First Quarter 2017 Reflections

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The older I get, the more I understand how important it is to reflect. To think about what went wrong and, most importantly, what went right. Reflection helps you know what habits to keep and kick to the curb. So here I am, reflecting on my first-quarter goals. Here they were:

  1. Save $500 (3500¥).
  2. Cut recurring bank fees.
  3. Earn a raise and promotion.
  4. Cashflow birthday turn-up.
  5. Read 3 books.

How did I do? I checked off every goal. Yayyyyy!

1. Save $500 (3500¥). I ended up socking away $1,000 by saving my entire federal tax refund and putting a little away from my March paycheck. To complete CFG’s 26-week savings challenge, I’ll save $378 more by the end of June.

Reasons To Become Debt-Free(2)

2. Cut recurring bank fees. Bank of America was getting on my nerves with its $12 monthly maintenance fee. That’s $12 of my money going to a conglomerate every month! I’m on a tight budget. I can’t afford that.

The bank charges this fee when you don’t have a certain amount of money in your checking account or you don’t have any money directly deposited into that account monthly. When I quit my 9-to-5 to move to China, the direct deposits ceased.  I got that fee waived for a first few months. But they kicked back in and Bank of America was not going to help me out any further, although I’d been a customer with them for 12 years. I was a bank virgin before going to Bank of America. How could he treat me like this! Thank goodness I already had an online bank, Capital One, which doesn’t charge fees.

Operation: Dump Bank of America took effect in early January. Here are the key steps I took.

  1. Get fed up!
  2. Connect my online bank, Capital One, with my credit union so I can make transfers.
  3. Redirect automatic payments from Bank of America to the online bank.
  4. Pay bills with the online bank’s Bill Pay system and debit card to ensure the system works properly.
  5. Call Bank of America, close the checking account and say “Bye, Felicia.”

I forgot one important step: Download and save previous checking account statements. I forgot that they’d go away as soon as I closed the account on January 18—the day before B of A was going to take another $12. That call was so weird. They didn’t even put up a fight for me or offer to waive the fee for being a long-term customer. With the $62 left in the account, I had the choice of getting a check send to my mom’s house in the States or transfer that money to my credit card account. I chose the credit card payment, which almost paid off the minimum that month.

3. Earn a raise and promotion. After my 5-month appraisal, I was given performance bonuses in four key areas. I was also applied for a promotion and got approved, which came with its own raise. So in March, my gross monthly income got nearly a $370 boost. Yippee! At the 11-month mark, I’m eligible for more performance bonuses. I’m going to do everything I can to get ’em.

4. Cashflow birthday turn-up. I didn’t do anything big for my 30th birthday. A few days later, I visited a friend in a nearby city. Expenses included train tickets, food and a massage. I dipped into my Opportunity Fund to do it, BUT (and that’s a big BUT) I didn’t get into debt, which is most important.

5. Read 3 books. In China, metro is life! And I have about a 40-minute work commute. Instead of people-watching, I decided to read. This totally changed my life! I became voracious. I ended up tripling my goal in the first quarter, reading 3 books per month. I reread some of them, too. Here’s the list of good reads:

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Although I did a crappy job of managing my money in March, some awesome things happened in the last few weeks.

  1. My federal tax refund came in two weeks after I filed it.  Turbo Tax didn’t send a warning, so it was a pleasant surprise to see almost $800 hit the bank.
  2. I earned two side hustles after updating my LinkedIn account and resume. Preparation met Opportunity and Luck was born.
  3. I paid off one of my undergraduate loans in full. Only three parts of that loan group remain.

What I learned from the first quarter

  • Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s ok to veer off track, as long as you change directions swiftly.
  • Things always work out.
  • You can change your luck by being prepared when opportunity strikes. If I hadn’t saved my reimbursement in January, I would have been a$$ed out in February and March. If I hadn’t updated my LinkedIn account and resume in January and February, I wouldn’t have been recruited for one side hustle and wouldn’t have had my resume handy to nag the second side hustle.
  • Using a cash envelope system might be the best way to stick to my budget.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • It pays to keep savings out of sight and out of mind.

Overall, Q1 was a smashing success. My Q2 goals include:

  • Paying off the Chase credit card.
  • Sticking to cash envelopes.
  • Blogging every week.
  • Reading 9 more books.
  • Finishing the CFG accountability program. And finishing strong!

How did your first quarter go? I’d love to celebrate your money wins.

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