I had a wonderful holiday, and I hope you all did as well. And if it wasn't wonderful, I hope it was as good as it could be given whatever circumstances you were facing.
I'm not sure how to start this blog post, so I'm going to start by saying that my husband got me South Park's The Stick of Truth (TSOT) video game for Christmas. I was playing it today, and was having so much fun that I played for five hours without realizing it (I'm now a Level 4 Jew! That's more Jew then I am in real life).
Why do I bring this up? Because I realized that playing the Stick of Truth was a huge lesson in budgeting for the holidays next year.
Bear with me...
If you've ever played TSOT, or any Role Playing Game (RPG) for that matter, you know that as you adventure you find a lot of Junk. It's everywhere. Every time you explore a new area or you defeat an enemy you get some "good stuff" and a lot of "Junk". Most people forget about the Junk and just go for the good stuff. However, if you are a low level character, or just starting out, that Junk could make the difference.
Because you can sell the Junk for money.
It's not a lot of money, but it's some. And if you sell enough Junk you can afford better armor, better weapons, or train new skills.
I played TSOT for five hours, and made over $100 in In-Game money just buy selling Junk at five cents a pop.
See where I am going with this?
Imagine every day you take the change out of your pocket and put in into a jar. At the end of a month you take that jar to the bank and cash it in. It might not be much. It might be only $20... but after 10 months, that's $200. That's a gift budget.
The problem with this is... you need to use cash. It's way easier and more secure to use a card.
I've got you there.
Imagine you use one credit card to pay for everything. Something like the Amazon Visa or the American Express Blue that gives you points for every dollar you use. And let's say you pay that card off every month so you're not paying those fees.
And let's say Christmas comes around and it's time to buy gifts and you have no money because you don't have a job and your savings in dwindling, and you can't bring yourself to dip into it for the sake of a few gifts... and you look and see that you have points towards purchases on Amazon. $250 worth of points on Amazon.
It's hard to see those gains one pocketful of change or one month of card purchases at a time, but over time it adds up. If RPGs tell you anything, it's that the Junk adds up.
The time to start building that budget for Christmas is right now, while you still have 360 days to save.
So, here's my challenge to anyone who says that they never have money for holiday presents:
To anyone who reads this, who remembers Diaryland? How about LiveJournal?
I've been blogging for the past 16 years. It's not easy, especially when you're not a teenager anymore. As you get older, you realize that your views are small in comparison to the rest of the world. You are this tiny speck in a world of eight billion. You get a job. You become your employee ID number. You get paid, you get benefits, and if you are lucky you find a really cool person to spend a whole lot of time with, and you forget that at one time, you were the most important person in the world.
In my previous job, I enjoyed helping people relive that feeling. I would focus all my energy on them, their needs, and their life story. Yes, I was paid to do it... as are all retail employees. But the reward comes from doing the job well, and getting that spark of connection from a complete stranger.
I left that job because although the customer service side was rewarding, I was not advancing. I had not moved from the same position for three years, I wasn't learning anything new, and I was becoming stagnant, boring, and bored.
So I did a really stupid thing and left a good job to pursue a dream of doing what I love: freelancing, consulting, and writing. Helping people start on their own dreams, making those connections, growing as a person and citizen of the world.
The first two weeks were great.
The first month was really productive.
The second month was completely dead.
Now I'm about to enter month three. I've been applying for real jobs through the various channels: LinkedIn, Career Sites, Temp Agencies... I've even applied to become a freelancer for TaskRabbit.
So far, nothing. I had one interview which turned into a consultation, but nothing else. The horrible thing is that I keep blaming myself.
"What am I not doing?"
"What skills don't I have?"
"What's wrong with me?"
It's exactly like online dating.
You message an interesting person. You hear nothing back. You move on... until it becomes the 30th or 50th or 100th person. Then you start wondering if maybe it's you. You pick apart your entire life, try to fix every little thing, and fail because it's really not you.
Eventually, you find self-acceptance. Then you find that one cool person to spend a whole lot of time with.
Like online dating, I will keep at it until I find the one cool job to spend the next decade of my life with. It's worked before!
So, why this blog? Despite my confidence in my intelligence, my skills, and my future as an exceptional citizen of the world; when things don't go the way I'd planned I get down on myself. I get stressed, I get frustrated, and I forget that it's not me. My fitness blog holds me accountable to my health, this blog is going to hold me accountable to the life I want to live.
I am the most important person in my life, because I am the one who decides whether or not I achieve the life I want.
Stephanie Cansian is a rebelliously positive Central Jersey citizen with her husband and their dog.