Money & how to make it last

SOPA/Brave New World miuenski miuenski via Compfight

In this blog post, I will describe how I manage to stay alive, and kicking on a meager salary of 1044.36 US Dollars(7000 NOK) a month.

All the while keeping in mind that 447.60 US Dollars (3000 NOK) goes to rent (Internet, TV, and a 74.60 USD prepayment on power costs included).

There are three big things I practice with regards to money.

Segregation

The very first thing I do when I get money is to split it up. My accounts with the bank is rather “advanced”, but the gist of it is this: New accounts are free, so I make one per permanent outgoing cost.

So, I currently have an account for:
Rent
Phone
Server costs (I pay for the server where I host this blog)
PO. Box (I was without a home for a while, so this made the most sense)

Those are the expense-accounts, the other accounts are:

A shared account with my
Mom
Brother
Sister
(same bank, which allows instantaneous transfer of funds to accounts we dispose)

Main  (card account, the general rule here is to keep it as low as possible, only transferring money when you plan to go out and buy something specific)
Liquid (this is where I store the money when I am not going to buy something)
Savings (It has been used, I promise.)

Micromanagement

The best way I found to make money stretch, is to not have money in the relevant card-account.

In other words, you have a holdings account where you store the money (liquid in my case). That extra step of having to log in to your bank through the internet, makes you think a little bit more if you actually need that second soda for the day.

Whenever I am going out to buy something I transfer with ridiculous precision the amount of money I will need. You would think I don’t have fun? Sure, I can have fun it just takes some prediction skills, which I found came with time.

Another great thing about this micromanagement is that it triggers two SMS-es(texts) from my bank, the:
“You have more than 74.60 USD(500 NOK) on your account”-message,
and the:
“Someone tried to drain your account of X” where X is above the current holdings of your account.

These are great, because they tell me what’s happening to my account without me having to go out of my way. (After adapting to this micromanagement, it gives me a pretty good picture of what’s going on)

Saving

I may not be the best example, I don’t have much money to save from, however there was a time when I would end up with 298.45 USD(2000 NOK) at the end of the month which I didn’t have a place for… Some hobbies I acquired has started to dip into what I had before (Magic The Gathering, and travel costs to a LARP event every other Sunday)

This is a lot on such a tight budget. Now a days, I find that I’m ending up with a fourth of that, or half on good months (not many extra expenses)

Whenever I do find myself at such situations, I’ve found that a little saving goes a long way. It needn’t be much, but make sure you’re saving something. If you save 10 USD in a month it’ll become 120 in a year, it may not seem much, but as you grow accustomed to life without those 10 USD, you can increase it without much discomfort.

PS

Okay, I couldn’t help myself. Let me give you a tip that I felt sort of was implied with the segregation step.

In Segregation, you split your income into the different accounts, however a thing that you need to watch for are those “bloodsuckers” the recurring payments.

Sure 5 USD isn’t a lot of money in the grand scheme of things, but if you aren’t in control of it… Four subscriptions of 5 USD a month quickly turns into a bunch of money that could be better spent.

50 days, 43000 words later.

(picture from Marc via Compfight)

What happens when you write something 50 out of 50 days?

The Beginning

At first I wrote 500 words a day, then something changed. I made a spreadsheet that noted my progress. (you can download a clear one at here) Since the third day, I started taking minute counts, to make “Words Per  Minute”-measurements. At first my cruising speed was 18.35WPM I’d had two days below 10, where they were 9 and 7. This was before I started taking breaks.

I believe both days were times I had real troubles writing my required 500. I learned a couple of coping mechanisms, taking breaks if things move along too slowly, write on completely different pieces (A journal entry, or blog post, Et. Cetra),  and last but not least: Get rid of distractions. That application constantly bothering you to go update something? Kill it, just murder it.

Isolate yourself from the world. I found music without actual or lots of speech works really well. I’ve come to love FlicFlac for this. If this is not your musical can of worms, that’s fine the main thing is that you’re not supposed to sing along in your head. Anything carrying energy away from getting those words down is your enemy.

Statistics and how they helped

The maths for getting words per minute is really simple, Words/Minutes. That’s it, at day 3 in the challenge I was putting down a timestamp when I started, and another one when I ended. Along with word counts for each. Later on I started writing required word count just to make it simpler to remember when it was okay to quit.

Later on (day 10-20 of the challenge) I wrote a Google Docs SpreadSheet, and after filling in that with the data collected, I saw room for improvement. The spreadsheet gives you an idea of how fast you are writing. In the beginning it helped getting to see patterns. Like how I would work far less efficiently with distractions.

If I felt that I’d written myself into a slump I would stop the time, and take a break. Getting back to writing was then easier than before. This I think resulted in gaining faster WPMs overall,  I’d quickly grown to be above the previous cruising speed. Well, quickly is overstating it I think. But rather quick I would say.

My current WPM is 21.6 and with me learning touch typing, I am expecting that to increase lots faster once I actually end up “getting” it.

The best WPM I have had until now 38 (that’s 22 away from writing one word PER SECOND) and was obtained through a headset with accompanying music, my glasses off, so I couldn’t see typing errors, other than the most grave ones, and the no-pressure of writing a freeform (no plan) entry for my bookverse. There I am writing my heart into a textual form. There needs not be corrected words. It is not that important.  So yeah, moral of the high-wpm: Ignore the world, don’t edit, and write whatever lets you write whatever your most unobstructed thoughts say.

One of the things I’ve always struggled with, when doing things like these is motivation, while not on the OCD-level (I am not forced by my brain to fix things) having a 49 day streak on Lift.Do does help me keep motivated. That and statistics I’d have to write zero on if I didn’t do it one day. (Which would make the next few days easier, but it would be hurting me on the inside. For no other reason that I could’ve been better.)

Late days, and how to deal with them

When I write, I write for a specific day. (At least with the My 500 Words Challenge) To me as long as I haven’t slept yet that day, I am fine. That said, I won’t stretch it longer than a few hours across the border of that date. Technically, a day is 48 hours long because of timezones, so there is a lot of leeway here. But I don’t want to be “catching” up on writing. That’s a situation I don’t ever want to be in.

I’ve now written enough words to satisfy the My 500 Words Challenge, I won’t go tick it. I could. But I’ve not timed it, and I haven’t gotten to 1000 words.

PS: I’ve written not counting these words: 1167 words, over a time of 48 minutes, which I found that the revisioning tool of my blog actually kept accounts of. Fancy. So I lied to you earlier. I will be ticking that box. 

How 500 turned into 1000 and with time will turn into 2000
Rather quickly with the statistics document, I started adding small tidbits of information based on some math acrobatics with the gathered statistics. Average WPM (Above this is a personal goal on every daily assignment), Average Words Per Day (became the basis of the daily target), Highest WPM (reach for above this), Lowest WPM (Never let this become lower.), Total Words Written, Target Words Next Day, Days Counted, Average Minutes Spent

This segment is for the Target Words Next Day, with this I wanted to make sure the average words per day always went up. If not quickly, at least surely. I might not be able to directly control my WPM, but I can control how many words I am satisfied with. The current formula is: Round to the nearest 500 Average Words Per Day+250. This will make sure that my target is ALWAYS above the current average.

Making it slowly crawl upwards.

Going Forwards

It is my goal to always improve my statistics, by slowly increasing the amount of writing, I will be giving myself a stamina-boost over time. But it’ll be so gradual that the WPM-speed should be increasing with it. Making me able to write more in less over time. And I am talking about by day maybe 100. As it is I have added Touch Typing to my scheduled enhancements. (I might increase the Target of the day to WordsPerDay+500 to get a faster increment in daily words required. If I am to reach the 1333 goal for nanowrimo… Alternatively, I could just ignore the target in the spreadsheet and write with the nanowrimo goal in stead. I kinda like that idea better, it would force the wpd up, at a slightly faster rate.)

Looking forwards to actually making real headway with that. As it is, I am doing somewhat similar things to what touch typing wants you to do. While there are no “proper” spots for my current writing technique, it has been serving me up until now. But I am in need of something faster, and I’ve heard that touch typing can help.

That said, I’ve looked into the dvorak keyboard style before, when doing research for keyboards to buy. I might end up on one someday, but for now,  I can do well enough with the tools that are at my disposal. For where I live, money does not yet grow on trees. And a rent one has to pay.

I do intend to partake in Nanowrimo. I mean, it’s the natural step forward from the “My 500 Words Challenge” especially when I already write at 1000 Words Per Day :3

How about it? Do you want to write 43000 words? (A novel) Try the My 500 Words Challenge today.  ~ Tweet this?

The tools of my craft

I’ve been a writer for some time. Though I’ve never actually thought of “programmer” as a writer.

This is where I get one of my most favoured tools. GIT. It’s a revision system, which is meant for coders. It is meant to keep track of all the changes multiple coders do. And to let them revise their code while at all manner of places in the world. This is something it does magnificently. It has a bit of a learning curve to “un-initiated” folks. It took me some time to grasp it. With the help of Tortoise-GIT, a guide, and some patience I learned to use it.

GIT sort of laid there, I tried using it to keep track of my Scrivener projects, but scrivener apparently manages it’s sources strangely (read in .rtf-documents in stead of the vastly superior .html document standard) Anyways, GIT was confused.

So I let GIT stay away from my writing projects. Then I stopped using scrivener. Don’t know what stopped me from using it. I’m definitely going back, when I have to edit something. To me it wasn’t as much a writing tool as an organizing tool.

I’d discovered Q10 before, a writing program for windows by the Spanish writer Joaquín Bernal. It’s a distraction-less writing program, it deals in one filetype. UTF8 .txt-files. Which is great, allows me to write in my native language using strange contraptions like å, ø, and æ. Beside not wanting to sully my writing with Norwegian, I find that a nice feature.Q10

Another program that I had my eyes on during a similar writing-bout period was Writemonkey, which lends a few ideas from (or to) Q10, it has a less wide writing field (estetically) than Q10, but it certainly also lets distractions go away.Writemonkey

Now, to the meat of the cool things the toolset I use today can do. I write something with Q10, save it to my folder. Then right click, opening up a context menu in that folder. Then press commit. After that, you get another dialog. In which I press push. What this does is send the files to a service (in my case) called bitbucket.Context sensitive dialogCommit dialog (shows changes)Dialog you get after a commit is successfulDialog that comes before pushing to the serverHistory dialog (shows every commit, local to the machine you are working on)

What they do is host what is called code repositories. A repository of code usually, but what then happens is that I can sync it to my laptop. Which I can bring everywhere.

Bitbucket display of pushed commits

If you’re wondering how I calculate Words Per Minute, that’s simple, I open a notepad, hit Shift+F5 (regular notepad I think it’s just F5), to mark a starting time. If it’s a document I’ve written in before, I mark the word count.

119

Making the calculation in this case: (123-90) / (01:49 04/10/2014-01:50 04/10/2014 )  to find the time, in this case, 1 minute go to wolframalpha.com enter that into the equation: (123-90) / 1. Then resolve the first parentheses, to get how many words you wrote this day: 33, which lets you go with a WPM equation of 33/1… 33 WPM 😉

Alternatively, use the last tool I mention, the excel document you can download and use on your own imported to excel, or Google drive 🙂 If I have a target, I’ll indent it to end on the same line as the result would be written upon… 120

 

GIT automatically does something called hashing, of the data. The thing about that is that GIT does this to make sure the contents are the same no matter where they are downloaded to. This means that if I keep the Hash-code somewhere, I can be sure that the data I have hasn’t been tampered with. (by matching the hash-code I keep with one of the repository I have with me on the laptop, or at home)

(Not that I expect someone to go have fun with me, but corruption happens in most disks over time.)

Another tool I have, which I developed lately is: http://goo.gl/wp0F6g It’s a tracking tool. Made to let me easily know where I am at, and how to improve.
“Target Words Next Day” rounds upwards, to the nearest 250 words which means that to new 500-word challengees, it’ll say 750. This is because I like to challenge myself, and I want my average words per day to go up, as well as average WPM, and the way to get both of those better is by continued improvement.

Stretching the amount of words written makes me write MORE, which is a goal of mine as well as improving writing speed, and length. For now, that is all. I’ll write more on this post when I’ve got the energy.

PS: (584-90)/22 WPM (22.45) 🙂
PPS: If I feel like it, I’ll add pictures to the steps.