It’s spring, and time to do some spring cleaning of your finances. We do almost all our personal finance tasks in our home office, so for us this means spring cleaning the office. Ours is currently a wintery mess of piles of documents, empty paper sorters, packing from electronics, and craft supplies. If your office is in similar disarray, here are some clutter-busting items to inspire your own spring fling:
The “Daily System” wall organizer from Pottery Barn has space for all your financial necessities: bins for bills and magazines, a calendar for keeping track of cash flow, a white board to keep your goals in sight, a key rack for your safe deposit box key, a drawer for pens and a calculator, and a tack board for important documents.
There’s nothing like a comfortable chair to keep you focused on your work. How about the Aeron Executive chair from Hermann Miller?
Does a comfortable home office inspire you to manage your personal finances better?
If you’re a camera buff, especially a Nikon camera buff, you’ve probably heard of Ken Rockwell. He provides reviews of camera stuff I want.
His style of writing is similar to personal finance type gurus – you take it or leave it, and you either love him or hate him. He has a strong opinion of things, and while they may not make the most sense, he doesn’t give a damn about what anyone else thinks. He does tend to give the bottom line with his camera reviews, especially for those who can’t stand sharpness tests or MTF charts.
When I was cruising his website the other day, I saw an article on how to afford anything. It reads like a years worth of personal finance blogger’s posts stuck together; it is probably just as lengthy. Personally, I love it when I find personal finance articles in places I wouldn’t expect to find them.
Here’s the article in bullet points:
- Don’t buy a new car (he drives a used Mercedes)
- Don’t drove to work (he only had jobs that were within walking/biking distance from his home)
- Don’t eat out (food, you perverts)
- Don’t buy a big house
- Don’t buy on credit or take out loans
- Don’t rent
- Don’t worry about what you own (keepin’ up with the Joneses)
- Don’t be afraid to ask for a deal
- Don’t buy extended warranties (or any sort of insurance for any loss you could cover out-of pocket)
- Don’t buy cheap; you’ll end up paying for it twice
- Don’t have kids (they are the root cause of all pollution and environmental destruction)
- Don’t become a photographer
- Order from the dollar menu, get water
- Go dutch all the time (he admits not very popular with the ladies)
- Live at home
- Read and understand the fine print (especially with mortgages, namely ARMs)
- Return what you don’t want or need
- Know the difference between investments and expenditures (with a Kiyosaki-like view much like the asset vs. liabilities debate of a house)
- Only buy from stores that give full cash refunds
- Use coupons
- Avoid addiction: caffeine (with the obligatory latte factor reference), nicotiene, television
- Tip big
- Marry smart (with some questionable misogyny peppered in there…)
- Go to college and get a real job
- Go to college, go yachting, and get a job as a captain
My favorite line? “It takes the guts to be a cheapskate.” Yep, sure does.
So what has all of this gotten him? How about every Nikon camera and lens from the last 10 or so years. Or a couple of (used) Mercedes. And a lot of smugness.
If there’s something in his writing, it is passion. He’s willing to focus his finances to get exactly what he wants in life. There’s definitely a few lessons I can learn from him.
I wonder what was first?
Sometimes I meet people who are so financially savvy and responsible that they inspire me. I recently met a co-worker whose story can be an inspiration to anyone struggling with the burden of student loan debt. This woman is in her early twenties and graduated from college with $15,000 worth of student loan debt. She wants to go onto graduate school, but doesn’t want her undergrad loans to continue to accrue interest while she pursues another degree. So she has chosen to put off going to graduate school until she has entirely repaid her undergraduate loans. She wants to get back to school as soon as possible, so she’s made debt repayment her urgent priority. Here’s what she’s doing to ensure she’ll be back in a lecture hall in three years or less:
- She started repaying her loans as soon as she graduated, even before she had found a “real” job. She is still technically in deferment, but has already made a payment every month since graduation.
- She is working full time at her “real” job, plus she told the boss that she is willing to work overtime on any project in the office. So now she’s serving as a pinch hitter for my project team, and pulling some very late nights to earn extra money.
- In addition to her full-time job, she also has an agreement with a local restaurant to be a part-time pinch-hitter waitress there. So on nights when she can’t get overtime at her real job, she waitresses at the restaurant.
- Every dollar she earns in overtime or at her second job goes directly toward student loan debt repayment.
When she told me her story, she seemed tired but upbeat. She knows this will only be for three years, so she feels she can struggle through. Knowing the exact date when she will be debt-free keeps her going!
Have you been inspired by a student loan repayment story?
This week one of my co-workers made a big announcement: She’s quitting her job so she and her boyfriend can move to Europe, where he has been offered a position. Before he begins work, though, they’re going to take a month to jaunt around Europe. They make around the same income as we do, and they are paying off roughly the same amount of student loan debt. So how can they afford this extravagance?
It took me a few days to piece together the answer, but I’m pretty sure I know how now: They saved their money for a very long time.
Clue #1: When He and I first moved in together, we were planning to start using a budget. I mentioned it to this co-worker and she said that she and her boyfriend stick to a very strict budget, live well below their means, and never use credit cards for anything. She also mentioned a special fund they were saving for something big.
Clue #2: As part of their move, they are getting rid of almost everything they own. She invited me to come “shopping” at her house this weekend, and I picked out a large toaster oven and a bedroom set. I tried to offer her money for them, but she wouldn’t take it (even though these items were really nice). She said they don’t need any money.
To me, that is amazing! They are about to take a month-long vacation followed by a period where they will live on one income, and they are so well prepared that they’re not worried at all. I am impressed and inspired. To be able to do something guilt-free that you have dreamed of for years, now that’s a reason to budget!