Friday, September 30, 2016

Paycheck to Paycheck #2


Financial Snapchat (Debt)
September: $13,515.88
July: $13,619.91
August: $13,670.40



It’s mind boggling that I ever got to this point. I watched Suze Orman’s shows and TV specials. I read financial books and magazines. Before I moved to Portland, I made sure I had a year’s worth of emergency savings, which was a good thing because it took me 7 months to find a job!



I think just having credit cards opens yourself up to debt even if you pay off your balance every month like I did. It was tempting to be able to spend all that money (that didn’t really exist) with so much ease. “Emergencies” became extravagances. Mindless spending joined emotional spending as my unwanted companions!



Paycheck to Paycheck: September



I’m glad to report my debt total decreased from $13,670.40 to $13,515.88 which is encouraging. I had 19 No Spending Days (NSD). I even challenged myself to go one whole week without spending!



I definitely “splurged” more this month because I kept wanting to celebrate moments (like Fall) or to reward myself (like for getting through Mondays). I need to watch that especially when I’m on vacation next month.



I also feel I need to not be too hard on myself if I slip up occasionally because one of my other core principles is: “I will be as good to myself as I am to others.” One of the reasons I decided to share my financial situation in the first place was so we could hopefully learn (myself included) that our true worth is not defined by our bank accounts.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Paycheck to Paycheck #1

At the start of August, I owed $13619.91 between my three credit cards which was definitely the highest amount I've ever accrued but because I forgot to send an extra payment that month, I am now at my record debt total of $13670.40!

Where I Stand

As I've mentioned before, I do not have student loans or medical bills. This has just been living extravagantly of eating out or partaking in moments (vacations, entertainment and even donating) that I could have lived without.

Plus, I've shared how I sometimes use money to impress people (like I can afford everything) or to get people to like me- a silly financial hang-up, I know.

It took a lot of work and time of going through my financial statements to get a snapshot of where I stood with my money but I knew if I wanted to tackle this problem, it was a necessary step to take.


A couple of my core goals are:
"I will live the most authentic and best life possible that is honest and respectful of myself and others."

"I will be financially secure and independent."

Paycheck to Paycheck- August: Trial Run

I wanted to see how much I could save without depriving myself of too much- there were lots of Ramen noodles and PB & J sandwiches for sure- although I knew some sacrifices had to be made.

I must have saved hundreds of dollars just by not eating out. I'm not kidding. Even inexpensive meals add up especially if you eat out twice a day- maybe three- practically every day. In addition, I saved about another $100 from not going to coffee shops (mostly Starbucks) as often as I used to- which was usually everyday.

Why did I eat out so much? Emotional eating is probably the main culprit. Most of the time, I would be so tired or I'd just be bored or angry which caused me to eat out.

It helped that I left my credit cards and cash at home to avoid impulse spending. Having gift cards for Starbucks and Fred Meyers also helped.

Of course, I experienced the inevitable setbacks that often happens when you're trying to get your life in order. Luckily, these proved to be only minor detours off the main course.

I was a bit bummed and discouraged when my total actually increased despite all the things I was doing to get it down. But after a walk to calm myself down, I decided to focus on the positives and seek out solutions. It's kind of like a game for me right now.

I'm glad I had 16 No Spending Days (NSD). I still did fun stuff and hung out with friends.

I had toyed with the idea of setting a goal of getting my debt under $13000 by the end of 2016 but with my current situation I know I would just set myself up for failure. Instead of giving an arbitrary number, I think I should see how my finances go in September. I'm thinking having my debt under $13500 by the end of the year would be realistic.

Why Paycheck to Paycheck

I know I tend to overshare sometimes but I think it helps others to know they aren't alone in certain problems or situations they may have. Debt is sadly too common nowadays. And hopefully we can learn from another.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Pride


This June, I’m celebrating Pride- in more ways than one.



The history of the LGBT community- with all its battles and victories, its highs and lows, its setbacks and accomplishments- and the fight for a more inclusive and accepting future are spotlighted the whole month.



I came out almost four years ago- although I knew I was gay since I was a young kid- and, sadly, I can’t claim to be the proud gay man I thought I would be, that I want to be. The blame is all on me. I am throwing away the absurd idea that there’s a handbook that explains everything I’d need to be gay. I’m going to figure it out- at least, my definition and vision of it. And, in order for me to do that, I need to have pride in myself. And, I don’t mean pride in just that (being gay) but as a human being.



So, Pride is my focus for the month. As you may know by now if you’re reading this, I love setting up monthly challenges. It’s been awhile since I did one and actually followed it through completion. One of the things that kept me from doing so is that the challenges or goals I’ve set up were too vague. A true goal needs to be quantifiable or measured in a way to know if it was accomplished or not.



LGBT Pride

                My intention is not to be all up in people’s faces about being gay but I also don’t want to be ashamed of such a large important aspect of what makes me who I am. I’m excited that I’ll be attending my first Pride parade here in Portland. I’ll just be watching it since I’ll feel like such a hypocrite if I decide to march in it when I’m not as proud as I can be about who I am- yet.

                On the other hand, I do feel that visibility (even within the small circle of people who know me) is important. Even I need to remind myself that within the LGBT community, there’s a whole spectrum of identities. We don’t all fit into one mold.

                -Read books and watch films tackling LGBT issues and history.

                -Read books by LGBT authors. These will be featured on The Chronicles Of A Children’s Book Writer.

                -Showcase a video of the LGBT community throughout the month.

                -Attend Pride Parade June 19th.



Finance

                It’s kind of mind-boggling that I’ve changed from being the guy who was able to save $10000 for his move to Portland about 8 years ago to having over $13000 in credit card debt especially when I don’t even have student loans or medical bills to pay. It’s definitely excessive spending on inessential items (eating and drinking out, entertainment*, vacations*), and various hang-ups** I have about money that has led me to this point. I was debating whether to share how much I owed but ultimately I felt it was a necessary first step (acknowledging it) in working towards the solution. Plus, I’m not going to let the number define me whether I’m a good or bad person. I made some poor money choices and I’m going to turn that around.



-Use coins saved towards paying off debt. This may sound controversial since I originally intended to use these to donate but I’ll feel better about giving to others when I know I’m somewhat more financially secure. Plus, I did give the first bowlful to DonorsChoose and I can pick it up again after summer.

-Use cash only.

-Find other ways to save money.

-Limit myself to eating out by myself once a week.

-Start saving for Vegas trip in October.

-At least 2 No Spending Days a week.



*One can argue we shouldn’t deprive ourselves too much of what makes us happy- like seeing a play with friends or getting to see family- but everything in moderation as they say.



**A couple examples of this are trying to impress people by paying for everything and feeling indebted to others when they hang out with me.



Self-care

                Pride in oneself requires self-care. It sounds selfish but it isn’t. It’s not the same as being self-centered. When you take care of yourself, you’re in much better position to help others.


                -Acknowledge 3 good things about myself every day. I’ve done challenges in which I’ve shared what and who I’m grateful for but I feel it’s time I give myself credit when I do good things.

                -Continue walking for at least 30 minutes every day.

                -Get plenty of sleep even if it means turning that darn cell phone off at 11pm every night.

                -No candy, ice cream, pastries, or sweet treats unless it’s a special occasion.

                -Limit myself to 1 Frappuccino and 1 Thai Iced Tea a week.
                -Say Thank You when someone compliments me and accept offers when it'll make my life easier. Stop deflecting.

                -Have a total of 100 volunteer hours by the end of the year. I know I said I wouldn’t be chasing hours but I feel it’s a manageable goal now that I have a regular volunteering gig again and still a stretch since I’ll have to find other opportunities to make up the difference. And my life is so much fuller when I make time to help others.

                -Create a different mindset when dealing with non-paying customers in the store. This has become a serious issue for me and I can tell it’s affecting my moods and ability to do my job.



Writing

                I’m trying to apply the following principle into my life: Make time for the things that are important to you.

                -Instead of coming up with new ideas, flesh out the ones I’ve already come up with.

                -Set up Writer Hour every day to work on stories (and not blogging) and an extra hour on days off plus an extra hour throughout the week to read up on the craft.


If I have pride in myself, I won’t be too harsh on myself when I make a mistake or be too caught up in being perfect.

If I have pride in myself, I won’t overindulge in eating and spending so much.

If I have pride in myself, I will be more confident in meeting new people.

If I have pride in myself, I’ll be able to help others more and better.



Saturday, January 2, 2016

Looking Back/ Looking Forward

Looking Back

Some of the highlights of 2015 for me:

-Spending time with family and friends.
-Going on so many trips whether for work (Pasadena) or to see family and friends (Seattle, Las Vegas, San Francisco).
-Seeing Mariah Carey in concert. That was quite an ordeal.
-Watching Wicked again, which was also quite an ordeal.
-Finally cutting off my hair to donate to Locks of Love.
-Completing a three-year term with Friends of the Library.
-Continuing to volunteer with familiar (Children's Book Bank, Schoolhouse Supplies, Potluck in the Park) and new (Store to Door, Oregon Brewers Festival, Alberta Main Street) organizations for a total of 109 hours.
-Throwing a Housewarming Party at my new place.
-Getting my passport.
-Finishing a first draft of my picture book and reading it in front of a crowd.
-Winning a James Patterson holiday bonus.

For a more bookish reflection, head over to The Chronicles Of A Children's Book Writer.

2015 was my year to FAIL.

It drove me to try new things I normally wouldn't go through with- whether it's singing karaoke or dressing up as a caterpillar, speaking in front of a crowd or in front of a camera.

It meant letting go of certain ideas I associated with things. Once I let go of the notion that I also had to illustrate the picture book I wanted to write, the story came more freely. Then, even without it being perfect, I let others read it- and I read it in front of people, too- and I'm so grateful for the responses and feedback I've received.

It also gave me the attitude of "why not?" that I plan on carrying on into the new year.





Looking Forward

Some of my resolutions for this year:
-Hug more.
-Connect more with family and friends even if means talking over the phone.
-Have more conversations with Bookish People.
-Watch more plays and musical.
-Read 666 books.
-Read more books by Filipino authors and illustrators.
-Disconnect from phone by 11pm. No phone during meals with friends.
-Do something creative every month. Art Project a Month
-Story Idea a Day.
-Try out new volunteer opportunities and have more meaningful experiences while volunteering.
-Money Saving Challenge
I like this money saving challenge. I would recommend printing it out or creating your own table. And, remember, you can do it however way you want. For example, you can do random amounts instead of consecutively. Or, you can alternate front to back- $1, $52, $2, $51... because it's going to be tough at the end of the year with the larger amounts. The important thing is to save and see how it goes. [And for kids, or adults who want to take it easy, maybe they can do it too but divide by 10 so it'll be 10-cents the first week, etc. They'll still end up being amazed by how much they'll get at the end of the year!]

-12X12X12 Bookstore Challenge

For a more bookish resolutions, head over to The Chronicles Of A Children's Book Writer.

For 2016, my One Little Word is Kindness. I started a new blog called Kindness Conversations as part of it and I hope you'll check it out and participate!

Have a great year ahead!