It's February. The groundhog has spoken. So where do you stand on your 2009 financial goals? Defining goals is one thing, but consistent action and commitment to keep with the plan is another. Yet the small sweet steps of this distance run are what will make or break you in the end.
I set out to find 10 tips for managing money that really work. What was most interesting was that when people think of financial goals and managing money their thoughts turn instantly to ways to save money. Saving money is great and in these times every penny saved is a victory. However, saving is just one piece of the puzzle. You need to invest in your own well being and self-development, spend your money wisely, and work a do-able budget as well. There is more than one wall holding up your financial house.
OK let's get these fine tips out there right off the bat. Saving money is a quick feel good hit that can fuel you for the tips to come.
1) Frugal for Life shares one of my absolute favorites in "25 Ways I Save Money":
Put raises or bonuses in savings or apply towards debt
Can I tell you that I started that approach with my first job out of college? I followed a plan where I would automatically save 70-80% of all raises and bonuses. I would spend the other 20% for sheer joy. Over time you will not only be shocked how much it adds up but you'll be grateful for the mindset it creates of living within your means and not just expanding your fixed expenses to match your income.
2) Mommybytes shares a great one in her own "25 Ways I Save Money":
Use ING Direct (4.40% interest) and Paypal (5.03% interest but not FDIC insured) for higher interest rates.
It is a total no-brainer for me to only use liquid savings accounts that are FDIC insured yet offer the highest interest rates. ING regular savings beats most bank CD's and your withdrawals are available to you within just a few business days.
3) Save on groceries. We all have to eat and the key to saving money on groceries without compromising quality and nutrition (and yes this goes even for people who want to buy all organic) lies in mindfulness. Kitchenparade offers this homework in their "How to Save Money on Groceries" series:
* List all the places where money is spent on food. Which are essential? which offer immediate savings?
* Track food expenses. Consider three categories: groceries, prepared food (for meals that could be made at home but weren't, carry-out, drive-through, etc.) and special occasions.
Invest in Your Own Well Being
Investing in your own well being and self-development requires an ongoing commitment. Just like regular savings leads to the miracles of compounding interest, commitment to ongoing self-care and personal growth work yields exponential dividends when you make it a regular part of your life.
4) Back in Skinny Jeans shared a "Stephism on Food" that I believe speaks volumes.
This week, eat one meal with loved ones and set aside the time to savor your food. Take the time to chew your food slowly. Relish the flavors of your dish. Even if it is just meatloaf or salad, be present with that meal. Pay attention to the sensations of your eating experience.
Once again we revisit the theme of mindfulness. It can and will change your life. Having spent time savoring my food (including chewing every mouthful 30 times or more) it is so obvious to me when I am totally unaware of what I am eating. When I'm more mindful I enjoy my food more, eat less, feel better, and lose weight. When I'm not, well...
5)Success and happiness have little to do with money. We all know money can't buy happiness even though you'd never know it from the way many people act. Yes having some money makes life easier and more pleasurable and there is nothing wrong with wanting to have financial abundance. Yet I found it really interesting that the list of "Causes of Personal Failure" from Napoleon Hill's book "Keys to Success" all pertain to a person's character, self-development, and being-ness and not one has anything to do with money making or saving tips. So when you're looking for a ripe spot to invest your money, look no further than the person in the mirror. Abundance will flow from a strong core.
6)Take a serious look at what is and is not a luxury in your life. Coming back to mindfulness if you track your spending you may be astounded at the amount of money you spend frivolously. Remember the latte factor? Look deeper than the dollars and cents you spend and really investigate the value of what you receive in return. Jan at Queercents talks about one of my favorite subjects (massage) in "Pain Relief is Not a Luxury". Remember that no amount of money can buy your health and well-being so don't be penny wise and well-being foolish.
7) Avoid Shopping as a Recreational Activity. MyWifeQuitHerJob.com has this to say about it:
Have you ever gone to the mall out of sheer boredom? Have you ever gone shopping without a clear objective of what you set out to buy? One of fundamental principles of spending wisely is to avoid temptation and shopping for fun.
Personally I never shop just to shop. I avoid temptations like wandering past stores and simply surfing the web for "stuff". I stay on task with purchases I want or need to make.
Have a Plan/Work the Plan
8) Budgeting is not a four letter word. I love this article "Frugality is Not Budgeting" because the list of five things you need to remember when creating a budget are so spot on:
1. Include all of your expenses into your budget, regardless of whether it is a daily coffee fix or rent
2. Set a realistic budget - your expenses should not be more than your income
3. Remember to pay yourself 10%, and put that money to good use by using compound interest
4. Don’t live beyond your means - if you can only afford to go out for dinner once a week, only go out for dinner once a week
5. Budgets help you meet financial goals, so if you haven’t set any goals, now would be a good time to do it
And I would almost add his parting comment as a #6 on this list. Living your entire life without enjoying it because you are afraid to spend money will not lead you to happiness. A budget should help you thrive in your life not make you feel like a prisoner.
9) Create a system and revisit it periodically. Last year my partner and I created a spreadsheet of monthly, quarterly, annually, and semi-annual expenses and distilled everything down to a monthly figure. This included seasonal expenditures as well (pellets for the wood stove, mulch in the spring, etc.) as regular monthly items. We did this primarily to separate items that compose the household expenses that could relate to a home office tax deduction. Last year it was a total project. We followed the system for the year (each contributing our portion to a joint account) and lo and behold it worked like magic! What's even cooler is when we revisited the spreadsheet this past weekend to update it with new estimates, the process was a breeze. It keeps us accurate, on track, and able to manage cash flow SO much better. So find a system that works for you, work it, and revisit it regularly (at least every six months).
Perspective and Choices
Achieving your financial goals is an ongoing process. So keep every tip, piece of advice, and life circumstance in perspective. Remember at the end of the day that your life, happiness, and well-being are bigger and more important than any financial goal you may set.
10) Money and Happiness need not be mutually exclusive but money can never buy happiness. I have been a big fan of Penelope Trunk's different posts on money and happiness over the years. For starters, the amount of money you need to be happy is less than you think. And, the conundrums we put ourselves through as we wade through career choices and financial decisions often do more to keep us stuck than bring us real happiness. In "New research reveals some new ways to buy happiness, sort of" she shares:
For one thing, we are all likely to tell ourselves we're happy, whatever we are doing, in order to justify what we're doing. This is a fine predisposition for maintaining our sanity, but it's not a great attitude to have if you are trying to figure out how to change your life to be happier.
Funny, but this final quote brings us right back to mindfulness and knowing oneself now doesn't it? So, enjoy the tips and remember to keep a good balance in your money managing efforts.
Paula Gregorowicz, owner of The Paula G. Company, offers life coaching for women to help you gain the clarity, confidence, and courage you need to have success on your own terms. Get the free eCourse "The 5 Crucial C's You Need to Be Comfortable in Your Own Skin" at her website
Get the latest word on personal finances from an LGBT perspective and Paula's practical coach approach to the topic at Queercents http://www.queercents.com.
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