Buffy The Credit Card Slayer

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Gone with Jargon

I was halfway through a rant about the latest dramas in my life with a mentor when he called me out on two behaviours. One was that I was sharing from the problem, not the solution, and two, that I was using jargon he was not familiar with and which made it hard for him to be in the conversation with me.

I was talking at him, not with him. Add that to us being on the phone, having two different accents and being from two different countries, and I might as well have been raving in Martian. Or to myself, which defeats the point of a conversation with other people!

Our talks are not general chit chat, they are planned appointments to discuss recovery – how to live our lives in a saner and more peaceful way. I was on auto pilot and had launched into a download between girlfriends, which usually means relating the same story, but to different women friends (never hold one friend hostage for several hours, you soon run out of friends) until you feel that you have talked enough about it to get it out of your system.

It was not appropriate in this case and my recovery buddy gently pointed that out. Hmmm. Our conversations are not always comfortable, but, like having a private trainer at the gym, I feel the results for days afterwards.

As for jargon – what words do you choose and why?

Growing up feeling different, odd and often unacceptable, I escaped into comics and books. I lost myself in those worlds. I could have told you much more about my fictional experiences than the real world, which I wasn’t keen on being in. I still am a science fiction and fantasy fan, genres that have complex and detailed universes with their own rules, languages and even greetings. There are others who love these worlds and we can happily dip in and out of pop culture references. It means we belong to a warm. comfortable club of which we are valuable members. Speaking of which, I’m off to Armageddon this weekend (a convention for pop culture). I will recognise all the costumes and buy a tee shirt with a quote on it that only a handful of people I meet will understand, it’s code to signal others of my tribe.  

However, my buddy noted that jargon can keep me separate from others who want to be in my life. I love playing with language, but when I muddle my metaphors or mix words from various communities like a demented street performer, it can create barriers between me and those trying to be in my life. I’ve also offended many times by using words absentmindedly, which was due to my not being truly present.

Jargon can be cruel, too. We’ve all had the experience of having an “expert” bully or condescend with use of technical or unintelligible words designed to prove their superiority.

I also had a flashback to when I was 14. My best friend bluntly told me to “dumb it down.” She said that my use of “too long” words made me seem like a geek and no one understood me. I took her advice, adapted to my environment, used more simple words and my popularity increased.

When in Rome….use their language if you want to truly connect.  

 

Soul-vency

As part of my journey into financial literacy and monetary joy, I am working on becoming completely solvent, despite erratic commissions and cheerful denial of my actual bank account.

What is solvent?

According to Wikipedia, here are two definitions, both of which make sense to me;

A solvent (from the Latin solvō, “I loosen, untie, I solve”) is a substance that dissolves a solute (a chemically different liquid, solid or gas), resulting in a solution.

Hmm..I take that to mean I loosen my strings on debt, untie myself from material possessions  and overspending, solve my money misbehaviour, resulting in a solution. Neat!

The more common definition for monetary moderation is;  

Solvency, in finance or business, is the degree to which the current assets of an individual or entity exceed the current liabilities of that individual or entity.[1] Solvency can also be described as the ability of a corporation to meet its long-term fixed expenses and to accomplish long-term expansion and growth.[2] This is best measured using the net liquid balance (NLB) formula. In this formula solvency is calculated by adding cash and cash equivalents to short-term investments, then subtracting notes payable.[3]

Translated as spending less than I earn.  Hardly a surprise to most of you, but that assumes you know exactly where your money goes, which I was vague about for a very long time.

Back in 1850 or so, Charles Dickens said it best…

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”

 

Speaking of happiness it also works in reverse. The more serene I get, the more prosperous I get.

Wishing you all soul-vency!

 

Love BTTS

 

 

Excel-ing

I had a spreadsheet epiphany.

Excel and I have long been interested in each other. I find its formulas fascinating and as mysterious as a magician’s stageshow. How cool is it that when you enter numbers somewhere, they magically change somewhere else? It’s like having a teeny tiny accountant working for you.

I’ve been tracking numbers (i.e. daily spending) for some time, since I joined a 12-step programme that focuses on having a sane relationship with money.
Obsession struck early on. Sanity takes time. The actual original suggestion regarding recording your daily spending was to get a paper notebook (how retrotech!) and write down what you buy/pay for each day. That was it. No judging, no self flagellating, no recrimination, no regrets, just write the damn spending down. Oh, and live on cash.

I found this incredibly hard to do on both counts. For one thing, my credit card was my magic ticket to money. It is a neverending supply of good things and no lack of money in my accounts could convince me otherwise. A few months into self awareness and I amalgamated my credit card with the mortgage and no longer have one, but I cling grimly to my Eftpos card for dear life.

Anyway, back to Excel. I tried all kinds of budgeting software, and was using mishell for many months. It was helpful (asnd I felt very competent) as it was easy to see when I had to transfer money between accounts to make sure there were enough to pay bills and I could plan when income was coming in. I learnt how to balance and my money dsylexia did improve, though it still seemed like playing with monopoly money. It also had handy features that I discovered over time, like adding up everything I had spent on power, or food etc in the last year, assuming I had “filed” each expense accurately.

I had also been provided with a spreadsheet that one of the 12-step groups had developed and which everyone said gave them great clarity and spiritual insight (spiritual spreadsheets?), but it might as well as been in martian.

I learnt Kanji for a while and it was a really similar experience. Kanji is mini pictures that have evolved to the point that they barely resemble what they stood for. I had no cultural point of reference for the squiggles and my brain had trouble seeing the patterns or remembering the strokes – it was exactly the same for this bloody spreadsheet. With Kanji, After a while, it all fell into place and I could see the meanings when I looked at them. Ever seen those pictures that you have to unfocus your eyes to see the 3D picture hidden within? And how once you can, it is impossible to miss and you wonder why you had trouble? Like that.

Well, I gave the spreadsheet another go and my subconscious must have been working quietly away at it all this time because last week it suddenly came into focus in glorious 3D. I’m still making mistakes on it, but I get it. I’m at a new level of awareness. I can see where I am overspending much more clearly, see where I need to up the amount set aside and see what I need to earn to meet my needs. And I can see that I am not solvent – I am actually debiting and living beyond my means. This is mainly due to underearning as i started a new business, but didn’t reduce my overheads.

Basic stuff for the mathematically inclined, but a big deal for me. The first step is awareness, after all!

I’m finally excelling at Excel. And on my way to excelling at solvency.

Much love BTCCS

Road Cents

I’m not sure I should be allowed on the road.

I have had three cars in my life – not a lot, considering I got my licence at eighteen, but I already have a metal body count.

Yes, I do have a full licence, but I only passed the test because the guy felt sorry for me. Wonder if he kept his job long?

The first car I ever owned I bought when I returned from living in Tokyo. Unlike there, I really needed a car to see friends and get to work – our public transport system has never been extensive

I’d never driven in NZ, but when not on the chikatetsu (subway) had merrily fallen off my moped in Harajuku etc many times. I took a refresher driving course and bought a Japanese import – like me it was new to Kiwi roads. Car Number One (Mazda 121, very reliable and recommended) had a rough life and was written off after a few years afetr I was squished in Mt Albert between two cars. I was fine, but my poor “bubble” car looked like a concertina.

Car Number Two (Honda SMX, nice and high so easier to see but hard to get parts and tyres for) also a Japanese import, suffered the same fate after a short lifetime of being used as a furniture, goat and dog transporter, saddle storage unit and a travelling sandpit after beach excursions.

Car Number Three (Madza Wingroad wagon, useful for dogs and luggage) is also Japanese and is terrified. I swear it shudders when I approach. It is convinced I am a reincarnated kamakazi pilot. I’ve had it about a month and have already driven up a kerb (requiring a new tyre at $120) and scraped the right bumper.

So, I have no road sense and it is costing me big time. What with every increasing insurance premiums (I’m amazed they haven’t blackballed me), warrant of fitness, car registration, petrol, repairs and speeding tickets, I estimate a car costs me about $90 a week, conservatively. Add the cost of the car…I’m not fancy so the last one cost me $4500, assume it lasts 5 years, add insurance totals $1500 a year, add the $90. My haphazard hobby is costing me about $120 a week.

Maybe I should opt for public transport?

Fiscal and Physical

So I now have two jobs. While still immersed in real estate, I have made a few life changes (more on that later) and wanted the stability of some regular money. After three weeks of frantically trying to find a job and a new place to live (yes, yes, I will fill you in) and going quite insane, I did a Peace of Mind Bootcamp.

The real Bootcamp is an exercise class where they work you very hard. I think it is a Les Mills class? I have been told this, but never attended one as I go to the gym to relax, not pretend I am in the army. Peace of Mind Bootcamp is when I am going off the rails and need to send my ever busy mind on a holiday.

What does this involve? Yoga, the gym, lots of 12 step meetings, talking to people that have sane lives or tools for achieving them and are actively practising them, sleep, healthy food, being useful and meditation. Yeah, yeah it sounds like a lot, which is why I save it for emergencies. Though, thinking about it, if I did it all the time I would probably stay on the rails, like a short, happy Thomas.

It worked (it always does) and I was able to “hand it over” which means chill out and let life sort it out. Next thing you know, favourite sister is offering me a place to stay and I get a job with great hours at Club Physical in the city. Parking included (a big deal in the CBD) free gym membership and even snazzy shirts.

So I am fiscal and physical. Yes, I am still in real estate, but I am at the gym in the mornings, at Albert St. if you want to find me.

Don’t you love the way it all works out?

Love Buffy

Sex and the Citibank

I am currently in denial. In real life  I feel I am in a precarious position financially and have been going through a phase of being  generally dissatisfied with my life,  so I took a night off and went to America, without leaving Auckland.

I’d gone to a friend’s and it was just us, which meant I took advantage of her bath oils and then joined her for episodes of Sex and The City on DVD, combined with reading out loud excerpts from Oprah magazines which a US friend had generously subscribed me to.

“Oprah is a goddess.”

“Agreed. She should start a religion.We could chant OOOOOOPPPPPRRRRRAAAAAAHHHH.”

“I want to live in Manhatten and buy shoes. What is actually in a Cosmopolitan?”

“Google it. Ipad to your left. Oprah says we need to declutter.”

“She says that every month.”

“Yes, but this month she means we should declutter our minds. Like letting sand settle in a vase of water. I decluttered my bank accounts, did I tell you? One for savings, one for cash – my weekly allowance and one for regular bills.”

“There’s a pop up bar called the Hamptons in the city. Let’s go for lunch and pretend.”

“And what? Order water and share a salad? Oprah’s financial advisor says to avoid credit cards and use cash. More emotional connection.”

“Didn’t you cut up your credit card? That has to count as decluttering.”

“Big is sexy. Carrie is nuts. Seriously, she is totally neurotic. Which one are you?”

“A bit of all of them. As long as I date Smith. Or I could be Gayle, O’s best friend.”

“At least you live in Ponsonby, that has to be fairly close to Manhatten, Auckland wise.”

“More Greenwich Village I think. My rental is in Hamilton, that’s like New Jersey.”

“Without the beach. Or a tunnel. What is the Auckland equivalent of Brooklyn? Maybe the North Shore? Or is that the Hamptons? Meanwhile, I live in Harlem.”

“You do not. Maybe the Bronx? Sell it and go live in your rental. Your rental is in a better area than your home.”

“Yes, but then I lose the income from the sleep out. And I need to focus on building up my business, not moving house. When does Smith show up?”

“What does Oprah say about wanting to be a character in a TV series that went off air years ago? I mean Carrie actually smoked! Who does that?”

“Oprah says that when she struggled with OWN network she surrendered, accepted the situation and realised her choices brought her to where she was today. The she made other choices.”

“Oprah is so wise”

“So what life afirming choice are you going to make right now?”

“To finish season four. You?”

“Declutter this chocolate.”

Talk soon, Buffy the Credit Card Slayer

Life Coach for your Clothes

I’ve met three life coaches in the last few weeks. All have impressed me in different ways, but the one I met yesterday came disguised as a fashion stylist.

I had been given a free styling session by a canny Annah Stretton who’d invited all the women at a real estate event where she was keynote speaker to be styled at one of her stores. Always thinking of business opportunities, that one.

Should I go? I was in the grips of a major clothing slump. I felt like a frump. I’d gotten into the habit of rolling out of bed, throwing on whatever was closest and comfortable then dashing for the door. Make up took two minutes and was done in the rear view mirror of the car. My favourite outfit was my egg-stained pyjamas that smelt strongly of dog. Hardly appealing or sexy. I knew I didn’t look my best and it affected how I felt. Yes, I bloody well needed a stylist, but I couldn’t afford to buy anything.

I apologised for this in advance to Nina, the gorgeous creature who hugged me when I arrived. I was enveloped by swirling red hair, perfume and a red cloth rose and I instantly felt more glamourous. This wild and sexy gypsy of style turned out to be the Retail Manager for the company, who happened to be in Auckland training her managers. The next thing I knew I was upstairs on a cosy couch telling her my entire life story. That woman could give Oprah a run for her money; I was opening up faster than Lindsay Lohan on estacy. By the end  of our conversation, I was convinced that I was fabulous, sexy and stunning and it was great to be me. After sussing out my life style, preferences and shopping habits (compulsive shopping at op shops, basic t-shirts and knickers from chain stores and hovering around my best friend when she declutters her wardrobe) Nina led me gently downstairs and styled me.

I had taken a bag of clothes that I wasn’t sure about. Despite representing a top brand, Nina dove right in and without a hint of snobbery showed me how to wear my op shop finds better. Who knew that a strategically placed belt could make me look like a movie star? That a core piece (a tailored black jacket made of delicious material that was actually Nina’s own) could be worn so many ways and transform my $20 dress to a fashion show number? Who knew that a cloth rose could get Cinderella to the ball?

Nina explained what she was doing every step of the way and told me what I had to look for in clothes (and colours) to look fantastic in every piece of clothing I invest in from now on. The piece de resistance? She lent me her jacket again and pulled out a pencil skirt with a flirtatious bustle, ordered me into a spare pair of high heels, took off her cloth rose, placed it on my lapel and turned me to face the mirror.

I wish you all could have been me. I was beautiful. I felt beautiful, I looked amazing. Standing next to me was my lipsticked lifecoach, who said “Welcome Back.”

I like looking in her mirror.

As I hadn’t been paid in six weeks (the  joys of commisson sales) all I could afford was the rose, which I bought as a talisman to remind me to raise my standards…or as Nina says “Always wear something that you wouldn’t mind bumping into your ex-husband in…”

I invested in myself that afternoon, and Nina invested in me. And I left with a Goodie Bag!

Love BTCCS

The Early Bird Gets The Empire

I went to a real estate mixer recently. The event was designed so that we could meet colleagues from other companies and network, gather tips, share ideas and listen to a panel of speakers from the industry. The highlight for me though was keynote speaker Annah Stretton.

Annah is something of a Kiwi powerhouse. Starting with an arts degree, she pragmatically switched to accounting when the need arose and has combined art with business ever since, but now her canvases are women, what they wear, their goals, their ambitions and their talents, which she is keen to develop.

I’d heard of her and had wandered past her shops (she has 37 brand name stores NZ wide), but never seen her in person.

Wow. Intense, vibrating with energy and with her famous white fringe contrasting strongly with her black pony tail, this slim and stylish entrepreneur exuded intelligence, business acumen and passion.

I was so much in awe, I forgot to scribble notes, damn it. I do recall the following however;

  • Love what you do – passion is fuel
  • Everyone should study accounting – like Latin, it is a foundation to build on and will form the basis of any business endeavour
  • Make sure you have time to yourself to plan your empire. Annah gets up at 4.30am (!!!)
  • The 80/20 rule – do the 20% that absolutely must be done by you and delegate the rest
  • Plan for change, life is always moving.

Annah started off selling bulk items to retailers, anticipated the impact China’s imports would have on retail, opened her boutiques and is now moving towards engagement centres where her customers can shop, dine, caffeinate and dry clean, while buying flowers and special gifts.

Wise words. I’m off to buy her books,

  • From Rag trade to Mag trade
  • Wise Heart – 10 Strategies to Success
  • Rock the Boat – Life On Board the HMS Capability

Oh, and check out Annah’s magazines  Her and Pink. Best Friend, without whose cast offs I’d be naked, writes about style for writes for Her – look for the articles by Yellow Tulip.

In the meantime, can you please give me a wake up call at 4.30am?

Many thanks,

Buffy

Your money or your life

I had a wee meltdown yesterday. This equated to acting like a two year old who needed a nap and taking off from work to have some alone time. On the way to my car I passed a woman with two small dogs. I talk to anyone, anytime, anywhere, regardless of the situation and dogs owners in particular. I took one look at Rover and Fido’s stress free countenances, randomly exclaimed “thank God for dogs” and burst into tears. A hug later I found out that the kind samaritan had lost her daughter the year before and it was her dogs that kept her going.
When I suffered from depression, my dog helped me too. I didn’t much feel like taking care of myself, but I had a responsibility to walk him and it got me out of the house.
I changed a lot of things in my life and I haven’t had to go that low again, but having a hug from a stranger and hearing her story reminded me what was important and that while I had been working hard to take care of my business so that I could make money I had been neglecting my biggest asset – me.
As I now work for myself, the one thing I can not afford is to crash and burn, which means a summit meeting with myself and planning a better work week.

Back to basics – do what I love, so here I am, writing again.

When crap hits the fan, I do know to be well. Yesterday I took myself off to the gym, where they had forgotten what I look like. Surprise, surprise, I felt better. I have planned an entire day off on Sunday. First one in weeks.

I could do with some time management help. Or maybe a coach? Hmmm
One thing is certain, I want money AND a life. You?

While I ponder how best to achieve this, I recommend the book I took my title from, Your money or your life, by Vicky Robbins and Joe Dominguez. You will never look at money in the same way.

Love BTCCS

Do Nothing

I recently came across a music video I made when I was 25. It was for a film & TV production course I was on at the time, and I came up with a concept that starred myself lip syncing to  Billie Holiday singing  “Do Nothing.”  I wanted to be a lounge singer, ala Jessica Rabbit, all sultry red hair & curves, lying on a piano and singing torch songs in a classy jazz joint, so damn it, I was going to get that dream, one way or another. Yes, I’d just seen The Fabulous Baker Boys, which was probably to blame.

Anyhow, I had a great time making the video. I cringe a bit now, watching it, but good on the younger me for going for what I wanted. Not much has changed there.

It’s appropriate as the title of the song is also the advice I have been given this week. Do Nothing.

I was obsessing, which is a mental hole I fall into every now and then – I’ll be walking along quite sanely then start to slide and the next thing you know I’m in the Batcave of Obsession. Luckily, it only lasted a few days but it wasn’t a nice place to be and I drove everyone around me crazy as well.

I had things on my mind – which meant, like a wobbly tooth, I just could not leave it alone and was thinking about it all the time. It wasn’t anything unpleasant I was thinking about – we have the opportunity to make some life changes regarding selling our house and buying another one, but I was caught in an endless whirlwind of what ifs and if I do that then this will happen, but if I do this, that will happen and we could afford this if we do that – added to which was the underlying fear that I’d screw it all up and we’d end up homeless.

I kept changing my mind every few hours, doing endless sums, and coming up with alternative options, which meant lots of miscommunication to those involved and a very peeved partner who was never sure if he was going to be coming home to find a SOLD sign on our door and that his new place of residence was either a) a caravan on a section by the beach b) an eco-village, c) sharing a house with a friend’s doggy day care business or d) another city …depending on what state of mind I was in.

This was very tiring for everyone involved and may explain why I backed into our gate and dented both it and the car, and why T has gone into silent mode.

I rang a friend of mine who is Very Sane. Being around her is like being around a very, very slim Buddha, if Buddha used to be a drug addict who got clean & sober and now helps others do the same. She retains that really cool edge though – imagine Keith Richards if he had sobriety and was female and lived on juiced raw vegetables. Anyhoo, she said, very peacefully, that I could not think my way out of this. She suggested research and prayer.

I talked to another friend who is also very Buddha like, though his figure more closely matches the original. He is also very relaxed and has an inner stillness, which he attributes to beer and watching sports.  He said that his favourite saying is “Why do today what you can put off till tomorrow.” He suggested I go and do some activity that had nothing to do with real estate and preferably somewhere other than  my home so that I could have a mental holiday.

A combination of techniques meant that the mania passed and I was able to think clearly again. No decisions have been made – we are doing up our house ready to sell, we are doing up our rental so it can get a higher market valuation and I have a short list of possible opportunities for us.

I also had a soothing dream where Rugby hero Piri Weepu turned up and said “Don’t worry, I got this.”

For those who don’t get the reference, we attribute the Rugby World Cup largely to Piri, whose personal assurance that we would win made the entire country sigh in relief.

I take that as a definite sign that I can just let go and it will all work out OK.

So…when in doubt – let go and let Piri show you the way. It will all become clear when it is meant to.

Love Buffy TCCS

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