The key to not sucking

Over the next three minutes I plan to show you, yes YOU, how to suck a little bit less. Are you ready for this life changing piece of advice. Is the anticipation building? If you want to be less sucky, you have to BE INTENTIONAL.

Pretty straightforward huh? It’s currently my favorite life lesson. Probably because I’m really intentional in some aspects of my life, and totally not intentional in others. If my New Years resolution wasn’t already “Eat as many California Burritos as possible” it would definitely be “Work on being intentional.” Here’s where I am (or would like to be) intentional.

Personal Finance:

If you are reading this, I’m going to assume you are at least attempting to be intentional when it comes to managing your money (that is unless you found my website by typing in “worst websites that have ever existed” in Google). Being intentional with respect to your finances means you A) know how much money you bring home each month, B) know roughly how much you are spending each month, C) have some type of plan to make A greater than B, and D) donate $5 to me (how’s that for a not-so-subliminal message?).

Food:

I’m 50% awesome and 50% horrible when it comes to being intentional with the types of food I put in my body. Last night was a good night, I had a pesto and turkey panini on wheat bread. The night before I was naughty and had Carne Asada Fries and Arnold Palmer. I’m not saying we can’t enjoy some guilty pleasures every now and again, but we should definitely be aware how much of what we are putting down our throat. Moral of the story kids, eat more broccoli and hit the treadmill every now and again. Your future self will thank you for it.

Work:

I started my first day of work, an arrogant college graduate. Long story short, my boss kinda hated me for the first twelve months I worked for him. I knew I had some major work ahead of me (both figuratively and literally) if I wanted to get on my bosses good side. I spent the next two years volunteering for less than ideal assignments, I helped train new staff, I traveled to places people didn’t want to go, I said “Yes” every time he asked me to do something, no matter how much I didn’t want to do it. I wanted my boss to know, that although I might be a little arrogant, I’m an asset to his team and the agency. Fortunately, he doesn’t hate me anymore, and dare I say, he actually kinda likes me. A little hard work, doesn’t pay off. A lot of hard work, though, is a different story.

Relationships:

Ah relationships. This was actually the motivating topic for this blog post. I really want to need to be intentional with those that I’m close to, whether it be professional contacts, friends, or family. Think about the people you are closest to. When’s the last time you askedย  them how they were doing? I’m not talking like “Hey Bob, how’s it going”, but saying “Hey Bob, how’s it going, like really, how’s it going?” You’ll be amazed at the response. This is especially true for us guys, contrary to popular belief there are more important things in life than football, beer, and gasp….hot chicks. Next time you are in the car with a buddy, I dare you to turn the radio off. You’ll feel pretty awkward for the first five minutes, but after that you might be surprised by the meaningful conversation that can occur. I’m a firm believer relationships have the best return on investment.

How ’bout it readers? Why is being intentional so hard? Why is being lazy or passive so easy? Where are you strengths and weaknesses in regards to being intentional?

My weekend was better than your weekend!

Girl Ninja and I recently returned from our first vacation as a married couple (not counting our honeymoon). We spent our three day MLK weekend running around San Francisco like chickens with our heads cut off. I spent most of the weekend stressing about what we were gonna do next, when we were gonna eat, and how we were gonna get from point A to point B. Girl Ninja spent most of the weekend going to Nordstrom, going to to Banana Republic, and going back to Nordstrom to make sure they didn’t get anything new while she was in Banana. Needless to say, we had our hands full ๐Ÿ™‚

Here’s a photo journal of the stuff we did…

We ate crazy good food:

Oh. My. Goodness. I ate so much while in SF. Seriously, I look like a pregnant man. Just look at how incredibly delicious that vegetarian scramble bread bowl thing-a-majigger is! Heavenly! I also had my first ever street vendor hot dog, and to be honest it was pretty mediocre. We had awesome Sundae’s at Girhadelli’s. And Crazy good Italian food at this little joint called Finos. Best part about being on vacation was definitely trying new restaurants!

We went to crazy awesome places:

Took a little pit stop on our bike ride across the bridge

These sea lions were pissed at eachother!

Probably the most inefficient street in the world

I took this picture from our hotel room window...no joke!

Golden Gate Bridge, Ghiradelli Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, The Embarcadero, Lombard Street, Union Square, the Financial District, etc. We tried to check off as many iconic SF places as possible. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to make it to Alcatraz or Golden Gate Park, but don’t worry, we’ll check those off the list next time. Even though we ate a ton, I’m sure we burned even more calories with all the walking around we did.

We saw some crazy stuff:

No one should ever eat at this place...ewww!
There were a million of these stupid animal hat things everywhere!
This one dude was sticking big rocks on little rocks...crazy!
I thought this sweatshirt was really funny
Funniest sign ever in a bookstore!
ummm, no comment

As expected, we saw some pretty crazy stuff in SF. There were a billion street performers. A billion cable cars and trolleys. A billion and one homeless people. Heck, we even saw two sea lions get in a fight at Pier 39. The entire trip was downright incredible! There’s no telling what you will see when you take a stroll down the streets of San Francisco. It’s part of what makes the city so darn fun.

All in all, we had a great time and totally enjoyed our first vacation together. I haven’t crunched the numbers yet, but I think the total damage for the trip is around $800 (including airfare and hotel). Not too shabby if you ask me. I could get use to this vacationing thing, where to next?!?!?!

Living the high life (limo style)

Every winter, when Girl Ninja and I head north (to Seattle), we try and see as many of our friends as possible. Many of them are married, so we are frequently double dating. Last week, however, we stepped things up a bit and went quintuple dating (five couples). One of my good buddies suggested we take the ladies out for a cruise around downtown Seattle….in a limo. Yeah, that’s right, we are taking high school prom baby, limo status baby. No shame!!!

We ended up renting a ten person stretch limo, to take us on our Epic Date of Epic Epicness. First stop, was at a neat little salad/sandwich shop in Capitol Hill called Homegrown. It’s a completely all-natural, organic, and local eatery. I had a meatloaf BLT (minus the bacon) and it was absolutely INCREDIBLE! It reminded me that as gross as meatloaf looks, it tastes wonderful. Girl Ninja got some vegan sandwich that, in my opinion was mediocre. Total damage for dinner: $25. Here’s a picture of the joint…

With our stomachs full or healthy goodness, we figured it was time to step the romantic meter up a notch and take our lovely wives to one of the more famous look out points in Seattle, Kerry Park. If you ever plan to visit Seattle, YOU HAVE TO GO TO KERRY PARK. It’s seriously one of the best spots in the city. We stayed at the park just long enough to take a handful of pictures. Any longer and I’m convinced my nipples would have fallen off (yes, it was that cold). Instead of just talk about how awesome the view is, it’s probably best to just show you…

After the stop at Karry Park, we hopped back in the limo and cruised around for a bit before we ended up at this fun little dessert shop in Seattle called Dillettante Chocolates. If there is one thing you need to know about me, it’s that I hate chocolate! It’s too darn rich. Nonetheless, I was able to scour the bajillion different dessert options and was quite content to find a very exotic dessert available… vanilla ice cream! Girl Ninja got some chocolate lava cake thingy majigger. We both enjoyed our desserts ๐Ÿ™‚ Total damage for dessert: $9. I’ll show ya a picture of the place if you promise me one thing, you won’t drool all over your keyboard.

After an amazing dinner, a great photo opportunity, and some delicious desert, we decided there was only one way to end an almost perfect evening…play Catch Phrase (boys vs girls). The final 45 minutes of the limo ride resulted in an absolute massacre as I don’t think the girls won a single game. Not one game! I couldn’t have dreamed anything better ๐Ÿ™‚

Seriously though, for just under $100, I got to spend five hours with some of my closest friends, in a limo, eating healthy food, taking sweet pictures, scarfing down ice cream, and dominating the girls in Catch Phrase. It was probably the best $100 I’ve ever spent. EVER.

What’s the best $100 you’ve spent? When’s the last time you took your significant other out on a non-typical date? What are some clever date ideas I need to explore for Girl Ninja?

Punch 2011 in the face

Girl Ninja and I have a plan to punch 2011 in the face as hard as we can. On January first of each year, I like to open up my annual budgeting spreadsheet and see what the Excel gods tell me. After some serious number crunching, and some even more serious random number guessing, we have something to work towards, and that my friends is a net worth of $96,000. Here’s the breakdown…

2010 was the year of the non-budget budget as I didn’t have a clue how to prepare for dual income. I knew our income could vary greatly depending on how many days Girl Ninja was able to substitute teach. Last year was crazy, and this year things are no different.

We are almost sure to face some significant financial changes over the next year. That’s right, we’re pregnant…no not with babies (sorry mom)…but with job opportunities. And as you can expect, with a change in job, a change in salary often follows. There are really three potential outcomes for us.

1) We stay in San Diego. This would be the easiest situation to budget for as it would mean nothing really changed for us.

2) We move to Seattle. We are both originally from Washington and would love to be near our parents and our friends from high school. If we moved up north I would likely either A) transfer in my current position to the Seattle office (same pay) or B) I would look for something more lucrative in the Seattle area. We would likely meet, or exceed, our $96,000 goal if we moved up north.

3) Move wherever the heck the government tells us. You remember that “dream job” I’ve blogged about over the last two years. The one I applied for in February 2009? Well, I was called over Xmas break and told to expect to start March 28th. That is, if I re-pass the physical fitness test and accept the final offer. In the long run, this position would pay quite a bit more than my current position can, but it would DEFINITELY mean a short term pay cut (for about two years). One of the requirements of this position is a willingness to relocate at the needs of the agency. Since we don’t know how much my starting salary will be (should know in about 45 days) and we won’t know where we will be living (until after we’ve accepted the offer), I pretty much have no clue what this would mean for our net worth. The $96,000 goal would probably decrease to like $80,000 (after my pay cut and the time it would take for Girl Ninja to find a teaching job).

It’s crazy to think Girl Ninja and I will be determining the next five years of our life over the next five weeks. Heck, it’s probably pointless to make any goals since when we have no clue where we will be living or working. I guess it’s better than not thinking things through though…right? As always, I’ll be updating you all as Girl Ninja and I face some pretty significant life decisions, and I will definitely be blogging about our financial journey throughout this process.

What’s the most significant decision you and your significant other have had to make? How much of a pay cut would you stomach for your dream job? Do you set annual financial goals for yourself?

Seriously Girl Ninja?

Every now and again I like to rant about some of the funny things Girl Ninja does that I don’t think I will ever understand. Some of my past rants have discussed her inability to keep her hair to herselfย  (I have found it in my toothbrush and on my clothes), or the 85 million blonde bobby pins that I find in every nook and cranny in our apartment. I’ve got a few more to add to the list…enjoy ๐Ÿ™‚

Returns:

Girl Ninja LOVES to buy things, only to return them a few days later. It will never, ever, EVER make sense to me. We go to Christmas Eve service each year which typically means dressing up a little. Girl Ninja headed off to Target to go look for a new outfit for the service. She came back with three outfits. Instead of deciding on them in the store, she decided to buy them and decide on them at home. She came home, tried them on, asked for my two cents, and then picked the outfit she wanted to keep. A few hours later, we were back at Target, standing in the return line. I rarely return things. Girl Ninja ALWAYS returns things.

New Outfits:

Ha! Did you see this one coming after the last example? I will forever be amazed by the excuses girls can come up with to buy a new outfit. Christmas Eve Service…new outfit. Good friends wedding…new outfit. Easter Sunday…new outfit. The Bachelor season finale episode…new outfit. Okay that last example was made up, but I’m not kidding, any chance Girl Ninja has to by a new outfit, she takes it. I’ll never understand how her closet can be jam packed with clothes, but she can still look at me and say “I have nothing to wear.”

Chocolate after dinner:

Nothing makes me laugh harder than Girl Ninja giving me pouty lips, looking like she’s dying and about to cry all because she desperately needs a piece of chocolate after dinner. It’s quite sad really. It doesn’t happen very often, but there are definitely times nothing can get in the way of Girl Ninja’s mission to obtain a chocolate treat. Maybe I should start storing M&Ms in my desk so I can bribe her with them when I need a favor ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m convinced, if Girl Ninja ever became homeless, she would hold a sign that read “Will work for Chocolate.”

Ahh, yes. The funny things I never knew about the opposite sex. I’ve only lived with a girl for five months now and can’t imagine what other quirky things I’ll discover over the coming years. What about your partner makes you laugh? Any things you didn’t know you were signing up for? Why do women love chocolate more than men?

Being productive is uber cool

What does “going #2”, clipping your finger nails, and blogging have in common? Well, when you knock these three tasks out all at the same time (like I did last night) you can proudly call yourself productive.ย  And in case you didn’t know, productivity is as cool as a cucumber…

Here are 5 ways I try and maximize my efficiency throughout the day…

1) Keep my crap clean

One thing I noticed in college is I tend to adapt to my living environment. I had a messy roommate my sophomore year. As a result, I became messy. What was the point of keeping my desk clean, if the rest of our dorm room looked like a hurricane zone? Thankfully, Girl Ninja is a little OCD on the cleanliness factor (I think she’s addicted to the smell of cleaning chemicals). This means my work space is clean whether I keep it that way or not. With a tidy office situation, I can quickly and easily get to all the important documents, materials, and supplies I need while I’m working from home. If your desk space is lookin’ beat up from the feet up, I’d recommend you take 10 minutes or so, and tidy that sucker up.

2) Get rid of crap I don’t need

Have you ever watched the show Hoarders? It was the most disturbing interesting show I’ve seen. If you don’t know what I’m talking about here’s a picture of a hoarder’s home…

Do you see the problem with accumulating stuff that you don’t need? It makes you terribly inefficient. Is it time you go through and purge old documents? Do you need to go through your closet and get rid of the 20 Hawaiian shirts you bought a few years ago, but realized are the opposite of cool? Do you have a garage or storage unit full of stuff? If so, it’s probably time you do a little spring, or in this case, winter cleaning.

3) Take breaks

Do you remember the good ol college days pulling all nighters and working on a paper for 10 straight hours? Do you also remember how, after about 1.5 hours, your brain just kind of turned to mush? It’s because you have to give yourself breaks. If work gets so crazy I feel myself burning out, I make sure to take 10 minutes to go out and take a quick walk or something. Depending on what state you live in, you might be entitled to a ten or fifteen minute break every couple hours. If your employer doesn’t give you one, it’s time to find a new job ๐Ÿ˜‰

4) Do the hard crap first

I don’t know if this rule is universal or only true for me, but I try and knock out all the hard stuff at the beginning of my work day. I’m eleventy billion times more efficient during the first few hours of work compared to the last few. I try and schedule all of my difficult meetings for before lunch, it makes the rest of the day go by quicker. Maybe it takes you a couple hours to hit your stride? That’s okay too. Whenever you are at your best, try and do the most important work then.

5) Use technology

Technology is a beautiful thing. There are countless ways you can use your computer, phone, and the internet to increase your productivity! Use “rules” in your email settings to block all that unwanted political junk mail from your Uncle Joe. Use outlook to schedule all your meetings and store all your contacts phone numbers/addresses. Use mint to track your finances. Use Google voice to manage your work, cell, and home phone calls. You can literally find some type of software to automate just about every piece of your life. And guess what?! Most of these things are free, you just have to spend a few minutes figuring out how to set them up.

There ya have it, five ways you can increase productivity. What would you add to the list? What tips/tricks do you operate by to ensure maximum efficiency? Are you multi-tasking right now by “working” and reading my blog at the same time? If you are, don’t worry, I won’t tell your boss ๐Ÿ™‚

What do you do with found money?

I have some great news for you all…well, actually… it’s just great news for me and Girl Ninja. We’re expecting!!!! A $3,000 check that is…not a baby. It was money that we’ve been hoping for, for a very long time, but weren’t sure we’d ever see it.

You remember a few months back when I blogged about getting a $40,000 raise? Well apparently, I jumped the gun a little bit, because that raise was delayed nearly two months.

Girl Ninja started a K/1 split classroom at the beginning of the school year as a substitute, but with hints that it could turn in to a contracted position (meaning she’d get a pay bump and all the benefits of a normal teacher). We thought that contract would come, sometime in late September. It didn’t. We were then told to expect to hear no later than Oct 31st. We heard nothing. November came around and other long-term substitutes were being offered temporary contracts. Things weren’t looking good.

But then, last week, GN got an encouraging email that indicated she should be signing a contract sometime in the next couple weeks. If that happens (which it better or I will be slashing some tires…just sayin), she will be compensated back pay for the three months she’s already worked at the school. Basically meaning she’d get a one time, $3,000 check.

I’ve come to notice a recurring theme in our relationship when it comes to unexpected money, we NEVER agree on what to do with it. When we got $2,500 in cash wedding gifts, I thought the Roth IRA was a perfect avenue, Girl Ninja thought a trip to San Francisco. When I found out I was receiving an award at work that came with a little financial bonus, I figured I could add it to our savings, Girl Ninja thought we could use it for things around our house. We never quite agree on what to do with these little windfalls. That’s why she is my jelly.

My assumption is, of the $3,000, at least $200 will go directly back to her classroom for decorative purposes (we haven’t spent any money on the room as we were never guaranteed she’d be able to stay). Another $300 will be given away/donated (stayin’ true to 10% rule). And the other $2,500 is…well…we haven’t figured that out yet.

This leads to today’s question? What do you do with found money? Do you have a rule like 50% savings, 50% spending? If you have debt, does bonus money always go 100% to it? If you got $2,500 today, how would you allocate it?