Thursday, March 11, 2010

Financial Cleanse

I know this is a health and fitness oriented blog, but financial fitness is just as important. Please forgive the digression.

Last month, when I was doing the cleanse, my Running Buddy had also sent information about a financial cleanse that she was following. Although I tried to restrain my finances, I wasn't as serious about this as I was about the food.

From what I have heard, tomorrow I'll be getting my refunds for both my federal and state income tax returns. It would be so easy and so natural for me to blow it like I usually do, since it's not a large sum of money; however, this time, I want to hold onto it, and try to break bad habits that I have in this area too.

I'm 28 years old. While it was acceptable to be perpetually broke in my early 20s, it's no longer cute. It's an embarrassment. I'm not always broke, but it happens more often than it should.

Five years ago, when I started on my career path, I'd spend money like water. I lived with my parents, had no mortgage, no rent, no car note, and hardly any bills. It was the good life. I'd spend the bulk of my check on gadgets, and going out to clubs and bars with my friends. This is when I should have been saving my money, like my parents told me, but I was too hard-headed to listen.

Two years ago, I bought my first and only home, as of yet (down the line, I plan to buy several investment properties). I had barely any money in my bank account, but I did have some money put away for retirement.

Anyway, three weeks after buying the place and decking it out with IKEA furniture, my car decided to die on the highway. This was the worst timing EVER!!! I sucked it up and bought my first car. In the past, my parents had been so kind as to let me drive family cars. But when my car died this time, I was on an independence kick. My parents were with me to give me advice when I bought my brand new car (with a sunroof! Hee!). I decided not to go with a co-signer, and ended up getting my own insurance.

Anyway, to make a long story...long, I now had all these new expenses, and could no longer party and gadget it up like I used to.

At first, I adjusted semi-ok. It wasn't a smooth transition, but it wasn't horrible. Things didn't get horrible until a year later, when I quit my part-time job. It was about an hour away from my new home, and I was spending about half of my check on gas, after pulling a 10-hour shift. Also, I had started getting into running, and races took place mainly on the weekends.

When I quit my part-time job, things got rough. The income there was small, but it counted for a lot. To make matters worse, at my full-time job, we didn't get our yearly step increase due to budget cuts.

I had to readjust once more. Now, taxes have recently gone up, and I find myself in a situation where one check barely covers my mortgage.

This weekend, I made the decision to use some of the gadgets I bought when I was ballin' to make some supplemental income. I did end up with some unexpected money on Sunday, so I upgraded here and there where I needed to and got some business cards made. Bye bye, extra money. But it's paying off. So far, I have two solid commitments booked, two strong possibles (one of them recurring), and I'm in talks for another one down the line. So it was a good gamble, that apparently paid off.

Now that that's out of the way, I can focus on saving my money and building a cushion. I plan to save half of my extra money, i.e. whatever is beyond my paycheck, such as bonuses, tuition reimbursements, etc. Emphasis on the word "plan." There are some things that may cut into this, such as repairs and unexpected expenses.

I'm so ready for this 21-day financial cleanse. I'm starting Sunday, because I have a tentative commitment Friday night, and I have to go out to lunch with a prospective client on Saturday, as well as attend a party later that night.

The stipulations of the cleanse are that you can spend money on food, gas, and bills, but that's it. I'm going to modify it a little bit, because my best friend's birthday is next week, and I really want to take her out (I already got her a gift). Other than that, there will be no splurging until April 5.

We'll see how I do, because money tends to burn a hole in my pocket. Hopefully this cleanse will help me to reform my bad habits. Thanks Running Buddy!

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