Re: “How do you avoid spending all your leftover money?”

Within the realm of finances, one of the more relatively frequent questions I get asked is how to avoid spending all your leftover money. Everyone knows by this point that they need to save money, but with a nice, padded bank account, it can be very easy to “forget” to save a set amount during a particular month, and it’s even easier to feel “accomplished” seeing a large sum in your savings account and thinking that you already have enough.

I am by no means rich, but I personally have fallen into this scenario before, and the best recommendation I have is to “create expenses.” I’ll explain.

I am very attentive and “obedient” when it comes to addressing expenses. I make sure everything is paid on time, but not so early that I miss out on interest yield. I never forget about any obligations, and I plan ahead to ensure that obligations continue to be met even in potential emergency worst-case-scenario situations. With that being said, I’m essentially exploiting the way my brain works by triggering that sense of responsibility by creating fake expenses.

As a preface to this, the “my savings account is big enough” argument should be completely invalidated if you have less than 6 months’ worth of living expenses saved up. A lot of people say 3 months’ worth is enough, but remember, the emergency itself that is causing you to lose your source of income will likely also directly drain your funds as well (for example, an injury that will rack up medical expenses), and there is no guarantee that you will recover and return to normal in a maximum of 3 months.

Going back to the main topic at hand, let’s create an example and say your monthly income is $5,000. Your expenses in this example are as such (heavily grouped and rounded for ease of calculation):

Rent (or mortgage plus other homeowner expenses) $1500
Utilities (power, gas, water, sewer, trash, phone, Internet, etc.) $300
Medical insurance (health, dental, etc.) $300
Vehicle (loan/lease, auto insurance, fuel, maintenance, etc.) $800
Student loans or other miscellaneous installment loans $200
Food (groceries, restaurants, etc.) $500
Personal care (haircut, gym membership, etc.) $100
Household products and other goods $100
Subscriptions (Amazon Prime, Netflix, Spotify, credit card annual fee, etc.) $50
Travel and other leisurely activities $150
Gifts and charitable donations $100

In this example, you have $4,100 in monthly “expenses,” leaving you with $900 remaining – I put “expenses” in quotation marks because you’ve already taken into account a very large food budget for eating out at restaurants, as well as an additional leisurely spending stipend, as “expenses.” Most people know that all $900 should be going straight into savings, but it’s easy to add an extra $50 here and an extra $100 there and end up shrinking your savings amount.

First of all, make sure you’re not forgetting about any expenses. Are you an independent contractor who runs their own business like I do and doesn’t get income tax withheld? Even if you’re a godlike optimizer of deductions of business expenses, you should be expecting to set aside at least $500 or so per month for income tax, unless you want to go from tax avoidance dangerously close to tax evasion. Are you saving for retirement? Making maximum contributions to an IRA means another ~$500 per month. Combine those two extra items you forgot, and suddenly, you’re short of money, have no savings, and need to cut back on other expenses.

Similar to how you’re budgeting leisure and luxury as expenses into your spreadsheet, also itemize savings as different, individual expenses instead of just lumping everything together as “savings” or “leftover.” Set specific goals for yourself on where each component of your savings is going, and create different savings accounts (where applicable) to keep track of each individual goal (savings accounts are usually either free or have very low daily balance requirements to waive the monthly fee).

Similar to the expenses above, here are some very simple example savings goals (mostly relevant to someone around my age) that you can tack onto your budgeting spreadsheet in the form of “expenses” to turn up the pressure to set aside money for said goals (as well as their corresponding monthly cost):

Maximum $5,500 yearly contribution to a traditional or Roth IRA $458
Maximum $19,000 yearly contribution to a 401k $1583
20% down payment on a $350,000 house purchase in 10 years $583
$15,000 for a wedding in 5 years $250
$15,000 for the first year of newborn baby expenses in 5 years $250
$35,000 Bachelor’s degree fund for a newborn starting school in 18 years $162

Being able to cover all that pushes you into the six-figure yearly salary range, and then you end up getting more expenses piled on just by the fact that you’re richer – you’ll be pushing a 24% tax bracket, you’ll need to purchase more insurance to protect your life and your investments, etc. As you can see, things can very quickly spiral out of control, and it’s all about perspective – you can always put yourself in a situation where it feels like you never have enough money.

So, coming full circle, how do I personally avoid spending all my money? I expand my budgeting spreadsheet to include items similar to the second table, but custom-catered to me specifically. My personal budgeting spreadsheet goes nearly 100 rows deep, and at the end of each month, I “spend 100% of what I earn” … though after reading this post, you know that that’s just an illusion to ensure I’m financially set for my future.

 

—§—

 

Re: “Why did you move to Las Vegas?”

Exactly two months ago, on March 20, I moved from Southern California to Las Vegas. Those who were aware of my plans weren’t completely surprised, while others who weren’t expecting it got very confused, but in both circumstances, a common question has been “why?” Most of my family is still back in Illinois where I grew up, a lot of my friends and co-workers are still staying in California, and I know next to nobody who already lives in Las Vegas, so it was (reasonably) strange for me to get up and move to a different state.

So, I decided to try and clarify things a bit better in this blog post, so the next time someone asks me, I can just link them to this page instead of going through the story all over again.

First of all, it’s important to understand a few things about me as a person that are very different than the general population:

  1. I don’t commute to an office for work. I have the great fortune of having a dream job with complete flexibility in the work I do, when I work, and from where I work. As a result, I’m not bound to a particular location for my job – wherever I choose to live becomes my home office.
  2. I am on the extreme end of self-reliance. I do not depend on my friends or family for support, neither financially nor emotionally.
  3. I find peace and comfort in solitude. I am also on the extreme end of introversion and prefer to be alone; all of my longings for human interaction are already satisfied through the Internet.

However, contrary to what those points may imply, I did not intentionally move here by myself just for the sole purpose of running away and being alone.

Instead, here are the real reasons why I moved, in order of influence:

  • Lower cost of living

    When I lived in Corona, CA, I lived in a 27-year-old apartment building in a tiny one-bedroom unit that cost approximately $1,400/mo. (with elec­tric­i­ty, gas, Internet, and other utilities paid separately) – and this was actually a gold mine of a deal. Anything cheaper than that would only be found in terrible-quality neighborhoods with a lower household income and higher crime rate. For those who aren’t familiar, Corona is on the east side of the Santa Ana mountains… go farther west closer to the ocean and rent prices continue to skyrocket.

    On the other hand, I pay $1,570/mo. in Las Vegas, which numerically is a higher price… but I live in a newly-constructed luxury building on the upper-most floor with vast suburb and mountain views. Some of the amenities include a clubhouse with game rooms, a massage room, and a private movie theater; a pool with a waterfall and fountains; a gym; a rooftop lounge with a barbecue and fire pit; a Starbucks coffee machine; and free breakfast everyday. The rent price includes the cost of gas, water, sewer, trash, cable TV, and Internet. Considering that I don’t have to pay all those extra bills, my net living expenses have actually declined, and I’m still getting astronomically more value.

    Cost of living also extends beyond just what I pay for my apartment – the price of food in the Las Vegas suburbs is noticeably cheaper, up to the point where I feel like I’m paying generic California Walmart prices for food items of much higher quality. Even the cost of ride­sharing is cheaper here – I can easily get around with Uber in Las Vegas for far cheaper (although a portion of that is attributed to the fact that Las Vegas is also a whole lot smaller than the entire Los Angeles and Orange County areas).

    And of course, there’s always the possibly of getting a random discount by showing your Las Vegas driver’s license. Because Las Vegas thrives off its tourists, there are a lot of places that provide locals’ discounts to show appreciation for and unity with those who call Las Vegas their home.

  • Esports proximity

    Although Los Angeles will probably eternally be the main hub for esports, I personally think Las Vegas will be a secondary hub. Las Vegas is already considered to be the live entertainment capital of the world, and as esports and professional gaming becomes more mainstream, it feels only natural for it to have a bigger presence in Las Vegas. Although the opening of Esports Arena Las Vegas and Caesars Entertainment’s part­ner­ship with the H1Z1 Pro League are just two examples, I feel like many more instances like this are going to pop up soon.

    Of course, being a member of the esports and entertainment industry myself via Tempo Storm, I wanted to get a head start in having a physical presence in a location I presume will have a lot of relevant events. A majority of Tempo Storm staff lives in Southern California while the re­main­der lives spread out in random parts of the world, so I was the first one to step foot into Las Vegas with an intent to find a residence and expand Tempo Storm’s physical reach.

    This actually has already proven quite helpful. I had initially made the decision to move to Las Vegas prior to knowing Tempo Storm would be participating in the H1Z1 Pro League in part­ner­ship with Caesars Entertainment on the Las Vegas Strip, so it was very convenient for me to be local to this area during the process of setting up the new team house and coordinating with players as they arrived from across the United States and Canada.

    As for events in Los Angeles, as well as Tempo Storm’s (relatively) new production studio in Hollywood, Las Vegas is just a quick 44-minute flight to Bob Hope Hollywood Burbank Airport in Burbank, CA, so for events that are still taking place in the Los Angeles area, I am a convenient distance away such that I’m still able to make it in person without any intensive travel days.

  • Safest area from natural disasters

    I grew up in Illinois and received my undergraduate degree after studying in Wisconsin, and I literally never want to see snow in person ever again. After being pummeled by snowstorm after blizzard, I wouldn’t mind if I never really saw anything fall from the sky ever again in general. It does, in very rare circumstances, snow in Las Vegas too, but I feel like the miraculous nature of there being snow in the middle of the desert would offset the fact that I have to see snow again, so I’m fine with that. Also, tornadoes. There is a tornado season in Illinois and Wisconsin, but nothing close to that in Las Vegas.

    As for Southern California, we all know that the long-overdue catastrophic earthquake nicknamed “The Big One” is about to strike at any mo­ment. Residents who have lived in California all their lives have gotten desensitized to earthquakes, but it’s actually a real threat to that area, and I personally think anyone living there who doesn’t have to live there (e.g., for their job, family, etc.) is either ignorant or stupid.

    Why invest in a property and raise your family in an area that is expected to crumble due to its relatively soft soil, causing an estimated $200 BILLION in damage? Unless every single seismologist in the world is incorrect, the big earthquake will eventually strike, setting off a chain of fires and splitting outbound interstates into pieces.

    I’m the type of person who values safety, security, reliability, and predictability. I keep over half a year’s worth of living expenses in a fluid savings account in addition to more long-term investments for big purchases and retirement; I literally pay hundreds of dollars a month for health in­sur­ance so I know I won’t go bankrupt if something devastating happens to me. Being that kind of person, there is absolutely no way I’m even taking a sliver of a risk of losing everything to an earthquake that every scientist says is coming soon.

    Beyond just that, a lot of tech companies have been in the news for moving a lot of their servers and facilities to Las Vegas due to the fact that it is the area of the United States least prone to natural disasters. Sure, we definitely do get torrential downpours of rain around 10 times a year, and it does sometimes get extremely windy, but those are weather effects that are on a completely different level than debilitating blizzards, destructive tornadoes, or high-magnitude earthquakes.

  • No state income tax

    Having built up quite the online presence prior to working with Tempo Storm, I have some passive income that comes in to me for being an independent contractor with programs such as Google AdSense and Amazon Associates. Income taxes for independent contractors are particularly punishing because they end up paying “both ends” of the tax – including the portion that the employer would normally pay for full-time em­ploy­ees. Because Nevada doesn’t have state income tax, I get to keep a large chunk of my income just for living in Las Vegas that I would other­wise have to give to the government.

    I do end up having to pay more in sales tax – I paid 7.75% while living in Corona, while sales tax here in Las Vegas is 8.25% due to a noticeably higher county sales tax – but the 0.5% is negligible compared to how much I end up saving in income tax. I also end up avoiding sales tax anyway because I make a majority of my purchases online on Amazon.

  • Opportunity fell into place

    The existence of my current working situation (work-from-home, which I explain more above), plus the timing of the end of my one-year lease in Corona and the fact that I was able to spend my in-between time at a Tempo Storm team house, all made this move fall into place. Those items made the move possible, but what sealed the deal was the fact that I found this particular apartment complex.

    I’m the type of person who spends a lot of money on items that I use regularly and refuses to buy items that I know I won’t use much. As a result, I didn’t really want to purchase a vehicle (though I would have if I had to). When I rented a car and drove to Las Vegas to do apartment tours, I found this particular apartment (in which I live right now) that was on the upper echelons of quality, but also had everything I needed in walking distance. As a result, I didn’t need to buy a car (and I still don’t have one) because I’m able to easily walk to the grocery store and tons of different restaurants, as well as a hardware store, crafts store, and a Walmart for anything else I can’t find. In the situations where I do need a car to go somewhere relatively far, there is even literally a car rental location within walking distance from my apartment.

    Thus, I was able to live exactly where I wanted, avoid having to own a car, and move here without having to pay any penalties or struggle to make things work – this rounded out the plan and finalized the deal.

To round out this explanation, I also want to address some misconceptions about Las Vegas that people brought up to me when I said I was moving here:

  • The hot weather is not that bad

    People who just associate “desert” with “hot” don’t quite realize what exactly the weather is like in Las Vegas. In fact, just purely out of temperature degrees, on average compared to where I used to live in California, Las Vegas is hotter for 4 months out of the year, about the same for 4 months out of the year, and actually colder for 4 months out of the year. Just because it’s the desert doesn’t mean it is always blisteringly painfully hot.

    It actually feels less hot in Las Vegas than it does in other areas at the same temperature due to the extremely low humidity. Las Vegas is the least humid city in all of the United States, and as such, the air will absorb the sweat off your skin very quickly, leaving you feeling cool and dry. Of course, this does mean that you have to drink an absurdly large amount of water on a daily basis, but because the sweat doesn’t linger on your skin like it does in excessively humid areas, the heat here doesn’t make you feel as uncomfortable.

    On top of that, it actually gets chilly very early in the morning. The coolest time in Las Vegas tends to be right before the sun rises, and during those hours, the average temperature lingers around 40°F during the winter and the upper 70s during the summer. Yes, even on days where it may reach over 100°F during the afternoon, there is a high chance it will dip down to around 80°F right before the sun comes up. That literally means that, excluding maybe July, you can literally open your window in the mornings and turn off your air conditioner for a bit.

  • It’s not constant parties

    I personally hate parties. I find them overstimulating, and I’d rather relax and spend a quiet night at home. If someone invites me to a party for a particularly monumental event or occasion, I will often still decline the invitation, then instead invite them out for a nice dinner or a private trip/vacation afterwards. Because of this, most people are wondering why I’m moving to a place where, according to them, there are non-stop parties everywhere.

    Like nearly every major city, there is a suburban location surrounding Las Vegas that is very different than the Las Vegas Strip. Now for Las Vegas, the difference is that the address even out in the suburbs is still “Las Vegas, NV,” but the environment out in Summerlin South where I live is completely different than the environment on the Strip.

    If you’re referring to the Strip as a constant party, you would be correct – the Strip is a tourist attraction and there are multiple parties per­ma­nent­ly taking place night and day. However, the farther you go out into the suburbs, the more it begins looking like a regular town; if you drive out as far as where I currently live and don’t look at any street signs, chances are that you might even confuse it with any suburb in California (though you may notice a substantial lack of natural grass in Las Vegas).

    The grocery stores, restaurants, and even the huge Walmart here reminds me quite a bit of the area where I used to live in Corona. The one funny thing about my area is that there is literally a McDonald’s with a rotating sign (as in, the golden arches are literally spinning around 20 feet in the air), and I feel like that is a very Las Vegas-esque thing, but other than that, all the buildings look very “normal.”

  • You (or at least I) will not ruin your (my) life

    Las Vegas is often the place people go to smoke, drink alcohol, get high on drugs, watch stripper shows, and gamble away all their money – it didn’t get its nickname of “Sin City” for no reason. However, again, similar to the section about parties, that all takes place on the Strip, and it’s pretty peaceful out here in the suburbs. Now, it is actually true that there are slot machines even in grocery stores, but in my personal experience, I rarely ever see them being used, and when they are, it’s only by older people who seem to be in their 70s or above.

    But you may be asking, “Adam, you can easily Uber to the Strip to partake in such activities, what’s stopping you from doing that?” The answer to that would be… disinterest. I am completely drug-free (including cigarettes and alcohol), I have no interest in viewing stripper shows, and I absolutely refuse to gamble because I’m too logical. So, although Las Vegas could be the place people come to ruin their lives, I feel as if I’m particularly immune to that issue.

Although this seems incredibly in-depth, this only scratches the surface of the amount of research and thinking I did before making the decision to move here; I just summarized it into the key points to avoid writing a post so long that nobody would ever read it. To put things into perspective, I’ve literally gone on Google Maps street view and “drove” around a massive portion of the Las Vegas suburbs, and while researching for key information, I literally went to page 4 on Google results… and I have my Google search results set up to display 100 results on each page.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments of this blog post (or just ask me directly if I sent you to this page), and I’ll try my best to answer them based off the research I did prior to moving here, as well as the experiences I’ve had while living here.

 

—§—

 

Re: “Why don’t you stream Pokémon anymore?”

Pokémon was the game I grew up with.

As a child, I owned Pokémon Yellow and Gold for Game Boy Color; and as a teen, I used emulators to play a lot of the third-, fourth-, and fifth-generation games.

Back in October 2012, I streamed myself playing Pokémon White 2, and sometime around that year, I streamed a bit of PokéMMO. However, since then, I’ve been quiet with Pokémon, and haven’t broadcasted anything related to Pokémon since then.

Over time, I’ve had a few people ask me why I don’t play Pokémon anymore, wondering if I got bored of it. Recently, someone asked if I had grown out of Pokémon. Because this person was clearly mistaken, as Pokémon isn’t something that you simply outgrow, I decided to address the core reason behind why I don’t stream Pokémon anymore.

As you know, I’m a multimedia content producer, and I integrate that into almost everything I do online. I look for opportunities to create more content and get more practice making videos and other online ma­te­ri­als. In the realm of gaming, I try my best to stream or make videos from my gaming footage.

Unfortunately, Nintendo is not explicitly okay with me using Pokémon to create my own content.

Companies like Blizzard and Riot Games clearly state on their website that it is permissible to use their games to create original gameplay content and monetize it through advertisements (which is why I play a lot of Hearthstone, Starcraft, Diablo, and League of Legends). Nintendo does not have such a policy – in fact, they have quite the opposite.

According to a statement made by Nintendo to GoNintendo.com:

“We became a YouTube partner and … registered our copyright content in the YouTube data­base. For most fan videos this will not result in any changes, however, for those videos fea­tur­ing Nintendo-owned content, such as images or audio of a certain length, adverts will now appear at the beginning, next to or at the end of the clips.”

This means that, if I post Pokémon-related videos on YouTube to monetize off VODs of my stream, I may end up not getting my full share of revenue (if any at all). Nintendo doesn’t explicitly state what kind of content would be used for advertising, and what purpose these advertisements would serve – this makes the policy more cryptic and not worth the risk.

Sure, I enjoy playing Pokémon. But, I can put the time I spend potentially playing Pokémon into other games I enjoy playing that produces footage I know I can safely use to create content without having to worry about copyright issues.

In the future, if I end up becoming rich, then sure, I might dedicate some days into streaming Pokémon with the assumption that I’m not going to make money off of it and I’m doing it purely for the enjoyment. However, I’m not rich yet, and until I am, I will naturally want to gravitate towards games I know I can use to produce content safely.

 

—§—

 

Re: “What was wrong with your website for the past 4 hours?”

In the spirit of Black Friday, I went searching for some great deals.

I came across a few at Namecheap – namely, $0.98 each for the first year of shared web hosting and do­main registration.

If you’ve been keeping up with me for a while, you know that I occasionally do website redesigns every few years. I’m long overdue for my next redesign, and there’s actually a valid reason for that.

The thing that’s holding me back is the fact that my current web host appears to be keeping cached copies of my .CSS files such that changes don’t go into effect until about 10-20 minutes after the edits are pub­lished. As you can imagine, making and testing changes to stylesheets is essentially impossible when your .CSS edits only refresh four times an hour.

For this reason, I was especially compelled to take advantage of the $0.98-for-one-year web hosting bar­gain from Namecheap.

I acted on my compulsion at 11 AM EST this morning when the coupon code was released on Namecheap’s special Black Friday timed deals page. The several hundred coupon codes sold out within a handful of mi­nutes, and I was fortunate enough to be one of the people to get one.

About an hour and a half after my purchase, I started moving files over to my new server, and by 1 PM EST, I was pretty much done. All I had to do was wait for the DNS to propagate, and my new old website would be live.

Or so I thought.

Continue reading

 

—§—