When we last saw our hero…

supermanismoneysavvy
(Action Comics #176 “Muscles for Money!” part 1 of 2)

I decided to take a spontaneous trip this past week. This is why I am bringing you this week’s post two days late on a Saturday night. I was in New York City this past week in what essentially was a last minute decision in the form of my friend texting me, “Hey want to go to New York?” and a few hours later I replied with, “Girl, I got our tix for Monday”. With all the excitement of exploring a city I have never been to before, I didn’t have a moment to breathe and compose a post from the tiny screen of my giant smartphone. I need a computer screen like the professional blogger that I am! (“I have a domain name and that makes me a professional blogger” is essentially the equivalent of Spongebob’s Plankton saying “I went to college!”) It isn’t like I didn’t actively think about my dearest Pig. This brings me to this week’s topic:

TREAT YOURSELF BUT KNOW WHERE YOUR MONEY IS GOING!

This is coming from someone who actively would put on a blindfold whenever I spontaneously treated myself. Clothes, clothes, clothes, never mind that these clothes don’t fit anymore.

I’ve previously talked about treating yourself and touched on the idea of planning ahead in order to treat yourself. That camping trip you want to go on? How are you going to make it happen? Saving money for that trip! Likewise, if you get the opportunity to hop on a plane and see a place you’ve never seen before, KNOW THE EXPENSES.

Let’s rewind. When my friend told me about New York, I first took it with a grain of salt. When she explained we could stay with her cousin, I considered it a little bit more. Lodging was one expense less. I began to think this might just work. I began to research flights to see what the price ranges were for the dates we were considering. I changed times and flight details in my search criteria in order to see if there were any inexpensive options.

The flight was affordable for what I had available at the moment. That was the first step.

Next, I took a look at my wealth management spreadsheet (remember guys, I hate the word budget, and wealth management has more of a positive connotation because it is my money, and I get to decide where to best allocate it).

I determined where I could cut back on for this month’s typical expenses to determine how much money I could actively set aside from my bank account for expenses during this trip. I took into account the little things like:

  • I wouldn’t be using my car during the week I would be in New York. Therefore, I would have one less time to fill up this month in my expenses.
  • I wouldn’t be buying my weekly groceries for home because I could use that for food expenses while out there.
  • I could cut back on my leisure limit for the month and switch it over to leisure limit for New York. Furthermore, after a week in New York, why would I want to go out again this weekend? Notice how on a Saturday night, I am at home, typing up this post, and probably going for a run at the gym after posting this? None of that includes spending money on bar hopping this weekend! Shifting that leisure money helped give some more money for things to do while I was out there.

Little things like this add up. This money then turns into an amount that could be applied for things to do in New York. I was able to shift and see where my money would be going. The point being: don’t blindly take a leap toward treating yourself without first sitting down and analyzing where the money for it is coming from and what other adjustments you will have to make.

Another important factor to highlight: While on a spontaneous trip or any trip really, take a moment to pause and reflect. By this I mean pause from what you are doing while out there and reflect on what you have been spending while you are there. There will always be some form of downtime amidst all of the exploring and walking (my feet are tired) to take a moment and check in with your money.

Be like the Superman in the picture above and check your assets.

You can take this moment while you’re all figuring out what to do next back at the home/hotel you’re staying in.

  • Open up your bank app.
  • Log onto your credit card’s website.
  • Count that cash in your wallet.
  • Venmo the people you’re with if they covered for one thing.

You can even do this while you’re taking a shit from having been a little too gluttonous (that pasta hit my intestines like nobody’s business and yet here I am sharing it with you).

If you go over what you expected, make a note to create an action plan for that when you return home. You are responsible for your money. For years, I spent without wanting to look at what I spent. That didn’t get me anywhere good. While on this trip I took several moments to pause and reflect. Now that I’m back home, I can determine if I need to make any further adjustments in this month’s remaining income. Being in control is a satisfying feeling. You can be in control, too!

Cool, now that we have that out of the way, let’s settle a very important debate. New York pizza is great… at 2 AM in the morning after a few drinks.

I got a tax refund, now what?

taxes

You may be someone who is receiving a tax refund this year. If so, hey, awesome for you!

What are you going to be doing with that money?

Today’s post will focus on learning to prioritize and plan what to do with your tax refund. If you happen to be someone who is not receiving a tax refund, hey I hear you, been there, too. This can still be relevant to you in terms of learning to prioritize with any sort of money.

I’m only talking about taxes in order to be topical.

Plus, I think when you get a refund, it is easy to lose track of it and spend it without having a plan. If I happened to receive a refund while I was living paycheck to paycheck, I would lose control and before I knew it that money was gone. Why? Because I wouldn’t be used to having “extra” money in my bank account. So, like with any time you may find yourself with some “extra” money, whether a refund, overtime pay, or side gig pay, we can try and form habits that will help us hold onto that money a little longer and prioritize where it is spent.

Tip #1: Create Goals

When creating money goals for a refund, extra & side income, I like to ask myself a few questions.

Is there something I have been meaning to get around to that I have not yet?Outstanding bill? Class I’ve been meaning to take? Something that needs to be repaired sooner than later?

Is there something I would like to get to in the future that I can plan towards?
A trip somewhere? A class I haven’t thought about yet? A renovation project? Early retirement? (ha…)

These two questions help me actively think about how to best allocate any extra money I have coming into my bank account. By actively asking myself these questions, I can then create goals to categorize that money into it.

Since I am receiving a refund this year, the answers to these two questions turned into the following goals for myself:

  • Pay therapy deductible from earlier last year. (immediate goal)
  • Pay extended car warranty deductible to fix minor inconvenient issue. (immediate goal)
  • Set aside for Peru trip in April. (short term goal)
  • Set aside for general savings fund. (long term goal)

I like to create goals that are a variety of immediate, short and long term. This makes it easier to be able to form a habit of not saying BYE to that extra money right away.

Tip #2: Visually Organize

“I’m keeping track of it in my head,” is something I used to say all the time. Guess what! It didn’t work for me because I learned that having a visual representation of these goals holds me more accountable than just keeping it all in my head.

How can you visualize it?

You can simply write it down somewhere you will actively look at it. It can be as simple as a list. However, I found that drawing it out in a little web of sorts and color coding helps me out more than just a written post it. See example below:

MVIMG_20180214_141235.jpg
(This was one visual representation while I sorted out my priorities. My brain works best when I am drawing out, literally. Sometimes it takes a few drafts before I settle on a final version.)

Check to see if your bank’s app or website has a feature that will help you categorize your money. For example, I use Simple. The Simple app and website have a “Goals” feature where you can move money in your bank account to different categories. This becomes a useful visual guide of where you PLAN on using your money.

Simple App Goals.png
(Photo from Simple’s website)

Tip #3: Divide & Conquer by Calculating

Decide based on your goals how much of the extra money you find yourself with will go to each of those goals. I like to use a spreadsheet, but again you can write this down. Assigning a fixed amount to each goal makes it easier to reach than simply telling yourself “Some of it will go to Goal 1, some of it will go to Goal 2, and whatever is left over will go to etc etc”. Throw ACTUAL numbers in there. Doing so can help you feel more in control. Below is how I used my spreadsheet to divide & conquer my goals with my tax refund.

Screenshot (1)
(The above spreadsheet example allows you to throw in numbers and calculate toward the different goal categories.)

Actively planning using these strategies helps me hold myself more accountable toward actually using that extra money toward what I say I want to use it on. Does the idea of buying a Nintendo Switch spontaneously tempt me to splurge instead? YES, BECAUSE DEAR GOD AM I THE ONLY ONE WITHOUT A NINTENDO SWITCH YET? However, I am in charge of prioritizing my goals. Unfortunately, the Nintendo Switch just isn’t one of my more immediate goals.

As with anything I post on this website, you are free to disagree with what I offer. I’ve only developed these strategies having dealt with a lot of financial mishaps, and so far I have been on a better financial path. You may learn that you work differently and that what works for me doesn’t work for you, and that’s fine! I want to encourage you to find what works for you! (and maybe share that with people!)


Don’t forget you can ASK THE PIG a question to be answered during next month’s ASK THE PIG post.

 


Other money musings to check out this week:

“Where to Write When You’re Cheap and Broke?” by Onicia Muller

“You cannot Buy Permanent Happiness With Material Possessions” over at Thinking a Hole in the Earth

Can Someone Forget To Pay You Back?New Feature: Ask the Pig!

ask the pig

I don’t think we ask each other enough questions about money.

Reflecting on my own self, I didn’t want to ask someone a question about finances because I felt embarrassed. I hated the idea of the other person looking at me and thinking, “You’re (insert age here), and you don’t know this yet?” throughout my twenties. I know I can’t be alone in having felt this way. There are times I still feel this way.

We all have something to add to the conversation, even if we are only beginning to learn.

This is why I’d like to introduce you to ASK THE PIG. Who’s the Pig? Obviously, me. It’ll be like an advice column, only I won’t be teaching you about proper table manners!

You can click on ASK THE PIG on the website’s top menu to access the easy, simple, ANONYMOUS form. That’s right! You don’t have to leave your name or email. Just don’t be rude or tell me that I’m a terrible mess because I already know that and don’t need an unkind reminder, Internet!

Given my misadventures in money-handling, people I know sometimes ask me questions from what bank do I use to how I decided that bankruptcy was the right choice for me (emphasis on ME). If I don’t get any actual submissions via ASK THE PIG, then I shall just pull from these in-person questions or random people’s questions that are shouted into the twittersphere void.


Our first question…

comes from my friend who said I could use his name. James originally posted this question on Facebook and is responsible for me thinking ASK THE PIG should be a thing. Thanks, James!

If you’re in debt to someone for over $500 and have no inclination of paying up (albeit installments or even acknowledging the fact that you owe) How long until a reminder is needed? And if you’re not reminded and hoping the other person forgot, is it okay to “forget” as well? Asking for a friend.

If I have learned anything from being on both sides of this question, it’s that money can become a thorny issue between two people who have entered a lender and lendee relationship. Some of the comments responding to this inquiry definitely proved that sometimes we are quick to judge the other person for not paying back. Look, I don’t think anyone actually forgets that they owe someone money. A reminder is needed, but you should always be thoughtful in your approach. Of course, this is easier said than done when you might also be needing those $500 sooner than later. A lot of it depends on your relationship to the person and how to tailor that approach.

No one likes to be hounded, but you also want to make sure that they understand where you are coming from, too. When I borrowed money a while ago from Person A, I was reminded constantly and Person A also took the liberty to belittle me about my finances. When I borrowed money from Person B, I was checked in periodically after having set up a payment plan so to speak with Person B.

I preferred Person B’s approach because it actually taught me how to uphold my end of the lendee and lender relationship. Their approach taught me how to save money from each paycheck to pay them back, which also had an effect on my spending habits. It was a better learning experience.

Whenever friends borrow money from me, I typically ask when they can pay it back. If there are any issues, I try to work with them. Maybe $50 this week and the rest next month?

Definitely, don’t “forget”. It isn’t fair to you to just “forget” because at the end of the day, that is your money. Plus, you wouldn’t be helping the other person by just allowing them to also “forget”. It’s a better lesson to learn how to pay back money borrowed from a friend or family member, than when you have actual debt collectors calling every hour. The person who borrowed the money should hopefully consider this, too. Be honest, but approachable. If the person flat out shows no interest once you bring up the loan and possible options, then that’s a different story.

Another reason why YOU shouldn’t “forget” that they owe you money or let them “forget”: it can build up resentment on your end toward the lendee. That’s when relationships get real thorny.


ASK THE PIG will run once a month.


Make sure to come back and check out next week’s post where we talk about taxes like the adults we are!

Done Is Better Than Perfect

80dollars

In case you missed it, I have an official domain name for this site. Buh-bye, wordpress URL, and HELLO breakingthepiggybank.com! I know it doesn’t seem like much, but this is a major step forward for me. You have no idea how I agonized for the last six months about committing this website to a domain name. I was afraid to post new content because it wasn’t a “real” website (whatever that means).

I continued to justify not spending the 10 bucks to register a domain name by saying I didn’t need it because I didn’t post that often, but then not posting often because I didn’t consider the site to be more than just some random person’s blog. Whenever I was close to hitting the purchase button, I stopped myself. I patted myself on the back for not having spent those 10 bucks on a domain when I had to to get new windshield wipers and spark plugs for my car.

10 bucks. 10 bucks! It was just 10 bucks!

You know what I did spend those 10 bucks on?

  • A few Wendy’s 4 for 4 meals (granted, a great value! But that added up to be more than 10 bucks!) = 4 bucks each
  • An 80s themed cocktail event = 30 bucks
  • Adler After Dark event at the Adler Planetarium for 2 = 40 bucks total
  • Two cocktails at the Adler After Dark event = 20 bucks total
  • Ramen dinner + smoothie = 20 bucks
  • Potbelly’s = 8 bucks

Of course, there were other non-essentials that I spent my money on. These were just a few to name. With these alone, the total comes up to 122 bucks (not considering I had Wendy’s a lot). I had no problem spending 122 or more on those items, but kept making up excuses to not spend 10 bucks on a domain name for this website.

I was holding myself back when the 10 bucks was not the issue.

After discussing with my co-worker whether I should buy a domain name and get rid of ads on WordPress, she told me that I don’t practice what I preach about taking my projects seriously. She was right. In a manner of five minutes, I made a decision that I had been sitting on for the past few months.

I decided to invest in Breaking the Piggy Bank. Not only did I buy the domain name, but I also upgraded my WordPress account in order to eliminate ads and have more control of the website’s CSS. Was it more than 10 bucks? OH YEAH.

Try 96 bucks for the year. I know, I know but follow me on this one!

WordPress broke it down to 8 bucks per month. 8 bucks per month? Yeah, I can spare 8 bucks per month on a project that I believe in. Spending the 96 bucks on finally getting this website to the next level of where I want it to be is worth it.

This website is a project I want to keep spending time on, and that meant I needed to treat it as an actual investment on my end. I’ll be reflecting at the end of the year to see how this investment on my end turned out!

As my friend, Onicia Muller, reminded me recently: “Done is better than perfect.”

Is the website everything I want it to be yet? No. But had I kept waiting until it was perfect to buy a domain name, then I probably would have also treated it as something that didn’t need to be updated regularly.

Final, important thought: If you have a goal that requires money to be spent on it, don’t tell yourself that you can’t afford it. Don’t use yourself as an excuse.

Analyze your recent spending habits for the last three months. What are you using your money on? Are you like me spending it on Wendy’s and cocktails? Or are you enjoying Starbucks on the regular? Whatever your habit is, find a way to alter that habit so that you can use the money that you typically spend on that toward the goal that you want. It may not be something that you can suddenly splurge on, but at least you can start setting that money aside by not hitting up Wendy’s like me! Sometimes changing small little habits can help reach those long-term money goals.

The only person that can attain your goal is you.

Think about it, we always somehow manage to find money to spend on a concert festival. Lollapalooza anyone? Why not somehow manage to find money to spend on that goal you want.