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Low-Hanging Financial Fruit And What Comes Next

Low-Hanging Financial Fruit And What Comes Next

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    When it comes to making major changes in your financial situation, you’ll probably get some pretty standard advice for saving money: stop buying coffee every day, brown bag your lunch and start clipping coupons. That’s because these sorts of changes are low-hanging fruit. For most people, making these sorts of changes in their spending is not too difficult — and because they’re everyday habits, it’s possible to save quite a bit of money over the course of a year.

    Finding Low-Hanging Fruit

    Most financial gurus have a few favorite recommendations when it comes to the low-hanging fruit of your finances. Coffee, in particular, gets singled out for attention, over and over again. The fairly common habit of picking up coffee each morning has even been vilified as the ‘Latte Factor.’

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    But what happens after you’ve cut out coffee — or if you don’t drink coffee in the first place? The standard suggestions may not be so useful for you. Instead, it’s worth taking a look around for some low-hanging fruit of your own. There’s no automatic identifier for such an expense, but a simple way to look for savings opportunities is to look at your daily habits. That’s because anything you do day after day can yield more savings because even a small expense can add up quickly over 365 days.

    That’s the real definition of low-hanging fruit: with relatively small amounts of effort, you can get big results. Of course, just how much effort is required for a particular project can differ with something as simple as whether or not you have a coffee pot at home. When you see a financial tip that seems like it would be fairly simple, it’s worthwhile to take a look at the effort and money involved. If the effort isn’t worth the money, it’s okay to keep walking — what is low-hanging fruit for one person is the hardest apple to reach in the tree for another.

    But not all simple changes are the same. Just as there are some relatively simple steps you can take to modify your spending, there are often a few basic options for bringing in more income — such as selling off a few collectibles on eBay. You may even find low-hanging fruit when it comes to saving and investing your money: any time you can automate your savings, you can generally see a better return than if you try to handle the process manually.

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    When You Run Out Of Low-Hanging Fruit

    It can take a little while to change even small habits and work your way through all the suggestions you find from various financial advisers — but sooner or later, you’ll run out of the low-hanging fruit available in your personal situation. That point can be an ideal opportunity to stop and reassess your finances.

    For some people, the easy fixes are enough to move them to where they want to be, financially speaking. Just by cutting down on habitual spending or automating savings, some people will be able to accomplish their financial goals. For other people, though, it can take a little more to move into a financial situation where they feel comfortable. If you find yourself in that second group, it may be time to start looking at some harder steps.

    A starting point is any financial tips you passed by when focusing on simple steps. If you initially considered something not worth the effort it would require — a programmable thermostat might have tripped up one person, while calling a service provider and negotiating a lower rate would be problematic for another one.

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    Another option is aiming for some more significant changes in your lifestyle. A raise would probably make a big difference in your finances, but it may take further education or extra hours at work — it’s the opposite of low-hanging fruit. But it is probably worth working towards if you need to make a bigger difference in your finances in order to meet your goals.

    Small Changes First, Then Big Changes

    Making the easy changes first may seem like a system that won’t pay off as well as chasing a few bigger changes — even if those bigger changes are harder to arrange. But the fact of the matter is that when you’re doing something like changing your morning coffee routine, you’re likely changing an ingrained habit. It’s not going to be the easiest thing to do, but after you’ve changed one or two habits, the rest get a little easier to handle.

    That practice at changing habits can pay off when you start focusing on bigger fish. Something like going back to school to improve your paycheck is going to require a whole new set of habits, in a stressful environment. Having a little practice with the process of changing habits can come in handy in such a situation. The process, as a whole, may take longer, but it will be more likely to pay off.

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    It doesn’t hurt, either that even a couple of the simpler changes you can make to your personal finance can translate into a good amount of cash. If you can stack several smaller steps with a couple of bigger changes, you can wind up with a significant difference in your financial situation. Do the numbers yourself: look at what you can save by changing one small thing in your daily routine and then build from there.

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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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