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Single Step Personal Finance Challenge

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Have you ever been on a long walk and felt that you’ll never make it on the way? When I was in Sweden with my aunt and uncle, I was taken out on a “walk” that turned into a 13k hike. It was beautiful, but at times I thought we’d never get home. I probably complained a bit. But we made it back to the house, we just had to keep going.

Sometimes when we’re optimizing our financial situations, we can just keep going with what we have. If you’ve got a great debt snowball rolling, for instance, you can just stick with that. And keeping with it is your way of putting one foot in front of the other. That’s why Dave Ramsey organizes his program in “Baby Steps.”

But to go on the journey, you need to take that first step. Perhaps this trip is a stroll around the block like setting up next month’s budget. Maybe it’s a long hike: getting around to setting up your debt snowball and figuring out how you can put more into it.

So I’m giving out a challenge this week:

Find one step you can take to make your financial system better or more organized.

That’s it. It can writing a budget for next month, it can be coming up with a basic budget framework, it can be finding out how much you owe to whom at what interest rates, it can be setting up a debt snowball, or organizing your bank accounts…one step you feel will take you towards your goals. Big or small as you like, it doesn’t matter.

What am I going to do?

Well, I have a charitable donation set up each month to go to the same organization (World Vision). It’s been that way for years and it’s quite convenient. This is the only automatic debit to the bank account I want to close. So I’m going to contact them this week and change that information, along with my married name and mailing address (so parents, you shouldn’t be getting any more mail from them). I’ll report back on Friday about getting it done.

In the meantime, I challenge all of you, dear readers, to take one step. Leave a comment, write your own post (and tag others!), or just do it quietly on your own. Do what makes you feel best about your step—keep it to yourself or share it with the world!

For once, I’m going to actually tag people, but if you really can’t think of something then no pressure. RacerX (who has just come back from hiatus), Randall at Credit Withdrawal, Living Almost Large, Squawkfox, and Blunt Money, you’re all it!

And the rest of you tag yourselves as well!


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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

RacerX July 14, 2008 at 11:49 am

Mine was just finished yesterday (does that count?) I rebuilt my entire MS Money file from scratch and re-org’ed all of my bills. I have had two big computer issues and have also learned the silliness of not backing up!

The gory details to come in my blog tomorrow!

Thanks for thinking of me Mrs M!

Daddy T July 14, 2008 at 12:46 pm

Hi Mrs. Micah,
Great ideas as usual! My finances were brought to ruination when I maxed out 7 or 8 credit cards from 1988 to 1996 They enabled me to move out of the city to the country in 1996 and I at last found a peaceful enough place to reside with the best set of neigbors I’ve ever had. However I knew the “end” was coming and soon I wasn’t able to keep up the card payments. A few years later I stopped paying all of them and got sued about 4 times from different credit companies. One day I discovered that Mommy T had secretly started to pay off the plastic debts and I think we have mostly recovered from it. Mommy T does the finance thing around here now and I am retired from the outside work world. Having no money for the last year and 8 months has at least allowed me look at money and the lack of it with a new perspective although I can’t decide what that is. Next year I’ll be 62 and hope to start drawing Social Security checks which might be around $800 before taxes. I am Mr. Mom now, and do odd jobs for the Landlords on our house. Mommy T sends me to help my sister and mom in Florida for a few months each year. I am building my first Website now and boy is it a lot of work! BTW, what does FINWIKIAN mean?

mrsmicah July 14, 2008 at 1:24 pm

Sure, Racer, I guess I was just psychic enough to know before you wrote about it. πŸ˜‰

@DaddyT, MommyT is sure a resourceful one! And I think it makes sense that she manages the finances too, some people are better cut out for that and she seems like one of them.

deepali July 14, 2008 at 2:10 pm

I’m stumped on this one….

Amanda July 14, 2008 at 4:21 pm

I just wanted to say I’m a big fan of World Vision!

πŸ™‚

Alisa July 14, 2008 at 7:54 pm

Thanks for the challenge. I think my goal is going to be to re-visit my budget and try harder to stick to it.

Cath Lawson July 15, 2008 at 4:46 am

Hi Mrs M – That’s a really good point. It’s just making yourself take that first step isn’t it. I need to chase up money that’s being owing to me for ages. I’ve been avoiding it because it’s so stressful. So I’ll take the first step towards doing that and report back too.

Kim July 15, 2008 at 10:42 am

I just exited debt valley and I want to start a savings snowball. Valley to mountain top? What a relief it is to have that huge millstone…GONE! So with nothing particular that I want to save for, I want to save anyway. I may want to buy a house again or need a new car in a couple of years or take a vacation. My goal is actually to change my perspective, my habits…my way of life into a saver instead of a spender. Good luck to me!

tiffanie July 16, 2008 at 1:07 am

What good timing…I already did something huge in my opinion on Monday. I wanted to get my 401(k) from my previous employer transferred to Vanguard (which I set up as a Traditional IRA) and also start contributing to a Roth IRA. In order to do this I had to get a medallion guarantee to authenticate my signature, but I don’t belong to a bank in my area!

So it was a 3 hour ordeal of opening a checking account with a local bank (no fees, won’t cost me anything, and I finally have a local institution, although I won’t be using it to actually keep my money in!). Once I was a member, they were able to guarantee my signature and I was able to submit the paperwork to have my 401(k) funds transferred to an IRA. What a headache, but something I’m glad I got out of the way! At one point I was near tears because I was so stressed about it all and nobody would guarantee my signature. At least it’s done now πŸ™‚

Dawn July 16, 2008 at 10:49 am

Great post! I am working on my personal balance sheet so I can have in one place, on one simple sheet of paper all my assets and debts and then calculate my net worth.

AP July 16, 2008 at 3:40 pm

Great Post! This post is so timely for me. I’m definitely in! My single step is to create a budget for August and stick to it. In the past, I just used my checkbook ledger to just pay my bills, not really thinking of a budget. Now, that I’ve been using Mint.com for the last eight months, I know where my holes are. Tracking will allow me to tweak where I need to. Wish me luck :-)!

heartbeat July 16, 2008 at 3:59 pm

at the age of six, in okinawa japan, my son earned his first degree black belt and had “a journey begins with one step” on his belt in kanji…that first step for him took him to be a 4th degree black belt by the time he was 10 and an islandwide champion…but more than that..he applied that lesson to the rest of his life as well in everything that he does.

Frugal Vet Tech (Student) July 17, 2008 at 11:57 am

Thanks for the challenge. Our grocery spending/planning/meal prep needs some work and I’ve decided to work on that. Details are here.

SurfaceTension July 18, 2008 at 8:27 am

The one step that really helped me get organized was to have open a 2nd free checking account. This allows me to pay all my bills out of one account and have money in the other for daily spending.

Pete @ biblemoneymatters July 18, 2008 at 9:44 am

Just wrote my single step post! Great idea Mrs. Micah, and thanks for the motivation!

AndyS July 19, 2008 at 10:19 am

Great idea – so simple and effective. I was tagged yesterday and have written my post. I think a number of folks have similar one step challenges. Good to see I am not the only one!

Coupon Artist July 21, 2008 at 2:57 pm

Great challenge! As I mention on my blog, the step I took was setting up an account and importing my financial info into mint.com.

Marci July 21, 2008 at 6:06 pm

Mine is staying out of the grocery store except for the really good sales coupons, for now and into the future. I’d like to cut back to once a month.

To help this along, I just hauled in another load of cow manure/fertilizer (free), and some landscaping timbers (all free), and will be expanding my perenial veggie/fruit garden. Yesterday I scored free asparagus plants, loquats, cabbages, and kales, so they all need a place to go. My plan is just to produce 90% at least of the fruits/veggies/potatoes that I eat. This should save a LOT of money, and give me an exercise program as a side benefit.

Groceries seem to be the one financial place where I can still make a big difference. The rest of the finances are doing great.

CB July 24, 2008 at 2:00 pm

I saw your financial challenge on a few other blogs, which brought me back to here… this is what I’ve done!

1) Called my credit cards companies and asked them to raise my credit limit. I don’t plan on spending more money, and I never bump up against my limits, but having a higher credit-available to credit-used ratio will bump up my credit score.

2) Made some calls to initiate the roll-over process of my 401K. Turns out the company where I used to intern (and where I began my 401k at 19 years old!) never terminated my account, so the friendly Vanguard rep gave me the phone number of someone at my old employer who could send me termination forms. Step one, complete!

Melissa July 30, 2008 at 3:26 pm

I researched HSA’s and found one with a much better interest rate with no fees. I signed up today and tomorrow I’ll send out my request to close my HSA and transfer my funds to a different bank.

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