10 ways to get your finances back into shape for 2008

Why? You might ask. Some might say why not but that’s just being cliche and not doing anything to help. How about so I can do a blog on “10 ways to invest the money you’ve made from 2008 in 2009”. Ok, that’s a cold one.

Start of the year is always about goals and resolutions, because doing that in Feb is too close to valentine to do any finance planning, in May and it’ll be weird and Oct, Nov’s just a case of hugging the Buddha’s leg. Let’s just take this crash course in personal finance. Always remember, all this , though everything might be reiterated, it helps you to stay focus and it’s always easier said then done. Treat it like a to-do list for the entire year.

Monitor every cent

Don’t just think about how money is going outpro on you, you must look at them in numbers and specifics! The human mind always tend to dilute ugly facts/guilt that you have just spend waaay to much on gadgets or drinking or handbags. Look at the numbers, feel the pain, you’ll need to be constantly reminded of the pain! If you find this too tedious, get some software, like an on-line tool Wesabe, or you can use a piece of software like Quicken or Microsoft Money. If not, the more manual way like a cash notebook and filing your receipts. Personally, it does not matter how you go about doing it. Just start and stick with it!

Have a backup fund

For years I lived paycheck-to-paycheck. I spent everything I earned. This worked well until something went wrong. And something always went wrong. Suddenly I’d find myself without money to pay for a car repair, or facing an expensive doctor’s bill. I financed emergencies with credit cards. After years of carrying debt, I finally paid off all these emergencies last month.

In The Total Money Makeover, Dave Ramsey explains why he believes an emergency fund should come before anything else:

Since I hate debt so much, people often ask why we don’t start with the debt. I used to do that when I first started teaching and counseling, but I discovered that people would stop their whole Total Money Makeover because of an emergency — they felt guilty that they had to stop debt-reducing to survive.

After you’ve saved $1000, then you can attack your debt. Open an online high-yield savings account (Standard Chartered and most banks seem to have one of these)and add $20 or $50 to your account ever time you get paid.

Set up a budget

After you’ve tracked your spending for a few weeks (or months), use the data you’ve collected to develop a budget. According to The Millionaire Next Door, budgeting is one thing that sets the wealthy apart from the rest of us — 55% of millionaires keep a budget.

Please for Christ sake, get out of debt

Are you struggling under a heavy debt load from credit cards or student loans? Make it a priority to unload some of this this burden in 2008. It feels fantastic to have that weight off my shoulders.

If you have the mental discipline, you’ll save money by paying down your high-interest debt first. But if you’ve tried that method before and failed, consider using a debt snowball. Pay your debts starting with the smallest balance first. Here’s how:

  1. Order your debts from lowest balance to highest balance.
  2. Designate a certain amount of money to pay toward debts each month.
  3. Pay the minimum payment on all debts except the one with the lowest balance.
  4. Throw every other penny at the debt with the lowest balance.
  5. When that debt is gone, do not alter the monthly amount used to pay debts, but throw all you can at the debt with the next-lowest balance.

The debt snowball can give you awesome psychological payoffs, keeping you motivated to stay in the game. It’s not mathematically ideal, but it worked for me=)

Start a retirement account

If you’re young, you probably don’t think you need to start a retirement account. You’re wrong. No matter how old you are, now is the time to begin saving for retirement. Compound returns favor the young, and in a big way! (Here’s an illustration of the rule of 72.) In The Automatic Millionaire, David Bach writes:

The single biggest investment mistake you can make [is] not using your [retirement] plan and not maxing it out.

Be frugal, spend less than what you earn

This is the fundamental money skill. It’s common sense, yet many people never learn do it. Only by spending less than you earn can you hope to build wealth. This is easier to do if you track your spending or develop a budget, but those steps aren’t completely necessary. Even if you do nothing else in this list, spending less than you earn can put you ahead of your peers.

Automate your finances (use more GIRO)

My current project is to move toward a system of paperless personal finance. Along the way, I’m learning the value of automating routine transactions. When you make things automatic, you remove the human element, making it more difficult for you to mess things up.

The classic example is overdraft protection. By tying your checking account to your savings account, you have a safety net if you bounce a check. But there are other ways this can work for you. For example, I’ve set up automatic payments with the gas company, the cable company, and my car insurance company. I also make automatic investments to my retirement account.

Cancel your credit cards leaving one

You don’t need all the flood of letter arriving at your doorstep reminding you that your annual subscription fees is here. Too many cards and you’ll forget when one is due and not. The discounts aren’t that fantastic anyway so let’s just cut them up.

Don’t drink, smoke or gamble

$11.60 per Marlboro Menthol? $205 for Chivas? Enough said.

Educate yourself

Knowledge is power. Personal finance doesn’t have to be a mystery. Subscribe to this site.


1 comment so far

  1. […] Life, the universe and everything – Darth Grievous’ Dark Domain 鸟话连篇: Of advertisements and blogs – Nuffnang Gliterati – Get Rich Cheap: 10 ways to get your finances back into shape for 2008 […]

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