Sunday, April 13, 2008

To reflect

It has been nine months since I began the onslaught to right my profligate ways.
While I am still a little more than a year away from achieving the most important goal -- being debt free -- I take comfort in noting how profoundly my financial behavior has changed.

Here is a list of three new, and essential, nerdy habits I have acquired so far:

1. I diligently track my spending, with the help of a trusty software program. This has allowed me to continuously find new expenses to pare. It also has made me acutely aware of how each dollar used for a purchase is one less that can go into in my emergency fund (my primary goal at the moment given persistent layoff buzz). My monthly expenses have dropped to about half my take home pay now. Talk about living below one's means.

2. I review my budget at the beginning of each month and reevaluate my spending. I also run reports to see how well I hit the mark the previous month. I keenly know my weak spots now. The biggest one is not taking the time on Sunday to make my lunches for the week. Every time I tell myself that I'll fix something on the fly, it never happens. So note to self -- suck it up and cook EVERY Sunday, not just most of them.

3. As soon as my salary hits my checking account, I throw the money I budgeted for savings into the emergency fund. Next, I pay any bills due in the coming two weeks. As a result, little confusion -- or delusion -- exists over how much money I really have until my next paycheck arrives.

4. When I can, I listen to the online stream of Dave Ramsey's show on Fridays. He devotes this day to listeners who call and scream -- "We're debt free!" They also share how they reached the milestone. I am a total sap about this. I find it completely motivating to hear how long people worked to rid themselves of debt and the exultation in their voices at having achieved it. For me, it will be about a two-year process in all. You can count on a huge shout from these lungs when it is all done.

There are other habits I could note, but these are the big ones. 

I'm starting to feel a bit like an athlete, preparing for the big game of wealth building once I remove the $14K weights I currently have around my ankles.


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