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Gain control of your money

Gain control of your money

By scanning current headlines, many can see how tough times remain for years to come. Numerous people continue to struggle with money and making ends meet. The great news is it does not take a degree in economics to learn how to handle your money better.


Do

Do spend less than you earn

While this seems pretty basic, many people have gotten away from this philosophy. While this is easy on paper, it becomes difficult when emotions come into play (more on this later). If you spend less money than you earn, you will be on the right track to financial success.

Do track your spending

I have talked with people and they tell me they do not make enough money to save for an emergency, yet they walk around with newest iPhone or wear the newest style of expensive clothing. I tell these people that they do have money, but are choosing to spend it on certain things instead of saving it. Many of us spend money on things we do not need. I recommend tracking everything you buy for one month so you can see exactly how you are spending your money. Walk around with a piece of paper and pencil and write down everything you buy - from that $5 latte to the gas you put in your car. Many of us spend money in ways that we do not realize. Tracking your spending habits will enable you to find areas that you can cut back on and therefore, save money.

Do create a spending plan/use cash

Once you have tracked your spending, you can clearly see how much money you need each week to pay for your expenses. Take this amount out in cash every week to pay for these expenses. This helps you stay within a budget. You are not just swiping a piece of plastic through a machine, but rather using the good old green stuff which, if you are not careful, will eventually run out.

Do use coupons

I know some people get really carried away with this - there are even shows out about people that go way overboard - but using coupons can help save you a lot of money. My family started using coupons a couple of years ago and it has paid-off. We have saved over $2,400 in the past two years by using coupons and shopping for deals. We don’t get too carried away, and because we try to eat healthy, still spend a good amount on fresh produce. Despite this, we have still saved a good amount of money. I liken using coupons to finding money on the road. Most of us would pick up a $1 bill if it were on the ground. We can find this same amount simply by cutting out a coupon and using it.

Do know that you can do this

This might be the most important tip of all. Many people sell themselves way short and trick themselves into believing that they will never handle money well. They make up excuses like “I don’t make enough to do well with money” or “No one in my family has ever done well with money and I inherited this.” Yes, it will take some discipline and sacrifice but, the great thing is, most of us have the power and knowledge to gain control of our money. The choice is up to us whether we use it or not.


Don't

Do not spend more than you make

While this was mentioned above, this tip needs to be repeated because of its utmost importance. No matter how much money you make - whether it be $10,000, $100,000, or even $1,000,000 - if you spend more than you earn, you will eventually find yourself in debt.

Do not let your emotions control what you buy

This is the reason why so many are in financial straits - they bought things because it gave them a temporary moment of happiness. The thing is, every new thing becomes old. If you base your sense of happiness on things, you will fall into a vicious cycle of having to buy things to make you happy.

Do not believe advertisements

There have been reports that the average American will be exposed to over 20 million ads by the time they reach 21. Madison Avenue spends millions of dollars every year to get our hard-earned money. The thing is, these ads play on our emotions (there’s that word again) and are very deceptive. Many of us have seen commercials around Christmas showing the wife getting a brand new car with a pretty red bow on top. She is very happy and this might be one of the best days of her life. However, these commercials do not fast-forward to the summer months when the car payments become more difficult to make and this very same car now causes nothing but stress. Just remember what ads are trying to accomplish - getting us to part with our money.

Do not worry about your neighbors

Many of us look across the street or next door and think our neighbors have it all. From the perfect house to the brand new car it seems as if they have it all. We compare ourselves to them and by doing so we feel inferior. The problem is, we do not see what happens behind closed doors. Some of these neighbors are up to their eyeballs in debt and have trouble sleeping at night. We think they have it all when in fact, it is all a mirage. If we could see the stress they face, we would never think about trading places with them.

Do not throw in the towel if you slip up

 Once you start getting serious about tracking your money, you will probably make a mistake and buy something you should not have. Don’t give up completely and decide then and there that you will never be able to make this change. Learn from this mistake and move on. This is very similar to trying to lose weight. If you are on a diet and slip up and have one doughnut, move on and don’t let this one doughnut turn into 12. The same holds true with gaining control of your money. If you make a $50 mistake don’t lose hope and let this turn into a $500 one instead.


Summary
Jumping cartoon

Many people have been hit hard by the current financial crisis. They find themselves behind on their bills, underwater on their mortgage, and feeling completely helpless. The great news is there are certain actions anyone can take to gain control of their money. Take into consideration these simple steps next time you go out and want to buy something.


More expert advice about Budgeting

Photo Credits: Food for the wallet © _Dinkel_ - Flickr.com; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com

Danny KofkeSpecial Education Teacher and Author

Danny Kofke is currently a special education teacher in Georgia. His love of teaching and finances led him to write two books - "How To Survive (and perhaps thrive) On A Teacher's Salary" (Tate Publishing, OCT 2007) and the recently released "A ...

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