Monthly Archives: July 2012

Budget: Some Households’ Most Offensive Swear Word

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Too many shopping bags? Too much baggage!

As I’ve shared in a few of my previous posts, I am a total dork when it comes to personal finances and budgeting. I get weak in the knees a few days before a new pay period begins, thinking about the lines and columns on our family spreadsheet and how they will soon be filled with the upcoming weeks’ expenditures. $20 for a haircut, $50 for pool chemicals, ya da ya da ya da.

I’m sure most of you had to pinch yourselves as you read the paragraph above. I realize this type of stuff does not excite people. Most would rather be at the mall buying new clothes or sneakers. Or maybe perusing the aisles at Lowe’s, deciding whether you want to splurge for the granite counter tops in your half bath, or be able to eat for the next 3 weeks. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. And how do I know this? Because that used to be me.

In the past 12 months, my financial way of life has done a complete 180. And thank goodness because if not, my family and I would probably be living back with my parents and 18-year-old sister (YIKES!) Don’t get me wrong– I’m not trying to make light of this situation. I know people who have been there– I know people who ARE there, and it’s a scary, scary thing. But know this– no matter how low you feel, or how low you know your bank account is, it’s never too late.

I know, I know, you’re reading this thinking, “But I’m used to my lifestyle. I’m just a natural spender. That’s just who I am.” Well, let’s pretend we’re in the movie Men In Black, and Will Smith just waved that memory-erasing laser beam across your face. It’s time to start fresh. And if I could turn my financial life around and build my bank account back up, anyone can. And to prove it, I’ll share a story with you.

In 2006, I was a junior at Syracuse University. Walking around the campus seeing all the girls with their brand new UGG boots and their Herve Chapelier bags was getting to me. So what did I do? I visited one of the most popular stores that bordered the urban campus, and I went absolutely ballistic. I bought a pair of $400 D&G sunglasses (which I still have to this day, thank goodness,) two pairs of $250 Citizen jeans, and a pair of $80 Steve Madden pumps (what a bargain!) I walked out of there with the store’s green plastic bag stuffed to the gills, without even batting an eyelash.

Okay, so let’s rewind… I was a college student, albeit with a paid internship, but I was only working part time, and I spent $730 without breaking into a deep sweat?? (and notice I didn’t even account for the tax!) And trust this wasn’t just a one-time deal– I spent out of control like this all the time.

So what changed? How did I all of a sudden wake up from this delusional state of wanting so badly to be “Mrs. Jones?” Was it buying a house? No. Getting married to a guy who was totally conservative when it came to spending? Not a chance. But in 2011, enter Dave Ramsey, a true God send. Last spring, my husband and I attended his Financial Peace University class at a local church. We went kicking and screaming, but my mom had recommended it and said she would pay for it if we went and just listened. The moment I sat down, something clicked. I knew this guy was for real, that he knew more about finances and planning for your future (and your children’s futures for that matter,) than I ever would. From then on, I was excited about budgeting. I was excited to see how quickly we could complete each of the seven baby steps Dave laid out. And it came at the perfect time, since our daughter would be entering the world that summer.

I thought about her, and how my horrid and embarrassing spending habits would affect her. Children have needs that cannot be denied: from diapers and formula to new school sneakers and supplies– I knew spending ourselves into oblivion was no longer an option.

Now that she’s here (and already 1 year old,) I can honestly say we have our budgeting down to a science. Does this mean we can no longer buy nice things, or go out to dinner? Absolutely not. It just means we have to be able to pay for them– with cash. Trust me, coming from a reformed spend-a-holic, it can be done!

To check out Financial Peace University classes in your area, or even to complete them online, visit Dave.

-Ambitioussoul

Melt, Mold, and Set : A Steel(ers) Introduction

Steeling a city’s heart and soul

As I sat at a traffic light in the city of Erie, Pennsylvania, I found myself peering into a gaping hole on the side of a depressingly dilapidated and eerily vacant steel mill. Mentally erasing the vines and moss that were growing in and around the brickscape, I began to visualize what  the people who used to work there (or steelers as I decided to classify them in my title, or maybe that was just a shameless plug for the best football team on Earth?,) looked like and wore, how hot it must have been inside on 100 degree days with 80 percent humidity, characteristic of that exact day. I envisioned the blistering steel dripping from metal wands into a giant, bubbling vat of the same consistency. I could hear the sounds of workers yelling over the roaring machines. Steel mills used to define the city; it was the livelihood of thousands. Now they were just a memory, blanketed in soot.

It’s incredible how quickly steel’s consistency can change; it’s equally incredible how quickly a city can change. And then it got me thinking… life is the same way, especially when considering a change in someone’s career path.

Just like steel, in order to really set forth to change your career, whether it be just a facet of it or revolutionizing it completely, you must first delve into yourself and think about what you really love and want to do. Almost think of it as liquefying, just as steel would be, in order to be able to see things more clearly and start from scratch, if necessary.

Then there’s the molding process: getting the steel (or yourself) into the perfect shape. What does that shape look like? A rod? A teacher? A hammer head? A life coach? So to mold steel you need a cast. But to mold a career, you need a plethora of things. Whether it be additional schooling, training, apprenticeships or simply mentors, all of those things can make or break the mold.

And then setting. Without this step, your mold will simply keep changing shape without any real definition or purpose. If you’re a hammer head, be a hammer head. If you’re a beam, be a beam. I’m sure you can already understand how this correlates to your professional life. If there’s something you want to do and you do it well and most importantly it will make you happy, own it. Be 100 percent dedicated to it, knowing it’s what you were put here on this Earth to do.

And if you’re ever driving down the East Coast, or across the country, be sure to stop in Erie, Pennsylvania, where “pop” and the steel legacy will live forever.

-Ambitioussoul

Resume, Schmezume…

Let’s not and say we did…

We all know what a resume is, but a schmezume? Is that an onomatopoeia for a sneeze? Well, um… bless you? But seriously, I guess you could say “schmezume” is everything in between the sending of your resume and waiting for a phone call or an email, including the point when you realize the phone is never going to ring and your computer is never going to ping. But why? Why isn’t the traditional, acceptable way of finding a job working for so many people?

I didn’t understand it either until I start reading Dan Miller’s thoughts on this (yes, from the 48 Days to the Work You Love book I’m obsessed with.) He definitely knows his stuff, supplying statistics and citations that basically say we’ve got it all wrong. We’re NEVER going to find jobs on Monster.com or the classifieds. As I read this I thought, “Well what the hell are you supposed to do?” Of course Dan, being the amazing and inspirational author that is is, provides a step-by-step approach to not only marketing yourself and finding a job, but a job you LOVE and belong in.

Prior to this segment, he talks about making a list of 10-12 career paths you can see yourself taking. This is ESSENTIAL to narrowing down the opportunities you want to look for. You may be asking yourself, “Why do I want to put myself through this? I’m just going to go online and find any available job that fits my skill set, and send my resume. Something will eventually pop up, and it has to be better than what I’m doing now.” False. The mindset for this must be quality vs. quantity. So, back to the career paths exercise…

Once you make your list, begin thinking about what places in your community you’d like to work. Come up with a list of 30-40 places, and then try to find out who the best person to reach out at those places would be (i.e. directors, VPs, etc. in the department you’d like to join.) Not sure of exactly where you’d like to work? Hop on LinkedIn, and try to contact people in your circles that work there to get their opinions on the professional culture and if it’s somewhere you’d fit in.

Now comes the hard part: marketing yourself. This is where what some people would call “badgering” begins. Let’s not think about it like that… way too negative. Let’s call it “persistence” and ultimately wanting the best career for yourself, and the best employee for the company. You may think this is crazy, especially since there may not be a job posting at these places, but that’s the point! You want to get to them before the rest of the world knows there’s even a position open!

First, send an introduction letter to each company, explaining who you are, why you have an interest in working there and that you’ll be sending a resume and cover letter within a week or so (you want to be sure you’re giving whoever is reading the letter enough breathing room.) It’s important to send this to a specific person, not a department. We’ve all seen the abyss of interoffice mail… enough said.) Then, send your cover letter and resume, pointing out in the cover letter that you’ll be following up with a phone call in a  week. WHAT?! WE’RE GOING TO ACTUALLY PICK UP THE PHONE AND USE OUR VOICES?! Well, yes. So get over it.

Lastly, is the phone call. And of course, this is the hardest part. But that’s why you’re committing to it in the cover letter, so you MUST follow through. Like I said before, this process may seem CRAZY, but it makes sense, right? And based on the stories and statistics Dan provides, it works!

So give this not-so-traditional approach a try. But be sure through all of it, don’t just apply for anything… apply with a purpose, and a passion.

Intrigued about Dan Miller? Check out his blog!

From Sea to Shining Sea

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A soul searcher’s journey

Arizona, Florida, Idaho, New York and North Carolina. Why the random states? Well, believe it or not, those are all the places my best friend has lived in the past nine years. You’re probably thinking it’s because she’s married to someone in the military, or she’s a broadcast journalist who’s had to move into increasingly larger markets. Sorry to burst your bubble, but neither of those scenarios are the case. The reason: she’s trying to find happiness.

Now, you could interpret this many ways: she’s trying to find love, she’s trying to find peace of mind in her day-to-day world, she’s trying to find herself. While I believe all of those are a tad true (depending on the state she lived in,) one thing is for sure: she needs to find what brightens her day. And no, I’m not simply talking about the blistering hot sunshine in Arizona or the gorgeous rays in Florida (after all, it IS the Sunshine State.) I’m talking about what will make the love of her life BE her life, from the time she steps out of bed onto her apartment floor to the time she gets  back into that same bed.

Ironically, this is what my BFF (and I mean that literally… we’ve been stuck together like glue since pre-school,) posted on her Facebook wall today:

“Your journey has molded you for your greater good, and it was exactly what it needed to be. Don’t think that you’ve lost time. it took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the now…. and now is right on time.”

Lots ofthings to think about within that one measly quote, right? But if you dissect it, it’s so true. And definitely a positive way to think about your life. There are so many things I’ve been through in my short 27 years of existence on this earth. My parents divorced when I was 12, my boyfriend in junior high passed away in a snowmobiling accident, I was in a few bad relationships (who wasn’t, right?,) and all kinds of things in between. It’s natural to think, “Why did all of this happen to me?,” or in the case of mentally taxing and hurtful relationships, “Why did I waste so much time?” But I challenge you to shift your paradigm of thinking for a second: what if those “things” hadn’t happened to you? Would you be who you are today? So driven? So sensitive to others around you? I truly believe experiences build character. And for those nasty, rotten people in your life, use them as an example of who not to be. And I promise you’ll be better for it.

“Now is right on time…” that’s something interesting to think about. So many people say “Timing is everything,” and in my experiences, that couldn’t be more true. But there are alot of people out there who wait for timing to happen. Hello, people! “Timing” is now! I know so many people that can’t make decisions. I’m not talking about menial decisions like what to eat for dinner. I’m talking about life-changing decisions, like what your next career move should be, or whether you should make your “dream career” a reality.

In Dan Miller’s 48 Days to the Work You Love, he says he gives big decisions a deadline: two weeks. Any big decision, from inception to finalization, should only take two weeks. This way, you stay focused and it keeps from these grandiose decisions to being pushed to the back burner. Because let’s face it: we all suppress decisions when they are too much for us to extrapolate and really delve into. So try it: two weeks, and deal or no deal.

So let’s recap: you should look at your experiences as character builders and never look at them as wastes of time or energy. But at the same time you should look at every passing second as a new opportunity to forge ahead in life, whether it be in your career or your relationships. That’s alot to digest at once,  huh? Let’s try for baby steps. Give yourself time to marinate in these ideas, and remember: any progress is good progress.

-Ambitioussoul