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How to Improve your Finances in 4 Easy Steps

How to Improve your Finances in 4 Easy Steps

Managing your finances can suck. Some days you feel like you’re going broke, and other days you feel like you’re doing pretty well. It can be a roller coaster ride. It doesn’t really matter how much money you have, or don’t have, what matters is your attitude toward your finances. Do you want to improve this area of your life? If you do, it’s going to take some work. You don’t have to be Donald Trump, you just have to understand how the small things you do can lead you to greater overall financial success.

So what do you need to know to improve your financial prowess? Here are a few ideas.

Educate Yourself

My husband passed away 2 years ago. He was a very successful businessman and he handled all the finances. I knew nothing. When he died, my son stepped in to help me manage things, all the while encouraging me to educate myself on financial matters. I had zero interest. I’m a writer, therapist and a radio show host. My excuse was “My brain just doesn’t work well with financial stuff.” The truth is, I just don’t like it, but I still had to educate myself.

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I had to start doing things I never did before, and in the process I felt more confident I could handle things. I had to learn about Mutual Funds, IRAs, stocks, annuities, selling property, buying property, and how to maximize savings.

If I can do it anyone can! Remember, knowledge brings power and power brings change. Educating yourself is easy. My son taught me a lot, but you can read articles, Google topics, take a class, or talk to your banker or an investment person you trust.

Be SMART

Setting goals in life is important. Statistics prove that people who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them.  Using the acronym SMART can help you stay on track.  This means your goals need to be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Let’s say your goal is to pay off some debt. Don’t simply say you’re going pay off debt. Make a specific list of who needs to be paid, how much will it cost you monthly, what obstacles stand in the way, and who is going to help you with a loan, a budget, or whatever else you need to make this happen.

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Make your decision to act an informed one. Do your due diligence. Look for something that will provide you with measurable results. If I pay x amount of money to pay off my car loan, in a year I’ll have all that extra money to save. Make sure your plan is attainable. In other words, if you take out a loan to payoff your debt, make sure you can structure the payments so that you can manage them. Be realistic. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, even if you are trying to pay off debts. Finally, everything has its time. If you’re in a financial pinch, realize it may take time to straighten out your finances. You probably didn’t get into debt overnight, and you won’t get out overnight either. Steady the course.

Simplify

Let’s face it, most of us have way too much. If you take an honest look at your life, there are probably things you have that you don’t use, things that are costing you money that could be better used, or invested elsewhere. Take a survey of your bills. Maybe you can cut out cable, stop using credit cards, cancel that gym membership you don’t use, or stop eating out for a while. Maybe you can even sell some stuff on Craigslist and make some money.

Simplicity is an attitude or mindset that begins inwardly and is reflected in an outward lifestyle. We can say we want a simpler life, but unless we’re convinced we need one, cultivating a less complicated life will elude us. A simple life is a free life. It sets money and possessions in the proper place with the proper perspective. It keeps “things,” or the drive for worldly pursuits from ruling over us. It enlarges our capacity for gratefulness and sharing.

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Notice

How is all the stress and disorganization of your financial situation affecting you? You have to identify the problem before you can do something about it; to do that you have to pay close attention to what is weighing you down financially. Start by making a list of what you notice is controlling you, or stressing you out in regard to your finances. Then notice your behavioral patterns in relationship to that stress. What do you do? Do you stress spend? If so, get in the habit of taking 60 seconds before you buy something and ask yourself why you need this item. If you can’t justify it—don’t do it.

How does your financial stress affect other aspects of your life? What do you notice?

Small things like paying attention to how much you spend, versus how much you save, can really help. Survey what you spend on things that add no real benefit to your life. Financial success doesn’t have to mean you become rich, what it means is you are in control, you are stress free, you are comfortable, you are learning and growing, and you are happy!

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Improving our financial status is something all of us should desire. Start today by becoming a noticer. Remember, you don’t have to solve all your financial problems in a day, a week, or a month. It’s all about moving forward with a solid plan and specific goals.

Featured photo credit: Bing images via bing.com

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Rita Schulte LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

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Last Updated on December 2, 2018

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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Review Your Past Flow

Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

    Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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