Tightwaddery: Top 12

By Kelly Jo Landers

Make today the first day of the rest of your financial life. What follows are twelve changes you can make, starting today, to improve your financial picture. Each one is simple and relatively painless.

Balance your check book. You must know where you are today to make any decisions about the future. This should only take about twenty minutes. Of course, if you are someone who only balances their check book once a millennium you may need to invest a little more time.

Add up all debts you owe to the penny. If you did a quick survey of all the people you know, you'd find that most people don't know. It is so much easier to justify new debt when you don't know the grand total. Be advised this step can make you break out in a cold sweat.

Buy a small notebook to carry with you everywhere. Write down everything you spend, where and for what. By everything I mean just that. No fair not recording the cost of coffee on the way to work, or the daily newspaper.

Evaluate your plans for retirement. That may mean you sit down with the human resources department at work. Ask tough questions about your plan. Are your investments doing well? What opportunities do they anticipate? Should you also open a Roth IRA to supplement your 401k or 403b plan? If you have the available funds I would encourage you to do so.

You should be concerned if you have no plan. Get on the phone today and seek out information on retirement plans. Take advantage of any plan available at work. Even a so - so plan is better than no plan. Don't talk yourself out of this, either. Even if you think you make so little money you can't put any away, start today. Remember it does not matter what you make. What you keep is much more important.

Pack your lunch for work at least four days out of five. (Or five out of six, if you work six - day weeks.) Be creative with your lunches to avoid boredom. Use up leftovers, vary the sandwiches. Have chips one day and crackers with cheese the next. Invest in a good lunch box, thermos and small containers. Even an inexpensive fast - food lunch will cost you at least $6.00. If you eat five packed lunches you've just cut your cost by $24.00, a good chunk of change.

Designate each night of the week to be a food day. For instance, Monday could be pasta night, Tuesday soup or stew night, etc. One day a week should be a smorgasbord to use up leftovers. Designating the nights simplifies meal planning. You will be less likely to shop on impulse.

Draw up a staples list of items you keep in the house at all times. When an item is low add it to a grocery list. If you find a sale on one of your staples buy it even before you need it. Staples are items like flour, sugar, white rice and butter (which can be frozen.)

Set up a budget using the 10% , 10% , 80% guide. That is, put away 10% in your retirement, 10% in short - term savings and live on the other 80%. Your earning power should not equal your buying power. Learn to live on this 80% early on and you won't even miss the amount you save.

Be sure you have enough insurance. We are all going to die some day. Life insurance will protect your family for their future should your time come sooner rather than later.

Carry more than the minimum liability coverage on your auto and homeowners. Like it or not, we live in a litigious society. An umbrella policy will protect you still further. We are all only one accident and one wolfish lawyer away from complete financial ruin.

Carry disability insurance, even if it is unavailable through your employer. No one can predict when they may be injured. Even with those employer - sponsored plans, which will only cover 60 to 65% of your regular wage, consider a supplemental policy.

Renters must have rental insurance. Your landlord will cover his property, not yours. One fire, or burglary or flood, and you can be starting with nothing all over again. This is the most commonly over - looked insurance, but is very inexpensive.

Pick out your lowest rate credit card and cut up the rest. Place this card in a freezer bag with water and throw it in the freezer. You will still have it if you should need it, but it will take a short time to defrost. That may be just enough of a deterrent to prevent you from charging needlessly. Keep the cut up pieces to remind you of your debts.

Take the ATM card out of your wallet. Easy access to money is the number one reason it flows out of our fingers. If you need cash, plan ahead and write a check once a week. ATM fees are exorbitant. You can avoid charges from foreign banks and your own bank.

Finally, figure out what your goals are. Then make every decision based on those goals. Any time you decide whether to buy something, always ask yourself if the purchase will further your goals. If it will, go ahead and make the purchase. If the purchase makes no contribution to your goals have second thoughts. I have a band - aid on the inside of my wallet. On it, I've written, "Remember your goals." The band - aid signifies poor choices will hurt my goal achievment.

The theme is that Tightwaddery equals Freedom and Freedom equals Joy. Presented by Kelly Jo Landers.

Take the Next Step

  • Make sure you're getting the best CD rate. Use our simple CD tool to find out. It's completely private, easy to use and you'll know what rate is available to you in seconds!
  • Get the interest you deserve! Compare money market and savings account rates with our best rate finder. It only takes a minute and your privacy is completely protected.

Debt Book
Stay Connected with TDS

Do you struggle to get ahead financially?

Surviving Tough Times is a weekly newsletter aimed at helping you stretch your dollars and make the most of your resources.

Debt Checklist

And get a copy of Are You Heading for Debt Trouble?
A Simple Checklist and What You Can Do About It
for FREE!

Your Email:

View the TDS Privacy Policy.

Debt Book