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Save Money: Upgrade Yourself

Save Money: Upgrade Yourself

upgradeyourself

    Gadgets and tools promise to make our lives better and easier, but the best upgrade we can make is to ourselves. It has very, very low cost, but tremendous bang for the buck.

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    Learn Keyboard Shortcuts

    What program do you use every single day? What do you spend your days living inside on your computer? Is it Microsoft Word or Excel? How about Photoshop and Illustrator? Do yo know how much more quickly you could process your email if you knew the shortcuts?

    Start looking at those menus you keep moving your mouse up to every day: Learn Ctrl + X, Ctrl + C, Ctrl + V. Now you can cut, copy and paste like a champ. Next up, learn Ctrl + S—it saves your work. Saving your work should be second nature, instead of something you need to think about.

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    Teach Yourself New Skills

    There’s a mountain of free or cheap resources out there to learn anything you’d like to learn. Are you interested in academic courses from computer programming to literature or history? Check out iTunes U through the software. MIT has a vast array of Open Courseware that is freely accessible.

    Lynda.com has a huge library on classes from Accounting to Writing. (Sorry, there was nothing under Z.) For 7 days, you can get a free preview of the site and decide whether you’d like to sign up and learn more.

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    Never have there been so many resources so available to us. No matter what your interest is, there is a place online where you can learn more about it. Knowledge is available to nearly everyone who seeks it.

    Become an Expert

    Pick a topic you enjoy or you feel is being underserved and become an expert at it. This is particularly helpful at work when you can pick a niche and shine: become the go-to person for that on your team or in your office. Becoming that expert will make you more valuable, and will give you something to focus on and enjoy about your work. Even if you don’t love what you do, you can really shine in something and that can lead to bigger and better things.

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    Soft Skills

    Practice your soft skills. What is a soft skill? It’s a skill that’s harder to quantify, such as communication, “people skills,” and customer service. The last on that list is one of the best soft skills you can improve, which will help you no matter what your profession is.

    Customer service is the currency of the internet, so working with people and leaving them delighted is the best thing you can do for yourself and your company.

    Small Annoyances

    Think for a moment: what really annoys you every day? What small annoyance do you put up with on a daily basis? Look up a way to fix it and do so. Open your browser and pull up your favorite search engine. Type in your annoyance and look for someone who had a fix for it—there is always a fix. By fixing something that bothers you, you’ve made your life better and improved yourself.

    Find your Blind spot

    Just as when you’re driving and you can’t see cars in certain places, every person has a blind spot as well. We all have our weaknesses: try finding your weakness so you can make it stronger. If you’re not sure what to work on, ask a friend or trusted colleague; they’ll tell you without being cruel. Once you find your weakness you can work to improve it. You don’t have to make it a strength, but you can make it less of a weakness, and that’s the secret to upgrading yourself: to make your weaknesses a little less weak. Make your strengths a little stronger.

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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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