FINANCIAL FITNESS BOOTCAMP: WEEK 5

STEP 5: YOU’VE GOT TO BE IN POSITION TO MAKE THE COMPLETION.

This should be the last week of you tracking your spending habits for the month. It’s do or die now. Once you have tracked your spending, you can get a better handle on where your money is going. Remember the month I tracked my spending, $500+ dollars was wasted on “eating out.” Once this week ends, do the math and see where the bulk of your money is going. If you see that a considerable amount is being spent on non-essential items, it’s time to ‘get into position to make the completion.” Let me explain what I mean.

I’m a HUGE Dallas Cowboys fan. I’m a huge football fan in general, but for all practical purposes, I’ll use my favorite
team and favorite Dallas Cowboy Wide Receiver Dez Bryant for this illustration:

DEZ

Before I continue, Yes, this photo is OLD. 2009 to be exact. Yes, I drag this photo out and post it on social media at the start of EVERY SINGLE FOOTBALL SEASON. This picture was taken around the time Dez had just signed with the Cowboys as a rookie and was temporarily living in the same suburb as myself. I met him at a local restaurant. He was walking around with a small entourage and everyone was whispering “That’s Dez Bryant.” I recognized him, stopped him and asked if he wouldn’t mind taking a photo. He was real cool about it. I thanked him and he said “Yes Ma’am.” MA’AM? Now hold on! I don’t look THAT old, not then and certainly not now. Anywhoo, that was six years ago and let me tell you. Dez doesn’t look anything like he does in this photo anymore. Let’s just say milk DOES DO the body good… and as always, I DIGRESS. Hold on while I fan myself. Whew!!! Okay. Back to illustrating my point.

When Dallas Cowboy QB Tony Romo calls a slant route where Dez is the intended receiver, Dez has to be in the RIGHT PLACE at the RIGHT TIME otherwise, he won’t be in position to catch/receive the ball. Here’s what a version of a slant route play looks like to the football enthusiast:

slant

A slant is where a receiver runs straight then hits a 45 degree angle behind defensive linemen to receive a pass. Romo can throw a perfect pass but if Dez isn’t there to receive it, the Cowboys have lost a down or in Romo’s case, there’s a strong possibility he’s thrown an interception. Now let me tie this in to how this relates to YOU:

Financial independence requires DISCIPLINE. Financial independence requires PATIENCE and financial independence involves FOLLOW-THROUGH. These are the same techniques Dez uses on the field that allow him to make “the big plays.” If you want to make the “big plays” and achieve financial independence you must first be DISCIPLINED. That means you may have to sacrifice some things in order to complete the play. You will also have to incorporate PATIENCE into your thought
process. Financial independence doesn’t happen overnight (unless you win the lottery,) and even in some cases, the winners still manage to blow ALL their winnings leaving nothing to show. To make the “big plays” and reach your goal of financial independence, you must FOLLOW-THROUGH. You can’t give up on your goal. If Dez is running too fast, the pass may be thrown behind him, too slow and it may thrown in front of him, but if the timing is just right, he makes
the play, gains some yardage and may even score a touchdown. You don’t need the touchdown just yet. Right now, your goal is to complete passes and continue to gain yardage. Then you’ll complete more passes. And gain even more yardage. Keep completing passes, keep completing tasks, and YOU WILL score the touchdown!

Referee Signaling Score --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

I am so excited for those of you that have actually taken on the task to take charge of your finances by tracking your spending habits and even those who may have just decided to begin this process. It’s never too late to get on board. Touchdowns can happen at anytime during a football game. The same applies to the commitment you’ve made to yourself. The commitment to pull yourself out of debt, the commitment of becoming a better steward of your money, the commitment to make better decisions regarding your finances. The “end zone” awaits.

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Consider this posting the “Pep Talk” you get before the “big game.” For those that intend to get in the game, make sure you bring your “A” game. Leave the B, C, D and certainly your “F” game at home.

I hope you benefitted from this posting and I do appreciate you reading it.Your commentary is always important so ALL FEEDBACK IS WELCOMED. If there is a specific topic you’d like me to talk about regarding “Financial Fitness Boot Camp” on this blog, feel free to shoot me an email at Andrea.Coleman@TheFinancialHack.com. Don’t miss a posting so be sure to follow me at http://www.thefinancialhack.com.

FOLLOW THIS BLOG AND JOIN THE EMAIL LIST SO YOU DON’T MISS A POST.

~The Financial Hack ©2015

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FINANCIAL FITNESS BOOT CAMP WEEK 4

(Previously posted via Tumblr July 22, 2015)

STEP 4 : FINANCIAL HACKS

While those who still have 2 ½ weeks left to track their spending for the month, I thought I would share some financial hacks I use to keep me on track with my spending.

1. PAY GOD FIRST: As not to offend anyone, I say pay God FIRST (if applicable.) Not everyone believes in paying tithes or haven’t been taught to trust God with their first fruits, so again I say: PAY GOD FIRST (if applicable.) If this applies to you, you may choose to pay tithes based on your pay schedule. Some people pay tithes monthly as if they would pay their rent or mortgage, others bi-weekly or bi-monthly. Whatever method works for you, give Him what belongs to him FIRST. I guarantee the giving of your first fruits will help you to become a better steward of your money.

2. GIVE YOURSELF A MONTHLY ALLOWANCE: Depending on how much discretionary income you have to work with after determining how/where your money is being spent, give yourself a REALISTIC monthly allowance. It can be weekly or monthly. I prefer a monthly allowance. I withdraw the allowance I’ve set for myself from the ATM at the beginning of each month. Using reloadable Debit Cards work just the same. If that amount is spent BEFORE the end of the month, I’m SOL and have to wait until next month’s allowance. Anything I don’t spend is placed into a savings account. Keep in mind monthly allowances can cover items such as eating out, entertainment, manicures, pedicures, and non-essential items such as clothing, makeup, etc.

One of the things that works for me is using my reloadable Starbucks card. I allow myself $25 each month for my Grande (Venti depending on how late I stayed up the night before) Caramel Macchiato.

FFBC7

I usually save these as a treat and will stop on my way to work Saturday mornings. I always make sure to get a receipt so I know how much is left. NOTE: I NEVER HAVE A CARRYOVER BALANCE. This is a good system for me because at one time I was making Starbucks trips 3-4 times/week and that can add up. Remember…. Financial Fitness requires discipline (there’s that word again.)

3. KEEP YOUR OWN CHANGE: Although banks have the “Keep the change program,” I’ve been keeping my own change. If I grab a couple of breakfast items from the dollar menu at McDonalds, I use my allowance to pay for it. It’s a non-essential item because I could have easily scrambled an egg and made some toast before I left for work. If the cashier asks me in the drive thru if I have two pennies, I’ll say “No” because I want that .98 in change she’s going to give me back. Once my ashtray fills up, I transfer the change into my Crown Royal bag (don’t act like you don’t have one right now full of pennies) until I’m able to separate the change and put it in separate coffee canisters. Remember, I had $240 (well $238.88) I saved up from last year. We’ll see by July 2016 how much change I’ll have saved since I’m using cash much more than my debit card these days.

4. TAKE THOSE CREDIT CARDS OUT OF YOUR WALLET: Leave that Visa, MasterCard, Discover, AmEx, Diners Club Card etc. AT HOME! You don’t need all those cards in your wallet. It may be too tempting for some of you. If you’re bold enough, you’ll take them ALL OUT. Unless you have a reserve amount in your checking account/overdaft protection savings account that’s tied to your checking account, I don’t advise this. CARRY ONE CARD IN YOUR WALLET/POCKETBOOK FOR EMERGENCIES ONLY. You may not be ready to cut the others up, but if you’re serious about deleting credit card debt, you may want to consider it (but we’ll cover credit/credit cards as the weeks proceed as well.) If you have a gas card, leave it at home unless you’re religious about paying the balance in full at the end of each billing period. If you do pay your balance at the end of each month, that’s great. This can actually be a good system for couples who have gas cards issued from the same account. Paying the balance each month  also helps boost your credit score.

Some good advice my Dad gave me regarding credit cards, “If you can’t pay cash for it, then you can’t afford it.” Wise words to live by.

These were just a few financial hacks I could think of off the top of my head. I’m sure others I use will come to mind and I will share them with you as well. As always, I hope you benefitted from this posting and I do appreciate you reading it. Your commentary is also important so ALL FEEDBACK IS WELCOMED. If there is a specific topic you’d like me to talk about regarding “Financial Fitness Boot Camp” on this blog, feel free to shoot me an email at AndreaColeman@TheFinancialHack.com. Don’t miss a posting so be sure to follow me at http://www.thefinancialhack.com.

FOLLOW THIS BLOG AND JOIN THE EMAIL LIST SO YOU DON’T MISS A POST.

~The Financial Hack ©2015

FINANCIAL FITNESS BOOT CAMP: WEEK 3

(Previously posted via Tumblr July 13, 2015)

STEP 3: IT’S TIME TO START TRIMMING THE FAT.

Hopefully you’ve started tracking now where your money is going by documenting EVERYTHING you’re spending your money on and recording HONEST, ACCURATE information. Don’t worry. It’s okay if you bought that pair of shoes you didn’t really need. Record it anyway. I downloaded three old school albums and a few additional songs from iTunes last week… but I documented it. Remember, the point of tracking your spending is to notice patterns/trends in your spending habits. As mentioned in my last blog, after a month of tracking my spending habits, I discovered over $500 was being wasted on “eating out.” YIKES!!! It’s under control now. TRUST ME.

If you have decided to track your spending habits for the month, here’s how you can get a head start on becoming “financially fit.”

IT’S TIME TO START “TRIMMING THE FAT.”

FFBC6

Now you may be thinking, “How can I start trimming the fat if I’m not done tracking my spending habits for the month?”

START WITH YOUR HOUSEHOLD BILLS.

You should already know your monthly mortgage amount unless you have an ARM (Adjustable Rate Mortgage) and if you do, RUN TO YOUR BANK AND REFINANCE QUICK!!! I’ll cover mortgages as the weeks progress. I want to focus on household bills such as electricity, telephone, satellite/cable, and additional household services that can be negotiated. It’s a good practice to sit down and re-evaluate what amounts you’re paying for these services each year. Take your satellite/cable service provider for example. I believe bundle packages (cable, phone and internet) being offered is a great idea, but have you stopped to look at what you’re paying for? Think about it. Do you REALLY have to have the “premium channel package” that includes every movie and sports channel known to man when you only watch a handful of channels that are more than likely offered in the company’s “standard channel package?“ Is it necessary to have “turbo speed” internet connection? Is the information you’re uploading/downloading work-related which would require faster speeds when working from home? These are features that can save you money. I recently switched back to DirecTV and am paying a bill much lower than I was before I left them for Time Warner Cable. Take advantage of satellite/cable company offers. It’s been my experience there’s usually a 12 month commitment which I don’t mind since I don’t plan on going anywhere and if I move I can move the service with me thus, no interruption. By switching back to DirecTV, I am saving approximately $75/month. If you are satisfied with your current provider and do not wish to switch companies, you can always re-negotiate. My favorite line is, “I can’t afford cable anymore, is there anything you guys can do to help me out because I REALLY don’t want to disconnect my service but I may have to.” The satellite/cable providers DO NOT want to lose your business so trust me, they’ll do everything in their power to keep it. Customer Service Reps usually have a lot of leeway and can offer you lower prices on packages and services, BUT YOU WON’T KNOW THEY’RE AVAILABLE UNLESS YOU ASK. The same works with your electricity provider because you can negotiate a lower price per kilowatt hour, for example, lowering your price from 12.4 cents per kilowatt hour to 10.9 cents. It may not seem like a big difference, but every little bit helps. Try it. You’ll be surprised.

NOTE: I prefer to use “average billing” with my electricity provider. This way my bill is the same amount each month. I like to see consistent numbers with my monthly household bills. It’s just a personal preference.

Household services can be negotiated, modified or terminated if necessary. As much as I loved the cleaning service who came every two weeks, I knew if I wanted to save more money, I could no longer keep them. So guess who’s doing the cleaning now? The same person that was doing the cleaning BEFORE someone else started doing it for me. As far as the pool cleaning service I use, I couldn’t let them go however, I’m investing in a pool cover. This way I can save approximately $1200 each year. I should have done this when I first moved in my home, but I just recently started getting REALLY SERIOUS about building up a nice nest egg.

What about your landscaper? I don’t know what you call yours, but I call mine “the yard man.“ At one time, I used to cut my own yard and it looked just like professionals were maintaining it, but that got old pretty quickly. My current landscaper charges me $25 to cut the front and backyard (which is a lot of yard by the way.) But here’s the catch: He’s been my landscaper/yard man for the past 15 years. Bottom Line: Relationships are important. If you have a landscaper you’ve been using for a while, ask to re-negotiate. If you have a great relationship with them, they shouldn’t have a problem coming down on the price.

The household expenses mentioned in this blog were expenses I felt were most basic and necessary to discuss (and were based on my personal re-evaluation/re-negotiation.) Until you get a better picture of your spending habits/trends after the first week of August, you’ll be ready to trim even more fat. It’s gonna get ugly, SO GET READY!!! Let me know how the tracking of your spending habits is coming along. I appreciate the Twitter feedback from @whois_atiya regarding last week’s blog posting. I’m so glad I was able to offer information you found useful. Keep that feedback coming!!!

As always, I hope you benefitted from this posting and I do appreciate you reading it. Your commentary is also important so ALL FEEDBACK IS WELCOMED. If there is a specific topic you’d like me to talk about regarding “Financial Fitness Boot Camp” on this blog, feel free to shoot me an email at Andrea.Coleman@TheFinancialHack.com. Don’t miss a posting so be sure to follow me at http://www.thefinancialhack.com.

FOLLOW THIS BLOG AND JOIN THE EMAIL LIST SO YOU DON’T MISS A POST.

~The Financial Hack ©2015

FINANCIAL FITNESS BOOTCAMP: WEEK 2

(Previously posted via Tumblr July 7, 2015)

STEP 2: KNOW WHERE YOUR MONEY IS GOING.

Now that you’ve calculated your net worth, if you’re serious about being financially fit, you need to know how and where your money is flowing. Is your only stream of income your nine to five and/or six to ten, or do you have what I like to call “side hustles” (which really aren’t hustles at all,) just another name I call for a multiple stream(s) of income. It could be anything from selling items on eBay, homemade pastries (cakes, pies and such) or even preparing taxes during tax season. Multiple streams of income could be anything that makes you money. NOTE: If you have a hobby, FIND A WAY TO MAKE MONEY DOING IT!!!

Now back to the the money flow. Sit down and get comfortable, because you may be sitting for a while. Calculate your NET INCOME for the month. This should be fairly easy. Calculate ALL INCOME (including child support.) The only reason I would include child support is because obviously you are using that bi-weekly or monthly income on your child(ren) and not getting your hair/nails done and your weave tightened with Lil Timmy’s money. USE YOUR OWN MONEY FOR THAT. (I’ll talk about saving in a later posting.) Now that you have calculated how much you BRING HOME each month, let’s find out how much is actually GOING OUT each month. This may get a little tricky.

FFBC5

For many, this will require you to track your spending for an entire month. Of course we know the amounts of our mortgages/rent, utilities, household expenses, gas, child/daycare expenses, minimum amounts due on credit cards (hopefully,) etc., but what about the number of times you stopped at Starbucks on the way to work? Or the number of times you and your sorors went out to brunch last month, or those two pair of “Js” you just had to buy because “ya potnahs” got em too? You need to know where your money is going because you may find what’s going out far exceeds what’s coming in.

So how do you track your spending? You can do it the old-fashioned way and get a small notepad to write down amounts you’ve spent. If you’re not good at keeping up with receipts, there are phone apps you can download that can track those amounts for you (although it will take some effort on your part.) If you’re going to track spending, you have to track EVERYTHING from that 35cent pack of Juicy Fruit gum to the first round of drinks that was on you at Friday Night’s Happy Hour. To be ACCURATE, you’ve got to be HONEST. (There’s that word again.) I tracked my spending for one month and discovered I spent over $500 alone eating out. I had no clue I was spending that much money. When you’re single with no children, it’s easier to be frivolous with your money, but spending over $500 eating out is just TOO MUCH (for me anyway.) I put that in check REAL FAST. And to think I could have done so many other things with that money… LIKE LEFT IT IN THE BANK. Once you track your spending habits you will also notice patterns and will quickly be able to determine where you can begin to start “trimming the fat” which we’ll get into as the weeks progress.

So here’s your mission should you decide to take it…. TRACK YOUR SPENDING FOR ONE MONTH. Make a list of EVERYTHING that you’ve paid for during the month from household expenses to non-essential items to that $75 you loaned your Aunt that loves to play bingo Thursday nights: EVERY SINGLE THING. This is where exercising discipline starts. If you’re serious about becoming “Financially Fit,” you’ve got to start by knowing where your money is going. READY. SET. GO!!!!

I hope you benefitted from this posting and I do appreciate you reading it. Your commentary is also important so ALL FEEDBACK IS WELCOMED. If there is a specific topic you’d like me to talk about regarding Financial Fitness Bootcamp on this blog, feel free to shoot me an email at AndreaColeman@TheFinancialHack.com. Don’t miss a posting so be sure to follow me at http://www.thefinancialhack.com.

FOLLOW THIS BLOG AND JOIN THE EMAIL LIST SO YOU DON’T MISS A POST.

~The Financial Hack ©2015

FINANCIAL FITNESS BOOT CAMP WEEK 1: FALL IN LINE SOLDIER!!!

FFBC4

(Previously posted via Tumblr July 3, 2015)

Today is July 3rd and I’m already TWO DAYS BEHIND!!! Well, not really because I’ve been working on this plan for a few weeks now and psyching myself up, but I am behind in sharing this plan with you. First off, before we get started, let me give you my disclaimer:

I am NOT a Financial Planner, nor am I in training to become one, nor do I plan on becoming one. My experience comes from trial and error (mostly ERRORS,) but that is how I learned. The information I am providing to you are methods that have proven beneficial to me as I have navigated through my financial journey and continue to do so. Hopefully they will prove beneficial to you as well. Understand, what works for one may not work for all so please bear that in mind. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way and you are dressed in your fatigues and combat boots and hopefully standing at attention, TEN HUT!!! Let’s navigate through Step One of Financial Fitness Boot Camp. This is ALWAYS the easiest:

STEP ONE: KNOW YOUR “NET WORTH”

Net worth is pretty cut and dried. It is determined by subtracting WHAT YOU “OWE” from WHAT YOU “OWN.” This number lets you know whether you are operating “in the red” (meaning what you OWE EXCEEDS the value of what you own) or operating “in the black” (what YOU OWN exceeds the value of that in which you owe.) Any accountant can help you with this, but there are also net worth calculators online that will calculate the amounts for you. I normally conduct a net worth evaluation every 6-12 months depending on if I’ve set a specific goal for myself. It’s strictly up to you to determine how often you choose to do this. What is key to knowing your true net worth is being honest and as thorough as possible. For example, what you own can consist of Real Property (Real Estate,) Vehicles, Money in Savings Accounts, What you stuffed in the mattress, the fireproof safe, Money Market, Retirement Accounts (401K, IRA, Roth IRA, etc.) any stocks, bonds, investments etc. NOTE: When determining my net worth, I usually use the value of my Real Property, KBB Value of my automobiles (because they’re paid for) and any significant amounts in savings accounts and cut it off there.

An accountant will probably want to be more thorough to get a more clearer picture and have you include anything of value such as jewelry, watches (not the Bolex you bought from Ray Ray at the gas station,) designer handbags, furniture, computers/laptops, electronics and the like. When assesing value, be sure to assess MARKET VALUE. If you have a Louis Vuitton you paid $3500 for ten years ago and you got your money’s worth from it, don’t assume someone will be willing to give you the same amount you paid ten years ago. BE ACURATE WHEN ASSESSING VALUE.

When I was selling shoes (sz 9-11) on eBay a few years ago, I would have at any given moment 100+ pairs of shoes in stock. The value of that inventory is obviously an asset if the shoes are paid for. However, if I have an outstanding invoice to pay for those 100+ pairs of shoes, clearly, they become a liability (an amount that I owe) and cannot be claimed as an asset, until after I sell them. I don’t want to get too technical here but you get it. I’m just trying to cover the basics.

Liabilities can include debt of any kind: Mortgages, Car loans, Credit card debt, student loan debt and in some cases debt as a result of receiving medical care are major culprits. When calculating liabilities, be sure to also include any personal loans. Anything that is owed should be added to the list. LEAVE NO STONES UNTURNED.

Once you’ve created your column of assets and your column of liabilities and determined their value, subtract your liabilities from your assets. CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve just determined your approximate net worth. Some of you may be surprised at what you see. Whether you are operating in the red or the black, how you choose to manipulate that number is strictly up to you.

Hopefully after completing STEP ONE of Financial Fitness Boot Camp, you will know whether you want to “soldier up” and tough it out or “punk out” like a little girl and quit!!! Hopefully you’ll be back next week for more. I will tell you. If you’re going to COMMITT, you can’t half-ass this. Not when it comes to YOUR MONEY. Either you’re in, or you’re out. Vacillating in between won’t help you reach your goal(s) so LET’S DO THIS!!!

I hope you benefitted from this posting and I do appreciate you reading it. Your commentary is important so ALL FEEDBACK IS WELCOMED. If there is a specific topic you’d like me to talk about regarding financial fitness bootcamp, feel free to shoot me an email at AndreaColeman@TheFinancialHack.com Don’t miss a posting so be sure to follow me at http://thefinancialhack.com.

FOLLOW THIS BLOG AND JOIN THE EMAIL LIST SO YOU DON’T MISS A POST.

~The Financial Hack ©2015

FINANCIAL FITNESS BOOT CAMP- YOU’RE ON YOUR WAY!!!

FFBC Change

(Previously posted via Tumblr July 2015)

GEARING UP FOR FINANCIAL FITNESS BOOT CAMP: While some of you may be laughing, I just counted and am depositing $240 IN CHANGE into a savings account. I KEEP MY OWN CHANGE… And look at how it pays off!! Committing to “Keeping Your OWN Change” is a great way to start Financial Fitness Boot Camp.

~The Financial Hack ©2015

WELCOME!!! FROM THE FINANCIAL HACK

Drowning in debt? Navigating through mounting bills? Mismanaging your money? Low credit risk? Are you that person? I was that person. It’s ironic it took me getting married at age 39 to start getting serious about my spending habits and saving money, and age 44 to share what I’ve learned along this financial journey which for me actually started when I was in grade school as my Father would share with me financial nuggets of how to save money and acquire wealth, none of which I began to apply until a few of years ago. Now I’d like to share what I’ve learned and what I’m doing with you. My situation may be somewhat different from yours as I am single with no children, but debt is debt. Mismanaging money is mismanaging money and bad credit is bad credit no matter what your familial status is. My goal is to share what I’ve learned through trial and error (mostly ERROR) with you and hopefully by applying some of the techniques I suggest will start you on your path to first getting out of debt and secondly acquiring wealth starting with an emergency fund. This is what I call “A Po ‘Lil Rich Girl’s Survival Guide to Becoming Debt-Free and Achieving Wealth… ONE DOLLAR AT A TIME!!!

“Financial Fitness Boot Camp” will be a series of postings to get you started on your journey. The only tools required are Discipline, Patience and Follow-Through. Incorporating these three simple words into your thought pattern when it comes to making decisions regarding how you manager your money should get you to your financial goal(s). I hope you benefit greatly from reading this blog page. If there is something in particular you’d like me to discuss or have a question, feel free to leave a comment/reply or email me at AndreaColeman@TheFinancialHack.com.

FOLLOW THIS BLOG AND JOIN THE EMAIL LIST SO YOU DON’T MISS A POST.

Thank you in advance for reading. ENJOY!!!

~The Financial Hack ©2015