If the balance in your savings account isn’t growing fast enough, a common budget buster might be to blame. Sadly, you’re not alone in missing your financial goals. According to a June 2014 survey conducted by Bankrate.com, 75% of Americans have no savings and live paycheck to paycheck!Are you one of these?
Thankfully, there are steps that you can take to get your finances back on track.
Use these strategies to stick to your budget and achieve your financial goals:
Avoid impulse shopping. If impulse shopping is your weakness, resist the temptation.
If you go shopping for a needed item, take a responsible friend with you to help strengthen your resolve.
Make a list before you shop and then buy only the items on your list.
Leave your debit and credit cards at home and only bring enough cash to pay for the needed items.
Seek to understand what triggers your overspending behavior. For example, if you find that you’re more tempted to abandon your budget when you’ve had a difficult day, only go shopping when you’re well-rested and under less stress.
Identify specific items that are hard for you to resist and avoid them. If there is a certain store or website where you consistently seem to go over your planned spending, find new, less tempting locations to shop.
Get organized. Adopt a new method of organizing your important papers and receipts if “forgotten bills” seem to constantly surface and derail your spending goals.
If you forget to pay a bill, you may have to pay a late fee and interest. Those extra charges can add up quickly!
Set reminders to cancel memberships and other subscriptions before they auto-renew to avoid paying for services you no longer use.
Shop for better rates. Just because you’re satisfied with your current service provider doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t periodically shop for a better rate.
Every few months, review your expenses and seek ways to reduce the amount that you pay for many common services, such as your telephone bill and car insurance.
When you contact your provider, ask if you’ll save money by bundling services, or cut back on features that you seldom use. While your provider may not reduce your bill, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Watch for unusual spending. Periodically review your expenses and see if you can identify an area where you frequently overspend. Most of us typically overspend in a specific category.
Challenging categories for most folks include clothing, entertainment, transportation, travel, food, and housing.
Once you’ve identified a category of expenses that seem to break your budget, seek ways to make smarter, less expensive choices when you buy things in this category.
Reducing your spending in a specific category can be very challenging. For example, if your housing costs are eating up too much of your budget, your only solution may be to move to a smaller or less expensive location.
Get outside advice. If you find that you’re frequently over budget or have difficulty meeting your financial goals, seek professional help.
Most accountants and financial planners can offer sound advice to help you learn how to plug the holes in your budget and gain control of your finances.
You can find lots of free and low cost advice on budgeting and financial planning online.
Many organizations, such as churches and local chambers of commerce, offer free or low cost credit counseling and financial planning courses to members.
Becoming aware of common budget busters and selecting a strategy to deal with them can help you to stick to your budget and increase your savings.
Battling and overcoming stress during the holidays can be a challenge to anyone. There are a number of things that can lead to this type of stress:
Coping with loss
You may also have high expectations that add to the stress of your holiday season. Long gone are the days in which the season was highly anticipated and there was a sense of magic in the air. As an adult, you may find the season to be more stressful than joyous.
Unfortunately, these days, you may even consider holiday stress as a necessary holiday tradition!
Here are some methods you can use to battle and overcome stress during the holidays:
Are you overcommitted? The holidays normally come with many social gatherings that most of us feel we must attend. The fact is that you don’t have to go to every event you’re invited to.
Saying no thank you to some of the invitations will free up more time for yourself!
It’s important to remember and enjoy the spirit of the holidays. If it takes saying no to preserve some of your sanity, go for it! Others will be more understanding than you give them credit for.
Don’t become so burdened that you secretly wish for the season to pass quickly. Take time to be by yourself.Whether you take a yoga class or a bubble bath, allow yourself to do something enjoyable without worrying about the holiday stress.
Carrying on traditions. Growing up, we may have seen our mothers cook a full course Christmas dinner. Perhaps it was routine to host a lavish holiday party. Maybe your family baked hundreds of Christmas cookies to give to friends and relatives.
Tradition is good but don’t allow yourself to become so wrapped up in tradition that it consumes you.
If you find that the routine you normally follow for the pure and simple sake of tradition is weighing on you and resulting in more stress than you can deal with, break away from it! You will be happier when you’re free from this stress.
Rather than living up to the expectations of years past, start your own, easy-going traditions. Instead of throwing a lavish party, have fewer friends over for tea and cookies. Allow other family members to bring side dishes to the holiday meal rather than cooking it all yourself.
Finding the perfect gift. There’s so much pressure to purchase the perfect gift for each person that it takes all the fun out of shopping. Remember, people are generally appreciative for whatever gift they receive.They don’t expect you to go to every corner of the Earth to find them a spectacular gift.
Save time and money by skipping the wrapping! Creativity is the main focus. You can even give gifts that can be used throughout the year. For example, you may give a coupon in a card for a free night of babysitting, one day of yard work, or other special things.
Shopping online has made searching for gifts much easier. It might also be more cost effective to buy online because many stores offer special sales or free shipping near the holidays.
As you can see, there are several effective ways to battle and overcome stress during the holidays. The key is to determine what’s causing your stress so you can eliminate it. In the end, you’ll see that most of the stress you experience is a result of the expectations you pose on yourself.
How long have you been waiting to begin pursuing your goal or dream? Most people are stuck in a perpetual mode of waiting. Everyone is waiting for the exact perfect moment to finally pull the trigger and get started. This is a huge mistake. The perfect time is right now.
Time is more important than timing. Avoid wasting time instead of focusing on the getting the timing just right.
Consider these ideas to begin acting on your plans today:
You’ll never be ready. We love to stall. It’s in our nature. If you wait until you’re ready, you’ll still be waiting on your deathbed.
Do you know what the first step is?That’s all you need to know. Just do it and you’ll figure out the rest along the way. It’s like walking up the stairs. You only need to see one step at a time to make it to the top.
The perfect time will never happen. Again, you’ll be waiting until your funeral. There will never be a good time to get started. There will always be a viable excuse. All of the variables will never be in perfect alignment. The most perfect time you’re going to get is right now.
The sooner you get started, the sooner you can be successful. The advantages of getting started now are numerous. Perhaps the most relevant is the fact that you can achieve your goals sooner. The sooner you begin any journey, the sooner you reach your destination.
Your natural tendency is to wait too long. We always wait too long. When is the last time you did something too soon? Everyone else is waiting. Be the person that doesn’t wait. Fortune favors the bold, so be bold.
Your natural tendency is to value information too much. We want to know everything there is to know before we take the first step. Unfortunately, we can’t know everything. Life sometimes unfolds in unpredictable ways. You know more than enough to get started. Just do it.
The most successful people make decisions quickly and stick with them. The least successful people are terrible at making up their minds. They’re eternally conflicted for a variety of reasons, primarily fear. Give yourself a time limit to make a decision and then run with it.
A decent decision, made quickly, that you stick with, is better than a great decision, a year from now, that you can’t maintain.
Practice making decisions quickly and moving forward with them. This is a great habit to develop.
The sooner you take action, the more you’ll learn. Action leads to results. You learn something each time you get a result. You’re not producing any results while you’re sitting around waiting for the perfect moment to act.
Action leads to inspiration. Most people falsely believe that they’ll take action when they feel inspired. But the opposite is true. Action leads to inspiration. Inspiration leads to even more action.
Why are you waiting? The most honest answer is fear. If you never get started, there’s still hope, since you can’t know for sure that your plans won’t work. If you never begin, you can’t fail.
However, the opposite is true, too. If you never get started, there’s no real hope of anything better. If you never begin, you’re guaranteed to fail.
Take a deep breath and get started today. You’ll never be 100% ready or comfortable, so you may as well begin right now. Now is the moment to change your life.
Consider how many mistakes you make each year. Now, imagine if you could learn from them and avoid repeating them. It’s not just your mistakes. It’s also all the things you tried that didn’t work, and the things you saw other people try that didn’t work.
You also did a few things that worked out. You might want to apply all of this knowledge you gained to this coming year.
After doing this for several years, your life would be pretty spectacular!
Since you’re learning so much each year, why not put it to good use? Unfortunately, we don’t change our behaviors very much from year to year. Commit to making this year different.
Apply the lessons of the past to the future:
Take a few days to review the last year. What did you learn, both positive and negative? What mistakes did you make? What were your biggest wins?
Do you see a pattern to any of your mistakes? Can you see that many of your challenges are caused by committing the same mistakes year after year?
Now, consider your friends and family. What challenges did they face? What were their successes? What can you learn from them?
Take the best and the worst from your past and learn from them. Make use of that information to enhance your life.
Find alternatives to your least effective actions. Maybe you procrastinate too much or consistently show up to work late. What are the changes you want to make in the coming year?
Identify those behaviors that support your success. Perhaps you made your spouse feel loved and lost 25 pounds. Those are behaviors that you might want to repeat.
Create new habits. Choose habits that will counteract your less-effective behaviors and ensure your positive behaviors occur more frequently. Using our examples:
Procrastination: Take immediate action when you know something needs to be done. Remind yourself of the pain procrastination has caused in the past and imagine how amazing it will feel to complete the task.
Late to work: Place your alarm on the other side of the room so you’re forced to get out of bed. Choose your clothes the night before. Commit to leaving the house in plenty of time.
Spouse: Spend 15 minutes each day doing something nice for your spouse. Remind yourself of what you love about them.
Lost 15 lbs: Continue making healthy food choices and working out three times each week.
Monitor yourself. If you’re not careful, you’ll quickly slip back into your old patterns of behavior. Change is challenging, and you can expect to face a lot of internal resistance. Avoid being too hard on yourself when you slip. Just vow to redouble your efforts going forward!
Celebrate your successes. When you apply what you’ve learned from last year, you can expect some great things to happen. Appreciate them and be proud of yourself. This is the best way to ensure good things keep happening. Reinforce your behavior by feeling good about yourself.
You’ve faced some tough times in the past. Take advantage of those challenges! You’ve had some good times, too. Repeat them in the future. Your past is the key to your future. Take what you’ve learned and leverage that experience going forward. It would be a shame to repeat your mistakes in the future.
You can have the best year of your life, but not if you fail to learn from your past experiences. Your results have lessons to teach. Are you paying attention?
Are you being contacted by debt collection agencies? Just because a debt collector says you owe a debt, this doesn’t mean you have to pay them, especially if you never opened the account youowe money for. The statute of limitations for your state might also have expired, which gives them less leverage.
These tips will help you deal with debt collectors:
There are rules debt collectors have to follow.
They cannot harass you.
They must state that they are debt collectors.
They cannot call before 8 A.M. or after 9 P.M.
You can request that a collector stop contacting you by sending them a letter with your request. Pay for a return receipt to ensure they received it.
Ask for written validation that you owe the debt.
This document should show how much you owe and where the debt comes from. Debt collectors are legally required to notify you in writing and you should request this notice if you haven’t received it yet.
Do not volunteer any information besides what a debt collector already has.
Respond to the validation.
If a collection agency violates your rights, your best option is to contact your state’s Attorney General Office, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to report them.
Communicate in writing.
Communicate with collectors in writing, since the debt will only be alleged and anything you say over the phone could be understood as an acknowledgement of the money you owe.
Check your credit report.
Request a credit report to go over what you owe and ensure you actually opened the account in question.
Send a goodwill letter.
You can try to have the debt cancelled by sending a goodwill letter to explain why you cannot pay a debt, state that you paid off a debt but it was sent to collections anyway, or simply explain that a debt was sent to collections because you paid most of it but missed a payment.
You can usually negotiate with debt collectors. Tell them how much you would like to settle for.
Collection agencies usually pay pennies on the dollar to purchase a debt and will settle for a lot less than what you owe.
Follow up with a safety net.
Get something in writing from the collection agency stating that they will delete your debt once they receive your payment.
Send a cashier’s check or a money order instead of providing a debt collector with your bank account number.
Clarify which debt you are paying.
If you make payment to a debt collector, keep in mind that you have control over which debt the payment is applied to. Specify in writing which debt you are paying for.
You don’t have to make payments for debts you don’t think you owe, even if the same agency has multiple debts on one account.
Debt collectors are people too. If you do owe a debt, they will often work with you to make a reasonable settlement a success.
No sane person has ever claimed they had a mind that was too clear and peaceful. We’d all like to feel less cluttered and more peaceful and relaxed.
Decluttering your mind is largely the result of decluttering all aspects of your life.
We tend to put too many burdens on our minds, but there’s a more effective way to live. With a few simple hacks, you can reduce the load on your mind and give it the peace it craves.
Add serenity to your life with these techniques:
Remove the challenging people from your life. There are people that take up a lot of space in your brain. Some of those people are optional in your life, and you might not even like them! Why are you keeping them around?
Be willing to let go of the people that take more time and effort than they’re worth to you.
Remove unnecessary activities from your life. This could be committees you serve on, sports teams you play on, or going out on Thursday nights. Maybe you’re taking accordion lessons but realize that you’re not enjoying it that much. Cut these activities out of your life and gain the gift of time.
Declutter your environment. Your mind and inner peace are affected by your environment. This includes your home, workspace, and anywhere else you spend a significant amount of time. Have you ever noticed how nice it feels when your home is clean? You can feel that way all of the time.
Meditate. Meditation might be the ultimate way to declutter your mind and enjoy inner peace. Meditation is very simple but challenging to do well. However, it’s possible to receive many benefits from meditation even if you’re a beginner.
There are many resources online that can teach you the basics of meditation.
Twenty minutes of meditation each day can change your life and bring inner peace.
Write things down. Trying to remember things puts a huge load on your mind. You can never truly relax when you have to remember to do something. Write things down and use alarms. Knowing that something else will keep track of your obligations for you will allow your mind to relax.
Mono-task. Forget about multitasking. It’s ineffective and creates stress. Limit yourself to one task at a time. You’ll feel better and get much more accomplished.
Try it for a day. Do one task at a time and focus all of your attention on that task. Notice how much better you feel while working and at the end of the day.
Make fewer decisions. The fewer decisions you have to make each day, the more inner peace you’ll feel.
For example, limiting your wardrobe makes it easier to figure out what to wear each day. Even better, pick out your outfit for the following day before you go to bed.
You can eat the same healthy breakfast each morning.
Look for ways to minimize the number of decisions you have to make.
Get enough sleep. Notice how cluttered your mind feels after a poor night of sleep. Experiment to determine the proper amount of sleep your mind and body need each night.
Limit your exposure to the news and social media. The news and social media will drive you crazy if you spend too much time consuming them. It’s important to stay aware of what’s happening in the world, but you don’t have to bombard yourself with negative information day and night.
Treat your mind like you would an injured body part. You would reduce the amount of work it has to do and treat it gently. Most of us ask our minds to do more than it was designed to do. Give your mind a break and gain the peace you crave!
Do you feel like your credit card debt is insurmountable? The good news is that, no matter how high the mountain appears, you can climb it and pull yourself out of the metaphorical hole you may find yourself in.
Here are some ways to tackle that debt and bring it down to size:
Only buy what you can afford. The best way to keep debt from becoming a problem is to avoid the problem altogether from this point forward. Rather than splurging on a fancy piece of electronic hardware, just wait and save up for it.
By staying within budget and paying off your bills every month, you don’t need to worry about debt piling up on top of you.
You can still get out of debt and feel the sweet relief of being debt free by changing your mindset from “having it now” to one of enjoying it even more when you have the money.
Pay off the lowest balance first. Financial advisor Suze Orman often advises people in debt to take care of the higher interest debts first. In general, this is a good way to go, however, if you have a credit card with a balance of only a couple hundred dollars, it would also be beneficial to knock that one off right out of the gate.
You can eliminate a whole payment, save on interest charges, and put that money towards another bill.
Prioritize bills by interest rate. In the long run, paying off the higher interest cards first will save you the most money. It’s usually the interest that keeps knocking you back. By taking out the higher interest cards, you’ll feel a greater sense of progress when paying your bills every month.
Consolidate. One of the more overwhelming aspects of being in credit card debt is constantly being reminded of it with so many bills from different cards. One way to fight back is to consolidate your debt. You can do this by either taking out a loan from a bank or transferring the balance to another card.
If you recently got a new credit card, you can transfer a portion of the balance to that. This will save you a bit of interest since most cards will put that balance under the introductory rate.
If you take out a loan, you can pay off several of the cards and reduce the amount of mail you receive. It’s less daunting psychologically to receive one big bill as opposed to a bunch of tiny ones.
Convert to cash and debit only. One of the best ways to keep yourself in debt is to keep using your credit cards. They’re convenient and it’s easy to justify their occasional use by saying that it’s only a soda or a tank of gas.
Those tiny charges add up quick!A dollar here, a few more there, and you’ll negate the payments that you’re making in a very short amount of time.
Paying with cash will help you develop new spending habits. By the time you get your debts paid down, you’ll have disciplined yourself to the point where you no longer put yourself in that situation.
Debt is a problem that happens to nearly everyone at some point. Even wealthy people find themselves overextended by debt.
Even if you’re working on a shoestring budget, it’s possible to pull yourself out of debt. With discipline, focus, and hard work, you can find yourself relieved of the mounting pressures.
Comparing yourself to others is a reliable way to reduce your confidence, motivation, and self-esteem. It must be natural to make these types of comparisons, because nearly everyone does it. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a good move.
If you want to become the best possible you, avoid comparing yourself to others.
There are several challenges that occur when you compare yourself to someone else:
Everyone has a different starting point. You might be just learning to play golf, but your friend has been playing for 10 years. You might be interested in playing basketball, but you’re only 5-feet tall and your friend is 18 inches taller than you are.
You can’t compare progress, results, or success unless the starting points are the same, and they never are.
Everyone has a different level of talent. Some people are born with a high IQ. Some people naturally have amazing hand-eye coordination. Others have a natural knack for music or math. Again, different starting points.
The resources available to you and another person are different. If you want to play the violin and your father is a wealthy concert violinist, you have a huge advantage over someone born into a financially-challenged family that has no experience in music.
We tend to compare ourselves to the best in the world. You don’t compare your Texas Hold’em skills to your neighbor the electrician. You compare yourself to the tournament winners. We don’t compare ourselves to the average. We compare ourselves to the best the world has to offer.
There’s always someone better. There are only a handful of people that can make a reasonable claim to being the best at anything. There are nearly eight billion people in the world. That’s a lot of people you have to surpass to be the best.
It’s easy to see why making comparisons can be dangerous. There’s little to gain and too much risk. Comparing yourself to others doesn’t provide useful information. You’re only going to upset yourself, and that type of comparison isn’t fair in the first place.
Here’s what you can do instead:
Compare yourself to yourself. A better option is to compare yourself to yourself. Pay attention to your progress over time. Notice your improvement. As long as you’re making headway, you have a good reason to be excited! Strive to become better each day.
Limit your exposure to social media. In theory, social media exists to connect people. In actuality, social media is often used as a way of showing off.
You rarely get the real story. What you get is someone’s best attempt to make their life look better than it really is. Everyone, except you, seems to be living a spectacular life. It’s not true.
Be cautious with social media. Most people report being happier when they removed social media from their lives.
Use the success of others as inspiration. The success of others can be useful to you. You can study how they became so successful. Their success can inspire you to become the best you can be. Just avoid comparing your success to theirs.
Do you compare yourself to others? Making this type of comparison can be detrimental to your confidence and self-esteem. Instead, compare your current version of yourself to the version of yourself from three months ago. That’s a fair comparison to make. It becomes easy to see your progress or lack of progress.
The best comparison you can make is to your past self. Set a few goals and spend some time each day working on those goals. You’ll be happy when you see the progress you’ve made.
Saving money isn’t always exciting, but a rainy-day fund is imperative to your financial health. It only takes one unexpected expense to topple your finances. The lack of an emergency fund can result in taking on additional debt or not being able to pay for a critical expense, like your child’s braces.
There are several reasons you might require a rainy-day fund:
Medical bills. It’s no secret that medical care is outrageously expensive in the United States. A simple out-patient operation, like a hernia repair, might only take 30 minutes. But it can easily cost $15,000 or more. How long would it take you to pay back $15,000? Even if you have insurance, you might still be on the hook for a deductible of several thousand dollars.
Automobile repairs.Once the warranty has expired, your automobile has the potential to become a financial disaster. Once you’re no longer making an automobile payment, continue making the payment to yourself. Save the money for future repairs or your future automobile.
At some point, all cars become more expensive to fix than they’re worth. Ensure that you have the funds in place to minimize the amount of debt necessary to obtain a new car.
Unemployment. Currently, 10-12% of us will be without a job at some point in the next 12 months. Over the course of a lifetime, the number is much larger. Could you survive for at least 6 months until you find another job?What would happen to your family, home, car, and insurance?
Major home repairs. Replacing a roof, a/c unit, furnace, repaving the driveway, or replacing appliances can cost more than the average homeowner has sitting around in his bank account. Some repairs can wait, but others cannot.
A rainy-day fund is necessary for many of these expenses. Your homeowners’ insurance doesn’t cover everything.
Funeral expenses. Funerals are expensive. And even if you don’t have to pay for a funeral, you may have to travel half-way across the country to attend one. Deaths are often unexpected, and this isn’t an item that people build into their budgets. If there’s one truth in life, it’s that everyone dies eventually. There’s no escape.
Dental expenses. A broken tooth, braces for the kids, too many teeth, not enough teeth, or mishap with a baseball can cost more than your bank account will support.
While your health insurance might be great, most dental plans leave a lot to be desired, especially with regards to cosmetic issues.
The best time to start an emergency fund was 10 years ago. The second best time is right now.
Begin setting aside a percentage of your income and seek to increase the amount over time. Aim for at least six months of living expenses. That will be enough to handle most financial emergencies. Anything you’re able to save beyond that can be invested with a more long-term focus.
Rainy-day funds have advantages you may not have considered:
You’ll be much more relaxed. Knowing that you have money available to meet your unexpected financial needs is reassuring. You’ll worry much less.
It prevents poor financial decisions. When you need cash, but don’t have any, it’s easy to make financial mistakes that can be costly. Payday loans and the use of high-interest credit cards are two examples.
A rainy-day fund is a financial necessity. It provides a cushion for life’s unexpected twists and turns. One financial mishap can easily undo years of your hard work. Begin your emergency fund today and secure your financial future. It’s never too late to get started.
There are plenty of beliefs you hold that you allow to influence your life. You haven’t even given many of these beliefs a lot of thought.
For example, you probably have similar religious beliefs as your parents. Did you ever sit down and think about which religion best suits you? Or did you just continue with what you were exposed to as a child?
You don’t have to be a slave to your old beliefs!
Try these techniques to maintain only beliefs that support you:
Your previous beliefs and knowledge can prevent you from gaining new knowledge. If you think you know something already, you won’t be open to new views. Knowledge is great, but when it gets in the way of learning something new, it’s poison.
Ask more questions. Be curious. Avoid believing that you already know the answer because of your previous experience. You can learn while you listen. You can’t learn while you’re speaking. Ask questions and then be quiet and listen to the answer.
Pretend that you’re a beginner. For example, imagine that you make a living as a real estate investor. When a novice investor starts telling you about his latest deal, you probably don’t believe there’s anything you can learn from him.
Pretend that you know absolutely nothing about a topic. Be open to everything you hear. Even if you’re a leading authority on something, there are still things you don’t know. If you pretend that you’re a mere novice, you’ll have a better chance of gaining that knowledge that eludes you.
Determine if your beliefs are truths, or merely just beliefs. Beliefs are personal, often unprovable, and often no more correct than another belief.
Truths don’t require constant validation. For example, gravity is a truth.
Where did your belief come from? If you believe that women are better than men, how did you decide that? Or, if you believe that you’re not capable of managing money, where did this belief come from? What is the source of your belief?
Many of our beliefs come from our parents. Most of us didn’t have parents that were Rhodes Scholars.
Question the origin of your beliefs and determine if that idea is worth a second look.
Let go of your identity. Our identities are largely built around our beliefs. We might believe:
“I’m an overweight person.”
“I’m not intelligent.”
“I’m the most intelligent person I know.”
“I’m someone that can’t learn math.”
“I’m a school teacher. That’s what I am.”
We take our beliefs, good or bad, and associate with them. If you believe that you’re naturally overweight, it makes it challenging to lose weight. If you associate with being bad at math, you make it harder to learn math. It’s hard to achieve or believe something outside of your identity.
What is the cost of your beliefs? Some beliefs come with a heavy price. Look at your beliefs and consider the impact they are having on you.
Since beliefs are personal and alterable, think about which of your beliefs are making your life more challenging. When a belief doesn’t serve you, you’ll be more interested in letting go of it.
We’re all slaves to our beliefs. Unfortunately, many of our beliefs are unhealthy and unhelpful. Beliefs can be very limiting. Face the world with an open mind, and you’ll have an easier time of finding your truth.
Avoid allowing your old beliefs to control you. Be the master of your life, not a slave to your beliefs.