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the little financial tweaks of 2012, month by month

2012-12-10 - 7:16 a.m.

One of my 2012 New Year's Resolutions was to take an action every month to increase our financial security. Most of the individual actions were relatively small, but you put them together, and you start to see a little progress. Let's see how it went...

  1. January: I fully funded our individual IRAs for the year from our closed BankDirect and Regions accounts. [Then spent the rest of the month chasing Eagles in South Africa.]
  2. February: I set up a new filing system for receipts, bills, insurance, and other financial records. I updated my financial records. I shredded a LOT of old receipts and paperwork. Reviewed our budget. I read Ramit Sehti's I Will Teach You To Be Rich, a personal finance book, which is pretty basic despite the spammy title. There wasn't really anything new to a homeowner my age, but I wanted to work along with a relatively modern book in order to make sure I wasn't missing anything. No use getting fossilized in old routines.
  3. March: I checked my credit report and got Roger a debit card he could use while traveling. This debit card also had a $50 sign-up bonus. Whee. After last month's review, I feel confident that our budget can't really get any lower, so I decided to turn my attention to bringing in more extra money. I decided to test two business ideas. Going back to freelance writing was a natural, so I signed up for eLance. I've been told that I should do psychic readings so I tested that market too. I put the ad on eBay but I got all the views from a link I placed on the rock tumbling site, which confirmed my hunch from 2011 that eBay is dead. I have somehow been dropped from their search even though I have 100% feedback with over 700 transactions going back to 1998. So what do you do? I sold only one reading, to a person who already knew me from RTH. The client seemed very happy, and I felt that I was getting some good insight on her issue but, whoa. It really took it out of me. You don't want to play with people's lives yet you're competing with scammers willing to do $5 "canned" fake readings. I can't tear out my heart for $5. So unless I can figure a way to connect with quality seekers, I'm not going forward with that project. Similarly, Elance turns out to be the headquarters of the "something for nothing crowd," with few hirers willing to pay for work, but for now at least it's a place to hang my portfolio.
  4. April: We checked Roger's credit report and changed his "sweep" account from a money market to treasuries for a modest increase in the interest rate.
  5. May: 1) Published my first Kindle book, a reprint book. I created the cover photograph, updated the old articles with new 21st century information, converted, and published the book myself, so I had no out-of-pocket costs, and I was profitable from the first sale. 2) Made a serious study of the FD/trickit school of booking tickets, then successfully booked and flew a dirt-cheap ticket. Also did my first couch surf. Not sure how many couch surfs I want to do going forward, but it was a nice person and a great experience, and it's always good to get out of one's comfort zone. One of my free checking accounts became inactive, and I figured out how to make automatic deposits to the account to keep it busy even when I'm not using it for its intended purpose, which is to get foreign currency in foreign countries. (It went inactive because I didn't go out of the country between South Africa in January and Japan in May.)
  6. June: I made my first writing sale to a blog, as a result of a Fiverr post -- the start of a great relationship, as it turned out. I also did a mini App-a-rama for four credit cards, which would soon result in the two of us earning over 80,000 bonus AA miles, 60,000 points for PC hotel rooms, and $100 cash credit. I had closed my Delta credit card, but they offered me $50 and I think 30K miles to take it back, so I did that too.
  7. July:I read a book on Craigslist advertising, and I experimented heavily with posting ads there. The new techniques worked, and I quickly and easily sold some fast furniture projects.
  8. August: Roger's IRA has acquired some high expenses over the years, while his employment based retirement plan offered a $200 bonus to bring his IRA to them. It took some hoop jumping but we got the plan transferred.
  9. September: Was interviewed for Frugal Travel Guy, although I'm not sure if the benefits of being interviewed were worth much. Since I'm not on Facebook, I think it provides some small credibility, although probably not any more than updating my author's page at Amazon, which I have also done for both me and Roger. Finished the hoop jumping to rollover Roger's IRA.
  10. October: A month for saving rather than earning money -- I got two $300/night hotel rooms in Santa Monica free with my credit card points. I flew another dirt-cheap FD flight to Tokyo. Learned to use the bus from LAX to get around Los Angeles. Yes, there is a bus, and it's easy and cheap, but most people don't use it because the bus drivers are extremely angry people. Somehow my files had gotten out of order since January, so I did some re-filing.
  11. November: Cancelled two credit cards -- one of them, Chase Freedom, I'm sorry to cancel but their security hoops made it take too long for me to pay the bills every week. The other one was an Amex I wouldn't be using since I have the Delta Skymiles card now. Closed my old stock brokerage account, which didn't have any money in it, so I should have closed it long ago so I could become eligible if they offer any sign-up bonuses in the future. Found a service that will notify me when silver goes back up to $40/ounce, so I can grab the rest out of the bank vaults and sell it -- without having to monitor the daily movements of silver.
  12. December: Tried to open Sharebuilder account but this one is going to be a miss. They can't figure out how to verify the identity of folks who have lived in the same house for over 20 years, with a husband who has worked for the same employer over 25 years, so I'm about to decide that they have a problem I don't want to deal with.

All in all, I'm pretty pleased with myself. Everything I tried didn't work, but you don't have to hit a home run every time to win the ball game, and I think we made some nice progress. I picked a tough year to come back as a writer. In fact, I contacted Bird Talk to let them know I was available again...and a month later I heard back that they were going out of business. Magazines and newspapers are crashing all around me, putting a huge flood of out-of-work writers on the market. Still, I got a paying job -- and not just a promise, I got paid -- almost right away. I've now finished that job. For 2013, we'll see if it's a fluke or if I can get out of the pet writing ghetto and find some new clients. Stay tuned!

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