Monthly Archives: April 2014
This weekend we moved. Nobody enjoys moving, even though once you have moved, the exciting process of starting fresh in a new home can begin. I’ve always used Craigslist to sell furniture, find quick gigs, hire for short term gigs and tons of other services. I’ve never received any negative feedback when I’ve offered to pay someone for various jobs like moving, cleaning or delivering furniture. I want to compare two Craigslist labor gigs I posted this past weekend, one which received tons of responses, and one which received only a few, and most of them were negative feedback. You can decide for yourself whether I was asking for too much and offering too little.
If you’ve ever looked in the labor gigs, you know that it can be pretty depressing. There are a lot of people who are looking for experienced carpenters who want to pay $10 per hour, knowing full well even a non-union carpenter earns $20-$30 per hour. And there are people who want help moving or doing some other extremely physical but unskilled task for $8 an hour. I knew I wanted a decent mover but I am not the type to hire professional movers when we don’t have that much stuff and none of our heavy stuff is particularly valuable (movers are a justifiable expense when you own heavy, expensive furniture or ornate décor that needs to be handled with care). So I put an ad for two at $14 per hour, and said a small bonus would be included if we finished under four hours. Within minutes, I was flooded with texts, phone calls and emails. One of the first responders early on was a young guy who seemed responsible enough so I took the ad down in less than an hour. Within that time I received almost 20 different offers for help and no one negotiated the rate or complained that it was too low. Many offered their own truck for use with the move. So there was a ton of positive feedback for a $14/hour mover rate which included a lot of physical labor and was about four hours of work. On moving day, we bought lunch for everyone and gave each mover $65, or $16.25 per hour since it was tough work and they did a great job, moving fast but not damaging any items, and were done in exactly four hours. I thought it was awesome that moving day came and went and even though I had lots of work on my end, I didn’t lift a single heavy box. It was totally worth it.
Now here are the stats on the second posted gig: there was one item that needed to be removed off the wall with a ratchet tool that I didn’t have and my fiancé was not around to help with. I also decided at the last minute that we should spackle any holes in the wall from where we hung paintings. Now, I could have done the following: buy spackle and a putty knife and a ratchet set at Home Depot, all for about $50. We had a ratchet set at home but having just moved I didn’t want to find which box it was in. There were maybe 12 small holes in the walls from paintings. So instead I posted an ad with these simple tasks and offered $20 per hour, saying it probably wouldn’t take that long. I had one guy respond right away who came and did the job in about 15 minutes and I paid him $20. I thought that was a fair trade, but unlike the first gig, I got three emails complaining that I was asking too much for too little, warning me “you get what you pay for” and that the skill involved warranted at least $75. Now, I’m the last person these guys need to preach to. I know all about getting underpaid and my fiancé has over a decade in construction and he can tell you some horror stories as well. But we’re talking about jamming some putty in a hole and smoothing it over, and using a ratchet tool to remove two screws. I could have done it myself, I just didn’t want to. It didn’t warrant the time and effort. The guy I hired made $20 in 15 minutes with tools he already had. It’s not awesome getting only $20 from a gig, but for only 15 minutes of work, that’s not too bad. Or maybe the complainers were right and I am just a ruthless capitalist stomping on the rights of hard-working craftsmen everywhere.
If you guys recall, I’ve been pretty good about tracking monthly expenses since January 2012. It’s been a great habit that I’ve developed that gives me a better understanding of where I stand each month as it can vary greatly. Some months I spend $500 on non-fixed expenses (food, gas, and everything else that’s not rent and fixed payments), and some months it balloons to $1,200. But even in those expensive months, I’ve been able to handle all my expenses and not accrue debt. But I have a terrible confession to make. I haven’t done a monthly spending spreadsheet since October. I know, six months of untracked spending. I’ve been meaning to catch up with them, and I plan to, but that’s six months where I haven’t had a clear number in my head of how much I’ve spent and whether I will be able to pay my credit card balance in full. So far I have, but this month I may not be able to. There are just way too many expenses at once and I can’t keep up. Between work, two nights of class, planning a wedding, buying a place, traveling for work and trying to stay normal, I took on too much. My life in 2014 has been at least 40% more fast-paced than it ever has been, and I haven’t kept my careful eye on daily expenses like I did in 2013.
It makes me wonder if that fast-paced lifestyle makes it easier to get into debt. It definitely doesn’t have to, but it’s easy to get into debt when you are doing many things at once, and especially when all of those activities cost money and you aren’t spending as much time creating new sources of income. I used to spend a lot more time writing posts, reaching out to buyers and people interested in my consulting work, and even blog income like growing my blog. But the fast pace of the day means I come home and can only think of the hot tub, dinner and maybe a little reading and TV before sleep overcomes me.
But it’s all about adjusting to this new pace of living. Plus, my life should slow down by midsummer, when all of these big events wrap up and we get into a quieter pace. I also want to appreciate this time because it is special. The way we react to things is pretty much the only tool we have that is dynamic and so powerful. Yes, it’s fast-paced but it feels great to work on so many different things. There are people out there who handle a high-paced life every single day with very little downtime. It’s easier to handle once you find ways to stay on top of your personal errands (so you’re not getting into debt or losing track of your expenses) and get enough sleep.
If you’re living that fast-paced lifestyle and are still adjusting from the days when you had entire days with nothing to do, or nights when you read a book for hours, here are a few tips to help you handle the transition:
- Don’t hit the snooze button: Start the day when it’s supposed to start so that you are not adding the rushed element to this already delicate dynamic
- Keep notes for yourself: Keep a journal on you (tiny one) for notes, thoughts, to-dos and spending
- Laugh: The biggest danger is taking yourself too seriously. When it all starts to seem like too much, just take a minute to laugh and think, “Oh come on” and then do whatever you need to do laugh: watch an old MadTV clip, read a funny article, call a friend.
Are you staying in the fast lane or slow lane these days?
I’m suffering from short-termism. You could also call it short-termitis, or maybe short-term’s disease. But short-termism is used to describe the phenomenon when businesses focus on short-term results at the expense of long-term interests and gains. Whew, that sounds familiar! I’m so focused on the short term with wedding planning and moving into the new place and furnishing said place, that my long-term interests are suffering. I haven’t been staying on top of my expenses, I get worked up quickly, and I haven’t been spending any time growing my business prospects. I’m all about working through my quadrant one urgent and important tasks. And all of my urgent and important tasks involve paying up: paying for a new pool key ($25), paying to get the mail keys ($65 but I’m looking for cheaper), paying the DMV registration (about $160 with the smog check). I wish that was the worst of it, but those are only my smallest expenses. All in, I am looking at thousands in expenses leading up to the wedding, for the honeymoon and for our new home. I am frustrated when I feel like we could be doing more, but we’re sidetracked or just doing other things. We’re focused on the short term and it feels like it will be impossible to do anything that is good for the long term in these next few months.
But the good news is that there are things you can do even when you are stuck in short-term mode. I’ve been focused on the long term and felt pretty good with how things were going, but the reality is that some things are short term, urgent and important, and need to be taken care of quickly. A wedding that is fast approaching is one. A new condo you just bought but aren’t living in yet and still paying rent on your current place is another. Of course we want to move quickly, but we also want to have some things, say, a refrigerator and a bed. So what have I done that helped me escape from short-termism for an even shorter term?
Cut our cell phone bill
I pay for four people in the family and pay the majority of the bill, which kept edging up, and was at nearly $230 per month. Thankfully, our carrier now offers those $40 per line for tons of talk and data, so this bill will now be $160 per month. That’s $840 less that we will pay towards telephones in the next 12 months. It is still a lot of money and I know that. We’ve also been good about not upgrading any of our phones, so when I find something cheaper, we can make a switch.
Even when I really don’t want to, I get up on weekday mornings and go work out. Weekends have to include a long hike, run, tennis match or something active and outdoors or I just feel bad. I already have a dress and that baby does not stretch so I have to stay in shape. Exercise keeps me alive and sane. There’s nothing like being all pissed off and then going for a run and totally forgetting everything that was bothering you. Endorphins and adrenaline are my friends.
Check a few things off the list
In short term times like these, I make lists. A lot of lists. In several different places I find myself making the same to-do list over and over again, from my phone to my laptop to the legal pad on the desk, to the agenda of some unrelated meeting. But even though it seems manic, when I rewrite my to-do’s, I often get them done faster or I find new ways to get things done just because I have written out the task a few times.
Short-termism is a long-term philosophy at the expense of the things you value most: your relationships, your long-term gains and good behavior that can change your life. So if you’re in it now, you can still stay grounded and find ways to take care of long-term, important priorities while putting out the short-term fires.
Buying a new home can be expensive before you even step foot into your new place. The excitement of owning a piece of ground in the world can be overwhelming to say the least. To add to that pressure many homeowners (including myself) aspire to turn their new home into a place that reflects their personality. But most people that aren’t filthy rich put every last penny into the purchase with very little left over to fix their new home to their liking. Here are a few tips to renovate on a budget.
There are a few different homeowner-renovator species. To some, the idea of buying really expensive things randomly and without vision is really all that is required. This usually turns into a good conversation piece when it comes to their friends talking behind their backs. Another species that is closely related to the above mentioned but with an edge is to hire an expensive interior designer. This species will never fail to mention which celebrity designer they paid. Lastly, you have my type. I have worked in the construction field since I was 16 years old. I have managed remodel projects from the easternmost tip of Long Island, better known as the Hamptons, all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to Puerto Rico. Personally, I have a background in carpentry, finish and rough, I know electrical for homes, painting, plumbing, low voltage AV, home security systems, as well as landscape design. Having the experience in these fields translates to thousands of dollars saved where you would normally be paying subcontractors and a general contractor to handle every detail.
Our Work’s Cut Out for Us
Recently, my beautiful fiance and I purchased our first condo in Southern California. Our new home is a cozy two bedroom two bathroom condominium. The kitchen has already been updated, so very little has to be done there. One thing that makes a huge difference and doesn’t have a big price tag hanging over it is pull knobs or handles for the cabinets. First I plan to get a price for new pull knobs. After that I look at the existing ones in the kitchen and decide if the ones on the cabinets are nice enough in design and shape to maybe customize them by painting them and clear coating them to give them a shine. Many times old pull knobs from twenty years or so ago have fashionably come full circle and you find yourself liking the style, but the finish is worn out. This option can save you $100. I like to take the money I save and designate it to be used in the same room the savings occurred. Kitchens usually have tile floors. It is very easy to change the style of the appearance simply by throwing a different color grout down; it really personalizes the look to your taste. In my opinion the biggest change as well as the best savings is flooring. Manufacturers offer many types of laminate flooring. Prices vary from $1 per linear foot up to $3-$4 dollars. The purpose of laminate flooring is to cut costs but not sacrifice the look of having nice hardwood floors. Most people keep it in the $1-$2 dollar per square foot range. Hardwood flooring tends to be much more expensive. Prices range from $5-$20 per linear foot. The main thing I like to keep in mind when deciding between laminate and hardwood floors is the area that needs to be covered. Sometimes putting down hardwood flooring in a smaller area works out better in the long run. Many times people get a gift from the gods when they remove their carpet to see old antiquated hardwood flooring, an instant upgrade from carpet. Old hardwood flooring is usually oak and the floor can be refinished and sanded to expose a brand new beautiful hardwood floor.
All of this is just scratching the surface when it comes to cost conscious ideas in home renovations. Playing your cards right in this first phase of the remodel will open up many different opportunities when you get to Phase Two: Decorating. I have a good eye when it comes to interior decorating, but for this project I am leaving it to my bride to be, S. Of course I will be overlooking the progress from afar like an Egyptian engineer overseeing the pyramids’ progress. S has a classy and sophisticated style which could be bold and risky when she explains it to you, but it always turns out amazing, and at little cost. We truly are a great team when it comes to this. I just have to make sure I don’t turn my head for too long with her being Iranian, I will turn around and the whole house will be adorned in gold and silver.
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