I want to travel, but I also want to help provide for my family) so I just have to balance it, which we will learn about later.

First we need to think about why our motivations are important so we can best fulfill those needs. I want you to take out your list of motivations and write down why your motivations are important to you and what you want for the motivation. Here's mine:

For Family--I want to have kids one day, but I want to bring them into a world where I can provide for them. Also, if anything happens to me, I want my hubby to be okay. I also want to be present in the lives my my nieces and nephew and the rest of my extended family.

For Career--I want to make sure that I continue to learn and develop myself professionally and make a good impression at work. I want to have an influence on other people and make a difference in the world through my daily work.

For Adventure/Travel--I want to make sure that I explore my world. I want to make sure I experience what life has to offer. I guess you could say, I want to live life like it is an adventure and explore my options.

For Health--I want to live a full and healthy life. I want to be able to stay active for a long time and put things into my body that will keep it running well.

For Comfort--This is similar to adventure/travel in the motivation that I want to experience what there is to experience. However, I don't just want this for now, but I want to make sure I can afford to be comfortable for the rest of my life. I want to have a nice retirement one day and not have to stress or worry about how I will make it.