For the past several months, I have read as many personal finance blogs as I could find, and have gone back years in the archives to gain as much knowledge as possible. While some of the finance tips from 2005 may not be useful at the moment, and while I may not be able to find an online savings account paying me 4 or 5%, I have taken a lot away from these blogs and have several tips I’d like to share.As mentioned in an earlier post, the blogs that really had an impact on me have been Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You to be Rich, Trent Hamm’s The Simple Dollar, and more recently, Jim Wang’s Bargaineering. They all have interesting articles that really get me thinking, and while each has a different focus, being able to take the best advice from all of them has helped me get a fantastic start.
Write It Down
I think the most useful tip comes from The Simple Dollar. Trent suggests carrying around a pad of paper at all times and writing down any notes or thoughts you may have. While I think carrying around a pen and paper may be inconvenient at times, I’ve started to record a lot of my thoughts during the day. I have a pad of paper at work that I always have nearby, when I’m out and about I write a text message on my phone and save it as a draft, and whenever I have access to Gmail, I write it down in tasks, a Google Document, or an email that I send to myself. I have a horrible short term memory, and sometimes I’ll even forget it in the time it takes me to get my pen and paper out. I love to make lists so that I can keep track of all the little errands I need to run. In Google Calendar, I write down any automatic payments I need to make as well as errands with end dates, such as picking up the dry cleaning.
Don’t Sweat the Little Things
Another important tip, this one from Ramit, is what his entire philosophy is all about. He says to focus on the big wins and not to worry about the little things in life. So its worth it to negotiate your phone bill and save $15 a month, but saving 15 cents on a can of tomato sauce probably isn’t going to make a big dent in your finances. Getting a coffee at Starbucks twice a week isn’t the worst thing in the world, as if it makes you happy, it’s definitely worth it, but paying $60 a month for a gym membership that you use twice a week probably isn’t worth it.
Jim from Bargaineering suggests that you can always negotiate a price. My roommate does this with our cable bill, refusing to pay activation fees or installation fees and fighting every extra charge he can. While it may seem like a price tag at a store is set in stone, quite often salesman will be willing to reduce the price if you’re willing to buy. And nothing gives you more power than when you’re willing to bundle products. This works especially well at small businesses, and in a week or two, I’m going to go to the barber and see if I can get a good deal. My hair grows too long in about 6 weeks, and by week 3 or 4 it’s usually time for me to get a trim. A haircut once a month is too much for me, but if he’s willing to give me a discount, I’ll be much more willing to come in more often. Instead of paying $20 9 times a year ($180), I’d be much happier getting it trimmed every 4 weeks for $15 ($195) and always looking good. The extra $15 over the course of the year would be nothing compared to constantly having a shaved neck and always looking good.