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10 Financial Moves You Need To Make This Year

10 Financial Moves You Need To Make This Year

Whatever past mistakes you’ve made, 2014 is the year to change your habits. I’ve noticed I’m an impulse spender who always looks forward to that next big purchase. No matter how much money I make, it never feels like enough, as I’m always filling previous voids. In order to break that habit, I sought the advice of several financial analysts and life coaches. Each helped me identify trends in my personal life that affect my finances. To combat it, we’ve come up with a list of financial moves I need to make this year, and you should too.

Assess Yourself

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    Smurfette wept at she stared at the pile of bills she earned at the strip club…

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    Take an objective look at your finances. Are you making enough to cover your spending while paying your past financial obligations and preparing for the future? If you’re spending based on future income, there’s an issue. You need to look at the numbers involved in your personal finance at least once a month to ensure you’re staying abreast of your current financial situation.

    T.J. Tillman, a founding partner at Empire Wealth Management says, “My recommendation is to have a hierarchical set of financial priorities and not stray from it.  The order would be (from bottom to top) paying for basic monthly expenses like food, shelter, etc., money set aside for emergency savings, money set aside for retirement, and then discretionary income to save up for major purchases. By following these guidelines, it’s possible to live a life with significantly less stress and still work towards those material things that are nice but not necessary.”

    Pay off Your Credit Cards

    Your highest interest rates are coming from your credit cards–and that’s just the start of where they get bad. Having revolving credit is only good for your credit if you have an abundance of available credit (money you could spend, but haven’t). Even this is only true of true credit cards; pre-paid credit cards don’t even report to your credit agency (you’re paying a fee to use your own money).

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    Paying off credit cards is a vital step in treading above financial waters. Pay off cards with the highest interest rates first, and know that if you took out any cash advances, that balance is paid off last (earning the banks the highest interest rate for as long as possible).

    Strengthen Your Reserves

    Every penny you save counts. Stop looking at bonuses as “free money.” In fact, stop looking at any money as free; you have to work for every cent. Stop discrediting the effort you put into your own personal blood, sweat, and tears, and instead start paying the most important bill of your life: your monthly payment to your personal savings account. You want to have at the ability to pay at least 3-6 months worth of bills in case an emergency comes up. You’re never 100% in control of your own income, and even if you were, life happens. Be prepared for an empty tanks with a reserve can just in case.

    Settle Your Debts

    It’s never fun owing anyone; I’ve never heard someone say, “I’m so happy I owe money to (insert anyone’s name).” Settling debts will strengthen your reputation and lift a mental burden from your shoulders. Instead of thinking about who you owe what to, you can concentrate on what’s important in life. “Karma is real, baby,” explains Life Coach Melanie Cobb. “Money can’t flow to you if your incoming channel is clogged with old resentments, guilt, or small stories.” Drop the guilt and clear those burdens off your plate.

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    Tired Until You’re Retired

    Unless you’re Benjamin Button, one day you’re going to get old. If you don’t start saving now, you’ll be one of those old people who’s still working. It’s easy to think you’ll never be that way, but it’s as inevitable as death if you don’t do something to prepare now. What if the world ended today? What if aliens invaded and are going to destroy the earth. You’re not on the president’s call list–he doesn’t even know you exist. So what will you do? If you don’t have a plan, you’re not a survivor of the zombie apocalypse; you’re a zombie.

    Habits Are Made to Be Broken

    Bad spending habits are the root of most people’s financial problems. Stores know this, and that’s why there are impulse items strategically placed throughout the store. In fact, nearly everyone is counting on you to spend money, and the only person you can count on to be responsible with your personal finances is yourself. Break free of bad spending habits by practicing discipline and focusing on your financial goals, rather than relieving your temporary cravings. Also a word of advice–eat before you go grocery shopping to keep from overspending.

    Review Your Permanent Record

    You need to check your credit report today; in fact it’s a good idea to check it at least once a month. Remember how you had a permanent record in school? Teachers would always threaten to list misdeeds on your permanent record. You couldn’t see your permanent record then, but you can check your credit report to ensure you truly are responsible for the financial decisions you’re being credited for. Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

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    Be Open About Your Finances

    If you keep your finances a dirty secret, it’ll eventually come out the closet to bite you in the ass. You need to be honest with people–you don’t have to tell them how much money you make or have, but you don’t need to be ashamed to tell people you’re not willing to pay to go out because you’re currently saving. They may ask questions, but you can politely remind them that you’d rather not discuss finances whenever it gets too personal. You don’t need to broadcast your checking account balance; just don’t act like you have ends you don’t.

    Seek Professional Help

    There’s no shame in asking for help. Even Michael Jordan needed coaching. People like T.J. Tillman and Melanie Cobb represent an entire industry dedicated to coaching and motivating people through the tough financial times. It’s not necessary to take on the burden of all your debt and finances yourself. Cash rules everything around me, so it’s a pretty big deal that’s worth spending time discussing with a qualified professional.

    Be Realistic

    We all want to be billionaires and spend money on all the things Bruno Mars sings about, but we’re not all CEOs, so we’re not likely to have that chance. Be honest with yourself; you can lie to everyone else, but always be honest with yourself about where you actually are. You can’t find your destination if you don’t even know where you’re at. Realistically assess your resources and options, and stick to goals you can actually stick to; it may take a little suffering, but, with resourcefulness and perseverance, you can make the right financial moves this year to bring success to any endeavor.

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    Published on September 17, 2018

    How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

    How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

    Achieving financial success is not something that just happens. Maybe if you win the lottery or something, but for the average person like you or me, it comes from a series of small steps you take over a long period of time.

    With each step, you form a new smart money habit. And with each smart money habit, you build towards financial independence.

    So what sort of habits can you form to get on that path? Let’s take a look at smart money habits you can start today to get you closer to a financially independent future.

    1. Avoid being “penny wise but pound foolish”

    It’s tempting to try saving a couple cents here and there when buying small items. However, that’s not where the real money is saved. You’re putting in extra effort for something that doesn’t move the needle.

    You get the most bang when you’re able to cut down on your bigger bills. For example, finding a lower interest rate for your mortgage could save you $50+ per month. And cutting your transportation bill by purchasing a cheaper car or taking public transportation can provide large gains as well.

    So, look at your recurring expenses such as housing, transportation, and insurance, and see where there’s wiggle room. It’s a much better use of your time than trying to pinch pennies here and there on smaller purchases.

    2. When you want something big, wait

    Impulsivity can get you in trouble in most aspects of life. Finances are no different.

    It’s human nature to see something and want it right then and there. It starts as a kid in the checkout line at the grocery store, and it continues on through adulthood.

    We get an idea in our head of something we want, and it’s hard not to go out and get it right then.

    A good example is wanting a new car. Perhaps you’ve had your car for several years. It’s crossed the 100k mile mark. Maybe maintenance is due, and you’re annoyed that you need to replace the timing belt or purchase new tires.

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    So, you get the itch.

    You start digging around online, and you realize you could trade in your current car for something newer and more exciting… all for a few hundred bucks a month. Then you get obsessed.

    Here’s where you have to take a step back.

    Your newfound obsession is clouding your judgement. Rather than giving into the impulse, wait it out.

    Set a timeframe for yourself. Maybe you come back to the decision three months down the road. See if the obsession lasts.

    It might, but often, a funny thing happens. Often, you forget about it. And often, you find that the new car wasn’t a need at all.

    The impulse faded. And you just saved yourself a ton of money.

    3. Live smaller than you can afford

    You finally get that big raise. And you want to celebrate – and why not?

    You’ve been looking forward to this forever. And after all, it was all due to your hard work.

    That’s fine, splurge a little. However, make it a one-time deal and be done.

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    Don’t get caught in the trap that just because you’re now making more money, you should spend more.

    Too often, people get more money and feel like they that gives them the means to buy a bigger house, a bigger car… you know the drill. Resist.

    The fact is that living smaller than what you can afford is one of the fastest ways to build savings.

    But if you constantly upgrade as you begin to make more, then you’ll never get ahead. You’ll just build up more debt along the way and have just as little wiggle room as before.

    4. Practice smart grocery shopping

    Food… it’s one of the biggest portions of any budget. And if you’re not careful, it can be one of the biggest drains on your wallet.

    But luckily, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you stay smart with your money when buying groceries.

    Create a grocery budget

    Set a strict weekly grocery budget. When you know how much you can spend on groceries, you can then plan your weekly menu around it.

    Once you know what all you need, you can go shopping and keep a running tally as you shop to ensure you’re on track.

    I tend to do this in my head, rounding for each item. However, writing it down as you go would probably work best for most people.

    Make a list… and never deviate

    Never go to the grocery store without a list. If you go to the store with a ballpark idea in mind, you don’t have a true ide of what you need.

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    You’re not well-researched. You don’t know what the sales are. As a result, you’re going to make decisions on the fly.

    These impulse decisions will lead to overspending, which will derail your grocery budget.

    Eat before going grocery shopping

    It’s also important to eat prior to going to the grocery store. Hunger is a powerful force.

    If you’re shopping on an empty stomach, everything is going to look good. In particular, you may find a lot of ready-made, processed snacks will look enticing.

    After all, you’re hungry now and that food is easily available. So subconsciously, you may lean towards those items.

    Unfortunately, not only are those items typically less healthy, but they’re likely more expensive. You pay for convenience.

    However, when you eat prior to shopping, then you’ll shop with a clear mind. Your hunger won’t cloud your judgement, influencing you to make poor decisions like a cartoon devil resting on your shoulder whispering in your ear.

    This makes it much easier to stick to your grocery plan.

    5. Cancel your gym membership

    Now that you’re all set on your food, it’s time to get smart about managing your budget in terms of physical fitness. And let’s begin by avoiding the gym. The gym bill, that is.

    The average gym membership costs around $60 per month. That’s $720 a year.

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    Yet, two out of three gym memberships go unused. That means two-thirds of people who have a gym membership are literally giving away almost a thousand bucks a year. It’s crazy!

    I recommend seeking an alternative. One good alternative is to look into fitness streaming services.

    Streaming services allow you to stream hundreds of workouts like Insanity and p90x, right in your own home for around $10-20 a month. That’s $40-50 less a month than the average gym membership.

    Of course, then there’s the free option. The internet is full of free workouts that you can do on your own with minimal or no equipment.

    For example, there’s the Couch to 5K program, that I personally used a decade ago to ease myself from couch potato to running my first 5K race. If I could do it, anyone could.

    Then there are free resources like reddit that have limitless information on workouts. The Fitness subreddit has done all the research for you, populating workout tips and detailed workout routines for anyone to use in their wiki.

    There are several routines that require no equipment. And you can join in on the subreddit to become part of the community, making it easier for those seeking comraderie and encouragement in their fitness goals. All for free.

    It’s baby steps… And baby steps can start now!

    I’ve never met anyone that can’t stand to be a bit smarter with their money. And on the flip side, anyone can get smarter with their money. But remember, it doesn’t happen all at once.

    Begin by fighting your impulses. Prepare for the week and be smart at the store. And cut monthly expenses like gym memberships that are overpriced and you probably aren’t getting your money’s worth out of anyway.

    The devil is in the details. And the details can change your lifestyle and prep you for a financially independent future.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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