After December’s gluttonous and debaucherous climax, 1 January can shine bright on many of our calendars as a day to mentally and physically reset.
For some reason, the first month of the Gregorian calendar has an amazing ability to motivate us to abstain from alcohol, dust off our running shoes and chop up all our credit-cards. In fact, I’d say in our secular world, New Year Resolutions are as close to an atheist’s Lent as you’ll get, with most of us knowing someone doing something.
For evidence to back up as to why, Christopher Ingraham’s Google Misery Index offers some interesting insights. As it turns out we’re at our least miserable during the entire year at the start of January, as we ride out December’s dopamine high. No doubt this makes us extremely vulnerable to thinking we can achieve great things, as we forge ahead with setting those lofty goals.
And if Ingraham could overlay his misery index with generational and financial search data, his findings might well line up with those from finder.com.au. The price comparison website found 81% of Australia’s Gen Y population will set financial resolutions in the new year, compared to 56% of Generation X, and only 38% per cent of Baby Boomers. And 1 in 10 Gen Y’s will post their resolutions to social media, in a bid to make themselves more accountable.
The birth of #31daysofwealthhacks
So feeling very conformist, this year, I decided to revert to my Gen Y type and take part in some financial goal setting, combined with social activity. In an agile manner (and mainly because it was a very spur of the moment experiment), I decided to name my personal challenge #31daysofwealthhacks.
Thus for the month of January, I forced myself to do one small thing every day that either saved me money or got me on the road to creating long-term wealth. I then shared these hacks on Twitter, not only to keep myself accountable, but to seed other ideas from my network. Trying to think of 31 things on your own isn’t that easy, as you’ll see below.
So how did I go? Well, I didn’t quite make it to 31, I ended up at 27. But given the last 4 days of the month were spent in Hong Kong madly dashing from conference to media interview to investor meetings, I think I did OK.
The biggest takeaway was that money really is all about mindset. And doing one thing every day, no matter how big or small, really did flex my financial muscle. Ultimately, conquering the fear of looking at my finances has made me far more likely to do something about them.
For example, while it wasn’t a hack per say, I now refuse to have money in my transaction account, so that every time I want to buy something, no matter how big or small, I’m forced to transfer money from my savings. Little behavioural changes like that are the backbone of discipline, as many experts will attest to.
If you’re keen to learn more about the hacks I tried, I’ve listed them all below. A big thanks to all of those people in my network who cheered me on, offered ideas and tips, and helped me bring this challenge to life. It was definitely inspiring to see so many people join in along the way!
The timeline of #31daysofwealthhacks
1. Canceled all my unused subscriptions
Started off with a massive bang on this one. To be fair, I probably had more subscriptions than most, given I play around with a lot of automation and SaaS marketing services. But I still got rid of things you probably have too, like news sites who’s content is sub-par and a dodgy VPN.
1st productive action of the year complete. Cancelled all unused online subscriptions, which has been on the to-do list for some time. Saved myself $140.62 per month, which is close to $1700 per year! Not bad for 15 minutes work you should check yours too #31daysofwealthhacks
— Jessica Ellerm (@JessicaEllerm) January 1, 2018
2. Examined my food spend to try to get it to under $50 per week
This was probably the hardest, and I haven’t succeeded at this one yet. But what I did manage to accomplish during January was to get methodical at inputting every dollar I spend on food into a Google Spreadsheet. This is similar to how people used to use Price Books to keep track of where certain items were the cheapest, and on which day. I feel far more in control now and on the path to getting smarter and pushing my food bill lower. Beforehand, it wasn’t uncommon for me to drop $30 – $50 per shopping trip, and not really understand why.
3. Wrote an article about something I didn’t know about
I’m a very tactile learner, meaning I often need to do or create something to truly learn about it. That’s why each week I write an article for Daily Fintech, and try to choose something I don’t understand and/or want to learn more about. Like many other people, lately I’ve been trying to learn more about cryptocurrencies and ICOs. Which often means reading lots of white papers to refine my ICO BS meter. It’s definitely getting more refined…
4. Balance transferred my Amex debt
While it’s never a good idea to be in ‘bad debt’, you shouldn’t forget your debt is an income producing asset you own, and you should shop it around to get the best return. In this case, Amex lost that asset and Virgin Money won it with their 12 months zero-free interest offer on balance transfers.
5. Switched banks
The interest rate on my savings account was pretty pitiful, so I upgraded to the best deal I could find on the market.
Day #5 in #31daysofwealthhacks. Took a cue from @HeatherSmithAU & upgraded my savings account. Went from 1.60% with withdrawal penalties to 2.95% with @mebank‘s ‘Full Fat’ savings account, no catches. + my @MastercardAU debit rewards card is in the 📩 💳 https://t.co/u7bWEEuPJ6
— Jessica Ellerm (@JessicaEllerm) January 5, 2018
6. Invested some money
Everyone has a different idea about how much you should invest and where, but 10 per cent of your income isn’t a bad rule of thumb. I received a small windfall after doing some writing work, so I banked 10% into my Acorns account. The trick here is to create the savings habit and discipline of moving your money before you spend it.
7. Sold some clothes
Well I was supposed to be going to the Glebe Markets to sell off the unloved portion of my wardrobe, but someone, who shall remain nameless, forgot to book the stall, meaning we need to rebook for next month. I guess not everyone can be as perfect as me 🙂
8. Signed up to earn.com
At earn.com you are paid for successfully answering community questions – like a monetised version of Quora I suppose. I decided to donate any money I earned – which so far is an infinitesimal amount of Bitcoin – to a nominated charity. Given I haven’t been asked any questions, the platform and experience has been a bit of a flop. And while there are a number of prominent names backing/using it, the cynic in me also notes they invest in it. Reminds me of doctors spruiking drugs in the media, without mentioning they also work for the drug company. Convenient.
9. Spent a night at the movies on Mastercard.
Reward linked debit cards are the next big thing, now that credit cards are losing favour amongst the younger kids. My new bank account came with a Mastercard Debit card, which once activated allowed me to claim a free Moonlight Cinema movie ticket. Saved $19.
10. Outsourced admin work to Upwork
There just isn’t enough time in the day to do everything, which is why smart people delegate. I’ve been working with freelancers on Upwork since 2010, when it used to be known as oDesk. While I was hoping to find someone locally to do some desktop research, it didn’t pan out, so I ended up outsourcing it to a wonderful woman in the US called Mirelle, who has done a fantastic job so far.
11. Scored a contra trip to Hong Kong to Next Money Fintech Finals 2018
Contra deals can be great when you’re cash poor. In return for some writing and media work I was able to negotiate a flight to Hong Kong and accomodation for the week. As proof, here’s a photo of me with Zach Piester from Intrepid Ventures, one of the amazing speakers who very kindly agreed to be interviewed by me after his talk!
12. Resolved to have more experiences in 2018, and buy less things
I’ve never been a big spender on material items, but consciously making an effort to spend more time with friends, and experience what Sydney has to offer for free or for less is a goal of 2018. All my friends knew about my financial challenge, so some of them kindly agreed to accompany me to the Moonlight Cinema, even though they had to buy tickets (love them).
Travel is obviously big on the experience list, so booking and lining things up well in advance is the best way to make sure they happen. Bring on India this year!
13. Committed to go gym free in 2018
I’m not going to lie, I do love having a personal trainer. But I ditched it this year, along with any gym membership of any kind. Instead I’ll be doing things that are free or low cost, like running, swimming and biking. Maybe once I feel like I have made gains elsewhere, I can look at reintroducing it. But right now, it just feels extravagant.
14. Bookmarked free event websites
Sydney is an expensive city, but the local government actually works really hard to make sure there are free options for those of us that are cost conscious. Sites like Concrete Playground and Whats On make many of these easy to find.
15. Tried to score $10 pasta at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant
For the month of January, Jamie Oliver was offering a massive discount on his favourite pasta dishes across all his restaurants. I attempted to get a table by showing up at the door, but no luck, this offer was way too popular. My dinner date and I then did the next best thing and headed down to China Town for a similarly priced cheap eat.
16. Practiced building a frugal mindset
I think mindset is super important when it comes to wealth creation. One of the things I’ve noticed doing this challenge was how much I was wasting unintentionally. Now that I’m intentionally being more frugal, I feel more relaxed because I am more in control of my financial behaviour. At just over halfway through my challenge, this blog post was a good reminder of the benefits of persevering for the next 15 days!
17. Shared a meal with a friend
So, similar to number 12, my amazing friends are always on hand with ideas about how I can save money. This time it was my friend Kristi, who donated one of her Marley Spoon meals for an evening dinner.
18. Landed a free haircut
I basically put this out to the Universe and it returned, in the form of Noel Tiufino. He literally found me a hairdresser who agreed to cut and colour my hair for free. Stay posted.
19. Caught up with my accountants
So while many of the things in my list are small hacks, more mindset than anything else, this particular hack will probably have the biggest impact in the long run. I also coupled it with meeting my accountant in New Zealand, as it can get very difficult to properly navigate your tax situation when you live between two countries.
20. Reminded myself to always haggle
I didn’t make any big purchases this month, but one thing I think we forget is that sometimes you can haggle on the small. If I don’t have quite enough change for something, I’ll often ask if they’ll take what I have. As long as it’s not too far off the actual price, most of the time people say yes. Tried it at two newsagents in January and it worked both times.
21. Rediscovered baking
Getting back into cooking from scratch slides in with wealth hack number 2. We forget most convenience foods come with preservatives and additives, especially sweet options. So making something from scratch is an investment in your wallet and your health.
22. Made an after-tax superannuation contribution
Most people don’t know that this is the first year non self-employed people can make voluntary after tax contributions that still come with the tax benefits associated with super contributions. Previously, if you weren’t self-employed, the only way you could access these benefits was via salary sacrifice. You can still salary sacrifice of course, but if you just want to drop some more money into your super without going through any rigmarole with HR, you can. Bear in mind you’ll need to claim the deduction at tax time, so keeping track of your voluntary contributions is key.
23. Cashed in the rewards I have, instead of letting them expire
I may have balance transferred my Amex debt to Virgin, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still use my Amex perks. Used one of my free lounge passes at the Amex lounge at Sydney airport on my way to New Zealand.
24. Found my next side-hustle
Sometimes your side-hustle will become your main-hustle, sometimes it will stay a side-hustle. Whatever it is, finding a way to generate passive income through investing or something you build or create alongside your nine-to-five is key. Mine has always been writing and presenting, which in many ways fit in well with my main-hustle. And this year I’ve decided I’ll finally write my book, which, should it go well, could generate me serious passive income for years to come. So that means #1000wordsperday is my new February challenge that will kick off soon…
25. Decided to give up fast fashion
It’s poorly made and doesn’t help anyone, let alone the people who slaved to make it. This year I won’t shop at the fast-fashion end of the high-street, and I’m pretty convinced in the long run, I’ll save a lot more money.
26. Committed to a frequent flyer program
Because if you do, you’ll probably get upgraded when flights are overbooked. I’m a member of the Emirates Skywards program, and was rewarded with a free upgrade to Business Class on a recent trip from Christchurch to Sydney. Ok, it’s not going to happen all the time, but why not be signed-up and ready for when it does!
27. Read or listened to things that made me smarter about money & wealth
I’ve powered through a number of books in January, and the latest one I’m reading is Thomas Picketty’s Capital in the Twenty – First Century. I’d also highly recommend Bloomberg’s new podcast Trillions about ETFs.
January and beyond
It wasn’t always glamorous taking a deep dive into my financial world, but I certainly feel like I shook out a few gremlins, not to mention developed a few more defences against a world primed to get me to open my wallet. And having now gone through this experience first hand, I have no shortage of ideas for potential products that could solve a number of my pain points.
And that of course is the beauty of experimenting in the wild on yourself, not to mention running a wealth startup that allows you actually build something…stay tuned!
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