Doing Things Differently Will Help You Win

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Michelle Jackson is a guest blogger and founder of The Shop My Closet Project. She is an obsessive reader of books, blogs, and magazines. Well cooked food sends her to another level as she considers herself a foodie. Her blog talks about her financial journey as well as other money (and fashion) observations.

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It is now 2014 and we are getting back into groove of work, school, and starting our New Year’s Resolutions. If you haven’t done it already take some time and take a look at the goals that you set for 2013, what did you achieve? What didn’t you achieve? Then ask yourself the following question: What could I have done differently to achieve my goals?

I speak from experience that sometimes you have to change what you’re doing in order to experience successful outcomes. For the past 10 years I’ve existed in a debt purgatory, worked the same job for the past 10 years, and have a pitiful dating life. So, given this track record I had to begin making some changes before I went crazy!

In the fall of 2012 I decided that I’d had enough. I just couldn’t continue to be frustrated by how things were going-it was time to DO something different.

Doing Different Things

I decided to dream bigger. Write down lists of what I wanted to achieve, and then look at what I did before so that a new plan could be created that would actually work.

Here is an example of my list:

  •          Become debt free
  •          Save money
  •          Change my career
  •          Find love
  •          Get fit

For the purpose of this post I’ll focus on debt. Becoming debt free has been a big dream of mine. I have been in debt my entire adult life. I am so over it. What I was doing wasn’t working. So, I made a plan. I decided to do the following:

  •   Figured out where I stood-I had a pretty good idea of my debts, but I started a fresh list for 2013.
  • Cut my ongoing expenses. This one was huge! I started side hustling and applying the extra money towards my debts. I also looked at my discretionary spending and applied that money towards my credit cards. Using this simple process I was able to pay off 3 out of 4 of my credit cards. Savings: $150 a month (not including all the money paid on interest, etc) I took items out of storage that were in storage for TEN years! I found a Living Social Deal for a moving company-cutting the moving costs substantially. And, I didn’t have to do the lifting! Savings: $160 a month.
  • Stopped shopping-This one is pretty radical. I stopped shopping for fashion items for a year. I have 3 more months to go and I estimate that I’ve saved around $3000 in 2013 from not shopping.
  •  Brought my lunch and focused on eating out-I typically did this anyway, but I really focused on this last year. Have you really thought about how much you spend on eating out? I’m a really good cook so I’m actually pretty picky about my food and will pay extra for good food. So, when I did go out to eat it wasn’t cheap. The thing is over time this becomes pretty expensive. I work in an office where it is very common to bring lunch. I am lucky in that I don’t feel social pressure to go out to eat. Bringing my own lunch saves me easily hundreds of dollars a month.

I really focused on cutting my ongoing expenses without cutting my standard of living. I don’t have cable so I didn’t worry about that. I don’t own a car and have free pass for transportation so I don’t have to worry about that either.

This year I am cutting my ongoing expenses even deeper with a continued emphasis on maintaining my lifestyle. I will be doing the following in 2014.

·        Changing my cell phone service-In order to do this I will have to pay out my Verizon contract and purchase outright a new phone. I’m switching to Republic Wireless at the end of January. Currently I pay $105 a month for cell phone service-that’s including a public employee discount!! Total for the year is: $1260. Or, $2520 for a two year contract.

o   Instead, I will pay $230 to pay out my contract and $290 for the phone. Total: $520

 o   Then, I will pay $25 a month for 3G service which equals $300 for the year. For 2014 I will pay $820 for phone service saving $440 for the year and saving $960 in 2015.

 o   I will side hustle so that I don’t pay to switch my service with my own money*** But, I will switch it either way. Because $440=a plane ticket!!

 ·        Use MINT.com a lot more effectively-Over the holidays I spent some time looking at my MINT.com account. I had been labeling different expenditures throughout the year, but I wanted to see how much I spent throughout the year on a number of different line items. It was EYE Opening!! I have one line item which is Unaccounted for Expenditures-$4400 dollars of expenditures that I have no idea what I spent that money on this year. That’s not ok, and that’s not happening this year. PERIOD. I’m in the process of preparing to work for myself. I can’t complete the switch until I feel 100% confident in my ability to handle my money. I highly recommend using MINT.com or a similar tracking system so that you know where your money is going.

·         Switched to Daily Cash-I was getting used to doing this last year and figured out how to label my cash withdrawals in MINT so that I know where my money is going. I am purchasing groceries with cash, and fun money=actually money no debit card!  I think I will get a much better idea of where my money is going by doing this. I never want $4400 in withdrawals with no idea what I spent my money on.

Let’s be clear, some of the things I’m doing might not work for you! Personal finance is personal and the steps that I’ve taken have been working for me. But, I had to change my approach a number of times before figuring out sustainable ways to help me achieve debt repayment success. I encourage you in your endeavors, be forgiving of yourself when you stumble. Get back up and try, try, try again-2014 will be your year. Good Luck!

What things will you do differently in 2014?

Doing Different Things

 

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