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How to Improve your Finances in 4 Easy Steps

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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

More by this author

Rita Schulte LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

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Last Updated on November 22, 2021

Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

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Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

Thanksgiving, a day of pure gluttony, football, and possible uncomfortable situations with family members that you may or may not like. Oh, yeah, and the whole “know and reflect on what it is to be thankful and grateful.”

During the holiday season many people forget what this time of year is bout and are too worried about getting the “early-bird” deals on Black Friday and making sure that they have the perfect gifts for their loved ones. I am sort of a “Grinch” when it comes to the holiday season, mostly because of that mentality by many of the poeple around me.

But instead of being grinch-like this holiday season, I decided to simplify things and get back to what this time of year is actually is about; being thankful for what I have and what I can give.

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Simplify

I’m not a “minimalist” in any real sense, but in the last few months the talks of Patrick Rhone and others have got me to rethink my stance. Can you really have too much stuff?

Absolutely.

And with all that stuff comes the burden and the weight of it on your back.

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If you feel that the things around you are out of control, maybe it’s time to simplify and be thankful and grateful for what you have and use. Here are a few things that you can do to simplify:

  • You know those gadgets in the drawer that you said you were going to sell? Well, time to get the listing on eBay and sell them. Or, send them to a place like Gazelle. Even if they are old and won’t get money, you can at least recycle them.
  • Get rid of things you don’t need. Like old books, clothes, tools, etc. Have something that’s been laying around forever with no use? Donate it to a charity or church. If you aren’t using it, someone else could be.
  • Find your productivity tools and stick with them. Use tools and gadgets that serve multiple purposes so you can simplify your tool set.

Be Mindful

You don’t have to be a master Buddhist or meditator to be mindful (although, it can definitely help). Being mindful comes down to being cognizant of the present and not keeping yourself in the past or future. It’s about living in the moment and being aware of yourself and everything around you. It’s just being.

Without getting too “California” on you, it is super important to be mindful during the holiday rush. Rather than worrying about the things that you forgot at your house on the way to relatives or thinking about the next stop in your endless holiday travels, just breath and think about what you are currently doing.

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Spend the time with your family and friends and don’t crush the moment. Try not to concentrate so hard on getting the perfect photo of the “awesome moment” of the day and actually miss the awesome moment.

Being mindful over the holidays will help you be with your families, friends, and yourself allowing you to enjoy your time.

Reflect

As the year is coming to a close (yes, it really is that close!) it’s a great time to start reflecting on what you have accomplished and what you haven’t. Within the next few weeks we will have a more throrough reflection article here at Lifehack.org, but reflecting every now and then over your holiday break is a great way to see where you have been doing well in your life and where you need to improve.

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Reflection shouldn’t be used to “get down” on yourself. Reflection should be used to take an honset inventory of what you have accomplished, how you handeled situations, and what you can do better. If you journal everyday (a daily form of reflection) it may be a good time to start going over some of the things that you have written and start to put together a year’s end journal entry. I mean, how else will you write your autobiography?

But, seriously, reflecting on yourself makes you aware of your successes and faults and helps you plan and make goals for the coming year. It makes you a better person.

So, while you are stuffing your face with bird, stuffing, and mashed taters’, remember that the holidays are much more than the superficial things. Use this holiday to become a better person.

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Featured photo credit: Libby Penner via unsplash.com

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