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8 Simple Ways to Save Money & Help Stop Poverty

8 Simple Ways to Save Money & Help Stop Poverty

    According to GlobalRichList.com, I’m in the top 0.82% richest people in the world.

    That’s not to brag, though. Almost everyone with the means to read this post is in that top one percent somewhere.

    But there are billions more people out there who are not in the top one percent, and they’re not in the top two or three either. The majority of our planet is living in poverty.

    Economic crises (and the accompanied fear mongering) aside, we sometimes look at the world as a prosperous place with a few unfortunate pockets of poverty strewn about. It’s so easy to forget that the majority of the world lives in poverty, or pretty damn close to it. Easier for us, at least.

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    The UN definition of poverty is living on less than a dollar a day; I’d suggest that’s a number chosen to keep the sheer statistical size of this situation from light, since it’s hard enough to live on $30 a day. Sure, not as extreme, but by no means easy in many areas of the world. We are incredibly lucky to be a part of this miniscule percentage of people who are, by all means, rich.

    Even if you’re in debt and have a terrible credit rating, you’re rich compared to much of the world. I don’t say that to deride anyone, but remind us all that we’re lucky, even when times are terrible by our own standards. There is something everyone can do to help. Even a mere dollar makes a difference; that’s a doubling of daily income for many.

    Here are a whole bunch of ways you can save more money that we’ve discussed on Lifehack. If it’s this easy to find a few dollars, it’s easy to help stop poverty.

    Make Your Own Coffee, Use the Library, Get Netflix

    Chris Brogan shares a list of ways you can cut a significant number of expenses easily and immediately, from making your own coffee with an espresso machine instead of heading out to Starbucks, using the public library instead of splurging on books all the time, drinking at a friend’s place instead of the pub and laying off the lead foot on your accelerator.

    With some or all of the money you free up using these tips, you could fund a loan with Kiva; and you’re not even losing money since the majority of these loans are fully repaid!

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    Stick to Your Budget

    Here’s a list of 32 hacks to help you stick to your budget. I’m willing to bet that most of us run out of money just before payday because we’re terrible at staying within the boundaries of our budget. If you can get yourself to stay within your budget for just one month, you could still make a difference. Maybe keeping up with a few good personal finance blogs will help in this regard as well.

    With the savings you could help out an organization such as USA for UNHCR, an organization that helps refugees; people who are not only living in poverty, but displaced from their own countries, cultures and families as well.

    Wallet-Padding Tips for Troubled Economies

    Our Thursday published a list of ways you could fatten the wallet up a bit even during harsh economic times. My favorite is the last item: stop paying attention to all the fear mongering in the news. Many are more practical, such as beefing up your resume and learning new skills so you can land a higher income.

    With the savings you could donate to an organization like the Global Fund, which fights AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in developing countries.

    Insulate Your Crawl Space

    Kyle Potts writes that by insulating your crawl space, you can save plenty of money on your energy bill over the long-term. You won’t just save on your energy bills: a poorly insulated or vented crawl space can lead to mold and rotting in your flooring, which can cost a fortune to repair.

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    A few dollars freed up on your energy bill can make a big difference, perhaps by making it more affordable to sponsor a World Vision child.

    Save Money on Your Phone Bill

    Do you tend to blow the budget on your phone bill? Not that long ago I wrote an article that described how you could save thousands on your iPhone bill, though many of these tips – and software suggestions – are adaptable to all sorts of mobile phones, especially any kind of smartphone or PDA that tends to run the bill sky high.

    Whatever you save on your phone bill, you could give to World Concern, an international humanitarian non-profit doing some great work.

    Use Your Digital Camera

    Thursday strikes again with a list of ways you can save money with the help of a digital camera or your phone’s camera. The list covers everything from taking snaps to help you recall things that, if forgotten, will cost you more, to monetizing your best shots on stock photography sites.

    You might use your savings to donate to the Action Center to End World Hunger.

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    Get Organized

    Just keeping organized can save you a heap of dosh. I know the difference on my tax return between years when I keep meticulous expense records and years when I don’t is huge; organization certainly pays in that regard. Lorie Marrero lists a whole bunch of other ways that good organization keeps your bank account that bit fuller.

    Getting organized can free you up to donate to Poverty Fighters, a microcredit organization.

    Bring Your Own Lunch to Work

    The amount of money you can save by bringing your own lunch to work instead of heading out to an eatery or the corporate cafeteria over the course of a year is pretty amazing. According to this article, the savings come to as much as $988. That’s almost three years worth of earnings for many people living in poverty. If you could pay for one person to live for three years, three people to live for one year, or thirty people to live for a month, wouldn’t that at least bring a smile to your face?

    While you’re saving on food money, help feed someone else by donating to the Friends of the World Food Program.

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      Joel Falconer

      Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

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      Last Updated on July 17, 2019

      The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

      The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

      What happens in our heads when we set goals?

      Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

      Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

      According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

      Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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      Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

      Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

      The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

      Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

      So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

      Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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      One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

      Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

      Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

      The Neurology of Ownership

      Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

      In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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      But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

      This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

      Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

      The Upshot for Goal-Setters

      So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

      On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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      It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

      On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

      But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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      Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

      Reference

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