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12 Things You Can Do Now To Improve Your Financial Life

12 Things You Can Do Now To Improve Your Financial Life

A vow to improve your financial state is the sort of grandiose statement that usually accompanies New Year’s resolutions. Fortunately, however, actually achieving this goal could be among the most tangible objectives on this year’s list.

Improve your financial life today by taking action on one of the following:

Educate yourself.

Do you know what an IRA is? What is the sales tax rate in your state? How often do you expect bank statements; do you know what all of the terms on your statement mean? You can’t make sound financial decisions if you don’t know anything about finances, so take the time to pick up the phone and call your bank, grab a book from the library or spend some time online regularly furthering your financial education.

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Save.

Finish this sentence: “A penny _____ is a penny earned.” You guessed it: saved! A penny saved is a penny earned, that goes toward your grocery bill, to fund a trip, put gas in your car, or provide for a child. Pennies add up. Save them.

Diversify investments.

As you build up your savings, create a healthy mix of liquid (i.e., can get to within a day in case of emergency) and static (things it would take you longer to cash in on) investments. A good financial advisor can talk you through how to build stock accounts, mutual funds, or invest in land, a home, or your own business.

Pay down your debt.

Owe anything to anyone? Make ridding yourself of debt your top priority. If you’re not sure where to start, or how to steadily chip away at larger debts like student loans, seek expert help. Then dig deep to find the discipline to carry out your plan.

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Put yourself in Florida.

Or on a yacht, or in the mountains, or on a beach anywhere else you would like to retire. What are you doing to get yourself there? Debate abounds concerning the future availability of social security and other benefits, and it is wise not to depend on any income but your own for retirement. Consider inflation, rising medical costs, and projected family needs when you plan, but the short version is that if you want to retire before you’re 70, you must start saving today, and increasingly aggressively as you age. Learning about Roth IRAs is a good place to start the educational process, if the idea of saving for retirement is new to you.

Watch what you put in your mouth.

Do you know the price at each of your local stores for the groceries you most often purchase? No? Time for a field trip! Your household’s grocery bill is a large, recurrent expense that can easily be chipped away at with smart shopping. Remember to Google and print coupons before you go, read those sale circulars you get in the mail before you toss them away, and consider warehouse stores or online merchants for goods with a longer shelf life. Food thrown away is money dumped right from your wallet into the trash, so shop as often as you need to.

Step away from the television.

How much do you spend on satellite or other television subscriptions each year? How much time do you spend watching television? What else could you do with that amount of money? How else could you earn money, with that amount of “extra” time each week? Put down the remote. Step away.

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Unwire, just a little bit.

How many gadgets do you own that have internet access, stream video, and allow you to chat in some way or another with your friends? Do you really need that much redundant capability? Ditch one electronic device, or downgrade subscriptions that you truly do not use. You will survive, and your budget will thank you.

Get organized.

Dreading the spring, when taxes are due? Not certain how much money you actually spend, or where it is all going? Get a filing system in place, whether formal or in a shoebox, and start collecting and tracking receipts. Log your expenditures in an spreadsheet, or by hand on a piece of paper. Update your logs regularly, and you will be pleasantly surprised by how much more effective your financial planning process becomes, and how easy it is to file your taxes next year.

Unsubscribe from merchant emails.

How many times have you logged onto your email account and seen a picture of something you didn’t know existed, had never thought about, but now see is on sale and can’t get out of your mind? Save yourself (and your budget) the anguish, and unsubscribe from those lists.

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Do it on the side.

Work, that is. In our wired world, a side gig could be only a few internet searches away. Someone in your neighborhood may need a dog walked while they vacation, or a babysitter once a week. The trash at a local school may need to be taken out for a small fee. Nothing is too menial or small, if it adds income to your bottom line.

Date creatively.

Those $15 drinks and swanky dinners add up. While impressing a date is always nice, wow them with your financial savvy by mixing things up with home-cooked dinners, picnics, outdoor activities, or matinees. If that isn’t attractive to the one you wish to woo, they probably aren’t a good financial partner for you, anyway.

Thirsting for more? Check out these Best 15 Money Management Apps that Make Financial Planning Easy.

Featured photo credit: taxcredits.net via flickr.com

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Last Updated on March 4, 2019

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

Many people will suggest that the best thing to do with your credit cards during these tough economic times is to cut them up with a pair of scissors. Indeed, if you are already in huge debt, you probably should stop using them and begin a payback strategy immediately. However, if you are not currently in trouble with your credit cards, there are wise ways to use them.

I happen to really love my credit cards so I will share with you my approach to how I use mine without getting into deep financial trouble.

Ever since about 1983 when I got my first Visa card, I continue to charge as many of my purchases as possible on credit. Everything from gas, groceries and monthly payments for services like my cable and home security monitoring are charged on credit. Despite my heavy usage, I have maintained the joy of never paying any interest fees at all on any of my credit cards.

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Here are some tips on how best to use your credit cards without falling into the trap of paying those nasty double-digit interest fees.

Do Not Treat Credit Cards as Your Funding Sources

Too many people treat their credit cards as funding sources for major purchases. Do not do this if you want to stay out of trouble. I use my credit cards as convenient financial instruments so I do not have to carry around much cash. In fact, I hate carrying cash, especially coins. When you buy things on credit, the purchases are clean and you will not get annoying coins back as change.

I do not rely on my Visa, MasterCard or American Express to fund any of my purchases, large or small. This brings me to my golden rule when it comes to whether I will pull out any of my credit cards either at a retail or online store.

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I never purchase anything with my credit cards if I do not have the actual cash on hand in my bank account.

If I really cannot pay for the item or service with cash that I already have at the bank, then I simply will not make the purchase. Remember, my credit cards are not used as funding sources. They are just convenient alternatives to actual cash in my pocket.

Make Sure to Always Pay Off Balances in Full Each Month

The next very important part of my overall strategy is to make absolutely sure that I pay the balances in full each and every month no matter how large they are. This should never be a problem if the cash has been budgeted for my purchases and secured in the bank. I have always paid my full balances each month ever since my very first credit card and this is why I never pay interest charges.

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Using Credit Cards with Rewards

Most of my credit cards are of the “no annual fees” type, including one MasterCard on a separate account I keep at home as a spare in case I lose my wallet or incur any fraudulent charges. However, I do use a main Visa card which does have an annual fee because all purchases on that card reward me with airline frequent flyer points. For me, the annual fee is worth it since I do travel and I get enough points to redeem many free flights.

You have to decide for yourself if you will charge enough purchases on credit each year without paying interest charges to warrant a credit card that rewards you with airline points (or other rewards). In my case, the answer is “yes” but that might not be the case for you.

I occasionally use a MasterCard or American Express card on small purchases just to keep those accounts active. Also, I have been to the odd retailer that accepted only a certain type of credit card, so I find that having one from each major company is quite handy. Aside from my main Visa card which earns the airline points, the rest of my cards are of the “no annual fees” variety.

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So this is how I use my credit cards without getting into any financial trouble with them. This strategy is recommended only if you are not in debt, of course. In fact, it is worth keeping in mind once you’re out of debt so that you can keep your credit cards active and treat them responsibly.

What are your credit card usage strategies? Let me know in the comments — I’d love to hear what methods you use.

Featured photo credit: Artem Bali via unsplash.com

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