Tuesday, March 31, 2015

100 Miles Challenge for April 2015-Are You IN?!

In light of the fact that my exercise in general has been much more lackluster than I would have liked (lazy? lack of willpower? outside circumstances? who knows....), I recently decided to issue myself a challenge for the month of April. The goal is to get back on the bandwagon and keep going and to help get more consistent in general again and I always find that a self-issued challenge helps give me focus and something to work toward for improvement.

So my personal challenge to myself is this: In the month of April, I will get to BARE MINIMUM 100 miles, whether it is through regular walks, the elliptical, classes, or general everyday movements--or more likely, a combination of various things--I will make sure to hit at least 100 miles by end of day April 30th. That's roughly 3.3 miles a day on average, which is absolutely doable, and I suspect that I will get much more, but for the sake of a realistic and attainable goal, I chose the conservative number of 100 Miles.

For Tracking and accountability, I will be posting this here and on my social media so people can check in and see how I am doing.

Are you interested in joining the challenge with your own numbers? Are you looking for some accountability and support? Even if your goal is much smaller, come on down! And just because I called it the "Fitbit" Challenge, that is just because what I will be using to track it (and I am not affiliated with them), but if you have another method to track, that's welcome too! Please feel free to comment below and tell me your own personal challenge!

Update 3/21/2015: Since I'd like people to participate, I changed the name of the post from "Fitbit Miles Challenge" to Simply "100 Miles Challenge".  

Friday, March 13, 2015

Book Revew: Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes

I finished reading the book Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes and How to Correct Them; Lessons from the New Science of Behaviorial Economics By Gary Belsky and Thomas Gilovich about a week and a half or two weeks ago and wanted to share some thoughts. This was the book that I was trying to get from the library when I checked this one out, but the latest version wasn't available so I got the other one.  Then I decided that it would be a worthy read even if it is not the latest edition, then it became a matter of waiting for it to become available, which is always the hardest part.

As the name implies, this book talks not only about some money issues that people face, but also tries to offer some practical advice on how to change your behavior or habits to resolve those issues. I found the book to be a pretty easy, and quick, read with some interesting insights.  Here are some things from the book that may be helpful:

One quote that I liked in the book's introduction was "Sometimes people make mistakes because they behave like sheep, and sometimes they err because they behave like mules." In context, the authors say this because they are talking about how they will discuss both blindly going with the crowd on decisions, and how to avoid stubbornly going against things, even if would be good to go with it. But this line stuck with me because it really can apply, like many concepts in the book overall, to more than just money decisions.

Here are some concepts that were discussed, and their relevant tips that may help you if you do any of these:

-Mental Accounting, which is the tendency to treat money differently based on the source it comes from or what it is intended for, or to spend more on credit than you would with an outright cash purchase. As the authors point out, this can be very beneficial when it comes to making sure bills get paid because you have money set aside that won't get spent on random things, but not so beneficial when you treat windfall money differently than money you earn. (An example they give is a fictional woman who was a savvy investor with her own money who got an inheritance from her grandmother and refused to invest because her mental accounting viewed "Grandma's Money" as more sacred than her own. Her lack of investing that money would cost her thousands in  gains over the years.)

I know that I personally do some creative mental accounting (such as multiple savings accounts for different goals), but I try to keep it to the positive form of it (since all bills ARE paid, savings and investments are being funded, etc.), but if you do this and it's the not-so-positive version, they give recommendations like remembering that every dollar spends the same (so don't hold onto money from one source more than another), and using mental accounting to your advantage by using payroll deductions/direct deposit for savings, etc.

-Decision Paralysis- I've also seen this called Analysis Paralysis before, which I think sounds more interesting, and we ALL know what that is: Too much information means it's hard to make a choice or decision, and often we end up not doing anything for a while, if at all. Not like I would know anything about that... In addition to discussing some methods on how to deal with this (Like Automated investments, and reframing things in your mind to be more about what to REJECT rather than SELECT), they also started the chapter that discusses this by quoting Rush's Free Will; "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." And, really, how can you go wrong by quoting an awesome Rush song?

The book also discusses and attempts to help on several other things like Loss Aversion Mentality, Overconfidence, Confirmation Bias and more. Overall, I think this is a very worthwhile read.  I really like that the authors give easily digestible, and more importantly, actionable ideas on improving money situations (and as you read it and think about it, other areas of life, too).

This was the first version of the book, from 1995, so I don't know how much is different in the newer edition(s), but I am sure it would be just as beneficial (if not more so) as this one. If you are interested in this sort of information, I would recommend giving this book a peek.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Some Recent Smart Decisions In the Buff Millionaire House

Recently, the husband unit and I have been going through things and making changes that eliminate waste or will save us money, or both. (Well, mostly me and he just goes along with it, because try as he does, when it comes to finances, his eyes glaze over and he cannot focus/absorb it. But he does other things to help.) Here are some things that have been changed around or refocused to help cut things down, in no particular order:

-I set up a non tax-tax advantaged joint investment account for us in addition to the Roth IRAs I had set up previously, so that our money can start to grow for us.  I funded this with $25 just to start because I have not yet decided from which of our savings account this will be funded. But, as with anything, the most important part is getting started since things can always be tweaked or streamlined later.

-We ditched our Hulu Plus account. We realized (or rather, re-realized as we had come to the conclusion before but didn't do anything about it) that we watched MAYBE three shows through Hulu Plus, and those shows were available through the free version so we could just use the HDMI Cable to watch them when available.  So long, $8/month wastefulness! I currently have this amount auto-transferred to our main savings account on the day of the month that it usually debited from.  After all, what is the point of saving an expense if you are not actually Saving the money?

-I realized that since the car is paid off, and it was only the lien holder that required comprehensive and collision coverage, I went online and changed coverage to eliminate those, which will save us approximately $15/month, starting on the April 20th billing. (I assume it's so far from now because of the renewal cycle...) And, like above, once it starts deducting less, I will have the savings auto-transferred on the day the bill hits. The next thing will be to call up the insurance company for renter's insurance (since changes can't be made online) and see what changes can be made there, if any.

[Related Side Note: Changing your insurance coverage or deductibles is a very easy way to save money, and one I would recommend very highly. If, for example, you have a $250 deductible for car insurance, bumping it to $500 or $1000 could help save you some serious money over the long term. And this can apply to all insurance that you carry. As you save more money and have enough in savings to cover those eventual (and usually unlikely) deductibles, change as many as you can and the savings should start to add up.]

-Not yet implemented, but I had the idea that instead of depositing checks into checking and transferring things to savings, that I would instead reverse it and deposit every thing into the main savings account and then once a month, transfer the monthly bill/expense budget to checking.  The Other Half worried that since his unemployment checks get direct deposited, and they were not exactly speedy in getting it right the first time, that it would mess that up.  I initially agreed with this sentiment, but I think it may be worth looking into again.  Especially since, as it currently stands, a certain amount is direct deposited into checking for bills and what's left over gets deposited to savings, but because the way bill cycles work, some things have to come from savings as a debit and then when the weekly check that covers it comes through the money gets transferred back to savings. By changing everything to savings and then just a flat amount once a month to checking, it should help eliminate the confusion and time spent transferring money BACK to savings, and allow me to see at a glance where things stand and less math involved. (What can I say? I am lazy and anything over 5 minutes a month spent balancing numbers is excessive.) So we'll have to see what we can do on that. Worst case scenario is that we just deal with the weird back and forth for a bit longer and just start fresh when he gets a new job.

So those were some small changes and reductions in wastefulness we made recently. For the two service changes, we'll save at least $22/month, for less than 15 minutes total work. Now THAT is a nice return on investment.

Have you made any "small" changes recently that will turn into big results, or any other smart decisions for your finances lately? Comment below with your experiences!