Falling Off The Wagon

15 06 2008

Hi, my name is Daniel, and I… lost track of my finances. 

I write (what is for the most part) a personal finance blog, so you’d think that I would track every penney, but I don’t.  We budget to pay ourselves first (savings/retirement), pay all of our bills, and then everything else is give and take.  One month we might go over on eating out, but we won’t touch our clothing budget, so we call it even; but over the last month as we have moved I have learned a very valuable lesson.

Once you start spending, it’s hard to stop.  It’s like the floodgates of your bank account open, and the next thing you know, you’re asking how your credit card bill got that high!?

We realized this week that we have run our credit card bills up much more than we realized.  It’s not like we have purchased large items, it’s a great number of little things that we did not appropriately budget for.  For instance, the last two weekends we have been out of town, and we did not adequately budget for food for either weekend.  Plus being gone on the weekend messed up our schedule, so we didn’t go to the grocery store to stock up for the week as we usually do, so we ended up eating out.  Then we moved, there was no point in us buying tons of food when we would have to move it, so we ate out more.  

Our move was a beast by itself.  Thank goodness I have friends and family who were willing to come help when I offered free beer (which no one ended up drinking!).  I rented the largest Budget truck available, for 24 hours, found a coupon code online to nock off 10%, and then surprised myself when I was able to negotiate another 15% off at the truck rental place.

Somehow a great number of little things added up.  The only major things I can remember buying are drapes and blinds for the house (which we came in way under our budget for!…to bad we went over everything else!)

This will serve to be a very interesting month.  We will soon make our first mortgage payment (yikes!), and we’ll get to see how close we were in our estimates for our new utility bills!  Plus, we’ll map out a plan to pay off our credit card bills.  Which right now I’m thinking will involve pulling some funds out of savings and tightening the budget to replace the money over the next few months (and hoping for a decent raise soon!)

Also, allow me to apologize for this seeming rant.  As you know it’s been over two weeks since I’ve really posted anything of substance, so A. I’m a little rusty, and B. it helps to just start writing to get the wheels moving sometimes!





Good Idea? Bad Idea?

16 05 2008

Last week I wrote a post about why you should share your ideas, with the bottom line being “If you’re scared you’re going to get screwed, you’re never going to get laid.”  In the comments Young and Frugal, and Brazen Careerist reader JRandom prompted me with a great question, which I will answer to the best of my ability.

So what happens after your ideas get a good listen and are rejected? Do you keep pushing them? Do you modify them in light of skeptical criticism? Do you take them elsewhere? Or what?

Throughout my entire senior year in college I poured my heart and soul into a business plan with three other people.  We knew our concept was amazing, and we all still believe it to be amazing.  I’ll even give you a three word pitch on it right now: Healthy Fast Food. 

We entered this plan into a few nationwide business plan competitions and everyone loved it, but we never won.  There are many valid reasons why we didn’t win, after all who wants to invest in a restaurant concept, with low margins, run by four college kids with no experience?  These flaws aside, the biggest thing I learned from this experience is that ideas (business plans in particular) are living, breathing, and growing things; they need constant attention and you can’t get ahead of yourself.  We met with investors and executives daily to pitch and pick their brains on our concept, which would lead to us re-writing our 30 page plan and reworking our powerpoint many many times.

For us, putting the plan aside was a matter of time and money.  We didn’t have the money to put into it, all of us would be jobless upon graduation, and 2 of us were getting married a month after graduation (my wife was on the team).

At the end of the day it all depends on how you feel about your idea.  Deep down, I think we all know whether our ideas are good or if they are crap.  The key is how much thought you have put into it’s execution.  How many people you have talked to about it, talking with other people gives you different perspectives.  Someone may find a fatal flaw in your plan, but if you have the passion for your concept you can work to find a solution. 

The bottom line is that we don’t possess our good ideas, they possess us.  Once you are possessed you have true passion to keep trying, when you are knocked down, you get up you take your passion to someone else to try again.

Howard Schultz was possessed by Starbucks.  He was possessed enough to pester them until they found a place for him in their company.  He was possessed enough to move from New York to Seattle.  And when he had the opportunity to buy and grow Starbucks, he was passionate enough to spend a year trying to raise $1.25 Million.  And it was his passion for his vision that led him to pitch the concept to potential investors 242 times, just to have 217 say no.  But in the end it didn’t matter that 217 said no, it mattered that about 30 said yes.  (Source)

What happens if you are possessed by a bad idea?  I don’t know, and sometimes people do just need to learn to give up, but next time you are in a plane, reach in the seatback in front of you and read the SkyMall magazine.  It’s full of them, and it goes to show that even some bad ideas can still make some money (assuming that people buy anything out of there).





Why You Shouldn’t Be Scared To Share Ideas

8 05 2008

 

A key trait of millennials is that we love to be entrepreneurial, we love to take on new tasks, but most of all, we need to know that our ideas are appreciated or at least given the time of day. Being a millennial, these traits are some of the main reasons why I started this blog.Jumping into the workforce where all of my co-workers and bosses are Gen-X and Boomers has been challenging. On one hand it really hasn’t been difficult to impress them, but on the other hand there is no free-flow of ideas. All the people around me seem to think that good ideas can’t come from the bottom of the corporation, and that they always come from the top. Needless to say, it has been a frustrating environment for a millennial to work in.

A couple weeks ago I had a Jerry McGuire moment at work and wrote somewhat of a manifesto for the company, and I must say that it felt great. And it felt even better when I shared it with my boss and I wasn’t fired, in fact he agreed with me! He then proceeded to fall into my generalization that good ideas only come from the top.

Never forget that the free-flow of ideas is something that millennials thrive on. We can build on each other, we can help each other, and maybe some people will start to listen!

All of this takes me back to a phrase that my entrepreneurship professor taught me (one that is impossible to forget):

If you’re scared you’re going to get screwed, you’re never going to get laid.

Vulgar, yes, but it’s also memorable and true. Say you have a business idea, but you’re too scared to share it with people. Then nothing will ever happen (unless you know every aspect…marketing, development, financing…). But say you start sharing it with people, maybe a rich old guy at Starbucks wants to invest, maybe your friend knows a few people who can help you out, or maybe someone helps you build on the idea. Either way, you’re ahead!

But what if someone steals my good idea? Why do you care if someone steals your idea? If it’s your idea I hope that you will have more passion for it than someone else. Sure, greed is a motivator for some, but businesses that are looking to cash in from the start rarely do well. Remember, you can’t fake passion. Entrepreneurs with a passion and a vision are the one’s that surpass expectations. What do Google, Yahoo, Craigslist, Dell, and Starbucks have in common? They all started out with passion and visions, and all are still run by the people that put them on the map. Did other people try to steal their ideas? Yes, absolutely they did, but the people who conceptualized from the beginning have done better. Also, remember that imitation is just another form of flattery. Note: Howard Schultz was not the founder of Starbucks, but it was his vision that grew it from a few stores to what it is today.

 

 





Live On Last Years Salary

6 05 2008

My wife and I have essentially been living as if we were making mortgage payments on our new house for the last 6 months, but instead of paying a mortgage (and taxes and insurance and Homeowners Association) it’s all been going into savings for our down payment.

We admit that we are stretching ourselves to buy our first house (I think that’s something that most people do), but as we are re-evaluating our budget (less than a month until we move in!) we have found ourselves looking forward to our raises in the fall (even if it just equates to a cost of living raise) because let’s face it…as much as budgeting is important, no one likes sticking to a strict budget, so we look towards the future at what we will be making and what we can spend (or save) at that point in time

I think our problem is that we are always looking to acquire more. We want more and don’t want to make sacrifices to get more.

As Mary and I caught ourselves looking forward at what we will be earning and what will increase in our budget I thought to myself, why not look backwards?

Why not live on last years salary? Say your salary was X last year and it increased to Y this year. If you live on last years salary and budget you inadvertently save Y-X all year. Then when your salary increases to Z you can live on Y and save Z-Y.

This concept allows you to save more and forces you to permanently (ideally) live below your means. It’s simple, but a great and easy way to save!





Why You Should Ask For Potential Employer References

23 04 2008

“He get’s bitchy sometimes.  Just understand that it has nothing to do with you, it’s just his personality.”

The words of wisdom from a co-worker on my fourth day in the office, and subsequently his last, rang through my head today as I entered my bosses office and realized he was in one of his “moods.”  I quickly turned on my comedic relief to ease the tension in the room and help to lighten his mood.

Allow me to backtrack, I have a great boss, I have the kind of boss most employees would love to have, he’s not about facetime, he’s about getting work done, and he understands the concept of a work/life balance.  He fights for his employee’s rights and for these reasons I love him.  If we had 360 degree feedback, and I were to write his review, it would definitely be a good one.

The words of my co-worker while I was still in my first week stay with me.  There are days where my boss is one step from seemingly taking it out on me, so I have learned to defuse the situation by making him laugh or letting him vent.  Occasionally I have to stop him and remind him that he isn’t mad at me.  This relationship is my other serious relationship.  Penelope Trunk often writes of having a friend at work who you can work with and who helps you work better.  For better or for worse, for me that person is my boss.

I’ve learned how to cope with my boss, and I’ve learned to defuse situations by comedic relief or just calling him out on it, but I wonder if I would be working where I am now if he had given me his references when I interviewed for the job.  Afterall, I do spend just as much time with him everyday as I do with my wife.

So I ask you this, why is it expected for employers to check references for employees, but the employee doesn’t get to see a reference for his boss before accepting the position?  

Many interview books recommend that you spend upwards of 24 hours with a person before hiring them or accepting their offer, however, no one actually does this, we don’t have the time, so we are forced to base major life decisions on what we can learn in about an hour (if we’re lucky).  

So I ask again why don’t we, the employee, get to check references?





Me?…Top 10!!??

21 04 2008

I’ve been writing a blog for about 3 months now and am very pleased and surprised to have seen my readership grow exponentially.  All of this has occurred organically by my reading and participating on other bloggers websites, and the grace of google (although someone found the site by searching for “how to ask out a married woman” today…which is somewhat bothersome and comical.  I hope he learns to haggle). 

I’d like to think I’m a decent writer, I know some of my connections may be a stretch sometimes, and my ideas don’t always flow, but I try.  Some of my posts have been much bigger hits than others, but that’s the way it goes!  I’m just thankful that people have actually found me!

Eventually Ryan Paugh of Employee Evolution found the site and invited me to be a somewhat of a syndicated blogger at his new start-up Brazen Careerist, which he co-founded with Penelope Trunk (Author of Brazen Careerist, the book) and Ryan Healy, also from Employee Evolution.  So that is what the large B on the right is for.  Brazen Careerist is an awesome site with tons of Gen-Y Bloggers covering everything from life, to money, to careers.

Now I am honored to say that I have been listed as a top 10 Gen-Y Blog by people I have never met, nor do I have any connection.  Their goal was to include marketing related Gen-Y blogs, which I am not…but according to them:

“While you are not are a marketing blog, we both feel that you are sharing something unique with the millennials, and God knows our generation needs all the financial advice we can get.” 

Amen.  They are kind of harsh to Y&F on their website though, but I must admit, I’ve been in denial, I now must own up since someone actually wrote it…my site is ugly and is hard to read (not an issue if you are subscribed to an an RSS Feed or E-mail Feed).  I will be revamping my site in the relatively near future, so keep your fingers crossed.  And if anyone is good at that type of thing and would like to help please contact me (daniel [at] this website dot com).

Regardless, I am honored to have been included on the list, and I sincerely thank Jess Neill and Ryan Stephens for including me!

Also, if you feel so inclined, I’d appreciate a vote on their site!  Or if you like one of the other blogs there, feel free to vote for someone else, Employee Evolution is on their, and I almost voted for them, but I figured a little self promoting couldn’t hurt :).





Trouble Getting Dates?…Try Haggling

19 04 2008

Note: At the suggestion of a reader I am splitting the post into two separate pieces.  Stay tuned for 10 Steps to Haggling!

When I was younger I had very low self esteem, there was no reason for me to be shy and scared to talk to girls, but I was.  I was scared of them saying no, or even worse, laughing at me.  I’m not a bad looking guy, but this fear was very real.  My older brothers would try to help me with this by bribing me to go up to girls and ask them out, but I only successfully did this once…and by successfully I mean I actually asked the girl out; she said no.

The only reason I met my wife is because she had a mutual friend set us up on a blind date after seeing me in a picture.  I would have never “sacked up” and asked her out on my own, but considering I was put in a situation where it would have been very awkward, and quite frankly rude, for me not to, I asked for her number and waited the obligatory 3 days to call her.  Ladies- for an insight into a guys mind during this “waiting period” watch the movie Swingers.

When I first started to haggle I would get the same knots in my stomach as I would when I would be scared to ask a girl out or tell her that I liked her.  I was scared, scared that the salesman or manager might think less of me, scared they would say know, scared they would be offended.  Why was I scared?  I really don’t know, I never had a situation that scarred me, but I think it all stems from my historically low self esteem (now practically gone thanks to my wife!).

Today when I was haggling for a new pair of over-priced running shoes, I happen to be haggling with a cute woman, and it all clicked!  The nervous feeling I would get when wanting to ask a girl out is the same nervous feeling I get when haggling…except haggling is way easier.  Haggling is a confidence builder!

I rarely get turned down when I haggle, and when I do it’s never a big deal, I leave with my pride, and confidence still in tact that I tried, so I have no regrets.  This has built my confidence up greatly.  That is confidence that I could easily turn around into “technique” and confidence for picking up women (not that I ever would, I am very happily married).  I will have to find someone to try this technique on, but I’m positive it will work.  Haggling is the best confidence builder I’ve had…besides getting married.

I implore you all to at least try haggling, whether you get a discount or not it ends up being a rush so it feels good afterwards, but when it does work and you save some money, it builds your confidence, and you get that rush.  Also, as an added bonus, if the salesperson is a member of the opposite sex you can subtly flirt and complement the person to help you haggle!  Pretty soon, haggling will be no big deal, and you can turn that confidence and flirting into picking up members of the opposite sex!

As a disclaimer, use discretion, it may hurt your chances if you haggle on a first date, you don’t want to come across as cheap, even though there is a distinct difference, not everyone understands it.  Later on you can show your frugalness.