Category: Personal Finance

Mobile Phones: What Every Budget Conscious Person Needs to Know

IMG_4829Like most Americans, I find myself tethered to my phone 24/7. It is without a doubt the most important tech tool I possess. So as you can probably imagine, I’ve always  been very careful to prevent any sort of lapse in payment.

Well, an unfortunate scenario occurred three months ago, or so I thought. My mobile service was disconnected because I was no longer able to come up with the $190 monthly payment. The good news is that I eventually paid the bill and had it restored.

Here’s what I discovered as a result of this experience. I was being charged for way more mobile data than I could possibly ever need. So I made a visit to my phone carrier retail store and reduced my data package to one gigabyte. The savings:  $90 per month.

My new monthly bill was therefore reduced to $100 plus tax and fees. Sounds more reasonable, huh? Well, not really when you consider the fact that I found myself now paying for what amounted to a phone number and 1GB of data. So I am now pondering the unthinkable: cancelling both my cell number and data plan.

Why would I do such a crazy thing when one could argue that 1GB of data is woefully inefficient? The simple answer – I have little need for a pricey data plan given the abundance of low or no-cost Wi-Fi available at public locations or via a mobile hotspot.

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The Lebenskϋnstler Lifestyle

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“I put my talent into my work, but my genius into my life.”

Oscar Wilde

Some of my friends characterize me as a dictionary fanatic, an opinion that was recently reinforced when I became intrigued by a new word I stumbled across: Lebenskϋnstler.

The word evokes an archetype that to this day continues to have an influence on the German ethos, particularly as it relates to Berlin culture and nightlife. It connotes a person who, though not actually an artist, pursues life with the same zeal as a passionate artist, making life magical in myriad ways, putting a positive spin on everything and taking delight in the little things that others overlook. Such a person could best be described as a Life Artist.

This echoes today’s evolving millennial mindset; one where ripe opportunities are recognized and seized in an attempt to make the most out of our lives. It’s a life course that’s deliberate, yet fraught with profound risk. For these folks, it’s the deep path of life that holds importance, rather than a static destination.

Lebenskϋnstlers are fiercely independent, individualists who see themselves as architects of their own freedom. In this way, they reflect the core values of Hank Reardon, the hero highlighted in Ayn Rand’s perennial best-selling book, Atlas Shrugged. They care little about their next deal or the Big Win. Instead, only the present moment matters, and how they can create meaning right now.

These individuals are also susceptible to what I affectionately call Career Polyamory. Instead of being faithful to one career, they have dalliances with multiple jobs, designed to meet their psychic needs and/or pay the bills. They are the proverbial freelancers who – in contrarian fashion – abhor rules, bosses, suits, small talk and even formal offices.

Check Your Spending With These Two Questions

question road signWe have all been there. We vow to cut back on spending and save a certain amount of money, only to buy a few big ticket items that we vainly try to rationalize. The purchase might even have made sense at the time, but when we review our finances, our savings goals are far out of sight! Here are two simple questions to ask yourself – before you make a big ticket purchase.

1: Do I Need It?

It seems obvious: don’t buy things you don’t need! Of course, this is also the hardest question to ask and to answer honestly. A new car? If your current one is doing fine, and you just wanted that new car smell and extra features, then no. A new TV? Already have one, I just wanted the latest high-resolution screen.

If you answer ‘No’ to the first question, then the process is already over. Move on and try to forget about it. But you might be asking, “So I can never buy anything I don’t need because it isn’t financially the most prudent thing to do? Haven’t you ever heard of something called enjoying life?

A Slight Edge Makes a Huge Impact

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A few years ago on a flight home from Portland to Denver, I interrupted a woman seated next to me who was deeply engaged in a book. “What are you reading?” I inquired. “Oh, it’s an amazing book called The Slight Edge. You ought to check it out.” And with that, she returned to the book without uttering another word for the remainder of the trip.

I jotted the title down, only to be reminded of it a month or so ago when I randomly found it in my Evernote cache.

So what’s the principle message of The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines Into Massive Success and Happiness? Quite simply, it is that success and failure are largely predicated on the small choices that we either make or don’t make each day. The truth is that these choices will do little to change the trajectory of our lives in the short-term. However, compounded over time, they have a massive positive or negative impact on our lives.

The Wu Wei of Responsible Budgeting

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 The New Year has arrived, and it promises untold opportunities for wealth-building! However, tapping into the storehouse of financial gain involves a responsible approach to budgeting. It requires a thorough assessment of how your inflow and outflow of money should ideally align. Most importantly, it demands a commitment to establish sound money practices; something  that is usually not high on our priority list.

Whenever I hear the word budget, it conjures up thoughts of an arduous and time-consuming process. Much of this is due to the fact that ‘money’ is imbued with all sorts of emotions and, at times, uncomfortable feelings.

In the Taoist tradition which I closely follow, there is a Chinese concept called ‘Wu Wei’ (pronounced ooooh way) that offers a poignant perspective in our quest for sound money management. It essentially means ‘non-doing’ or ‘effortless action’, a life course that is devoid of struggle or excessive effort. With practice, it enables an unconscious mental state which allows our actions to flow with the natural rhythms of life.

Below are three foundational pillars which embody the Wu Wei of budgeting responsibly. When pursued with awareness and small doses of focus, they can lead to higher levels of equilibrium between what we earn and what we spend.

Daily Practice

Ensuing from the simple practice of examining your budget are unconscious habits that make managing your money just like breathing. The key here is practice, engaging in this ritual on a regular basis to foster improvement. By way of example, an element of all championship sports teams is their commitment to practice, the absence of which would lead to mediocrity. Similarly, maintaining an effective budget involves preparation and looking at one’s history while also anticipating what’s ahead.