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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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    Last Updated on January 13, 2020

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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