Money To Live

August 17, 2013

Create money to live

Hmmmmmm… I sat down to write this blog post at my usual schedule. Ideas popped in, but none flowed into writing. I willingly spent a few hours procrastinating. I reminded myself, as any writer knows, that you just have to do it.

Conclusion?

Today’s blog message is simply this: to create money to live, you just have to create money to live. Do you know how to earn more money? Do you know how to save more money? Do you know how you can improve the quality of (the value you experience from) your money? Go create money to live!

August 9, 2010

The depest of intimacies — merging files

Filed under: family finances,productivity — by moneytolive @ 6:00 am
Last summer, I ordered the FreedomFiler. I heard about it on unclutterer and wrote about it here.

Over 12 months, it has proven to be as wonderful as it was initially. The structure makes it easy to file papers that I probably will never need again (i.e., the water bill) without letting them become clutter (in two years, I will shred the water bill). At the same time, important papers are not lost in the jumble — when I needed to send paperwork to our insurance agent recently, I could quickly find the exact papers needed.

I am particularly impressed with the FreedomFiler system because it allowed for the seamless integration of  R’s files — his education records, medical records, bank accounts, tax records, house documents, auto records, … The system is just as easy to navigate for two people as it was for one person. There is only one set of paperwork that we are intentionally not merging — his immigration papers (R has a green card and expects to apply for citizenship in 2-3 years). I am afraid to touch those papers because I would feel awful if I somehow messed them up. For now, these very important papers can stay where they are in a fire-proof safe. Assuming R becomes a US citizen in a few years, we will merge these very important documents into the FreedomFiler.

To be honest though — sorting and merging a lot of papers and files is not a lot of fun. We have merged our files over several months because we both get sick of it after a few hours. The task could probably be completed in a long weekend, but we would be bored and the shredder would wimp out. Instead of devoting a full weekend, we find times when we can both sit in the home office for a few hours. R selects one of his old file folders and starts sorting — some files will be shredded, some are easy to file in the new system, and some need a new home in the new filing system. I add new folders as needed and otherwise let R sort his papers as he wants to.

A key part of the merging of our files has been shredding — shredding 7 years of bank statements, shredding brochures about insurance from the UK in the ’90s.
“I just shredded 7 years of bank statements.”
Are there any sweeter words said by a fiancé?

August 2, 2010

What makes a good to-do list?

Filed under: productivity — by moneytolive @ 6:00 am
Over the last few weeks, my to-do lists became manageable again – I was completing over 90% of what I wanted to each day, and I felt like I was not perpetually behind. It happened for a few reasons – I kicked my organizing into high gear and I reduced my obligations and time commitments (my AmeriCorps term of service ended in June).
With breathing room in my to-do list, I have time (space) to resume writing on Money To Live. For the past several months, I have been writing little posts, but I did not get around to actually posting them. My life has changed a lot over the last year, and the changes are intertwined with my finances. So, there will be a different focus here — more on finances in a relationship, home ownership, and working independently (i.e., freelance).
Back to to-lists! Lots of people will tell you what makes a good to-do list:
  • be specific (someone other than you could read it and know what to do)
  • use action verbs
  • protect it (only put the really important stuff on it).
I like the guidelines of being specific and using action verbs (what do I need to do for each item on the list). I add that my to-do lists are thorough. Feeding the dog is on there (because we forgot to give him dinner once — sorry, Winston). If it is not a part of my usual routine, each step of crucial tasks is laid out (pick up form X, gather info for form X, return form X).
David Allen of GTD fame says to break tasks up by context (i.e., computer, phone, errands, …). I definitely see why he says this, but in the era of cell phones and internet everywhere, I do not find it necessary to break up my tasks at that level of specificity.
To keep track of everything, I now have three sets of to-do lists. I have a weekly to-do list that I write on Sunday evenings and carry with me nearly everywhere I go. Detailed timelines for my biggest projects are posted over my desk. I use Remember The Milk to keep track of other ongoing tasks that need attention (i.e., household, wedding, personal, long-term career). On Sunday evenings, I pull up my now-hopefully-finished weekly to-do list, remove what is done, and add new tasks after reviewing my calendar and other sets of lists.
The weekly to-do list is fluid — items are added and removed as necessary. The list is really a chart with 7 columns for each day of the week and (currently) 12 rows:
  1. R (my partner)
  2. Personal
  3. Home
  4. Wedding
  5. Health
  6. Financial
  7. Client #1
  8. Client #2
  9. Project #1
  10. Project #2
  11. MTL
  12. Winston (my dog).
This level of detail might drive other people crazy, but I find it helps me stay focused all day. I work outside the home just one full day a week (and two half-days), so the rest of the time, my personal life and work are deeply intertwined. That’s why the to-do list (really, I should call it a to-do chart) works for me — my personal and professional commitments are all listed together, and I can work on them as is appropriate. If my work for Client #1 takes less time than expected, I whip out the vacuum and get ahead on my household tasks.
Financial tasks get their very own area in the chart. As R and I have combined our finances, there are a million details to take care of — I am carefully tracking our bills and income now so that nothing falls through the cracks as we fiddle with our accounts. We’ve opened new bank accounts together, combined our insurance coverage, and have paid large bills on house renovations (new roof, deck, and outside paint).
This is what works for me, right now, today. Maybe it won’t work in six months. A good to-do list is what works for you today. It will undoubtedly change over time as new commitments are made and old ones fall away.

October 8, 2008

Scrimp/Splurge: Office Software

Filed under: productivity,scrimp/splurge — by moneytolive @ 5:00 am
Tags:

Scrimp: Open-source and free software

Cost: $0

My favorites are those by Google — Google Docs and Google Spreadsheets. In school, I kept all of my research notes in Google Docs. A great feature is that it is possible to search within a single document or in all documents. Another great feature is “sharing” files. When my brother got married, we used a Google Speadsheet to keep track of invitations for relatives (my mom and I entered the addresses and phone numbers, and my brother sent them invitations). We also used a shared Google Doc to coordinate information about travel plans with the extended relatives.

Downsides to Google Docs:

  • if Google goes down, you lose access to files you have not backed up
  • I have trouble with the formatting sometimes
  • Google has access to your files (a privacy concern)

A commonly used open-source office software suite is Open Office.

Splurge: Microsoft Office Professional

Cost: $499

If you need professional looking documents or need to share files with business-types, consider the full version of Office.

Note: The student and home versions cost less.

July 30, 2008

Bigger is better

Filed under: productivity — by moneytolive @ 5:00 am
Tags: ,

Bigger is better … at least when it comes to monitors.

Studies have shown that people are more productive when using larger monitors or two monitors at once, especially at tasks that keep multiple windows open (read about this in the NYT and WSJ)

Just last week I visited a friend at her office, and she showed off her new second monitor. Since she builds webpages, her boss got her another monitor so that she can work faster.

If you are looking for a new workstation set-up, two medium-size monitors might be cheaper than one larger monitor.

I write these posts on a 17″ MacBook Pro. It is a lot easier to write with this laptop than on my old 13″ iBook. I can keep a WordPress tab open in one Firefox window and in another window my list of ideas for posts in Google Docs.

How is your workspace set up? Have you tried dual monitors?

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