We're nearly a week into the new year. Why is it that everyone wants to start fresh every single new year that gets rung in by some oversized ball covered with lights dropping with thousands of drunken bastards hooting and hollering and giving each other PDAs that the Motion Picture Association of America wouldn't dare approve? But we all approve anyway, so what the hell, right? Ironically, the New Year also marks the beginning of something so incredible. I'm talking about the New Year Resolution. Admit it - you have one. We all do, it is just too cliche'. Take better control of my finances. Lose 15 pounds. Find the woman I'm going to marry. Make a career change. Quit smoking. Quit abusing drugs. Quit having sex. Ok, not quite that far, but you get the gist of it. Those are typical New Year Resolutions.
What happens when next New Year's comes around? You make those exact same resolutions all over again! What the hell happened? Did you not make any changes? Why not? Simple - you did not experience any pain greater than the pain of not changing your current lifestyle. In other words, people will only make changes when the pain of change is exceeded by the pain of their current situation, whether it may be their fitness level, fiscal level, or relationship status, or anything that one deems important in their lives.
You may resolve to improve your financial situation. That is respectable - I'll admit, I am doing the same thing. However, I can tell you this: this is not a resolution for me. It is a lifestyle change for me. And I will tell you why. In mid-November, my car had a horrible case of the shakes. It literally felt as if I was a porn star handling two vibrators. Yes, think about that for a second...violent shaking, uncontrollable movements. I lamented not having my car checked out earlier. I was scared - my credit cards were maxed out and I was living paycheck to paycheck. Certainly I was not financially prepared to get this emergency taken care of. I knew I had to change the way I think about money, the way I handle money and manage it. If you're anything like me, you probably have a book or two on personal finance, possibly written by Suze Orman or Dave Ramsey, or even Kevin Trudeau. While these folks have made a name for themselves in the personal finance realm by dispensing your run-of-the-mill advice (i.e. skip the latte and save $3 a day! Or renting is bad, purchase a house and invest for the long term.), how many of you have actually given up your daily latte? Or opened up a Roth IRA? Instead, I was reading the blog of author Timothy Ferriss and came across an incredible post on automating your finances, written by guest blogger, Ramit Sethi. Holy crap, Batman! I devoured this post! I printed it out and devoured Ramit's website, www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com, which is, incidentally, the name of Ramit's book, I Will Teach You to be Rich. While I'll admit the title is somewhat misleading. No, there's no quick bullet, no magic investment that will make you millions overnight or anything like that. But it is practical. And it makes perfect sense, especially to us 20 and 30-somethings (who are still single, although there's great advice for couples here and there in the book).
So what does this mean? It means that the pain of not having enough money to get my car fixed became greater than the pain of not caring about my finances, and not changing anything, for that matter. It forced me to change something because I knew I cannot live this way any more. I knew emergencies like car trouble, parking tickets, unexpected job loss, or any other doomsday scenario, can be planned for ahead of time. It may not happen today, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next week or next month. If you're lucky, it may not even happen at all. But chances are highly likely that you will experience some sort of hardship, regardless of time, place in life, or financial strength, and being prepared does help. Despite it being December, the hell called Christmas shopping season was upon us, and I had to get my car fixed (which, thankfully turned out to be a lot more minor than I had expected and was just a stitch under $300 for repairs), I managed to save $250 in savings AND pay down my credit card debt by another $250. AND I still had some money left over at the end of the month. Wow! And why did I choose to start in December, and not in January like everyone else?
You will find that I am not one to follow the masses. I tried the college thing. Dropped out. Tried the 9-5 gig, not for me. Before you go saying, "Geez, a college dropout with no job, what a slacker," trust me, I'm no slacker. I've held a job since I was 15 years old, I've been working the last 3 years as a co-owner/manager of a family restaurant, working 60-70 hours a week. Hardly a slacker, but not everyone is cut for the 9-5 grind. Hell, I don't even think any of us are cut for the 9-5 grind, but that's what society has dictated. Go figure. Second thing; this is NOT a New Year Resolution for me, this is a lifestyle change for me. To me, if I could make this change NOW instead of waiting for "the perfect time", and stick with it, chances are greater I will follow through on this. So far so good. This month, I've already created a plan for my paychecks, predetermining where each dollar goes before it is even spent. And the best part? Using Ramit's methods, it is all automated. All my savings and monthly payments are automated. So far, according to the plan, I will be out of my credit card debt by August, and I cannot wait!
So what are you waiting for? Go check out the blogs of Timothy Ferriss and Ramit Sethi. There's a treasure trove of information in there, but you do need to actually apply yourself in order for it to work. One of my sayings is, "Take Action TNT!" Take Action Today, Not Tomorrow! So many people wait for "the perfect time", but guess what? I'll tell you when "the perfect time" is. It is right now. Not next week, not after the holidays, not after your 40th birthday, NOW. If you take action now, you will already be ahead of the game.
Next time, I'll talk about one of my passions: health and fitness.
Til then, I'm Regular Joe Cool