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Last Updated on November 7, 2017

How to Back-up Your Life

How to Back-up Your Life

Too often people go through life with a tunnel vision approach of how they plan to go about their daily activities, long term goals and work related endeavors. Any well thought-out strategy is successful because the planners know that “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”.

Life is always tossing in the monkey wrench. You should never assume that what you plan today will work for you tomorrow. We see examples of these alternative plans everywhere, yet most of the time they go unnoticed. What does this say about our priorities? By putting some focus on the areas we have neglected to plan for, we can get a better understanding of where our life priorities really stand and where they really should be.

Why is having a Plan B a vital part of success? Not only do back-up plans keep you calm in times of duress, but they also offer two important attributes that should always be accounted for before planning anything in life: flexibility and adaptability.

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Flexibility allows you to change plans without notice which means you can adapt to any situation that arises to achieve your intended goals. There are areas in life where you should always have a back-up plan. We know one thing for sure: that change is constant. You have to be able to handle change whether good or bad. Here are some suggestions in areas that may need attention.

Your Career

-Always back-up your career. This is something to consider now when the economy seems to be headed into dire straits. I know too many people who have been laid off and have no idea what to do if they don’t find another job in their field. Always find something you can do in lieu of your dream job.

-Update your resume often. Whenever you finish a big project, switch jobs or get a new title, it is important to update your resume right away. Not only will it save you time later when you need it, but it is always good to have it updated for spur of the moment career opportunities. I have seen people lose promotions because their resume was not ready to go and they took too much time to update it.

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-Save, Save, Save. Financial planners recommend that you have at the very least two months pay saved up. If you get laid off or worse, fired, there is no guarantee of a severance package. If a medical condition befalls you and you need to take an extended leave of absence, this is a security blanket that will see you through to your recovery. Even if you cannot seem to save that much, save something or meet with a planner who will help determine the plan best for you based on your current salary that will stick.

Your Finances

-Always have a retirement plan. If you are at least 30 years of age and have not opened a savings account, 401K or Roth IRA, do it now! This is especially important for those earning a living in the blue collar or hospitality industry with companies that do not offer you benefits for retirement. Retirement may seem like a long way off, but by opening an account is a step in the right direction towards ensuring your stability later on in life.

-Plan for divorce. It is not a pretty phrase to read, but let’s face it, more than half of all marriages end in divorce. Of course we all tell ourselves that we will be the exception, but it is still a financially independent and intelligent thing to keep in mind, especially for women, so that we have financial security should the marriage fall apart. It is as simple as starting a separate savings account. You can find amazing deals right now if you do it online with interest rates up to 4.75%! That is as good as a CD and you can keep adding to it for the life of the account.

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-Plan to be widowed. The last thing you need when something so horrible happens is to have to worry about finances. Whether you are 20 or 60, you should have a living will. If you need a good reason why, let’s remember Terri Schiavo. She was only 25 and the absence of a living will kept her in a vegetative state for more than a decade. You and your partner should have life insurance policies with the other being named as the beneficiary.

Also, any retirement plan should also have the spouse’s name on it in the event of a tragedy. Each of you should also have your own credit card. Too often I see spouses just added on as users to the credit cards without realizing that they are just authorized users and not actual account holders. It is important to build your own credit and not just rely on your spouse’s.

-Always insure valuable items. The engagement ring you bought your wife, the family heirlooms your mother gave you, antiques of value in your house, etc. It is important to inventory your items of importance in case of a natural disaster, fire or robbery. Get them appraised first before insuring. You might also want to take photos of the items and put them somewhere safe.

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Your Personal Records

-Always back up important records. Plan a day each month to back up your files on your personal PC, laptop and work computer. I recommend an external hard drive. What size you will need depends on what kind of files you work with each day. External drives have come down in price and are much easier to use and less time consuming than CD burning. Instead of amassing a bunch of CD’s, you can just update files on the external hard drive.

This also means scanning in and saving important documents such as birth certificates, any financial records such as taxes and of course, work files! In case of a fire or computer crash, you will still have this valuable information. Your birth certificate can be certified by a notary public without having to go through vital statistics from the state you were born. You may also want to look into a safety deposit box for heirlooms and important records. Not only will these items be insured, but they will be safer than in your personal possession.

Back-up plans should not only be applied to business projects, educational goals, but everywhere in the real world: dealing with children, spouses and social environments. It is important to pay attention and start planning the alternatives so you are not left in the dust unable to adapt because you failed to develop a Plan B. Lack of planning robs you of your flexibility because unfortunately, failure is always an option and if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. You may never use your back-up plans, but like the flood insurance you purchased, it’s always nice to know you have it.

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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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