Have Fun, Build Credit on a Budget?

How do you get started or maintain good credit these days? Can you live it up and still live by your means?   — BadWitch

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – stockmarket closed.

Readers Are Spellbound & Perplexed…

Dear GWBW — How can I stay safe and sane on the money front? I’ve got a good paying, crappy full-time job (but will have to give it up for a slightly lower paying entry level one in my field, if I can get one!), am graduating college this spring, and other than my student loan, believe it or not I have very little credit card debt (around $3500) that I pay more than the minimums on. I want to stay conservative but not totally have no life. Thanks.  — Green Grad

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Dear Green Grad,

Wow, feeling a little down about where you are now and where you want to be going, huh. This is no way to start off a whole, new section of your life.  I get being realistic about your possibilities in this market, but your tone, frankly, sounds pessimistic about where you are now and future possibilities.

Want to get to the finish line feeling good about who you are and what you’ve achieved in life? Stop rushing to the I’m-suppose-to-achieve-by-the-time-I’m-30 finish line. Appreciate where you are now and enjoy it, then it easier to plot your way forward.

Reality check. In this economy, no job that feeds your belly and keeps you with a roof over your head is a “crappy” job? I know a Ph.D. currently working in a bookstore and glad for the paycheck. Our culture has been blinded since Archie Bunker’s plaid working-class and JJ’s “dy-no-mite” housing projects lifestyles were replaced by Dynasty’s big shoulder, designer labels. Life is not what you do for a living or what you spend your money on. Focus on finding the positives wherever you can find them. There’s no finish line. Life is a series of connected moments. Make the most of each one.

Now, with this new half-full outlook, realizing how lucky you are: no kids, supporting only yourself and with a viable income and young and cheap enough for employers in your field to want to hire you. Nice. So, how about your wallet?

1. Pay Yourself First. Every check, put 10%-15% into savings immediately. That way you build up more (pick one: freedom, stability, money, choices) for yourself with every check you collect from this current job and have more of a cushion to open up choices for the next step in your career.

2. Buy According to What You Need, Not What Will Impress Someone Else. Listen, if the only way you can get someone to be interested in you is to have the right phone, the right car, the right shoes—GET RID OF THEM. Make buying choices based on making yourself happy—not in the moment—but in the long run. If you love the expensive shoes and will wear them happily and comfortably for the next 2 years, that’s a good investment. If the Jimmy Choo shoes are uncomfortable, but cute and will wind up under the bed, but so-and-so will choke on there sushi when they see…bad investment. Those shoes will limit your spending choices moving forward. (Substitute any possible consumer good for Jimmy Choo example.)

Still need more money management ideas? Check out these earlier GWBW posts. They say downsizing, which means how you balance having money, having stuff and having a life.

Happy Trails,

GoodWitch

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Dear Green Grad,

Props on being aware and diligent about your own credit worthiness and financial health! Everything in it is a metaphor for the state of our life; our finances mirror our general emotional and practical wellbeing. All things are connected, so if you become more and more responsible and alert through action — which isn’t synonymous with a gloom and doom existence! — it becomes very hard to not reflect that ease and grace more so in most parts of your life.

We’re not financial specialists so consult the appropriate professionals if your situation now or comes to require it. Otherwise, I recommend the classic rules of personal money management: pay yourself first (designate a percentage of each paycheck to your savings before all other commitments), pay off your debts (assuming finance rates charged you are higher than the rates of return on your investments. This will help raise your credit score, and (free) check your three credit scores the beginning of every year for general info as well as correcting any possible inaccuracies over the year), and despite what my hero Oscar Wilde said (shows no imagination..ha ha!) by all means live within your means. The latter is the bane of many people’s financial life.

Don’t assume but definitely account for that lower starting salary in your field you’re anticipating. First do the research to find out specifically what that means in dollars and cents, and adjust your monthly nut accordingly by that percentage drop now. But…you can live well by living smart; create small term goals for your finances like for vacation, school books, monthly entertainment budget — and stick to them coming (saving) and going (spending). A friend was successful with my suggestion to teach her kids about the value of taxes by having them put a small set percentage of their allowance into the House Tax, which ends up funding family pizza and movie night, or similar. Adapt this plan for your own lifestyle expenditures and make sure you stick to it for maximum enjoyment!

We get more out of life when we know (self-examine) more about our life. This includes understanding well our personal priorities (Bill Gates was known to regularly refuse the Presidential suites automatically held for him, but gathered a partner to buyout the Four Seasons Hotels, Inc.) — I advised another recent college grad not to get used to a lifestyle she’d have to make career decisions to support, but make choices to support building her career (her priority then) with ease and flexibility. Now she’s a happy careerist homeowner.

Budgeting and spending don’t have to be painful experiences, or negative words when we see the Big Picture. And this is how our lives begin to look better, we feel more in control and go from stressed survival to thriving and fully living.

Save & live for yourself,

BadWitch

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Juicy Coaching for Leaders and Individuals.

Mondays money, work, purpose dilemmas. Thursdays family, relationships, love dramedy. Send your FREE brewing questions on how to thrive—not just survive— modern life to: coaching@stillsitting.net.

© 2009 ManifestGroup. No materials may be used without expressed written permission.

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