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Getting $$$ under control

Let me be honest, I have always been having trouble getting my spending under control. I tend to over spend month after month and that is slowly but surely chipping away at my savings. Last month I have decided to embark on a strict spending diet.

My first step is to lay out what are my annual expenses:
- Road Tax
- Motorcyle Insurance
- Insurance payments on yearly cycle
- Online services that are on a yearly cycle

This amount I divide it by 12 so that I know how much I need to put aside to make these payments when the time comes. This way I know I won't be scrambling when a huge bill comes.

Then lay out my monthly fixed expenses:
- Pocket money for my parents
- Insurance payments on monthly cycle
- Charity giving
- Phone bill (Each month might fluctuate but it is mostly +/- $10)
- Money that I am setting aside for fixed yearly expenses.

These are done using Soulver on the mac so that I see the numbers right away. Once I have those numbers I will start divding my remaining cash into different categories:
- Food
- Petrol
- Savings
- Debt (if any)

Don't forget to add categories for any specific expenses that are coming up for that month. I added a Kickstarter category because I know a project I have backed is due to be funded next month. Any money that is not neatly assigned to a category will be placed in the miscellanous category, that is effectively your slush fund.

Then once that is nailed down. I enter my budget for the various categories into Back in Black on my iPhone to keep track of my expenses. The amount that you assigned for each category is not exactly set in stone you can adjust them as the month goes. The idea is to not ever needing to withdraw money from your savings.

In addition to the planning that I have done above, I also maintain a few bank accounts. I would have one for savings - this account is only meant for input and never output. This is the rainy day fund. I would also have one for my daily spending. Then I have the 3rd account where I transfer money into for every credit card purchase I make. That way I would not mistake the "excess" money in my spending account as extra money. It is money that is already spend but not taken away from you just yet. If you have any debts, it would be good if you can seperate these into their individual accounts if at all possible.

Check out Standard Chartered Bank's e$saver account if you are interested. With no minimum sum to maintain and no debit card issued to you, it makes it perfect for my purposes.

As much as I can I would plan my budget for the next month as soon as I can, that way I can view ahead and decide if I need to save more for any particular month. One example, my pre-order game is due to be pay up in November so I can set money aside for it in November or earlier if I can. Regardless, with the help of my plan, this month has been within my budget so far. I will check in again and let you know how my plan went.

UPDATE: I have successfully kept within my allocated spending budget for 2 months running. Here's to continued success in financial control.

Learning FCPx

I had to edit my friend’s pre-wedding montage this year. As a challenge to myself, I took the chance to have the project edited in Final Cut Pro X. Final Cut Pro X debuted (last year?) to much cries of dumbing down and iMovie Pro. I wanted to find out for myself and at the same time add another “feather” to my cap. There was only one thing to do. I scrapped up SGD$370 and purchased Final Cut Pro X via the Mac App store. And the next step, go to the nearest library and check out Peachpit’s Final Cut Pro X by Diana Weynand. So I embarked on my journey to learn Final Cut Pro X.

I spent my evenings running through the book and learning the basics of FCPx by just clicking everything in sight. I have a confession to make, I didn’t finish reading the book. The software isn’t hard to figure out if you are familar with the original Final Cut Pro or Avid. I can’t speak for Premiere Pro since I never had a hands on before. Coupled together with the help of the internet, pretty much any editor should be able to make sense of the software. There are things made better in FCPx while others are harder than before.

Things that are better

  • You can switch on waveforms for the audio track right on the timeline panel itself. No more going into the sequence settings panel.
  • You can shift multiple video or audio within the edit and have the video and audio close the gap that your video or audio has left behind. No more ttt and shifting here and there.
  • You can assign keywords and ratings to clips to make for easier searching. More work for a logger but it makes it easier to look for clips.
  • You have audio and video scrubbing! The audio scrubbing might be a little too much at first when you use it.
  • More text effects and video transitions!

Things that are worse

  • You can no longer view all the attributes timeline in one panel. These have been shifted to the timeline itself. This is a problem when you do not have enough screen real estate to open all the layers that you need. Also, the attributes timeline isn’t seperate into the individual attribute such as position or scale. You keep having to shfit between the inspector and the timeline.
  • You can no longer have certain clips be on specifc tracks because there is no longer any tracks. For an example, you want to keep the sequence neat and easy to understand by keeping the subtitles on track 8. Or you want to seperate SOT, music, SFX and VO in their seperate tracks, you can no longer do this. The clip will fall to the lowest possible “track” unless another clip is occupying a higher “track”.
  • You have to make a clip into a storyline just to add a transition to it. Why? I can see no advantages to this.
  • The panels can no longer peel off so having a dual monitor setup would be less useful than having a single large screen.

Conclusion

I have not used FCPx for long and I am far from comfortable with it. Currently my day to day editing software is Avid, though not by choice. If it were up to me, I would have probably stick to the original Final Cut Pro.

Regardless of my choices, as a video editor, I must be adaptable and at least have a basic working knowledge on how each editing software works. If you are a video editor I would suggest borrowing a Mac with FCPx installed just to play around with it, just to get a feel of it. I’ll probably have to check out the Peachpit’s Final Cut Pro X by Diana Weynand again to read through the rest of the book.

 

Apps and me

I’ve only been actively reading tech news very recently. (Thanks to Reeder and RSS) Through that I’ve intent on trying out new and interesting apps.

It started when I was trying to get back into the writing habit earlier this year. So I thought if I got myself a distraction free writing app it might help me. Obviously that didn’t worked out as I planned but that led me down the rabbit hole.

From researching which is the best distraction free writing app on the mac, it spread to iOS. I become bent on buying or rather collecting all manner of writing and productivity apps.

I’ve gone from Byword to Launch Center Pro to 1password to Instapaper to Tweetbot. I was relentless.

That led me to discover many podcasts on the 5by5 and 70 decibels networks. And that to finding more sites to follow and many internet celebrities’ blogs to read. It is a rabbit hole that I am still deep in and very much enjoying.

Side note I highly encourage everyone to check out the apps mentioned above. I don’t get any thing out of you clicking on the links but good apps must be shared.

My GTD apps

I like to think of myself as a productivist but I know I’m not. I am just a junkie for productivity apps. I enjoy trying and using different productivity apps, see Apps and me.

This is how I use my apps to make me seem productive.

Taskpaper: This is where I keep my to-do lists where the tasks are not time sensitive. I like Taskpaper because I can enter my lists as plain texts but still enjoy having tags on my .txt files. I use Taskpaper on both my Mac and my iOS devices. I had tried mixing my taskpaper txt files with my other regular notes using NValt but it wasn’t a happy mix for Nvalt. I gave up trying to fix it and kept the files seperate.

Due: I enter all my time sensitive tasks as well as my recurring bills into Due. I have Due only on my iPhone 5. Due for Mac is on my wishlist. I’ll be getting it soon.

NValt: This is where I store all my notes and wishlists on the Mac. I keep them as plain text files to keep the file sizes small on my Mac. The notes are synced to my iOS devices using Dropbox.

Dropbox: The place all my notes and lists reside. I used to use Scotty to transfer my photos taken using my iPhone 5 to my Mac but now I just rely on Dropbox. Dropbox is the central node of my system. Nothing works without it.

Soulver: I use Soulver on my Mac and iOS devices as my budgeting app. I enter my transaction into Soulver and it churns out what’s left of my budget at the bottom of the document. It’s a sad number every single time.

Drafts: For lightning fast notes capture, I use Drafts. Any temporary notes also reside here. I keep some commonly typed texts in Drafts. It makes for a great launchpad to many other apps. It’s kind of like a poor man’s TextExpander

I keep changing and switching how I use my apps constantly. My system works well as it is but I just can’t help tinkering. If you are at all curious about the apps I mentioned above, just check them out.