Monday, March 31, 2008

One Month Later, the Snowflake Resolution

Yes, I know I waffled for an entire month on what to do with February's snowflake fund. I now have the answer: my tax bill.

I mentioned I went and had my taxes done last week. Expensive, but as a business owner, I'd rather pay someone who specializes in these things do them. After all, as a writer, you wouldn't hire me to fix your plumbing, right?

Anyway, my remaining tax bill is less than I expected (by about $700...yay!), though I still have to cough up a healthy amount. I figured out today that with the extra I've been saving since January and the amount I will save from my next check, when combined with the lingering February snowflake fund, it will be just a little more than what I need for my tax bill.

Needless to say, this will be wiping out my Tax fund, and I...uh...won't be able to pay my estimated (first quarter) tax due on time (yep, that is due the same day as last year's taxes...woo-hoo!).

It looks like this: I will cover my 2007 taxes on time, and I will just continue to save a little extra so that I get back on track for making my estimated payments this year, to avoid the underpayment penalty I had to cough up for not making estimated payments last year. (Note: the underpayment penalty I owe for last year is actually less than the amount I earned on my regular Ing savings accounts last year...and it's not like I have that much money in my savings accounts!)

So, while paying my tax bill was never something I considered for the February snowflake fund, it's how it's played out. I'll keep Uncle Sam off my back, and then work on getting fully current for the second quarter of 2008.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

How Much Money Do You Lose Through Laziness?

It all adds up: a couple dollars on this bill; a few dollars not earned on that savings. We lose money through laziness.

This is really coming to mind to me tonight because I'm preparing my documents for my appointment with my tax preparer tomorrow. Early last year, I didn't have a plan for text messaging...and at my pre-plan peak, I spent over $20 in one month, on text messages alone. After a few months, I switched to a $4.99 plan.

I have a couple savings accounts at WaMu. I know they now have some deal on a higher rate interest savings account, but I've not taken the time to pursue this. Granted, most of my cash savings is with Ing, so it's mostly making more money anyway. (Though consider this: my Ing savings accounts earned well over $200 last year (far more than what my Ing IRA earned, but let's not get me started on that...), and my WaMu accounts....a whopping $5.21.) I consider this the cost of my having super-immediately accessible emergency money, instead of having to wait a few days for an Ing transfer.

That's a bit tangential, but really: how much do you lose simply by not asking for whatever is more beneficial to you? This is a similar idea to what I wrote about in my post A Clogged Drain and Living by Default. Just like it's possible to "earn" money by asking for lower rates on credit cards, it's just as possible to review what you regularly use and find better deals. When we don't do this, we're paying a laziness tax and that money goes straight to people/companies/banks who would let you have that money if you only asked. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has paid too much in the past, or is losing money by not having switched my savings accounts to the ones with better a better rate.

If we consciously spend our money smartly in the grocery store, how come we don't do the same for other things we regularly use?

Carnivals and Festivals

I have two articles in the carnivals and festivals this week: Budgeting is Only For Lean Times?? is included in the Festival of Frugality hosted this week by My Dollar Plan, and Retirement: How Will You Live is included in the Carnival of Personal Finance hosted this week by Million Dollar Journey.

Monday, March 24, 2008

If You Build It, They Will Come

When you're a kid, adults tell you to worry about your reputation. As a kid, you generally think the adult is full of it and "what does it matter?!" As an adult and a business owner, I can tell you: it matters a lot.

Next month will be two years since I made the jump and started my freelance writing business and landed my primary client. I worked hard to find my first client. Since then, I've gained two additional [writing/editing] clients (one is brand spanking new) that were people I know, based on their hearing how much my primary client loves my work. Then today, a business management consultant I've recently met (at my primary client's office) has said that he occasionally has technical writing work and if I'm interested, he can offer me some work. Also today, in a testament to linkedin.com actually being useful, a former colleague contacted me and asked what my schedule is like, because he knows someone who needs a technical writer, and if that someone can get funding then he would like to "meet/hire" me.

It's worth noting that prior to hiring me, only one of these clients and possible future clients actually saw any of my work before offering me work. My second client, who (in disclosure) is a friend, hired me based on knowing me and hearing the raves (through me) of my primary client. My fourth client, also a friend, has recently given me some work as a sub-contractor because he can't keep up with everything he has. The former colleague knows my work style and ethic, though the project we worked on showcased little of my writing talent.

Much of last year, I was starting to wonder if I should just haul my butt back to corporate America, so that I could work full-time (even though I detested the thought). The main draw was...drumroll......money. Big shocker, I know. I live fairly well working about 20 hours per week, and I can save and pay down my debt. Though, my condo downpayment fund is quite low and not rising very quickly, and I'd really like to be maxing out at least one retirement fund.

Yet things started picking up a bit this year, though there have been a couple dead weeks. Now, on the brink of imminent recession, I potentially have another two clients.

This just goes to remind me of one of my favorite quotes (yeah, I know it's corny -- I really don't like Kevin Costner all that much, but I do love Field of Dreams): If you build it, they will come. I've plugged along with my little business, doing a good job, getting the word out with people I know and on linkedin, and it's suddenly starting to really take off. (I do hope I'm not jinxing myself by mentioning the two potential clients!)

So to anyone else who's freelancing or thinking about it, know this: it may start slowly, it may be erratic, but if you do a good job and get the word out, your client base will grow. Really. If you don't talk about what you're doing, people won't know and they won't know to contact you for jobs.

I've written before that in high school I thought networking was a Stupid Yuppie Thing, but I've since learned that it's soooo very much not. Networking is vital to a professional career. I've also learned that without networking, it's incredibly more difficult to get work as a freelancer. I can't count the number of times I've gotten different jobs just by knowing person X who knew person Y who needed a person with a skill that I have. It's much easier (and less costly) for an employer to hire an employee that has been vetted and recommended by someone they trust.

I'm feeling pretty pleased with the amount of work I have right now, and even more pleased that my client list has grown recently, and may be growing more in the forseeable future -- without any searching for clients on my part!

So, despite the imminent recession, things are looking pretty stable and optimistic for me. I'm very thankful.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Budgeting is Only for Lean Times??

I've seen a couple finance articles online recently that completely baffle me. They both have tones of "well now the recession is (almost)here, people will need to start budgeting and/or practice frugality."

Say what?

Budgeting is only for lean times?

I think this actually says quite a bit about US society. The US has very developed I Want and I Follow dispositions, and I think this only ever becomes realized during a recession. Subprime mortgage crisis? A case of people following the "You need to buy a house! It's a great investment! Don't pay someone else's mortgage!" spiel given by real estate agents and certain homeowners everywhere. Excessive consumer debt? "Oh, but I just have to have the new [iPod/computer/car/lawnmower/etc!]"

It's really sad, in my opinion, that budgeting only ever seems to be talked about on a large scale when the entire country is hurting, and that the only time some people only ever consider budgeting is when money is tight or they have developed a debt problem. Unless there is a recession, it's all spendspendspend! and deferred payments and No Credit? No Problem! This really makes me want to scream.

I've seen in some blogs that people wish there was financial education as part of the school curriculum. This would certainly be a good idea. The idea that children learn how to budget and save with their allowance money is also a really good idea. I remember my dad giving me extra chores so that I could earn extra money to buy a big dancing doll (I was seven, ok?). It was the beginning of my "if you want it, you have to work for it" and "don't have enough? Find enough!" education from my dad. Sadly, the second point didn't quite stick as well as the first (i.e. I have debt), though the first one has always stayed with me. The first point also developed into "if you want it, go after it (because it's not just going to come to you)" and this was a very important lesson to me.

One of my favorite quotes is by Abraham Lincoln: Good things come to those who wait...but only things left by those who hustle. I strive to follow this as much as I can (and it works!). I wouldn't be self-employed if I didn't hustle (oh, to just have good clients handed up on a platter!!), and I would just be another unhappy 9-5 drone, earning too little and dreaming of windfalls or easy money schemes that would "solve all my financial worries."

Budgeting should not be exclusively a lean time activity. You know this, I know this, but so many non-personal finance savvy people don't. I know this is frustrating to more than just me. It kills me when I see people I know shopping for things they can't afford, or to spend significant money on wants when they don't have a retirement account. Though I long ago learned that if you say something to someone and they don't respond, let them be because continuing endless on any topic isn't going to change anything (except have them think you have a superiority complex). As an example, I know someone who I think has some great skills that would make her some really good money if she was to do some freelance work. However, she doesn't do this (though if someone else found the clients, I bet she'd do it...) and she lives paycheck-to-paycheck.

So yes, it frustrates me how the media and society view finances. The US is a nation of impatience and overwhelming debt, yet it seems the only time frugality is talked about is when the nation's economy is in a severe downturn.

Monday, March 17, 2008

This Week's Carnival

I participated in the Carnival of Personal finance, and my article Easy Money (aka a myth) is included in this weeks's carnival, hosted at BeingFrugal. I've only had a chance to read a couple of the articles, yet it looks like there are a lot of really great ones this week.

Go check it out!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Retirement: How Will You Live?

While most of use are financially planning for our retirements, I'm wondering if we're really planning what we want to do during that time.

I read a variety of personal finance blogs, including frugalistas, those in debt, those out of debt. One theme that seems to run through most of them, is the maxing out of retirement funds, sometimes to the exclusion of allowing themselves "luxuries" in the present day. While I generally think this is a reasonable idea, my question is this: once you retire and don't have to save money, what will you do?

I'm sure that many of the writers I've read have personal retirement plans and goals, but that I just haven't read what they include. What makes me wonder, is if people who are particularly frugal now will continue to be so when they retire -- even when they have the money to not be frugal. I wonder whether or not hardcore frugalistas will let themselves have indulgences, or whether or not the years and years of saving and frugality will "prevent" them from spending money on indulgences when they retire. I think we've all known elderly people in our own families, or others, who have had quite a bit of money and didn't really use it for things that gave them pleasure, but would just use a little here and there.

I'm concerned that people who deprive themselves in the present will continue to do so once they have met their financial goals and no longer need to scrimp and save.

I should probably preface all this by saying I have no children and I'm not planning on having any. I'm not planning on living a legacy for family members, and I know that many people with families want to leave a financial legacy for their children. I am personally more interested in leaving a legacy for organizations that interest me.

I also plan to not be pinching pennies when I retire, and I know this is directly related to how much money I can save now (I do not plan on receiving social security when I retire, because I believe the current state of that fund will not last 25 more years). I should probably also say that I, personally, do not believe in waiting until retirement to do all the Big Things I want to do.

I've mentioned several times how I took a year-long mini-retirement when I was 34, and spent most of that time travelling internationally. It was bliss, though I didn't contribute to a retirement fund for a few years, and I know that will catch up with me later. I'm also willing to work a couple years longer to make up for that lapse of retirement investing. I was very fortunate and lucky to be able to take that year off, though I've always known it would exact a price in my future.

So, what are your plans for retirement? Are you planning to do the Big Things you've always wanted to do? Are you planning to budget your money so you can leave a financial legacy to your family (or organizations)? Have you even planned that far?

Oh, and in case you're wondering, it probably won't come as a surprise to hear that I want to spend time travelling when I retire, and to spend the rest of my time doing other activities I love.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Financial Woes

So. While I've been working on side projects, I haven't actually been working much for my client this month (so far -- one week was eight hours, another nine, and last week was 17). Money has been a bit tight, and I've held off on dipping into my emergency fund by (foolishly, I know) not putting aside tax money when I've gotten a check. (Note: this tactic is especially bad since I under-budgeted my tax bill last year, and still need to come up with an extra $2k or so, by my estimates. I was planning on taking a much higher percentage out of my checks until I saved what I estimate I'll need, but because my income has varied wildly the last couple months, this hasn't happened.)

Which brings us to:

Financial dilemma #1: my most recent student loan statement says I don't have another payment due for two months. Somehow the last two payments were both posted to last month's statement, so it appears they received one late (though no late fee, yay!).

Financial dilemma #2: my snowball fund from last month. I wrote previously about waffling on where to allocate the money to...and I haven't chosen or acted yet. I haven't tapped the snowball fund, but my fluctuating income this month has made me loathe to actually use it.

Do I skip my student loan payment this month since they say nothing is due for two months?

Do I still put my snowball fund to debt, or partially use it as emergency money, or hold on to it until my income stabilizes this month?

The last time I had a solid check from my primary client, I paid more than the minimum on both my credit cards, and neither of them have a remaining minimum due amount for this cycle. It's possible that I could coast until next month without paying more on my credit cards or my student loan, though it would mean there wouldn't be any significant progress in my debt reduction this month.

I know this is a five paycheck month for me and that I will have more money to put towards debt later this month from this week's and next week's checks, but this is getting me down. I had such momentum in paying down my debt last year, and it's just completely plateaued since January. Luckily I haven't had to tap my emergency fund yet, though the price of that is not contributing to my tax fund...so I suppose that just means I'm using tax money as my emergency fun. Erk.

It's bad enough to see my IRA and 401k accounts still down (thank you recession!), and then I have this. I know everything will turn around, but that doesn't make me feel better in this moment. The ides of March aren't even yet upon us.

/end me crying on your shoulder

Festivals and Carnivals

The Carnival of Personal Finance went live yesterday, and the Festival of Frugality this morning. I have articles in both. Four Pillars included my article Who Says Money Doesn't Buy Happiness? in the Carnival of Personal Finance, and Green Panda Treehouse included my article Cheap vs Quality (and environmental impact).

So, head on over to the carnivals and discover more articles!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Easy Money (aka A Myth)

Recently, my blog has been getting a lot of hits looking for "easy money." The search terms vary a bit, but the idea is the same: people want to know how to find/earn easy money.

The truth is: finding money isn't easy.

Of course, maybe you get a winning lottery ticket, or some unknown relative dies and leaves you a great portfolio of dividend investments. Odds are, you're more likely to be struck by lightning than to get a financial windfall.

Now, I named this blog Smart Easy Money because I don't think it takes a lot of specialized knowledge to manage your money. Do the smart thing, and the rest can become easy. Once someone takes charge of their money, it falls into place and isn't the hassle it was when it was out-of-control.

This may sound simplistic, but it's true. Even when there are weeks or months when it feels like our personal finances are shot to h*ll...those times are just a blip. We all have bad weeks/months. Life happens. Mistakes happen (e.g. I neglected to prepay my taxes last year, which I know is stupid, and I will probably have to pay an underpayment penalty). If you find your budget isn't working, then you look at it and figure out why -- and then make adjustments so that it does work.

Personal finance isn't that hard: pay down debt, build an emergency fund, save for the future, make a budget for everything important to you, live within your means. That's it. Really. The specific strategies to achieve these things is a personal choice. While these principles are smart and easy, they are not necessarily easy to faithfully follow.

This is a bit tangential, though. I think the easiest way to make money is to do what you love. For me, I decided to pursue what I've been most passionate about since I was in grade school and make it into my career. I love what I do. I love my hourly rate. I'm infinitely happier than when I was working for a corporation. I've taken other passions and turned them into revenue (e.g. petsitting). I'm currently in the midst of designing and creating a bunch of necklaces, which I'm selling on etsy. I'm not expecting to get rich doing this, yet it's something I enjoy (I get to design and make pretty things and be creative), it's something I can do in my spare time, and it's something I'm pretty sure I'll make some money with (otherwise, I'm going to end up with a lot of pretty, sparkly necklaces). I started this blog because after reading (and enjoying) other personal finance blogs, I realized I wanted to write about the topic, too (and I have a lot to say about, well, a lot of things...). Yes, one of my goals is to earn some money from this site, and that's slowly starting to happen.

The point of my experiences above is this: do what you love. If you can't, find something you're good at and get someone else to pay you well for that. Then in your spare time, find ways to make more money doing things you enjoy. I also recommend reading my article How Do I Get Out of Debt? Make More Money for some ideas.

Know that unless you are staggeringly brilliant or brilliantly lucky (see above reference to being struck by lightning), you won't be able to lift a finger and magically have your debt disappear or suddenly find your wallet filled with five hundred euro notes (if you don't know, there really is a 500 euro note).

Earning money takes work...regardless of what anyone else (ahem...MLM schemes) tells you.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

How Will You Spend Your Retirement Money?

This is frightening. The other day, I came across an article stating the average person (retiring soon) will need over $100k for medical expenses alone, in retirement. The amount is slightly more than double for a couple.

According to the article from the Yahoo Finance news website, the amount needed for medical expenses has risen 5.8% yearly, since 2002. So, 25 years from now, I'll need an estimated $123, 362.85 to cover my medical expenses. Though given the way healthcare is in the US, I can easily imagine it may be significantly more than that.

Ouch.

Retiring to a country with socialized medicine is starting to look really good...

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Who Says Money Doesn't Buy Happiness?

People say money doesn't buy happiness, and I don't fully agree. It buys options, and if you know how to choose your options, you can definitely achieve happiness.

Personally, money can (and does) buy me happiness. When I, for instance, save for trip and I reach my financial goal: that makes me happy. What makes me ecstatic is actually going on the trip. When I finally reached my financial goal for going on my mini-retirement, I was astounded. I had accumulated enough money to make a personal dream a reality. There isn’t a price you can put on this.

So yes, having the money [to do what I like] makes me happy. If I wasn’t able to travel, I would be a less happy person. Money allows me to buy things or experiences I enjoy, which in turn makes me happy. Ergo, money buys me happiness. If I couldn’t participate in the things that I’m passionate about, I would be unhappy.

Of course, if someone is simply depressed in general, or is unhappy for another reason, spending money is not going to fix those feelings and make them happy for more than a few minutes. This kind of spending behavior is how a lot of people get into serious debt.

I always try to live my life in a way that doesn’t leave room for regrets. I don’t follow the belief that everything that someone wants to do should be saved until retirement. I’ve met many people who want to travel when they retire, yet couldn’t imagine taking a month to travel now. For a variety of reasons, this appalls me. Personally, I would rather have debt than regrets. If I have to work a couple years extra before retiring [for good], because of the mini-retirement year I took, that’s a price I’m willing to pay.

Like so many other things with money management, how we use money is about making choices. When someone has control of their finances and is able to do the things important to them, my bet is that that person is happier than someone without the resources to do what is important to them. Obviously, the personal price of happiness varies widely from one person to the next. Yet, that price exists. For some people, it’s simply being debt- free. For others, it’s having $1 million for retirement. For others, it’s having enough money to work at a job they love, but that doesn’t provide a livable income. Or maybe someone wants to give a significant amount to charity. Or maybe someone wants to be able to provide a private education for their child.

In addition to money being able to buy happiness, it can also buy freedom. I’ll never forget the true sense of freedom I had when I travelled for nine months. Yes, I had some debt, but I simply put money in a special checking account, set-up automatic payments, and forgot about them. For those nine months, I was free. I reported to no one but myself. I did nothing I didn’t want to do. If I was in Italy and wanted to spend the day lounging in my hotel room and watching French films dubbed in Italian, I could. If I wanted to make a two-week detour somewhere, there wasn’t anything stopping me. It’s a remarkably freeing thing to not depend on someone else for money, and to be able to do exactly what you want to do, and have enough money to do it (within certain limitations of course – I wasn’t staying at 5-star hotels…). I was able to follow whims, leave town on a moment’s notice, do things I hadn’t originally planned.

I don’t think anyone should feel guilty about money, especially when it’s used to buy things or experiences which are important to them. Obviously, we need to live within our means and not rack up a lot of debt “just making [myself] happy.” As long as spending money isn’t being used as a stopgap for personal or psychological issues, money definitely can buy happiness.

Buying happiness doesn’t mean that the money is used to buy actual products – it can be used to buy intangible items, or simply to “buy” peace of mind by having an emergency or retirement fund that will protect against sudden unemployment or high medical expenses. It’s about conscious spending.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

In the Writing Desert...

First, I have to apologize for the recent scarcity of posts. I've been working on a couple things, but they're not yet finished. Sometimes I have lots of ideas. Sometimes I think I have lots of ideas (but really don't).

After a very slow start to the week, my primary client has done the just-when-you-thought-it-was-safe-to-sleep-in! turnaround, and I've been in the office the last couple days. Great for billing, but the bus commute kills a lot of time [which I'd rather spend writing for this blog, and for making pretty things (see below)].

I've been working on the jewelry thing, and I'm pleased to say I've listed my first necklace over at etsy! Yay! I have a few more necklaces I need to put up, and a few more to string and complete. After wearing one to my client's office today, a co-worker is interested in me making one just for her. Double yay! I don't expect to get rich with the jewelry thing. Making jewelry is fun (pretty, sparkly things!), gives me a creative outlet (I can't really use my creative writing skills when writing a technical manual for a machine...), and I get to exercise my mind by taking different colors and beads and making them into a single piece (already, the things I'm designing now are more colorful and more "designed" than what I did a week ago...). Getting paid to have fun? Priceless!

Yes, it's getting busy. Though, I've been petsitting for the last couple weeks, and I've spent a lot of time sleeping in and laying low (when I haven't been doing client work). I really need a vacation, but haven't gotten around to planning one. So, this petsitting gig has also worked like a mini-vacation for me, so that I can recharge a bit.

I'm not disappearing...just being a little scarce these last couple weeks. It won't last, promise!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Cheap vs Quality (and environmental impact)

Which do you think is more environmentally sound: buying three new sweaters for $100, or buying one new sweater? If you answered one, you're correct.

Alice made a point in a comment recently, and it solidified something that had been pinging around my head for a while: cheap products are not environmentally sound. I’ve written before about how while I love some of the clothes at Target (my favorite “fun” skirt is from there), I won’t buy their sweaters – even if they’re on sale. Why? Because they pill after being worn maybe 2-3 times. So, those are not deals in any sense of the word. In my experience, anything made with acrylic is not something that you will be wearing three years from now.

Let’s look at this from a different perspective: what happens to those three sweaters? Maybe the buyer uses 1-2 as “at home” sweaters (e.g. lounging, gardening, whatever). More likely, they end up in the trash or Goodwill donation. And really, does anyone ever buy a pilled sweater in a thrift shop??

Based on my personal experience, the sweater material that has lasted the longest and looks as good today as it did originally is this: fine gauge wool. I bought a couple sweaters in charity shops in Scotland, and they have lasted longer than any other sweater I’ve bought and worn as much. Based on the brand of sweater, each probably cost $50-100 new.

My father had the same two pairs of shoes for as long as I could remember. They were subtle wingtips, and he wore them nearly every day. Occasionally, he would have the shoes re-soled and that was it. Oh, and he’d have to buy new shoelaces now and then. I honestly think my father had those same shoes for 20 years. Yes, there was some expense in maintenance, though that’s not the same in cost or waste when compared to someone who buys (and wears out) two pairs of shoes per year.

These are brief examples, to be sure, though it illustrates how buying quality is better for the environment. By purchasing things which will last longer, the buyer will have more money in the future (since they’re not constantly replacing cheap items), and the environment will be better because there will be less waste. Hopefully, too, it will lower demand for cheap items and raise the standard that clothing manufacturers need to follow.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Carnival Monday

I participated in two carnivals this past week. The Carnival of Personal finance is hosted this week by The Baglady, and included my article Financial Lessons I Learned Early. The Carnival of Debt Reduction is hosted this week by No Credit Needed, and he included my article Saving and Debt Reduction: New Snowflake Strategy.

I just did a quick perusal of the articles, and one that is a very nice complement to my article about snowflaking is written by PaidTwice, and is a very clear description of Dave Ramsey's "snowball" idea (which is where the idea of snowflaking originated).

So head on over to the carnivals!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

February Update on 2008 Goals

So, here it is March already. Time flies, but I haven't forgotten my goals. Here's an update of where I'm at with each of them.

1. Pay off additional 40% of my [original] debt. This is coming along. I used my credit cards a couple times last month, so I've only paid down about 3%. That's lower than I'd like it to be, and I'm working on new projects that will supplement my main income.

2. Diversify my income. This is coming along quite well. I finished the first website for the new client, I've pet-sat a couple times, and I've started designing some jewelry (which I plan to have online within a couple weeks). This is going successfully.

3. Make more money. In conjunction with #2 above, I also negotiated a higher hourly rate recently and have just started seeing the effect in my checks. This, too, is coming along successfully.

4. Work more. Well, I've been working a bit less for my primary client in the past two weeks, though I've been working on more projects. This is coming along well, though I don't feel I can honestly call my progress with this a success...yet.

5. Invest. This hasn't yet happened. My emergency fund is almost to where I want it to be, so I hope to start investing [in at least a CD] this month.

6. Open and fully fund a Roth IRA. This hasn't yet happened. I still have the dreaded Ing IRA, though I almost have my target amount for opening the Roth IRA. So, while I haven't actually opened the new IRA, I've still been saving for it. So, this is should become a success in the next 1-2 months.

7. Use cash only. This continues to go well, and I'm still (in general) spending less per week since I started doing this. I do use my debit card now and then, though maybe only once or twice per week. This is a success.

8. Travel. I've not travelled this month, though I'm kinda sorta planning a trip to Mexico. I've been really tied up with petsitting, and will be for the next 2+ weeks, so this hasn't gone past me checking out airfares.

9. Build up the readership for this blog and cultivate a daily readership of 500 readers. This is coming along much better than in January. I'm getting a bit more established, I've had a bit of fleeting fame, and my RSS numbers are up a bit. The site stats say I'm getting between 75-100 average readers per day. If the coming months have the growth of the last two, I expect I will surpass this goal well before the end of the year.

10. Help my mother sort out her finances. Again, this is in progress. I've asked for updated documents and I hope to see her in the next 1-2 weeks to get these.

11. Snowflake. This is going quite well. My snowflake amount for February is over $300.

Like last month, I'm making progress, and I feel I'm track to meet each of these goals. I must admit it was quite useful to create this list, and to also have a forum where I hold myself accountable.