Thursday, June 27, 2013

Choosing Your Role Models

Role Models. We hear a lot about how children need them. However, as adults we use them to. We have role models we use when parenting. We have role models on the job and just generally for different aspects of our lives. The key is not just acknowledging that we have and need role models but to select effective role models.

Role models should embody the characteristics and behaviors that we want to emulate. They will not ever be perfect people, none of us are; but they should be people who have traits we can model. I, personally don’t ever think that celebrities make good role models. A role model should be someone you see in a variety of situations. It should be someone you can talk to and interact with.

Our first role models are our parents. Sadly, for many of us, these are not effective role models. An effective parental role model should embody characteristics of love, dependability, security to name a few. An absentee parent, an abusive parent, a parent who doesn’t want to be a parent are not good role models. Tragically, we often see people with poor parental role models going on to be poor parental role models.

I work with interns on my job. These interns have to be aware of the people they work with everyday and not just let themselves be influenced just because someone sits in the cube next to them or because they report to that person. I’ve seen enthusiastic kids beaten down by the naysayer who’s negative attitude acts as a poison, slowly changing their outlook and actions for the worst. I’ve seen productive focused kids influenced by the lazy and entitled coworker who thinks that showing up and doing the bare minimum is good enough. It isn’t.

When it  comes to familial role models, we don’t have a choice. We are stuck with the hand we were dealt; but that doesn’t mean we are doomed to repeat their mistakes. We can choose to be and behave differently. Having an absentee father doesn’t mean you have to be an absentee father or choose a man to father your children who won’t be there. You can choose to look at your role model and decide to do thinks differently and consider your parental  role model of what you do not want to be.

As you progress though life, you will choose the people to model. Look at their character and the results they achieve, not just financially, but in terms of the richness of their relationships and the depth of their character and choose accordingly.

Remember when it comes to role models the choice is yours … so choose wisely.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Three from Me!

For the month of June, we'll be looking at what we can do to be financially fit!

Right now I'm working on my Fourth Get It Together Girl! workbook. This one is all about money-saving tips. It isn't about investing or budgeting, it's about little things you can do to make sure you have enough money at the end of your month. Most of these are things I do myself, so I wanted to share my three favorite tips with you.

1. The Gift that Keeps Giving
We all know that gift cards make good gifts but did you know they make good budgeting tools as well? A while back things were really tight and I would be stuck on the day before payday with an empty tank and no money to fill it up. When I tried to put aside a $20 for gas, I’d inevitably end up spending it on something else. The solution: I found agas station chain that had stations near my house and my job. When I got paid, I would fill up my tank and get a $25 gas gift card. The gas gcard can’t be spent for dinners out or movies. So it gets used for it’s intended purpose: gas.

This was so successful that I started using it for movies, a my favorite stores. Instead of walking into a store with my debit card, I can purchase a gift card for the exact amount I want to spend. If I want to spend $100 a month on clothes, I purchase a $100 gift card from a store I want to shop in. If I budget so much for the movies, I buy a gift card once a month to cover all of those movies. This way I am never caught without.

2. Levelize
In the winter, gas bills can climb to astronomical heights and the electric can do the same thing in the summer. When you levelize, or enter an equal payment plan, you pay for your service at a consistent rate year-round. This way there are no surprises when you open your bill

3. Find Your Triggers
Money and food are often hard to manage because we overlook the emotional component. Yet, spending can be very addicting and like most addictive behaviors you need to know what your triggers are. Do you shop when stressed or unhappy? Maybe you spend to retaliate against the spouse? You could associate shopping and spending money with feeling good and hanging out with friends. Know what your triggers are and plan accordingly.

What else can you do when you are feeling those feelings. Who’s help can you enlist. Ask your girlfriends to rein you in when you start on a binger. Acknowledging the emotion behind your actions is half of the battle. As long as acknowledgment is followed by action, you’ll know you are on the right course!

Want more tips? Buy the book when it comes out! LOL!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Stop Tolerating Your Tolerations

What are you tolerating? In other words, what do you have in your environment that you can change but haven’t. In coaching school, we called these things tolerations. If you wear a size 11 shoe, you might not be happy with that, but there is nothing you can do about your shoe size. This would not be a toleration. However, if you have a lot of shoes you never wear and should be donated, you have a toleration. If you need to buy a good pair of basic black pumps but you’ve put it off, you have toleration.

The problem with tolerations is that they zap your energy. They nag at you. I’ll give you an example. When I pulled into the driveway, I would see the tall shrubs lining one side of my driveway. Every day I would think about how much I needed to trim them. When I would get out of the car, I would think about how much I needed to sweep out the garage. Finally, I’d walk into the house and see the spots over the security system panel that I needed to touch up with paint. These little things nagged at me on a daily basis.

Recently, I decided to take a look at my tolerations. I sat down one Saturday morning and made a list. Before long, I had over 20 tolerations … including the ones I just mentioned. I had nothing planned for the day so I decided to knock out a few. Before the weekend was over, I’d knocked out about 20 of the tolerations on my list! Most were minor, not time-consuming and just needed to be done. So I took some time and did them.

Now, when I pull up in the driveway, I am not besotted with nagging feelings of the things I need to do … they are done! It’s a great feeling.

Tolerations aren’t a new concept. When most people think of the ancient Chinese practice of Feng Shui, they think of moving furniture. However, students of Feng Shui know that the first steps of Feng Shui involve clearing clutter, fixing things that are broken and handling all of those nagging things that are around all of us every day. Students of Feng Shui do this to improve the flow of energy through the house. In other words, they handle their tolerations!

Make your list and begin handling them. You might not have a full day but you can tackle them one at a time. The great thing is that once you start, you’ll feel the difference and have the momentum to keep it going!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Money Management Resourses

For the month of June, we'll be looking at what we can do to be financially fit!

There are a number of resources you can use to make money management a bit easier. Here are the tools that I personally use.

Mobile Checkbook: This app is a simple checkbook register for your phone. Before Mobile Checkbook, it was difficult for me to keep track of receipts and try to remember to log everything. With Mobile Checkbook, I have my expenses entered immediately. If I am shopping or eating out then I have that expense recorded before I leave the parking lot. My checkbook is now accurate down to the penny, and that rarely happen before! I mentioned this one last week. It's great for setting up budgets and tracking expenses. It is a free site and you can link your bank account to it so it is tracking all of your debits, checks and electronic transactions. You can go in and determine what your budget categories are and which expenses go where. This sounds time-intensive but once you have it set up, it doesn't take a lot of time at all.

Credit This is another free site that monitors your credit. It doesn't use the actual credit reports (from the Big Three) but it has its own algorithm that will help you monitor your general credit rating. It also links you to offers for credit cards, online bank accounts and other financial products for people with similar Credit Karma ratings.

Annual Credit Report: This is the government sponsored site where you are entitled to one free credit report per year. Free Credit Report dot com and other sites will charge you for something. This site will not. You can get online copies of your credit report. However, be prepared to print them as it is difficult to save them!

Additionally, you should have your bank's app on your phone. I also have apps on my phone for my credit card accounts as well. This way I can always quickly get your account balances.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Where Does It Go?

For the month of June, we'll be looking at what we can do to be financially fit!

Ever wonder where your money goes? Do you know? Well, you should!  Spend some time, a week or a month, tallying all of your expenses and you'll have a realistic idea (not just vague estimates) of where your money is going.

If you use your debit card for everything, log into your account at the end of every day or week, and tally up your expenses. Use an Excel workbook or an old-fashioned notebook. Devise your most important categories: dining out, groceries, entertainment, gas, .... You might even get more specific. Instead of 'dining out' you might have coffee, lunch, dinner.

If you use the debit card, also consider signing up for You can use this free resource and link your bank account to it. This site is great for budgeting because it is designed to help you figure out exactly where your money is going. Take about 30 minutes to an hour to set it up and figure out how it works and it will show you (in pretty graphs and pie charts) where your money is going.

You can go old school, get a small pocket-sized notebook and write your expenses in it as you make them. If you don't want to go quite that old school, you can write down your expenses using the memo function on your phone. This is the best way to go if you still make a lot of cash purchases.

Finding out exactly where your money goes does take a bit of effort but this is the most accurate way of tracking your expenses. If you don't, you'll be relying on vague estimates that may or may not be correct and when it comes to money and budgeting, you need clarity and facts.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Love is a Good Friend

I was raised an only child. I don’t have any regrets. My personality and temperament were well suited for a sibling-free existence. However, although I didn’t have brothers or sisters, all of my life I have been blessed with really good friends and I do consider friendship to be a blessing.

Family is great but you are born into a family. You choose your friends. You select the people who make up your circle. The influence of your family cannot be overstated, but the content and character of your friends reflects who you are – what you value, what your outlook is live and basically who you are.

As you grow, your friendships grow as well – either they grow with you or you outgrow them. I’ve had one best friend since fourth grade. She and I are still close to this day. Although our lives have proceeded down different paths: she’s married, I’m single; she has kids, I don’t; she’s lived in Cleveland all of her life and I’ve lived in several states, we have remained close friends because we have grown together in many ways. In terms of maturity, outlook and values, we remain the same.

I had a talk with another friend about the nature of our friendship. I had commented that it seemed to me that I was always telling her things she didn’t want to hear. LOL! Yet, she told me that that trait was something that was unique among her friends and it was something that she appreciated me for. As a friend, I tell her what I think she needs to hear but I do it from a place of love, respect and concern and I think that makes all of the difference.

While I fully expect these friendships to last, others have not been so fortunate. These are people that I grew apart from in terms of distance but not as much physical distance as much as emotional distance. We simply didn’t value the same things anymore. For these relationships I am grateful. These people served a purpose for me. I guess that purpose wasn’t designed to last a lifetime.

Because I appreciate my friends, I try to show that appreciation through action. When they need me, I do my absolute best to be there … be it with a sympathetic ear or a helping hand. I hope the great women and men that I have the privilege of calling friend know that they are loved. We should all take some time to let those people who are in our lives voluntarily how very important they are to us.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Financial Fitness: Fasting

For the month of June, we'll be looking at what we can do to be financially fit!

A year ago, I went on a financial fast with a good friend of mine. We vowed to only spend the money necessary to pay bills, get groceries and gas. There would be no eating out, no shopping, no purchasing any extras. We did this for several reasons. First, we wanted to work on developing some new more frugal habits. Second, we wanted to see how much we could save.

Here is what I took away from that experience.

Planning works! I had to think about my money in a way I hadn't done before. I turned off the autopilot. I stopped just running my debit card for every little purchase. Planning saved me from making a lot of impulse purchases.

Preparing food isn't as time consuming as I thought. The excuse for a lot of last minute fast food stops was that I didn't have time to cook. I found that it didn't take a lot of time to make my own burger or heat up some leftovers.

Separating needs from wants. I realized that a lot of things I would have purchased weren't necessary expenses (needs) they were extras (wants). After the month was over, I realized that I wasn't as tied to buying a lot of the things I had gone without during that month. I started to ask myself, "Do I really need that?" and "Do I really want to spend money on that?"

I had more money than I thought I did. I realized I didn't have to cry broke. In fact, the reason I was broke so often is because I was making a lot of mindless purchases and those things added up!

If you want to try this for yourself, you have to start with a plan. Here is what I suggest.

  • Use this month to prepare for next month. Don't start right away, use this month to prepare and plan so you won't be caught off-guard.
  • Make allowances for expected expenses. If you know you will have to pay for your child's summer camp or   if you are already planning for a major event, work those expenses into your monthly fasting plan. If you plan for those events upfront, they won't catch you off guard. 
  • Look at your day-to-day expenses. I looked at the snacks, coffees and lunches I was used to buying and made some substitutions I could manage on my own - taking my own coffee, what I could pack for lunch, ...
  • Don't go it alone! It was great to have a friend going through this with me. We were there to support each other, help the other overcome temptations and celebrate small successes. Having a partner in financial fitness made it almost fun!