Monday, February 18, 2008

Learn to Set Goals

Do you have a goal that you're working towards? One of the most important aspects of successfully saving to quit is having a concrete goal that you are working towards. That involves learning to set goals.

What? Do you really need to learn to set goals? Isn't a goal just a dream that you have for the future?

Well, yes and no. You may dream of winning the lottery, but that's not a very realistic goal. Quitting your job to work on your own business, however, can be realistic.

Successful and unsuccessful people are largely separated by the ability to set goals and follow through to see them accomplished. It's actually that simple.

Learning to set goals is not really's sticking to them and acting on them that usually falls by the wayside.

But here's what you should do:

  1. Write down your goal and make it specific. Include an end date. For example, you might want to say "In one years time, I will have an article published in a magazine."
  2. Break your goal down into smaller steps. In the above example, some of the smaller steps might be brainstorming ideas, querying the magazines, and actually writing the article. Make sure that you are also very specific in the steps you are writing too. You may want to say something like "I will send three query letters every week."
  3. Schedule time to work on these smaller steps. I know that it's sometimes difficult to make that time, especially when you're working a 9-5 job, but it's probably the most important thing. Without taking action, your dreams will just sit there. If you spend just a little bit of time working on them, however, you'll get closer and closer to actually accomplishing them.
  4. Enlist help. You may need some help in achieving your goals. Don't be afraid to ask for it. Ask some friends to look over your query letters. Network with people who can help you out.
  5. Revise as necessary. You may find that things come up and you may have to push your date back. Maybe you don't yet have all the skills needed to achieve your goal. Maybe you find that another goal is starting to take priority. This is all OK.

When you learn to set goals, you are setting yourself up for success. Setting goals (and following through on them) is sure to help you achieve your dreams.

If you want to learn more about how my husband and I achieved our dream of saving enough money to quit our jobs and start a business, check out Save to Quit.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Is Saving Boring?

With my recent "Should I spend the money on a new computer?" stress, I've been thinking a lot more about saving money vs. spending money on things that you want/need.

When we were saving to quit our jobs, it was very easy to save money. We had a big goal that we were working towards and the end was in site.

But now that that goal has been completed, and we're pretty much doing what we want to be doing, I'm finding that it's a lot harder to save.

Our next savings goal is for a house (or possibly a new car if our current one dies). But of course, it takes a lot more money to save up for a house than it does to save up a year's salary. At least, when you're looking at real estate in Hawaii and assuming that you want to pick the house that you'll live in for your whole life.

It's like suddenly, $30 here and there doesn't seem like that much money. I mean, it's just a drop in the bucket.

Of course I believe it's important to save, but where do you draw the line between the good feeling of building your savings and the bad feeling that comes with completely going without.

There are always little things that you may want to buy. When you are being extremely frugal, building your savings towards a goal, you start to forgo those little things. But sometimes you just really want it.

Frankly, sometimes saving IS boring.

Now, I'm not talking about going shopping for Chanel or Louis Vuitton...things that I feel are completely unnecessary. But things like a new dress to wear to my husbands annual work retreat (for me not him). Or a gym membership.

My family frequently gives money for birthday or Christmas gifts. That money has often just gone "into our savings", which in a sense feels like it's going towards paying the bills. Which kind of sucks because I know that when people are giving me money, they're giving it so that I can "get something nice for [myself]." My mom expressed a lot of frustration over this when I was talking to her about the computer.

It's good to save your money, especially when you're working on a goal. But sometimes I just want to spend.

How do you deal with this?

Friday, February 8, 2008

New Computer, New Me

I'm going to get a bit personal here, so if you don't like that, then just go ahead and move on.

A few days ago my computer broke. I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but my computer was a Mac Ibook...G3. I bought it used several years ago. It was slow and dying anyway, but just one day the screen wouldn't work anymore. I tried following tech notes to fix it, to no avail.

Well, that put me in a bit of a sticky situation. I pretty much need a computer. All of the work that I do is online. Yes, my husband has a computer that I could technically use...but have you ever tried to use someone else's computer? First, I hate the physical positioning of his computer. I have a really hard time typing on it. Second, his operating system is in Japanese, which is OK in most instances...but he's got all these security alerts set up that I can't read in Japanese so I end up clicking on things and screwing up the computer for him.

Comp USA is closing, so they had macs on sale 10% off. I really really wanted one...but I was having a hard time getting it.

This is probably going to sound silly to you, because hey...I needed a computer. But I had a really hard time buying something brand new.

I grew up pretty poor. I don't resent or have any hard feelings about my upbringing because I know that it was a lot better than some of my friends' who had more money. But we didn't have much. While other kids my age would have wished for a new car on their 16th birthday or a new computer when they went off to college, I knew that those were things that my mom was unable to buy for me. I never asked for them and never even hoped for them.

I rarely buy things new if I can get them used. It's part frugality....but the other part was that I guess I never felt like I deserved nice new things.

Isn't that silly? I mean, I literally have enough money to buy a brand new computer, I know that my husband has used "our money" for things that were just as expensive, yet I still had a hard time spending that much money on myself.

I cried for two days.

Finally my mother convinced me that I was worth it. And after I confessed to my husband what I was really feeling about it, he felt so bad and told me that I was totally worth it.

So now I'm typing on my new computer. And I'm trying to convince myself that I do deserve nice things...

The funny thing too is (especially if you believe in the Law of Attraction), as soon as I bought the new computer...almost $300 has unexpectedly come my way. I mean, it was money that I knew I would get some time, but it came a lot faster that I thought.

Go figure.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Scared to Buy a New Car?

I sure am. I'm pretty sure that our car is about to bite the dust. And there's no reason that it shouldn't. It's a 12 year old mini-van that only cost $1500 a year ago. It owes us nothing. It's been a good car.
But it means that I'm facing the scary prospect of buying a new (to me) car. And that scares me.
See, I've never actually done this. I tried once, when I got my first job out of college. But my credit score was bad/non-existent at the time and so I was turned down. I remember feeling so humiliated about that. After all, a friend of mine had just financed a used car and I made significantly more money than she did.
I hate negotiating and I hate people trying to rip me off. And you always hear stories of car salespeople being like that. My husband's not good at things like that either, so I can't defer to him (and even if he was, I'd have to handle all of the arrangements because his English isn't that good).
Well, fortunately, I mentioned this to my friend, who loaned me a copy of the book href="">What
Car Dealers Won't Tell You. This book is fascinating!
I'm not even that far into it, but I'm just so excited about it that I had to post! It's written by Bob Ford, who's been working in the car sales business for over 30 years. So far, it walks you through all of the steps that the car salesperson will go through to get you to buy. Little tricks that they may play depending on the type of buyer you are. It gives you hints on what to say and when to say it. And provides a bunch of checklists to make sure that you are getting what you want (and not getting extras that you don't need).
I'm so happy that I'll be walking into the dealership with this knowledge floating around in my head. I'm still a little nervous, but I'm feeling much more confident. Still might not go for awhile, but I'll let you know when I do.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

How Do You Spend Your Free Time?

When you have free time, how do you spend it? Do you veg out in front of the TV? Do you read a good book? Go for a walk? Work on your business?
I believe that how you spend your free time says a lot about how successful you will be in the world.
OK, I have a confession to make. I used to smoke a lot of pot. I'd come home from work, smoke pot with my friends and sit in front of the TV. I'd have ideas of things that I wanted to get done, but never the motivation to do anything.
I know that not everyone smokes a lot of pot, but a lot of people do come home from work and just sit in front of the TV. And let's face it...a lot of what's on TV is STUPID.
When I moved to Japan, I stopped smoking pot and I didn't have a TV to watch (Well, I had a TV, but the shows were in Japanese and Japanese TV is only funny the first few times). This increased my productivity dramatically. Finally, I was able to get things done.
If you have big dreams, you have to work on them. You can't just sit around and wait for something to have to make something happen yourself.
It's really all about inertia. If you sit around doing nothing, then you're more likely to just keep sitting around doing nothing.
However, if you make a commitment to work for just 15 minutes on whatever project or goal you have in mind...then you're more likely to keep on working at it.
So if you want to reach your goals, commit to just 15 minutes. Everybody can spare 15 minutes right?

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Does Payment Affect Your Effort?

I've been thinking about this a lot lately due to my freelance writing efforts. I don't know how many of my readers have looked into different forms of freelance writing, but there is a huge range in how much writers are offered for their writings.

On one hand, you have people looking for content for article marketing, websites and blogs. Through sites like elance, many people are looking to pay writers about $3/article. These are articles between 300-500 words.

A bit more standard of a price for web content articles seems to be $7-10 per article.

I've been paid $45 for some web content articles, but I think I may have been "lucky" to get that gig, as many people say that those jobs are few and far between.

Now, on the flipside, if you were writing for a traditional print magazine, you could get $1/word (give or take).

Reading various forums where the different types of writers gather, I've noticed that there is a huge difference in the amount of time put into these articles. For example, on sites where there are a lot of content writers, you'll see discussions about how to write your content faster...many people claim to be able to write 4 or more articles in an hour. On the other hand, on forums which feature more traditional writers, you'll see them talking about how it takes them a week to write an article, including research, interviews, writing, and editing.

And it seems natural right...I mean, if you're only getting a couple of dollars per article, then you really need to whip out articles quickly to be able to get a livable salary from your efforts. If you're going to make $1000 for the article, you can afford to take your time and put in a really good effort.

Nobody will admit to slacking off when they are not getting paid a lot though. Everyone always says that they turn out the same quality of article, no matter how much they are getting paid. I just don't believe that this is true.