Ten days prior to writing this post, I set up an outline to get my writing efforts back on track. However, I'll need to do more than type furiously to get myself together in 2021.
The biggest hurdle I currently face is how I handle -- or, more accurately, mishandle -- my finances.
I've learned the hard way that budgets aren't particularly effective for me. Yes, it's nice to be able to allocate which funds go where, but real life cares not for rigid plans. Therefore, I'll have to take a similar approach to finances as I will with writing: establish a high-level outline, fill in the blanks, and be ready to improvise and adapt. There will be some hard-set rules, but I need wiggle room to deal with unexpected situations.
TIME IS MONEY, AND I CAN'T AFFORD TO SQUANDER EITHER ONE
I'm going to experiment with a philosophy of sorts. I'm going to divide my time into three categories:
- Generating active income: This includes my writing for Three Gen Media, Publish0x, and my personal projects which I intend to sell upon completion.
- Managing passive income: This includes #SatoshisSaturday and potential income opportunities that I have yet to include in the feature.
- Rest and recovery: This includes any action that replenishes my physical, mental, or emotional well-being.
Admittedly, I'll have to do some generous rounding to "justify" actions with no clean match. I'll need to get a new driver's license in 2021, but I'll consider that as both generating active income and rest and recovery (avoiding legal ramifications is the same as preserving money and sanity, after all). However, if I find myself doing something, ask myself, "Why am I doing this?," and the answer doesn't fit in any of the categories, I plan on stopping that activity and doing something beneficial instead.
MAYDAY! PAYDAY LOANS!
Payday loans were a literal lifesaver when I had no idea when -- or if -- the next income infusion would arrive. However, now that I'm in a more stable situation, payday loans are eating up too much of my income. I need to prioritize paying them off completely, then not relying on them. The money I save on not paying back loans with astronomical interest rates can be applied almost anywhere else in my life for a much more positive effect.
INVEST IS BEST; PUT MY INCOME TO THE TEST
Even though I have limited income, I still manage to find ways to waste money. I'm going to try and cut wasteful spending to the bone. The funds I save from not eating out too often or playing "sucker" games at the casinos can be applied to my investments instead. #SatoshisSaturday has several options to generate passive income. And CashApp allows me to buy partial stocks; I already own one share of Boyd Gaming, so why bet on the Pass Line when I can bet on stock dividends instead? Besides, I half-jokingly tell friends that if I buy enough Las Vegas-based stocks, I can literally own this city! THAT'S GRAND POOBAH LOONY LIBERAL TO YOU, YOU TIPSY TOURISTS!
Jokes aside, I have a variety of investment options with minimum deposits ranging from $100 all the way down to $1. And I can -- and do -- play online games to generate both active and passive income. Splinterlands is an example of a potential cash cow; I've said on the Splinterlands Discord server that I want to get my hands on two Yodin Zaku cards (a Fire Splinter that gives Blast and +1 HP to all friendly monsters and +1 ATK to all friendly ranged monsters). I can use one to win matches and lease the other for passive income. The more cards I get, the more powerful my deck becomes, and the more income I can get through both matches and leasing. I'm nowhere near profitable yet, but I'm willing to play the long game on games like these.
My investment strategy is to invest in a variety of opportunities instead of going all-in on one or two opportunities. This saved me from complete wipeouts with the #SatoshisSaturday projects; as companies revealed themselves to be scams or outright vanished from the internet, I had other opportunities that were still going strong.
REBATE, REFUND, REPEAT
There are a plethora of browser plug-ins, apps, and services that provide rewards and cash refunds for most of the purchases I would make on my life. For online purchases, I intend to use my browser as much as possible. Yes, I'm about to throw Lolli and Pei out the window because of their rampant defects, but Honey seems to work so far (I'll confirm that after I receive my first gift card). And I'll look into Receipt Hog or similar apps so I can get some cash back from my weekly shopping trips. And, yes, this applies to my less-frequent casino outings. I've made many jokes about the El Cortez over the past few months, but I owe them an apology; they sent me $120 in free play and $90 in free food credits to use in January.
My general thought with purchases is "If I'm not getting some form of rebate, refund, or discount, I'm throwing money away."
CHECK MY TECH OR GET REK'D
In addition to giving a higher priority to investments, I need to be more aggressive in upgrading my tech. The new laptop works okay, but if I want to do things like resume filming videos and dabble in the occasional programming or music composing, I'll need to boost my machine. I've already set an informal shopping list with items like more RAM, a powered USB hub, and an external microphone.
To get the tech upgrades, I'm going back and forth between Fry's Electronics (generally cheap goods, but customer service is maddening) and Best Buy (a bit pricier, but online purchases can trigger rebates with my current extensions).
Instead of giving a portion of my funds to religious organizations, I want to send some money to the divine artists and entertainers that I follow online. There's a lot of them and not a lot of money at this point in time, so I need to find a way to share the financial love without unintentionally offending people. It will be a balancing act, but since quite a few of the people I follow are in similar or worse states than mine, it's worth the effort. This may also have the side-benefit of generating goodwill when I'm ready to commission beta readers, artists, musicians, etc. to make my works come to life.
SO LONG, SODA!
Whenever I've given up sodas for any significant period of time, I lost ten pounds. Considering my consumption throughout 2020, removing sodas from my dietary intake will save me anywhere from $6 to $10 a week for annual savings between $312 and $520. Also, caffeine withdrawal sucks, and I don't want to have to go through it any more than necessary.
BUS-TING MY WALLET
Until recently, I've gotten into the habit of buying monthly passes for $65. This doesn't sound terrible until I point out that I typically use the bus between 1-3 days a week. Buying a batch of 24-hour passes at $5 each would cost between $12 and $60. A $5 savings doesn't sound like much until I point out that $5 can buy five bags of microwaveable broccoli, two loafs of high-quality bread, several cards in Splinterlands, or a TXT-mining session in TrustDice. And if I limit trips to absolute necessities only -- which is easy to do during a pandemic -- that will save roughly $45-$50 per month, which can buy a significant pile of groceries, more Vegas-centric stocks, or a boost to my passive income.
FUNDING? BUT WHERE IS THE FUN?
Although I tend to metaphorically tighten the screws on myself in 2021, I'm still planning on having a good time -- or as good of a time as the pandemic and my misanthropic nature allow. I sincerely enjoy writing and the activities associated with it. My bosses at Three Gen Media are wonderful people who both say and prove that they consider me family. And I consider finding ways to get well-deserved Vegas vacations to friends qualifies as tithing in my book.
One of the reasons that I'm targeting reduction of "stupid spending" is because the money can be better applied elsewhere. But the other factor that makes "stupid spending" stupid is that I just don't enjoy it. Yes, I'll still gamble here and there -- especially when casinos send me free play -- but games like Craps have lost much of their appeal thanks to boisterous, obnoxious players.
I have a few thoughts to make the most of my wagering bucks, but that will be a blog post for another time. For now, I'm going to get a head-start on working on other active incomes. Why wait until January 1 to improve myself?