New Year, New You (Same Mike)

Logan: Happy New Year, Mike Dang! New year, new you ?!!?!

Mike: Happy New Year, Logan. New year, same me! I’m pretty much the same person I’ve been all of my life. I think? I hope.

Logan: Oh I want to change everything. (About me.) But that’s not so different on January 1st as it is on December 1st or November 1st or whatever. I love new beginnings. Birthdays. New years. New weeks. This could be the week I turn it all around! Never is. (Rarely is.) (Rarely ever is.)

Mike: Yeah, I’m not the sort of person who makes New Year’s Resolutions. When I want to change something—whether it’s January or June—I go ahead and do whatever I need to do to make the change. But I’m pretty happy with who I am, which helps a ton. And I don’t think you need to change everything about yourself. Part of figuring out what you need to change is seeing what you don’t need to change. Feel good about the things you’re doing right. You have to have that balance or you get too bogged down on the negative aspects of your life.

Logan: Oh but change is so positive! The list of things I want to change in my life is pretty much the same all the time, though I sort of have periods when I’m more focused on one thing—eat better, workout, be more organized, drink less, spend less, save more, have more self control, keep my room cleaner, decorate my apartment, do creative things, write letters, cook dinners, read books that aren’t overlong disappointing fantasy novels with better television counterparts, figure out what I want in life, find a good haircut, floss. 

Mike: That’s a lot! A lot of reasonable things. Though I do think we’re more likely to make changes when we narrow down what we want to change, because changing a bunch of things at once is overwhelming. That’s what I meant about getting bogged down by all the negatives—you think, gosh, I have too much I have to do! And then you avoid doing any of it. And that’s also why I like your weekly “Do One Thing” posts, because you get to focus on the one thing you can manage and do. It’s much more realistic. If I have to choose one goal right now, it would be to choose my projects wisely. My time is super limited and I have a tendency to say yes to everything (because turning down paying gigs can be a hard thing). I also want to jetset somewhere outside the U.S. so I’ll set a savings goal for that.

Logan: I had this plan over break to write up a year in review type thing for the site, but you know, all about ME. Some kind of cute thing—maybe in crayon!—with fun facts and a narrative and basically saying what I’d accomplished and not accomplished FISCALLY over the year. But then I didn’t do that because you know what’s a BORE? Looking back. Looking ahead is much more fun. But while contemplating this project that I didn’t start, I realized that the biggest thing I did this year, besides actually figuring out how much debt I had, was to pay off two credit cards. And I did that in part because of those monthly check-in things you do, which I thought was a stupid idea at first! For me. Not for you. For me. Because: I’m of this mindset that I should just be able to DO THINGS and that using LITTLE TRICKS is stupid. Like: I know the egg timer thing will work for me. I know it will be of utmost benefit to my productivity to get a little egg timer and put it on my desk and set it at the beginning of each task and have it go off when said task should be done. BUT. BUT. I hate the idea of doing it, and I feel like, well, if that can work, I should just be able to watch the clock like a normal adult human, and there you have it. No egg timer. Poor productivity.

I paid off both cards because you checked in and said, “Tell me your balance on that card.” And usually after you asked me twice more I’d login (SO CUMBERSOME) to see what it was and then think, well that’s not that different than last time, so I’d then make a big payment because the automatic ones were all just interest and nothing was happening. So what I’m saying is, thank you, that little trick worked. And also sometimes things that you think are stupid, like putting your credit card balance in a blog post on a regular basis, are not stupid after all, actually.

Mike: Haha. Thank you. And also, I like the idea of setting these goals together, and then sort of being able to publicly hold yourself accountable for it. Because that means we all get to share each other’s triumphs. Everyone was so excited and happy for you when you paid off that J. Crew card! Paying off a credit card balance you’ve been carrying around with you for years is a big deal, and we should celebrate that. So here’s to making our resolutions or changes or whatever, accountable. I’m going to add that vacation savings goal to our next monthly check-in. So we’ll get to see me slowly paying down my gigantic student loan balances, in addition to saving for something fun. I’ll encourage others to do the same. Is there anything you want, Logan? I mean, like a vacation somewhere—something that’s more of an experience than a consumer object.

Logan: I only want consumer objects. Actually I’m not that into consumer objects right now, most just like, face creams and baskets. Which I guess are both … consumer objects. I’d like to buy some plane tickets and see some friends and go on some walks and see some places. Those are goals. But I don’t know. Saving money seems kind of like a lot to do right now. And I really do love an impulse buy, as you know. One of my goals for this shiny new year we have is to diversify my income and freelance or do some odd jobs, so I’d rather just take a random extra bonus check that I get for doing some random extra bonus work and buy a plane ticket than SAVE.

And it’s funny, even though I know the group accountability works … it’s not my favorite? Like, it’s wonderful that people are happy for me when I pay off a card—that feels good—but it feels nowhere near as good as just knowing myself that it’s paid off. I need the accountability I suppose, but not the praise? I’m not sure. Or maybe the praise is actually what works and I’m mad that it works and so I’m denying it works. HUMAN BRAINS. SO INTERESTING. SO VARIED.

Mike: Well the praise is just a bonus! If it make you feel good, and not, I don’t know, bad? then why not just take it in stride. I don’t think any of us are doing this accountability thing for praise. We do it because we’re in debt and we don’t want to be in debt, and having that community there—oh I’m not the only one having trouble paying down my debt?—is really nice. Anyway, I would like you to be able to take a nice trip somewhere too. And I think you can impulse save for it just like impulse paying off credit cards (like using Impulse Save, which I haven’t tried but I hear works for people). Maybe that’s another goal I’ll have: Try Impulse Save and see if it works.

Logan: Yes I’d be pro Mike Dang impulse anything-ing! Impulse take a day off! Impulse buy a puppy! Impulse go to Moscow! Right now I’m going to impulse go back to bed. Impulse take some Advil. Impulse stop feeling like shit. Impulse cure myself of the flu? Hope you don’t get what I got, impulsively.

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11 Comments / Post A Comment

E$ (#1,636)

That tag about “Holiday Inn” is the truth. We used to watch it every New Year’s Eve growing up and now I just have to fast-forward through that section because it is so offensive.

eagerber (#1,958)

Yes to goal-making and yes to ImpulseSave! 2013 is going to be solid.

Yes also to this post’s funny tags. :)

littleoaks (#1,801)

Mike’s goal makes me think he’s probably the one person on earth who could use that “my greatest weakness is working too hard!” line in a job interview and the interviewer would actually believe him.

EVA922 (#2,939)

Instead of ImpulseSave, I have used smartypig for a couple of years and love it — I used it to save for my honeymoon, my friend’s wedding, and a new car…and “just because.” It’s user-friendly and has a handy option to auto-withdraw on certain days of the month (i.e. the day my paycheck comes in!) so that the money is basically out of sight, out of mind as soon as I’m flush with cash (the two days a month that happens…). I thought I heard about smartypig on this site, but I guess not if Mike didn’t mention it in this post!

Dancercise (#94)

I mentioned this in an earlier post, but I really need to be better about budgeting this year. For the last 18 months or so, I’ve been logging all of my expenses in a spreadsheet, but now I finally need to actually give myself limits to my spending so I don’t get to the end of the month and go, “Oops, I spent $300 more than I made this month.”

Other goal for the year: Refinance my car loan.

readyornot (#816)

On opposition to little tricks: what is the new year and its associated resolving mayhem but a little trick? January 1st is just an arbitrary day, the only thing that makes it feel clean and fresh and new is our collective mind. I prefer making resolutions on the first day of spring, which seems to me to be a generally more optimistic time. Who could keep a resolution through the grays of February? Not I.

And also: the idea that one needs little tricks comes in play a lot in behavioral economics. Logan’s point that if the egg timer worked for her, she ought to have been productive anyway: that’s a rationalist orthodox economic theory. I used to be against the stupid little workarounds to cheat my brain, too, until I read a whole bunch of stuff proving how everyone needs them. Even extremely highly educated people with sharp analytical tools do not behave rationally. Almost ever. And that made me feel OK. We’re either hardwired in or nurtured to end up irrational, so might as well beat that brain at its own game. Whatever works, man.

Andrew (#2,942)

Impulse Save seems to have a pretty low interest rate (0.4% APY)… there are definitely better (if less fun) options out there.

EVA922 (#2,939)

yes! Smartypig gives 1% APY (and it’s got that adorable pig and colors — yes, I’m a sucker for the cartoonish thing, but as Mike says, let the tricks help you. If the cartoon pig helps me want to use the site, so be it. I’m saving!).

endofherleash (#201)

please don’t impulse buy a puppy! anything but a puppy!

Impulse moving across the country!

As someone who just impulse-adopted a puppy, let me tell you, they are expensive. So sweet, but so expensive.

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