If you have seen some of my Instagram Stories recently then you are probably already aware of the fact that I have been thinking of how I can set myself up for success! One of the ways I accomplish this is by simply planning things out. I know how easy it is to go through life mindlessly and without a plan. And by that I really mean thinking that everything is under control, but you have not taken the time to think through and put pen-to-paper to plan things out.
There are various areas that one may plan out their lives. You can plan out your day, and steps that you need to take during that day. You can do meal planning. You can also write massive amounts of to do lists, but without a plan to go along with those to do lists where will it get you? Recently, I find myself being the busiest that I have been in a very long time (probably since grad school). During these busy times, I find that planning tasks out to be extremely helpful for me and structuring my life. I probably would not be able to do all of the things that I am doing if it was not for planning! There are several different ways that I do this.
When I plan out my meals, I reference a list of recipes that I enjoy very much and that can also be cooked in batches, and/or put in the freezer for meals at a later time. This list of recipes is a growing list. It is just gathered over time, mostly from Weight Watchers recipes on Instagram! These are some of the accounts I follow for recipe ideas: Skinnytaste and Recipe Diaries. When I reference my list of recipes I also take a look at what I have on hand. What do I have in my refrigerator? What do I have in my freezer? What do I have in my pantry? Then, I try to make sure that I am eating up the foods that will go bad first. This way it helps reduce the amount of food waste that I have. Which in turn reduces the amount of money I actually spend on food!
An easy hack here is to think in terms of what do you actually need from the grocery store versus what do you want in the grocery store. By thinking in these terms you will easily save money because you have done your due diligence and looked at the materials that you have on hand. Not only does that contribute to less food waste, but it also contributes to a reduction in your grocery budget because you are not buying as many groceries as you might think you want.
After I know what I have on hand and what recipes I am interested in for the week I take a look at my calendar. That way I can look at my whole week ahead and see which meals I do need to meal prep for, and which if I have a lunch or dinner planned already I know I do not need to worry about that particular meal. This way I am also reducing the amount of trips to Starbucks, or the local fast food joint because I know that I already have delicious homemade food ready to go for me.
Priority and Task Maintenance
Another way that I plan out my weeks are by simply taking a look at what is due and coming up in the next week. For example, if I have a project from a client that is coming due, I make sure that I block out the time during my planning stages in chunks so I can accomplish more that way. Since I have to juggle many different high priority items in my life, I make sure that each day has very specific goals. Since I have more than a handful of clients I want to make sure that I am catering to each one of their needs. I simply use a spreadsheet to track this out.
On this spreadsheet, I have a list of clients going across a single row with the task or priority listed under each of their names. I make sure the task gets scheduled into a block of time during that week. If it does not come up during that week, but I know it will come up the following week, I list that task under a “Next Week” section on that same spreadsheet. I also make sure that I schedule in time to exercise and attend a Weight Watchers meeting as well as spending time with my friends and family. It is a lot to manage, but this way of having very specific goals for each day for each chunk of time helps me swallow things a lot easier.
I had to figure out a system that worked for me! I essentially think of my day in blocks of 3 hours for my side business. For example, during the week: one hour in the morning, one hour during lunch, and one hour after work. Each block of 1 hour has a specific goal attached. Sometimes, it can be the same goal for the day depending on how much client work I need to get done. On the weekends, I also try to focus on getting as much done as Saturdays as I can so I can enjoy my Sundays. I know I will get there eventually!
Let’s not forget trusty Google Calendar! I also use Google Calendar religiously! For important meetings and phone calls I make sure to not only schedule it on the spreadsheet above, but put it into my google calendar as an appointment with a reminder. The reminders are super helpful as they show up on my cell phone to alert me when I should be calling someone or meeting up with another person. This way I could put the cell phone number, address, or zoom link on the calendar event and I am ready to go! Usually on Google Calendar I will put things related to my day job as well as client meetings, phone calls, and any other family or personal events that are going on in my life. I have everything synced into one calendar.
Social Media Calendar
Separate to everything is my social media calendar. Which I use Asana to schedule out my social media postings for the next couple of weeks. I try to keep in mind what might be happening in our culture as well as any holidays. This is still being developed and definitely in the works. But, having this extra task management app to help move things along is super helpful -- especially since I have team members that help me with my social media postings :-)
I do happen to be organized as well, but don't get me wrong I do have a few junk drawers that are overdue for being cleaned out. But, generally speaking I have a good organizational system going. Even this week I spent a good amount of time re-organizing my files because I am already thinking of the new calendar year and taxes coming due! (I cannot stress how important it is for regular finance maintenance, this way when tax season comes around, you are better prepared and ready for it!)
Let me know in the comments section what your thoughts are on staying organized and planned out.
Happy Planning, Friends!
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Written By: Katie Horning
Katie Horning is an Accounting Professional based in the Los Angeles County area
Unemployment. What a dreaded word! In this blog post I have a dear friend of mine walk us through what she has learned about the unemployment process. Perhaps you have experienced something similar to her story. My heart goes out to each one of you who has had to deal with unemployment currently, or in the past. I would hope that this could bring you some semblance of what do you do when it happens so that you do not feel knocked down on your feet!
I hope it can bring you some comfort to know that the current state of the job market is in its growth phase. As this article states:
“Business’ number one problem is finding qualified workers,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said in a statement. “At the current pace of job growth, if sustained, this problem is set to get much worse. These labor shortages will only intensify across all industries and company sizes.”
If you are a skilled or qualified worker make sure you are following the steps below in order for you to get back on your feet stat!
Take it away, Katie!
In one of my favorite movies, While You Were Sleeping, as the protagonist Lucy is remembering her father she says, “He would get these far-off looks in his eyes and he would say, ’Life doesn’t always turn out the way you plan.’ I just wish I’d realized at the time, he was talking about my life.” Unemployment was never part of my plan. In 2015, I took a risk, leaving a job I had for over five years, to take a contract position for a job I loved, with every hope that this contract would become permanent. However, after a year and a shift in management, the contract ended, and I found myself unemployed. It knocked the wind out of me and left my head spinning.
That’s a bit of my story, and I wanted to share that along with some practical things I learned through that process, in hopes that it may help someone out there.
You’re unemployed; now what?
1. Apply for Unemployment Insurance – Unemployment Insurance will provide a percentage of the income you were receiving while employed. In my case, it was not a sustainable income, but it definitely helped slow the flow out of my savings!
You can do it!
I’m rooting for you!
I get it! Much of our lives are on the go and it just feels easier to use plastic to pay for purchases! But, if you are not tracking your budget on a line item detail, you may forget that you swiped that card earlier to pay for your purchase! This can get very habitual and is also very tempting! I see the same things in the store fronts, and think how cute it would look if I had that exact same purse, or dress, or outfit. Unfortunately, getting into debt for a purse that will make us feel good in the moment, may not make us feel good in the long run. In this blog post I share with you my experience of increasing my credit score in hopes that it will help inform you of what decisions you need to take in order to also increase your credit score.
1. Stop Using Your Credit Cards
My very first piece of advice is to stop using your credit cards irresponsibly. I know, this sounds intuitive, right? But, nonetheless people still need to be reminded of the obvious. Experian, one of the largest credit reporting agencies, completed an annual State of Credit survey based on 2017 data in which it would appear that on the National level, not only does the average consumer think it is good for their credit score to carry a balance, but they also have about $6,375 in credit card debt with an average credit score of 675. In California the average credit card debt is $6,481 with an average credit score of 680.
Credit cards are just SOOOOOOOOO easy to use, trust me -- I speak from experience! There they are sitting in your wallet, waiting to be swiped on your next purchase. Therefore, your first step is to start creating a better relationship with your credit cards rather than an abusive one. Before each swipe of your credit card think twice about it, and ask yourself these questions:
2. Get A Better Interest Rate or Credit Card
The next thing you will need to do is to call your credit card company. When you call them, ask if they are able to provide an interest rate reduction on your larger credit card balances. If you have been a good steward, in that you have been paying on-time for a while now, they should be open to this idea. Also, let them know that you are working hard on paying down your card, but you need their help. The worst thing they can do is decline you -- and if they do, I have a suggestion I will explain in the next paragraph. While you are on the phone with them also make sure that the timing of when your payment is due actually works for your budget. Perhaps your bill is due towards the beginning of the month and that oftentimes can conflict with your rent or mortgage payment.
The following piece of advice should come with a disclaimer. Now, I do not want you to follow this advice if you are prone to abusing your credit cards. This next step includes finding a better credit card. Here’s what I mean by a “better” credit card; the company will allow you to transfer your balance from your highest interest credit card at a zero percent interest rate for the first year. Yes, I am saying to apply for a new credit card! Move your largest balances over, and create a plan to pay that large balance off in twelve months. This means that the plan you create to pay off your credit card balance over the next twelve months will not accrue interest charges, and the payment is going directly to the debt balance instead of the interest. Not only will this help alleviate the money you would spend on interest charges, but opening up a new line of credit responsibly looks very good on your credit report in the long run. In the short run, your credit will take a small dip.
The best part is there are already websites that allow you to monitor your credit report for FREE. PLUS, these services, like WalletHub or Quizzle, also make offers for credit cards that are doing exactly what I suggest. The process is fairly simple, easy, and smooth. Once you enter your information into their website, you can create a *free* account, and then they do an analysis of your credit and make suggestions based on spending trends, debt, and income. But, we must get one thing straight! This new credit card is not for shopping!
3. Stick To The Plan
Paying off a high balance credit card is hard work! It takes discipline and lots of saying “no” to events, and hangouts with friends. You will need to apply yourself very diligently. Part of personal finances is planning out specific aspects of your life that have dollar amounts attached to them. So, identifying those times where it might be hard for you to say no, is the first part of sticking to the plan.
Are there certain people in your life that are always wanting to go out? Whether that be out to dinner, to see a movie, or shopping; all of these activities have a cost associated with them. So, the next time someone invites you to go out, suggest a low-cost activity like going for a walk or to the library; maybe have a “bring your own lunch” picnic in the park. There are plenty of activities you can do to spend time with your friends and loved ones that does not require money! Once you start on the plan and get used to thinking outside the box for free, or cheap things to do, you will notice how it starts to become easier for you.
At this point it might be best if you start thinking in terms of where you see yourself in one year, in two years, in five years, and so on. Thinking of very specific life goals is also helpful in the scenario. Perhaps in two years you do not want to have any debt! So, make the strides now to pay off that debt.
4. Monitor Your Credit Report
Monitoring your credit report is so very important! It is good practice to always make sure that you read through your credit report the very first time you get it to ensure your names, addresses, and events listed are yours.
Then, you want to continue to monitor your credit report on a consistent basis. This will ensure the activity that happens on your report are in fact yours, but that you will notice trends on the data that is provided to you. If you do not use one of the free credit monitoring services, you can always check your report through annual credit report. You can do this at least three times per year for FREE. The key is to make sure you only use one of the credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion) each time. See my previous blog post for more details on what makes up a credit score!
5. Celebrate Your Wins
Being on a budget is hard work! Do not forget to take some time to celebrate your wins in a frugal manner. Once you master your credit card or consumer debt, moving on to add new lines of credit is your next step, but we will not be talking about that here -- keep your eyes on the prize first!
As always, friends, I am here to help and support you on your personal finance and budgeting journey. You can always send me an email to schedule a free no-obligation 30 minute phone call to discuss your needs!
My thoughts on numbers, spreadsheets, money, spending, forecasting, budgeting, and everything in between. Read on!
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