the constant struggle: a personal financial analysis, part one

I am currently sitting in Starbucks, reading Mr. Money Mustache and feeling guilty of my avid and unabated consumerist habits. If you haven’t seen MMM before, go ahead and take a minute to explore – it will change how you look at your spending habits.

I’ve been reading MMM for about six months now, and while I intellectually agree with much of what he writes, I have found trouble implementing the practices myself. Logically, I understand that I am the source of this financial trouble, and that it is within my power to fix. However, it’s difficult to determine how much my financial circumstance is a result of my youth and the jobs I have held – to be improved by garnering better employment as I gain experience – versus admitting how much I am trying to justify my poor spending and financial habits.

I am working on an in-depth personal analysis of my finances, trying to look at everything how MMM might. This is going to be a bit uncomfortable, but so many good things require a bit of discomfort to achieve something better. This will be a three-part series, starting with my income.

Current Base Income

I am partly hesitant to believe the Mustachian lifestyle will help, because I have a hard time believing I could find any realistic success on my current income. However, looking objectively at the situation, I see that the Money Mustache family lives off $25k a year, which just so happens to be what I’ve earned each the last two years – and there are three of them, and only one of me.

Moreover, any savings is good savings. While I can’t put 50% of a $40k job away to achieve early retirement in the short period of time that MMM advertises, I am currently putting away 15-20% of my earnings each month. If I could eliminate my debt (see the next post), the savings would increase. Every dollar I save is a dollar closer to financial independence.

Supplemental Income

I am looking at ways to supplement my income. I recently opened an Etsy Store, and while I doubt it will have much success in the near future, I’m working on additional things to sell so that I can make some extra cash. I’m not sure how to make my store more visible, so any and all suggestions are welcome. Feel free to “like” my Etsy Store and items so that they become more visible in searches!

I also start teaching dance lessons next month in a local studio for $5 a person. With any luck, I will be teaching private lessons soon, which can be quite lucrative (about $40/hr). There is also talk of having a workshop dedicated to Leading, Following, and Connection, as a few people have commented on my ability to follow, regardless of never having learned more than the basics of dances such as Waltz or Rumba.

Solution: Looking to Improve Future Income

I am currently investing a very reasonable $180 in a course in GIS, a booming field in which I’m quite interested. This is not the last course I’ll need to invest in, but I am optimistic that the experience and networking opportunities provided will yield a high return on the investment in my personal education. I know that if I can improve my resume, I can get the GIS and Spatial Analysis job I want.

However, I’m worried the benefits of this course will not come soon enough. I hope to move to the Bay Area at the end of the summer, which will come with increased base cost of living, starting with rent prices (the most I’ve ever paid for rent is $500, including utilities). If I’m not working in GIS, it means I’ll probably be finding temporary employment. Instead of working two jobs and somewhere around 60 hours a week, I’ll need to make a minimum of $15 an hour, and preferably at least $19 so that paying off debt and increasing my savings is possible.

I’ve hesitantly signed up with a free temp placement agency in hopes of finding new jobs more easily possible, and I’m open to any recommendations from those who have had success (or terrible failure!) with temp agencies.

***

Next time, in an effort for personal financial openness and analysis (and eventual improvement): an examination of my personal debt.

the mutability of plans

The funny thing about blogging is that it’s easier to do when it’s a habit. When it’s a habit, I look at all these things which occur on a daily basis and consider them potentially interesting as blog topics; when I fall off the wagon, though, I stop seeing all the same things as remotely worth blogging about – whether or not that’s necessarily true.

Regardless, there are important updates about Graduate School. The good news? I was technically accepted to Davis. The bad news? I wasn’t actually accepted.

So here’s the deal: to be accepted to Davis, you have to be accepted by the school AND sponsored by a Professor. Unfortunately, the Professor I want to work with is short on funding for next year – as such, while I made it through the first round of acceptances, I did not make it through the second. Honestly, this is a good thing, because I would have been sorely disappointed to go work on anything less than the perfect program – and I haven’t been even close to excited about any other program.

I have recently had a couple conversations with this professor, and as of this moment, I plan on reapplying in the fall (though I might apply through a different department).

However, I haven’t just put my life on hold for the next year. Grad School might not have worked out as I’d hoped, but I refuse to just sit around and wait until it does. Currently, I am signed up for a 5 week Quick Start Course in GIS which meets for three hours every Tuesday starting in June. This course is offered through the City College of San Francisco, and is the first among a series of courses to further education in GIS. There are five or six suggested courses which offer extensive training in different aspects of GIS; all courses are affordable and targeted at working professionals, and the program takes between 6 months and 1 year to complete on average. Most importantly, these courses are super affordable (the first is only $180).

These courses aren’t perfect. They won’t give me a Masters or a Certificate of Proficiency, but they will give me a working portfolio, ample experience, and networking opportunities. Combined with my Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Studies & Creative Writing, I am hoping that this is all I might need to land one of those elusive “real-life” jobs that I’ve been searching for the past two years.

At this point in time, I still plan to apply for a Masters Program in the fall, to start in the fall of 2014. But that’s so far away – and this series of courses I’ve started will only take a year to complete. I could be in the job market by this time next summer, rather than in three years. Earning my Masters is still on the table, but I’m learning that sometimes, plans don’t have to be followed in the order they were made…