Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

Taking the First Step Into Savings

Last week, a friend and I began talking about saving for the future.  I told him about my current plans and how I’m saving about 20% of my income annually for retirement.  He told me he really has not saved anything.  Personal circumstances had put him in a situation where he thinks he can’t save for himself right now.  As the conversation progressed, he asked me for some advice.  What should I invest on?  Where do I do it?  How do I start?  His focus was more on the investing side of the equation.  I told him that right now, that is not as important as taking action.  The last question was what I thought was the most important one-How do I start?

If you ever wanted to loose weight, change jobs, or any type of situation that might require some deep thinking, the most important thing you can do is to take action.  Taking that first step is what will help lay the road for the future.  This concept is no different when talking about personal finance.  Don’t worry about the schematics of investing.  Worry about doing something to get you started.

The first step you should take should be taking a closer look into what you spend your money on.  I had asked my friend if he new what his income was after expenses.  He didn’t know.  I told him to just take a look at where his money is actually going.  Then, he will notice  that either A) He needs to find a way to increase his income B) Decrease his expenses C) Both.

It does not matter how large or how small the amount of savings you put aside is.  The important thing is to do it.  When I first started saving for retirement, I could only save about 50 dollars a month, sometimes even less.  But that didn’t discourage me.  In fact, it motivated me into saving even more.  When you start to see your savings grow, you want to keep feeding it more and more.  You start to notice that you can maybe save a little bit more this month.  As the next month rolls around, you noticed that you can save a little bit more.  Soon, saving will become a habit.

As the saying goes “the journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step”.  So open a high yield savings accountlive more frugally, read about personal finance, do whatever it takes to get the ball rolling in savings. 

 

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Self-Discipline and Your Money

Personal finance is much more than just numbers.  A commitment has to be made if whether you want to pay off debt, increase your savings, or become more frugal.  One of the key components to being successful with your finances is self-discipline.

Simply stated, self discipline is the ability to get yourself to do something and to follow completely through with it.

A great example of self discipline is starting a diet to loose weight and sticking with it till you get to your ultimate goal.  But if you have ever been on a diet, you know how important it is to plan for it.  You inform yourself and try to figure out what diet you are going to do.  Nutritionists stress the importance of writing down everything about your diet starting with your goals.  Then, they suggest tracking what you eat for a week before the diet.  The reason is twofold.  They want you to see how much you actually eat and make you conscious about it and to see what kind of changes are needed to be made.  Then a plan is made according to your needs and goals.

First, you start the diet in a slow pace, you cut down on certain high calorie foods and start to work out slowly.  Slowly, but surely you start increasing your work out regimen, your diet becomes better and better and the pounds begin to shed.  In the mean time, you are recording the process and keeping track of it.

This was one of the best examples I could come up because self discipline is something that needs to be build up.  Back to the diet analogy, if you eat nothing but junk food and all of the sudden the next day you are eating nothing but fruits and vegetables and lean protein, you are probably going to regress back to the junk food.  Similarly, if you try going to the gym and lifting 200 pounds on the bench press for the first time, you are most likely going to hurt yourself.  On the other hand, if you take your time, slowly start improving your diet and increasing little by little your workouts, the chances of success and self discipline vastly increase.

Enough talk about diets.  Lets instead use self-discipline in personal finance terms:

Make a commitment.  You have to decide that it is time for a change and that you are going to do something about it. Say it, write it, do whatever you need to do to remind yourself about your commitment.

Track your current spending.  Write down everything, and I mean everything you spend your money on.  You will be surprised at where your money goes and will realize that you need to change.  Maybe you are eating out too much, or that morning coffee you are buying is costing you more than what you think.  By actually adding the total you are spending daily, weekly, and even in a monthly basis, you will have a better understanding of how much money you could be saving.

Make a plan.  I suggest start reading personal finance books, blogs and magazines to educate yourself on the subject.  Ask other people that you might know that are doing well financially.  Get some advice and figure out what works and what doesn’t.  Remember, that most often than not, personal finance is quite simple and boring.  There is no quick way into changing your financial future.  It takes self-discipline and a good solid plan.

Start slow and track your progress.  You have to crawl before you walk.  Make small reachable goals.  Remember that you are committed to change your finances so take it slow and don’t let small hurdles affect your overall goal.

In all, self-discipline is more than what I mentioned above.  for a more in depth look I suggest reading Steve Pavlina post on Self-Discipline.  He breaks it down into five pillars which address the subject in a thorough matter.  By addressing and understanding what self-discipline is, we can use it not only with our finances, but with other facets of our lives as well.