Last Updated Jun 2, 2011 2:37 PM EDT
Last year I wrote a free 75 page ebook about how to survive the financial crisis. The financial tips in the ebook are for anyone who is struggling to make ends meet and wants to radically improve their finances. It has some great money tips, but I've had to develop new strategies to work with this woman who is driving her finances into the ground because of overspending. Think financial makeover on steroids.
Here are six financial tips you can implement today that will help you conquer your inner shopaholic and give you more financial peace of mind:
1. Don't budget, PERK instead. Budgets work, but nobody likes them because they are hard to create and even harder to stick to. Fortunately, there's a quick and easy solution I developed called PERK that takes about 15 minutes and can save you $250 to $1,000+ a month. First, list all of your expenses -- everything. Then, next to each expense write a P, E, R, or K. For those expenses you can "Postpone" put a P. For those expenses you can "Eliminate" put an E. For those expenses you can "Reduce" put an R. For those expenses you must "Keep" put a K. Don't let the simplicity throw you. It's easy but incredibly effective.
2. Stop leaking money. We spend money on stuff that we don't need or even realize. Things like cable channels we don't watch, subscriptions we don't read, and organizations we don't care about. Take a close look at where your money is going by using a free online program such as Mint.com to track expenses easily. Cancel all expenses you don't use or don't need.
3. Create a buying buffer zone. The goal is to create a buying buffer zone of at least 30 days between the moment you want to buy something (usually in the heat of the moment at the store) and when you actually buy it. If you force yourself to wait 30 days you'll find that most of the time you won't want it anymore. If you still do, it means you really do want it. So instead of whipping out your credit card, whip out your camera. Take a photo of whatever you want to buy and post it on your "buyer board." Write the date, the amount, and a short reason why you want it and how it will improve your life. After waiting the 30 days see if you still can't live without it.
4. Get real. Fill in the blank: "The three most important things in my life are _______, _______, and _______." Usually stuff doesn't make the list. It's important to get clear and conscious about what you value. Print this list, or even better, find photos that represent the three things you value (e.g., photo of kids) and put these photos in your wallet/purse. To make sure you look at them, put them in front of your credit cards. If you really want to get fancy, create a credit card condom. This is where you make a sleeve for each of your credit cards with a photo of what's really important to you -- this ensures you have to see your values before you spend money (especially on stuff that doesn't match your values).
5. Volunteer. Get the focus off yourself, what you want, and what new thing you just can't live without, and on to others who are in real need. This is great therapy and it doesn't cost you a dime.
6. Boost your income. One of my irritations with traditional financial planning is the near-exclusive focus on cutting expenses. You need to live within your means, but let's not forget about the other side of the equation -- income! Use the other 8 hours to create -- write a book, invent, start a side business, etc.
Changing your finances (and life!) starts by changing your mindset and behavior. Buy into the belief that you can improve your finances -- just be careful what else you buy...
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