Frugal Idea #34: Checklist

I can’t help but be nostalgic.

As the last day of 2014 approaches us, it is the perfect opportunity to reflect on your actions this past year. Each year, I gain more financial knowledge and ways to live a life of minimalism. Did you hit your goals? Were you able to learn something new to set you up in a stronger financial situation in 2015? To start you off on the right foot in 2015, here is a checklist of what I typically plan on completing each year. This checklist continues to grow each year. What financial year end traditions do you have?

  • Tax Season – Email/call your tax preparer/service to get an early appointment to complete your taxes. Be sure to ask for a checklist of what you need to bring to the meeting to capitalize on a potential return. Tip: Did you know that you can submit your car registration as a tax deductible purchase? Plan what you will do with your refund. Hopefully, it is to pay debt or save!
  • W-2s – If you completed a W-4 for an employer, start organizing and collecting your W-2s from all employers. Make sure you mailing addresses are up to date to avoid delays in delivery. Also, many employers are now switching to online access to your W-2s. See if this is an option for you and you should be able to access it pretty early in January!
  • Donate – Now is the time to maximize your tax deductible donations. If you have non profit organizations that you enjoy giving money to, be sure to submit those immediately. It is also a great time to purge your space of clutter. Donate items to your local thrift store i.e. Goodwill. Be sure to save all receipts for proof of donations. Tip: For online donations, I created a “donations” folder. All receipts were transferred into this folder for easy submittals during my tax meeting.
  • Declutter – I truly believe if you clear space, you not only invite new things to come into your life, but your mind is clear enough to make smarter decisions. If you took time off away from work, dedicate a little bit of time to clearing spaces you have ignored all year. That includes a shelf in your closet, that junk drawer, that cabinet in the kitchen. Shred all documents you no longer need and if you have not used something in over a year, chances are you will never use them. Get rid of it! Tip: If you get easily distracted, put on music and set your phone timer for 30 minutes. Focus on one area until timer goes off. You would be surprised how much you get done without checking texts, social media, emails, etc.
  • Review – Review all of your statements from credit cards, bank statements, and retirement statements. Make sure you do not see any discrepancies.  Look at your summaries of finance charges and late fees. Do you feel guilty paying that much? See if you can transfer funds to a lower APR option or pay off as much as you can. If you have been earning reward points with any financial institution, make sure you take advantage of points earned that may be expiring.
  • Credit Score – I obtain my credit score once a year. It helps you know if you are on the right track. If your number has lowered, review the details. Do you see fraud or too much debt? How can you change this in 2015?
  • Savings – I always thought it was fun to see if you obtained your savings goals.  Pull up your January statements for your savings accounts and retirement funds. Compare where you started January 1st to today. Did you save 10-20% of your income this year? If not, why? Plan how you can achieve this next year.
  • Evaluate – Did you save enough this year to switch to a Money Market? Are you ready to invest money in stocks or bonds? If you have enough for an emergency fund and extra income, be sure put it towards a way to make extra money.
  • Add another stream – Count how many streams of income do you currently have? Do you have an idea to try in 2015? You may be surprised to learn how creative you can be. This year I focused on taking extra money and buying concert tickets that would sell out. I would then re-sell with a markup. If you have multiple ways to grow wealth, you can re-invest more funds towards your future.
  • Expense reports – Turn in your expense reports for work! If you keep missing deadlines, what can you do to be better organized?
  • Plan – If you earn an annual bonus at work, be sure to use it smartly. If you have debt, plan how much you would like to put towards debt. Instead of a high priced ticket item you want to purchase, take 20% of it to invest or put towards savings.

On a final note, take care of yourself. How you treat yourself is how others will treat you. I believe the Universe will return love to you once you love yourself. Take time to treat yourself before the New Year. You do not have to spend a lot of money. Have a nice outfit picked out (I am sure there is one in your closet) to celebrate the past and upcoming year. Have your hair done, nails done, and eat well. Be sure to surround yourself with people who make you feel great. If you feel like a million dollars, you can definitely earn a million dollars.

About the writer:

VegasTrip

Neville (Nev) Bendiola grew up in the Mission District of San Francisco, California until the age of 10 before relocating to Sacramento, CA.  Growing up in a low income family, he slept on the floor most of his young life until he got his own twin size bed at the age of 10 – a memory he will always remember. Nev relocated back to San Francisco for college where he continued on in a career in Staffing Sales and Recruiting. Achieving financial success, he spent more than he earned using credit cards along the way. He found himself  carrying debt through the recent recession. Inspired by friends and reading success stories online, Nev moved into a Studio apartment in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district where he minimized his spending and material items. He is currently focused on saving money and sharing the ride with his readers along his journey to financial freedom.

Contact: frugalnev@gmail.com

Twitter: NEVBB

Facebook: facebook.com/frugalnev

Frugal Idea #33: Budgeting 1.5% for holiday cheers

Apologies for being M.I.A. The Christmas season took over me like other Americans. I had numerous holiday events to attend, numerous dinners, spent time shopping online, and spent time roaming the malls looking for last minute ideas for the few white elephant parties I had been invited to. All in all, I am happy that I did not over spend or allow myself to be so exhausted like previous years that I was more stressed than jolly. However, reflecting back on the past few weeks, I decided that I want to be more organized for 2015’s holiday season. After a few quick online studies, I feel mentally prepared to hit my goals next year.

I love giving. I enjoy seeing loved ones smile when receiving surprise gifts. I enjoy receiving a text or email letting me know that they enjoyed the special delivery via U.S. Postal service. This year brought new experiences in my frugal ways during the holiday season:

  • Instead of buying items, I think he/she would like, I purchased items that were consumable. The thought of someone needing to return an item because it did not fit or was not wanted, makes me cringe. So, I took a different risk this year. I purchased items that reflected who I am, but would provide energy by being eaten and is something that will not take up space or time and energy to be returned to the store. Items I gave included organic fruit baskets, organic holiday bags filled with goods from Trader Joes, San Francisco’s famous Ghiradelli chocolate, and San Francisco’s famous Boudin breads.
  • For the fickle consumer, I gave cash. In my personalized card, I said please buy something nice for yourself.
  • I focused on time savers – online shopping. I made quick decisions without looking back. As long as it was budget, I purchased it.

For 2015, I want to focus on the following:

  • Buying holiday items NOW. Buying them when they are 10%, 15%, 50%, or even 75% off. I know stores need to clear their inventory.
  • Buy throughout the year. This is most important for white elephants and items for children. If there is a good sale, buy it. Store it well!

Most of all, I am going to stick to a true budget. After numerous website visits, I decided that this made sense for me: 1.5% of my income goes towards holiday spending. This includes the ornaments on your trees, the Christmas lights, gifts, and dinners. For example, if your salary is $40,000, try to spend a total of $600.00. If you divide that by 12 months, you should save $50.00 a month. It seems more manageable versus waiting for the end of the year to realize how much you have to dish out! I will report next year to see how this works out! Check out this link below!

1.5% of your income should be spent for Christmas!

Frugal Idea #32: I Choose Size Small

To my delight, I checked my email to receive an offer from Urban Compass to write about living in small spaces. I qualified! I do, in fact, currently live in a small space in the beautiful city of San Francisco.

Prior to this decision to choose size small, I was renting a one bedroom apartment with multiple closets, a reserved garage space for my car, and enough room to have at one point up to 8 people sleep over (picture couches taken and multiple sleeping bags all over the hardwood floors). Although this apartment provided many fond memories, I knew the city of San Bruno was not home. In my heart, I have always wanted to live in San Francisco. I wanted the hustle and bustle, good eats, the urban lifestyle, and a diverse population where you feel safe to know that you can be whoever you want (well, almost).

My co-workers and family thought I was crazy! Why would I leave to have a further commute, an increase in rent, and have no available garage space in my unit? I knew I would regret it if I never tried to live in San Francisco. So, I did it. However, the move did not come without calculated decisions.

Location

After searching for months, I decided to rent a studio in Uptown Tenderloin. The tenderloin has had,a bad reputation for a long me. Thanks to the move of many high tech companies into the area (like Twitter), the area is slowly but surely changing. I had tried to convince myself that this area was merging right into Lower Nob Hill, but after three years, I now am proud to say I live in the Tenderloin. I find this area exciting, intriguing, and care about it enough to read about the community and want a I heart TL shirt. The rent in San Francisco is ridiculous. Check out the median price for rent here: SF Median Rent by Curbed. Ridiculous, right? When I saw prices for 1 bedrooms in the range of $2500-$4000, I gulped. Luckily, I decided to downsize to a studio and give up the ideas of luxurious stairwells, a brand new loft with exposed pipings, or brick walls. Instead, I had scored a gorgeous studio on the 4th floor with hardwood floors, high ceilings, views of buildings stretching towards the sky, and friendly neighbors. Three years later, I am extremely thankful to know that this space is rent controlled.

Furniture & Space

When I was packing up the old one bedroom apartment in San Bruno, I was disgusted with myself. I had so many items stored deep in closets and in the downstairs storage unit that I had never used my 6 years there. Why did I hang on to so many useless items? I ended up donating many items or just simply tossing them away. Since my space was small, I knew I had to be very thoughtful of what came into the studio. I started conducting research via YouTube videos and online websites on how to utilize small spaces.  I knew the pieces of furniture had to have multiple purposes if possible and the layout had to work. Since my bed would be exposed, I invested in beddings and pillows I liked to bring the space together.

Check out the pictures below with explanations. I hope this helps you choose size small or at the minimum make the most of what you DO have.

Urban Compass Outside

View from my kitchen!

Urban Compass Outside 2

View from my Living Room!

Urban Compass Kitchen

View of my Kitchen Nook. I decided to get a square table with 4 seats. You can enjoy a meal with a view of the streets below. The picture hanging is from the Pistahan Festival, an annual event in San Francisco honoring Filipino culture. I bought it on sale at Brother’s Furniture in South San Francisco. They also offered free delivery!

Urban Compass Couch

I knew I would not restrict having guests over, so I wanted a couch that turns into a bed. This couch is light in weight to move around and easy to change it’s role into a bed. Two in one! Tip: Shop around. I was able to find this at a clearance/liquidaton sale for $180! I also talked them into free delivery. 

Urban Compass

I knew an Ottoman with storage space made more sense than a coffee table! I store items in here that need to be easily accessible. The corner unit is actually a pull out desk with storage! Tip: Find botique shops, they may have sales on items that are not selling. They will want room for new items. 

View from the entrance, you can see my bed and the couch.

View from the entrance, you can see my bed and the couch. The windows were a selling point. So much light. You can see downtown San Francisco from there. The pillows on the couch match my bed to bring the space together. I doubted the neighborhood, but from the view up here, it is not too bad.

Urban Compass Kitchen View

View from the kitchen nook to the sleeping space. The back hanging design is actually a room divider. It ended up not working for me, so I decided to hang it instead. If you look closely, you can see Mila (the cat under bed).

Urban Compass Closet

Closet space was important. I decided to put low dressers underneath the hanging items to save space and become highly organized.

Urban Compass bathroom

The bathroom is super small. So small, I could not fit it into the camera! The colors are yellow and black. I did not like it and was almost a deal breaker, but I discovered splashes of grey fits well. Framed art is from Thailand! Tip: Frame memoribilia yourself to make art pieces for a lot less.

Urban Compass Bed

I put the bed in the corner and purposely blocked the closet (there are two entrances). The bedding makes me feel calm and I wanted to make sure I enjoyed walking in to see the bed daily.

Will you choose size small?