Respecting Your Money When You Hustle

I have a new found appreciation for money.  Walking away from a corporate job means walking away from a good salary and bonuses. So naturally it has me a tad freaked. Not because I fear not making money ever again, but more from just leaving what I know in terms of getting a set paycheck every 2 weeks for the unknown. Since I am on a path of not fixating on what is scary, I chose to look at this as a great opportunity for me to really reevaluate how I spend my hard earned money. I admittedly buy things (a lot of things) when I want to without being on a strict budget, but this is not a habit I want to carry with me. Knowing that my income is going to be based on how hard I hustle, I am not taking any of it for granted.

Case and point. I am probably the only person you know that has a land line. Why you ask? For whatever reason, the condo community that I live in requires a local area code to have the gates hooked up to a phone so that residents can buzz guests in. (Seems antiquated but there you have it). I thought I was paying about $20 a month which had me thinking, I probably buzz people in about a dozen times a month. That’s like $1.50 a visitor. Which is lame.  Totally lame. I discovered by asking my condo association that google voice would work. Oh and that is FREE. When I called my phone carrier to disconnect, it turns out I am not paying $20. I actually pay $49 (which is more like $4 a buzz). Who is the biggest sucker? ME! And it is my own fault. I clearly do not pay attention to my bills on auto pay, and I am quite annoyed with myself for wasting that much money for the last few years for no good reason. Needless to say, I cancelled my old school land line and now have google voice up and running. I can buzz my guests in from my mobile phone, and I no longer need to consider charging them a cover to get in.

Wait, there’s more!

Take skin care. I pay A LOT for that (probably about $250 for a 2 month supply). I have realized that I have been buying that stuff for over a year and I do love it. But I also am fortunate that I am benefiting from ketones helping my skin. That is 100% true and I do not mean that to be a sales pitch (well ok maybe a little. #shamelessplug). I know we only get one face and I definitely want to swim in the fountain of youth for as long as I possibly can, but I am convinced I can do it on less money.

This next example, as funny as it is, is actually haunting me. Up until a few weeks ago, I had been getting a gel manicure and pedicure about every 2 weeks. I skipped the mani the last time I went simply because my nails have gone to shit. So anyways, having my nails just completely natural, it had me realizing, I will survive without glitter and designs on them. I know this will cause heartache for my friend, Cari, who looks forward to those Instagram posts of my nails but at last, something has to give. I calculated how much I spend on beautiful, glamorous, sparkly nails (ok yeah I am having some separation anxiety). Be warned: This info is not for the faint hearted. It comes out to be about $170 a month which equals $2000 PER YEAR. I have never felt so vain as when I came to that epiphany. That is money I could have taken quite a few trips with. Or money I could have put towards my mortgage. Or money I simply could have just put into savings. I mean seriously. Done and done.

I am definitely going to miss my job perk of having free DIRECTV. I do not see myself paying for traditional cable because not only can my money be better spent, but my time as well. I have so much to do to get my business going that I will be in serious trouble if I am glued to the boob tube all day long. (Although I cannot under any circumstances not watch Outlander every week. I will probably pay for the STARZ app because hello? Jamie would miss me too much).

Don’t get me wrong. There are extravagances I do not see myself giving up, like my car. I am a total sucker for Lexus. Not just because they are so pretty but because they are seriously way smarter than I am. I have grown accustomed to the comforts and luxuries of them, and for now, I can justify the expense.

All these examples in my financial evaluation I am doing is a reminder for me to take better inventory on my money and where it is going. Priorities change and I should be adjusting my spending to tailor to it as needed. I still intend to go to CrossFit and buy ketones because those are the foundation for me to stay healthy and happy. I probably on the other hand do not need to go to Lorna Jane every month or so for new workout gear.  It is important to find realistic compromises. I will be so bold to say that it is possible perhaps you may want or need to take stock of your own situation to see if you have any reckless spending patterns like I do.

My biggest lesson though is realizing that yes, it is absolutely wonderful to have financial freedom, but I have taken advantage of it.  I am certain I can give up fancy manicures and top of the line skin care without sacrificing the quality of my life. I am certain that I will survive if I do not catch all my television shows in real time. I am certain that life in itself is going to keep me busy and fulfilled that I will not miss what I am “giving up”.

Spam Bombs and Credit Card Fraud Will Make Anyone Crazy

Last Wednesday started off like any other day. I stopped by a colleague’s desk to catch up on her recent vacation. I got back to my desk 10 minutes later and saw I had 297 unopened Gmail messages. I immediately knew something was off; even on my best day I am not that popular. I had a slew of emails with similar subjects like “Thank you for subscribing” or “Thank you for your inquiry”. Some messages were English, some Spanish, some were what I think to be Arabic.” WTF?!?!” went through my head a million times. I immediately logged into Gmail on my computer, and deleted what now rose to about 500 emails. But they would NOT stop. Emails were coming in by the second. I added a million filters which caught thousands, but it was relentless. And I was at wit’s end. I sighed audibly a good 3 times when my cube neighbor popped up and asked, “Ok, Missy, that was the 3 sigh. What is going on?” I told him I was getting spammed like crazy, so he came over to look at my email. We saw about 500 in my spam box (and growing) and about 60 in my inbox (and growing) and he exclaimed, “Holy shit, you’ve been hosed!”  Thanks, Pal.

I tried googling what was going on. My first assumption was my email was hacked and I would need to delete the account, which was heart wrenching and not really an option I wanted to consider.  I have probably a decade’s worth of emails and information that I did not want to part with. After not finding much help on Google, I tried finding Gmail support (which basically does not exist, or if it does, Google has it so purposefully and cleverly hidden).

I did find a Gmail help forum. I posted a question not really expecting a response as I had no idea if it was monitored or even frequented. Much to my surprise though, I did promptly have a few response.  Here is a snippet of that conversation:

snippet

 

 

Silly naïve me was truly fixating on the wrong issues which is the point of being spam bombed. I kept asking questions about switching emails, exporting/importing while icantchooseone insistently told me to check my finances.

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So after about 3 comments from him/her, I got spooked enough to start calling my banks and credit card companies. Everything was good on the bank fronts, same as the first credit card company I called.  When I called my second (and only other) credit card company, the agent was checking recent transactions. He told me there was a charge made the day before for $2.99 to an online apple store. He asked if I had an iphone apple account, and I said I did.  However, that is not the amount of my typical monthly charge. He said there was another charge made that day to the same store for the amount of $3000.00. I assured him that was not mine, and so he flagged it as fraudulent and declined it.

He also told me there was a $33 apparel charge over the weekend that was declined as it was suspected of being fraudulent. Really, credit card company? This is me… an avid shopper who drops money on clothes ALL THE TIME all around the country and the world. $33 is suspicious but a $3000 apple charge is not?! At any rate, I actually found that amusing (and truth be told, my credit card company is typically on point with catching fraud so I am very grateful).

The agent also immediately cancelled my current credit card and was issuing another one to be mailed to me. So who knew?  Icantchooseone was onto something, much to my dismay.

About two minutes after I got that squared away with the credit card company, I received a phone call from apple about a recent charge that was declined. I let him know that was fraudulent. It is good to know (not being snarky) that even though a fraudulent charge got through initially on their site, they have checks and balances for when that charge goes astray.

Side note: It was unsettling to say the least that on July 4th when the first little fraudulent tester went through (I am sure it was an attempt to keep the amount small and undetectable to see if they found a winner card to rip off), I was chillin at the pool without a care in the world while someone or someones were probably sitting in a dark basement somewhere, anywhere really (and I don’t know why I assume it’s a basement. Maybe I have watched too much “24” in my day) laughing up a storm at what a sucker I was and all the new fancy electronics they were going to buy. If someone is smart enough to decode or crack a code or whatever it is they do to get people’s personal information, why are they wasting their talents on such evil? But I digress…

I of course immediately messaged icantchooseone back to let him/her know of the charge (as I think this person was legitimately concerned. He/she had told  me the first day when he/she was logging off to go to sleep, guessing lives in a different country and checked back in the next day). He/she also told me that as I suspected after putting two and two together, that the email spam bomb is intended to distract from the credit card charges. To put in perspective, I am certain I received about 200,000 spam emails during the course of 6 hours; that is NOT an exaggeration.  I cannot explain the feeling of seeing emails pouring in. It is like not being able to stop bleeding no matter how many Band-Aids you put on.

At any rate, I have since put every possible alert on my bank accounts and am re-evaluating when and how I use credit cards. I will never know how or where or when the hackers got my email and credit card information, which also is endlessly infuriating. It is a weird feeling that somewhere my information was exposed. Also, the sad reality too is that I am sure that after these delinquents got rejected by my card, they moved onto the next innocent. So I write this post as another reminder that credit card fraud and even identify theft are very real, very prevalent threats.  Knock on wood, I am lucky that the extent of my hacking experience ended with a few charges as there are cases far more severe. So everyone when it comes to your money, finances and identity, be safe, be smart!