My 3 financial New Year's resolutions to stop being such a garbage person
You know that saying, "Do as I say, not as I do?" That's me.
But, to be honest?
I was chowing down on takeout like the rest of you — and hesitate to count all the deep-fried appetizers I ordered to hit that $15 delivery minimum.
One of the best-but-also-worst aspects of being a financial reporter is I know the potential consequences of being such a garbage person: I've lost count of all the studies on debt and insufficient retirement balances that have come across my desk. At least I can't blame ignorance.
When I look at the receipts (literally) there's little doubt I could do better. Beyond my self-defeating Seamless habit and weekly bar tabs, there's that bevy of outstanding Venmo requests that — I swear to God, Justin — I keep meaning to get to.
But there's hope: The new year offers an opportunity to change.
And luckily for me — and my poor roommates — my job provides me with a public platform to officially renounce my bad habits for everyone to see.
So here goes. These are my three big 2017 resolutions.
1. Create a budget — with spreadsheets and everything.
I have no business complaining about being financially underprivileged (I may or may not have worn a blazer in the fourth grade), but like most non-investment banker 20-somethings, I tend to vacillate between one of two states: "not having money" — and the wildly preferable "having money."
Yet no matter how soul-crushing it feels to check my bank account during the uglier times of the month, I can't seem to will myself to spend less day to day.
The best way to redress this, according to virtually any financial professional you'd care to ask, is to — sigh — make a budget. This is basically mandatory, but only one in three Americans actually does it.
But the truth? A budget doesn't have to be fancy. I even made you a sample.
My colleague Natasha did a deeper dive on how to make a budget — quickly and easily — if you need a little help figuring out your own spreadsheet.
For a truly accurate, actually helpful budget you'll have to break out the bank statements, which unfortunately rarely lie. Until you're looking at actual numbers, your Friday PBR-intake is likely costing a lot more than you think.
The obvious fix for me?
To take that $500 I'm spending frivolously, and save most of it first — automatically, with an app. Then I'll have less to drink up.
The upside: Not only will I have more cash to pay back Justin (thanks again, buddy!) but I also won't have to downgrade the accommodations on my next romantic vacation with the lady.
There are only so many scary hotel rooms you can wind up in before bae revokes your booking privileges.
2. Do a dry month... starting in February.
At the risk of out-momming myself here, the second of my big money-saving initiatives for 2017 is to do a dry month.
No booze. Starting... next month.
While many tout the restorative effects to one's health, my ambitions are strictly pecuniary.
At the risk of revealing the true extent of my garbage habits, let's just say I might be in the top 30% of drinkers who knock back about a glass of wine a night on average. Assuming we're drinking mid-range stuff, around $10 a bottle with five or so servings per bottle, that's about $15 a week tippled away.
Unfortunately, that's a laughably conservative estimate of my weekly spending, because I do the majority of my drinking in bars with other people — where the markup, tax and tip all mean the actual cost of imbibing is considerably higher.
So let's say the figure's probably closer to double that, $30 a week (okay, okay, plus an additional $100 for each month's inevitable big night out).
By that logic, my dry month should leave me with an extra $220 in February: more than enough for an extra-dope Valentine's Day dinner — plus an extra hundred bucks for that month's retirement contribution.
3. Create a source of passive income.
New Year's resolutions tend to be overambitious, which means I once again run the risk of failing to follow my own advice, but my final big goal of 2017 is to create a source of passive, easy (or at least easier) income.
Passive income is defined by the Internal Revenue Service as the cash made off things like rental properties or the interest you make on loans to certain kinds of businesses.
But in more recent years, the term has broadened to include all kinds of relatively effortless earnings — and jobs you can do in your underwear.
This is sort of a frustrating misnomer, because if you'll run through a list of the common examples of passive income you'll notice that most of them require work. So they're not truly passive.
And other common examples that are relatively effortless, like buying dividend-paying stocks, still require you to spend money upfront.
So I'm thinking about home-sharing, since I live in a touristy city and — as a native New Yorker — can still crash at my parents' place while an out-of-towner lines my pockets.
A night or two a month with mom and dad doesn't sound so bad, although if I had a car or was remotely handy, a gig on TaskRabbit might be preferable.
One last (bonus) idea? I might start carrying cash more often.
Swiping a card is far less painful than parting with hard-earned $20 dollar bills.
I'll be sure to let you know how it goes.
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