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You Won’t Die if You Don’t Buy. Here’s Why.

You Won’t Die if You Don’t Buy. Here’s Why.

Are you grappling with finances? Advice on how to make money is everywhere – from investment planners, successful start-up CFOs, online gurus, and self-proclaimed experts sitting next to you at the bar. They’re all focused on getting more income into your wallet, which is great! But no one talks much about where your money disappears to. I’m not offering a complicated output analysis or turning you into a miser. Consider these suggestions to keep expenses in check. Whenever you’re tempted to purchase on  impulse, I’ll be the voice in your head that asks ,”Will you die if you don’t buy?”

Here’s an interesting statistic: Black Friday is a peak U.S. shopping day. A National Retail Federation Research shows the total spent on Black Friday in 2013 was a staggering US $57 Billion! That’s a lot of buying.

Let’s begin with questions that help you find and plug the holes in your wallet.

1.  What do you spend the most money on?

You won’t forget the restaurant bill last weekend anytime soon but how much in any given month goes to groceries, eating out, fuel/car maintenance, the children and school-related expenses? Numbers in black and white jolt you with a picture of your spending patterns. You’ll know your monthly expense totals per spending category and payment medium like cash, credit card, or check payments. You can then plan which areas to cut down on. You’ll also see exactly why your expense total shot up. If you don’t buy unnecessarily, you’ll stay within limits.

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Tracking expenses requires that you keep all receipts and spend some time once a month to record and add them up. Initially, you need to prepare customized templates using any spread sheet – one form for cash payments, the other for credit card and check payments. Tally your expenses by relevant categories such as groceries, eating out, phone and other utilities, car, etc.

2.  Do you know how much money you have?

Sure you know how much you make and yes, you have money squared away, but do you make sure there is money left after paying your monthly bills? Again, recording your funds in black and white guides you to prioritize your necessary expenses. Don’t buy anything else if your funds are low.

3.  Are you able to pay your credit card bills in full?

If the answer is no, don’t use one. In her book Women and Money: Owning the Power to Control Your Destiny,” Suze Orman describes this as “the downward spiral of paying less than the entire bill and being charged interest on everything you don’t pay off.” Imagine if you had multiple credit cards! Interest on credit card debt is an expense you can avoid. Don’t buy on credit if you cannot  pay  the statement amount in full each month.

4.  Do you know when bills are due?

It’s when bills catch you by surprise that you hastily issue a check and don’t realize that it is not supported by your account balance. Or else, you opt to pay the bill late. You get slapped a penalty for issuing a bad check or you pay interest for late payment. Both are avoidable.  Prepare a monthly and yearly schedule that shows when mortgage, taxes, insurance, school fees, and utility payments are due. Don’t buy at all on the week or month when big payments are scheduled.

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5.  Don’t buy before asking, “What if?”

You’re thinking of buying a new outfit for a close friend’s wedding. What if you look deep into your closet for that cocktail dress you hardly used and jazz it up with a glittery wrap?  What if you borrow a dress from your sister? You want to buy a new grass cutter and a tent for monthly barbeques. What if you rent instead? You’re shopping for a present for your favorite aunt. What if you make her a bead necklace or an embroidered pillowcase? It’s your hobby and you have the materials already! Buying is not the only option.

6.  Mindful shopping can be guiltless, rewarding, and fun.

Review your intention and answer these questions.

Why? Shop only to buy something that’s needed or to get a treat you’ve been saving up for.

How? Make a list and keep to it. Learn the discipline of buying only one major thing at a time. Don’t buy an expensive pair of shoes plus an outfit or a bag at the same time. It builds restraint and guards your cash flow.

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When? Shop only when you can afford to. It’s best to time it during a sale. Don’t go shopping every weekend or simply because there’s a sale. That’s the reason you have a closet full of unused stuff and higher-than-usual expense.

With whom? Don’t shop in a group. You’ll end up with purchases made from getting carried away. Maybe someone else bought it or somebody said “Buy it. It’s such a good deal!” It’s hard to think clearly with opinions flying about, but going with a level-headed friend can curb your impulses.

Working as hotel expatriates, a group of 5 of us single women often shopped together. We were of the same built and shoe size. We bought – in one go – similar outfits and shoes in varying colors and styles. It was really fun but even then, I was the voice of reason (and party pooper) always asking “Will we die if we don’t buy?”

What? Buy the original. Go for quality and versatility. Be willing to pay expensively. The number of times and ways you’ll use good-quality things will be worth their price. There is no real excuse to buy knock-offs or pirated stuff which don’t last and add to landfills. Instead, save up and buy the original or choose good quality, unbranded products. Never buy products from endangered species. Animals should not unduly die just so you can buy.

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Where? Have a list of personally preferred brands you use and shops you buy from on the basis of quality of product and service. This builds relationship and rewards. It also keeps you from unscheduled purchases in random places.

Who? Consider the makers’ and sellers’ corporate social responsibility record: do they pay fair wages, sustain the environment, minimize waste, and give back to the community? Choose to spend your money in support of people who’re doing good things.

By sticking to a set of criteria, you simplify buying decisions and actually save money. Check out these other money-saving enjoyable experiences, too.

7.  Do you block the flow?

Doing all these suggestions could reveal you’re not doing so badly, financially. Don’t forget other people who are not doing so well financially and be willing to help them out. Help could be in the form of a small monthly donation or a one-time donation to a cause you care about. Or it could be a loan to a struggling friend. Be part of the flow and respect the law of abundance. When you cascade some of what you have to others, you also make space in your wallet for more.

Featured photo credit: cohdra via morguefile.com

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. And that’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways on how to set financial goals and then actually meet them with ease.

5 Steps to Set Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task but if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps:

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal (let alone financial) without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream. And this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it is for. It could be anything like kid’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives, however small they may be, that you foresee in the future and put a value to it.

2. Keep Them Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going out of the line will definitely hurt your chances of achieving them.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic in nature for it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said – “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman”. And this quote sums up the best what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore account for inflation whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far away in the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years hence, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is mere 3%. So always account for inflation.

4. Short Term vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach towards achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It is important to bifurcate goals in short term and long term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal, which is due in next 3 years should be termed as short term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short term vs long term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

More on this later when we talk about how to achieve financial goals.

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5. To Each to His Own

The journey of setting financial goals is an individualistic affair i.e. your goals are your own goals and are determined by your want to achieve them. A lot of times we get on the bandwagon of goal setting only to realize later on that it was not meant for us.

It is important that your goals are actually your goals and not inspired by someone else. Take a hard look at this step at all the goals you’ve set for after this step, you will be on the way to achieve them.

By now, you would be ready with your financial goals, now it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

11 Ways to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a 2 step process –

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough; and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals. So let’s get down to ensuring healthy savings.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self realization is the best form of realisation and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your monthly expenses. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you would be surprised to see how small expenses add up to a sizeable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different bucket so that you know which bucket is eating the most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pump up your savings rate.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classical mistake which almost everyone of us do. We pay ourselves last!

Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and then manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement is to put the savings on automatic mode i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (for example – mutual funds, retirement corpus etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will make us lose control of our money and hence will compel us to manage in what’s left with us thereby increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick with It

Budgeting is the best to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be made.

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Nowadays, several money management apps and wallets can help you do this automatically. It’s easy and who knows, you may just end up doing what people fail to do.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Rise Again Even If You Fall

Let’s be realistic. It’s not like the world will come to an end if you made one mistake. This isn’t called leniency but discipline.

If you fail to meet your budget for a month, don’t give up the entire effort just like that. Instead, start again.

Remember that flexible plans are the most realistic plans. So go forward and try to follow your financial goals as planned but if for some reason, the plan gets out of hand for you, do not give up on it just yet. This has a lot to do with your psychology rather than any material commitment.

All you have to do is to stay on the road and vow to stay on it, no matter how much you fall down.

5. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make Savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counter intuitive to many but there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Usually weekends are expensive. Make it a habit and you would in turn be saving a great deal.

If you are travelling buff, try to travel during off season. Your outlay will be much less.

If you go out for shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

So the key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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6. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission. And it would be rather easy to lose the grip over your discipline.

Therefore in order to stay the course, it is advisable that you keep yourself surrounded with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

7. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

So if you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

Use this journal to write down all essential points such as your short term, mid term and long term goals, your current sources of income, your regular expenses which you are aware of and any committed expenses which are of recurring nature.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energised to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot more easier for you to follow you and track your progress.

At this point, you should be ready with your financial goals and would be doing brilliantly with savings; now it’s time to talk about the big daddy – Investments.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However savings when invested wisely can do wonders and we are at that stage where we will talk about making smart investments.

8. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investments doesn’t come naturally to most of us therefore rather than dabbling with it ourselves, it is wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

9. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about them.

Just like “no one is born a criminal”, no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference.

Do you remember we talked about bifurcating financial goals in short term and long term?

It is here where that classification will help.

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So as a general rule, for all your short term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less as compared to equity instruments.

10. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding,

Compound Interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.

So make friends with this wonder kid. And sooner you become friends with it, quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

Start investing early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

11. Measure, Measure, Measure

All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments; taking stock of how our investments are doing.

If there is one single step where everything (so far) can go wrong, it is at this step – Measuring the Progress.

If we don’t measure the progress timely, then we would be shooting in the dark. We wouldn’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not; whether financial advisor is doing a decent job; whether we are moving closer to our target or not.

Do measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

The Bottom Line

This completes the list of tips for you to set financial goals and actually achieve them with not so great difficulty.

As you can see, all it requires is discipline. But guess that’s the most difficult part!

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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