The One on a Budget and Deadline

Oy.  So I will be the first to admit that I'm not generally awesome when it comes to managing my finances.  I'm assuming this is because living in NYC means you don't have much in the way of finances to manage if you work in publishing.  (I try hard to save/invest all of my advance money and live off my day job income.)  Also, because I don't have to support/be responsible for anyone other than myself.  Lately, I think it's mostly to do with the fact that I've been super weak in controlling my impulse buys. This sort of relates to what I was talking about on Sunday--when you feel sad or miserable or upset, you look for things to make you feel better.  Some of them are good buys, and do help, but others are the result of boredom or a passing fancy or because there's a sale.  I end up returning almost everything I buy online, but I ultimately lose money in return shipping (UGH)--which basically feels like the same thing as lighting a $10 bill on fire.  I feel a lot of pride in the fact that I buy almost everything myself (my mom, bless her, will occasionally send me things she's found on-sale in AZ or baking treats) and I have a good credit score.  Nothing like a good credit score to make you feel like an adult!

Here's the thing, too: I'm a frugal shopper.  Seriously.  I rarely ever buy things that aren't on sale or available on eBay.  My mom very helpfully reminded me recently that eBay exists and you can find SO MUCH STUFF on there.  It's definitely a buyer's market right now, too.  Mom has been having issues selling things at a price level she'd like, which sort of inspired the thought in me that if I were to ask, a lot of eBay sellers would be willing to cut deals.  For example, I really liked this "vintage" (in quotations, because I don't count the 80s as vintage) Coach purse, which the company just reissued in their Legacy collection for over $250.  Well, eBay had about 40 listings of the original purse and I low-balled a seller from her asking price and she gave it to me for that.  I also got my duck boots for almost $100 less than they retail for, and my brand new-still-in-the-packaging bedding for close to $200 less than retail.  Lest you think I'm making crazy purchases, I'm not. I just need to be better about not buying things I don't need.

(Fashion tangent here, inspired by our conversation at assistant lunch today:  I do believe in "splurging" on things like a good coat, good shoes, and suit pieces that don't come from H&M.  Also, for the love of God, get rid of clothing that looks worn/thin/fraying/has holes.  Always aim for quality over quantity and save H&M/F21 for trendy pieces that won't be in style next season. Obviously that's hard when you have limited finances, but it's not impossible. One of my favorite blogs, Capitol Hill Style is an excellent resource for learning how to care for your nicer pieces and how to dress in a professional setting at all different price levels.  See, for example, her post today on black flats.  The key is to spend on classic, well-made pieces, and to take care of them.  Clean and treat your boots before you start wearing them this autumn/winter!!  And cut the strings on the back of your blazers and pencil skirts!!)

(Another tangent: I actually have cut back on the amount of fashion blogs/Tumblrs I read, because I think it was contributing to overspending.  I would definitely recommend you guys do the same if your wallet has been feeling a little slim lately.)

I have an account on Mint.com that I've basically ignored and haven't done much with.  It's just tough to get a guilt trip when you go over your monthly Chipotle budget, you know?  But it's actually really handy for setting goals for things like a trip, a car, a house, paying off a credit card.  It can be easy to fall into the trap of "invisible money," where if you're not paying with cash, your brain isn't fully processing the reality of how much money you're spending vs. how much is coming in. Their system holds you pretty accountable and sends you snippy emails when you go over budget.

(source and other screenshots of the site can be found here)

So why do I bring this up?  Well--as an encouragement for my fellow twentysomethings to get a better grip on their finances.  To show my high school friends there are systems to help you save for college and manage future loans.  To talk about setting goals and being realistic.

I went in to my Mint.com account last night and set harder goals for myself. In October, I want to really watch how much money I can save by cutting back on small expenses (trips to the CVS for snacks, taxis when I'm lazy, etc.).  It's becoming more and more apparent to me that I'm a goal-oriented person, and that if I don't have some kind of goal or project in place, I kind of... wander.  And that sometimes translates into online shopping or shopping in general to pass time or going out more than usual.  So last night I promised myself a few things:

1) I'll finish my current WIP by October 31st.  (This is actually way doable, I've just been procrastinating. [Actually, now that I think about this, it's totally contingent on when I get my revision notes for Sequel.])

2) I'll start writing Book 3 relatively soon--after I see my notes for Sequel--so I don't get caught in such a big time crunch again.

3) I'll start saving for a trip to Europe next year.

Mint.com estimated a week-long trip to the UK as being $3,600-ish for one person.  Which... I actually think is kind of low?  But it has now become my mission to save $3,600 over the next year and to supplement anything over with writing income.

Also, I really just enjoy the "high-fiving a million angels" feeling I get when I actually achieve what I set out to do.  So there you go!  What goals have you set for yourself recently?