While sitting at the keyboard to start my Week Three article on “Wealthy” in my Healthy, Wealthy & Wise New Year’s series, I was searching for that perfect catchy title when the noise from my son playing his X-Box downstairs forced me to dig out my headphones and cue up my iTunes. And there it was, AC/DC playing “Money Talks.” When you least expect it . . .
I always smile at that old saying, “Please let me prove that winning the lottery won’t spoil me!” Don’t we tend to believe that having that big windfall of cash would make every aspect of our lives immediately better? I say this after entering my twice daily chance to win the HGTV Dream House. The hard truth is a majority of those big lottery or sweepstakes winners are worse off for having won because they didn’t know how to deal with the burden of wealth. The value of the having it is in the earning it.
I’ve always worked hard for what I have, but I haven’t always planned wisely for what I’ve gotten. Thinking back, I wish I’d invested more and charged less, that I’d taken more time to enjoy what I had instead of working harder to get more. Hindsight has value in what you’ve learned from it. Here are some of the things I’ve discovered about the all mighty dollar that will influence what I do with the ones passing through my pocket this year:
- A penny saved . . . is still a penny if it’s not invested properly. Learn how to make your money work for you by talking with an investment planner. Check into having your employer set up a matching deposit into a 401K.
- The best things in life are free! Enjoyment doesn’t always come with a price tag. A sunrise or sunset. A walk in the woods. Reading to a child. Sharing old pictures with your family. Trying on fancy clothes or silly glasses with a friend, sampling free books on your Kindle app, community concerts. There are so many things out there that don’t involve a fee and sometimes you get so much more than you’d pay for.
- Share the wealth. It’s the giving, not the getting. Give of your time, your talents, your friendship. Donate when you can to where it will do the most good. Check to see what percentage of your donation actually goes toward the charitable work and how much is eaten up by ‘administrative costs.’ Remember, to reap you have to sow.
- For a rainy day. Trying to instill the idea of saving in my boys was a tough one when money burned holes through their pockets, but there’s something satisfying in working toward a goal. Try a Christmas club, putting your change in a jar, sticking the $5s out of your billfold into a special fund, keeping your bottle return money. Every little bit adds up.
- Everything old is new again. My daughter-in-law had a great idea with her ReMaryd Originals, making gorgeous new jewelry from old or broken pieces. Old doesn’t have to mean without value. Re-use. Re-purpose. Re-sell. Take your children’s or your own out grown clothes to a consignment shop or list unused items on EBay or Craig’s List. Try wearing something hanging in the back of your closet in a new way (personally I’m waiting for the return of shoulder pads!).
- Render unto Caesar . . . Taxes happen. Make sure you pay estimated installments on your untaxed writing income. Make sure you take every tiny little deduction and write-off you’re entitled to. Check out my GETTING IT OUT THERE: PR and Social Media for Writers installment on “Budgeting Time & Money” for ways to reduce your tax burden and plan ahead.
- The B Word. Budgeting isn’t a dirty word. It can help you manage and save your money, and find ways its trickling between your fingers. I’ve listed plenty of practical ways to get control of your spending in the aforementioned “Budgeting Time & Money.” Find a way that works for you . . . and stick to it in 2012!
- Quality, not quantity. First impressions do mean everything. Always put the very best you can afford out there when getting publicity pictures, ordering promotional materials, writing a chapter. Spend on quality and you’ll get your money’s worth. Cheap doesn’t last whether you’re talking a pair of jeans, a computer, or a service so it ends up costing you more in the long run.
- Moving on up. Forward momentum is hard to maintain in the writing profession. It seems like something is always holding you back or taking you down: your editor leaves, your line folds, your genre loses its appeal, your numbers take a nose dive. The only thing you can control are your choices, so make ones you can live with that are in your best interest. Learn to define ‘success’ in a new way. Consider the ‘long tail’ as well as the ‘quick buck.’ There’s nothing like continuing to get paid for something you’ve already done, royalty period after royalty period. Think about your backlist or those manuscripts that didn’t quite fit with traditional houses to either self-publish or go with a small or e-press. Green is green, no matter where you earn it when you’re doing what you love.
Just for fun, here’s my financial soundtrack:
Make sure you check back with me next Monday when I deal with the “Healthy” portion of being Healthy, Wealthy & Wise.