Tag Archives: Money

Budgeting Happiness

money Credit: Images of Money


I have a confession. I like to spend money.

I like to treat myself to a coffee each morning from a local café or coffee shop because it kick starts my day. I like to take the East River Ferry every once in a while because the fresh crisp air in the morning sets my spirits higher than they would be if I was crunched into an overly packed subway cart. And I like to try new— sometimes-expensive activities—because trying new things brings a sense of balance to my life.

Okay, you got me. I don’t like to spend money. I love to spend money. But I didn’t always love spending. I’ve definitely spent money a lot, but I used to look at my bank account the day after a purchase—or the morning after a night at the bar—and regret my monetary choices. I used to HATE spending money, because many times spending money wasn’t bringing me happiness or joy.

Spending money is kind of like dieting. The more you tell yourself to eat less, the more time you spend thinking about food. The more you focus on how you should really spend less, the more you want to shell out the dough.

I’m not here to tell you to spend less. How much you spend is up to you. But I do want to talk about how you feel when you spend money – because this is up to you too. Take a moment to think about what you bought in the last week: Maybe it’s a new shirt, maybe it’s a movie ticket, maybe it’s lunch—I don’t know what it is. But take a moment to think about whatever it is that you bought and ask yourself these questions: “How did I feel after I made that purchase? Did that purchase bring me happiness—or regret for spending money?”

We’ve all heard the adage, “money can’t buy happiness.” I only partly agree with this. I don’t think happiness has a price tag, but I do believe that the ways we spend money and what we spend our money on contribute to our overall happiness.

One of the questions I have been asked most often throughout the hobby year has been: “How do you afford all the hobbies?”

Which really leads to a bigger question:

“How can we afford the happy and balanced life that we are seeking?”

For each of us there are certain expenses each month that we just can’t avoid:
In my case it’s rent, utilities, food, and a monthly train ticket. For others it might be a mortgage on the house, car insurance, and dependents.

The aforementioned are necessary expenses.

BUT much like cleaning out our closets from the clothes that we no longer want to wear, we can clean out the unnecessary expenses on our bank statements—the activities or outings or items that aren’t truly extending our happiness—that aren’t satisfying the lifestyle we are hoping to live.

When I moved to NYC in January of 2010, I very quickly realized how easily I could blow $50-$60 in just one night by going to an amateur comedy night on the Upper East Side. With a two-drink minimum as standard, a handful of bills could disappear at dinner alone. And the next morning? I hated myself for spending that money. But why?

As the money in my wallet began to dwindle, I had an epiphany, I realized that the glass of wine or the shot of Bacardi wasn’t satisfying me—that I was wasting money on something I didn’t ACTUALLY enjoy putting into my body. So I stopped drinking. Within weeks, I began to see an incredible difference in my money saved vs. money spent.

Once I gave up alcohol, I began to realize that there were other expenses on my bank account that likely also weren’t satisfying me or bringing me happiness.

Rather than eating out at lunch each day, I began packing my lunch for work; rather than going out to eat for dinner often, I began to cook my own dinners; and rather than buying new workout clothes, I began bringing my old field hockey shirts from high school and college back to New York City with me.

I realized that many times I was going out to eat at lunch because of feelings of laziness in the morning before work. This would actually in turn cost me three-four times the amount of money it would cost me to brown bag it.

This realization was one that made me hate spending money.

So rather than spending money on things that in turn caused me to be upset, I began saving and spending money on activities and things that I felt were helping me to balance and embrace the life that I wanted to live.

I don’t intend to suggest everyone should give up alcoholic beverages, stop buying new clothes, ignore the latest movie releases, or turn the oven on every night—unless you are an amazing cook, in which case, please do turn your oven on every night (and invite me over)!

I also don’t want to suggest that you should stand in front of an item at the store and do a cost/benefit analysis every time you are going to make a purchase.

What I am suggesting is that recognizing patterns in the types of spending that bring you happiness—and the types of things you regret spending money on in the minutes, hours, or days after you make a transaction—can help you to refocus your energy on achieving goals you’re not quite sure how to reach otherwise. The items I listed above just happen to be a few of the sacrifices I’ve been able to make for myself.

I became incredibly passionate about trying new hobbies this past year because of the joy each new hobby brought me , and because of the lessons each new hobby taught me. And because I recognized how much I was benefiting on a personal level and a physical level from each of the new things, I realized just how important it was that I budget, save, and sacrifice to contribute to the happiness I was seeking. If I’m going to spend money, I want to LOVE to spend money—and I want to love what I’m spending on.

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If there’s something you are looking to try, a class you’d really like to take, a trip you are looking to go on, try to start here:

Make a list of what you are spending your money on—then go over that list and eliminate just one thing that isn’t contributing to your health, your happiness, or your balance. Then use this money to help you achieve your goal.

Who knows? You might just fall in love with spending money, too.

Five other ways to save money:

Piggy Bank
 Credit: 401 (k) 2013

1. Invest in a piggy bank—Really. Every time you find coins—save them. Those pennies add up.

2. Look out for deals. If there’s a fitness class you’ve been looking for, a getaway you’re not sure you can afford, or a class you’re looking to take, see if Groupon, Living Social, Zozi, or Yipit has it.

3. Go through your closet and donate the clothes you no longer want to a registered charity. When you make charitable donations, you can receive tax deductions. You may not see the benefit of this immediately, but next tax season you’ll have something to smile about.

4. Piggy Backing on #3: For the holidays, see if you and your family would be willing to go in on a deal to donate the money or you would have spent on gifts or a capped amount of money to a registered charity. This way you’re doing good and receiving a tax deduction in the future.

5. Each week, or even each day, set aside 5-10 dollars. At the end of the month you’ll have your own personal pay check!

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Donate! Volunteer! Help!

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A special message from The Hobby Hoarder during these tough times:

I can see the Empire State Building from the front door of my apartment building in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The lights are shining bright. Whether the lights to the south or the north of it are on–on any given night–I wouldn’t be able to tell you. But this past week I know that for a good portion of time, most of the lights south of the Empire State Building were off. And even still, now, many of the lights in Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island, the state of New Jersey, and across the Harbor in Staten Island are off.

My family and friends in Pennsylvania spent days in hotels, office buildings, and at bars huddling for phone charges and heat. My professors and friends in Rhode Island watched as the Atlantic Ocean hurdled over the Narragansett Wall creating rivers on main roads, knocking out power to many, and destroying one of the city’s most popular restaurants–the Coast Guard House. Kids were off from schools–hospitals were evacuated–subway tunnels were flooded– the coast of Jersey was completely destroyed, and worse of all–lives were taken.

As we all know, Hurricane Sandy ripped through the East Coast leaving many states powerless and many residents homeless.

Up until today, all the devastation I knew was what I saw in photos–through Tweets, Instagram, and Facebook.

I spent the week working from home, feeling selfish that I wasn’t on the front line helping people–that I wasn’t there putting together recovery packages for strangers–that I wasn’t helping. I realized very quickly that even if I wanted to be on the front line–my help would be exhausted shortly as my strength is not in my arms, but rather in my voice.

When the power went out, for most, on Monday evening, all they saw was darkness. They lost the ability to watch thew news–to follow Tweets–or to get Facebook updates. I kept power–and instead of sleeping, I stayed connected. I followed Twitter until my eyes dimmed, and then early in the morning, I texted my friends who I knew had lost power to see if they were alright. By the middle of the day I had heard from many New Yorkers, and several hometown friends in Pennsylvania. “Can you just update me–I have no idea what happened after it went dark.” “Are the trains going to be able to run?” “What happened?” “When will my power come back?” “How bad was it?” My strength was now my ability to accurately relay messages to them from various news sources including New York Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Morning Call, and the Daily News.

I found myself Tweeting updates–Facebooking the latest breaking news–and realizing that even if I couldn’t be out there in the Far Rockaways where homes had burned down–even if I couldn’t be in Staten Island–even if I couldn’t be in the basement of someone’s home emptying out water–I could be making a difference . I could be informing people.

So I continued informing people, looked for more ways to help, donated food and supplies to the Far Rockaways via friends with cars, and woke up this morning with one mission: Find a way to get out there.

I read through my email of countless volunteer opportunities to see which one I could get to by bike, foot, or limited public transit. Staten Island had a call for helpers in several areas, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to reach many of them without a car–and that I likely wasn’t strong enough for many of the things people needed. And then one popped out to me:

10:30AM: NORTH SHORE. Go door-to-door distributing helpful information about warming centers, power stations and recovery to North Shore neighborhoods still without power. Spanish speaking a plus. LOCATION: State Senator Diane Savino’s office, 36 Richmond Terrace right across from the Staten Island Ferry. RSVP tokmotley@pubadvocate.nyc.gov

I re-read the post. “Go door-to-door distributing helpful information.”

‘I can do that,’ I thought, and so I RSVP’ed right away. Soon after, Piers Morgan ReTweeted a photo by Stephanie Gosk from NBC of herds of New York Marathoners making their way onto the Staten Island Ferry–not to run their race, but to run to places that needed help. If these people were going to run 5-7 miles to the underside of the Island–I could sure as hell get myself, somehow, someway to the Staten Island Ferry and walk across the street, to do what I do best–Give information. A walk, a cab, a train, a cab, and a ferry ride later I was sitting in an office at 36 Richmond Terrace preparing to head out to neighborhoods that had been without power for days.

I realized in this moment–that a little help–goes a long way. As the temperature dips to close to freezing tonight, many people not only in Staten Island, but around the tri-state area, and points further north will continue to live without power–without heat. The information we passed around today informed members of the Staten Island community where they could go for shelter or warming centers. The information we passed along today–could save someone’s life.

I don’t like to preach. I’m more of “an inspire by doing” type person. But in this case. I don’t mind preaching a bit: A dollar you give–a minute you give–an hour you give- a day that you give–blood that you give–could save someone’s life.  Many shelters in New York City are turning away volunteers BECAUSE THERE ARE TOO MANY. This is a GOOD–no–GREAT thing. It means plenty of hands are on deck to help.  Maybe you aren’t into knocking on people’s doors and distributing info, maybe all the shelters are filled to capacity with volunteers, and maybe you don’t have the strength to carry packages of bottled water–but there is always a way to help–and always someone in need.

Oh and P.S. Cause I am a bit of a hippie. Don’t forget about Love. Keep Loving.

To my friends in New York City–My friends in New Jersey–My family and friends in Pennsylvania–and my Professors and friends in Rhode Island–and all those along the East Coast–This one’s for you. 
Check out these places for more opportunities to aid in Hurricane Sandy Relief
 Red Cross
 WNYC
 Brokelyn 
 Life Vest Inside
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“The Resilient Ones”:

“New Yorkers are resilient. They’ve seen the lights go out on Broadway. They’ve experienced bombs rumble under ground. They’ve watched their iconic buildings collapsed. And each time they’ve risen to the occasion to come back—to reassemble—to regain their composure—to help a neighbor—or a friend—or the elderly—or a child. New York is filled with people who fight battles every day to survive metaphorical storms. And today, with this very real aftermath of a devastating storm—New York is still filled with those people—those same resilient people. And I know we’ll all get through this, together. New York City is our home–and it’s not going anywhere–and neither are we.”
-The Resilient Ones
Publishes on Libs on the Reel and One for the Table

If you can make it here: My First Audition

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I moved to the city nearly three years ago, and while I call it “home,” I’m not quite sure I ever went through my official initiation– that is until this past weekend, when I attended my first audition.

Now. I should stop for a moment. I have many, many friends here in the city who are actors and actresses, and in no way, shape, or form am I attempting to take away from their hard work and effort—by calling auditioning a hobby—because for most all of them it isn’t. Auditioning is serious business and leads to amazing opportunities.  More closely, auditioning resembles job interviews—Ideally, you only go to one of those every so often.

But this audition was a bit different. Unlike my friends who have practiced, rehearsed, and memorized their lines, I had to do nothing other than be myself and hope for the best.  I auditioned for a game show—which is quite a bit different than auditioning for a television pilot, series, indie or feature film. It’s about auditioning for a chance at having fun—and winning money. And that’s a hobby I could really get used to!

Now your big question. What game show was it? … Wheel of Fortune? Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Jeopardy.

Nope.

A brand new one—that features a hypnotist. This audition was for a game show pilot—which seemed even cooler. How awesome would it be to be the first contestant on the next big show!?

And even though the audition wasn’t for my future Emmy or Oscar winning role—I still got nervous. “What if I say something embarrassing while I am hypnotized?” What if I can’t be hypnotized?” “What if I DO get picked for this game show pilot?!” “What if I do win money?!” “What would I use the money on?!”  (That answer is easy—more hobbies—and traveling).

While I can’t dive too much into specifics—because I truly don’t know any part of the show other than the fact that someone tried to hypnotize me, I can tell you that the experience of applying—and finding out that they wanted me to even come in and audition at all was exhilarating in itself. I consider that the first win of it all.

My friend, Adam, who is on his own journey, travels the country, and runs the site We Own The Moment, came along with me—and I believe he said it best when he explained that it’s amazing how many opportunities there are to do something like this every day in New York City.  And he’s right–there are SO many opportunities. I began to question myself. Why hadn’t I done this sooner? Why hadn’t I auditioned for ANYTHING sooner?

I could go into the psychology of why I hadn’t—but for now I think I’ll just start focusing on the present which involves a stack of casting calls…because hey…why the heck not?

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In honor of the theme of hypnotism, I thought I’d include the recent Joseph Gordon-Levitt skit from SNL:

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