I’m just a really old teenager.

Sometimes I think to myself. I can’t believe I’m a grown up. I don’t feel old. I don’t look old, and I sure as hell don’t act old. I use to think “old” was an age, but I’m quickly learning it’s a lifestyle. I sit here now, wondering, what else can I expect for my future?

I remember being bored to death when my parents would watch political news. It didn’t make any sense to me. Why was watching some old guy talk about two other old guys interesting? If it wasn’t on MTV, I didn’t watch it.

Same goes for finances. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I’m pretty awesome at math. Although I have always enjoyed numbers, I hated dealing with money. Need an example? It’s quite embarrassing, but my mom handled all my money in college. It was so bad, I didn’t even know how to transfer money from my savings to my checking account. Whenever my checking was low, I would call my mom and ask her to transfer “X” amount of dollars for me. Not only that,  but I didn’t know how to write my own check until I was 21. 

As much as I don’t want to accept it,  I guess I am a kind of a legitimate grown up. I live on my own, manage my own money, and even cook my own dinner! I find myself becoming more and more interested in “old guy” stuff like politics and finances. I’m wondering what other things will tickle my fancy as I age? Maybe I will take up quilting or shuffleboard. I can’t help but laugh when I reflect on how much I hated the shows my parents watched when I was a kid, to now find myself watching the same darn channels.

In a final attempt to enjoy my youth I think I’m going to go buy a pair of Jnco jeans (please tell me someone remembers these), a hacky sack, a set of pogs, and I’m gonna go watch TGIF. Suck it Fox News and MSNBC, I’m staying young!

Savings are for stupid-heads

Sorry I seemed to drop of the face of the earth the last couple days, but I’ve quickly learned after living on an island no bigger than a Super Wal-Mart, the internet here is quite unreliable. I’m glad to be up and running today, so hopefully I will be able to post regularly. Now on to bigger and better things.

Don’t get confused by my title debt punchers, I love saving money. In fact everyone should save. I’m a huge fan of my online savings, account. Actually, that’s not completely true. I was a huge fan until Bank of America took over my Countrywide account. Once I return stateside, I plan to convert to the ING cult.

As important as I think my savings account is, I’m not gonna lie, it’s only my second most favorite way to pay for things. My all time favorite way to pay for future expenses is cash flow.

I may have money in the bank, but I hate spending it. In fact, I haven’t withdrawn one cent from my savings account in the two years I’ve had it (except for some early Roth IRA contributions). Virtually all expenses can be anticipated, and as I anticipate them, I figure out ways to use my income to afford them. This keeps me from dipping in to my savings. Take for example the digital camera, I blogged about recently. I’ve wanted it for a while and have more than enough cash in the bank to afford the purchase, but when I finally decide on the camera I want, you wont see my savings account drop a penny. Instead, I’ll set aside a couple hundred dollars over two or so months of paychecks until I reach the purchase amount. Then, I roll up to the Best Buy like a true gangsta and say “Give me my camera…please.”

There are a couple benefits to using the cash-flow system for small to medium expenses. First, your savings account is truly a savings account (not some quasi-savings/quasi-spending thingy). Second, it limits buyers remorse and impulse buying. If I set up a cash-flow system, then I am forced to wait on the purchase at least until my next paycheck. Lastly, it makes you sound really cool when people ask if you want to finance your purchase and you say “Hell no, I’m cash flowin’ this biotch.”

Do you all work the cash flow system in to your medium sized purchases? Do you regularly dip in to your savings account, for non-emergency items? Did you miss me these last four days? Lord knows, I barely survived without you all.

Willpower is genetic?

A few weeks ago, I briefly mentioned an article at I Will Teach You To Be Rich. It was titled Ugh,why don’t fat people just eat less? I have wanted to talk about my opinions in reference to the article for a while, so I do so today. Here’s a brief passage from the article.

Most importantly, behavioral change is not simply about trying harder. Yes, effort is important, but whether itโ€™s passive barriers or the variety of other reasons that illustrate how personal finance is not about more willpower, letโ€™s be real: Behavioral change is incredibly complex and difficult.
Anyone who believes people overeat and overspend simply because of a lack of willpower is simplistically ignoring decades of research so they can ideologically mislead themselves.

Although I do agree that both nature and nurture play huge parts in human development, I am still skeptical of blaming genetics for all our problems. Few would say DNA has no role in our development, but, and this is a big but, I do think we have allowed our DNA to limit us. It’s become a crutch that too many use as a reason to underperform.

I’m just not buying the “My DNA has cursed debt upon me” argument. People get caught up in the “This research shows….blah blah blah” and never think past it. I would like to remind them of Newton’s third law of statistics...For every statistic there is an equal and opposite statistic (that’s what it was right?) You can also find stats that show saturated fat and high fructose corn syrup are beneficial to the human body. Don’t live a life bound by how statistics tell you to live.

Maybe I am ignorant, but I refuse to subscribe to science that says I am forced in to medocrity. For anyone that disagrees, take a good look at Barack Obama, little (if anything) in his upbringing, would lead anyone to believe he was going to be President. I say, “Be the exception, not the rule.” Do you think I’m ignorant for ignoring scientific research? Well, ignorance is bliss and I’m one happy ninja.

Addiction Whore.

Are you like me? Do you get temporarily obsessed with random things? Maybe I’m bi-polar, maybe I lack commitment, but I sit here reflecting on all of the glorious obsessions I have had over the last couple years. Some persist, but many are short lived.

HGTV: Yes, it is terribly embarrassing to admit, but I was quite addicted to the channel. Any show that involved the home buying process was like a drug to me. I seriously think one day I watched four hours of Property Virgins and My First Place.

Photoshop: Holy crap, do yourself a favor and avoid Photoshop at all costs. There is no way to avoid an instant addiction to it. I mean it’s the best way to make a crappy photo, less crappy. It has so many features that it is easy to spend ten or so hours just learning how to use one tool.

Olympics: Don’t even try talking to me when the Olympics are on TV. I seriously am obsessed with every single Olympic sport. Yes, that includes male gymnastics. The worst part about being hooked, the Olympics typically are on at really awkward hours when they are hosted in different countries.

Personal Finance: Fortunately this is a relatively healthy and continual addiction. I say “relatively”, as I’m sure many of us could admit we may spend a little too much time focusing on our finances. I’m particularly interested in clever ways to make and save money. Mention something like “Credit card arbitrage” and it’s almost a guarantee I’ll research the crap out of it until I decide if it’s for me (arbitrage is not).

The list goes on and on, I’m seriously an addiction whore. If something tickles my fancy, I get super in to it, and about two months later I move on to something new. Maybe it’s a bad thing that I can’t stay committed, but I like to think that this makes me a more “well rounded individual” (at least that’s what I put on my college application). What about you? What are some of your recent addictions? Please tell me I’m not crazy, and there are others out there that suffer from short-term-addictionitis.

P.S. Happy birthday to Brother Ninja today, He turns 21 and is partying it up in Vegas! Put the beer and poker chips down brother ๐Ÿ™‚

Mini Fridge Hell

I now can say I have experienced a little taste of hell. As you all are aware, I am currently on a business trip on a very tiny island in far east Asia. I have blogged a few times about my food setbacks when I wrote about packing a lunch and how awkward eating out alone can be on business trips.

Consider those issues trivial compared to the issue I now face. There are only a handful of food options where I’m staying. There’s a burger king, subway, pizza place, one buffet style cafeteria, and a grocery store. After two weeks of whopper juniors, 12 inch subs, and medium pizzas, I’m pretty sure my stomach wants to punch me in the face.

My hotel room is equipped with a mini-fridge and a microwave. I’ve done the peanut butter and jelly thing a handful of times, but I am in need of some nutritional meals that don’t require an oven or a stove. The meals I typically make for myself, back home, all require some type of cooking.

Imagine your oven/stove broke down today and you couldn’t get it fixed for six weeks. What would you work in to your diet? I’ve flirted with the idea of making a salad, but would get pretty sick of it after about two meals. Right now my “mini fridge diet” consists of PB&J, cereal, apples, pears, oranges, and yogurt. That’s all I got. I’m freaked out by cooking things in the microwave (I feel like it makes my food toxic….crazy I know) so frozen dinners and the like aren’t really an option.

Anyone have any crazy delicious sandwich combinations that are easy and never get old? My culinary skills are quite elementary so try and keep it to recipes you would trust a 3rd grader with ๐Ÿ™‚ I may be a Debt Ninja, but I am in no way any kind of Chef Ninja. Oh, and keep in mind the grocery store on this island is pretty ghetto so pre-made sandwiches/salads/soups don’t exist here.

Banks are geniuses!

Now I know banks obviously have their best interest at heart and not always their customers, but they have come up with some pretty clever programs to bring home even more bacon. I had someone email me a while back asking for ways they can try and rebuild their credit, when no one will lend them money.

One of my suggestions to them: Attempt to obtain a secured credit card. If you don’t know what a secured credit card is, I’ll break it down for you. The bank looks at you and decides you are way to unreliable to give a normal credit card to. They say “Hey give us $500 and we will give you a quasi-credit card with a $500 limit.” Essentially they allow you to borrow your own money from them. If you use the card for small purchases, and make your minimum payments (or pay the balance in full) each month, then the bank will eventually feel comfortable lending you some of their money. Soon enough you will be able to sign up credit card, bank loans, car loans, and any other kind of debt you want (although I’ll punch you in the face if you take advantage of all this credit).

If you think that a secured credit card is a good option for you, you might want to check yourself before you wreck yourself…here’s why. If you miss a payment, or are late, the bank still is going to charge you interest and fees. That’s right. They charge the crap out of you for using your own money. Here’s how it works….

You give them $500, they give you a secured credit card
You use $100 at the grocery store, and make a payment of $50 at months end.
The bank now charges you $15 in interest for borrowing your own money.

Booya, score one for the banks! I don’t think people that have secured credit cards realize they get virtually no benefits of an actual credit card, but could end up getting charged a ton for using their own money. The secured credit card does have a benefit; improving your credit score if you’re a responsible borrower, but for the irresponsible you’d be better off smoking dope laced with mushrooms that were dipped in black tar.

Net Worth: Oct. 2009

Another month is in the books, and it’s time to see how my net worth is looking. The last 30 days have been financially uneventful. I guess this is the part where my net worth gains become less exciting and more systematic. I wont be seeing 750%+ increases like I was a couple months ago, but hey at least I’m continuing upwards! Let’s check it out…

Note: My NW is pretty easy to calculate because I don’t own very many things. I have a savings/checking account and a couple retirement accounts . I chose not to include things like personal belongings (laptop, camera, etc) or my car (which would add probably $8K to my worth) because I figure those are things I will always need and wouldn’t really want to go with out.

Checking Account: $1,243 +$148. I try and keep around $1,000 in my checking account at all times. No point in keeping more than a “G” in my checking at this point in my life.

Savings Account: $14,712, +$17. My savings account currently earns 1.3% interest, so that is the only reason it grew over the last month. I made a decision that I was going to halt contributing to my savings account for the time being (since I have an adequate E-fund) and will focus all my discretionary income to my student loan.

Roth IRA: $11,661, +$447. Keep on keepin’ on stock market. I could still contribute $1,500 to it this year, but will probably hold off as I focus on my debt.

401K: $9,401, +$865. Eight percent of each paycheck makes its way in to this account. I invest in very similar funds in both my Roth IRA and 401K (mutual funds). I get 5% of my paycheck fully matched, so you know I’m not about to pass up free money.

Student Loan: -$17,994, +$1,358. It started at 28K on 02/08. I have been making at least $1,000 monthly payments on this after some words of wisdom from my wonderful readers. Can’t wait to be rid of these biotch in about a year!!!

So what does this bring my total net worth too… $19,173. I’m up $2,985 from last month. I’m really glad that I can grow between $2K to $3K each month. I don’t anticipate decreasing in worth until I experience the joys/pains of home ownership. Hopefully this next month will be a larger net worth increase since I receive three paychecks (instead of two) this month!

If you have wondered why the blue bar (debt) in the graph sometimes increases, it’s because my credit card balance gets taken in to account each month. Even though I pay the balance in full it still appears as a “liability” in Quicken. I just deduct this from my checking account balance to give myself an accurate net worth reading. 

Take care ya’ll.