Tell Your Money Where to Go

The first task I’ve completed on my way to become a Money Master is to tweak my budget. (If you cringe at the idea of a budget, think of it as a Conscious Spending Plan instead.) It didn’t take me very long, since I already had a good understanding of my finances.


It’s nice to know that all of your bills are taken care of, and that you can go out and spend money guilt-free. A spending plan allows you to do exactly this. When the money in the “guilt-free spending” category is gone, I’m done for the month. However, I can spend that category on whatever I wish. Ahh… the freedom!

The basic idea

The first step in telling your money where it should go is to have an idea of where it currently disappears to. To find out, track your spending habits for a month. You might want to use, an app on your smart phone, or a simple legal pad. Once you know where you spend your money, you will be able to build your spending plan.

A Template

The basic template that I used for my budget only has 5 broad categories. I love this simplicity.

  • Fixed costs – 60%
  • Retirement savings – 10%
  • Long-term savings – 10%
  • Short-term savings for irregular expenses – 10%
  • Fun money – 10%

Fixed Costs

These are the things that you have to pay each month: rent, utilities, car payments, debt payments, insurance premiums, groceries, etc. Fortunately, they normally don’t fluctuate very much from month to month. This makes it easier to plan. After adding all of these together, add 15% to the total. Trust me, you’ll be glad that you have this bit of extra when you need it (think of those extra cold days when the heater is running over-time and runs your bill up).

Retirement Savings

If you’re not adding money to your retirement account on a regular basis, you should be. While 10% is a good rule of thumb, this amount is likely to change over your life. When you’re younger, it will probably be less, and increase as you get older. The most important thing is to be investing something each month, even if you can only manage $10.

Long-term Savings

Long-term savings include things like a wedding, new car, or the down payment for a new house. They’re called long-term for a reason, they’re often a number of years in the future. It’s easier to save big chunks of money over a lot of years than having to come up with it quickly, however.

Short-term Savings

These are often the items that blow our budgets, because we fail to plan for them. Save up a little each month for Christmas and birthday presents instead of having to put it all on your credit card when November rolls around. Vacations are so much more enjoyable when you have the cash set aside before you head out, so start saving for your trip now.

Fun Money

Finally, our favorite category! This category includes whatever you do for fun. It includes things like purses, eating out, going to the movies, drinking, buying books, or spending money on gadgets. There are two important things to keep in mind with this category: spend on whatever you want, until you run out of money. Once this category is gone for the month, stop spending! Knowing that you can go out with your friends, or buy that new thing you want without worrying about breaking the budget is an amazing feeling. Guilt-free spending at its best!

Now what?

I’ve put together my spending plan, so I know where my money goes each month. The next step is to figure out what I don’t want to spend money on so that I can live the fullest life possible.

In the next post I’ll show you how I am going to do all of the things that I want to, and you can do the same! Until then, I’d love to hear what your Fun Money will be going for. Leave a comment or shoot me an email.

Becoming a Money Master

On Monday, I mentioned that I want to optimize my personal finances and then increase my income. I want to become a Money Master.

What is a Money Master?

A Money Master is someone who is in control of their finances without requiring a lot of maintenance time each month. They know how much income they have, outgo they spend, and know how much they can spend on anything that they please. Ideally, they are debt free, or at least actively working toward that goal.

Where I stand

I have a good start to being a Money Master, but still have many improvements to make to my personal finance system. My finance tracker has helped me a great deal, though I have recently switched over to (because they automatically pull my information and I don’t have to enter it manually).

  • It takes less than a hour a month to manage my finances.
  • I know roughly how much income I have each month.
  • On average, I know how much outgo I have.
  • I have only school debt, and a plan to pay it down as soon as I graduate.

Improvements to make

The good start above can be improved further, so that I can become a Money Master.

  • My finances can be further automated, so that my bills will be paid even when I am away on vacation.
  • I can find an account that offers higher interest rates than I currently have.
  • My budget can be tweaked to make it less complicated.
    Last but not least…
  • I can earn more money

Join me!

Over the next few weeks I will be applying what I know about personal finance. Knowledge gleaned from books like I Will Teach You To Be Rich, The Total Money Makeover, and Financial Peace will be put to use. I will have a finance system that will require almost no time each month, but will ensure my bills are paid, savings are growing, investments are also growing, debt is being paid off, and that I have money left over to spend however I want.

Let me know if you’re going to join me!

Adventure Wanted

As I look back over my recent posts, I’ve noticed a disturbing theme: I’m not going on many adventures recently. Certainly not as many as I would like.

So far as I can tell, there are three main reasons for this:

  1. Lack of money
  2. Lack of time
  3. Focusing on big adventures

These are all pretty common excuses that I have fallen subject to. Let’s discuss how to beat them.

Lack of money

While my finances are organized and pretty well under control, they could be better optimized. I just finished reading I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi and will be following the to-do’s that are outlined. It provides an easy-to-follow system that automates your finances.
Once I have this system put together, I will be in a good position to address the problem of not enough money (and really, how many people will say that they do have enough?) According to Ramit, it’s easier to make more money than it is to save more money. My wife and I are pretty frugal already, so now it’s time to raise the income.

Lack of time

School, work, marriage, and everything else in my life. There’s not enough time for everything that I want to do. Fortunately, I have my short list of important things. It’s time to go through my life again and pare down the items that don’t directly advance my interests in the items on the short list. I want to keep my focus on the truly important things in my life.

Focusing on big adventures

I’ve fallen into the trap of only thinking about big adventures. “I want to go see the Moonbow again!” “What about our week-long road trip next month?” These are great adventures, but it’s easy to overlook the small ones that I can take here at home. Trying a new restaurant, checking out the new exhibit at the art museum, enjoying a bike ride with my wife when the weather turns unseasonably warm for a weekend.

The Good News

These are common excuses that everyone falls into. Fortunately, they can be over-come. I can figure out how to make more money (even if it just means taking on a few more hours at work), can find some activities to cut out so that I can free up time (do I really need to be keeping up with those shows on netflix?) and paying attention to the opportunities for daily adventure (time to check out some of the restaurants on my to-try list).

What are you doing to find adventure in your life?

Doing Stuff

I’m an information junkie who loves to research and read. I dive headfirst into whatever the new topic that catches my attention is, reading everything that I can about it: subscribing to blogs, reading books, checking out magazines, and talking to people about it.

What does all that information do?

Unfortunately, as good as I am about gathering information, I’m not nearly as good at acting on it. Knowing how to use it, yes. Creating plans of what and when to take the next step, certainly. Getting things done, not so much. So, for all the time I spend collecting information and learning what to do, I don’t actually get anything done.

Stop learning, start acting!

In order to combat this, I’m going to slow my learning. I don’t need to research, learn, or discover more. While I certainly don’t know everything, I know enough to get started. Progress will fuel my desire to learn more, but it will also help me to focus better, as I will then have more specific questions to find answers for.

What about you?

Are you an information gatherer or someone who takes action? Will you join me as I begin focusing on results instead of information?

Share what project you have been researching in the comments.

Sometimes We Need Help

When I looked back over January to see how I’d been progressing on my goals, I felt good about having made solid progress on many of them. A few, however, weren’t quite working out as I’d planned. My fitness goal, for example, has gone exactly no-where. After two work-outs, nothing more has been done.

And so I needed help. After looking around for some time, I decided to try Thrive90 Fitness. I don’t have a lot of time to spare, so I wanted a program that my wife and I could do at home, together, without a lot of special equipment. Thrive90 was designed to meet exactly those requirements.

Thrive 90

Once I received the program, I was even more pleased with my choice. There isn’t a huge learning curve to understand the exercises, the workout routines are all simple to understand, and even the nutrition guidelines are laid out in a straightforward manner. My wife and I immediately implemented some of their advice (such as the sample recipes they give) and printed out the worksheets so that we could track our progress.

Help found

Sure, I know how to work out. I already understand the exercises that I need to do, both how to do them and what they will do for me. After a few years of sporadic reading I understand nutrition and how what I eat affects my body. All of this knowledge doesn’t make me get up a few minutes earlier each morning to complete the exercise routine that I want to do.

Having a plan laid out for me will, though. I know that if I miss one day’s workout, I’ll be behind. Even better, the creators of Thrive90 are there to motivate me. They send a weekly email to check in on you and see how you’re doing. If you respond to it with a question or comment, they reply (I just got some nutrition advice for when you’re sick). That external motivation makes a huge difference. I feel like I’m not only letting down myself, but those guys as well.

Find your help

Maybe you don’t need help working out, but you want financial advice. Or you need someone to tell you what you should and shouldn’t eat, or something else. Take the time to invest in yourself and find the information and motivation that you need.

If you do want to lose weight, feel sexier, and not waste a lot of time getting there, check out Thrive 90.

Thrive 90

Can’t Never Could

Dad always had a ready response any time he heard me say “I can’t do it!”

Can’t never could.

Even though I strongly disliked that phrase as a teenager, those three words contain a lot of wisdom.

  • “I can’t start my own business.”
  • “I can’t lose any weight.”
  • “I can’t support myself as an artist.”
  • “I can’t ask for a raise at work.”
  • “I can’t travel around the world.”

As long as you keep saying these phrases, or any similar to them, you will be absolutely correct. Change a couple of words, however, and you never know what could happen.

  • “I don’t know how to start my own business.”
  • “I haven’t yet lost any weight.”
  • “I don’t support myself as an artist.”
  • “I will research how to ask for a raise at work.”
  • “I will travel around the world.”

Removing the world can’t from your vocabulary will make a huge difference in your life. Even if you don’t want to quit your job and travel the world, you can build the life that you have always dreamed of.

But I don’t know how!

Fortunately, there is now an easy-to-read guide available that will teach you how to turn your can’ts into cans! Released today (I had a sneak-peak since I’ve been a Practical Nerd reader for some time now.) If you want simple and practical guidelines to overcoming the can’ts in your life, you should check out Subliminal Captivity: Why We Tell Ourselves To Give Up.

Even though I grew up hearing “Can’t never could”, I still found Subliminal Captivity to be full of great information that will be really helpful in my life. Best of all? It’s free! (You don’t even have to give your email address.) Check it out!

Are Your Goals Progressing?

January is now over. Traditionally, most people’s resolutions have been forgotten (or will be in the next two weeks). Fortunately, we didn’t make resolutions. We made an Action Plan!

How are you doing?

If you took the time to create an action plan, and set up a system that would enable you to automatically work toward your goals, you should already be seeing some progress.

Here’s what I’ve done

  • Started working on my business
    • Created website and initial content
    • Wrote first ebook, that will be given away for free
  • Had friends over for pizza and games
  • Kept in touch with family and friends via phone or email
  • Purchased a backrest and luggage rack for Ms. Peeps (a requirement for the spring break and summer trips)
  • Read 5 books, with two more in progress and a third waiting for me at the library. Plus that book I’m reading for my class at school.
  • Successfully avoided sodas, excluding the occasional IBC root beer, from the bottle.
  • Continued sketching
  • Scheduled participation in an art show in a gallery
  • Built an easel and set up a work station so that I always have a work in progress ready to go.
  • Planned out 12 dates, went on one, and scheduled February’s.
  • Turned in the paperwork for my Business Minor.
  • Turned in the paperwork for my Art History minor.

Wow! No wonder I’m tired. But I’m making progress, and it’s a wonderful feeling to look back and see how far I’ve come already, one step at a time.

What about you?

How are your goals progressing? If you’re not quite where you want to be, don’t forget that you can change your plans! After all, they’re your plans. Maybe that means just starting over at the beginning again. Perhaps you need to spread things out a bit further. Sometimes you just need to let some things drop. Whatever the case may be, don’t give up just because you’re not exactly where you want to be yet. You can get there!

Let us know how you’re doing, either through comments or email. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

How to Get 4 Free Plane Tickets Every Year

Join the Travel Hacking Cartel
Want to travel more? Don’t want to pay high prices to do so? Fortunately for all of us who do, Chris Guillebeau just launched the Travel Hacking Cartel.

What is it?

The goal of the Travel Hacking Cartel is to democratize free travel. Chris and his team plan to demystify the process of travel hacking. Our members can “go anywhere, anytime.”

What you get

  1. Regular “Deal Alerts” sent via email and SMS/text message (when a big opportunity comes up, our members will be the first to know)
  2. Tutorials and an extensive Knowledge Base to get people started (our research showed that most people have no idea what to do with miles and points… we’ll tell them)
  3. The Refer-a-Hacker Program that pays members 500 Frequent Flyer Miles for each referral (we’ve tried to make this process extremely easy – everyone has their own referral link directly in their account settings)
  4. The “World’s Greatest Guarantee” – if members follow our directions and spend at least 30 minutes a month travel hacking, they’ll earn enough miles for at least 1 plane ticket every quarter, or 4 plane tickets a year (we also provide info on how to redeem miles for great awards)

Maybe Monday’s post about Becoming a Frequent Flier Master piqued your interest. Here’s the chance to get more serious about it, to really earn those points and actually use them to go places!

Let’s Travel!

I don’t know about you, but I love the idea of getting to travel for free. My wife and I have a lot of places that we want to visit, and being able to get 4 free tickets a year, guaranteed! is definitely something we’ll be doing.

I’m already a member of the Travel Hacking Cartel. Won’t you join me? Let’s go traveling!

Join the Travel Hacking Cartel

How to Travel More

Do you wish that you traveled more often? Wish it didn’t cost so much? I’m right there with you. My to-visit list can be summed up into “everywhere”. However, I can’t afford to buy a plane ticket across the country, much less across the ocean.

Fortunately for both of us, Chris over at the Art of NonConformity has written a fabulous guide to help us out. Chris knows a few things about traveling, and making it affordable, since he’s given himself 5 years to visit every country in the world (and has visited more than 125 of them thus far). In this guide he has condensed the knowledge he has gained during more than 8 years of travels.


Frequent Flier Master

Become a Frequent Flier Master
No, you don’t have to actually frequently fly to make use of this guide, but it will help you be able to fly more often. There are numerous ways to earn frequent flier miles (almost half of which don’t involve having a credit card), and this guide comes with a fabulous “earn enough miles for a free ticket or your money back” guarantee.

What more could you ask for? A risk-free chance to earn enough frequent flier miles to fly for free. I’m going to be putting the information in that guide to use, because I want to start actually visiting those places on my list. Dreaming about them just isn’t enough.

What about you? Go check out the guide.