Category Archives: Fast Reads
Several weeks ago, I wrote an article outlining twelve tactics for shoring up your career during work downtime. Those suggestions are perfect if you’re looking to “shore up” your career – in other words, your focus is on improving your job security and maximizing your chance to find another job should this one go away.
However, many people have a very different approach when it comes to their job. They’re not looking at the “downside” of shoring things up. They’re looking at the “upside” – increased pay, promotions, possible freelance work, flexibility, and other opportunities.
When you’re focused on “upside,” you’re taking a big step toward financially improving your entire life. You’re working toward a situation where you have more money to work with, so it becomes easier to start saving for your future, to pay off your debts, and to build toward your big life dreams, professional and otherwise.
There was a time when I was absolutely obsessed with keeping track of my money. I checked all of my account balances daily. I recalculated my net worth on a weekly basis. I meticulously tracked every single expense. I didn’t want to miss out on a dime.
Over time, I mellowed out on this type of tracking. I still follow my finances pretty carefully, but I don’t do the things above, at least not with such fervor.
Don’t get me wrong, I still pay attention. I still want my spending to be low and my net worth to keep going up.
To people who don’t actively budget, budgeting can seem like a complicated mess involving spreadsheet programs, notebooks, and other materials. To others, it can seem like a restrictive nightmare, keeping your different types of spending in a tight box and holding back your freedom of choice to an unpleasant degree.
(I actually don’t find either to be true, but I’ve certainly heard the complaints.)
One solution to both of these problems is to move to a simpler budgeting system, one that offers only the most basic of spending guidelines and gives you a lot of flexibility within those guidelines. It’s a great solution for people who want to improve their financial situation but don’t like to have each category of their financial life in a tight box.
Over the course of my career, my single biggest fear – and obstacle – has been “lock in.”
What’s “lock in”? It’s probably easiest to explain it with a story.
Early on in my career, I found myself working at a pretty nice job. I enjoyed the work and enjoyed going into the office almost every day. I was freshly out of college and facing down a pile of student loans, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed.
Roll forward a few years. I transitioned this first job into a second job, one that paid a little more and offered more long-term security but that I didn’t enjoy nearly as much. At the same time, I found myself enjoying the large income quite a bit more. I went out on the town a lot, bought a lot of expensive things, and made very little progress on my student loans – in fact, I actually built up a bit of credit card debt. I was also facing a car loan, as was Sarah.
My debt and my spending choices had created a situation where I needed that job – or some job that paid at that level. I had so many bills coming in that, if I lost that job and couldn’t find a similar one very quickly, I would be in deep, deep trouble.