Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I'm Back from my Cruise

I loved the cruise, the activities, the food was amazing, and I saw 5 cities that I have not seen before.  It was a really great experience.  I cannot say enough positive things about Carnival.  However I think I will leave my critique for a little later, there are a few things that I found annoying, but I would spend the money again on a similar vacation without hesitation.  So here are some photos to let you see some of what we saw.  Yes that handsome man is my husband and that little girl, well she's mine too.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Setting a financial goal

I graduated from University in 2005 and from graduate school in 2009.  I paid off my undergraduate debt when I finished graduate school.  Pretty amazing!  How did I do it?  I get this question a lot when people find out that I have no student loan remaining.

Well I set a financial goal....mainly to graduate college with a manageable debt load.  When I decided to go to graduation school I set my sights on the full scholarship programs rather than finding programs that would set me further in debt.  The ideal degree wouldn't have been paid for....I would have gone like 100,000 in debt, so I modified things.  Now in a way this was not ideal.  I do not have the certification that I really wish I had to be able to be a licensed therapist.  However I am pretty well trained in research with a well respected degree from an ivy league equivalent institution and I have no debt.  I am able to get better jobs with my degree.  I am more respected when I go and do the presentations that I do.  It was a great move for me.

My steps

1.) Create a goal

This is self-explanatory just write it down.  My old goal was to get through school with as little debt as possible.

2.)Sacrifice to get there

If your goal is to go to Europe debt free well then cut an expense and work a little over time or get a second job to save for it.  If you cut one expensive and gain a little extra income, and if you put all that into an account for your goal, you'll get to your goal in no time flat.

My goal to go school with little debt required that I make good grades, not party, apply for every scholarship I could find, I worked 1-2 jobs the whole time I was in university, I wore crappy clothes, I did not vacation with friends.  I led by many people's standards, a boring college existence.  Yet I had a fabulous time.  I found the free campus activities so fun I ended up working for them....getting paid for my leisure time is not too shabby.  I have no regrets about those years at all.  I had to look where I was willing to cut, and basically in university I cut everything.  I made my goal.

3.) Always spent less than you earn...always.

This is with the exception of emergencies and major life events....which hopefully you have saved enough for that you still don't have to go into debt.  I am spending a little more now than I earned but I budgeted for this period in my life, when I am raising a toddler and not ready to work full time yet.  I live off my part-time (and unemployed income) a little bit of savings.  I minimize my withdraws though.

4.) When you reach your goal make a new one.

I have now graduated school, payed off all my debts, started investing in stocks, had a baby, bought my first home, and paid cash for the holiday of my dreams.  It's been an amazing decade.  I have new goals now.  I would like to maximize my tax free saving account every year.  I would also love to pay off my mortgage.

What are your financial goals and how are you going to reach them?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Joys of Reading

I have been thoroughly enjoying reading lately.  My daughter is getting to an age where I can walk her to the park and let her play with others in the sandbox.  If other kids she likes are there I can easily read, seated at the end of the sandbox.  Its something new for me.  I get to take time simply to read for pleasure.  Its new because I am finally done with school.  I am finally done with having an infant needing every waking second of time, granted toddlers still need you every few minutes, but I have time just to read and soak up the wisdom other people have found.

I just finished Eat, Pray, Love this morning before I left home.  I have to say I loved this book.  I plan on keeping it.  I am also reading how I write by Janet Evanovich.  I love love love this book. In addition to writing on this blog, I am also writing my first novel.  All her advice on writing and publishing was excellent.  I was really surprised to read that her first three novels she considered crap.  She didn't sell them.  The audacity she must have and to keep writing, after writing three crappy books.  Well I am really glad she stuck to it.  I love her novels.

Now how do I manage to read vivaciously but fiscally responsibly? I have a lovely public library downtown in my city.  I find getting there and back challenging though.  The libraries closest to my home have a very poor English language selection.  I find it so challenging to get the books I wish to read. I simply buy books rather than rent.  It's not the very cheapest avenue.  I could take the metro to the library downtown.  I just find it much easier to buy them. I buy my books online (often the damaged versions) for pennies on the dollar.  I keep the books I love and give away the books to my friends and family that I think they will love.  I have a pile of presents right now....books I either read but won't read again or books that I could not get into.   I also trade books with friends.  Eat, Pray, Love was given by a friend of mine who hated it.  I don't know how you could hate this book.  I agree with her though and I won't read a book I dislike.  Its so much better to trade.

I find when buying books online you have to buy in bulk to make up for the shipping costs. So I generally buy 10-40 books at a time and pay around 50 dollars total including shipping for my collection.  Its well worth it to me.  I get many treasures this way.My latest order which has yet to arrive includes several gifts for friends and relatives..along with books I will probably pass on to them.  I think it works better for me.  Its still inexpensive.  I get months of enjoyment out of single shipments.  Secondly it allows me to be generous with my friends.

Do you use the public library system?  Do you have a good system for purchasing books inexpensively?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Preparing for my Cruise....Jewels gallore

So I am leaving shortly for my cruise and preparing everything before I leave town.  Today I went to our local dollar store after buying a hot little number for our black tie event on the boat.  I figured I needed a few things to dress up my dress.  My daughter has ruined my collection of gold necklaces. I am waiting until she gets older to repair them or buy anything fancy.  Always the practical woman I wanted something that says I got money, something that I could wear places other than on the boat, something that would look nice with my practical little black dress, and something that costs under 10 dollars.  So I bought my first pearl necklace.  Well it's actually glass but I can't tell the difference.  I got it for a dollar.  I snapped a goofy picture of myself wearing it.  When I try it on with my outlet designer dress I will snap that photo and post it too sometime this week.

Now personally I am not a woman that is wowed by real jewels, there are some women out there that want everything to be real but I'd rather put my money elsewhere like in investments, into friendships, or self development.  But if you like real pearls...I won't judge you.

What do you think of my pearl necklace?  Does it look real to you?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Delegating affordably

I always like to make my life easier.  I am after all a mother, a writer, a blogger, a wife, a mentor, a volunteer, a conference planner and a fund-raiser.  I wear a lot of hats and so finding a way to pass down tasks is real joy.  Particularly when you help someone else, by giving them experience or helping them learn. 

If you delegate well, you also help the other person that you regularly delegate too.  You could merely help them financially of course.  However the other way to help someone is to help them gain experience and mentor them while teaching them to do what you do.

I have met many women who are really down on taking student volunteers.  They require attention, and do a crappy job I was told repeatedly in graduate school.  I also had many successful student volunteers.  I would count anyone who stayed in my office and helped me get work done as being a successful volunteer.  If they came in twice or if they came in for a year I had a good experience.  I didn't overly train my volunteers though and I tried to offer them as much as they were offering me.

I was offering them clinical experience or research experience and in addition a letter of recommendation when requested.  They offered me countless hours of data entry and worksheet creation.  I think in order to get volunteers or even low paid staff, you have to offer them something.  You also should not start out providing 20 hours of training because you never do know who will stay and who will leave.  Volunteers are getting their feet wet.  Treat it (and them for that matter) like a win win and everyone wins.  Treat your volunteer like crap and they will most likely leave as quickly as possible.  I think a lot of those people who dislike volunteers or work study kids treat their volunteers like peons.

I don't have a lot to offer volunteers at the moment.  I am working from home, no longer for my university.  I don't have the same mind numbing data entry to hand off.  A letter from me, is not as valuable as it was when I was a graduate student.  So I don't take on volunteers at least not now.  When I need to delegate, I use services like fiverr, an online website that connects people who need little jobs done to people who do little jobs for 5 dollars.  You'd be surprised what people are willing to do for 5 dollars.  Secondly, if I meet someone who does something I need done regularly (dry cleaners, baby sitters, bakers) I inquire about their rates.  I have found people who'd trade services with me.  When they are reasonable, it tends to work out well.

When you find people who can do what you can't or would prefer to not do, then you have more time to focus on what you need to do.  I would really like to find a personal assistant one of these days. I can't afford that for now, but I certainly can afford fiverr's rates.

Do you know a secret to delegating affordably?