I WON! I WON!

I WON! I WON!

Mission Accomplished!

Mission Accomplished!

For the first time EVER, I completed the 52 Week Money Challenge! You can see in the left sidebar that my meter is back down to a measly $3… but that only gives me a great feeling of relief; my last payment to my Money Challenge account in December of 2015 was $103. That’s a bit of a tough go when I make minimum wage, believe me.

I did it, though! I’m REALLY proud of myself, too!

Did you take the money challenge with me in 2015? Will you take it with me this year?

It works like this: Week 1: you pay $1 into a separate savings account (or a jar, a sock in your dresser drawer, under your mattress…) – I put mine into a high-interest tax-free savings account, where it sat there looking very, very small. Actually I put $3 in there on the first payday of January 2015, since I’m paid on a bi-weekly basis. The reason it worked out to $3 is that on Week 2 you add a dollar… and then on Week 3, you save $4… etc. etc.

At the end of 52 weeks, if you’ve been keeping up your promise to pay yourself, you’ll have a whopping $1373 in that account, not including any interest you’ve accrued. I know it doesn’t sound like all that much to save in a year – but it’s $1373 that I didn’t have earning interest at this time last year (and I have a really neat plan for that money, believe me!).

I actually have $1,389.28 in that account. I started out with $10 already in there, as I had originally planned on putting $10 from every paycheck away, just to see if I could do it. My savings habits have been habitually DISMAL for my entire life – I had failed the Money Challenge for the two years previous, before I even got to February, but I decided to give it one last go, using this blog as an accountability tool. Turned out, I didn’t update very often – but I kept putting money in that account every single payday… even when I was laid off in the middle of January 2015 (I kind of had to play catch up after I finally found work two and a half months later, but I DID catch up).

The rest of the money in that account is $6.20 worth of interest – again not much, but it will grow exponentially as my balance grows – I plan to use the same account and the high interest will begin to be worth it as my balance gets up there.

That’s not all I’ve been doing with my money during 2015 – I’ll be giving more detail in future posts as to where my money really goes as well as how my “Prepaid Living Plans” are working out. I have several resolutions this year – one being updating this space on a more regular basis – at least with a weekly “Accountability Post”. It’s hard to prove I’m serious about my Shoestring Budget when I rarely update, isn’t it?

Anyway – I really hope you’ll join me in the 2016 52 Week Money Challenge. If *I* can do it, ANYBODY can!

The Simple Dollar has come up with 6 Ways to Hack the 52-Week Money Challenge that you may want to check out!

Extreme Gaming…

How little can you live on?

Me? Very little. This is what my monthly bills work out to:

Rent: $ 400.00
Groceries: 150.00
Vehicle Insurance: 95.00
Life Insurance: 15.00
Bank Fees: 15.00
Phone/Internet*: 100.00
Netflix*: 8.00
Automatic Savings: 50.00
Gas: 100.00
Money Challenge: 115.00
(Averaged)
Van Maintenance: 25.00
(Averaged)
_________
$ 1073.00

That’s it – bare bones.

So, that’s all well and good for me, assuming I bring in more than $1075 (or approximately $540 bi-weekly). Easy Peasy, right?

Yes. So long as I’m not in debt.

Which I am. Again.

(but “just a little bit”) LOL! Listen to me; trying to make excuses!

I assume, generally, that if I’m working full-time, even at minimum wage, that I can bring in an average $750 in take-home pay bi-weekly – or $1500 a month.

My debt is with 2 credit cards. 1 card has substantially more debt than the other; it also has a much higher interest rate.

According to The Rules of the Credit Card, I can’t use either of these cards – at all – until the debts are paid down. Then, I can only use them as a “money tool” – they can’t cost me money to use, they should save me money in some manner by using them, and/or, better yet, they should earn me money somehow.

All of my “extra” money – money earned that is not ear-marked for bare-bones expenses (stuff I can’t or won’t live without), will be thrown at that debt until I kill it.

So, if I take home, on average, $1500 monthly and my bare-bones expenses total $1075, my so-called “extra” money comes out to about $425. This is what I’m going to throw at my debt every month: $300 will go on the card with the lowest balance – because it will be paid off really quickly, and that will make me feel like I’m getting somewhere. It helps to feel like you’re winning when playing The Money Game, believe me.

Check out this screen shot:

CreditCardCalculatort-2015-

So I’m looking at 9-10 more months paying this debt down and then I’ll be moving on (again) to investing in Pre-paid Living. That is a whole ‘nother kind of Money Game!

***

P.S. That Credit Card Calculator is available to use for free HERE.

P.P.S. *I WILL NOT live without Netflix OR the Internet!

The “I Lost My Day Job Now I Have to Get A New One” Challenge…

2015-02-11 12.08.38I suddenly find myself laid off, as I’m still paying down my now “smallish” debt, and beginning to hoard for my pre-paid life.

No income once my final check is paid to me in two days’ time. Trust me, that money is earmarked for survival!

Don’t know yet if I’m eligible for E.I. (“Employment Insurance” – government funds I’ve been paying into with every paycheck since I went back to work). Remember, I failed miserably at my “Early Retirement” and I may not have enough employed weeks logged to get on the program. I took NO E.I. during said “Retirement” – I’m hoping that works in my favour…

Meantime, my February 2015 Money Challenge to myself is to get a new job and begin earning at least what I lost before the end of the month.

I’ve updated the resume, and applied at a Mom ‘n Pop Grocery nearby. I could be doing anything – from working in the deli, stocking shelves, making pizza, cleaning, running a till…. I think it would be an interesting place to work.

I’ve also started a job search at a Family Retail Big Boxish type store. It has a bzillion departments (including electronics AND groceries!), so I could be doing anything there, too. So far, there are no job openings.

There’s another big-boxish place I’m going to apply to right shortly.

In the meantime, I’m also working on my Etzy store, building products for Les Becker Designs, taking two marketing courses, and working on several downloadable digital products (including one for this site).

My goal is to bring in $1250 in take-home pay during February 2015. And then again for March. And so forth. In the process, I’m already forced into the original February Money Challenge I was going to post prior to being laid off: Make February a “Dry Spending” month… meaning Absolutely NO unnecessary spending. Zero.

I’m winning that one so far. 😀

I’m writing articles for other publications again, finally – now I gotta sell ’em.

If I can do all that, I’ll be out of debt again in under 10 months. If I can double that income, I’ll not only be out of debt, but I’ll have the rest of 2015 prepaid… and a jump on 2016 to boot.

P.S. I am still running my January 2015 “52 Week Money Challenge” successfully. I now have $31.07 in the account.

P.P.S. The drawback to all these challenges is that fiction writing seems to have been put on a back burner. This will not do. 🙁

New Year, More Money, Better Habits…

The 52 Week Money Challenge

The 52 Week Money Challenge

Happy 2015!

Have you made a few “Money Resolutions” for this year?

Will you get out of debt (or finally begin to)?

Will you save more? Spend less?

There are so many great ideas to adopt this year that I’ve been hard put to make many rock-solid resolutions for my money, but I have managed to cement a few.

The one really important one to me this year is the “52 Week Money Challenge”. I tried this last year and failed miserably.

Here’s how it’s supposed to work:

In Week 1, you save $1. In Week 2, you save $2. Increase the amount by 1 dollar every week and on the last week of the year, your final “payment” will be $52. If you do this every week during 2015, you will have saved $1,378, not counting any interest you might accrue, depending on where you put that money.

Last year, when I tried this, I worried that I’d give up well before Week 52 for several reasons, the biggest one being that I get paid bi-weekly, so I’d actually have to save $3 out of my paycheck instead of $1, which meant that by the last week of the year, I’d be looking at putting aside not $52, but a whopping (for me) $103. I don’t have a very good “savings” record.

Because of this, in 2014, I decided to work backwards, thinking it would be easier to do if I started at the higher amount every week and worked my way down. This should have worked, but all it did for me was make me give up sooner – as in, I failed at Week 3. I also pulled out the $103 I put away at Weeks 1 and 2 before I finished January, and spent it on I don’t even remember what.

In my head, this “backwards version” of the Money Challenge still seems like the best method for me, but I already know my own money weaknesses, and I’m pretty sure this isn’t going to work. Again.

Another thing that picks at my brain in a very bad way, is that $1,378 in savings for an entire year just strikes me as lousy. It’s really difficult for me to stop that crappy thinking and remind myself that $1,378 saved in a year is a helluva lot better than $0 saved.

So in 2015 I’m turning over a new leaf in Money-Thinking. Any amount of money saved, especially left untouched for an entire year is going to be a very big win for me, even if it’s “only” $1,378 + interest.

I’m challenging myself again, but going the forward route. My plan is to work toward saving more as I go along by slowly but surely cutting back on money I might normally piss away on stupid things.

Like cigarettes.

Like coffee at the mall.

Like whatever mystery purchases the little bits and bobs of cash I sometimes have in my pocket get spent on.

I have a high-interest, tax-free account set up to transfer my money into and this morning, I made my first payment of $3 into it. Add that to the $10.05 I already had in there (YAY! 5 cents of that is accrued interest!! FREE MONEY!!!), and my current TFSA balance is a whopping $13.05.

Sounds a little piddly, doesn’t it?

Sure does.

But it’s $13.05 that I didn’t have to my name before I opened that account.

If I really need it, I can get at that money instantly, but a fee applies (that’s where the tax on the money gets paid – only if I take it back out of there), so it will actually cost me money if I access the account. Hopefully, this will make me think twice before I transfer anything out.

I also challenge YOU to do the 52 Week Money Challenge with me.

You can print out this pdf grid from affinityplus.org to help you stay on track. There are also free apps available for Android and Apple users. I’ll post a bi-weekly update on how I’m doing as well. What have you got to lose? Absolutely nothing – but $1,378+ in a savings account by December 2015 is a definite gain, isn’t it?

The other thing I’ve resolved to do this year is earn more money. I’ve never much cared that I’ve worked a minimum wage J.O.B. for all of my adult life. I don’t travel very much, I drive a 22-year-old vehicle that’s paid for that I plan to drive til it dies, and I can get by alright on what I earn.

The down-side to this is that my savings habits suck. I tend to use credit cards for major purchases, which means I can’t always pay the entire balance on a card each month, and so I pay more for that item in interest charges. That kind of takes away any “great deal cuz it was on sale” pride I could be feeling (Don’t kid yourselves, people – it’s not a great deal if you’re still paying it off months later!).

I also have no pension plan in my J.O.B. – nor will I ever get a raise beyond the minimum wage, because although I’m paid on an hourly basis, I’m a commissioned salesperson. I can earn more per paycheck by selling more, but that’s all…

So, why not quit this lousy-paying minimum wage job? Well… because I love this job. And my customers. And my co-workers. I also don’t have the formal education to quit and get a better-paying job in this economy (or the drive and available funds to go back to school – if I had the drive, I’d somehow get the funds… but…).

So how can I earn more money in 2015?

1) I can sell more, can’t I? So…

My 2015 Resolution for my J.O.B. is to earnestly attempt to hit my commission quota every pay period, rather than just depend on my regular paycheck + whatever bits of commissions/spiffs I might “happen” to make.

2) I can add to my streams of income through my affiliate marketing partnerships. This sounds good – but I do tend to sign up for new partnerships that I then don’t actually promote much. I must fix that if I’m going to make those streams pay more this year. So…

My 2015 Resolution for my Affiliate Partnerships is to choose three partnerships I truly love to sell, and promote them regularly on Facebook, through my Affiliate Newsletter to build downlines (sign up HERE for free!), my blogs and through both free and paid advertising.

3) I can publish more. In 2014, for the first time, I published one of my short fiction stories. I never quite had the guts to do this before, and the feeling I get every time I sell another copy of that story is phenomenal! I want to publish, publish, publish, now…

Can’t do that if I don’t write, though, can I? So…

My 2015 Resolution for my writing career is to actually sit down and write, working on my current project, Every. Single. Day.

And then actually publish it for sale. Then, I’ll start the next project and do the same thing (Pssst! You can read about and/or purchase my (so far) one-and-only published fiction piece HERE.).

4)I can promote my custom designs regularly. I have a Zazzle store called Les Becker Designs that I make the odd sale through, just by having it live online. When I actually bother to promote it, my sales jump by a lot. There’s also a year-round “flea market” here in my hometown called The Mill Market, that I could be utilizing, by ordering my Zazzle products in wholesale and trekking to once a week. There’s a built-in crowd there, I can take credit card payments through Square, and I know people that are already building their businesses there that can help me learn the ropes – I can even sell my stories digitally there! So…

My 2015 Resolution for Les Becker Designs is to promote it regularly through its Facebook page, as well as sell my products at Sault Ste. Marie’s Mill Market.

5) I can turn my hobbies into money through Etzy. I love to sew, knit, crochet, sculpt – you name it. I don’t do a lot of it lately only because I’ve been actively down-sizing my “stuff”. Crafting adds to my stuff, so what I do make, I can’t generally keep without adding clutter to my space – not to mention the kind of room it takes to store supplies. When I’m actively crafting, I end up making too much to keep or give away, but not enough to open a physical store. This is where Etzy will come in. So…

My 2015 Resolution for my Money-Making Hobbies is to open an Etzy storefront. I’ll be able to craft to my heart’s content without worrying about cluttering up my small space, and start a new income stream at the same time.

I’d love to hear your Money Resolutions for 2015! Will you get out of debt this year? Start a new business? Begin the 52 Week Money Challenge with me?

Let me know in the comments at the bottom of the post!

Subscribe to the free Lesbecker.com Money Game Digest HERE.