Thursday, December 30, 2010

Setting Goals for the New Year

I'm sad to see 2010 go! It was a phenomenal year for me. Not without its difficulties, but a truly great year. I only have one small do-over wish, and considering the fact that it's about a guy who clearly had no business in my life, I'll chalk that up as a learning experience. Besides, the accomplishments of this year far outweigh that!

One major difference between 2010 and other years is that I set goals and created a plan to achieve them. (Remember Planning, Preparation, Payoff?) No new year's resolutions, though. And I've learned that if something works for you, don't change--build upon it! So here are some of my goals for this new year:

1. Get at least 60 hours towards my pre-Broker education. Ninety hours are required before you can take the test... And actually I could get all 90 in if it wasn't for the money. (Didn't y'all read my last post? I'm broke!) Approximately $400 every 30 hours is a bit steep for me to say I can do it all this year. Plus, there are other conferences, classes, etc. that will also require some funds. I'd love to go ahead and get that license this year, but I'll be happy if I can get 2/3 of the way there.
2. Make at least three sales. My new broker (I'm moving--possibly more on that to come) only asks for two, but I need at least three. There are so many fees associated with being a real estate agent it's not even funny. I went back and calculated how much I spent this year... Even after my sale, I'm in the hole, and not by a small amount. I think having at least three good sales will allow me to break even and possibly provide for those additional classes I was talking about.

1. I've got to buy a house! My folks want me to stay with them... I told them if by some miracle a house comes on the market with a completely separate apartment and within their price range, I'd consider buying it with them. But there's no way I'm doing this whole sharing my living space thing. NO WAY! And realistically, I don't believe there is a house with that feature in the range they're looking for. I'm setting my goal for the end of May.
2. Read 10 books within the year, at least 2 fiction. That sounds backwards doesn't it? Well I've got 9 books sitting on my dresser waiting to be read. I've started on 8. Out of those 9, 4 are career-related, 3 are self-improvement, and 2 are just miscellaneous non-fiction. I need an escape! I'm thinking about picking up The Other Boleyn Girl. I may have to sign up for a library card again so I can get books without feeling like I'm spending money frivolously...
3. Find a creative outlet. Now that I'm done with school, I want to do something simply because it makes me happy. I'm not sure what just yet, but I'm leaning towards painting. Another choice was voice lessons, but I've pretty much given up on the dream of being a singer. *shrugs* We'll see, though.

So that's my little short list of goals for 2011. If you haven't set yours, you still have time but the clock is ticking!

Happy New Year y'all! 

Reshaping My Relationship with Money (or: Tori D. is broke!)

There was a crucial learning step that I missed as a child. I never really was taught about using money wisely or balancing a checkbook. I think it was taken for granted that these things were simple enough, and with me being a pretty bright child, there was no reason for me not to grasp that concept. And that thinking was correct to an extent; I can balance my checkbook... It may take a while, after hunting down receipts and stuff, I can do it. The thing is, I'm prone to not doing it. My lack of focus, coupled with personality traits such as disorganization and tendency to find tasks like this uninteresting (I'm an INFP for those of you familiar with the Meyers-Briggs personality types) means that it just does not get done. This has lead to some less than desirable consequences for my bank account.

The thing that most recently sent me into shock occurred on Tuesday. I got a call from my mom saying she figured I needed some money for lunch so she transferred some funds into my account. Blow #1: I felt like a middle school kid again, getting lunch money from mommy. I said thanks, but didn't think I actually needed it. The last time I checked my account, it said there was $30-something dollars in there. I'm good! I go to check how much she put in... I see that she put in over $100 but my account was less than $100. How could this be? It turns out, (blow #2) I was in overdraft. Blow #3: Two transactions that totaled less than $10 caused me to get hit with $70 in NSF fees. Y'all, I cried. Like literally boohooed at work. I felt like such a failure! Here I am trying to prove that I'm a responsible adult and ready to be on my own. And my mom had to come save my butt. Again.

I'm not even sure that she knew I was in that position or not. Usually when she does, she'll say something about it but this time she didn't.

That situation has made me determined to do better with my money. I'm going to have to do something drastic. I'm going to start carrying cash.

I never have cash y'all. Ever. The debit card is just sooo much easier for me. But that ease means it's way too easy to overspend, especially when you don't have to actually see the money. It's like you're not really spending it (at the time). I figure if I only carry cash (no debit OR credit cards unless I'm going to get gas) it will cause me to do several things:

1. force me into seriously thinking about what I'm purchasing and how much I spend
2. create a loose budget for the week/month
3. keep me from buying non-necessities--I have enough stuff in my tiny little space as it is
4. cause me to save more

So on payday, I'll take out a small, pre-determined amount and make it last for the month. If I run out by week two, yanno what that means? I can't buy A THING for two weeks. If I have money left over at next payday (a laughable thought, but I guess it's possible) then that amount goes towards the amount I can spend, which means less coming out of my account.
This is a modified version of something a financial planner presented to us while I was an employee at Blue Cross Blue Shield. In his version, you have a separate envelop for each thing. A cash envelop for bills, cash envelop for clothes, cash envelop for food, etc. That doesn't work for me because there's no way I'm sending cash for my credit card bills, car note, all of that. So my bills are paid at the beginning of the month, and then my account will have to sit inactive for a bit.

The only time I'll allow myself a little splurge is when I make a sale. That commission will be split between my savings, credit card payments, and a little bit to spend. By the way, having my savings come out of my check before I get it was one of the best ideas I've ever had! LOL

Have any of you had to make serious changes to your relationship with money? Did you have a good money management foundation from the start, or did you have to learn as you go? What has been your biggest challenge?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

It's Funny.... Why?

So today makes eight years since the incident. I've not been in the major funk that I usually am around this time, just been a little somber. But I just saw something on Twitter that made me GO. OFF.


What in ALL the fuck?!

All of these were tweeted and retweeted by supposed leaders, college-educated black men in BGLOs. (Yes, I know that being in a BGLO these days doesn't amount to shit in regards to leadership, morals, etc.--another post for another day-- but still... in the spirit of what the Founders of all of our orgs envisioned, I find this incredibly sad.)  Why the hell is this funny to them? I would expect this sort of "humor" (and trust I'm using that word very loosely) from depraved convicts or the like.... but really?

Ugh, I can't even put into words what I'm thinking/feeling right now... All I know is I've been through the shit and didn't find a damn thing funny about it. Where the hell do they get off making light of it?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

"What do you want for Christmas?"

It's a question I dread.

Besides the fact that I'm really not a fan of the holidays, I hate the back and forth that goes on when I say I don't want anything. The inevitable "Come on, you must want something!" really grinds my gears (thanks, Family Guy). Why can't folks just leave it alone? Is it because they'll feel bad rattling off their laundry list of material desires if I don't have one as well? Do they think I'm trying to be contrary or something? Maybe it is just an earnest interest. But my answer of "nothing" should be enough.

This year, I've been asked what I want repeatedly by my parents, Bartender, and his daughters. I've tried to come up with something, just to avoid that conversation, but honestly I don't want anything! All of my needs are met (thank you Lord) and I'm becoming self-reliant to a fault. After the incident, and after dealing with years of my dad complaining whenever I asked him to do anything for me, I decided I'd rather get what I can on my own. And I've done just that. Yeah I have my little wishlist (like over on TGHD) but those are all things that, if I decide I really want them, I will purchase myself. So when I'm asked that question, I'm truly thinking "Nothing that I can't get on my own." That may be terrible, but that's the way it is.

As far as the things I can't quite get on my own right now... well they can't either. What do I really want? I want my own condo. I want the capital to purchase and renovate several rental properties. I want stocks in Apple and Microsoft. I want Mr. Right to knock on my door tomorrow with a ring. (LMAO on that one) I want a gray doberman pincher puppy that's already trained and housebroken...

Moral of the story: the things I want, I will get in my own time. Please accept "nothing" as my short answer.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Faking It

Sunday I came across an article about the most counterfeited items of the year as well as this picture of "red bottoms." (And yes, I mean "red bottoms" not Louboutins. True Louboutins don't have to be painted red post-production! Hmph!) Couple that with seeing an obvious Coach knock-off at church and I began pondering something that has come across my mind before. Why do people bother buying knock-offs? Of course the simple answer is that they either can't afford or don't want to pay for the real thing... but who are they fooling? Are they trying to convince others that they have something that they really don't, or are they only fooling themselves? I have a few "designer" bags; not many though, and they are on the lower end of what would be considered "designer." Meanwhile, I have a ton of purses, totes, clutches, etc. that, while not high end, are super cute. They weren't created or purchased in an attempt to make someone believe they were something that they aren't. They are just cute purses that get as many compliments as the designer bags. And as much as I want a pair of Louboutins, I could never bring myself to buy some "red bottoms" in hopes of passing them off as the real thing. Now I do have some shoes that are similar to my favorite Louboutins, sans the red sole. IMO, there's no reason to fake it. Sure, some may attribute prestige, money, and status from these designer labels... But the assumption about those that bother with fakes is the total opposite. Besides, those that know the truth can spot an imposter without even trying.

Who ARE you?
But what else do we fake? Staying in an unhealthy relationship just to make others think we can keep a mate. Perping (for those unfamiliar with Black Greek life, this means pretending to be a member of an organization when in reality you are not). Pretending that your ish is together because you have a degree(s). Going into debt for bigger and better cars, clothes, homes, etc. just so people will see you keeping up with the Joneses. Creating an online persona that in no way resembles who we are offline. So often we put on about different aspects of our lives in an attempt to appear as if we've arrived in some way. Maybe it's a subconscious fear that who and what we truly are will not be enough in the eyes of others. However, if we could accept ourselves in complete authenticity--not to the point of apathy and failure to make improvements--we would find, more often than not, that others would accept us too.

Monday, December 6, 2010

So Now What?

Tonight I am taking what will hopefully be the last final exam I ever have to take as a grad student. I am David, facing my Goliath: Macroeconomics. If I succeed with a grade high enough to get that little MBA title and my sanity in tact, I will feel very accomplished.

But then what? I can't help but wonder what good is it going to do me. Due to budget cuts, I can't get an educational benchmark at my current job (which was the only reason I went back to school in the first place, along with "the plan" that I've mentioned here before). It's not a requirement for real estate, so I'm not sure how much help it will be there. And I'm not finding too many positions for adjunct business professors, so who knows how that will pan out. I almost feel like I've just buried myself under more debt and stressed myself out for nothing.

I want to be optimistic, to have faith that doors will open, etc. After all, they have so far. And I believe they will continue to do so, even if things don't go quite the way I'd like. But I'm left to wonder were these two additional years of school even necessary.

Who knows. Maybe it wasn't the actual education, but the connections made during my time in grad school that will be the key. After all, "it's not what you know, it's who you know." And I've met a few people--both professors and students--who I think could be extremely helpful in some things that I'm trying to do. So there's really no room to complain, huh? Well then I won't do that. But I'm still left to ponder the question, "So now what?"

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Too Much of a Good Thing

Note: This is part one of this entry. Part two is of a racier nature and is therefore going to be on my blog that is devoted to such.

Today, I did something I haven't done in a long time. I went out to eat with my friends from church. This used to be the norm every 1st and 3rd Sunday, but for the past couple of weeks months I've been spending every 1st and 3rd Sunday with Bartender. I told him last night/this morning as I was leaving his house that I'd stop by before he went to work, but instead of doing the usual routine of going straight to his house after service, I went out to eat. I didn't realize how much I missed just talking and laughing with my friends like that. It's really the only time that we have together, because everyone's schedule is so busy.

But Bartender was not trying to hear that. In his mind, I was supposed to be there just like always. But I'm always there. Monday and Thursday nights after class, whenever I can sneak away Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, all Saturday afternoon and evening even though his daughters are usually there despite the fact that Saturday was supposed to be our date night. This was a necessary breather, and I still made an effort to leave early just to stop by and see him for a few minutes.

 It's not that I don't enjoy being with him. On the contrary, I love the time we spend together, to the point where I would be with him all the time if it were possible. I've been like that before, and I learned my lesson about having (or being) too much of a good thing. Eventually all of that togetherness wears someone down, and the other person (usually me) is told that space is needed. So now I'm making a conscious effort to not be the one who always wants to hang out. Not easy when he wants to spend so much time together. BTW, that's not a complaint at all. I just don't want to wear out something that's been really good so far. Shoot, it hasn't even been a year since we exchanged numbers. I'm afraid that being up under each other too much will lead to someone feeling smothered. So I'm doing an anti-smother damage control preemptive strike, if you will.

What I've learned with food and makeup holds true for relationships as well: you can definitely have too much of a good thing.