Monday, March 12, 2007

A Study of "Flow"

That Voodoo You Do has a tremendously awesome post about what flow is and how to get into it at work.
The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called this state flow, and spent years studying the phenomenon. Flow has also been described as ‘a highly productive state of concentration’ in Peopleware : Productive Projects and Teams, and as a Zen-like state of total oneness with the activity and the situation in Wikipedia.
This "Flow" doesn't just have to apply to work, or writing code, but can also be applied to other activities in life. At work though, it is a great personal tool to know what triggers you into flow and what triggers you out of it. I have an amazing amount of information at any given time to coordinate and money is always on the line, so I have to know myself and how I go in and out of flow.

Really cool post. Thanks folks over at That Voodoo You Do!



Lunchtime Link List

Lunchtime Link List for 3/12/07

The Simple Dollar - Love, Marriage and Money: Should a Couple Combine Their Finances?
An interesting look at how The Simple Dollar divides and conquers his finances. Mrs. Newlywed and I keep a joint checking account, a joint savings account and two separate personal checking accounts for personal use. This is somewhat of a compromise between sharing everything and having separate finances. The important point is that there is no standard, do what works for you as a couple!

Get Rich Slowly - When to Replace Common Household Items: A great post on how long to keep stuff around the house. We just bought a new mattress about a month ago. It was definitely time for the old one to go, and boy what a difference. I have had a perfect night's sleep since we got the new mattress and it was a seriously good investment. We do need new pillows though.

The Stubborn Capitalist
- Early Riser Project: Ever since I read this series, I've been waking up at 6AM on the dot, with no snoozing! It's really a great exercise in self discipline. I encourage everyone to become an early riser!



How to Discuss Finances

Mrs. Newlywed and I often talk finances, and we have learned not only about WHAT to communicate about (saving vs. spending, vacation vs. no vacation) but also HOW to communicate about finances. Here are a few important tips to remember while discussing finances.

1. Put all your cards on the table:
There is absolutely no reason to lie, hide the truth, not tell the whole truth or 'forget' about something you spent money on. Everyone has their vices and virtues, and we all spend money on both of them. We are open with each other about all the things we spend money on, even if it's an extra drink or a pack of cigarettes. If you're not honest about money, then you're falling into the trap that 50% of married people fall into. Divorce. Don't do it, just be honest. You'll be surprised at how responsive your husband or wife is about what you spend money on.

2. Make an appointment:
Talking about finances takes time, but more importantly it takes concentration. If you're watching your favorite shows on TV and trying to decide how much to save for the month at the same time, all it can lead to is frustration. You say one thing and your partner doesn't hear you, so you get frustrated that they're not taking it seriously enough. Then they get defensive about being serious about finances, so on and so forth. Make an appointment to discuss money. Make sure both of you have enough time to dedicate to accomplishing what you want to accomplish. It's only fair for both of you.

3. Listening + Thinking + Responding = Hearing
You may think that you know what your spouse is going to say next, because you think you know them very well, but you're wrong. Everyone is complicated and no one is as simple as being predictable. We have to listen to each other and HEAR what they're saying. Like in the movie "White Men Can't Jump" when Wesley Snipes is telling Woody Harrelson that he can "listen" to Jimmi Hendrix, but he can't "hear" Jimmy. It's the same thing with discussing finances with your husband or wife. I can listen to my wife say, "we need to spend less on so and so" but in order to hear her, I have to listen and think! Hearing is listening + thinking + responding. If you're just listening, then you're missing 2/3's of the process.

4. All decisions aren't always mutual:
This may shock you, but in marriage sometimes you have to do things that you don't want to do because you know that it's the right thing to do, even though that's not the way you've ever done things before. Yes, it's a shocker. I was terrible with money before and after we met. In order to become better with money, I had to go against my own grain. It's just important to not take your frustrations out on your husband or wife. You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.

5. Stick with your decisions & support each other:
Once you've finally discussed your finances, sat down and made a plan that's best for you, then it's important to stick to that plan. You could make the most expansive budget in the history of man, with elaborate equations and compound interest calculations, but if you don't stick to the numbers that it's pretty much useless. If you see your partner not sticking with their part of the decision, it's OK to encourage them and remind them about their responsibilities.

6. Enjoy the fruits of your labor
Make sure to have fun! If you saved for a vacation, when it's time to go then enjoy yourselves together! If you're saving for a down payment on a home, be proud when you sign the check to give to the Realtor. Finances don't always have to be a drag. The point of making a plan is so you can live the financially free life that you want to live, together. Keep that in mind when discussing finances. For each dollar you put towards that vacation now, you're adding another dollar you can spend on those London fish & chips. Well, it's more like $2 that you put away because of the damn British pound.

If there's more insights about discussing finances, feel free to post them in the comments!



Friday, March 9, 2007

Air Traffic Controllers

I continue to be absolutely blown away every time I hear something new about how badly we treat the air traffic controllers in this country. I travel every month all over the world for work, and I know that each time I'm hurdling toward the ground at 400 mph, that I'm safe in the hands of one of our talented air traffic controllers.

Then I hear again today that the FAA has released new staffing target numbers. The new target numbers will have a mixed impact upon airports throughout the country and the effects will be felt on a case by case basis.

How does this affect you?

Air traffic controllers are the brain that controls the clumsy arms and legs of the thousands of domestic and international flights. The FAA's new plan is like huffing paint fumes for that brain. Instead of taking care of the brain by giving it vitamins and plenty of rest, instead the FAA is starving it of oxygen (cutting overtime pay). What this means for you is longer delays, more canceled flights and generally more aggravation every time you travel. For me, it means that when I'm accelerating down the runway in the bowels of a 747, I know that I'm being watched by air traffic controllers that are ready for retirement, underpaid, overworked and bitter about their job.

Since the FAA enforces what basically amount to jailhouse rules in the tower, less and less young people are signing up to become air traffic controllers. According to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, despite the FAA's imaginary numbers, 2007 marks the 3rd annual decline in net increases to air traffic controller employment numbers.

The bottom line is that we are losing our air traffic controllers to time and the FAA is doing nothing but burying its head in the sand.

It makes my blood boil that in this Country we take these kind of things for granted until they come back and bite us.

The FAA needs to draft a new budget that rewards these dedicated men and women for their work. In this new budget needs to be a target marketing campaign towards young people who are not yet interested in becoming air traffic controllers. If we don't have anything less than 95% online departures, do we really need all the "passengers bill of rights"? I don't think so. I'm happy to just get off the ground, get to sleep, and then arrive. Especially the arrive part of that equation.

$10 Hockey Game

Since Mrs. Newlywed and I have put a cap on our cash spending in a month, we're both a lot more conscious about how much cash we have at any given time. Last night we were lucky enough to score some NHL tickets. We went and we ended up spending only $10 combined! This was previously unheard of if we went to a sports game together, because we'd usually split some food and drink plenty of beer. This time though, we had only 1 $7 beer and 1 $3 soda and still had a great time.

Of course, our home team lost, but that's because they're just terrible.



Thursday, March 8, 2007

Monthly Expenses

We've finally pinned down our monthly expenses into a workable spreadsheet. The wonderful people over at let us download an awesome budget tracking utility spreadsheet. We went through our checkbook and wrote all the transactions in the budget tracking sheet.

My biggest reason for doing this was to check how much cash we were spending each month and budget that cash into a real number. Before we did this, we were basically hemorrhaging cash out of the ATM machine, without keeping track of what we are spending it on. The next step is to isolate what exactly we spend that cash on. We've isolated gas and groceries already and budgeted enough money for those. Other expenses like dinners, movies and general entertainment need to be isolated.

We also discovered that now that we have an expenses budget tracking system, we can load the check writing account with an extra $500 to create a good "new 0" for our account. Between paychecks, our check writing account would plummet in the middle and end of the month to near 0 balance. Now we have put a $500 buffer in and will use $500 as the "new 0". Before that was unthinkable, because we didn't know how much we were spending per month. Now since we have our monthly budget tracked and locked down, we'll be able to keep that buffer there and not go under the new 0.

I am VERY happy to have put a cap on the amount of cash that was hemorrhaging out of our account.



Wednesday, March 7, 2007


I thought I was really clever by calling the blog links "blinks". I'm sure I'm not the first person to do this, but I felt like I was, so there you go.

Those are the Personal Finance blogs I read everyday. They are my inspiration to make this blog and I only hope to eventually equal the quality and frequencies of their postings.

Blinks, I think that's a good one.