I think new years resolutions are too random- why start losing weight on January 1. It’s such a random date. I suggested you start now– whenever you are reading this. Go ahead I’ll wait.
But there is one item that makes sense to start with January 1st- gain control of of your finances. January 1st is good because you know exactly when you started your tracking. You know how to gain control of your finances, but here’s a refresher:
- Figure out what you spend money on.
- Determine where you can save money (I called up my cell phone company and saved $32 a month by switching to a different plan and canceling phone insurance)
- Set up a budget- Save all you can
- Find ways to earn more
The hardest part of this is getting started. Do you know what you spend money on? I suggest you build a system (a machine) to make this automatic. Get your bank and credit cards to automatically update your data in a personal finance program like Quicken or Money or online at a site like Mint.
There will be some setup time but in the future you’ll be able to just click a couple of buttons and you’ll know exactly where you stand financially.
Doesn’t is seem like a fact that although you’re good all the time, the one time you make a mistake people remember that. It’s true. Memories are short, people take what they can remember.
Sports have many such examples: Think of Billy Buckner. A good career went bad with one ball that went through his legs. Scott Norwood missed one (missed Super Bowl) kick.
Now look at your life. Look at your coworkers, friends think about them. You may remember 1 good (or bad ) item right away and that’s your opinion of them.
There are two lessons to take out of this: 1) dont just picture people for one moment. Someone may be living on past glory. 2) Make your quality known when things are going routinely smooth. Create a moment by using a stat (e.g. you made no errors this year), highlighting some changes you’ve made to ensure the system is working effectively or simply forwarding praise you received from someone else to your boss.
Now go make a moment!
As we sit comfortably just killing some time reading it’s unfathomable to think that there are some people who are hungry- they just don’t have food to eat. I’m not here to lecture anyone or to start a movement, the Blog Action Day site is taking some good steps for that. I’ll talk about what I know- machine building- and how to use it to stop poverty or at least make it a little better.
- Eat less- this will lower demand (and scarcity and prices)
- Don’t let food spoil- it takes money out of your wallet.
- Take less on your plate- you dont want to throw out leftovers.
- Consider those less fortunate- invite friends over who have reached hard times. Your small gesture can help.
- Give away your old clothes- Is your old clothes to small? Too Big? Give it to those less fortunate so they have less expenses to worry about. Many organizations will come to your house to pick up those clothes.
Globally the solution is simple- ship off our leftovers and stop using food inefficiently (e.g. powering cars) but most of all give people the tools to take care of themselves growing their own food efficiently etc. In other words let them build their own food making machine.
This morning my five year old was trying to get the tap water to come out warm. He kept fiddling with the hot valve to try to get it just right. This was a time consuming process. A simpler solution of course is to use the cold valve (which I explained to him).
Often when we are solving a problem we concentrate exclusively on one tactic- missing a parallel tactic. Here’s three examples where looking at alternative solutions can speed up success:
Most people think about exercise when it comes time to stay fit. How about just eating less, a little less at a time.
There are two ways to balance your out of wach budget: spend less and make more. Most people only look to one or the other- they should use both.
There are two ways to achieve career advancement: promotions within or moving to a new company. Most people pick one tactic or the other. Some people always look to move on. “They just don’t appreciate me here” they say. But the pattern repeats itself at each job they take. They should consider trying to make their current company appreciate them and realize what their contribution is. Sometimes just asking for a promotion is enough to get the ball rolling. Try to get concrete steps on what the criteria for the promotion is.
Then there are others who just stay at a company for a long time waiting for their promotion. They have been promised a promotion or were told “soon’ but the promotion never comes. This may be because the company doesn’t adequately value your contribution and perhaps never will. It may be time to look externally. Start feeling around for a new job.
In any task your doing, think about other approaches. That may give you an easier way to acheive your goal.
What are your challenges?
photo credit: Dan4th
The best way to expand habits is to build on an existing habit and make it part of the habit.
Here’s my recent use of this technique: I always forget to water the lawn (and when I remember I sometimes forget to turn it off) as a result the grass in the little patch in front of my house turned brown. On the other hand each morning I go running- it’s a habit that I instilled by having my alarm going on early. So now I just turn on the sprinkler (a hose with a plastic oscillating extension) when I start my run. When I take my son out to wait for the bus an hour later he or I turn it off (it’s either that or walking through a shower- so we’re forced to do it).
What habit are you building?
In a recent article Minimize Transactions Costs for a Healthy Marriage in The New York Times Daniel Hamermesh points out that have a system even your marriage can improve. Of course that’s true. If you put time wasting steps (where’s my pills?) on autopilot you can accomplish so much more. Argue less and make sure you take the right pills.
One of the foundations of a Success Making Machine is setting up systems that work and let them run automated. For example, I have my utilities (gas, electric, phone) set up with automatic recurring payments. As long as charges are within range I need to take no action. But I make it a point to review my utilities periodically to make sure I’m still paying market prices. Here’s my successful recent “system review”. I’ve had equivalent success with reducing auto insurance (50%), gas(5%) and other utilities.
Here’s my latest story. My internet/cable/phone (triple play) company sent me a notice that they were increasing their price by $15 a month. That was the last straw- their fees were inching up monthly and I was being bombarded with ads from their competition that their prices were lower.
Try to work it out
First I called my old company to see if they had a better (or at least equivilant) deal. This has been a helpful strategy in the past. It’s worth it for me to keep the old company even if they just match the deal because I’ll save the headache of switching. They couldn’t do better than the new deal- but still offered me something better than what I currently had. I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be missing something- so I asked. They admitted that the new deal was superior. With a superior deal and without any loss of features I knew it was time to switch.
In with the New
I called the ad to make sure it was legit. It was. As I was deciding which package to get the company rep offered me better and better deals. I ended up with a free DVR, an extra install line and some more free channels- all for a lower price than I previously paid (before the increase).
Out with the old
After the new service was successfully installed I called to cancel the old one (I don’t cancel in advance in case something goes wrong). Interestingly, the “customer retention rep” who took my cancellation was prepared to offer me some good deals not offered elsewhere- I didn’t pursue the conversation because after installation it’s not worth it for me to switch again. An addition lesson here is talk to numerous people in the same company.
Next Action: Try this with your utilities. They should be reviewed annualy. Let me know how much you save.
photo credit: whiteafrican