If you are young, just out of college, starting a business, or starting a family, chances are that money is tight. Education costs dollars, as do building a business and creating opportunities for your children. Managing money is not always simply about noting how much money is coming in and what expenses you have. Money management is about your relationship to saving and spending and your attitude toward sharing your resources with others. Do you love giving to others? Do you share what you have or does it feel easier or safer to hold back, perhaps from a fear that giving means there is less for you? Here are some reasons for why you are in debt, along with some ideas and tips on how you can improve your relationship with the dollars, pounds, or euros in your wallet.
1. You haven’t realized that saving money is about creating new attitudes and emotional habits
Saving money is about creating new habits and attitudes. In reality, it has very little to do with the actual amount of money you have in your bank account. You can put aside money each month, but if you constantly overspend, you will end up borrowing from yourself and saving nothing. Rather than seeing money as a value in itself, consider what it gets you in relation to your goals and plans. Create an attitude that everything in your life is about moving towards your goals. The wealthiest entrepreneurs view money not as something scarce that must be guarded at all times, but as a tool or asset to help them invest in their goals and dreams.
2. You haven’t worked out what is really important to you and what you value
Money is a resource. Resources can be wasted, misused, or directed to create even more wealth. What do you value? At the end of your life, what would you like to be remembered for? Working out what your values are will help you work out how to spend your money. If you love a hobby, then investing money in that makes perfect sense. How do you know what you value? Exercises such as writing a personal mission statement can be very valuable. Money is a resource like any other — move its focus to create the life you want to have.
3. You haven’t set up an easy-to-use budgeting system
Do you know right now if you are in credit or in debt? Imagine that you see a pair of shoes or a new tablet that you don’t need but would love to have. Would you know if you have enough money in the bank to cover the cost? Create an easy-to-use budget tool. There are some online, and often a notepad and pen works well too. Credit cards do have to be paid off and you will need to plan how much a month you can afford to contribute to paying these off. Debts don’t magically resolve themselves, so get to know your spending habits and ask yourself if you can afford all these items you want but might not necessarily need.
4. You buy when you could just borrow or rent
You want to dig up a plant, so why buy a spade if you can borrow one from a kindhearted neighbor? If you need a big saucepan for a dinner party, why buy when you can borrow from a friend? We love to justify purchases by saying that the item will come in handy in the future. Yet, how many times do you really use it later? If you love a movie, don’t buy it, borrow it — the same goes with books. Think of all the things you own and have used only once or twice. Borrow or rent rather than buy.
5. You fall for those too-good-to-be-true, get-rich-quick ideas
Sorry to say, but it’s really true that success is normally 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Not everyone wins the lottery, so don’t assume it will be you. Use your time to create value that will last and give you pride and lasting returns on your efforts. Building a business or working up the career ladder takes time and effort, but the rewards will come. Get-rich-quick schemes work well for the people who create them when they convince you to part with your cash to buy into the dreams they are selling, but real wealth creation is a slow process.
6. You have money-sucking (and life-sucking) habits
Where do you actually spend your money? What activities do you do regularly which cost money and return transitory pleasure? Most things are okay in moderation, but when you are spending money on smoking, gambling, drinking, or other bad habits, it’s time to think about changing those habits. Why do we spend our time and money on these activities? The simple answer is normally that addictive habits help us to avoid our feelings. If you are fed up with work, then a few drinks in the evening helps you forget that annoyance. If you are feeling bored, then some chocolate or cake can relieve that frustration a little. Gambling is an addiction which itself involves money directly. Though many gambling sites acknowledge that gambling is addictive and have put policies in place to help problematic gamblers, it is generally not in their interests to actively stop you from gambling. For any addiction, you should seek appropriate help.
7. You use credit to buy items you don’t have the cash for right now
It’s simple: if you cannot afford to pay in cash right now, don’t put it on your credit card. For necessary purchases such as repairs to your car or paying tuition or other costs, work out a payment and saving plan so you can see how much you need to save or can afford to pay each month. Don’t allow yourself to get into debt that you can’t get out of. Also, don’t borrow money from a bank unless you really need to. Banks will charge interest and often want to encourage you to take out loans.
8. You pay retail prices on everything you buy
There are sales every six months and often you can find stores selling very good clothing or other items at discounted prices. An online search will direct you to goods with price cuts too. Many charity shops have started selling “seconds,” or clothing from last season. These garments are perfectly fine but since they are now no longer the most up-to-date line, they can be purchased at a reduced rate. The same is true of cars. Buy a brand new car and pay a higher price. As soon as it is driven off the showroom forecourt, a car is automatically significantly cheaper than a brand new one with very little difference in performance or condition.
9. You pay extra for labels or brands as status symbols
Consider two identical white men’s shirts. One is plain and one has that small blue polo player woven on it. Both are made the exact same way and in the same factory, but which is more expensive? The fashion industry makes a large chunk of money from our desire to be seen wearing a particular brand. Remember that you are lovable and wonderful as you are, without the need to have a name or label to confirm that. Think about purpose rather than about what others will think of you. Dazzle people with your wit and charm instead. Also, store brands are nearly always cheaper than national brands.
10. You think too much about today and not about tomorrow
We love advice like “Live life for today” or “Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today.” Of course, have as many experiences as life affords you. However, the money you have now can be set aside or invested so that in the future you will have a financial cushion. We also need to save for retirement and it is estimated that most of us are simply not putting aside enough for our futures. We are now living longer, and so the years post-retirement are increasing too. Think about what your money can create for you long term rather than the immediate gratification it can get you in the present. Think about your long term life goals and save now, whilst you have the opportunity.
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