Finance Tips From Someone Who Probably Shouldn’t Be Giving Financial Advice

Hello everybody! I apologize if you were coming this way looking for games and game commentary, but I decided to deviate a bit and talk about something else: money. None of us really like to discuss our debt, how screwed we really are, or living paycheck to paycheck, but I would like to share my “secrets” in the hopes that maybe you’ll do a little better than I’m doing.

Start A Ledger

Most of these bits of advice are probably things you’ve already heard before and should be doing already, but either you’re not sure how to get started, not sure what you’re doing in general, or maybe you’re already doing these. Starting a ledger is pretty easy, but selecting what KIND of ledger is best can be a bit difficult.

For example, it’s easy enough to get a checkbook and write shit in it, but would that be enough? A checkbook alone doesn’t tell you when certain stuff is due or how much. Should you write it in there right away and act as though it’s already paid? What if you do that and even budget for it, but forget to pay?

This is why I usually recommend a digital ledger of some sort, but even that presents a challenge because you may not always have access to it. That’s another reason I’m going to recommend YNAB (You Need A Budget). You can put stuff in there digitally, then mark it off as it’s paid. Furthermore, you can pull charts, graphs, autobudget different stuff to save for, etc.


Seriously, these guys are wonderful

Whatever you decide, make sure you select something that’s right for you. A ledger is imperative because for many of us we simply look at the balance on our bank account and figure we’ve got money to go out…when really we have about three or more bills coming up in the next week we should be preparing for.

Keeping a ledger going at all times is important so you can see what you actually have available, plan out how it’s going to be used, and compensate. Still, a ledger is about the most basic thing you can do. Often having a ledger alone is not going to solve your problems, but instead allow you to see the crash as you approach it while also verifying what’s come out when, so you should also…

Create Buffers


Uh, not quite

What is a buffer? A buffer is a deliberate misappropriation of money to your benefit (no I don’t mean embezzlement). For example, if I purchase some groceries and they come out to $27.18, why not put it in the ledger as $28? Initially you might think this is dumb. After all, now you can’t use that money. What if you really need that additional 82 cents?

The truth is that chances are you don’t need that additional amount. Furthermore, if you do that with each transaction, it starts to add up. Nevermind that, if you have several $1.xx purchases, but mark them all as $2 flat, you have to start tightening up your budget quicker, which means making more sound decisions faster because you are given the impression you have no money.

It also works in the direction of credits as well. If you get a paycheck that’s $814.72, why not put it in as $814 or even $810? So what DO you do with that additional buffer, then? Well, sometimes we make mistakes. Maybe it’s just that we forgot to add something to the ledger or we just plain put something in wrong.

Maybe the bank held a payment or something else crazy happened. The buffer isn’t significant, but as it should be growing little by little over time, it can compensate for the little stuff. Plus, let’s say you get to the end of the month, all the bills are paid, and you have $30 worth of a buffer. Now you can splurge or save that additional amount…or even keep it there just in case, but always remember…

Cash Is King

Which is better: a $100 bill in your pocket or $100 in your checking account? At first, you weigh out the convenience and ease in your mind, but let me give you the answer: it’s the cash. Why? Because it’s something tangible and guaranteed. Yeah, there are some machines, various online services, and so on that don’t do straight cash, but we’re talking about for general purchasing.

Not all places and devices take cards and just because you SAY you have $100 in your checking account doesn’t mean you can necessarily use it right away. Cash can be used immediately and with no thought whatsoever, which also makes it dangerous. This is because convenience is something we take a little too lightly, which I’ll take about more later.

But let’s say you don’t have $100 in your pocket. In fact, let’s say it’s only $2.13 in coins. Most of us are tempted to get rid of that as quickly as possible. I mean, we don’t want to fucking jingle as we walk, come on. Plus, when you have cash, you want to spend it, even if you don’t really have anything you want to buy. This is because we’ve been groomed to be a compulsive society, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it means we’re taught more about spending and less about saving.


Gimme gimme gimme!

There are three great things you can do with cash. One, keep it somewhere safe in your house until you need to use it for something like lunch at work or pitching in for some sort of potluck or something you would need cash for anyway. Two, and this is especially if it’s a larger amount, immediately throw it in your checking and/or savings account.

Finally, and this is the one I like the best, apply it toward something. What I often do is pick up pennies and other random coins as I find them and put them in my center console in the car. Then let’s say on the way to work I want to pick up some more tea or beer or whatever. So what I’ll do is get all the coins in pocket, get my stuff, and go to the U-Scan.

I choose the cash option first and put in all the coins. If there’s any sort of balance left over, I pay the rest with my card. That way, it was that much less of a purchase and I can choose how I want that entered in the ledger later. It’s not terribly convenient to those waiting behind me, but regarding convenience…

The Cost Of Convenience


Make food and bring it to work? Pfeh! I’ll take my $5 hotdog, thank you

Let me take you back to a time that should have been simpler, but ended up being a nightmare. The year is 2007 and I was just hired by my previous employer. I’d been screwed by bank after bank and decided to go with the credit union that was also handling my car payment. At first, everything is going swimmingly.

I deliberately overpay my car payment each month, set up a savings account, and even open an overdraft account, just in case. Then it all falls through. Sure, it didn’t exactly happen overnight, but they start double charging me, holding payments, taking out car payments without my approval whenever they feel like, and even allow my checking account to get so far negative, allowing some transactions but not all in a very random fashion, to the point that when I get paid, my entire paycheck is virtually unusable after it’s auto-deposited.

The solution was to eventually cut off direct deposit altogether (instead opting to cash my checks for a light fee), pay them a little each month, and continue paying my car payment until all the accounts were resolved. Where did it all go wrong? Well, there were any one of a number of things that could have caused it, but ultimately to this day I absolutely do not trust banks.


You REALLY think these people care about you?

See, I trust inconvenience. We’re a lazy generation. We want things at the push of a button. And if we don’t get these things at the push of a button, it’s “broken.” The more inconvenient something is, the easier it is to manage. That doesn’t make much sense, so I’ll elaborate. I will never again bundle accounts with a bank, even if I’ve been with them for years.

Why? Because then they feel like your money is their money. Sure, IDEALLY the car payment needs to be paid on time and IDEALLY that should happen each month without fail. But not each month is IDEAL. If I have a bad month, the bank doesn’t care; it wants money for that car payment. And if they have access to your money, they’ll take it.

Worse still, they’ll act like YOU did something wrong when you challenge them. The bank is never on your side. So what I’ve done is I have a checking account at one bank and a savings account at another. Why? Well, at my current bank, it was a pain in the ass to start the savings account at the first bank. Second, it made it too accessible, so when the going got tough, the savings got going.

Three, they then closed my savings account without my permission and given how hard it was to set up in the first place, I wasn’t about to go through that process again. I thought to myself, I’m not really saving money if I have everything tied into one, because even if I start to save correctly, who’s to say they won’t fuck around with my money when they feel like it or straight up close the savings account again if it gets to a zero balance for whatever reason?

Furthermore, there isn’t a process I know of that’s clean and easy to transfer money from my savings to my checking, at least not without a fee. So if I want to get money from my savings, it requires me going to the bank. Now sure, it’s the same if I want to put cash in the savings, but I’ll get more into more creative methods of depositing into your savings later.

As a result, it’s always a pain to get money out of the savings and I always feel guilty. Furthermore, while it’s still a chore to put money INTO the savings, I always feel good and justified for doing so, often marching up to the ATM with a sense of pride. Just by adding that additional layer of inconvenience, I’ve put a system in place that punishes me for taking away from the savings, encourages me to save, and makes it impossible for my initial bank to fuck over my savings.

But what about those times when shit happens? I mean, we can’t predict EVERYTHING that’s going to happen in a given year like speeding tickets or the car breaking down or whatever. What about the bad times? Well, I have some good news…

Making Bad News Better


“Bad news, everyone!”

This year, I’ve already put almost $1500 worth into car maintenance alone. Thankfully, I was able to stick it out till my tax refund got here, but what if that wasn’t possible and I needed money a few months early? I’d have been screwed, right? And right you’d be. So how do you take care of things like that?

Creating buffers and adding to savings is always one of the best ways to go, but you also want to ensure that you’re planning for the unexpected. Not everything can wait for your refund and with everything that’s going on right now in the government, you might want to expect that shit could be delayed next year.

So what can be done? Well, the BEST thing to do is often the hardest: don’t spend your tax refund. The first thing you do is ask how much you spent last year in car maintenance and if that was a typical year. So let’s assume $1500 a year is accurate. Well, it’s probably a good idea to add a buffer on top of that, so let’s say $1600.

Now again, if you’re just taking your tax refund and saving it, that means you simply add $1600 to your savings account (or an envelope if you prefer that method) and put in the ledger what it’s for. If you’re not going to use your refund for savings, then it gets a little hairy. See, at that point, you should be budgeting out each month to prepare for $1600 cumulative by the end of the fiscal year that you’ve set up.

In simple terms, that means $1600 / 12 months, or approximately $134 a month put away. Now, not everyone can afford that, so what do you do? Well, it’s also true that you probably won’t have that much you absolutely have to put away each year for car maintenance. And it’s also true that you SHOULD have your refund to fall back on.

The problem is that the refund is something that comes out once a year, not just whenever you need it. The good news is let’s say you can only really save $50 a month. Provided the car doesn’t EXPLODE, you’re probably okay for only the most pivotal maintenance when it’s absolutely necessary, which will only SLIGHTLY throw off your finances because at least you’re putting SOMETHING away for those circumstances.


That’ll buff out, right?

Then let’s say you get your refund and immediately apply not only what you’ve saved up, but also whatever you must out of the refund to get your car completely tuned up. Well, at that point hopefully you’re spending far less out of your refund. Even better, maybe it’s less than $1600 over the course of the year.

If that’s the case, I say be cautiously optimistic and lower the amount expected back down to $1500. At that point it’s only $125 a month that would need to be saved, assuming you add no additional amount from your refund in there. The point is if you look at what tends to happen year by year, you can get a good idea for how much “oh shit” insurance you need and prepare appropriately.

Maybe you needed so much one year due to oversights. Or maybe there were speeding tickets. Maybe someone lost their job for a while. Any one of a number of things can happen and you can’t possibly prepare for everything, but if you at least prepare for what’s statistically inevitable and then some, then you’ll always be ahead of the game and never stressing when shit actually does go down.


“Ha ha, you’re not the favorite anymore!”

Plus, if you don’t end up needing as much as you thought you did AT THE END OF THE YEAR, then it can be reapplied to something else. I stress that point because it’s easy to say after 9 months that everything will be fine, then have something seriously fucked up happen in the next 3 months after you’ve already reapplied the budget.

It’s better to see what happens at the end of the year (preferably meaning right when you get your refund), then reapply whatever’s left over to either rainy day funds or things that will take a long time to save up for. But what if you’re just plain terrible at saving? Worry not, because even if you’re still not doing it quite right even with buffers in place AND a ledger, there’s always…

Automatic Savings/Payments

Direct deposit is a magical thing. It’s convenient and therefore, I would normally hate it. There are two reasons why it works, though. Firstly, unless your bank is king of the cunts (and it might be), NONE of the balance should be being held and it hits your account immediately available to use.

Second, you don’t have to get your paycheck, fill it out, bring it to the bank, fill out a deposit slip, put it in the ATM, and hope that it’s available immediately. Granted, that’s inconvenient, but anything that gives you access to ACTUAL money immediately is still good. And you might be wondering why that’s better than cash in hand.

Well, it isn’t because it’s still nothing more than numbers, but it also means you’re less tempted to use it immediately than you would be with actual cash. In any case, how does this translate to savings? Well normally, it wouldn’t. Here’s how I made it so it does. I started by applying 99% of my check to my checking and 1% to my savings.

Keep in mind that my savings is not under the same bank, so that’s an amount that not only can they not touch, but it’s effectively an amount I never see because I don’t get paper checks unless I actually request them. I did 1% for a while and didn’t notice a difference, so I upped it to 2%. After a few months, I then did 3%.

So why not bump it up by, say, $5 each time instead? Well, let’s assume the check wasn’t a standard balance. Let’s say either I was really sick or conversely, worked a shitload of overtime. I don’t want a specified amount to come out, just a percentage, because then it grabs more if it’s more and less if it’s less.

Furthermore, none of that balance has been applied to anything like car maintenance, Christmas presents, or anything like that…it’s just pure savings. That means that should I choose to, I can reapply it as I see fit whenever I want. Sure, it also means I could be a bastard and drain that bitch anytime I want, but that’s where self-control comes into play with a healthy dose of seeing exactly what I’m saving up for.


Money plants. That’s what I’m saving up for

The best tactic is to try 1% and see what happens. If you really don’t notice a difference in your finances and budgeting for the month, give it a few more just to make sure. If it’s still okay, bump it up by another 1% and keep doing that every so often until either you notice a difference or it adversely affects your finances…then you have your butter zone.

As far as automatic payments, well…this is a little more advanced. It’s really only recommended for people who either aren’t living paycheck to paycheck or for various utilities that you get a bonus or whatever for doing it with. At the end of the day, everything you have SHOULD be automated like that so you don’t forget, don’t get late fees, and since everything’s already budgeted for anyway because of the ledger, you should be fine…but again, only if you’ve already been doing well.

How To Make Money

What I’m going to say seem obvious and some of it you may not 100% agree with. If you have any PS1, N64, NES, SNES…or whatever games (basically anything from 2000 on back) and you haven’t touched them within one year, sell them. Why? You may not know this, but most of them will sell for at least $10 a piece, if not WAY more.

“But I might want to play it again!” Then download it. “What, illegally?” If it makes you sleep any better, consider this. Thousand Arms was a great game made by Atlus for the PS1. However, it’s never been ported to any other console, let alone the PSN. So download it. “Oh, so that just makes it okay?” If you bought a copy, even brand spanking new, would ANY of that money go to Atlus? No.

Who would it go to? Whoever sold it to you and that’s it. Sure, if you could find it cheap and through a local game store (i.e. NOT Gamestop), then hey, whatever. But you’re still not giving money to Atlus. Plus hey, you could always sell your copy of Thousand Arms (assuming you have one), then put those profits toward buying a brand new Atlus game, which they would receive immediate profit for via wallet voting.


Seriously though, it’s a pretty fun game if you can actually find it

The same goes for literally anything you’re not using and don’t intend to use. See if you can sell it online for serious money. If you can’t, there’s always yard sales, pawn shops, local game stores, etc. There are always ways to make money when you need it, but it’s even better to take your time to make the maximum amount of profit off of whatever you’re selling.

For example, it’s easy to walk into a local game store, give them 30 games, and walk out with probably $20. Or…you can list each item individually and appropriately on Amazon, choosing not to list certain items because there is no value to them, then go to the local game store with the ones you can’t make a profit on so you can at least get SOMETHING, then wait for the sells to come to you, possibly resulting in $100 or more in profit.

On top of that, you can always have it where those profits go directly to you savings account. That way, it never hits your checking account, so you never see exactly how much profit you’re really making (except through the Amazon sales tracker) and it just builds and builds. But honestly, it’s not even about making money or saving money. For most of us, it’s all about…

Living Paycheck To Paycheck No More

This is the big one. How does this even happen? I mean, it’s not like we have money dropped in our laps and even if we did, we ALL have shit we need to buy that we’re not saving for right…so how does this work? The best way it can work is by saving up enough money through the course of buffers, automatic savings, and even setting up an additional backend miscellaneous saving meant to be transferred back into the checking when the time is right.

But how do you “stay legit?” Literally the only way I can think to do this, because obviously it hasn’t happened yet for me, is to trust solely in the ledger. As soon as you’ve reached more than what you normally make in a given month in miscellaneous savings, get that money back into your checking and pretend it never happened.

As long as it’s MISCELLANEOUS savings and not anything else, it should…theoretically…work. I wish I had more information on this. I’m sure there are plenty of financial workshops and stuff you could follow for more details, but this is my plan. Whether it works out or not is entirely on me.

Conclusion

My genuine hope is that you got something out of this. We live in a nation were the national debt is ridiculous, we’re encouraged to spend and spend, saving is considered boring, and people get rich seemingly magically. Well, I know it’s not magic, but honestly, it does feel like it from time to time. While a lot of these steps you may have already known about, hopefully I’ve done a little good for you and it’s also helped me just by laying it out so I can look at it, too.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Finance Tips From Someone Who Probably Shouldn’t Be Giving Financial Advice

  1. I love my credit union – so polite, so understanding. Then again, I live in small town New England where everyone is nice. Direct Deposit is AWESOME – Automatic Payment of Bills is THE WORST IDEA EVER! Unless you bring in six figures on a regular basis, that is.

    But when my darling husband fell for a phishing scheme, our checking account was emptied through a bank in Romania. The credit union had it fixed within 24 hours. I was impressed – no interrogation, no hassle.

    We sort of do what you do – we round up when paying bills, like car insurance, the cable, electric. Then, we get credit toward our next bill, or they just send us a check for the difference. We also have a Club Account at our bank. You can’t draw from it with your debit card, so that’s helpful. Every other week, we move a little from savings and checking into it and just leave it alone. Then, when we NEED money (for home or car repair, or emergencies) we’ve got it covered.

    Our son, who’s 3, now has his own account. Kid has more money than I do.

  2. Pingback: The Gaming Economy | Gun Sage's Blog

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