DIY and the Fear of Sucking

Control your caveman brain! Dare to suck!

My creative writing teacher in high school once lectured us all on the fear of sucking. “If you sit there, staring at a blank page, so afraid you’re going to screw up whatever you write that you can’t eek out a single word, you will never get anything done,” she told us. “You have to let go, and tell yourself that even if what you produce does indeed suck, it’s okay.”

Overcoming the fear of sucking is a difficult thing. It is normal and human thing to want to avoid mistakes. Something in our caveman brain stirs and says, “Nuh-uh, if I don’t do this right the first time, I get eaten.” But as instinctual as human beings can be, we are also rational creatures! So tell yourself to relax, that it’s okay if the first iteration of whatever you’re doing will suck. You’ll find that you’ll get a lot more out of life AND save money (bet you were wondering when this would become an actual personal finance post).

DIY is scary for a lot of people. You don’t want to screw it up and leave your house in shambles, or mess up your new gaming rig by installing one of the parts wrong. As a woman, I’ve found it exceptionally hard, because unlike my fiance my parents didn’t show me how to do a lot of “handyman” things. However, the rewards of DIY are too hard to ignore. For example, just last night I saved myself $100 by installing a ceiling fan myself instead of having someone else do it. Instead of calling a plumber, my fiance and I fixed our toilet with a few Google searches and a $4 rubber flapper from Lowes. And aside from saving money, being able to do things yourself allows you to customize things exactly to your liking. Here are my tips for getting over yourself and doing things on your own.

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Frugal Appliance Adventures

A lovely little dent saved us $200
A lovely little dent saved us $200

Now that my fiance and I have bought a house, we are on the market for all kinds of weird products we’ve never had to think about before. Chief among these new purchases are appliances. Costing several hundred dollars a piece, these are some of the biggest items we’ll buy this year aside from the house itself. In our case, we needed a fridge, an oven, and a microwave.

The more something costs, the more important every percentage point you can shave off the price is. 10% off an $800 fridge is $80. Not chump change! Through some clever purchases on eBay, shopping smart, and knowing what mattered to us and what didn’t, we saved hundreds of dollars.

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How Minimizing Your Paycheck Can Maximize Your Savings

As beautiful as Ben’s smile may be, whisk him away into savings and you’ll be happier than ever. The old man himself agrees with me: “A penny saved is a penny earned!”

You just got that big promotion, or that new job, or that solid yearly raise. “Score!” you exclaim. “Now I can buy all the junk I ever wanted!” But taking a step back, you realize that while a small amount of that money can be used to buy that fancy new video game or purse, most of it should probably be saved toward the bigger things in life. But it’s so tempting seeing those extra couple Benjamins hanging out in your checking account…

In this post, I’ll show you how to shrink your paycheck so you’re never tempted to spend money you should be saving. Make yourself feel poor so you can get rich!

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How an IRA Can Help You

You may remember from my 401k post that there are several good reasons to invest in an IRA (Individual Retirement Account). These include:

  1. Maximum Flexibility: Invest in anything, with any investment manager/bank
  2. Avoid Taxes: Gains in an IRA are not taxed like they would be in a regular taxable account, so you’ll pay the government less.
  3. Penalty-Free Contribution Withdrawals: You can withdraw the money you put in at any time without penalty (though you can’t withdraw the investment gains that have grown on that money). This is good thing, just in case you ever need that money (though please remember that the stock market is NOT the place for your emergency savings).

Let me walk you through some of the basics of your IRA.

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Short-Term vs Long-Term Goals

Sorry for the delay on this latest post, I had some exciting real-life stuff happen: I got engaged! My conversations with my fiance (still so weird using that term!) regarding how to save for wedding expenses are actually what spurred this post.

Balancing your goals is never easy

So often in life, and especially in finance, we are asked to put off our short-term desires in favor of long-term goals. It can take a lot of effort not to buy that fancy Starbucks latte and save your dollars toward that new car instead. Self-control when it comes to finances is something that many find extremely difficult, but without it, you can never achieve big goals. However, big goals can vary in their “bigness”–for example, you may want to save for a house, and also save for that sexy new gaming rig; or maybe you know your car’s going to kick the bucket, so you need to start saving for a newer model, but you also really want to upgrade that college wardrobe of bad T-shirts and that one hoodie you wore for a whole semester straight once.

Sometimes two desired spending goals present themselves at the same time. One might be bigger and longer-term (on the horizon of a year or few years), and the other may be shorter-term (a few months) and a little bit smaller in scope. How do you balance these goals?

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Digit: Intelligently Automate Your Savings

Digit: Save money without thinking about it

A friend recently introduced me to the tool Digit, a “digital savings assistant” which helps you squirrel away money. It works by linking to your checking account and analyzing your spending patterns. When it notices you have a little extra money that you’re not using, it sucks it away into your FDIC-insured Digit savings account.

This smart little service is really great for both meticulous savers, and those who haven’t gotten the hang of budgeting yet.

If You’re a Saver: If you, like me, like to keep immaculate control of your finances, Digit could be a huge help! Every payday, I spend a lot of time figuring out how much I can send to my savings account versus how much I should keep in my checking. Even setting up automatic transfers can be cause for worry. What if I transfer too much and there’s a bill I’ve forgotten about? I could overdraft and get hit with a bunch of fees! Digit has a no-overdraft guarantee to assure you that you’ll never make that mistake. It’s like setting up a smart auto-transfer to savings–one that is guaranteed to never get you in trouble for trying to be responsible with your money

If You’re a Spender: Digit will pull money from your account in small increments when it realizes you don’t need it. If you don’t have the discipline to tuck away that dollar for a rainy day, Digit will help you do that. In turn, this could help you spend less on frivolous things, since you won’t have that big chunk of cash sitting in your checking account!

What else is good about Digit? It has an awesome interface that you can communicate with via text messages. It will let you know how much you’ve saved, and even help you keep track of your bills! If you need to withdraw money, it will have the funds in your account within a day–much faster than conventional ACH transfers. It’s also just as secure as your own bank account.

Any downsides? Well, there’s no interest on their savings account. However, this doesn’t seem like a big issue to me unless you already have a huge amount of savings, with savings rates being what they are these days. Also, if you don’t use texting, you miss out on a lot of the friendly communications the platform offers.

All in all, it seems like a great product that will help me save some dough for my next vacation!