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7 Things I’m Doing Right Now To Improve My Financial Situation

7 Things I’m Doing Right Now To Improve My Financial Situation

    Just like most folks, I don’t consider my financial situation perfect. I have some debt that I need to pay off and some goals I want to achieve. Moving forward on financial matters can seem so difficult. Saying that ‘I want to get out of debt’ is general — there’s no clear starting point. And that’s just the minor stuff: figuring out taxes can make you wish we all still relied on barter. But setting your financial house in order isn’t impossible. You just need a starting point.

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    These steps are my starting points. Not just any starting points, either: these are my ‘back to basics,’ ‘work on when I have no idea what else to do,’ ‘got to keep with it’ tasks.

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    1. I set goals. My financial goals are very set things, though. They have dollar amounts and due dates, no matter what. After all, my finances are all about numbers. It just makes sense that my financial goals are the same way. I consider something along the lines of ‘I will save $500 by the end of this month for my emergency fund.’ I also think it’s crucial to know from the start what your money is for. Saving for shoes or for getting laid off is easy, but just saving is hard.
    2. I read. I know I don’t know everything there is to know about personal finance. I’m working on correcting that, though. Right now, I’m reading up on stocks — a subject that was not even mentioned during the one semester of financial literacy education my high school provided. Because I’m well aware of the deficiencies of my official personal finance education, I read a lot. I want to know all about different ideas, even if I don’t agree with them.
    3. I take my time. When it comes to a financial decision, including spending relatively large sums of money, I wait. While I might have an instinctive reaction (often along the lines of ‘Buy it! Buy it!’), I’ve found that I save a lot of money by just deciding to come back later. The same holds true on other financial decisions. Before I chose a bank, I take some time and do some research.
    4. I put my money out of reach. I’m lucky — I don’t have a problem resisting the urge to use my credit card. But if I have cash in my pocket, I always have a burning desire to spread the wealth around. I try to head this urge off: I don’t carry much cash. I’ve gone a step beyond that, though. Most of my savings is in an account that, while I can get my money in an emergency, I do have to jump through some hoops to make a withdrawal. Having to go through a few extra steps when I want cash makes me reluctant to spend money when I don’t actually need to.
    5. I improve my income. Passive income is the best thing since sliced bread. Whenever I get the opportunity to set up a passive income stream — even if it’s just a static website with Google AdSense — I do what I can to take full advantage of it. I do what I can to improve my other sources of income, as well. I negotiate for higher pay, take on side projects and generally do whatever I can to increase the amount of money I have coming in.
    6. I run a business. It seems like having a business would be more effort and expense than it would be worth, financially speaking. But you can effectively run a business for free, and it offers several advantages. Consider your ‘business expenses.’ If you run a blog or other computer-based business, that computer you just bought could be tax deductible. You just lowered your tax bill by making a purchase that you probably would anyway.
    7. I do things myself. Some instances of frugality, like making your own soap, may not improve your financial situation. It may not be worth your time to do some things yourself. But I’ve found several things to do myself that have saved me money, liking baking my own bread. Even better, if I’m doing some task I’d normally pay someone else to do, in addition to saving that fee I’m not out spending money on entertainment. Sure, it may not be cheaper for me to grow my own tomatoes, but when I’m gardening, I’m spending only a fraction of what I would at the movie theater.

    There are lots of little things that we can do to tidy up our respective financial situations. It’s important to remember that it’s not an all or nothing proposition you can make progress on your financial goals without committing to complete frugality, massive saving and working every hour in the day. That sort of approach will probably only last you a few days before you break down. But if you work on just a small task or two at a time, you can make a lasting change in your approach to personal finance. Even doing something as simple as eating one extra meal at home each week can make a profound difference in your bank balance.

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    None of the steps I’ve listed before need to be hardcore processes. Even running a business can be something as simple as selling your old stuff on eBay. Each of these steps can be as small — or as big — of a commitment as you would like. Personally, though, I go for the light workload.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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