Sunday, September 27, 2009

But where did she go?

Hey there, folks. Been a while, hasn't it? I took a hiatus of a few weeks (or a month), but my reasons are good. I've decided that the Internet really, really does not need yet another personal finance blog. There are too many as it is. Many of the entries I find myself writing feel like re-hashes of all the other blogs I've read.

I do believe that NYC-centric frugality tips would be new and useful. But I don't think that blog posts, continued into perpetuity, are the best way of sharing the information I have. Instead I'm considering writing an e-book. It'll be awhile before it's ready to be given away, a long while, but I like the idea of having a concrete, finished work at the end of 6 months, rather than a blog that nobody visits unless I chase them down.

So for now, The Frugal New Yorker is going into hibernation. Good luck, my friends, in your efforts to get by and have fun for less in the big city. I promise it can be done!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Carnival of Personal Finance

Check it out, folks! I’m in the latest Carnival of Personal Finance—last week’s article on “Time Management: A Better Way” was featured. The carnival is being hosted on Your Money Relationship—check out all the great posts here!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Weekly Roundup # 2

Links to 5 great personal finance blog posts from around the web.

“Get-Started-Now Guide to Becoming Self-Employed”: why everyone can start their own business and work for themselves.

“Budget Travel Tips for the Frugal Traveler”: a list of basic tips on saving money on travel—I don’t agree with all of them (i.e. using a City Pass is actually not that great a deal in NYC or Paris), but there are some gems in here.

“Start Small and Make Saving Automatic”
: baby steps to building an emergency fund from nothing.

“Running as Transportation”: I love this guy, he managed to retire young after saving 75% of his income for just 5 years. His secret was learning to live on a really, really low budget. This article is about considering running as a good way to get from place to place.

“Calculating the True Cost of Vacations”: makes a good point about the money you save while going on vacation.

Monday, August 17, 2009

How I got my job: Narrowing down the search

This is the third part of the “How I Got My Job” series, the story of how I went from unemployed to working at my dream organization. Read part 1 and part 2.

Most people trawl online job boards or attend job fairs even though we know it’s not effective. These sorts of activities make us feel productive, and hey, sometimes they work. But according to What Color Is Your Parachute? (WCIYP), only 4-10% of people succeed in finding a job by responding to online ads. Responding to newspaper ads is similarly ineffective.

So what should you be doing instead? A targeted, direct job search.

There are probably hundreds of companies in your field that you don’t know about. Once you have identified the field you want to focus on, start a Dream Company list. Research the names of as many companies as you can locate. There are lots of great resources for tracking them down:

1. Job boards targeted to your industry-—I used idealist, the catch-all for nonprofit job ads. Those interested in publishing would try Sometimes these websites allow you to search for companies in general; if not, just look at an unscreened list of job ads and copy down the name of each company. Then check them out on their website.

2.—This is a great online resource that has information on over 10,000 US companies, including employee satisfaction surveys, salary information, tips on getting hired, and more. It also has detailed profiles on different professions.

3. Identify trade and special-interest magazines in your industry and see if you can browse them at the local library, bookstore or magazine shop. Take down the names of any companies with interesting ads or articles.

4. Websites of companies you already know often will mention partnerships or publications made with other companies. For me, the Vera Institute of Justice had a great Resources page with lots of leads.

Do a quick study of every company and see if it deserves to be on your Dream list. Read about their stated mission and values, try to figure out how they operate and make money, and see what sort of work their employees do. You should end up with a fairly long list of potential employers.

Once you have created this list, order it by preference. Then begin contacting each one. Check their website first to see if there are any job openings, but you’ll be better off if there aren’t—the company won’t be getting deluged with job applications, and will be more likely to read your letter.

Take several hours to research each company. Look for recent achievements or news articles that you can refer to, as well as older victories that the company might be famous for. Once you have enough information, draft a very detailed cover letter. Describe why you like the company, explain your skills and how they might be used, and invite them to contact you if they ever need to hire someone with those skills. Make the cover letter as specific as possible—let them know that this is your dream company and that you would be passionate about working for them.

To really wow them, include some portfolio items—writing samples, completed projects, etc. Make sure to personalize the letter to the head of the department you’re interested in. If possible, deliver the package by hand—you just might meet the right contact face-to-face. Once you’re done, move on to the next company! Before long, all the best companies in your industry will have heard of you. It may not pay off immediately, but this is just the kind of exposure you want while job hunting.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Free This Weekend!

What’s up this weekend that’s actually free? Here’s a list of fun activities in the city!

(Note: this stuff is in addition to the big-name free events like SummerStage in Central Park or the Good Morning America concerts—everyone goes to those, and I thought folks would appreciate activities off the beaten track.)

Friday, August 14th:

- Metropolitan Opera in Coffey Park, Red Hook, 7pm
- East River Park Dance, 4pm
- GlobeSonic Dance Party, Riverside Park South, 70th St, pier 1, 7-11pm
- “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Socrates Sculpture Park, 32-01 Vernon Blvd in Long Island City, 5 pm
- Lincoln Center Out of Doors: Slavic Soul Party, North Plaza, 7pm
- Lincoln Center Out of Doors: Plastic People of the Universe, Damrosch Park Bandshell, 7:30pm
- Jazzmobile: Jazzberry concert at Marcus Garvey Park, 122nd and 5th, 7pm

Saturday, August 15th:

- East River Park Dance, 4pm
- East Indian Family Dance Party, Esplanade Plaza, Battery Park, 6:30-8pm
- “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Socrates Sculpture Park, 32-01 Vernon Blvd in Long Island City, 5 pm
- Inwood Hill Park Stargazing, Seaman Ave & Isham St., family activity, 8:30-10pm, cloudy sky cancels
- Lincoln Center Out of Doors: Dance Theater, Damrosch Park Bandshell, 7:30pm
- Jazzmobile: Ray Schinnery, 153rd st. at Convent and Amsterdam, 7pm

Sunday, August 16th:

- Summer on Hudson Lawn Party, 3-5pm, Riverside Park South
- “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Socrates Sculpture Park, 32-01 Vernon Blvd in Long Island City, 5 pm
- Lincoln Center Out of Doors: Afro-Cuban Dance, Damrosch Park Bandshell, 3pm; African Dance at 7:30pm

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Weekly Roundup!

I thought you all would appreciate links to the best stuff I've read over the past week. This should be particularly helpful for New Yorkers--I'll screen out anything that doesn't really apply to us.

So here's the first week's edition-- links to 7 great personal finance articles from around the web!

2 Questions to Help You Gain Perspective: This post from Zen Habits, a fantastic blog, is not exactly about personal finance—but it does relate. This guest blogger asks 2 questions to help you see if you’re living your life in a way you can be proud of. I won’t say that this post changed my life, but it comes pretty darn close.

Fee-Free National Parks: Queercents has the heads-up on this weekend’s free National Park admissions—including 7 parks in NYS alone.

What I Wish I’d Done About Money: Another blogger over at Queercents look backs to different points in his life and reflects on the lessons he wishes he’d learned.

Collecting on Delinquent Accounts: For anyone who works as a freelancer or consultant, or runs their own small business and must bill clients, this Wise Bread article has some fantastic advice on dealing with those who are slow to pay!

Budgeting is not complicated: Provident Planning breaks down the basics of budgeting really simply here, showing that it’s not that hard to do!

Twelve Crazy Myths of Personal Finance: From Beyond Paycheck to Paycheck, an interesting run-down of lies we tell ourselves that keep us from cleaning up our finances. I’m guilty of some of these myself…

Was Early Retirement A Good (or Bad) Idea?: My Wealth Builder analyzes the effect of early retirement on his life and ends up with what I find to be a poignant tribute to financial independence.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Time Management: A Better Way

Jonathan Mead over at Zen Habits just wrote a post about getting things done without obsessing over time. One of his recommendations is to choose a monthly theme: instead of trying to accomplish various goals at any given moment, he suggests dedicating every month to just one goal.

I’ve tried that before and have found that it doesn’t work. Sometimes you just can’t put goals off for months at a time. Instead, I’ve found a better solution for managing all of your goals at once without stressing over the time each one takes:

The heart of the system is to assign each day of the week to a single project or goal. From hereon out, Mondays will be your day for, say, studying investment strategies. On Thursdays you can put in an extra workout.

There are a few reasons why this system works so well. First, it keeps each one of your projects progressing steadily. You’ll avoid the trap of working on a goal in fits and starts, or doing everything at a rush and then running out of steam. Second, it reassures you each day that all of your goals are taken care of. You can focus on that day’s work without fretting that you’ve fallen behind on something else. Third, it sets you up with a routine that never has to change but provides plenty of variety. And finally, you will know what you’re supposed to be working on each day without checking in on every single one of your projects to see which one needs the most work.

Recently, I found myself getting overwhelmed by a different set of responsibilities. I have multiple projects going on at once—novel-writing, this blog, starting a new side business, etc.—and there just didn’t seem to be enough time. If I focused on one, then I would likely let another one slide. Last week’s hiatus in posting was due to this confusion! Then I adopted this system. Here’s what my schedule looks like:

Sundays: work on Frugal New Yorker, volunteer
Mondays: work on my side business
Tuesdays: write or edit fiction
Wednesdays: work on my side business
Thursdays: Frugal New Yorker
Fridays: write or edit fiction
Saturdays: work on side business, and cook

As you can see, any goal or project that needs a lot of work can be given more than one day—my side business takes up three days in total. And sometimes I can combine two projects in one day—this is easiest to do on the weekends, when I have extra time. Moreover, the system is flexible: each day you can determine your daily goals for that project, depending on how much time you have and what you need to get done.

All in all, this is a great way to fit your goals into your daily routine. For those of you working to get your finances in order, you might assign one day per week to reading a personal finance book or managing your money, or to frugal projects like cooking meals for the week ahead as I do on Saturdays.

It’s also a great way to take on a side business without getting overwhelmed. Whatever you choose to do with it, good luck!